Monday, 29 December 2014

Christmas Wrap-up

It's the most wonderful time of the year....and it's over. The gifts are unwrapped, the food is devoured, the ribbons and trappings and Christmas wrappings have all been tidied away. We've settled into a kind of sleepy reluctance to do much of anything. Here is a few of the highlights.

Christmas carnage
Calamitous consumerism, Batman! Look at all that STUFF! Wow, yeah... so...stuff. We limited each child to five gifts, but failed to take into account the swag sent by relatives and O'l Saint Nick. (Yes, I know that makes it my fault. Evidently I have no problem with the kids thinking we're cheap, but heaven forfend that they feel slighted by an imaginary rotund gentleman who defies physics. Such is the magic of childhood.) I can't sulk though, because S and I bought ourselves a shiny new television - the first we've owned that did not come from a thrift store. I blame Netflix. S instructs me to tell everyone that we bought a TV so big we had to modify the furniture. It's only 40", but technically this is true since it's about a millimetre or so too large to fit in the armoire. It's a good thing my man is handy with a router.

He's also handy with a squeeze bottle! Look at these delectable creations. This is the kids new favourite way to eat pancakes and the only way that doesn't involve Nutella.

Yesterday we visited Chinatown to get supplies for our New Year's Eve Hot Pot Sleepover Extravaganza 2014 ™.  If you've never had Chinese hot pot, go make it now. I can't think of a better way to eat for hours straight and not overload your sugar meter or clog your arteries. Plus it's fun! Both kids brought their purses and while Panda settled for just a lollipop, Pickle just had to have these the moment he laid eyes on them. He is so pleased with them and I love to see him so excited about something he chose and paid for himself.

The kids have already started to ask when is next Christmas coming, because childhood. Or maybe they are just thinking ahead, and perhaps they have the right idea - if I start now, I might actually get Christmas cards out on time next year.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

'Tis the Season to be Jolly....

Falalala, lalalala

Did I miss a 'la' in there anywhere? It sure seems like I am missing something everywhere these days. Now, I love Christmas, but as I've mentioned before, it usually gets the better of me.

Buying gifts, wrapping gifts, making food, cleaning the house, working full time... I am ready to sleep for a week. I have managed to lose a few small gifts somewhere in our bedroom closet  (I'm becoming convinced there is a trans-dimensional monster in there that eats sweaters in lieu of children. Or maybe I just watched too much Buffy the Vampire Slayer back in the day.) Christmas cards entirely slipped my mind this year, and I although I thought I was being diligent in my planning, I ended up with a few extra gifts, and no bows or tags. I think I've fallen victim to the Dunning-Kruger effect.

And because there is just so much idle time to fill during the holiday season (ha!), this year we were inspired by Erin's  (No Bohn's About It) fabulous idea to make our own wrapping paper (although I'll save the bow-making for next year). We bought a few rolls of brown kraft paper, carved some potato stamps, and went wild with the acrylic paints. Some of us went a bit wilder than others, which is why Pickle is not wearing a shirt here. Panda managed more sedately. (Please ignore the hideous wallpaper if you can, we are too lazy to reno a rental place. Maybe we should paint it white and potato stamp it too!)

Pickle painting purple stars. There aren't any on him yet.
Panda carefully placing festive pine trees.

And here are some of our finished efforts!

Have a safe and merry holiday, everyone!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Fostering Frustration

Remember when I said we were waiting for a letter in the new year to see if were accepted for fostering? Not going to happen - I got a phone call instead. Apparently, we need to have a bedroom available for every child even though our two kids have chosen to share. Now, I sort of get that. I agree that the foster child should have a separate space that's just for them. What I don't get is what that has to do with my kids, who share a room not only quite happily, but tenaciously, stubbornly, and resisting all efforts the contrary. Even though their beds are only two feet apart, we still end up with this....

(It's a wonder anyone fits in there with all those stuffed animals, much less two kids and a cat!)

It's frustrating, because we have the space in our hearts and the space in our home right now. We plan - and  have always planned - on looking for a place with a yard. Now that place needs to be larger, and in the meantime our application is stalled. We can't move until after the school year, and that is assuming we can find a reasonably-priced house in a decent area. Our contact did make a point of saying more than once that space was the only thing that stood between us and applying, and that as soon as we had a lease or a mortgage, the application would be in the mail.

It's frustrating, because at no point during either meeting were we told that every child needed to have a separate bedroom. I feel that this kind of restriction has the effect of heavily  favouring the chances of the rich or the childless in the selection process. It limits people who already have young children and want to grow their family to one child at most, because how many people have a five bedroom house?

It's frustrating, but I have to let that go and focus on the positives. They think we are good candidates.  Yay! It gives us a push to make a big decision, and since we are the king and queen of fence-sitting we need a good shove now and then. Yay! Because since would have to move, we are seriously considering making it a big one, and starting all over again in another province - one with a better economy.

How far would you go to put yourself in a position of being able to apply as a foster parent? Would you move to a larger home, knowing that your application may still be rejected? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Thursday Thoughts

Christmas is nearly upon us, and I'm busier than a elf on a shelf. (A wagon which I will never ever throw myself under the wheels of, because a) those little critters weird me out with their shifty-eyed smirks and  b) I'm just too lazy for their shenanigans. Also, it's one more lie to the kids that I have to eventually own up to. The others I can justify - Santa embodies the spirit of love, gifts being but a symbol of our regard for one another and having nothing at all to do with the history of Coca-Cola Marketing campaigns; the Tooth Fairy eases the transition from little to big and lessens the trauma of having your body parts fall out by making it an event to look forward to, assuaging the fear with the promise of cash, blah blah blah and so on and so forth. The Easter Bunny needs no justification because he brings chocolate. But what can we say about the elf? It prepares them for an NSA police state? We're Canadian. CSIS can't be bothered to spy on us, and anyway it wouldn't be polite. I can just give them Orwell's 1984 if I want to turn them into paranoid conspiracy theorists.)

Where was I? Oh, yes, busy. Busy and scattered. What to get for my gamer sister who loves cats, yet does not need yet another WoW or cat-related object? Ditto for brother-in-law - same description? Or my father, who is the very definition of curmudgeon with a heart of gold - since he claims to have ten of everything and be halfway to the grave in any case, is it okay to just pay his Costco membership, or is that just too lame a gift? Here's an open secret- I suck at gift giving. I always have too many ideas, or none at all, and nothing ever gets to the recipient on time. This year, as always, I catch myself browsing through stores, thinking "mom would love that" before I remember that she has been gone nearly four years now, and I still feel curiously unmoored by it.
Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas, I'm just not very good at it. I still can't wait for it to come. 

Panda still believes in Santa, even though kids in her class have told her he's not real. I think she has made a conscious choice to keep the magic. I love that about her. 

I'll have this brace on my hand for almost three more weeks, that's 5 weeks post tendon-nerve repair surgery. By that time, I'll have been effectively one-handed for two months. That whole opposable thumb thing? Totally the reason that humans colonized every habitat and pushed aside all other species. Without it, we would never have sharpened a stick to bring down the mighty mammoth. I can't even open a damn jar. Hopefully I get the all clear to move it at the next occupational therapy appointment, because to the surprise of no person ever with health insurance, mine declined to cover them. So this next OT appointment will also be my last OT appointment. (Also, I should have gone into that field. Seventy bucks a pop for a half hour at best, and my therapist looks like he might be ready to start shaving soon. At his age I slurping back Mr. Noodles and fishing out couch change for the electricity bill.)

S and I are considering moving. Packing up and getting out of Dodge. Deserting our post. We can't decide where though, or if this is grass-is-greener kind of knee-jerk reaction to a recent disappointment (more on that tomorrow.) We can't decide where though; should we hightail it back to his hometown (a large city with a good economy) and just settle in for the inevitable family drama? Should we stay closer, and go smaller, trading the Best City Ever for The Biggest Yard Ever and hopefully a decent balance in the chequing account? What would your top concerns be, if you were moving? Or your non-negotiable needs?

Friday, 12 December 2014

Advent-ure in the house of God

Let's just get this out there: I am a life-long confirmed heathen. Never baptized, never catechized, and never gave it a second thought. Barring the odd wedding or funeral, church has always been one of those things with which other people ruin their lazy Sunday mornings. Not so for S, who has been so bludgeoned with eternal damnation that he runs the other way whenever someone so much as says grace. He's gradually coming around now, and will even say 'bless you' when someone sneezes (I argue that this is a cultural nicety so removed from it's (possibly) original religious connotation that it doesn't signify anything more than good manners.)

So it was quite a surprise to find all four of us, scrubbed, shining, and stuffed in a pew on Advent Sunday. It was completely accidental that it was Advent Sunday, S having apparently repressed all memory of the religious calendar and me being entirely ignorant of it. So why were we there to begin with?  Well, Panda wanted to go. She has a lot of questions. A lot of her school-friends attend on the regular, and they tell her aaaaaaaall about God and Jesus. (The nice parts. They totally gloss over all the plagues and floods and firstborn sons. But I don't know, maybe that stuff isn't approved for Sunday school, or it could be a recruitment plot. In any case, she believes God is all rainbows, unicorns, and sweet little babies in mangers.)

You know those promises you make to yourself as a new parent, the ones about how you will offer your precious squalling bundle every possible advantage, allow every reasonable risk, and support every initiative to learn? Those kind of promises are a lot easier to get excited about when lil' Boo wants to, say, join soccer, or sing in choir, or take up gardening. It's a bit harder to get behind when she decides she can't live another minute without skydiving lessons, or motocross. And it really takes a lot of parental nagging convincing when it involves giving up an hour and half of Sunday morning snuggles.  But after a thousand questions and much hinting and sighing, we offered to take her to church. We explained at length that they mustn't talk, stand or play during church. We waxed poetic on the rules about sitting quietly for a really, really long time, but no dice - she still wanted to go.

I didn't want to be stuck driving across the city for a three-hour mass somewhere - although I do confess that a large part of me whispered "make it as boring and weird as possible, then she won't want to go back." But I muzzled that voice and chose a United Church near our house, reasoning that if Panda became enamoured with it and insisted on going every week, at least it was close and had a message I could live with. 

We should have been warned by how enthusiastically we were received. The greeter hugged me. The lady sitting in front us welcomed us warmly. The minister announced our presence and complimented the children's choice of shirts...from the pulpit. It was an introverts worst nightmare- not only was I new, but they noticed. Of course, there were only about twenty-five people there, and it's hard to overlook a bi-racial family with two vocal children. I settled in as the service progressed, but then they came and took my children away. To Sunday school. For an entire hour of fun, games, colouring, and presumably all the talking and playing that couldn't do in actual church, but I can't say for sure because we weren't allowed to go with them. Instead,  S and I had to sit quietly for a really, really long time and weren't allowed to talk, stand or play, except those times that we popped up and down like mad whack-a-moles singing hymns we didn't know. Church has a lot more stand up-sit down-lather-rinse-repeat than I expected.

It's also really, really social. Afterwards, everyone wanted to meet us and make certain that we were coming back again. I get that they are trying to keep their church from fading to nothing, but it felt like a lot of expectation and pressure. Like the guy you just met yesterday, who already wants you to meet his mom. And I felt like I was lying to them by even being there,even though I was up front about why we had come. But i also feel like we all took something from the experience. I think it was good for S to see that religion isn't always used to condemn, and that there exists a wide range of interpretations of what it means to Christian. I learned some things about the church, and Panda got answers (or at least the beginnings of them) to some of her questions. Pickle got cookies and juice. Overall, it was surprisingly...okay. Fruitful, even.

Now, I'm not saying we will go every week (last week, Sunday snuggles won out) but we might go every so often. But next time I am sneaking into Sunday school for the cookies and colouring.

Friday, 28 November 2014

First Date

So, I promised you all out there on teh interwebz (because I prefer to labour under the illusion that people actually read this thing, thankyouverymuch) that I would write a little bit about our first selection meeting for foster adoption.

This is how it works. First, you call the office and they ask a series of qualifying questions, mostly to make certain that you aren't a lunatic living in a hovel - where do you live, do you have enough space, has anyone official (so, not your kids or your mother-in-law) ever told you that you aren't fit to raise a chicken, et cetera. If you can tick all the boxes, you are invited to attend an informational session within the following three months.

After a number of weeks and some (okay, a lot of) obsessive googling on fostering, the evening arrives. Three or so social workers ply you with sugar, caffeine, and heart-breaking statistics until all your defenses are offline, and then they hit you with the horror stories and the worst case scenarios to see if you'll break and run. If you hang tough, they'll see you the following week (or, you know, whenever you get your shit together.)

This is where the selection process starts. At our meeting, we all had to stand up and say who we were, what we did for work and leisure, and to say what our experience with children was, and our motivation for attending. The hardest part was to describe ourselves as parents in one word. What? As you may have noticed, I can't describe anything in just one word. Apparently a lot of others felt the same, and since there were about forty of us, it took some time to get through us all. Of course I was last, so I had a lot of time to build up all that public-speaking anxiety we all know and love. Naturally S nailed it, and I muttered something incoherent about how all I really do is read and aren't epigenetics interesting, then got red in the face and sat down. All the words I wanted to say in a clear and logical manner got tangled up in my larynx and fell over their feet before making it out of my mouth. The social workers were taking notes the entire time and I'm sure the ones on me say something like "??? couldn't understand a word, no apparent hobbies. Husband bright and articulate."

We moved on to a questionnaire, and let me tell you, that was definitely designed to weed out the crazies. Because, you know, my one year old baby is totally able to keep himself safe around dangerous objects, and my four year old always meets me at the door with a perfectly mixed Manhattan after a hard day at the office. Not. Some questions were harder for me because my answer really depended on the kid, because you parent the child you have, not the ideal one you expected, right? Right. So I wrote a paragraph on a few of them before we even got to the essay  questions.

Which were actually pretty easy; I just answered them all with examples of how I would  deal with my own kids. So I guess if we aren't passed to the next level, maybe I am not fit to raise a chicken! I felt like a high school kid again when we handed in all our 'tests' - nervous and just hoping for a passing grade.

But we won't find out until the new year, so here's hoping for at least a B.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Couch to 5k ... and back again

I used a couch to 5k running app once. Seriously, I used it once. I was so determined up that I was going to DO THIS THING, get in shape and if not in actual shape (because, well, round is a shape too, right?) then at least get healthy enough that my old ass could chase my kids around for years to come. So at five a.m. I fell out of my bed and into my shoes and stumbled out into the world. I probably looked like an extra from "The Walking Dead' and after a half-hour 'run' my body sure as hell felt like the real zombie deal.  I also felt pretty proud of myself for doing it. So the next morning I jumped out of bed at dawn again....and nearly fell right back over. You see, I didn't realize that mere act of running would be enough to reduce my hip joints to powder. I felt like I was eighty years old and nine months pregnant. So much for the couch to 5k.

I have an elliptical machine in the bedroom, that we picked up second-hand after my son was born. My husband said that if he agreed to buy and move the damn thing, I had to promise to use it. I use it all the time - it's handles are a great place to hang hoodies and damp towels. I'm not sure my kids  even know what it is actually for.

I joined Weightwatchers Online too. I lost ten pounds in eight weeks, which isn't bad. I did even better on the way back, gaining twelve pounds in six weeks. Darn you, summer, and your enticingly refreshing cocktails. I still have my subscription, so I sign in every so often when I feel like I need taking down a peg.

The thing is, I'm only about twenty pounds over my pre-kid weight and thirty pounds from a size five. So why this obsession with my body? I'm not generally a high-maintenance gal; haircuts happen when I get around to it, and when I don't - which is often - my hair returns to its ur-state (seriously, when old home-town friends greet me with "Wow, you haven't changed since high school!' they aren't complimenting my dewy complexion.) Clothes get replaced when they wear out. My makeup routine is five minutes long and never varies. Maybe it's because I am surrounded women who are as beautiful on the outside as they are on the inside (not that I'd ever give them up, because these are some seriously fantastic kick-ass ladies.) Maybe it's that I never want to weigh more than my husband, who has no trouble keeping his boyish figure. Maybe fashion advertising featuring 000 twelve year olds is getting to me. I don't know. I do know that no matter how much I pep-talk myself, or tell myself that it's the inside that counts, or make excuses for myself - I don't have time to exercise, I'll do it when the kids are older, it's not as easy when you aren't twenty-five anymore - I don't ever really believe me. I can insist all day long that don't care what the number is on the tag of my favourite jeans, as long as I can be more active with my kids - and that is true, but it is just the top layer of it. The  deeper truth is I want to be slim and attractive, no matter how shallow and vapid that is. The truth is that even though I love my where my life has taken me now, and would never want to go back to being that self-absorbed twenty year old, I'd sure like to still have her body, and somehow feel that I've failed because I don't. The truth is that it is just hard sometimes to get older.

And all this gets mixed up with wanting to do right by my kids, with wanting to teach them a healthy life-style and healthy habits. I want to be able to run, play, and hike with them, but I also want to impress upon them (my daughter especially) that who you are is not just what the mirror shows you. To give them enough confidence in who they are to armour themselves against the onslaught of ... well, everything ... that puberty brings. And I'm afraid I can't do that unless I myself have that kind of confidence, which I paradoxically can't seem to achieve without buying into the very beauty myth that I want my kids to walk away from. So I guess as soon as my hand heals I need to hop on that damn elliptical and shed a few pounds.

At least I still have my dewy complexion.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Thursday Thoughts

A quick rundown of a few things that have happened lately....

·     We took a day off yesterday and stayed at home all day waiting for  the new washer and dryer to arrive. We installed them, and the heavens opened and a choir of angels descended. Magic machines  that can turn seven loads of laundry into three are fan-freaking-tastic. Mt. Laundry, I’m -a comin’ fer you.

·         Pickle stayed home too. After watching Kung Fu Panda, he announced he was the Furious Five (all of them at once, apparently) and leapt off a kitchen chair. I thought I was supposed to catch him, but instead he tried to turn a mid-air somersault. (‘Cos that’s what they DO, Mama!) He landed right on the top of his lil’ noggin, and the Furious Five fast became the Wailing One. Luckily, S was is the middle of washing the kitchen floor and had moved the chairs to a carpeted area.

·          Holy crap  S scrubbed the kitchen floor! Apparently, it’s tan with a pattern. Who knew.

·         Panda grew out of all her jeans last night. I swear they fit last weekend, now they look like capri leggings.

·         Date night… We went to the first selection meeting for  fostering/adoption last night. I’ll write more about it later when I have had time to process.

·         I am taking a day off tomorrow to ‘love-bomb’ the Panda. I can’t wait! I’ll report back on how it went.

·         Panda got her report card, and I realized I still haven’t conquered my problem with authority.  “Must learn to co-operate better and  listen more closely.” The first thing that popped into my brain is “don’t you tell her what she ‘MUST’ do, Mr. Gym Teacher-man”. The next fourteen (or more) years of my two (or more) kids public schooling will be …fun. Maybe I should just turn this one over to S right now for all our sakes?

·         I lost the Swype Keyboard on my phone and can't figure out how to get it back. The Samsung one is driving me mad and may just end my love affair with my phone. I think it’s all a plot by Apple to drive us apart.

  • This happened:
The kids have been loving the first snowfall and can't get enough, Panda seems convinced that if we can just find the right magic carrot, we can make an Olaf come to life.

That's it that's all.... apparently I need to go make the kids dinner again. They want to eat EVERY NIGHT these days!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

How we found the foster/adopt path

I realized the other day that I never really explained here how S and I came to consider foster/adoption.

I don't recall S and I ever  discussing in depth before we got married what our future family would look like. Or possibly even mentioning it all. Perhaps because we'd sort of been friends for quite a while, we skipped over a lot of those important conversations and kind of jumped right off the precipice without looking. We did this a lot with big decisions and yet somehow we always found a soft - or soft enough - landing. This was no different.

As it turned out, we both felt that there were already an awful lot of people cluttering up the world, and so the voluntary human extinction movement seemed to make sense. It fit with our crunchy granola tendency to tree-hug,  and after all, there are hundreds of millions of orphans out there needing families. We reasoned that when and if we wanted to raise a family, we would adopt a little girl from China. We’re an interracial couple anyway, so my lily-white ass would be the only odd one out. That was plan A,  and it seemed perfect until we realized how much it cost. What can I say- we were young(ish) and naive. And broke. So much for China.

We'd mentioned our plan to a few friends and family members,most notably a relative who had worked in social services. She assumed we meant to adopt domestically. She'd witnessed the struggles her colleagues had been through with their adopted kids, and she regaled me with every horror story she could dredge up. It worked; I was inexperienced and childless, and parenting is murky water anyway. I was convinced I couldn't handle it. With foreign adoption a lottery win away and the perils of domestic adoption fresh in our minds, it was time to develop plan B. (Of course, now I realize that all adoption is rooted in loss, domestic and international, and that is a traumatic event for every child...but that is a whole other post.)

Several years later, Plan B arrived, followed shortly after by Plan B Mark II. We thought we were done until the kidlets got much older, when we planned to foster. Then last year, I learned about foster adoption in our province. I read everything I could about the program. I haunted message boards, did some deep thinking and some obsessive googling. I realized that I still wanted this -really wanted this-  and that the relative who had warned me from this path years ago is someone who not only hates to be inconvenienced, but isn't actually all that fond of children. Of course that person would advise against it! Now I was excited. The murky parenting waters had cleared a bit. I mentioned it to S, who was cautiously on board and agreed to attend an info session with me. The information presented in that session made it clear to us both that this was probably the right thing to do for our family, but it was probably not the right time to do it. 

We think the right time is now, or coming soon. Tomorrow we attend the second info session. This is a sort of joint evaluation, I think - they are looking at us looking at them. If we all agree that we like what we see, then they ask us on a second date -they invite us to begin the application process. I’ve been told that is a mountain of paperwork (it can make  friends with Mt. Laundry ) and can take up to a year for approval once the application is in. Then we wait for placement.

We know this won't be easy, but we believe it'll be worth it. We know it’s a hard, long process –and I am not the best at waiting. I find I handle it a lot better if I can plan and research, so I've read anything and everything I can find that is related to adoption, attachment, trauma, and fostering. I am still looking for more. I find it's reawakening my old punk self, tempered now with more common sense but still passionate about advocacy for the overlooked and disenfranchised, the poor and the disdained. My husband’s passion (other than art-making) is  in the conversation  around the treatment of  Canada's First Nations and the residential schools truth and  reconciliation. It is all part of the same whole to us. I think we may have found our thing. 

There is a quote from one of my all-time favourite novels, JD Salinger's  Franny and Zooey:

In my opinion, if you really want to know, half the nastiness in the
world is stirred up by people who aren't using their true egos.
Take your Professor Tupper…. I'd lay almost any odds that
this thing he’s using, the thing you think is his ego, isn’t his ego
at all but some other, much dirtier, much less basic faculty….
Scratch an incompetent schoolteacher — or, for that matter,
college professor — and half the time you find a displaced
first-class automobile mechanic or a goddam stonemason....
Nobody who’s really using his ego, his real ego, has any time 
for any goddam hobbies.

I’m not incompetent at my job, but we want a life where we don’t have time for hobbies. This is one step toward that meaningfulness in our daily lives. Wish us luck.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Life's half full of silver linings, or something...

I am pretty determinedly having a 'glass half full' kinda of November, so far. It's unfortunate that glass isn't half full of wine, because I think I deserve some. In the last two weeks...

  • S lost his beloved job by being passed over for the permanent position
  • I cut my thumb badly enough to require stitches
  • Pickle caught a nasty cold, resulting in continuous a snoterfall and persistent cough that keeps him (and me) up half the night. (But not S. A hundred roaring dinosaurs would not wake S.)
  • my apartment-sized dryer is absolutely done for. We worked it to death. Mt. Laundry has erupted, and and we are all continually trying evade the lava flows of dirty socks. Apparently the washer is also nearing it's last spin, and the damn things are only seven years old. I have underwear older than the machines that clean it (I know, I know - don't judge.) But hey, it's nothing that fourteen hundred bucks for new ones can't fix!
  • Pantry moths. It's buh-bye là to all my overpriced gluten-free dry goods....and an entire 10lb bag of Basmati rice.

I'm keeping my chin up though - all the better to see where the next blow is coming from. But  it ain't all bad...
  • I have my guy back at home where he belongs, and he did manage to pick up a 'filler' job right away. Half the pay, but in this economy we'll take it.
  • I need nerve-repair surgery on my thumb. Sure, they are going to slice and dice me just after it all healed up, but...wait, what was the silver lining there? Oh yeah,  a WHOLE day in bed, sans interruptions (except said surgery). Sure it's a hospital bed, but I'm counting it anyway. And I figure the added healing time should give me a free pass on cleaning the cat litter box for at least another three weeks, what with the risk of infection and all.
  • Since Pickle is awake all night anyway, he comes in for snuggles. Nothing is better than sleepy warm little boy snuggles.
  • Full size laundry loads and a dryer that doesn't wrinkle everything! 'Nuff said.
  • My pantry is clean, shining, organized, and empty. Now I never need to come up with some way to use up a half-bag of barley and  graham cracker crumbs. Also, I found and smushed a a pair of love-moths. Oh yeah you little fluttery bitches, I bring the retribution DOWN. With a flyswatter.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I need to trundle off into the falling flakes and pick up some cooking and baking staples, and maybe some newer underwear....

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Thursday Thoughts

·         I had this conversation with my four year old yesterday at the bus stop.  “Hey, why do you have fingers up both your nostrils? I'm keeping them warm."  (like duh, Mama, what does it look like I’m doing... Sigh.)

·         I can't do any laundry. About thirty seconds after turn the dryer on, it sounds like an emphysemic crow. Normally, lack of laundry duties would be a cause to celebrate, but if we don't remember to call the repair guy soon, I'm going to have to buy us all new undies.

·         I went through the pre-op to repair the nerve damage on my thumb. I have to fast for six hours before. Isn’t access to water a UN human right or something? Seriously, even women in labour get ice chips.

·         If Panda’s spelling abilities are an indicator of future academic success, I may be better off using her college fund for early intervention. I’m really beginning to wonder if we are dealing with a learning disability. The word has three letters, we’ve been studying it for two weeks, and somehow in spelling it those three letters never land in the same order twice in a row. Which kills me, because both because I am a word-nerd and because I know that kid is damn smart.

·         Just how many syllables can the word ‘mama’ have, anyway? I swear that at bedtime it goes up to at least six.

·         I think that little boy bladders have a timer that goes off thirty-seven seconds after lights-out.

·         How long can this geriatric cat that never remembers where the litter box is live? Another sixteen years? At this rate I might be sent to the Happy Mousing Ground before she is. At least then S will have to clean up all her ‘surprises’. Theoretically I could just leave them for him to deal with, but even I can’t slack quite that badly on the housework.

·         Someone made a typeface for dyslexics, and I think that’s super-cool.

·         I’m still waiting for someone to make a gluten-free Vietnamese sub. I miss bread SO MUCH. Damn you and your poisonous gluteny goodness. 

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Lest We Forget

November 11. Remembrance Day - the day that Canada honours  the soldiers who have served and continue to serve Canada in times of conflict and times of peace.

 I want to be a pacifist. I want to say that killing isn't the answer, that all wars must stop. I want to live in a world where drones don’t massacre wedding parties by accident, where the military –industrial complex is only a sad and shameful memory, where oppressive governments are  are not propped or installed up by foreign intervention for profit and ideology.  I want to be able to assure my children that all soldiers everywhere  always act morally and that they never do anything horrible to people. That innocent men, women and children will never again have to bear the cost of war to their businesses, their homes, their families, and their bodies.

But it is always more complicated than that, isn't it.

Panda recently asked me about war – where it was, why did it happen, would it happen here. I explained to her about foreign aggression – about people who want power, want resources, want land . About  what they are willing to do to get them. She decided that those people are bad people. Then we talked about how the other  people would fight back, to protect their homes, families, food, and freedom. She decided that those people were good people. But, I asked her, what if you were a mommy with no food to feed your children and no home to shelter them, but your neighbour had more than he could use? What if that neighbour refused to share?  Is it okay to let your children starve because that guy over there wants to buy another big screen TV, instead of giving you some food and a house?  Of course that is simplistic, but I needed to introduce some grey into her world view, and she is six. She got it. She said that maybe the people who were defending, too, might hurt someone by accident, someone who was just trying to run away or something. She decided that war is complicated, and hard, and everyone gets hurt.

Smart kid.

I know it is a thorny topic. I know that a lot of people don’t support the troops. I do. I support the troops, but I don’t always support the wars. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, as they say. Sometimes as a nation we are where we have no business being, and sometimes we aren’t where we should be. Sometimes we have no better choices, and sometimes we make the wrong ones. Sometimes, as a nation, we just have to go with what we think is right, based on faulty or incomplete information. And sometimes our leaders lead us astray for monetary or political gain. And I know that I don’t have the requisite knowledge or skill to decide that, so I will mainly reserve judgment, and just recognize that being a soldier is a difficult, painful job. The men and women who choose to take this path do so for a myriad of reasons, but the result is (mostly) the same. They expose their bodies, minds and hearts to some of the worst things imaginable so that maybe someone else, somewhere, won’t have to. Whether that means an eventual end to conflict (as some believe) or that the kid in that hut over there won’t lose his family today to a man with a gun and a fervent conviction in his right to impose his beliefs.

So we try to take part in some small way every year, whether it is to bundle up the kids and head off to Cenotaph  for the ceremony, or simply observe a few minutes of silence at eleven in the morning. This year we made poppies with the kids. We would have bought them from the veterans as we do every year, but we couldn't find anyone selling them. I don’t know if the recent attacks on soldiers in Canada has anything to do with that, but I suspect it might.

I’ll end with this with Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields”, written  May 3, 1915:

In Flanders fields the poppies grow,
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

We're going through changes....

I am probably the only one out there that remembers that old Black Sabbath song in the title of the post (it was already classic rock when I first heard it- I ain't that old yet!) You may have noticed a new look to the blog; please bear with me - I am an inveterate tweaker with an art degree. This thing might change looks more often than S changes his underwear. (So, like, frequently, but not every day...)
Or I might just leave it alone. What do you think?

Thursday, 6 November 2014

First Date Jitters

We have a date! We attend our second  session for foster/adoption in mid-November. This is where shit gets serious and they say either "Come on down - you're a contestant on The Paperwork Is Right!" or "Move it along Ma'am, nothing to see here, nothing see here...."

I am fairly confident we will pass to the next stage (famous last words, hah!) S and I are solid, we have done our trauma and attachment homework (by we, I mean I- he gets the Cliff Notes version from  yours truly) and our parenting failures would not make good reality TV.

Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Thanks, Life – and I’m sending you the therapist’s bill

The last few weeks have been a rollercoaster. Not a huge, Disney-worthy one, but one of those little ones at the country fair, you know the kind. Shaped like a dragon, they rattle and shake your shrieking preschooler to what seems like a great height –uuup the learning curve, doooown the learning curve. And away we go again.

Losing out a dream job to a union guy only because of time served just stinks.  It sucks to be young and less experienced.  This would feel a lot less unjust if S were actually a) young, or b) inexperienced.  Boo. Unlike.  Down the rollercoaster.  So he’s home for good and slowly reintegrating into life with the family full time, but feeling sad and displaced.  Me, I ranted a bit to the grrl posse and invented a few new and elaborate curses to adequately express my indignation. I’d  like to say that I followed  my family motto – “Don’t get mad, get even” – but planning and  grudge-holding  just takes so much energy (sorry, Dad.) I’ve got better things to spend that energy on.

Like Hallowe’en! Yay! We had a lovely quick dinner and less-quick trick-or-treating session with our fantastic friends and their three lovely and rambunctious kids. Since they live pretty much all the way across the city, we all stayed over and had a grand ol’ time.  Did you know that there actually isn’t a weight or volume limit to the amount of candy that one small almost-four-year-old boy can carry? I swear, they're like the little Spanish grandmothers that can carry a cord of firewood and a burro up a mountain path.  Also,  a quick slice of pizza, some carrot sticks and whack of candy is not, in fact, a solid enough base on which to stack three glasses of wine and a cocktail.

On Sunday I did something that almost certainly puts me as frontrunner for this year’s award for Most Idiotic Error Resulting in Injury, which is saying quite a lot considering that my highly-distractible husband works with power tools all day.  We were just putting the finishing touches on a birthday dinner for Pickle. I was wiping down the counter and bumped a glass - I felt more than saw it start to fall. Of course I tried to catch it. One broken glass, a bucket of blood,  one visit to emergency, one  severed artery, one  damaged nerve,  five hours and five stitches later....  The doc told me to fast from midnight and come back to the hospital at seven in the morning for the plastic surgeon to repair the nerve damage. I waited there all day with no food, no water and no surgeon. Ain’t medicare grand? So now it is heal and wait for an appointment for surgery, where they get to cut my hand open again. Yay stitches. I guess I should invest in more band-aids.

So what did I learn this week? That you never count your chickens before they hatch, that candy is not a food group, and that housework is not only never-ending, but downright dangerous. That I need to take life as I find it and squeeze all the goodness out of it- hilarious, loving,  Halloween-obsessed friends; fantastic kids,  and a husband who washes the dishes and hands you a sippy cup of wine, because he says that everyone needs one whole hand to work with. Smartass.

I am pretty sure I knew all that at one point, but sometimes I need reminding. 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Well, the job is not happening. So stupid to let myself believe we might catch a break.
Maybe it means we are meant to meet a child here in this city.

Monday, 20 October 2014

I am slowly going crazy, one two three four five six switch...

crazy going slowly am I one two three four five six switch

Does anyone remember that old kids song? It's how I feel lately, eleven days in  with no word back on the interview for S, and no idea if we will be moving (and yes, I am totally counting weekends.) The more that I need to wait the antsier I get, not knowing when or where we will start our fostering/adoption training. I kind of wish I had some faith so I could lay it on all God, but I don't think leaving it in the hands of random chance and the laws of physics is likely to have the same calming effect (at least, I assume that is one reason why people have faith.) So maybe I need to look into that whole thing. I wonder if Hestia is taking new patients.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Those poor birdies...

So, yesterday in the car, Pickle and I had a conversation that went something like this:
P: Excuse me.
me: Okay...?
P: I farted. And it was so quiet you couldn't even hear it! (burst of maniacal laughter) Mama? Why are farts funny?
me: (defeated) I don't know sweetie, I really don't.
P: Well...they DO eat birds.
me: What?
P: Yeah! Farts eat birds. But only small ones, Small birds. (pause)  Do you wanna talk about bones?

Gotta love the mind of a four year old boy.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Everyone hail to the Pumpkin King!

Samhain. All Hallows Eve. Hallowe'en.  My favourite holiday of the year is nigh! Out come the candy (and the three extra pounds I get from scarfing it) and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Out come the paper ghosts, ghouls and mummies; the pumpkins, jack o lanterns, and cobwebs. And out comes the costume-angst, for all except Panda.

Panda is an odd one. Usually by January 1st,, she knows what she is going to be the next year. She'll be Queen Elsa from Frozen this time, and I gotta say, I'm kind of relieved. I know it is unusual celebrate that your child wants to be one more blue Disney princess in a sea of blue Disney princesses instead of say, Malala. But I see it as a turning point for her. Since she has been old enough to choose her own costumes, she has been Spiderman, Iron Man, and Captain America. Yay, girl power, claiming male spaces, right? Nope. Maybe... a young girl's confidence that sex and gender are irrelevant? Not at all.

See, her daycare group from babyhood to age five was predominantly boys. Active, energetic, sometimes aggressive boys, with the occasional girl in a corner with a tea set and a dolly for some variety. And since Panda is decidedly not of the tea set persuasion, her best friends were always boys. We have consciously not gender stereotyped in our home, but of course the world (and other parents) are always ready and willing to jump in fill the gap for us. Around the age of four , she started to separate colours along gender lines, then toys, then everything else. Nothing about girls was cool enough for her. Princesses were 'too kissy', and pink was totally out of the question - any attempt to explain that colours were for everyone was met with an incredulous stare and "Papa doesn't wear pink." (Technically true, but her papa won't wear any colour out of the neutral range. Ever.) She had a Transformers party for her fifth birthday. At five and a half she decided that men got all the cool jobs, and was heartbroken and sobbing that she couldn't be a boy when she grew up. Cue long rambling explanation of the why girls are awesome, the history of feminism and the struggle for equality. No go. Eventually I gave up and offered her a hug and a cookie instead.

The start of kindergarten and new (girl) friends ameliorated things somewhat, especially on the fashion front - although she got points from the boys for being the only Iron Man at Halloween whose chest plate thingy actually lit up (thanks, S!) Frozen did more, because here was a girl that Panda could really get behind, someone who could do cool magicky stuff and still look great in glitter.

So, I really, really never thought I'd say this, and believe me I am well aware of Disney's flaws, but in this one case, I gotta say- hat's off to you, Walt, for letting my little girl finally revel in her double xs. I hope it'll stick, and maybe her 2015 will start with the announcement that next year she's going as Amelia Earhart, or Ada Lovelace. But until then, I'll be the lady unabashedly belting out 'Let it Go' in the car on her morning commute. And yeah, I know you all can see me, and no, I don't care.

p.s. So....did Queen Elsa single-handedly put all those ice-miners out of business with power over ice and snow? I figure that pretty much the only people rich enough in those days to afford ice were the nobility, and she could easily take care of them with a sweep of her hand. 

Wednesday, 8 October 2014


S has been ‘working away’ for four weeks now, which means that Netflix and I are getting along famously, and that the house could use a good scrubbing. (I have two kids, a full-time job, and a streaming plan; I have no time for more than a lick and a promise attitude to housework.) He does get to come home on weekends though, which means that the house get messier, dirty socks start showing up in the most unlikely locales, and the kids are really disregulated. From like, Thursday night to Monday night  Tuesday (and counting). Tears erupt over the slightest slight, Panda gets downright ornery, and there are a lot of feel-better cuddles and snuggles being dispensed. Pickle especially is having trouble sleeping, which means I am having trouble sleeping, which means…more Netflix. 

BUT – we are getting closer to The Day Everything Changed (Or Didn’t) – the job interview is tomorrow! Soon we will know if the family will be together again, or separated for the remainder of the school year, or something in between. We’ll have a better idea of  where we will be going through the entire foster/adopt process as well  (we’d have a choice of two provinces and about three different paths….it is complicated.) We’ll know if I get to sleep sometime in the next six months, or if we should just increase our internet package and buy shares in Tim Hortons. Life ™, because you haven’t got enough to worry about already.

So to avoid thinking about all that, I am instead thinking about this. The Attachment and Trauma Network has been hosting a free onlinewebinar on educating children with complex trauma and attachment issues. It is completely absorbing (and my reaction is further proof that I got completely the wrong degree, and need to go back to school….) There is so much good information in here, whether you are a parent, or educator. They cover special education, virtual education, legal matters, IEPs , brain function and neurology and more. So now, I am feeling like I am prepared to take on  therapeutic parenting (said the chick who hasn’t even gotten her future address straightened out, not to mention the rest.) And of course I also feel that I can never really be prepared, that I know just enough now to be dangerous.

On an up note, Pickle has informed me that he wants two more sisters and another brother. Panda has put an order in for an older sister. We haven’t even mentioned adoption to them yet….

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

wheels on the bus go round and round...

I have been thinking a lot lately about truth and narrative, about the ongoing curating ourselves and our histories. My husband S is up for a job soon that could possibly be game-changing for us. He has to go through a second interview and present his best face, even though he already knows the interviewers through other work. We want to adopt a child from the foster system, and to do so  we will need to go through the homestudy. In either case, we want to be open and honest, but how do we decide which information is relevant? How much of what we present is factual in any case, when we get to questions of attitude and aptitude? How much of the curating is even conscious?

What I am trying to say is... presenting any aspect of yourself to the world leaves out so much complexity that it is exceedingly easy to be misjudged. And no one ever remains unjudged. Let's start with social media, since that is an easy target. Everyone curates a (best?) version of their self on social media (at least I hope, otherwise there are a lot of wine-swilling mamas and extremely humourless feminists in my circle...not to mention one individual who seems to think about the pending Illuminati takeover all day, every day.) You can post, 'like', quiz, etc and build up the version you want to show. It is pretty easy to decide - and control- what you want out in the world.
Not so easy when it is a face to face interaction, like an interview or a homestudy. S thinks he is the God Of All Wooden Arty Things, and I believe him, but will the interviewers? I believe we are even-tempered, supportive, loving and not-to-mention-superfun parents to Panda and Pickle, but will a child services worker see us the same way?
Okay, now I have thought myself into a corner.

What I am trying to say is...narrative is important. It builds our identities inside as much as outside. My sister is a master of this - she has been reinventing her past (relentlessly, and in the face of photographic proof to the contrary and not to mention I was there) for years. She has built the perfect self, the self she wants most. Now, I think most of us want to live (buzzword alert) 'authentic lives', but what is that really? Is it more authentic to recognize the journey that brought her to the person she now is inside, or is it okay to for her to retrofit her history to match her current self, because she feels she will be judged on mistakes of the past, even though to the world at large those mistakes were minor and easily understandable?
Okay, no- that isn't what I want to say; this isn't about my sister at all.

What I am trying to say is... we are all a story, written by us, but read by others in their own private language. We each have our own arc, and our own denouement. In the best cases our story is interesting to us. In the worst cases it is a policy manual ghostwritten by outside expectations.

None of this is really what I am trying to get to the heart of, though some of it is in some part. If anyone knows what I am trying to say, drop me a line....

Monday, 6 October 2014

Of Life & Coffee

Can I live without caffeine? Nope.

But that doesn’t have anything to do with the title of this blog. There is an old story of uncertain provenance that goes something like this*:

A young woman went to her mother and complained about how life was so hard. She was tired of struggling and was ready to give up.  It seemed that as soon as she solved one problem, a new one dropped in her lap.

Her mom took her to into the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and when they come to a boil, she put carrots in the first pot, eggs in the second, and coffee beans in the third.
“Wait.” She told her curious daughter.

Twenty minutes later, she pulled out the carrots, eggs and coffee and put them each in a separate bowl.

"What do you see?"  She asked her daughter.

"Lunch?” she replied.

Shaking her head, she asked her daughter to feel the carrots, and tell her what had happened to them.
“Well,” said her daughter  let’s call her Jane.) “Well,” Jane said, they’re cooked.”
“How can you tell?” her mother asked.
“They are soft now,” she replied.
“And the eggs, what happened to them?”
“They are hard cooked now … Mom, what’s the point of all this?”

Her mother smiled.
“Have some coffee,” she suggested.

“Look,” she told Jane when her daughter was seated with a fragrant cup, “all three of these things were thrown into a pot of boiling water. Not so fun for them. One went in hard and got soft inside, and one went in flexible inside and got hard. The boiling water changed them. But the coffee, it changed the water.”

“So, honey, which are you going to be when you get tossed in hot water? A carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?”

I, my husband, and our two little ones are about to embark on a new adventure, one that could bring us a lot of joy and happiness, but also a lot of adversity.

I choose to be a coffee bean.

*rewritten for de-treacling