Friday, November 23, 2012

Zombies over Cats and Dogs

Last night I dreamed that litters of kittens and puppies were overrunning my house. My son was trying to determine which of the animals would be staying and which ones would be "makin' an adoption plan". Every time I picked a kitten or puppy up and placed him back in his nest with his siblings, another escaped and I'd have to chase him down. Pick up, put down, repeat.

I spent the better part of a REM cycle trying to bottle feed a set of premature Weimaraners while a kleenex-box-worthy Persian devoured my shoelace. In between shooing the kitten off of me and fretting over puppies, I came across a kitten with five legs and one eye. I worried he would be overlooked due to his special placement needs.

Even in my dreams, adoption permeates.

Don't get me wrong. Kitten and puppy dreams are a refreshing change, especially since my recent adventures in dreamland have been overrun with creative renditions of last week's episode of The Walking Dead. I just miss the zombies. No one wanted to adopt a zombie, and I'm pretty sure none of the undead adults wanted children (except as a meal, of course.)  It was a nice reprieve.

Life got busy so I haven't been blogging as much. Adoption Awareness Month is upon us, as are plans for the new year and the busyness of the holiday season.

My son has started kindergarten, and it's been a rough go for him so far. So I set aside the writing for a while, not seeing how much value it had to me as a parent and professional to be able to share in this format.

I'm pretty certain my lack of blogging has forced my ever-present adoption focus into my dreams. I believe it's a choice: live and love and work and write about adoption or live and love and work and dream about it.

So welcome back, readers. It's been a long while. I love my family, I love my work. But I'd much rather battle it out with zombies then rehome premature pets while I'm asleep. I'm here. And I've missed this!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

17 Sleeps Away

Earlier this month my husband and I did what a lot parents (especially parents of teenagers!) dream about: We went on a two week vacation across Italy and the Czech Republic. And we went alone.

Now, if Noah were fourteen, I wouldn't have batted an eye. But he's not fourteen. He's only four, and being apart is NOT so much fun for either of us at this stage in his development. But we did it, lived to tell about it, and are glad we went!

Eight years ago, we got married young and didn't have a lot of money leftover to spend on a honeymoon. So we kept saying "next summer" over and over again until we were suddenly 30 with a child headed to kindergarten and still no official honeymoon.

We decided this was the summer, and we nervously asked my parents if they would be willing to watch Noah for a 'few weeks' while we flew to Italy to drink lots of wine and eat lots of pasta and act like silly, childless twenty-somethings again.

They were more than happy to, and Noah was excited about going to "Grammy's for seventeen days, because I can do whatever I want!" (Uh, not so fast, Noah!) We quickly sorted out that Grammy and Opa's house was not a place to roam and misbehave and stuff one's face with ice cream for seventeen days straight, despite what previous short, indulgent visits may have led him to believe.

We prepared him well (me? not so much - I bawled at the ferry terminal after hugging him goodbye!) and saw each other on Skype almost every day. He played with his cousins and swam in the ocean and splashed in the sprinkler and was thoroughly spoiled by his grandparents during the 17 days and nights that we were halfway around the world pretending to be kids again.

The adoption-vigilant part of me worried needlessly about the impact of our 'abandonment' of Noah and how it make re-awaken feelings of grief and loss. Honestly, I think he handled our absence better than we did. After all, Grammy and Opa were Noah's foster parents from the time of his birth until his adoption almost seven months later. He'd slept in their home and smelled their food cooking and heard the same voices countless times before. He must have some sub-conscious memory of the place and routines.  

That's not to say there weren't tears, or moments where he demanded our immediate return. He had his share of tantrums and pouts while we were away. But he was all smiles when the trip ended and he leaped into my arms again. I did have to promise to take him with us next time, but that seemed only fair.

We got a wonderful belated honeymoon, and our son got to test out his independence under the watchful eyes of his grandparents.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Jealousy Does Not Inspire a Spay, Son

For a while now, Noah has been very, very curious about the possibility of kittens. His cat, Bella, is almost a year old now, and in his mind, old enough to be a mother.

Every few days, and sometimes twice a day, he asks:
"Momma, when is Bella having babies?" .... "She's not having kittens, Noah."
"Momma, it's time for kittens! When is Bella going to have them?" ... "She's not having kittens, Noah."
"Momma, I would really like it if Bella had some cute little kittens. I promise I'll be nice to them." ... "She's not having kittens."

Until one day, the conversation went like this:
"Momma, WHY WON'T BELLA HAVE KITTENS? She NEEDS TO!" .... and so Mommy cracked and said "Bella had an operation so she can't have any babies. There are too many cats and it's not fair to have any more. She will never have kittens."

Call me a bad mother for telling my four year old the sad truth about controlling the pet population. At least he heard it from me instead of Bob Barker at the end of a Price Is Right re-run.

Thankfully, he didn't seem overly upset by the news that we'd rendered his beloved cat sterile. He furrowed his brow and patted his cat on the head and bounded off to climb the tree stump in the backyard.

But he was thinking about it.

Yesterday we curled up on the couch, and Bella joined us. He had just settled into the crook of my arm when he whispered "I know why you gave Bella that operation, Mommy."

"Oh really, Noah?"..... "Yes! If Bella had babies you would be jealous. Because you don't have any more babies and if Bella has kittens you will be sad."

He turned over and looked me in the eye. I was trying to find a succinct way of dismissing his theory, while praising him for his (somewhat twisted) empathetic rationale, when he smiled and said:

 "Mommy. And there's another reason she can't have kittens." .... "Yes, son?"
"All that poo.... Don't forget the poo, Mommy". ..... "Okay, son. I won't. I promise. I won't forget the poo."

I gave my son a kiss, glanced at my sterile cat, turned up the TV, and tuned in to the Price is Right. 

I may not have spayed my cat in a fit of jealousy, but if it buys me a little acceptance from my 4 year old, I might just let this one slide.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Half Marathon Take Two (Tylenol, That Is!)

I knew it was going to be a slow run when I got owned by Barney the Dinosaur during the first kilometer. That's right - Barney. The. Dinosaur. The purple and green menace from my childhood, back to haunt me on The Scotia Bank Half Marathon.

The sad truth was, I was very sick the entire week before the race. I'd had a fever for five days straight, and spent most of the week in bed, unsure if I would even be lacing up on Sunday morning.

I felt terrible - not just physically. How could I bail on the run I had dedicated to my son? How could I let down my sponsors, who believed in me enough to put money down on my behalf, in support of adoption? And if that wasn't enough, I'd been named Team Captain this year. I simply could NOT sit on the sidelines.

When the killer sore throat made its devilish descent into my lungs, I convinced myself "I can do this... what's a little bronchial inflammation to a runner like me?" Clearly the extra strength Tylenol and excess Fisherman's Friends had messed with my brain.

The first kilometer wasn't too bad. I started waaay back in line. It was the octogenarians, the limpers, the take-it-easies, and me. I was doing okay for the first few hundred meters. But then I saw the dinosaur. He ran along, tantalizing me with his blue sneakers and FULL BODY COSTUME, including headpiece. With zero effort, he blasted past me, leaving a trail of purple fuzz in his wake.

"Come ON Sarah." I cheered myself along. "He's sweating his lungs out inside a polyester torture chamber. You have a little cough, a minor fever, and a whole lot of wimp... pick up the pace!"

I tried. I did rather well for the next few km, until someone caught my eye. She darted out from the thinning pack behind me and seemed to sprint forward into the crowd. She happened to be a Little person. And she was fast. "No matter," I told myself. "Good for her!" A few kilometers later, I was wheezing at the side of the road, and something incredible happened.

I got passed by a SECOND Little person. Now, I didn't have a measuring tape, and she was running pretty fast, so I can't be sure if she was just of short stature, or was genuinely Little. It didn't matter. She, like a few thousand others humans (big and small) and one prehistoric carnivore, had left me in the dust.

At this part I became concerned that maybe I would be last. Perhaps I didn't have it in me to finish this race. I might have to bow out. I told myself if I could make it to the top of the hill, and past the second water station, I would be okay.

That's when the stentch of skunk spray hit my lungs. Oh, yes. The faint odor I'd detected on my descent down the hill on SW Marine Drive at UBC, was now a full-fledged offensive onslaught. After the turn around, and with the encouragement of the morning sun, I was lamely hoofing it uphill when the smell punched me in the face.

Oh God oh God oh God. It was terrible. All I could think about was running as fast as I could to get past the smell. And you know what? It worked. It got me to Spanish Banks (or was it Jericho? Kits beach? Who cares, it was beachside and skunk-free and closer to the finish line).

So I kept running. And stopping to hack on the side of the road. I even found five dollars on the course (if you're reading this, Leaky Pockets, I donated it on your behalf to AFABC!). I made some games out of it. Run a kilometer. Stop to hack. Every time someone with pink socks passed me, I could stop. Every time the father/son team that ran and stopped at about the same pace as me stopped, I could stop, too.  Everytime a little kid stood cheering at the side of the road, I would have to run faster.

My little mind games kept me going until the 20km mark. Almost home! I could hear the celebration on the final stretch. Then I spotted my teammate, Drew Savage, who was finishing the last of his 5km race on our shared course. I sprinted a little to catch up to him and said/spat "Hey teammate, let's finish together!"

He had no clue who I was of course, some oxygen-deprived crazy squeezing up next to him in the final kilometer. I tried to nudge him with my elbow to keep his attention and say "Hey we're both on Team Adopt!" That's when my arm decided to flail and I accidentally slapped our celebrity teammate across the arm.

I'm sorry Drew.

He ran away after that. Like a horse whipped at the racetrack, he gunned it towards the finish line and I did what I'd been growing used to by that time of the morning. I stood on the side of the path and hacked.

I DID finish the half on Sunday morning. My time was a wretched 2:38, but I FINISHED it! I am so proud to have led (or rather followed!) Team Adopt across the finish line, and to have been part of this wonderful campaign.

Thanks and congrats to everyone who joined us and cheered us on this Sunday!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What does Green Man, Purple Hair, and Drew Savage Have In Common? Adoption!

Less than two weeks from today, 'my' team of young adoption advocates, former youth in care, adoptive parents, and adoptees are taking to the streets of Vancouver to celebrate adoption in the Scotia Bank Half Marathon and 5km Charity Challenge.

As Captain of Team Adopt, it's been a real joy to watch the young people step up and step out, embracing the colourful world of adoption.

If you can't join us on foot this June 24th, consider a donation in support of teen adoption. Our Speak Out Youth Group members are all registered here to accept your generous donation. 

You can also support your favourite adult adoptee, adoptive parent, celebrity ambassador, AFABC staff member... or me! Captain Sarah, on my sponsor page.

Extra special thanks to everyone who is running, walking, or cheering from the finish line, and to you for pledging your support for Team Adopt!  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

New Family, New Name... with a Twist

Juliet was right, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But Shakespeare probably wasn't thinking about adoption, let alone teen adoption when he penned Romeo and Juliet half a millenium ago.

I'm often asked by prospective adoptive parents of infants and toddlers if name changes are still acceptable in adoption. The general consensus (for the pre-school crowd) is that last names are typically changed, but first names are very rarely changed - in part to honour and respect the choice of birth parents. There are exceptions, of course, and ultimately it's a decision the adoptive parents make on behalf of their new child.

When discussing teen adoption, the decision "to be... or not to be"... a name-changer must really come from the youth themselves. They are already committing to new parents, new environs, perhaps new siblings, schools, communities, and friends. Keeping their last name is very important to many of our youth... while for others, a "new family, new name" is a great opportunity to formally embrace a new last name.

I know of a few siblings that were adopted together as teens... where one sib kept their birth last name, the other chose to take on their adoptive parents' last name. It came down to each child's personal choice. And it worked out fine for these families and all the kids involved.

I hadn't given much thought to a third option, until I got a great phone call last week. A prospective parent of a teen wondered if she could change HER last name to that of her teen's. My response was... well, why NOT?

I know, I know... it won't work for everyone. Many of us "adult folk" are too set in our ways, or have established a professional career that is tied to closely to our name. But for those considering changing your own name to embrace your child's last name, I say what have you got to lose? Juliet was right, after all. And I can't think of a sweeter way to show your commitment to your new son or daughter.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Waiting is defined as "remaining ready". In adoption, many of us are READY to be parents before the ink is dry on our application. However we come to adoption, it's usually based on loss, and our emotional readiness is often there long before we're trained and approved to parent through adoption. So we're already WAITING from the day we get started. And all of us know - or at least come to know, that waiting in adoption is a whole other kind of "remaining ready".  

Regular waiting is manageable, because there's a defined end or resolution in sight. My son can't wait to be 5, but he's comforted knowing his birthday will be coming in a number of months, sometime after summer vacation, and shortly after Halloween.

But waiting in the adoption journey is difficult at best. Unless you've waded through your own wait, it's hard to imagine the mix of emotions that waiting parents experience at this stage of the journey.

With a drop in all types of adoption, the waits are becoming longer. The usual advice "build your village", or "read, research, and network" help some, but when the wait seems like forever, it helps to talk to someone else who's also treading water in the waiting pool.

So if you're waiting, patiently or otherwise, I'd invite you dive in to our new Vancouver Waiting Parents Group.

Our next meeting is:

Thursday, May 24th from 7pm-9pm
Trees Coffee, Yaletown

RSVP to our lovely facilitator Sandra at or email me at to let us know if you can make it!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

So, Who's Going to Adopt Me Today?

Every few months, I'm invited to participate in a panel at the Vancouver Adoption Education Program. The AEP course is for prospective adoptive parents. This particular class is for applicants applying through the MCFD (Ministry of Children and Family Development).

These past few visits, I've brought along my 13 year old sister and 4 year old son, who were both adopted through MCFD.

On the drive in, we had one of our little chats about adoption. I reminded Noah what adoption is, and that he and Georgia, and many of his aunties and uncles, and even Grandpa were adopted.

Noah understands pieces of his adoption, but he's young enough that abstract terms like "adoption" and "birth" vs "adoptive" vs "foster" mother are difficult to fully grasp.

Then I told Noah that today was special because we would be "talking to all the mommies and daddies that are waiting to adopt a kid".

"Well, what are they waiting for?" Noah asked. I explained about how important it was for the mommies and daddies to be ready before they adopted a child. He looked up at me suspiciously.

"Oh." Noah said. Then he was quiet for a while. "So, which one is going to adopt me this time? I hope I get a nice new Momma or Daddy."

He played serenely in the back seat of the car while I struggled to quickly and clearly convey that adoption was not going to be a recurring event in his life. "Sorry, Noah. Mommy and Daddy adopted you first. You're stuck with us."

He threw his eyes skyward, feigning defeat. "Well that's just great Mommy!" He exclaimed sarcastically. I didn't even know a four year old could be sarcastic. But he was.

I think he's relieved, though, not to be moving on from our home. I just hope he can muster similar sarcastic enthusiasm during his teen years. 

I love you, Noah. Thanks for joining us last weekend, and filling all those prospective parents hearts with joy.  

Friday, March 9, 2012


For many, adoption is a difficult journey. Dreams of cradling an infant, or chasing a toddler, or running with (or maybe away from?) a teenager are often difficult to realize.

The path from deciding "I want to adopt" to bringing home a child is well-travelled, but not an easy road. Many times there are roadblocks, unexpected detours, utter derailments. Traffic jams are common. Tried patience is, too.

But in the end, every family that makes the transition from "prospective" to "approved and waiting" to "adoptive parent" insists the journey was worth every bump in the road. In the end, the moment when your child is not just in your arms, but officially YOURS, couldn't be sweeter.

Today was one of those days, when sharing a family's joy gave me a glimpse back into that happy moment. That pocket of time when all the sweat, tears, frustration, and anticipation came together.

Today's news arrived via a quick note from a new parent. Thrilled to share that his daughter's adoption was "for sure". One month had passed since her birth parents made that unimaginably difficult decision to entrust their little girl to another set of parents.

So I sat at my desk and cried like an idiot. And I knew that any colleague that popped their head in would understand my tears because, they, too, were adoptive parents. Or birth mothers, or adoptees. They understood the gravity and the unspeakable joy brought by the reassurance that an adoption was going to go through. A child had found their parents. Two were now three. A family.

Welcome home, little girl.