Alberta Adoption Leave

August 12th, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

Hello Monday!

Today I start my “parental leave.” Although the benefits do not start until our little one is actually home, I am relishing in my new unpaid freedoms: Jammies till 10 am, a full-blown breakfast of Eggs Benedict, homegrown strawberries, french pressed coffee out on the deck and—well—a foot-long laundry list of to-do’s before we “get the call.”

Eddie basking in the morning sun with me

Eddie basking in the morning sun

Best case scenario: we travel in about a month. Worst case scenario: unknown. Either way, I’ve got a head start to plan and pack and play!

Mud Pie. This is what I actually ate this morning. It is not as glamorous as the above mentioned brunch--but quite delightful! (Mix an egg, mashed banana, cinnamon and cocoa powder in a bowl and microwave for 2 minutes. Top with peanut butter.)

Mud Pie. This is what I actually ate this morning. It is not as glamorous as the above mentioned brunch–but quite delightful! (Mix an egg, mashed banana, cinnamon and    cocoa powder in a bowl and microwave for 2 minutes. Top with peanut butter.)

“Parental leave can begin at any time after the birth or adoption of the child but it must be completed within 52 weeks of the date a baby is born or an adopted child is placed with the parent.” (Alberta Federation of Labour)

With the Alberta government, you must have worked 52 consecutive weeks at your place of employment before you are eligible to apply for the employment benefits of parental leave. With adoptions, you are entitled to 37 weeks of benefit pay starting when you get home and have notified Service Alberta of the child’s date of placement. If you have worked a mixture of full and part-time hours over the previous year, or have taken leave early like I did, the government of Alberta will calculate your 22 highest paid weeks from the previous year and base your benefits off of that.

Hope

So if you are thinking of giving your “2 Weeks Notice”, here are the steps you need to take:

1. Give your employer 6 weeks notice

According to the Employment Standards Code employees must give their employers at least six weeks written notice to start parental leave.

“Parents will still be eligible for the parental leave if medical reasons, or circumstances related to the adoption, prevent the employee from giving this notice. When this happens, written notice must be given to the employer as soon as possible.”

Keep a copy of this letter or email.

2. Obtain your ROE or have your Employer send it to CRA directly

3. Wait for The Call

The Service Canada site says that “you should apply as soon as you stop working,” but I’ve confirmed over the phone with a representative that for adoptive parents, you do not apply until you have returned home with the child. You will need a “date of placement” in order to fill out the application form.

4. File for Employment Insurance Maternity and Parental Benefits

File the forms online and soon start to receive up to 55% of your average insurable weekly earnings.

For more information about Employment Insurance call Service Canada at 1-800-206-7218. (Good luck getting through!)

Waiting & Hopeful,

Liz

Edmonton Heritage Festival: Congo-Kinshasa

August 6th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Often known as Heritage Days or “nom weekend,” Edmonton celebrates multiculturalism on a wide scale every summer at this long weekender. Festivalgoers can travel around the world in 3 days; sampling a mosaic of ethnic food, entertainment and shops from 85 different countries.

Congo-Kinshasa Pavillion

Along with over 350,000 other Edmontonian festers this holiday weekend, Jamie and I met with some friends at the park and made a bee-line for the Congo-Kinshasa booth.

Congo Pavillion Clothing

The store at the Congo pavilion was minimal and a lot of the stuff sold at it did not appear to be specifically Congolese. We were hoping to see some art and hand made artifacts from the DRC. Disappointing!

Congolese Delecacies

We tried the grilled beef and fried plantains (they were like chewy fries.) Although over-priced, they were quite good. Did anyone try anything else on the menu?

Congo-Kinshasa Heritage Festival 2013

DRC Dancers Heritage Festival

Although seemingly slightly unorganized, the young girls show cased some African style dancing to enjoyable and lively Congo beats.

Finger Puppets.
I picked up these handmade finger puppets and adorable doll at the Peruvian pavilion. I thought the finger puppets would be great for the plane ride home from Africa with lil Z — light weight to pack and (hopefully) provide hours of fun.

I gotta say…I love my multicultural city, and can’t wait to bring Z to the Heritage Fest next year!

XO~

Liz

 

 

 

Adoption Paperwork Organization 101

July 22nd, 2013 § 4 comments § permalink

Post-it tabs - Anthropology

Post-it tabs – Anthropology

 

Scooping up some gorgeous office supplies recently has given me enough motivation to tackle organizing the seemingly insatiable mound of adoption paperwork that has been bellowing at me since, well, the last (nearly) few years.

SAM_2474

Giant paperclips & leopard print labels – Staples

SAM_2475

Bic markers – Staples

If you are in the beginnings or deep in the throes of an adoption process, here are some simple samples of how you can whittle a disorganized mess right down to delicious!

- Before -

– Before –

Initially I thought I was being organized by keeping everything in the same place in this basket. Well as you can see, my method became maddening. So, if you have gotten too busy or complacent or overwhelmed, you can leave it for one of the long “wait periods” like I did…but obviously the best case scenario for sanity is to get yourself a 3″ ringed binder (no smaller) right off the bat and put it to use. A categorized file system is much more fun flipping through than rummaging through “the basket.”

Here is what you will need:

– pretty file folders, pens, markers, labels (motivation remember!)

– 3″ ring binder

– plastic paper insert sheets (get the biggest pack, you’ll need at least 50 by the time the adoption is complete)

– 8-tab insertable binder dividers, preferably the ones with the pockets

– sticky labels (the leopard print ones are fantabulous but plain white ones will do!) 

– a large workspace

8-Tab binder dividers with pockets - Walmart

8-Tab binder dividers with pockets – Walmart

After you dump the contents of “the basket” on the table or floor or whatever workspace you find, you will need to make the following labels for the binder dividers:

– To Do

– Invoices & Receipts

– Contracts

– Home Study

– Medical

– Immigration

– Dossier

– Legal Documents

You can handwrite them like I did, or if you’re a filing fairy, and have the time to figure out your printing preferences for labels–go ahead and make them glamourous!

Make the dividers first so that you can file them in the binder right-o-way as you get them, or as you retrieve them from “the  basket.” Go ahead and file everything that you still need “To Do.” If you are at the beginning of the adoption process, this section of the binder will be hefty–but you will enjoy being able to move things to the other categories as things get completed.

My “To Do” currently has 3 subsections: travel, Edmonton Adoption Clinic info and Behavioural Therapy info. This is stuff I need to read still, or have handy to reference for when we arrive home. Plus at the front of the “To Do” (in the pocket) are checklists from my adoption agencies.

At the front of the  “Invoices & Receipts” section I put a print out of the itemized quote our agency gave us. As things are paid, I check them off. You’ll want to reference this often throughout the years. Using different plastic sleeves for each vendor and one for “Misc.” will help help you stay streamlined. Keep all adoption related receipts!!!! These prove to be very valuable at tax time.

Make sticky notes as you think of things

Make sticky notes as you think of things

In the “Contracts” section I keep anything that we had to sign for our agencies or immigration consultant. Very important to keep copies of everything you send away! Plus it is good to review your agency contract every once in awhile. What do they require of you for post-placement information? Are you allowed to blog or be on chat platforms?

For the “Homestudy” section, make sure that everything is up to date. When was your last medical? Are your criminal record checks still valid? Are there any significant changes in your financial situation? Are you wanting to change the age or gender specifications of your referral? Check with your agency to see what changes they require you to notify them of.

Some sub-categories of the "Dossier" section

Some sub-categories of the “Dossier” section

The “Immigration” section is self explanatory, the “Medical” section is for your child’s medical documents. Yours will go with your dossier. Your “Dossier” should include certified true copies of every single piece of paper that you sent away.

The “Legal Docs” section is the fun one to see filling up because that means that you are “passing court” and getting your “Act of Adoption” and birth certificates etc. I used the little leopard print tabs to label the plastic insert pages with the date these docs occurred (not as they were received) and filed them chronologically.

- After -

– After –

Lastly, use the pocket in the front of the binder to put manilla folders for extra categories, or for random things such as articles you want to read or contact info of other adoptive parents (AP) you want to stay in touch with. My front pocket is filled with blog ideas…now I have a place to keep them!

“The basket” is now being used to collect our travel meds and other travel supplies that I will be organizing at a later time (hopefully sooner than later!)

Stay tuned *-*

X,

Liz

“There are no short cuts to any place worth going” – Beverly Sills

 

 

 

 

A Prayer a Day

June 25th, 2013 § 5 comments § permalink

“I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.”

– Abraham Lincoln

The most intimate, loving and selfless thing we can do for someone else is to keep them before God in our prayers.

www.madabella.typepad.com

Free printable scripture cards from http://madabella.typepad.com/

Paper pushing is important, and adoption related research is paramount—but praying for our little ones is the most meaningful way we can send them our love from across the Atlantic.

“The greatest gift we can give to others is our prayers.” – Unknown

shelaughs

http://beccacahan.com/

I’ve got a collection of scripture-turned-prayers that have been percolating in my journal from over the last couple years. Today I turned them into a list of 31 prayers for our daughter: One for each day of the month. (Some of these were derived from Bob Hostetler’s 31 Biblical Virtues to Pray for Your Children.) This list Daily Prayers for Your Children is posted on our fridge so we can focus on one each day. These can be used for anyone, not just your children, just fill that special person’s name in the blanks.

Screen shot 2013-06-25 at 5.34.47 PM

Quotes on prayer:

“We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first line of defense. We pray when there’s nothing else we can do, but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all.

Most of us would prefer, however, to spend our time doing something that will get immediate results. We don’t want to wait for God to resolve matters in His good time because His idea of ‘good time’ is seldom in sync with ours.” – Oswald Chambers

“Prayer is not an old woman’s idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action.” – Mahatma Ghandi

“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” – Bruce Lee

“The more you pray, the less you’ll panic. The more you worship, the less you worry. You’ll feel more patient and less pressured.” – Rick Warren

Praying like it is my J.O.B.!

xo ~ Liz

Cope or Cop-out

June 8th, 2013 § 6 comments § permalink

Cope /kōp/ 1. (of a person) Deal effectively with something difficult. 2. (in building) Cover (a joint or structure) with a coping.

Cop-out ˈkäp-ˌau̇t 1. A failure to fulfill a commitment or responsibility or to face a difficulty squarely 2. An excuse for inaction or evasion.

I’m becoming more withdrawn these days….

Day to day things like grocery shopping, running errands and chores do me in. When it comes to extra-curricular activities with friends and such I’ve been tending to “cop-out.” Part of my coping is keeping a very low profile and a predictable schedule.

printpapercloth.com

Because this isn’t the quintessential me, it got me looking into the psychology behind self-preservation and coping methods. What I found intrigued me:

In psychology, coping is “constantly changing cognitive and behavioral efforts to manage specific external and/or internal demands that are appraised as taxing” or “exceeding the resources of the person”. Coping is thus expending conscious effort to solve personal and interpersonal problems, and seeking to master, minimize or tolerate stress or conflict.
 
There are three broad types of coping strategies:
 
1. Appraisal-focused
Appraisal-focused strategies occur when the person modifies the way they think, for example: employing denial, or distancing oneself from the problem. People may alter the way they think about a problem by altering their goals and values, such as by seeing the humor in a situation…
2. Problem-focused: Any coping behavior that is directed at reducing or eliminating a stressor
People using problem-focused strategies try to deal with the cause of their problem. They do this by finding out information on the problem and learning new skills to manage the problem. Problem-focused coping is aimed at changing or eliminating the source of the stress.
3. Emotion-focused: Directed towards changing one’s own emotional reaction to a stressor
Emotion-focused strategies involve releasing pent-up emotions, distracting oneself, managing hostile feelings, meditating or using systematic relaxation procedures.
(Wikipedia)

I’m quite sure I’m using all of these methods at the moment. When you are going through something as painstaking as an international adoption process with so many pitfalls, some comic relief is crucial. So is endless hours of research on your child’s birth country and other people’s successful adoption stories, etc., etc., etc, …so much research!

Ranting on adoption forums feels like a wonderful way to release pent-up emotions, at the time, but can leave the audience reeling with more food for fret. It’s better to save it for Private Messages with others who inquire specifically. (IMHO)

“The term stress is defined as a condition where an object or individual is under (mental or emotional) pressure. This pressure may be obvious to the individual. In most cases, in fact, individuals are often unaware that they are under stress. Stress usually produces a physical and emotional response in your body, which is how the body deals with the stressful situation. This is actually good for you as it works to stimulate your body into action. However, over time, this may prove to be harmful to the body as it will continuously be exposed to the stressful state this will eventually have an adverse effect on your health…Long term stress is far more dangerous for the body and is known as ‘bad’ stress. This kind of stress occurs when an individual is in a situation that subjects him or her to emotional or mental pressure for a considerable period of time.” (homeremediesforyou.com)

So how do you concurrently cope with the stress of a long drawn out adoption process and all the uncertainties that come along with it?

stay positive!

Count your blessings!

According to Wikipedia, preparation, social support, nutrition, sleep, exercise, relaxation and humour are key to coping in a positive way.

Anxious avoidance (staying away from outings where you know people are going to ask you why you’re child is not home yet), dissociation, sensitization (rehearsing worst case scenarios) and escape (self-medicating) are cop-out mechanisms and are not healthy!

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 43:5

Tracie Miles summed it up in her book Stressed-Less Living: ” the psalmist…chose to change his attitude, to cry out to God for help, to seek guidance, strength, and the will to persevere.”

stay positive!

Stay positive!

I don’t mean to bog anyone down with glum posts, but I’ve noticed this walking-dead-like zombie mode is no stranger to the adoption world. I’ve heard chatter about people not leaving the house except for necessities or to see a doctor because herbal remedies are no longer working, parents stop looking at their child’s photo because it is too painful and people are literally pinned to their smart phone at every moment for months on end as they wait for that little “ping” that could signify an email with some good news.

‘Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.’ ~Mother Teresa
 

So let’s not “grow weary in doing good” my friends, but keep on keeping on!

All the best,

~Liz

 

Serenity Now!

May 9th, 2013 § 7 comments § permalink

se·ren·i·ty /səˈrenitē/

The state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled

If you’re a fan of Seinfeld you will automatically hear Mr. Costanza’s exuberant voice shouting “Serenity Now!” in your head as soon as you saw the title of this blog. And if you are on this DRC adoption road with me, you will be wanting to scream this succulent phrase as well. One, two, three…let it out!!

20130509-193906.jpg

Turns out the timing for Melissa Taylor’s Online Bible Study (OBS) on stressed-less living hit me smack dab between the eyes. I hadn’t felt stressed when I started the OBS about a month ago, but God knew hoo would be needing it and when.

Here is some background for those of you hoo are reading this on the OBS blog hop. My handsome hubby and I have been toiling away at an international adoption now for 2 years and 8 months. Last week we were a step away from the finish line and almost had our sweet little girl at our finger tips—when the finish line got moved. Now it is out of sight and we are shouting for serenity (now!) instead of spouting shouts of victory.

The DRC program has come to a screeching halt while some investigations into unethical adoptions are being made. As I read these news notices, some of the Bible verses that I’ve been memorizing over the last weeks come to the forefront of my mind.

“In repentance and rest is your salvation and in quietness and trust is your strength…” (Is.30:15)

As good as it feels to scream and let it all out while things don’t go our way, there is a core strength in remaining quiet—and even in resting.

There is a Hebrew word menuha that means “tranquility, serenity, peace and repose.” Abraham Joshua Heschel describes this word in his book The Sabbath:

“Just as heaven and earth were created in six days, menuha was created on the Sabbath. ‘After the six days of creation–what did the universe still lack? Menuha…which we usually render with ‘rest’ means here much more than the withdrawal from labour and exertion, more than freedom from toil, strain or activity of any kind. Menuha is not a negative concept but something real and intrinsically positive…to the biblical mind menuha is the same as happiness and stillness, peace and harmony…the essence of good life is menuha”
 

Is it possible to have menuha in the midst of stressful circumstances? I believe it is. And I am so grateful for this provision.

May your mountains be molehills and your menuha be much!

~Liz

 
 
 
 

2 Weeks Notice…Not!

May 3rd, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

Trying to pick when to give your workplace Two Weeks Notice is a tricky thing in international adoption. Technically the time for me to do it is anytime now, but realistically this would be jumping the gun–especially now that in-country investigations into adoption cases have started at the visa-issuing stage in the DRC.

What used to take a few weeks at this stage in the game is now taking a few months, plus.  *sad face*
There are a handful of Canadians hooz bags are packed and are all ready to go but are being held up by their travel visas not being issued. These persnickety pieces of papers used to be issued in 3-5 days and are now taking hoo knows how long…

20130503-075746.jpg

According to the US Department of State, Intercountry Adoption Notice  of February 7, 2013:

Notice: Changes at Embassy Kinshasa for adoption-related immigrant visa processing

Embassy Kinshasa will now conduct the required field investigation after the approved I-600 ( or “Part 2” for us Canadians) petition is electronically received from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (or CIC) …Adoptive families should be advised that field investigations may take approximately 3-6 months to complete, possibly longer….This change is effective immediately… 

and as of yesterday, May 2, 2013 there was another notice:

Alert: Democratic Republic of the Congo Immigration Authorities Suspend Issuance of Exit Permits to Adoptees

On April 29, the Congolese Ministry of Interior and Security, General Direction of Migration (Direction Generale d’Immigration, DGM) informed the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa that the DGM has temporarily suspended issuance of exit permits to adopted Congolese children seeking to depart the country with their adoptive parents.  This suspension is due to an ongoing investigation of an adoption that may not have complied with Congolese law.
The suspension of exit permits for adopted Congolese children applies to all intercountry adoptions and is not limited to adoptions by U.S. citizens.  These exit permits are required in addition to U.S. immigrant visas in order for children to travel to the United States.    
The DGM does not expect to issue exit permits to any adoptees during the investigation.  
 
theartofobservation.com

Although I’m all for investigations into international adoptions and due process–I’ll have to admit that I feel like we’ve been socked once again.

Thankfully my workplace is very understanding of my predicament and are good for me to go at anytime. Let’s hope it is before our little girl is 2 going on 12 years old. Hahaha!

Peace & Love,

Liz

Lightly, Not Tightly

April 12th, 2013 § 9 comments § permalink

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” Matthew 5:3

Nothing is certain in international adoptions. Countries can close their doors in a moments notice, agencies can bankrupt and leave their clients reeling, fees can fluctuate, referrals can be revoked even after several months, referred children can become sick and sometimes die, requirements and policies constantly change, and timelines alter like seismic shifts.

So, as you see there are just a few things for us to stress about in this adoption journey, and part of the battle for our little one is for us to stay not only sane–but strong!

20130412-075611.jpg

Over the past couple years we have been tested in several of the above areas and at times have “come to the end of our rope.” But, alas!, this is a good thing according to our Jesus. Because then there is only Him left…

Flashback to a blog post I wrote 2 years ago: Stress-less

Little did we know back then that the stress load we had been dealt was only a sprinkling…since then we have had dump trucks unload on us! So, how are we managing? I’ll have to say “not too bad”. (Well I still have that eye tick that continues to tock but-meh!)

A couple of weeks ago my sis-in-law asked me to join her in an Online Bible Study called Stressed Less Living. Through this study I’m learning to not let circumstances overshadow my joy or faith.

“…you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed…” Luke 10:41

I love that! So ladies–let us hold lightly, not tightly to the things we cannot control and cling to the One who is in control!

God Bless & Godspeed if you are adopting!

~Liz

Not So Newsie

March 7th, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

news·ie /ˈn(y)o͞ozē/

Hey friends & fam! I know you are hesitant to once again ask “is there any news…?” but don’t stop asking–we don’t mind–because one day we are going to be able to say “YES”!

But as of today, despite ripping our cloths and pulling out our hair (or the modern day equivalent to lamenting) in efforts to get our prayers answered, we still have no more news than before. Sorry guys!

Newsie

We are waiting on our request with the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to be approved for what is called Part I (which is overdue) and then we will have to put in for Part II which I’ve heard down the adoption grape vine is currently taking circa 2 weeks. That’s great news!

We can readily relate to the “stuck” ness of  “never-ending bureaucracy that adoptive families are forced to deal with” mentioned in this new documentary:

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/59302895 w=500&h=281]

STUCK TRAILER from Both Ends Burning Campaign on Vimeo.

This is where, as an adoptive parent, you no longer long for the weekends because you are on constant watch for that very important piece of mail to arrive.

www.luvloo.comWhile we are busy being not-so-newsie we are trying to make each day that goes by–with no more news–count.

So we’ve been tying up the odds & ends on our home reno, working on setting up little Z’s bedroom, trying to learn Lingala (www.memrise.com) and on the advice of an adoptive mommy of a toddler I’ve been making these Gluten Free Freezer Meals for when we get home.

Us gumshoes are closing in on the trail…pray with us that we get “unstuck” & certainly keep asking us for some Hooz News!

God Bless,

~Liz

A Mama’s Scent

February 15th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

As a five spritzes per day kind of perfume-aholic, I’ve been revamping my “habit” as of late–even dosing myself in more of my toxic stash of tonics–in order to use up the last of my pretty little bottles in preparation for meeting my Z-babe.

Although I’ve known for sometime that perfume is essentially poisonous, full of a scandalous amount of chemicals per spritz–I can’t seem to stop…well, “using.”

But, with the knowledge of a little one on the horizon, I don’t want to knowingly subject my cub to a carcinogenic or otherwise harmful (yet yummy smelling) substance. I’ve mainly been thinking about this in regards to bonding with Z. Somewhere in the pages of the books and I-net searches on bonding and attaching in adoption, I have came across a suggestion to apply perfume to your child’s wrists as well as your own: thus giving your child a sense of security being able to always smell her mama’s (Lingala word for mom) scent.

So I’ve been on the hunt for a new, natural and scrumptious smelling “signature” scent. A sugary sweet option that I’ve been sporting since I found it in my stocking last Christmas is Brown Sugar by fresh. hoo claim their stuff is made with natural ingredients. Another brand that offers a host of delightful scents from Fruity to Floral is Pacifica, which I’ve seen at local Edmonton health food stores.

elixir bottle

This year, from my mama, I got a lovely crystal elixir bottle in my stocking. This mama plans on getting in touch with her inner alchemist to mix just the right blend of essential oils together for some (guilt and brain damage free!) liquid heaven on earth.

Hopefully it will lure Z-babe in to my lair and not leave my little snorting pooch running away sneezing!

Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart,
    and the pleasantness of a friend
    springs from their heartfelt advice. Proverbs 27:9
 

Cheers,

~Liz

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