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.