Sunday, 30 September 2012

38 days and counting...

We leave for China 38 days from today.

I am at the point now where I have to temper my emotions when I think of the trip.  If I let myself get carried away, I quickly realize that one of my most amazing dreams is about to come true and I get overly excited. My heart starts racing and I get butterflies in my stomach.  I then start thinking about how it will feel to be there, and I get overwhelmed.  I have to tear myself away from my thoughts or else I just might start crying tears of joy (the ones that will inevitably come once I am jetlagged, tired and finally in China)...

And then, I start thinking about the after-trip.  I freak a little when I think of how I will feel when the trip is over and it's time to come home.  Can you say devastated?  Wow...  I expect that leaving China will be one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Last time we were there we had a really difficult time leaving China, but we looked forward to getting home to the comforts of home with our new baby.  This time, that won't happen...  We know what life is like at home (and truthfully, it is awesome!  but we know we will long for China once we come back). So leaving China will be tough, and I am ridiculously thinking about it now, when I should be thinking about the excitement of the trip, not the fact that it will eventually come to an end.

At this point, our preparations are as follows:  We have a China box, in which we place anything we're planning to take with us.  It is allowing us to start packing things we won't need for the next month, and that we plan to take with us. Everyone laughs at me because right now, it contains mostly Kleenex, toilet paper and antibacterial wipes.  Oh, and Halls Cough Drops.  Lots of them.  That is the one thing that we wished we had brought more of last time.

The planning stage is in full force now.  We have our Travel Visas, and we sent a letter by courier to our daughter's orphanage (in English and in Chinese) this week, inviting them to meet with us when we travel to their City.  We have no idea whether they will respond.  We had intended to use a guide, but she is not available on our travel dates, and there seems to be a shortage of guides in our daughter's particular area.  So we will be bringing a friend who speaks Mandarin and Cantonese and hope for the best.  Yikes!

So the countdown continues and the anticipation mounts!  :-)

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Xiangjiang Safari

I just found out today that there is a zoo/safari very close to where J and I will be staying in Guangzhou.  This is ridiculously exciting, and J and I will be keeping ourselves busy during the day.

The Xiangjiang Safari has tons of Pandas, and the largest number of white tigers in the world.  It has zebras (yay!) and monkeys, and about another 396 species...

We will also be going to the Chimelong Circus, so we just may come back with a trained and caged animal overload....

39 days!

Friday, 28 September 2012

Afterthoughts on the Visa post...

I have done a lot of thinking after I posted yesterday.

I've realized that the reason I am upset with the cancellation of J's passport is simple.  As I mentioned yesterday, when J became a Canadian citizen, amid the celebration, it bothered me that we were having to make this decision for her.  It sure would be nice if we could allow her to choose her preferred citizenship when she's older.  But at the same time, when she was granted her Canadian citizenship, there was no physical proof of her renunciation of Chinese citizenship.  This cancellation of her passport is exactly that.  It is the physical proof that she is no longer a Chinese citizen.  And that is, no doubt, why it bothered me so much.

One of my work colleagues thinks I am being overly sensitive about this.  I have to beg to differ.  I think it's important for me to realize how this factors in the loss my child has experienced.  Is she happy and healthy in Canada and in our family?  Of course.  Is she better off in a family in Canada who loves her than growing up in an orphanage in China?  Probably.  But I think this is an erroneous comparison when discussing the loss a child has experienced in the adoption process.

The true comparison is between a child who grows up with her birthparents vs a child who grows up in an adoptive family.  As a family created by adoption, I can proudly say that our child does not want for anything.  She is loved and cared for, happy and healthy. We are good, loving parents, and we do all we can to create and maintain a good understanding and connection to her birthculture. But that doesn't mean that she has not experienced loss.  No matter how good the adoptive family is, an adoptive child has, necessarily, by the very nature of the act, experienced loss.  In our daughter's case, loss of her birthparents, the nannies at the orphanage and her Foster family.  Loss of her culture, her language, the foods she ate, the smells she liked and the sounds by which she was comforted.  She has lost her citizenship, and her country.  Has she gained a truckload of things in the process?  Of course!  But does this extinguish the loss she has experienced?  Absolutely not!

As J's mom, I now have to choose how I will deal with all of this.  I can deny the loss and spend my life trying to convince J that she is better off where she is now (as most of the entire world will invariably try to do), or I can recognize the loss she has experienced and let her know that I am there for her when she needs to think, cry, or talk about it.  I can wait for her with a warm, comforting mommy-hug and a huge dose of "it's ok for you to feel like this and I'm here for you".  I choose the latter.

Good night my little (forever) Chinese-Canadian Princess...  I'm here for you.  Always.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Travel Visas! :-)

I picked up our Travel Visas today!  Yay!!!

I had brought all of our documents in last week to file the application, and was thankful that I had previously researched what the potential issues could be.  I was also very fortunate that my BFF is resourceful and made sure I had everything I needed from her!  She had sent me a letter of invitation with tons of details, as well as photos of 3 different parts of her passport, all of which I needed, but would never have known to ask for.

I was also glad I had been reading posts on a yahoo group about homeland visits.  Through this group, I became aware that if it is your child’s 1st time returning to China since his or her arrival to your country, you must send their Chinese passport along which they cancel and return to you.  I was ok with this, until I collected the Visas today.  The fact is that they (rightfully) cancelled the passport with a huge “CANCELLED” stamp on several pages.  This is not really a big deal to most people.  Child is no longer a Chinese citizen, child’s Chinese passport is cancelled.  Simple enough, right?

Wrong.  As I have posted in the past, by choosing to adopt a child from China, we “chose” to raise a child while meeting certain conditions, including revoking their Chinese citizenship and facilitating the process to have the child become a Canadian citizen asap.  Having “made the decision” to revoke my child’s Chinese Citizenship bothers me.  I wish there was a way that we could wait until our child is old enough to make the decision herself.  But that is impossible, and I understand that.

Nevertheless, when I saw the “cancelled” stamps, I felt like in the midst of trying to expose J to her birth culture and encouraging her to embrace it (the Visas were obtained for a homeland visit, after all), one of the steps in the process has been to take a little bit more of it away from her.  It’s not like we could have ever used the passport for her to gain entry into the country.  But At the same time, there was something about that passport that remained hers.  In its pristine condition, it was a proof of her heritage and of the mutual belonging she had with China (mutual, in the sense that she belonged to China and China belonged to her).  For some reason, I foolishly thought that this would last forever. 

Let’s be honest: the cancelled stamp on J’s Chinese passport do not change anything about who she is or where she comes from.  But I can’t help but feel that a little bit of her past was lost today. 

However, instead of letting this get me down, I will use it to propel the meaning behind our upcoming trip.  I am hoping that our trip will be much more memorable than a passport is.  And I will be honest with J.  At some point, I will tell her how I feel about this.  And she may share my feelings.  Or she may not.    But I am hopeful that this will lead to an important discussion on identity and cultural belonging-when the time is right. 

Back to the Visas:  I actually messed up today…  When I filed the application last week, I was given a slip of paper with a number on it that I was to return with today.  I forgot it…  So I had a really hard time getting them.  In the end, a Manager was called to see what could be done, and thankfully, she was the one who had taken my application!  She remembered me from last week!  Thankfully, she authorized the release of the Visas (with appropriate pieces of identification for both J and myself and a signed waiver).  Lesson learned for next time!

So this is real….  and coming soon!  We leave 41 days from today!!!  ( Oh wait-it's after midnight here-40 days!!!)

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Our trip to China-Intro

This November, J and I are embarking on a new journey.  My BFF moved to China in the Fall of 2008 and it is expected that she will be coming home (or, at least, moving away from China) at the end of the current school year.  Furthermore, it is rumoured that the Orphanage Director where J spent her first 6 months (followed by 7 months in foster care) will be retiring at the end of this year.  This combined with a stellar opportunity from a private benefactor made it such that on November 7th, J and I leave on a 12 day expedition to her homeland.

Let's be clear on this...  I have dreamed of going back to China since the day we landed in Canada.  I am absolutely, positively, unabashedly in love with China and all (well, most!) things Chinese...  I used to joke that if I had been to China as often as I'd planned to go, I'd be very well traveled by now.  So we are embarking on this trip, which will take us from home to Chicago, to Narita/Tokyo for a 20 hour stopover, to Guangzhou, to Guigang, and back.  

When I sit and think of the fact that in less than a month and a half, I'll be in China once again, my heart flutters and I feel warm inside.  I get very emotional and I feel like it's a dream.  My only fear is that when I'm there I will feel anxiety instead of joy.  This scares me a bit but those feelings are quickly replaced by anticipation and a peacefulness that reminds me that I will soon be in a place that is so important to me.

A work colleague asked me today why I love China so much.  My best answer was twofold.  Firstly, China is a significant part of who my daughter is.  She may not remember China, but it is where she was born.  It is where the people to whom she was born lived at the time of her conception and birth, and where they may very well still reside.  It is the country and culture which has allowed us to become a family.  It is where my daughter got her beautiful skin, small frame, dark brown hair and gorgeous almond shaped eyes.   

The second reason, which is more of a by-product of the first than an intentional act, is that if I love China, it is my (perhaps foolishly na├»ve) hope that my daughter will maintain an interest in it as long as possible.  If her interest resulting from her quest for knowledge about her birth culture is not sufficient to keep her interested, I hope that the fact that it is mommy's interest will prolong it, much like a parent's interest in hockey or music motivates their children in the development of their interests.  I don't know whether this will happen, and in fairness, we'll never know.  I have no doubt that someday, J will, at least temporarily, cease to be interested in her Chinese history and culture.  At that time, it will be impossible for us to tell what led to her (hopefully) prolonged interest: her personal quest for knowledge about who she is and where she comes from, or her mimicking of her mom's interest and passion for a country that her Mom loves so much.  But one thing is for sure, J will always know that her Mom is interested in facilitating her relationship with her birth culture.  

I hope to include as many details about our adventure here.  I hope you’ll follow along with us!

Time to get to know me....

I am a mom to a beautiful, smart, funny, witty, bright and clever 5 year old daughter.  She is the apple of my eye and the centre of my universe.

My daughter, J, was born in China.  For reasons that we will never know, J's birthparents, or tummy parents, as she currently calls them, were not able to care for her.  Through a series of events that we will never fully comprehend nor be sure of, she was eventually placed in the care of the Guigang Social Welfare Institute.  By the grace of God, she was matched with us in 2008 and we became her parents in March of that year.  We are amazingly lucky to have been able to become her Mommy and Daddy.

As a parent, and more particularly an adoptive parent, there are things that define me. Some may be shared by other parents, some may not.  Some may be a breath of fresh air to adoptees, and some may be offensive. The only one that troubles me in the latter.  I hope to never say anything that will offend adoptees, and I hope that none of these will be taken that way.  Honestly, I'm really not concerned about offending anyone else...

Here are some of my defining thoughts:

1. When you adopt internationally, citizenship is an important part of the process.  When your child becomes a citizen of your country, it is an exciting day.  But please remember that you are actually taking a substantial part of your child away from them.  When we went through the immigration process for our daughter, we were performing an essential part of the adoption process.  But we were also being forced to take away our child's Chinese citizenship.  This is something I feel guilty about, even though we had no choice in the matter. So when J became a Canadian Citizen, it was bittersweet.  We feel Canada is the greatest country in the world, for so many reasons.  But we've grown up here and it's all we've ever known. We are not at all happy about having to revoke J’s Chinese citizenship in order to become a Canadian…  

2. We have no fear or anxiety about J ever finding her birthparents.  If any mechanism ever is developed that will allow us to find them, and J wants to do so, we will support her 100%.  I would be so happy to be able to have them in our life.  J will have questions someday that she won't be able to answer without them.  They have had to make the most difficult decision a parent ever has to make.  I hope that they would be pleased to see that their child is happy and healthy, and respect the fact that they have suffered great loss in this process. Ultimately, the process of reuniting a child and his or her birth family needs to be based on the willingness of the parties.  I am not one of those parties and do not have a say.  I’m ok with that.

3. We did not “save” our daughter from China.   We did not adopt to “make a difference in the life of a child”.  Here is why these comments annoy me…  If these things happened as a by-product of the decisions we made, then so be it.  But it is clear that our first motivation was selfish.  We wanted to be parents.  We wanted to have the joys of parenting and we wanted to experience the pride of having an awesome kid.  We did this for us.  I admit it.   

How could I feel we “saved” J?  We swooped in there, took her away from everything and everyone she knew, to satisfy our need to be parents.  Today, she loves us unconditionally and is a proud Chinese Canadian girl.  But someday she will go through a phase where she resents us.  And with reason.  We have no right to expect her to be grateful to us for becoming her parents.  Because to us, this adoption is about creating a family.  But to her, adoption is about loss, trust, and heartache.  She says she misses her tummy mummy and tummy daddy, even though she does not remember them.  She says she misses her foster family too, although she says she doesn’t remember them either.  We need to be conscious of the fact that her emotions in this process need to be respected, supported and addressed appropriately. 

I feel we are good parents to J.  But that will not be enough as she grows up, and we are fully aware of that.  She will have to deal with the emotional toll an adoption takes on a child and remains with him or her as they grow up.  All I can hope for is that I’ll be able to be by her side during this process and support her as a mom should always support their child. 

4. J does not believe in Santa Claus.  Or the Easter Bunny.  Tooth Fairy, either.  I never did and haven’t made her to.  At 5, she also knows that it is not up to her to spoil the magic for other kids and respects that.  I have assured her that I will NEVER lie to her about anything important.  Truth and trust is essential in our family.  I do not lie to her about her background either.  I tell her what we know (in age appropriate bits and pieces), with caveats where they are appropriate.  I am allowing her to choose what she believes in.  As such, I will be able to maintain as she grows older, that I never lied to her about anything that was important (and hope she won’t consider it “important” that I lied to her about the fact that chocolate is spicy….).

5. I believe the celebration of the day our child joined our family should be called whatever feels right to us and to our child at any given time in her life.  There has been much discussion about the use of “Gotcha Day” and the objections to it.  Some families have justified their use of “Gotcha Day” in very interesting and convincing ways.  We don’t use the term.  We refer to the day we met our daughter as our “Forever Family Day”.  But that’s because that works for us and I don’t feel comfortable with “Gotcha Day”.  But I have no right to tell anyone else what they should say.  I’m all for doing my part to increase sensitivity.  But that doesn’t mean I can tell people what works best for their family.

6.  I don’t believe in protecting my child from everything in this world.  I feel that teaching her the skills to deal with everyday risks is far more important and enduring than ensuring she never gets hurt.  Let’s teach our kids that they need to be careful in dangerous situations, instead of making sure they are never put in any situations that carry a risk.  Let’s teach them that they will see and hear things in their lives that are not acceptable in our family  (swearing, drugs, promiscuity, “adult” clothing on children, etc) instead of sheltering them from those things and having them see those things later, at a time when they are ill-equipped to make decisions about them on their own.  Let’s teach kids that they need to make decisions about their friends and what behaviours they are willing to accept from their friends towards them, rather than running to the school or to other kids’ parents as soon as there is something of which WE don’t approve.

These are some of the thoughts that define me and our family.  I may add to these from time to time, as I know there are many more....

So take it or leave it-this is me.  I'm proud of me-of our family-of our life.  We rock!  :-)

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Why "Living Medley"?

Hi!  Welcome to my blog!  I'm glad you're here :-)

I've written and maintained blogs before, but none of them ever with the intention of posting anything and everything...  That's precisely what this one is for.

In the past few months, I have caught myself often thinking (and sometimes saying out loud): "I should start a blog about...."  So I am.  Here it is.

This blog is about me.  It's about my city.  It's about my family and our life.  It's about lessons I have learned.  Some of it will be funny.  Some not so much.

This blog is about a multitude of different subjects.  But most of all, it's about life.  My life-as a mother, a sister, a daughter, a wife, a worker, a friend.  And so on.

The term "Medley" came to mind because of the variety of stuff you'll find in here. defines a medley here as :

a mixtureespecially of heterogeneous elements;hodgepodge; jumble.
a piece of music combining tunes or passages from varioussources: a medley of hit songs from Broadway shows.

That makes sense, doesn't it?    This really is a mixture, hodgepodge, jumble of stuff all brought in to one place.  And the reference to music is simple and natural for me.  Music plays such a huge role in my life.

So welcome to my Living Medley.  Come on in and stay a while :-)