Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sibling Lessons from My Four Year Old

Our family recently adopted a kitten. Bella is spunky, snuggly, and at times, appropriately naughty. She's a good match for our son!

When we went to pick her up, we had to choose between her and several other cats. We wanted a short to medium-haired kitten with a snuggly, laid-back personality. Our mission was to adopt just ONE animal.

I advocate for sibling adoption on a daily basis in the HUMAN world, so I felt entitled to ignore that practice when it came to feline family members.

Unfortunately, I stand corrected - because my four year old watches. And listens. And remembers EVERYTHING.

Last week, Noah was asking about Bella and what she did all day long while we were at work and school. "Well, she plays. And sleeps. And eats her food and drinks water."

Noah looked horrified. "But who does she PLAY WITH?" he demanded. What an excellent question, I thought. "Well, she plays with her toys and she plays by herself."

His mind flashed back to the day we adopted the kitten. "Bella has a BROTHER Mommy. We should have brought HIM home, too! He was black and white and didn't like cuddles, but he liked you! They could have played TOGETHER!"

My child, who often refuses to follow the simplest request, had a photographic memory of our cat's litter mate and every aspect of its personality. I started to feel guilty about splitting up the "sibling set". He was right... how could we split them up?

That's when my pre-schooler looked me in the eye and said "Haven't you learned ANYTHING from me and J, Mommy?" (he demanded, referring to his older brother who lives with his adoptive family.) I had to think about that for a while.... he recognized the injustice of growing up apart from his brother. Noah knows most brothers and sisters live together - animals included.

Noah is righteously indignant that we consciously decided NOT to adopt our kitten's brother. Now I feel like a failure as a cat 'parent'! I suppose it's because deep down I'm really a dog person.... and I'm sorry, Noah, if having just one kitten is hard on you.

Thank you for teaching me, son, and yet again putting life into perspective!

Adoptions Slumber Down Under

When I was researching Aboriginal adoption in Canada, I came across some research papers and reports from Australia. Our histories of unjust practices involving Aboriginal adoption are sadly parallel. I wanted to see what solutions Australia was implementing to ensure history did not repeat itself. What I learned was partly reassuring - they, too, introduced cultural planning into current adoption practices. But when I scratched the surface, I was shocked to discover just how RARE adoptions are in Australia.

Many countries are seeing significant drops in adoption numbers, Canada and the US included. So I shouldn't have been shocked to read that last year Australia also reported its lowest number of adoptions on record. Ever.

If you had to wager a guess, how many adoptions do you think a nation of 22.7 million people would have? Keep in mind that Canada had almost 2,000 international adoptions alone last year, with our population of 34.5 million. BC usually averages 700 adoptions per year (international, local, and foster child adoptions combined).

Would you be surprised to learn the Australian number for TOTAL adoptions was only 384? 

Half joined their families through international adoption, and the majority of local adoptions involved step-parent, relative, or the adoption of children who already knew their adoptive parent(s). The rest - 49 children (the size of two kindergarten classes) - accounted for every adoption of local Australian children by parents previously unknown to them.  

49 kids! I've heard of individual FAMILIES with close to that many adoptive offspring. So why are the numbers so low? Or.... am I asking the wrong question. Are Canadian numbers simply HIGH compared to our commonwealth cousins? What do you think? Are we doing enough for kids in care? How can we do even better?
The Australian - Lowest Adoption Numbers on Record

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Loved Like Josie

Most mornings, I take the scenic route to work. The road takes me along a bluff above the Fraser River. It's a trucking route, so most of my fellow travellers drive big rigs or weathered pickups. I like driving my little car along this road. It's peaceful. It's pretty. It's comforting.

Along the way, I pass a magnetic sign at an empty lot. The restaurant that once operated there has long since been demolished. But the sign remains, and someone has put it to good use.

This month, the sign says "Josie". There is a little red heart at the end of her name. In months prior, a lover's request pleaded "Meet me halfway, Josie". The magnets came loose over time, and the message disintegrated into "Meet me" before the words fell away entirely.

At the time, I wondered if Josie put much thought into that message. Did she want her love back? Did she think about him every morning? Was it really, truly over, now that the letters had all fallen away?

So when this latest message appeared, I was inspired. I smiled to myself and at the little heart next to her name.

Who was this lover of Josie's? What possessed him to publicly profess his love and ask for her back? Why did he choose a road sign in an empty lot, where truckers and delivery drivers and construction workers pass by? Probably not a lot of ladies have seen the sign, and very few of them are named Josie.

But he must have known her habits and that he'd catch her eye like he did when they started dating. I began to wonder... hey Josie... what did you say? I'm imagining a happy ending, and hoping all is right in their world.

The truth is, I don't know her story. Both Josie and her lover remain safely anonymous, even though she's been publicly loved from the side of a dirt-covered road. 

Wherever she is, whatever her story, it must be nice to be loved like Josie. I'm waiting for the next update on my drive in.... hopefully a good one from Josie and her love.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Heart and Seoul of Adoption

Last night my student asked why we had homestay children when both my husband and I work. "You don't need the money, right?" he asked plainly. "It's true, we don't." I smiled at him. "We are homestay parents because we like children!" 

He looked at me like I had three heads. "Well why don't you just get pregnant and have more Noahs?"

I stopped for a second. I could have said a number of things. I could have said we liked older kids (which is true) or that we wanted the invaluable experience of sharing our home with children from other countries (which is also true).

Instead, I hit my little 11 year old homestay son with the truth. "Well, Noah is adopted, and adopting children can sometimes take a long time. We wanted Noah to have other kids in the house now." I had to explain what the term adoption meant, but once he understood, he got awfully quiet.

For once, my overly chatty pre-teen had nothing to say. He took a moment to digest the news, and I awaited his response, wondering what unfiltered comment would come flying from his mouth. (One of my favourite things about the kid is that he tells you EXACTLY what he's thinking!)

He was quiet for several moments before commenting "Wow, thank you for telling me your secret! I promise, I won't tell Noah!"

Now it was my turn to be stunned into silence. This young man hails from the largest metropolitan city in Korea. I don't know why I expected his thoughts about adoption to be like ours here in the west. I naively figured the whole world was embracing ideas of openness and shared information.... and I had to shake my head and remind myself that this was, after all, a little boy from the other side of the globe.

He was brave enough to come here and stay with us, this strange family, and listen as we explained our way of life. The least I could do was explain how wonderful adoption was in our family, and how it was no secret, and wasn't that wonderful?

I added to his shock. I logged onto the computer and showed off pictures of Noah and his big brother. That threw him for a loop - but I could see the wheels of acceptance and understanding turning as he translated the information (not just from English to Korean, but also from secrecy to openness) in his mind and heart.

It was a pretty powerful conversation. One I had to laugh about at the end. My homestay son looked at me with a very stern eye and said "You're not going to adopt ME, I hope!"

No, my dear, we're not. But we're glad you're part of our family for now.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Happy Foster Family Month - a Letter from our Deputy Minister

This letter is from Deputy Minister Stephen Brown in appreciation of foster families, and MCFD staff this October. Help celebrate foster family month by giving thanks all of those that help support our children and youth in care.

October is Foster Family Month in British Columbia, a time to acknowledge and celebrate the extraordinary work of foster families throughout the province – families who provide a healthy, stable and caring home for children and youth, at a time when they need it the most.

It’s also a time to recognize the important role of so many ministry staff in supporting the vulnerable children and youth who come into government care – as well as the many families who need our assistance to become healthy enough to care for their own. The connections you forge with foster families and the bridges you help build to community services and organizations not only help keep children safe but work to create a strong system of support that they can rely on for many years to come.

Each day, you are faced with complex, challenging and extraordinarily sensitive situations – and each day you rise to the challenge of your work, knowing that your support for children, youth, families and foster families can make all the difference.

I’ve been fortunate to meet with some of you over the past six months and I look forward to meeting more of you as I continue to travel the province. I also want to acknowledge the work of not just front line staff, but those who work ‘behind the scenes’ to help improve our system of care and make it more responsive to the needs of those we serve.

This October, please join me in acknowledging foster families around the province – and don’t forget to take a few moments to acknowledge the importance of your own work and that of your colleagues. It can – and does – change lives.

Thank you.


Stephen Brown

Friday, September 16, 2011

Way to Go Ontario!

At the risk of tooting our own horn, I must admit that BC is great at supporting our adoptive parents. We offer post-adoption assistance to families whose children have special needs (projected or diagnosed) at the time of placement. These supports can include respite care funding, counselling, tutoring, or other supports related to a child's special placement needs.

Our government also extends monthly maintenance payments to qualifying families who meet certain criteria.... currently, that includes adoption of sibling sets, cultural matches, or child-specific adoptions where the adoptive parent and child(ren) have a strong emotional bond PRIOR to the adoption. Learn more about the Post Adoption Assistance Program for MCFD adoptions by clicking here.

The good news for our friends in Ontario? Their provincial government has announced their plan to offer similar financial supports to families who adopt from foster care.

As much as I adore the west coast, I do believe Ontario just one-upped us. Their new program includes financial supports for adoptions of children age 10 and over. What a great concept! Teens and tweens deserve families, too - how great for Ontario to recognize and implement a program to ease some of the financial barriers for growing families of older kids & teens. 

Read the full article on the great news here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

One or Two - Who, Me?

On Saturday, my hubby and I attended a parents-only dinner party. We won tickets to the event when I submitted a pathetic (and entirely true!!) story of a negligent baby-sitter, leg lacerations, and antibiotics. Our prize was a fabulous night out at Yaletown's V Lounge, hosted by morning hosts Nat and Drew of Virgin Radio 95.3.

As expected, our group of parents couldn't help but talk about the little darlings whose shenanigans earned their respective parents a night of reprieve. We went around our corner of the table and learned that those near us had two or three children.

When it was our turn, we beamed about our almost four year old son. Someone asked if we were planning for more, and we gave our standard responses. My husband vehemently denied the possibility, and I smiled and said something stupid and non-committal.

The truth is, adding to an adoptive family is not the same as growing a family biologically. Unlike those families lucky enough to be Fertile Myrtles who can get pregnant easily, most adoptions involve a great deal of patience and trust that things will work out and a match will happen eventually.

Sure, there can be surprise adoptions, if a family is lucky enough to get the sibling call. And sometimes matches are made as soon as the ink is dry on an updated adoption homestudy. But most of us wait.... sometimes forever, for a secondary match.

Still others, like us, don't feel it's quite the right time to be tossing our names into the adoption pool again. We know growing our family again is a probability. We don't feel like we want to be "one and done" but the timing just isn't right yet.

So I gave my stupid smiley response and waited for the topic to shift. Except it didn't.

Another parent commented very sincerely and respectfully how common one-child families are becoming these days. Another parent (of two) speculated it was financially driven. I had to step in and say my spiel about adoption. I had to explain that it's not like flipping a light switch, and it takes a momentous decision to refile that application and put yourselves and your families "out there" again.

I wanted people to know it's not about money. It's not about a conscious decision to have the smallest number of offspring possible. For us at least, it's about balancing the right time and realizing and ACCEPTING that so very much of it is out of control.

One mother commented that she had her babies 15 months apart because she wanted to be finished with diapers as soon as possible. I sat and smiled and reminded myself that our next child might already be DONE with diapers by the time he or she (OR THEY!) come home.

Another advised that it was best to have a girl first and then a boy. I closed my eyes briefly and imagined what girl on earth would want our son as a baby brother.... only the luckiest one, of course. :) And who knows... maybe our son will have an older sister. Someday, sooner or later. When we're ready.

For now we'll just keep on doing what we do best... smiling stupidly when all else fails!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Silence is Golden, But Family Noise is Music to My Ears.

Growing up, I appreciated the refrigerator. By some defiance of the laws of physics, the standard 'family fridge' managed to sustain our super-sized family. I likened it to an overstuffed clown car, except our appliance housed an incredible amount of food instead of circus performers. I wouldn't have been surprised, though, if a clown was buried back behind the pickle jar.
Sometimes, I worried that the fridge would explode, and we'd spend our afternoon scraping margarine and appliance shrapnel off the ceiling. But we assured ourselves that if the fridge didn't implode or collapse when we closed the door, it was probably safe for at least one more day.

Somehow, our fridge stored the required two gallons of milk (one is just foolish; it wouldn't last a day in our home), Costco-sized bricks of cheese and vats of ketchup stuffed in alongside the standard leftovers, baby foods, heads of lettuce for tomorrow night's dinner, etc, etc. 

I miss those days. I miss seeing an overstuffed fridge, and all the other 'squishing' that goes along with a big family. I miss fighting over spots on the couch, and a comfy seat at the dinner table.

I suppose it's a direct result of growing up in a sea of children. Before I was thrown from the nest in my early 20's, I had never, ever, ever, ever come home to an empty house. The door was never locked, the lights were never out. There was always someone lurking, or lounging around to keep me company (or keep me annoyed!)

When I moved out of the family home, I got used to the weird phenomenon of coming home to... silence! I heard - for the first time - the hum of the refrigerator makes.

I actually called my mother long distance from residence in a panic. "The fridge! There's something wrong with the fridge!"

"Is it leaking?"
"Is it on?"
"Is the food still good?"
"Um. Mom. I live in res. There's three litres of pop, leftover Kraft dinner, and a jug of milk."
"Smell the milk and call me back."

..... (Ring).....

"Hi Sarah."
"Hi Mom. The milk smells okay, but it expired last Tuesday." Hmm. Okay, what's the fridge doing."
"It's humming."
"Mom? Are you there?"
"Yes! I'm listening to my fridge. It's humming, too!"

We both marvelled at the sound.

I miss those days, being part of a huge adoptive family. Somehow, hearing the appliances groan and complain is less comforting then the noise of children. I'd take a house full of noise over silence any day.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The 30 Day Mountain

Under BC law, birth mothers are entitled to revoke consent to their child's adoption any time within thirty days of their child's birth.
I thought I had good insight into how difficult those thirty days must be. I've supported adoptive families and spoken with birth parents and birth grandparents who've been on either side of the thirty day mountain.

After thirty days with my international students, however, I cannot fathom how hard it must be for everyone involved during those thirty days of adoption uncertainty.

I KNEW my kids' stay was temporary. I took comfort in the fact that 'my' two teenage children had a safe and stable home to return to, half a world away. I prepared myself mentally (and I THOUGHT, emotionally) for the separation that would occur exactly thirty days after their arrival. And I STILL ended up crying into my Cheerios the morning my big kids climbed onto the school bus and headed to the airport to fly home to Korea.

So, adoptive parents, how do you do it? Does every ring of the telephone strike fear into your hearts? Do you survive on adrenaline for thirty sleepless nights, fighting your inner urge to bond!bond!bond! with your new babe? Do you intentionally hold just a little back in case the call comes? Or do you give all your rapidly-growing heart can muster, so that your child knows love and nothing else even though uncertainty hovers, clouding the minds and thoughts of the adults involved?

Birth families, do you count down the days, too? Do you wish they passed more quickly or slowly? How do you recognize day thirty when it finally arrives? What can family and friends do to support you during this month, and beyond?

I tip my hats to everyone who climbs the thirty day mountain. This adoptive mother can't imagine making that climb. But I congratulate all who do, for the sake of the child you all love.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

More Fun and Games in the ER

It was fun and games as usual at our household last night. My homestay son and daughter had been outdoors two nights before, and gotten more than their share of mosquito bites.

Last night, I bought them calamine lotion for their old bites and OFF spray to prevent new ones, and sent them out for an evening walk. 

When they returned my son had enormous welts covering more than half his body. These weren't just mosquito bites, this was an all-out allergic reaction. They covered his entire back, both arms, his belly, his legs, and were sprouting up on his neck and face.

So off we went to the emergency room at 9:30pm. First I had to rouse my not-quite-sleeping three year old (who was MORE than happy for a middle of the night adventure!) and pile all the kids in the truck.

My husband met us in the parking lot to take our little guy home, which left me and my two teenagers at the doorsteps of the local hospital.

The admissions clerk was frustrated because I didn't have a Care Card for my student. I kept referring to him as my son (force of habit at the ER, I suppose, from the many occasions with Noah), and I gave them my local address, therefore he must be a Canadian citizen, or at least a BC resident covered under MSP, right?

Next she couldn't understand that the kids COULD speak English (but not perfectly), and that I could NOT speak Korean.... and that somehow between these two languages, we still couldn't determine if there were any possible allergies that - so far, during his one month stay - had not been disclosed.

The nursing staff was great, getting him set up with an IV and antihistamines, finding warm blankets for his sister as we waited, watched, and waited some more for the swelling go down.

The doctor arrived and wondered who on earth I was, and how everyone was related. The phone at the nurses station kept ringing because the homestay coordinator kept calling the hospital for updates. (How he got that direct line, I may never know!)

I felt like I was being Punked when the doctor came back and insisted we refer my son to see an allergist in Japan. "Korea," we smiled.

In the end we were sent home in the wee hours of the morning, with extra anti-histamines and instructions to come back if there were any problems breathing. Ahhh, such a comfort!

I must say, however, that the experience really endeared me to my big kids.... I've heard many a social worker advise new adoptive parents: "When you get your kids, pray that they get sick. Not a big sick, but a little one... so you can baby them and take care of them."

That was certainly true last night. In all the hustle and bustle of the busy ER, I felt a stronger bond growing between me and my teenage son and daughter. Funny how a few dozen giant welts can endear you to someone, isn't it?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Someday, Maybe, Baby, This Could Break Your Heart.

I'm parenting a child with a closed adoption. While we lack the connectedness to his birth parents, my son doesn't consciously notice their absence yet. He's too young. As a parent, it's too easy to take comfort in not having the privilege of negotiating roles, relationships, and rules. But the responsible, forward-thinking part of me looks forward to an eventual reunion between my child and his birth parents. When he's ready, of course, on his terms.

But... what if he's ready, and they're not? What if he knocks, and door remains shut? What then, do I say to my child?

When the boy I dote on grows into a six foot tall man, with stubble on his cleft chin. How will I look into the face, the now-porcelain skin turned rough; years of enjoying life carving delicate creases in the folds of his mouth and eyes? Can I look at him someday and see a grown man instead of the little boy I cherish now? Can I look into his adult face and break the heart of a man, knowing that the soul of my small child is still there, just below the surface?

How will my spirited, emotional son manage? How does it feel to be placed for adoption once as a child, and to be told "no" as an adult by the same family members that weren't able to raise you?

I asked a dear friend of mine - an adult adoptee - who had been turned down by his birth relatives in his own search. He's guarded. Not wanting to say too much, not wishing to superimpose his feelings, emotions, and experience onto my son, when he's years away from such a possibility.

"I... just want to know WHY." he said simply. "Just why." 

Not good enough...I thought. To leave a grown man still wondering, still searching, half a century later.

I scoured our library. Lots of books on reunion. Stories of twists in fate reconnecting families. Tales of sometimes awkward, sometimes distant relationships. Of once-or-twice meetings followed by a return to the usual worlds. Booklets outlining how and where to search. Groups devoted to supporting adoptees and birth relatives on the road to reunion.

But nothing devoted entirely to refusals. Isn't that painfully ironic?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I Can't Run Away - A Bad Person Might Adopt Me!

My son may look back on his childhood and say "What on earth was Mom thinking?"
I'm trying, Noah. It's just that sometimes, my good intentions and thoughtful interpretations, and my smothering style of mothering.... means that things get lost in translation. (Plus I'm as forgetful as ... uh, what analogy was I going to use again??)

Last night at the swimming pool, I realized post-swim that our towel was sitting, neatly folded, on the front seat of the truck. So Noah endured a pat down with sandpaper-quality paper towel, and a rake from the hairbrush because I remembered the shampoo but forgot the conditioner.

It's no wonder he went streaking from the women's change room at the exact moment that I was down to my underwear and looking - fruitlessly - for clean pants to put on Noah for the ride home.

I got dressed as quick as I could. But remember, we had no towel, so getting my soaked legs into my jeans took a few seconds longer than usual. I threw on whatever shirt I could find (inside out) and chased my naked son out to the lobby.

"NOAH!" I bellowed. (Oh no, I'm becoming one of THOSE mothers.) "Get your naked booty over here!"

Once I had my naked, kicking child under my arm, I tried to look calm and serene as I escorted him (hair unbrushed, jeans soaked, and t-shirt on backwards and inside out!) back to the women's change room. I sat him down on the bench and looked into his wide brown eyes. "Noah, what can happen if you run away from Mommy?"

"Um... I can get squished by a car!"

"Right. What else can happen?"

"Um... someone can take me!"

"Right, and then what?"

"They might hurt me. They might make me eat vegetables. The bad people might even ADOPT ME!"

Oh goodness, Noah. Please. Please understand that adoption is a good thing and not a threat.
You're not going anywhere! Come to think of it, neither are your vegetables.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Donor Unknown.... the Next Frontier of Family Secrecy

Donor Unknown: Adventures in the Sperm Trade follows young adult JoEllen Marsh on her search for biological half siblings, and ultimately her donor father. A New York Times interview helped identified several more siblings, and located "Donor 150", her biological father, who happened to read the article in a Venice Beach coffee shop.

The story raised questions and revisited some sad realities of donor conception. One of JoEllen's half sisters wasn't told of her donor conception until the age of 14. And while nearly a dozen children have been identified, it's believed many more were born with the assistance of Donor 150.

Where are these young people? If they chose not to make contact, that's one thing. But how many children are there out there, (conceived via sperm or egg donation, or embryo donation or embryo adoption) who don't even know how they came to be?  Do they even know their story? Don't they deserve to?

We've been here before. More than a generation ago. And we look back and shake our heads and and wonder how our grandparents and great-grandparents thought secrecy in adoption was beneficial to everyone involved. What we don't all agree on is the fact that we're battling the same secrecy demons when it comes to children conceived via assisted reproduction.

The whispering has returned.
 "Will you tell the kids?"
"You don't have to tell anyone, they'll never know the difference..."
We facilitate that lie.

Families can choose their donors based on physical attributes - matching them as closely as possible to the intended parent(s). Choose a blood type, pick a cultural back-ground. Opt for someone tall or short, stocky or slim, choose the very skin tone, and specify eye and hair colour, and musical talent.

...and that's all fine and wonderful. We do a lot of the same thing when we choose a life partner. But if our motivation is to deflect suspicion that (gasp!) our children might not be biologically related to the parents who raise them.... are we doing any better than previous generations when it comes to secrecy and identity?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Kids are Here!

We're officially outnumbered by kids.... at least for the next 30 days!

Our students moved in early this week. They arrived looking sleep-deprived and mildly worried. We piled into the truck and they took their seats next to Noah - who, in truly uncharacteristic fashion, buried his face in his hands and refused to make eye contact with his "new friends".

So much prep went into getting Noah ready. We made sure he understood the stay was temporary. Words like "visit" and "a few weeks" and "a little while" were very common. I focused on the impact on him, and tried to prepare myself to make these siblings feel welcome and part of our family - without confusing our son that they were here to stay forever.

"Will it be just like a sleepover, Mommy?" Yes, I thought. He gets it! 

What I didn't prepare him for was cultural differences. Like... knocking on the bathroom door before busting in. That was a thrill for him (not so much for the students) on day one.

I should have spent more time practising the kids' names with him - so he'd be an expert at addressing them properly. Instead, Noah's renamed the students Max and Ruby. He think's it's hilarious. Fortunately, he's slowly coming around to addressing them by their proper names.

The major humiliation came at dinner time. "Noah, please ask the kids what they would like to drink," "Okay Mommy!"

"Maaax, Ruuuby, what do you want for drink? We have water, milk, juice, and BEER. Do you want a BEER?"

Oh dear, Noah. These poor children will never be allowed to visit Canada again.

(Thankfully, they both chose juice!)

Friday, July 29, 2011

30 Days as Mom to 3.

We're enjoying the thrills and insanities of parenthood. We are fully aware that our pride and joy is being raised as an only child. He has birth siblings, too, but in our home he's on his own. (Don't panic, Mom, we do have plans for more, and we promised to share when that day arrives.)

In the meantime, we thought we'd get our feet wet by signing up as homestay parents for the month of August. We had a few options... "proposals", if you will, of single children, paired kids, and a sibling group in grade nine and ten.

We opted for the sib group. A boy and a girl one year apart? What could be more fun??

And then it hit me.

On Monday afternoon, I will have three children.
THREE! Two of whom are arriving, jet lagged and missing home, from Korea. One of whom can't stay still for five seconds, and can't stop hopping in excitement about "the BIG KIDS!" moving in.

All three. Together. In my house.

Dear God, I need a minivan. 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thanks for Breaking Your Heart

Almost four years ago, my husband and I fell in love with my infant foster brother, and a miracle happened. We got to take him home. There were tears in my parents' eyes when we drove off with him... mostly because it was THEIR baby behind the wheel, driving off with their first grandchild. They would never have to say goodbye.

In the years that followed, I felt the familiar twinges in my heart many times. Often it was while holding a new foster sibling, or curling up on the couch with a toddler who lived in my parents' temporary care. When those babies and toddlers moved back home or to their adoptive homes, I'd feel a slight sadness, but never any true mourning. My parents, on the other hand, endured grief at every departure.

I never quite understood that sadness. That is, until now. I let myself fall in love again, with another little person. I'll call that little person Sam. Was it the spark in Sam's eye or the curl of Sam's smile? The wispy hair or the way Sam's whole face lit up with joy when a favourite person joined the room? Was it watching Sam play with Noah, and delighting in the shared giggles, the doubled grins, and the terrific team they really were?

I tried to figure out... what exactly put me so head over heels in love in the first place? I suppose it was more than my reckless disregard for protocols and adoption planning. It was just Sam. Sam had nuzzled into my heart. And letting go of a little one whose hand is on your heart? That's the hardest thing in the world. 

There's good news for Sam. A family is waiting to welcome Sam home. Which means the giggles I heard won't be doubled, at least not yet. And not by Sam. 

My head hurts. I stopped and I closed my eyes and imagined duplicating this feeling. I imagined feeling it again and again. It seemed impossible. Then I imagined feeling it from the child's perspective. Or a birth parent's perspective. I couldn't do it.

Sam came to visit recently. Sitting joyfully in the stroller, looking up at me with a devilish grin and a sparkle in both eyes. "Hi Mom!" Sam greeted me. I felt my heart shatter in that instant. I'd always been "Aunty Sarah". No one had prompted Sam to call me Mom. It just happened. And it broke my heart completely.

As much as that hurt, I can only imagine the impact Sam's departure will have on my parents. They cared for Sam with love and affection for years until the perfect family was ready, and Sam was ready, to move forward. Not to mention how it will impact Sam, moving from the only home in memory to a new, unfamiliar place. How long will it be until Sam's ready to flash that magnetic grin and say "Hi Mom!" again?

To all our foster parents out there, thank you for breaking your hearts. Over and over again in the name of our kids. Thank you for showing your kids this love, and preparing them for the awesome transition of loving their new parents. After all, you showed them how.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Happy Father's Day to.... ?

Truth be told, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about Noah's birth father. Perhaps because I'm his mom, I feel a much stronger pull towards his birth mother - even though we have comparably little information on her. 

She carried my son, birthed him, loved him, and made an adoption plan for him. I carry an ongoing concern, endless gratitude, a fair share of curiosity, and a genuine worry for her well being.

But birth father? He's on the very outside of my radar. He's there, somewhere... but he's murky. He remains that way for most of the year. Until Father's Day arrives.

Every June, this mysterious person creeps into my thoughts.

Somewhere out there, my son has a birth father. He's not on our paperwork. There's a blank spot on the forms where his information should be. But that empty space doesn't erase the fact that he's out there.

Scratching for something tangible, I've tried to formulate a picture of him in my mind. Comparing Noah's features to his brother's, I try and identify his unique features.

Noah's eyes are distinct, so he must get his big brown peepers from his birth dad. His hair is a mess of curls while his brother's is poker straight. Maybe the curls come from Dad's side?

What's his heritage? When I look into his golden brown eyes and sweep the brown curls off my sons' forehead, I wonder about his ancestry, and his birth family's story.

I wonder what else has he taken from his genetic father. Do they have the same laugh? Do they both love soccer and hate vegetables? Are his many allergies something his birth dad also endured? What lucky or unlucky genes has he passed forward when our son was conceived over four years ago?

I have no answers. The canvas is blank. The story's not told. Somewhere out there my son has a birth father. Does he know he's a dad? Does he have any idea what an incredible son he helped create?

Wherever you are, birth father, whatever kept you from your son's life, I hope you are making something incredible out of your life. Your son is doing just that. Happy Father's Day.  

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Lessons in Blessings

I'm curled up next to the window on the 8th floor of Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. Down the hallway, machines beep and hum. Shoes clack along the linoleum floors. In our room, all is quiet as the warm summer sun streams in the window. Two feet away, my teenage sister Becky is recovering from surgery. She's sleeping off the morphine in the bed next to me.

We are so blessed.

Coming here, I thought this trip would bring a better appreciation for sisterhood, a new opportunity to "mother" and tend to the young woman who had grown from the baby I fell in love with seventeen years ago. I thought it would be about healing and reconnecting.

While those things are happening, the most profound outcome of this trip is realizing just how fortunate we've been in this lifetime. How blessed we are to have one another. How fragile our children are, and how lucky we are compared to some of the families who also call Sick Kids "home" today.

That realization crept in while I sat in the parents room during Becky's surgery. I claimed a seat in a corner, curled up with a venti coffee, and pretended to read from the collection of dog-eared magazines.

A middle-aged couple breezed in, sat down, and instantly started complaining. Their twelve year old son was having emergency surgery for a burst appendix. The father was busy rescheduling business appointments, intermittently apologizing and complaining that his son's surgery might impact the contract he was working on. In between phone calls, the couple said little.

I got up and moved. I chose the busy centre of the room. A young mother and father balanced two pre-school aged daughters. At one point the mother glanced at the clock and commented "Well, it's been 8 hours, we're at the mid-way point." She sighed, returning her focus to her young daughters.

While I wondered what kind of surgery could possibly take 16 hours, I glanced over to the corner where Appendix Dad was still on his cell phone. Appendix Mom was gnawing her fingernails in silence. The hours passed and Appendix Parents made their way to recovery. Families came and went. Another young couple sat down next to us.

Young Couple's son had cancer. He was only 3 years old and was having treatment administered via his spinal cord. 16 Hour Family shared their son's experience with cancer. His surgery today was to replace his liver (for the second time). Their precious seven year old son had conquered cancer, and was back for his second organ transplant. All this before the second grade.

As the families chatted, it became clear what a blessing they were to one another. Somehow, both families had extra love to extend to each other while their tiny sons endured precarious surgeries.  

It occurred to me that the families who had endured the most, whose children were literal warriors in their fight to stay on this earth, seemed somehow more grounded, more compassionate, and so completely undeserving of their plight.

These families had seen mortality on their children's faces and defied it. I don't know if they came to parenting as fighters, but they wore that badge, and wore it bravely.

I'm not worried about the 16 Hour boy, or the 3 year old battling cancer. Their families knows what they need to do to help them win their fight. My concern is for the twelve year old with the burst appendix.... does his family know how lucky they are that this surgery may be his first and last? Would they have noticed the other families, and counted their blessings if they had shut their phones off and opened their hearts a little to the other parents in the room?

I'm not too different from the Appendix parents. My phone was off, and my heart was open, but my mouth was closed. I didn't share any words of encouragement, didn't help to halve the pain either family brought into that waiting room.

Maybe I sat there to learn - to quietly be reminded that my son, and most of our children, are blessed beyond comprehension.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Privacy Planning for Your Adoptive Family

(From weekly newsletter 2 June 2011. Available at

"Can you imagine sitting in an airport next to your husband or wife and suddenly watching them stand up and announce to the busy concourse: "Everyone, everyone, listen up. I want you all to know that my wife had MANY lovers before me, and man did she used to have a drinking problem."

Shocking, yes? And yet, for many families it is difficult to understand why a child, who has no control over the sharing of their private information (abuse, abandonment, health issues, or just being adopted) would feel small, weak, or angry when their personal history is shared by their adoptive families with others."

Click here for the full article by Elisabeth O'Toole on privacy guarding your family.

Friday, May 20, 2011

New profiles are up!

A handful of new kids and sibling groups are up on the MCFD Waiting Child Bulletin!

Visit to meet the new additions... perhaps today is the day you'll "meet" your kids?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Grass is Always Muddier In Your Own Backyard

It occurred to me yesterday, as I was stripping the mud-covered jeans, jacket, and saturated boots off my flailing three year old, that perhaps owning a back yard isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Some say the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Comedienne Erma Bombeck noted that it's always greener over the septic tank.

Yet no one warned me that the grass is always muddiest in your own backyard. One of the biggest selling features of our place was the yard - green grass, lots of space for Noah to run around in, and NO swimming pool to give me heart palpitations from worrying myself sick.

We knew the yard needed a bit of levelling and aerating, and put it on our seemingly endless list of "things to do" to fix up our home and make it shine.

Yesterday "fix backyard" went from number 15 or 20 on the list to number 1.

There's a puddle.
WAAAAY in the back.
It's basically a pool of muddy waters.
It's avoidable.
It's not particularly noticeable til you are way out in the yard.

And it took about four seconds for Noah to find it, and take a running leap into the mud.

He has excellent form for a three year old. Olympic diving potential, I might even wager. He landed squarely in the puddle, and emerged, jeans soaking, hair covered in muck, grinning from ear to ear.

I'm not sure whether to sign him up for swimming lessons or simply close off the backyard until the drainage is complete.

Then I had a flashback to the day we met Noah's big brother. We went to the beach because both boys love water. And his big brother took a flying leap towards the ocean and landed - like a true Olympian - in a muddy tide pool.

Huh. Perhaps the need to launch oneself into muddy waters is genetic. Or perhaps it's something all little boys inevitably attempt.

I hope you liked your mud bath, Noah. Just remember, you might have a bunny for a wife, but that doesn't make you a barnyard animal. So could you PLEASE stay out of the puddles?

I'm a Mother-in-Law, to the Easter Bunny. Oh well, at least she's got a job...

My son certainly gets points for imagination. Over the past few months, he's crafted an imaginary friend, who became his imaginary wife, who then took physical form in his three foot tall yellow Easter bunny.

Today his wife has a name, and Princess the Easter bunny has some interesting habits. Not that being married to a three year old human while inhabiting the stuffed body of a mythical holiday creature isn't interesting enough.

"Princess got a job, Mommy." Noah advised me last night. "Oh really?" I responded "and where does Princess work?"

"In my lightbulb, because you broke it, Mommy."

Actually, he's only half-right. His lightbulb works perfectly, we just happened to have disconnected it, much to his dismay at 10:30pm when he wants to play.

"Princess works while I'm sleeping, Mommy." Well that's interesting news. Because last week Princess was found on the floor piled up under other stuffed animals.

"Princess is snuggling with our babies, Mommy." Noah explained when I asked what his wife was doing face down on the carpet. "I had a long day. I'm tired. I'm going to sleep and she can watch the babies."

I smirked a little. "How many babies do you and Princess have, Noah?"

"Um... ten!" he announced. "Now I'm exhausted. It's time to sleep."

Great. Now I'm not only a mother-in law, but I'm also a grandmother to ten. I better get a flow chart started so I don't miss any of their birthdays....

Friday, May 13, 2011

Transitioning? The Kid is Fine... It's the Adoptive Parent Who's Having Trouble

Last week we had the 'adventure' of moving from our two bedroom apartment to a house.... which might have been fun.

MIGHT have been fun. Large, dramatic emphasis on MIGHT have been.

You see, it had fun potential, if only our moving dates matched. Instead, we were out of our apartment on Friday morning, and scheduled to move in the following Monday afternoon.

I worried. I feared my little son would be vulnerable to anxiety about leaving behind the only home he remembered. I worried that dragging him across the Salish Sea to Grammy's house would create trauma when we came 'home' on Monday to a new house where nothing smelled or seemed familiar and all his worldly possessions were piled up in boxes.

I bit my nails for nothing. We spent mother's day weekend careening around Grammy's house, stuffing our faces with leftover Easter chocolate, and visiting cousins and playing with kids of all ages and sizes.

We went to parks and played in the yard and talked about our "new house" and all the fun we'd be having in it.

In the end, all I needed to do to assure my son that he was safe was show him the backyard. "YAY MOMMY! PUDDLES!" He was instantly at home in the mud.

Soon enough, he stripped himself nude and hopped in the tub. He ran out the front door and played happily in the carport. (Thankfully he'd been redressed before the public outing.) He had immediately claimed this house as his own. Infact, this morning, he announced that he and his four foot tall stuffed bunnny would be getting married and moving into the master bedroom.

Um, I'm glad you like the house, son, but you are not marrying a stuffed bunny and evicting your parents. At least, not while you're three years old and still wearing footed pajamas.

Four days in, he still hadn't asked about our old apartment. Not once. I tempted fate this morning and said casually over breakfast "So Noah, do you like this house? Do you miss our old place?"

He chewed on his scrambled eggs for a minute before replying. "Nuh-uh. Scooby Doo likes this house! A-wooooooooooooo!" Well, if it's good enough for Scooby, it must be good enough for Noah.

And that is GREAT news for this nervous Mommy.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

It feels good to be back! After a year and a half as Education Coordinator, I am thrilled to be returning to my role as Adoption Support Coordinator for families in the Vancouver/Coastal region.

I'd like to congratulate Michelle McBratney on her new position as Family Finder. She's still a part of the AFABC team, but will work with specific families in her new role.

More congrats... this time to Yvonne Devitt as she returns to her position as Education Coordinator. Yvonne served AFABC and our families in this role for nearly ten years and has returned with fresh ideas for the future of our Education Department.

If you had Michelle, Yvonne, or myself on email, never fear! Even with all these changes, our emails remain the same - and our support to you as families never wavers!

I'm thrilled to be back! I'm rolling up my sleeves and planning some events in Greater Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast.

If you live in Squamish/Whistler area would like to see a summer event in your area, I'm all ears! Please contact me at 604-320-7330 ext 105, or email me at Let's get something together for our Sea to Sky Families this summer!

...And for families living on or planning to visit the Sunshine Coast, now's a great time to book your spot at the Father's Day Weekend Family Camp. Bring your tent or RV and the whole family! Registration required:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Zsa Zsa, Tell Me it's Not True!

Zsazsa Gabor's husband, Prince Frederic von Anhalt, has announced his plans to have a baby with his 94 year old wife.

Don't panic, folks. The Prince is only 67 himself, a spry retiree who has the "time to take care of it". IT. Yes, he really said it.

Since Zsazsa lost her leg last year, injured her hip, and hasn't walked since a car accident several years ago (and, I'm thinking, since she's nearly a centenarian!) the couple plan to employ a surrogate and egg donor in order to fulfill their baby plans.

The Prince worries that, once his ailing wife passes on, he might get lonely - and creating a baby is a logical solution for the retiree. They also fear the end of the Gabor family name, and are racing time to produce a child before Zsazsa passes on.

I typically don't comment on individual families' plans to add children through birth, adoption, or surrogacy. But when the intended mother is nearly 100, and their baby plans are inspired by the threat of boredom or loneliness, I have to speak up.

My grandmother is in her 90s. She had her last baby later in life, but that child is now grown and in her 40's. It was so late, in fact, that my grandmother and my aunt (mother and daughter) were pregnant at the same time.

But even that's not possible for Gabor. Her only daughter Francesca Hilton is 64 herself, and would be - many would argue - a little old to be parenting a newborn.

My ninety something grandmother loves babies, but when her great-grand babies come to visit, it's for a few hours at most. After all, grandma is 92. She lived through the Great Depression, survived World War II, crossed the ocean on a ship to build a life in Canada, and is now enjoying her golden years in peace and quiet. 

Shouldn't Zsazsa be afforded the same serenity at this stage in her life?

If her royal husband is feeling lonely or despondent, I have a few suggestions for the chap - now that he's retired and has time to "take care of" things.

1) Become a volunteer grandparent. That way, he won't have to buy diapers for himself and the new baby at the same time. 

2) Adopt an older teen. Let the child decide if he or she would like to take on the Gabor name, and have a 90 something mom and 60 something Dad. I promise, adopting a teen will leave you VERY entertained and busy as you face the remainder of your life on earth! 

3) Adopt me! I have parents. Very loving ones. But I'm in the age range you could be looking at for kids. True, Mom Zsazsa will still be 65 years older than me, but Dad and I will be close enough in age to get along well.

The one condition, of course, is that I get to keep my biological parents. I'll even take on the name Gabor, particularly if I get to be a Princess, and if it makes you think twice about creating a baby just to keep you entertained.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Generations of Toilet Training

Before I became a parent, I had grandiose plans to have my child toilet trained by two, reading at three, and filing my taxes on his fourth birthday.

Perhaps it's the relaxed attitude of my generation, but we're into year three already and I'm still lining up for Pull Ups at the grocery store. Noah knows every word of "Once Upon a Potty", yet he's not reading, he's merely reciting the words from memory. And my taxes?? I can't even file them, so there's no hope for Noah completing this year's return.

(Noah, if you read this post years later, I'm sorry for "outing" you as a mostly trained 3 year old. But remember, I did NOT include pictures of you sitting on the toilet... whereas your grandmother has framed pictures of ME snacking on a purple popsicle while chilling on the commode when I was your age...)

I digress.

Back to YOUR toilet training. A generation ago, if your child was 2 and not trained, there was something wrong with both parent and child. One generation further back, my grandmother gained fame and posterity for "training" her children at 6 months. I suspect she may have spent a lot of time hanging her babies over the toilet, but she swears they were "cured of diapers" well before their first birthday.

Today, it's anyone's guess. We know more about the human body and how little bladders really ARE little and we shouldn't rush or shame our kids into producing ONLY on the toilet.

Even the way we train has changed a lot. This weekend we bought a whole stack of "big boy underwear". Some had cars and trucks on them, others had monsters or blue stripes. We bought a package of mini marshmallows to reward him every time he peed on the toilet.

After we got home, we called one of Noah's grandmothers to share the excitement. After the phone call, Noah proudly annouced, "I can't pee on my monsters or they will bite my bum!"

I was momentarily stunned, but Noah was delighted. The idea of inciting a biting frenzy on his bum filled him with giggles - not fear... although the giggles didn't work and he ended up peeing on the monsters before the end of the weekend.

We're getting there, though - slow and steady. And I'm happy to annouce I'm paying less attention to the calendar and MORE attention to my son's cues.

A co-worker gave me the best advice, and I'm taking this to heart "How many adults do YOU know who aren't toilet trained?" It's true - he'll get there when he's ready. And we can giggle about monsters until that day.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Nice Nostrils!

This morning Noah went to the dentist. We chose a pediatric practice, since his many experiences with doctors had left him with minor "white coat syndrome".

Luckily for Noah, the whole office is a kids paradise: video games, play rooms, and an overflowing treasure chest of prizes to reward kids after their visit.

Noah bounced around as usual, picking up toys, peering in exam rooms, hopping on and off of couches as he awaited his turn.

"Wow, and I thought my kids were busy!" One mom of three boys commented. "Oh, look at his curls!! Did he get them from Mom?" She squealed. As usual, I just smiled and said "Oh, I don't know.... " A busy dental office with a bouncing Noah didn't feel like the right place to stop time and explain our beautiful family story.

Noah actually sat still for 3.5 seconds - long enough to allow an x-ray to be taken of his top teeth. The dentist remarked that his four adult teeth (on the top half, at least!) were all present and waiting to emerge in a few years. She asked if there was any orthodontic problems in the family, and as usual I just shrugged, smiled, and said "I don't know!"

I think the lightbulb turned on (or the notes in his file finally made contact with her scanning eyes) because she stopped, smiled, and turned her focus back on Noah.

"Well Noah, you sure got that beautiful smile from somewhere special!"

At that my frizzy haired 3 year old smiled brightly at the woman staring down at him from above. "Nice clean teeth, Noah! You sure did a good job brushing your teeth!"

With that, my son replied. "Nice clean nostrils, lady! You sure did a good job picking your nose!"

Now, THAT's my boy!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Where are Your Birth Babies, Momma?

Noah asked me where babies came from this morning. As usual, I turned the question back to its inquisitive source.

"Where do YOU think babies come from?" 

Quick on the draw, he very confidently replied "From bananas, Mommy. They grow in a banana and come out of the peel when they are ready. Surprise! It's a baby, not a banana!"

I tried not to laugh too hard. 

"Well, babies actually grow in their mother's tummy." I explained. We talked about dogs having puppies, cats having kittens ("and bananas having baby bananas?" "-Um, not quite, son....")

I further explained that Noah was very special because he had his mommy Sarah and his birth mommy. Then we discussed that he and J were brothers because they had the same birth mommy.

He seemed slightly less confused - at least he seemed sure that mammals begat mammals, rather than springing forth from tropical fruit.

"So, I grew in my birth mommy's tummy. And then I hatched, and THEN I came to live with you and daddy?"

"Yes, my love. Sometimes babies can't stay with their birth mommies, and we were so happy you could be our son!"

"Okay mommy. But... where are YOUR birth babies?"

Oh Noah. I love you. And we'll get through all this confusion together in time.

I don't think I got the chance to answer him. He interrupted soon after. "Hey, Momma, I'm hungry. Can I eat a banana?"

Sure - now that you know you didn't hatch from one. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Father's Day Weekend Family Camp
What are you doing Father's Day weekend? I'm going camping. With my 3 year old!!

AFABC is hosting a Family Camp on Father's Day weekend... and you're invited to join us!

Stay at Porpoise Bay Provincial Park in Sechelt at our group campground. Spaces remain for both RV and tent campers... visit to book your site and register your family for this fun filled weekend.

A few highlights...
*optional hike tour with Talaysay Tours(small fee)
*rock painting and scavenger hunt for the kids
*nightly music and marshmallows at the group campfire site... bring your instruments!

Spaces are limited in the group site, so book early to enjoy this kick-start to summer on Father's Day weekend.

Hope to see many of our families from the Sunshine Coast... and beyond! All are welcome this weekend. 

See you in Sechelt on June 17th!

For park info and regulations, please visit: Porpoise Bay Provincial Park

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day 1 of 1/2 Marathon Training

My first task was to locate my Iong-since abandoned i-pod. I found it at the bottom of my purse, covered in Cheerio dust, with a breath mint stuck to the screen. (At least it escaped the half-capped lip gloss that's been lurking around the depths.)

Charging it up, adding a few inspirational songs (Eye of the Tiger, anyone?), I set out into the dwindling sunshine on the empty roads. 

My plan was to run until my legs or lungs gave out - but I didn't have the foresight to predict neither one would be interested in giving out - just giving UP - on that particular evening.

As dusk enveloped our quiet neighbourhood, I could feel the cold clammy hands of nightfall and hear the sound of defeat (or was it an impending heart attack?) in my ears.

Mid-way through the run my i-pod went flying out of my pocket and landed in the bushes. No problem - I hooked myself back up, brushed the dirt off the headphones, and went back on my way. 

Then the battery died. Which was fortuitous, as I may not have otherwise heard the clicking sound on the pavement behind me. As it turned out, a new four-legged friend had come join me.

A long haired collie had joined me on my twilight run. Its owner was nowhere to be found - which was unusual, but not unheard of in our quiet neighbourhood.

At first I expected it to run off, but the dog stayed with me. I kept running, it would pick up pace next to me. When I stopped, gasping for air, it would slow down, or stop and look patiently up at me.

The dog ended up following me most of the way home. I just kept thinking "Here I am, out of shape, trying to run, and Lassie is standing by in case I need an ambulance."

Overall, day one of the training was a good experience!

I'm heading outdoors again tonight. If Lassie shows up, and she has a St. Bernard in tow, I'm taking that as a sign I should NOT be doing the half marathon!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Support Adoption & Sponsor me for the Scotia Bank 1/2 Marathon

Help me help them... lend your support to AFABC and help support adoption. Join me in person and come run the Scotia Bank 1/2 Marathon this June 26th.... or put your money where your feet would be and sponsor me and Team Adopt to help support adoption!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fostered... and Loved. Forever.

I still remember meeting my first foster brother. His arrival turned my teenage world upside down, or at least knocked it off its axis for a few weeks. He doesn't know it, but ten years later, he's still impacting my life.

 I think about him and the reasons why he eventually aged out of care. And I look at my son and think you're not so very different from that scared young man. And I wonder, am I capable of making an impact on another life? Am I ready to open my home to a child, knowing their stay is temporary? 

Prior to his arrival, I thought I had this family thing cornered. Some of us were biologically related, others came home through adoption. But all of us were permanent fixtures.

That changed the day a young man arrived. He was skinny and mouthy and not happy to be moving into a home with so many kids. I was in my late teens and not happy to be sharing a home with him either. 

He was only 12 years old, but his beautiful brown eyes betrayed a lifetime of adult experiences. Where had he been before he arrived, backpack slung on his shoulder, clothes and a handful of toys in a suitcase?

He stayed for about a year, even following my parents to their new home on Vancouver Island. On more than one occasion, he would plead with my mother and father, "Will you adopt me? Please? "

I've never asked my mom how much it hurt to hear those words, how much pain it caused them both when she answered honestly "No, I can't". Eventually, the boy moved in with an extended relative, but his stay with our family left its mark. In truth, he never really left.

A few years ago, I ran into him at the mall on Vancouver Island. I was there with my mom and with Noah - who at the time was snoozing peacefully in his snugly.

He came running up, smiling "Hi Mom!" he beamed. They exchanged a big hug. "He still calls you mom?" I asked later. Turns out he had never stopped - and that he was welcome at our home whenever he wanted to stop by.

I think I underestimated my parents' commitment to their foster children. I was humbled to see the love they had for their 'temporary' son was really more permanent than I had given them credit for.

I said hello and introduced the baby to him. I watched his eyes flicker when mom explained to him that Noah was once her foster son, too. "So you adopted him, eh?" I smiled, and watched as he quickly broke eye contact.

I'd give anything to know what he was thinking. Was it "why him and not me?" Did he still wonder why my parents said no, or did he understand their role a little better now that he'd grown? Did it make him feel less worthy, knowing that adoption was now an inter-generational part of our family? Did he feel like he alone had not been denied official welcome and permanency?

I wanted to tell him about all of those that came after him. The boys and girls, the babies and sibling groups, who were not meant to stay forever. The tears my mother shed when the children moved on, the grief she felt that no one seemed to comprehend or even bother to empathize with.

Did he know the pain it caused when she watched a child leave her arms and home? Could he guess how that pain was twinned by the pride of seeing "her babies" embraced by the loving arms of their parents? Could he imagine her joy when they went home to birth family or were introduced to adoptive mom or dad? Did he know she cried those same tears for him, had the same worries over his future, and keeps that same love on hand for him whenever he needs it? 

Mom, you may not have adopted or fostered me. You "only" gave birth to me the old fashioned way. But you've set an amazing example to your children - ALL of us, whether we called you mom for a day, a week, or a lifetime. Thank you.

And brother, if you're reading this. We may not share a name, but we share some pretty incredible parents. I'm glad you came to stay with us that day. I'm glad you're part of our family.