• ADOPTION,  BOOKS

    Adoption Picture Books for Kids (and Parents!)

    I can’t believe I’ve never shared an adoption picture book list here on the blog yet!

    Truth be told they aren’t the easiest of books to find, at least not good ones, but we’ve read a number of them and today we are sharing some of our favorites.

    Adoption is a topic that has always been on my heart, even as a teenager, I always knew that I wanted to adopt and was very fortunate to find a guy who was with me on that.

    The adoption process was not easy in the least, but three country programs and four agencies later, we were blessed with the funniest, cutest little guy that adds so much sunshine to our family. The process was long and hard but so worth it.

     

    The sweetest and best adoption picture books.

     

    Adoption is something we are very open about and is a constant conversation in our house. A few months ago (okay, maybe a year ago?) I asked Ephraim what adoption meant and he said, “keeped”. I feel like there is no better explanation than that.

     

    On to our list of the best adoption picture books!

     

    The Best Picture Books that Involve Adoption and Help Explain it to Kids

     

    THE BEST ADOPTION PICTURE BOOKS

     

    This is one of our absolute favorites! It’s hilarious and oddly representative of our family (right down to the parents that are constantly taking pictures).

    Wolfie the Bunny

    The Bunny family has adopted a wolf son, and daughter Dot is the only one who realizes Wolfie can–and might–eat them all up! Dot tries to get through to her parents, but they are too smitten to listen. A new brother takes getting used to, and when (in a twist of fate) it’s Wolfie who’s threatened, can Dot save the day?

     

    My Adopted Child, There’s No One Like You

    Every child is special. And every child deserves to be recognized for what makes him or her unique. My Adopted Child, There’s No One Like You creatively celebrates the adopted child. Adopted children need to know they are special, loved, and secure. Read this book with your adopted child to show him or her the never-ending reach of your love.

     

    God Found Us You

    As Little Fox gets ready for bed, Mama Fox tells him the miraculous story of his arrival. First there was the waiting: ‘I’d go up to the cliffs and watch for you,’ Mama Fox tells her child. Then the mother who had Little Fox made the big decision to give him away: ‘I think she prayed like crazy that you would be safe, Little Fox. I think she prayed for me as much as I prayed for her.’ Then, finally, both their prayers were answered, the day God delivered Little Fox to Mama Fox: ‘When God found us you, you made me the happiest mama in the world.’ Lisa Tawn Bergren tells this heartwarming tale with tenderness and a true understanding. Just as How Big Is God captures the immensity of looking at God through a young child’s eyes, this book captures the more intimate, but no less profound, discovery of the blessings that adoption brings to both parent and child.

     

    The Red Thread

    A king and queen should be full of joy and contentment, but they both feel a strange pain that worsens every day. Then a peddler’s magic spectacles reveal a red thread pulling at each of their hearts. The king and queen know they must follow the thread.

     

     

    Orange Peel’s Pocket

    One day in class, Orange Peel—who got her nickname by eating orange peels when she was little—and her classmates learn about China. Everyone starts to ask Orange Peel questions about the country because they know that’s where she was born. But she doesn’t have all the answers. So Orange Peel joins her mother on her neighborhood errands to find out.

     

    Motherbridge of Love

    This beautiful poem celebrates the bond between parent and child in a special way. Through the exchanges between a little Chinese girl and her mother, Motherbridge of Love offers a poignant and inspiring message to parents and children all over the world.

     

    This is another favorite! It’s a sweet story of a robot who finds a home.

    Clink

    Clink was a state-of-the-art robot with the dazzling ability to make toast and play music at the same time. But that was many years ago.

    Now kids want snazzier robots who do things like play baseball and bake cookies. So day after day, Clink sits on a shelf and sadly watches as his friends leave with their new owners. He almost gives up on ever finding a home—until the day Clink spies a boy who just might be able to be the right one for him. . . .

     

    Do you have any more adoption picture books that you would add to this list? I would love to hear about them!

  • ADOPTION

    It Was Never Random

    On the weekend someone asked me if we had adopted Ephraim. I always laugh a little inside when people ask, especially when they have seen both me and Jared; two people as white as us don’t usually produce children as brown as Ephraim. But I understand the question, it’s a polite and safe way to approach the subject and I enjoy talking adoption with people.

    After I confirm that yes, we had adopted him people usually have a reply that has made me feel a little uncomfortable. They make it seem like we are a higher class of people or are more righteous because we have adopted (neither are true), and I never know how to properly respond.

    This weekend after I said yes, we had adopted him the response was, “good for you”. In the past this very phrase has made me feel uncomfortable. To be honest, neither of us are big fans of the whole newborn stage and so I kinda feel like we cheated and skipped to toddler-hood with Ephraim.

    But this time, when I heard “good for you” I said, “yes, he has been good for all of us, he is exactly what our family needed.”

     

    And it’s true, you’d think God had a hand in it or something. 😉 Ephraim will do whatever it takes to make people laugh and he’s so good for the rest of us, who are much more serious (with a side of sarcasm). He has a sensitive spirit and loves to come to me in the morning after he wakes up just to cuddle a little bit.

    I can’t imagine our family without him. He really has been good for all of us.

     

  • Taking Time to Answer some Adoption FAQ's
    ADOPTION

    ADOPTION FAQ’S ANSWERED

    Taking Time to Answer some Adoption FAQ's

    I’ve been thinking quite a bit about some adoption FAQ’s I’d like to answer. Some of these questions I’ve had people ask me and because I’m pretty much a Moses when it comes to speaking I probably mumbled some incoherent answer and came up with a better answer later and have been kicking myself ever since, and some of them are questions I’ve read online or even wondered myself prior to the whole process and now feel like I’m finally able to answer to some extent. We are only about a year and a half into the post-adoption process and I don’t even try to pretend I’ve got it all figured out, but I value honesty and hearing people’s stories so I thought this post might be beneficial to some out there. If it helps one person it’s worth it to me.

    Taking Time to Answer some Adoption FAQ's

    Let’s dive in . . .

    HOW DID YOU KNOW YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO ADOPT?
    Personally, adoption has always been on my heart. I know I’ve shared it in a post before but I remember praying when I was a teenager and telling God that I was okay with never having biological children because I knew I wanted to adopt.
    That being said, I don’t think I believe that one has to be “called to adopt”, I think it’s right there in the scriptures that we are supposed to care for the orphan (James 1:27, Isaiah 1:17, Psalm 82:3), I see that as God already calling each and every one of us to adopt. I think instead of waiting to feel “called” to it we should pursue it as Plan A until we know God is telling us not to. Francis Chan says it much more eloquently than I ever could in You & Me Forever (a book that I believe every Christian needs to read):
    “So many won’t do anything unless they hear a voice from heaven telling them precisely what to do. Why not default to action until you hear a voice from heaven telling you to wait? For example: Why not assume you should adopt kids unless you hear a voice telling you not to? Wouldn’t that seem more biblical since God told us that true religion is to care for the widows and orphans?”

    HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THE COUNTRY (OR EVEN INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION AS OPPOSED TO DOMESTIC)?
    Once again, I always knew I wanted to adopt from Africa. I think I had a connection because I have an uncle who is from an African country (sidenote: Africa is not a country), I was also always drawn to the World Vision episodes where they were in some African village, for us it was just going to be Africa. There are orphans all over, for the most part the country doesn’t matter, but what you will find is your country or province/state will have restrictions as to which countries you can all adopt from, and in addition the countries that are open to adoption will have their own sets of requirements (age, weight, family size, medical conditions, etc) that you will have to meet. In a nutshell that’s how we ended up adoption from South Africa (which is a country). What actually introduced us to the South Africa program specifically was a new friend I met who was in the process of adopting from South Africa, everything she told me about the adoption program was exactly what we were looking for, so if you are looking to adopt, make friends with others who are or have, they can usually share some good info. (sidenote: that friend is actually in South Africa adopting her second, whoop!)

    WERE YOU WORRIED YOU WOULDN’T LOVE OR HAVE A CONNECTION WITH YOUR ADOPTED CHILD? IN ADDITION, WERE YOU AFRAID YOU WOULDN’T LOVE YOUR ADOPTED CHILD AS MUCH AS YOUR BIOLOGICAL CHILD?
    Hmm, yes and no. I was actually a lot more worried about this when I was pregnant with Raeca than I was when we adopted Ephraim. I’m not a big baby loving person, I was afraid they would hand me my newborn and I wouldn’t feel the love, but when I they did hand me her I was smitten. And I feel the same way about Ephraim, sometimes I forget this hilarious little boy hasn’t been in our family forever.

    Taking Time to Answer some Adoption FAQ's

    HOW DO YOU PLAN ON TELLING HIM HE’S ADOPTED?
    Um, well, it’s kind of hard to hide. But no, seriously, he knows his skin is a different color than ours, and it’s something to be celebrated. He knows in words that he was born in South Africa but he doesn’t really understand what that means yet. Adoption is a very open and talked about subject and the vocabulary is one he is and will grow up hearing. As he gets older and asks more questions we’ll tell him more of his story.

    WHAT WILL YOU DO IF HE WANTS TO SEARCH FOR HIS BIRTH PARENTS?
    Completely support him. I’m a super nosy person who wants to know everyone’s story and I can’t imagine going through life with the kinds of questions he will. I think my awareness of that will make things easier, I know some people who take it personally when their children want to search for their birth parents, as though it’s a slap in the face, but I feel like I totally understand the need to have some questions answered.

    Taking Time to Answer some Adoption FAQ's

    WILL YOU ADOPT AGAIN?
    This is a question I get asked a fair bit. The answer . . . I have no idea. We will just have to see what God has in store. His plans are so much better than mine anyway.

    Do you have any questions about adoption that I didn’t answer? Feel free to leave me a comment or send me a message!

     

  • ADOPTION

    Ephraim’s One Year Adoption Anniversary

    How has this little guy only been a part of our family for the last year? He is silly, rough and tumble and yet sweet and sensitive. He is seriously the funniest two year old I have ever known, he makes me laugh out loud every day. He loves to make everyone laugh and his smile is absolutely contagious.

    Tomorrow, November 17th, is one year since we passed court and Ephraim officially became our son. I feel like the year has gone so well. When we met with our social worker way back in the beginning when we started our homestudy it felt like she really warned us about attachment and all the things that could go wrong and how difficult it could be (she was just doing her job) but it has gone amazingly well. Right from the beginning Ephraim knew the boundaries, actually, he pretty much made his own. He knows we are his parents and he has become so affectionate and will just randomly run up to us throughout the day, hug our legs and say “I love you so much!” Or if he sees Jared and I hugging he’ll run over and grab our legs together and yell “FAMILY HUG!”

    Attachment has not been an issue, looking back on the last year I would say the “issues” we’ve had have all been medical, but thankfully nothing has been overly serious.

    Ephraim - One Year Later - One Year Adoption Anniversary

    I thought I’d give you a little overview of the year in bullet points:

    • in November & December we spent just over five weeks together in South Africa, taking in the sights but mostly focusing on getting to know each other
    • we arrived home a couple days before Christmas and were able to celebrate the holiday with our immediate sides of the family without overwhelming him too much
    • one of our suitcases didn’t make it home with us (and still remains MIA to this day), which had the majority of Ephraim’s medication for TB, so we had a lot of trips to the TB clinic for the first while
    • we took life pretty slow the first few months, just going to doctor appointments, church and seeing family & friends
    • in March Ephraim had his first two seizures, an ambulance ride and a night in the hospital
    • April had us taking a road trip out to BC with my parents to see my brother graduate from Bible School, Ephraim wasn’t a fan of all the sitting but he made it through
    • May 1st was Ephraim’s 2nd birthday, he woke up at 5:30 with a fever (due to immunizations) and welcomed his birthday in with his third seizure, thankfully he was able to nap for a few hours and woke up ready to party
    • we had a few parties the weekend of his birthday and also our first post-placement homestudy visit
    • he really shows his inquisitive side, he always needs to know how things work, how parts move, etc, unfortunately, he’s broken a few things trying to see how far some of the parts would bend, but he’s getting better with that
    • the summer had us spending lots of time outside and taking a few trips to the lake (one with friends & the other with family), of course with Ephraim’s luck, he got the hugest leech stuck to his foot (a little salt and we got the guy off)
    • Ephraim learned his shapes really quickly, his favorite is the hexagon (which to him also includes octagons), and he loves pointing them out as we are driving
    • we also spent the summer doing a number of stool samples and rounds of medication to remove a parasite (fun stuff – *sarcasm*)
    • we have done tons of reading, Ephraim likes to read the same books over and over, his favorites are:
      • The Foot Book
      • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
      • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You Hear?
      • Monster Says I’m Sorry
      • Up, Up, Down
      • How Do Dinosaur’s Say Happy Birthday
    • Ephraim has had a couple of appointments with an eye surgeon, he currently wears an eye patch for an hour a day, alternating eyes each day, to help with his strabismus (his eyes don’t look in the same direction), it has been helping but he will still need surgery some time next year
    • he loves to sing and can stay on key pretty well, his favorites have been Jesus Loves Me, Twinkle Twinkle, ABC’s and Rend Collective’s My Lighthouse (often he’ll come up to me “Mommy, can we My Lighthouse, shining in the dark?”
    • fall brought a couple viruses upon our house, one of which Ephraim caught and resulted in two seizures and a trip to the hospital (nothing to be concerned about but two seizures in 24 hours is uncommon but seems to be Ephraim’s specialty)
    • nap time is starting to be phased out, he’s fighting it hard but has troubles going the whole day if he doesn’t nap
    • and most recently: we started potty training, now that we’ve got the official word that he is clear of parasites it’s time to get it done! Thankfully he actually started initiating it a few weeks ago so it shouldn’t be too hard (famous last words?)

    It’s crazy to realize how much has changed and taken place in the past year. I forget until I start to really think about it. A year ago they told us this little boy was “lively” but when they put him in our arms he was still and quiet. He was quiet for days after we passed court, but slowly his personality has come to life and he is showing his lively personality. He is still not 100% himself when we go out, and he does get overwhelmed and worked up in bigger groups but if you could see him at home . . . he’s a sweet & silly little firecracker.

    In an effort to not overload this post with a million photos, I’ve included a video of the year in photos:

  • ADOPTION

    Nine-ish Months

    We recently passed the nine month mark of Ephraim’s adoption, what a whirlwind these past months have been! (Ha, apparently a whirlwind because we are actually closer to the ten month mark by the time I actually got around to posting this.)

    To be honest, I wasn’t prepared for the amount of time we’d spend dealing with some medical issues with Ephraim . . . overall he’s healthy but he’s had quite a few smaller things that add up to approximately 21 doctors appointments, one ambulance ride and one night in the hospital in the last eight months (with more appointments in the future and surgery in the next year or two). He came home on month four of six for medication for TB (of which two months worth were lost in our luggage by the airline), had appointments and skin tests at the TB clinic, he’s had three seizures, updates on immunizations, specialist appointments for his eyes, allergy tests and has currently done three rounds of medication in an attempt to remove a parasite.

    As far as the bonding goes and the overall transition I’d have to say it’s gone better than I ever could have imagined. I can’t believe that 10 months ago Ephraim didn’t know any English and he now says some pretty cute sentences and is definitely on par for the average kid his age. He’s actually really quite smart (shapes are his specialty, he especially loves to point out hexagons as we are driving) and I don’t think it will be long before he’s quite advanced for his age. In some ways that makes me a little sad, I wonder where he’d be if he had more attention for the first 18 months of his life, but usually I’m just excited to see where this bright little boy goes.

    IMG_6851-1web

    He can currently sing his ABC’s and enjoys doing the classic Melissa & Doug wooden alphabet puzzle and recognizes a few letters, he can count to 12, knows most shapes, has started learning his colors (orange is definitely a favorite), will sit through about 15 minutes of reading (about 6 or so board books) and loves music and singing.

    He has developed past the parrot stage and has a lot of things to say and questions to ask, and he finally answers questions instead of just repeating the questions back (much more helpful).

    He continues on with his helpful attitude, emptying the dishwasher is still a favorite, and now he likes to help set the table and will put away just about anything you ask him to.

    Physically he’s doing pretty amazing, he shot up over 2 inches from his birthday (May) to August and is just under the mark where Raeca was when she turned 2. At his 2 year check up he was in the second percentile for height (in a group of 100 kids he’d be the second shortest), but I suspect he’s surpassed that now.

    All in all, it’s been a good 9 months, I can’t believe how far he’s come.

    In some ways I feel like I’ve crawled into a bit of a hole this year and haven’t seen some of my friends as much in the past nine months as I’d like to and then I think about all of the above (mostly the medical stuff) and realize why. Now I finally understand why so many friends I had made online before they finalized their adoptions kind of gave up on life online afterwards, even when things are going well over all, it still a state of crazy.*

    I am looking forward to November when we hit the one year mark, I can’t wait to have a little celebration. 🙂

    *For those who have friends who have adopted, I’d urge you today to take a moment and reach out to them, it might feel like they’ve forgotten you, they haven’t, they are probably just swimming so hard to stay afloat they don’t have any extra energy to reach out to you.

    P.S. Here’s his 6 month update and my series on supporting adoptive families.

  • ADOPTION

    The Loss of a Vision

    Ever since I was a teenager I had a fairly clear overall purpose in life. I knew God had put Africa and orphans in my heart. I knew that desire would one day lead to adoption and also strongly believed I would do missions work in some capacity at some point.

    For 15 years I had this clear vision in life, it’s one of the reasons I was able to persevere throughout the ups and downs of our adoption process. Then this last winter as we completed Ephraim’s adoption I also felt like I completely lost my purpose.

    Honestly, it felt as though God took that desire away, as though he had given it to me to make sure we adopted and that’s where it was to end for us.

    For someone who has had such a strong life vision for so many years this lack of a bigger purpose over the last 9 months has left me floundering. There are things I want to do, small goals I want to accomplish but without that overarching goal I feel empty and confused.

    I never used to understand people that didn’t have a passion and a dream for their life, that didn’t have a cause to fight for, and now I am one of them.

    I honestly don’t know if anyone reads this blog anymore, I started it as a place to advocate for the orphan and adoption and even though that fight has all gone out of me I don’t feel as though I can give up writing in this space. I find writing out my thoughts helps, if not to bring clarity than at least to organize my thoughts a little. And so, I will keep writing. I need to keep writing.

    Thanks to all those who are still reading, I always read your comments even if I don’t reply.

  • ADOPTION

    Six Months

    This Sunday marks six months of Ephraim being a Klassen! It’s crazy to think that six months ago we were arriving in South Africa and hadn’t even met him yet and now it’s like he’s been a part of our family forever.

    Ephraim has been adjusting so well. If you talk to anyone about adoption for more than a few minutes you’ll probably hear the words “bonding and attachment”. In a nutshell after adopting you need to make sure that your child knows that you are his parent and main caregiver. This can be tricky with some kids just going to other people willy-nilly and struggling with bonding and attaching to their parents. This has not been the case with Ephraim. This guy knows bonding and attachment. He has been great at being friendly to others but not too friendly and if people pick him up and hold him he is often okay to be there for a few minutes if he knows them but he knows when his time is up and will start squirming to get away.

    Ephraim loves to help. He’s always throwing things in the garbage, cleaning up and helping empty the dishwasher. He loves it so much that if you tell him the dishwasher is dirty and he can’t put the cutlery away he will fall to his knees and start to cry. Haha, it’s pretty cute. Hopefully this helpful behavior continues (and rubs off on his sister).

    Six Months Post Adoption3

    Health wise he’s doing pretty good. We’ve got an appointment coming up in a few weeks with a specialist for his eye and we’ll see what they decide to do about that. Unfortunately he did have another seizure (fever related) a few weeks ago but now that we know how to handle them we were able to stay home and a few hours and a couple of naps later he was back to normal.

    He actually had his last seizure on May 1st which was his second birthday! It was fun to celebrate this “first” birthday with him. He loved listening to people sing happy birthday, his expression when he realized we were singing to him was just priceless. He became professional at opening presents (always putting the wrapping paper on a neat little pile), and has loved playing with every toy he got.

    He is a little parrot and will copy any thing we say. And he often says 3-5 word sentences on his own, “look at, Mommy” or “look at this” being his current favorites. Considering the fact that he’s only had six months of consistent English I feel like he’s doing pretty great! He has also initiated using the toilet quite a bit in the last few weeks which has been neat since we weren’t actually trying to potty train yet (we will probably try for the summer some time).

    Six Months Post Adoption2

    He’s a boys boy. Rough and tumble all the way. He can fall down and smack his head and get right back up, but if his feelings get hurt he can be sensitive and want a little cuddle.

    I can’t wait to see how the next six months go!

    P.S. I know this place has been pretty quiet lately, and I’m hoping to change that! I miss my blogging time and hope to start blogging more consistently again. Thanks to everyone who has stuck around!

  • ADOPTION

    Supporting Adoptive Families – After the Airport

    I know there has been a little delay in this series but I wanted to wait until we had been home long enough before I wrote this all out in hopes I would have lots of information to share.

    The adoption announcement has come and gone, the family finally got their long awaited referral, now they’ve just arrived home. Exhausted, jet lagged, hungry and happy. How do you help them now?

    GIVE THEM SPACE
    Chances are they need a little time to get over their jet lag before being bombarded by company. How long this is varies based on the family, if you don’t know if you are welcome or not, just ask!

    RESPECT THEIR PHYSICAL BOUNDARIES
    Because the family is going through such a time of bonding, please do not hug, touch or hold the children unless given the go ahead. Bonding can be a tricky process, especially with older children.

    BRING THEM MEALS
    Remember how they are jeg lagged, tired and hungry? Well, the last thing they want to do while being jet lagged and while they are getting used to an additional child in their life is to cook meals. Offer to bring a hot meal or even a freezer meal they can pull out at any time (like 3am when they are all awake and starving).

    STOCK THEIR FRIDGE
    Kind of in the same vein as the one above but chances are they won’t be able to get to the grocery store for the first few days and they probably cleaned out their fridge and possibly pantry before travelling so purchasing a few items for the fridge and pantry so they don’t starve in the first few days would be awesome.

    OFFER TO WATCH ANY BIO KIDS
    The transition can be a tough one and sometimes biological children could really use a break from their adoptive siblings. Especially in the beginning when they are getting used to them being around all the time. And if they adopt a toddler like we did the only child can go from being able to do what she wants to do all the time to having a little brother who is always getting in her stuff.

    UNDERSTAND THAT OUR CHILDREN MAY ACT YOUNGER THAN THEIR AGE AND GET EXCITED WITH US WHEN WE ARE EXCITED ABOUT WHAT MAY SEEM LIKE SMALL MILESTONES
    Because of how/where they have been raised for the first few years adoptive children will often act younger than their age. In most cases they will never really had any one-on-one attention before so chances are high that they will be delayed in some way. It doesn’t mean it’s permanent or our children are dumb, they just haven’t had the opportunities we so often take for granted (even something as small as someone sitting down with them and passing a ball back and forth). And a milestone like a child touching a plant without freaking out might not seem like a big deal to you but for a child who has displayed signs of a tactile sensitivity is really is a big deal, we’d love for you to be excited right along with us.

    UNDERSTAND THAT WE MIGHT NOT HAVE THE SAME EXPECTATIONS FOR THEM AS YOU DO FOR YOUR BIOLOGICAL CHILDREN OR EVEN THAT WE HAD FOR OUR BIOLOGICAL CHILDREN
    This one can be a hard one but it’s definitely one I have struggled with. The biggest part for me has been bringing Ephraim to church. He spent the first 18 months of his life in the same home (minus the first few months when he was in the hospital) and was never expected to sit still. To uproot him from all that he knew and take him to church where so many expect their young children to sit still and quietly for the hour long service definitely makes me feel like I’m on display and being judged. Whether or not I am actually being judged I don’t really know, I just know that I feel like it. I feel like I always need to explain that this is really new to him and we are working on other, bigger things and I don’t expect him to sit still through the entire service (the quietly part I am working on, and it’s slow but there has been improvements).

    BECOME TELEPATHIC
    Sometimes we need something and don’t even know what it is, or other times we know exactly what it is but we are so tired of always asking for help that we don’t want to tell you. So if you could develop telepathic abilities we would really appreciate that. Or at least send a message and check in and see if there is anything you can do.

    PRAY
    We know we couldn’t have gotten this far without your prayers and all adoptive families need them through every stage, even once they are home.

    For those adoptive families who have been through this stage,
    what would you have to add?

  • ADOPTION,  TRAVEL

    A Guide to Durban, South Africa

    Guide to Durban, South Africa for Adoptive Parents

    Since we’ve been to South Africa I’ve had a lot of parents contacting me asking lots of questions about lodging, things to do, and just wanting general information about South Africa, which is awesome! I’ve wanted to share information with our adoption right from the get-go. I keep telling everyone that asks that I’ll make a guide to Durban for adoptive families so here it finally is!

    Just a few disclaimers: I’m going to share a few of our favorite things and places, but to be honest, we didn’t do as much as some other families. I know some families do every touristy thing while they are out there (many of them twice over) but we knew that wouldn’t be for us. Our first priority was making sure we spent time alone as a family, bonding with Ephraim and figuring out life as a family of four.

    I know a lot of people who have been out to Durban to adopt a child (or two!) over the last few years and if you are one of them and have some more/different information to add please do so in the comments, I’d love that to be a great resource for families as well.

    Also, if you wish to see all the posts I’ve shared about South Africa you can see them here and all the adoption related posts here.

    Guide to Durban, South Africa for Adoptive Families

    STAY at Palmiet

    Oh man, I could go on and on about how much we loved Palmiet River Lodge . . . first of all: MONKEYS! You convinced yet?? Haha 🙂

    A few things we loved about Palmiet:
    a) it’s beautiful
    b) we had access to a full kitchen so we were able to make many of our meals
    c) it was quite quiet and we were left alone to do our own thing (as introverts we really appreciated this, plus it was better for bonding with Ephraim)
    d) it was only a 20 minute walk to the store to get groceries
    e) monkeys! it was pretty cool to see them nearly every day
    f) an outdoor shower
    g) we didn’t have to do our laundry or dishes

    Okay, so there are just a few things we loved 🙂 There really was so many, I may end up doing a full post on Palmiet yet, if I do I’ll add the link in here.

    Our adoption agency has two places it recommends for lodging, we were able to stay at Palmiet for most of the time and we were able to stay at another one, Heaton, for a few days and while I don’t want to get into all the details here, we strongly preferred Palmiet (it was our personal preference and if you have questions about either place feel free to email me).

    Guide to Durban, South Africa for Adoptive Families

    EAT at Chez Nous, Panarotti’s & Nando’s

    We didn’t eat out a whole lot but we love the three restaurants mentioned above, and they all had a gluten free option for Jared – win!

    Chez Nous is located at the Westville Junction, just a 20 minute walk from Palmiet. It’s a pretty fancy place with amazing food. Jared loved all of their steak (an amazing steak for only $12), I stuck to the margarita pizza, which was huge and only $5.50 and the kids loved pretty much every one of their kids meals. And the best part about Chez Nous: there is a kids playroom where they have a staff member watching the children, Raeca loved it.

    Panarotti’s is a great Italian style restaurant with a GF pizza option.

    At Nando’s we always had their chicken, slowly trying to work our way up on the heat scale (we didn’t make it very far).

    Guide to Durban, South Africa for Adoptive Families

    DRIVE with Tezz at Bonana Tours & Transfers

    The first few days we were in South Africa we rented a car (to travel to Newcastle) but the rest of the time we hired Tezz to drive us around and give us a few tours. Tezz is amazing, the things she pointed out while we were driving that we otherwise would have missed was something we weren’t expecting but really appreciated it. She was great at suggesting things we should do and see (or things we should just pass on) and when Jared’s eye got infected I asked her where he should go and she gave the number for her doctor, she really enriched our experience in South Africa. Oh and bonus: she lives right beside Palmiet 🙂

    Guide to Durban, South Africa for Adoptive Families

    VISIT Tala Game Reserve

    Hands down Tala was our favorite thing touristy thing we did. Tezz gave us a tour for the day and she knew exactly where to drive to find certain animals, we had such a great time, I blogged the visit here.

    Guide to Durban, South Africa for Adoptive Families

    VISIT uShaka Marine World

    uShaka was a great place to visit for the day, Raeca was mesmerized by the dolphin show. We went with the other Canadian families that were out and it was an excellent place to meet up.

    Guide to Durban, South Africa for Adoptive Families

    VISIT South Beach

    I actually don’t know if South Beach is actually it’s name, but there is North Beach so South Beach just makes sense. 🙂 Tezz explained to us that each of the beaches in Durban serve different purposes, North Beach has a lot more waves so it’s the main surfing beach and South Beach (which is right by uShaka) is much calmer and is the popular swimming beach. Everyday the lifeguards set up flags where the smallest waves are (moving them throughout the day as the waves change) and that’s the safe place to swim in.

    Guide to Durban, South Africa for Adoptive Families

    SHOP

    It seems like shopping was one of our major past times while in South Africa. Here are a few places we’d recommend:

    I Heart Market – usually occurring on the first Saturday of the month we loved the I Heart Market (which is held outside the Moses Mabhida Stadium). In December it was actually every Saturday so we got to go a few times 🙂 There were so many good vendors and we bought a few great things (unfortunately half of it was in the suitcase the airline lost).

    The Pavillion – our favorite mall that we went to. The Pav has a store for everyone.

    Westville Mall & Westville Junction – we loved that they were just a 20 minute walk from Palmiet to both Westville Mall and Westville Junction, we’d walk there a few times a week for groceries (actually, it was more like a hike there and a downhill roll back).

    Pep, Jam, Jet & Mr. Price – cheap clothing stores and a great place to pick up clothes for the little one you are adopting since you really never know what size they are until you see them.

    Okay! I think those were all our favorites while we were there! It’s hard to believe we’ve already been home for a month. If I end up thinking of something to add I’ll edit this post and add it in. If you’ve been to Durban to adopt I’d love to hear some of your favorites in the comments!

    Edited on 3/17/15 to add some FAQ’s!

    Did you need any immunizations?
    No, we didn’t. I don’t believe there is any that are required for South Africa, though I’d check online before going to check out the most updated stats. That being said, the three of us were all up-to-date on our shots (and Raeca is ahead of her needles for her age) thanks to our previous travels, mainly our trip to Uganda a few years ago.

    Did you bring an adapter?
    Yes! We sure did, we used it for our computer and then bought a USB plug-in (from Clicks in Westville Mall) to plug our phones in. Also a thing to note: blow dryers and straighteners don’t work with the adapters so what I did was just purchase a small straightener (also from Clicks).

    What about getting Rand?
    We didn’t bring any along, about 95% of the places we went accepted credit cards (and made it easier since we weren’t always fishing for change) so for the most part we used that. Rand was easy to get from an ATM at any mall so we got some at the beginning of our stay and just hit up the ATM whenever we were running low.

    Who did you book your tickets through?
    We used Menno Travel, we went through them when we went to Uganda as well and they gave us a better price than the other travel agencies we contacted. One thing to note: they are American so take that into consideration when they give you prices because those will in US dollars.

    Did you bring a stroller or carrier?
    Yes 🙂 We brought both. We brought a carrier for Ephraim and an umbrella stroller (those cheap $20 ones) for Raeca. Obviously it depends on the age of your kid(s) but they worked really well for us. Ephraim was in the carrier pretty much every time we went out and the stroller was great for the mall and the airports for Raeca.

    Is there anything you would say we need to bring along?
    Honestly, for the most part everything can be purchased in South Africa and most of it is cheaper. There was nothing that was super important to remember that couldn’t be purchased in country (other than all those adoption papers, don’t forget those).

    If you have any other questions let me know and if they get asked a few times I’ll be sure to add them here 🙂

  • ADOPTION

    Supporting Adoptive Families – After the Referral

    This is my second post in my Supporting Adoptive Families series, you can check out the other posts from the series:

    You’ve been supportive after the adoption announcement, you’ve stuck by their sides while they went through the antagonizing wait, and now they have a referral! You know a few details about the child but how can you support an adoptive family now?

     

    ASK QUESTIONS
    Definitely ask lots of questions. Every agency and country is different but you could ask:
    * when do you get to travel and pick him/her up?
    * how long do you have to stay?
    * where in the country do you travel to?
    * what is the process like when you are in country?

    ASK TO SEE A PHOTO
    We are proud parents and want to show our children off! Most countries and agencies don’t allow photos of the child to be posted publicly until the family passes court but you bet they want to show the photos when you see them in person! And sometimes we get updated photos so definitely ask if we have a new photo to share.

    GIVE GIFTS OR THROW A SHOWER
    Hearing they got a referral is like hearing a child has been born. I don’t know about you but one of the first times I see my friends after they’ve had a new baby, I give them a gift (I say one of the first because I am a forgetful person, chances are that gift was left by the door for a few days before I remembered to grab it), adoption referrals are no different. Plus, if they are anything like us they’ve been saving for the past few years just to afford the adoption and now that they have a referral they have another child to clothe and raise, and quite possibly the opposite gender of all the clothes they’ve been saving for the last 4 years (ah, such is life).

    Just after our referral a sweet friend who I had only chatted to online up until that point offered us a bunch of her sons hand-me-downs which was such a sweet and supportive gesture and truly meant a lot to us.

    GIVE FINANCIALLY
    Ugh, this is honestly the hardest for us, believe me, even if it doesn’t seem like it, we hate asking for money. But the truth is we’ve spent the last three years doing every thing we can think of to raise some extra cash, have contributed over $30,000 of our own money and it still doesn’t cover the expenses. And after the referral the agency, travel and accommodation fees can all get a little overwhelming, even without throwing the fact that we have to fly close to Christmas, the most expensive time of the year.

    OFFER TO WATCH ANY CHILDREN ALREADY AT HOME
    If they have biologically or previously adopted children offer to watch them for an evening so mom and dad can go out on an actual date before life gets a bit crazy.

    OFFER TO WATCH THE HOUSE
    Offer to help out while they are travelling, maybe house sitting, watching pets, watering flowers, shoveling the snow off the driveway . . .

    WELCOME THEM HOME
    Every family is going to be different but everyone wants to be welcomed home in some way or another. For many people it’s an airport welcoming (but please respect the family if they don’t want too many people at the airport). If the family is up for having people welcome them at the airport do it, and keep in mind that this might be the last time you see them for a little while and it’s not because they are trying to hide their children from you but because they’ve got some bonding to do with their new family (more on that in the next section).

    PRAY
    Just keep praying, every step of the way. They need your prayers.

    Check out the other posts in this series:

    For those of you who have been through this stage,
    what would you add to this list?

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