Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Baker's Dozen Review of 2008

January - In one word - Birthdays. Mine, Baby J's and Greg's. Mine was alternatively awful and wonderful. Made some choices to take care of ME around my birthday that were wise and my friends far and wide were amazing in putting together a gift basket and making an effort to be there for me. I felt very, very loved.

And I became the mother of a teenager. We intend to do a "Rite of Passage" for each of our sons when they turn 13. And it was wonderful to watch a selection of the most important men in my son's world come together on one special day to input wisdom and encouragement into his life.


February and March - My Grandmother, my very special Nan took sick and I tumbled head long into the reality that our time with her was going to be far shorter than I wished. We are VERY blessed that she has pulled through time and again this year, and in some ways I am thankful that this has allowed me to begin to grieve and process before her time present with us ends. We believed we would lose her in 2008, and we didn't.

April - Disneyland. Really this trip exceeded my expectations, and I had high expectations.

May - The snow disappears and two weeks later we are camping. 10 boys, 3 adults and a whole lot of good memories.

June - I completed my second 10 km race. Yahoo for me. I have run exactly twice since. Not so yahoo for me.
July - Always, always, always a highlight of our year - Harambee Camp. If you are a family with children or parents of African Heritage I HIGHLY recommend this camp, or investing in a camp like it. We are a family, there is just no other way to describe it. We have gone for a decade, and will go as long as they let us come back. So here's a special shout out to my Southsiders and a reminder that I miss you all!

And then our St. Louis trip. Taking my son to meet his siblings, spend time with his former foster family, and get to know his first set of parents all over again. It was an EXPERIENCE deserving of all capital letters. Adoption, race, foster care, siblings, openness, drugs, poverty, abuse, parenting, insecurities and cultural differences all requiring me to reach out for support and input. What started as a thread on an adoption forum morphed into this blog.


August - The motorcycle, my husband and the cow. Oh the drama. Throw in there hockey school, camping and hockey tryouts and you have a pretty busy month.


September -For the first time in 4 years my boys head back to "real" school and for the first time in over 11 years I head back to work. And hockey season begins in earnest as my husband and I say our yearly hockey parent goodbyes, agreeing to meet at the rink, pass on the highway and promise not to do anything drastic (like kill each other) until sanity returns in the spring.

October - My Nan is given a few weeks to live and I send my sons to her to say goodbye. I follow two weeks later. A wonderful time of memory making, hugs, I love yous and goodbyes. And then again she pulls through. More birthdays and my boys are now 7, 11, 12 and 13.


November - "Obama" happens and I shed tears for the price that was paid so my sons could live in a world with a President that looks like them. They don't understand the significance but in every way I can, I try to share it with them.

December - My son gets called the "N" word at a hockey game. We still haven't resolved this or gotten an apology, but have no fear this mama won't let this battle die. I have a "Picture Perfect Christmas" and I do my best to embrace the reality of joy tinged with grief and the burden of loss.

All in all, 2008 was a good year. A full, hard, difficult, challenging year. I am scared for 2009 in some ways as I know inevitably it will also be full, hard, difficult and challenging but I wish for all of us a year filled with peace, growth, joy and the opportunity to make wise choices. Happy New Year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Picture Perfect Christmas?

I am finding one of the difficult things about blogging is that slowly, but surely, I have let the ability to be real erode as people begin to develop expectations of me, of my family, and even of my children. Expectations that we aren't NORMAL. Expectations that our kids have no issues, that our family is spectacular, that I am a super human adoptive parent, a super human mom. And you know what? We are really very, completely normal.


I get questions that imply I must be a parenting expert because my kids are "so well behaved".

Surely I must be an "adoption expert" because my kids look so well adjusted and happy, and heck we have a fairly successful open adoption in some pretty bizarre circumstances. Someone, God Forbid, even referred to me as such once.

And sometimes I stop before I hit "post" because I find I want to blog about that reflection, and at times forget the reality that makes families parenting boys, families through adoption, trans racial adoptive families, families with children with special needs, multiracial families, older child adoptive families, international adoptive families, sibling group adoption families, Canadian families, American families, married families want to read here is simply because we ARE normal.





So, it is with a bit of trepidation that I share with you our Christmas pictures, for fear that it simply reinforces that image of my family others seem to hold. And yes, we are more "Cosby Show" than "Married with Children" but we have a big dose of "Malcolm in the Middle" thrown in there too!




So here comes the disclaimer: We had a lovely, wonderful, fun filled Christmas with my family. It was what I wanted, dreamed for and prayed for. Happy, wonder filled children. Family times full of laughter, good memories and stronger relationships. Cousins who laughed together and played together for hours. Peace and joy with my husband. Hours of sledding, playing games, watching Christmas movies and eating wonderful, copious amounts of food.




And by Saturday afternoon all that wonderfulness had driven both my sister and I crazy and we drove an hour on snow packed terror filled windy roads past an icy lake to go GROCERY SHOPPING. In peace. And possibly, not that we would ever tell, to escape.

So here, in graphic evidence, my picture perfect Christmas, with a splash of reality (although, really, it WAS very, very good!)



The photo: A 14 year old thrilled with the very presence of Christmas, Family and Santa




Reality: My teenager was grouchy and miserable when asked to do ANYTHING that didn't involve playing Guitar Hero. Sledding was apparently a torture worse than death. Dishes? Don't even ask. I might have maybe, if I am being honest, lost my temper with him, maybe a little. Ok in reality he drove me flippin' nuts! What is WITH the attitude?? Must you ACT 14? Yes, I realize you ARE almost 14 but seriously, I expect more. Actually less, couldn't you act more 7? Maybe 8 and less teenagerish? No? Well phooey on you.



The Photo: A beautiful, joyous smile showing the true nature of a peaceful, well mannered child.


Reality: My pre-teen had several mini breakdowns, tantrums and fits, usually targeting his brother resulting in hurt feelings and an angry mother. He got sent to bed by 7 on one occasion. He might have actually driven me nuts. Seriously, ITS FREAKIN' CHRISTMAS! BE THANKFUL YOU UNGRATEFUL INGRATE. Ok, so I didn't say that, but I was thinking it! Momentarily at least.



The photo: My adorable, sweet Tan-Man with the golden disposition and a heart of gold.


Reality: This dear son ate something that disagreed with him and had gas that could have cleared a stadium, and instead filled the house with the rank odor of rotten eggs. Continually. I mean I love the kiddo but he STANK. And at 11 years old, for the very first time, he didn't glow with the thrill of over exceeded expectations Christmas Morning. He noticed the expensive gift he received was, out of financial necessity, second hand. He missed the missing loved ones. In other words he is growing up. Seriously, that irks me, but also makes me so sad.



The photo: A blue eyed angel loving the magic of the day.

Reality: My little one was still very wrapped up in the magic of Christmas but created havoc by playing favorites with an older cousin and leaving the little one behind. And that helicopter Santa brought? Like nails across a chalk board the constant drone was so irritating. And constant. Did you HAVE to love that dang toy so much?


The photo: A happy couple, still in love after fifteen years of marriage, 18 Christmases together.

Reality: My dear husband got the stomach flu and laid on the couch in the middle of the house moaning and napping, forcing the rest of us TWELVE to tip toe around. Seriously? We HAVE our own bedroom at my dad's house. Use it. I love you ... but ... there is a toilet down there too!


The photo: Mother. Adored matriarch of the Common Sense family. Worshiped by her children, cherished by her husband, wise, calm and happy.

Reality: I was an absolute witch with a big ol' capital B on the drive down to my dad's and I started the night before. Emotionally drained, clinging to some tattered expectation of a Perfect Christmas Experience I was furious with my husband and children for failing me with their humanness. I did, after a long nap, snap out of it, but I was grouchy and snippy and angry and unreasonable. Much like my children later in the week in fact.


And more less than perfect family reality, for the first time in 35 years I chose not to talk to my mother on Christmas. For many complicated, sad, horrible reasons it was simply easier not to. And worse, she didn't talk to me either.


And adoption reality reared its head too. My boys' first mom texted me in the middle of our Big Family Christmas Breakfast. I could lie and say I was thrilled for this first time EVER contact on Christmas and a part of me was. It was just a simple Merry Christmas but still, honestly, there was a very small part of me that resented her intrusion because now I had to share with the boys that she had contacted us and I feared that mention would cast a shadow on an otherwise perfect day for them. They handled it ok, but I do admit, I was not thinking "adoption" at that moment, and the reminder was sharp. The constant availability of contact with modern technology allows for no insulation. And and that moment, at that time, I wanted my family offerred some insulation from the outside world. Yes, I did the right thing, but it wasn't easy either.



But my truth is I am blessed with a family I love and desperately need. I am blessed with joy. I am blessed with the capacity to choose to be happy in our humanness. I hope you forgive me for being me. But this is Me. The real, fallible, very human me.


And certainly our Christmas was real; probably much like yours. And in the end we forget the fights over dishes, or the disappointments in an unsought gift and we simply remember the pictures. The happy faces of delighted children. The loved shared between a family; A normal, typical, crazy family. I hope your Christmas Memories are picture perfect too!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Letter 2008


Common Sense News 2008
**Restore ** Renew ** Reconnect**
http://www.anickelsworthofcommonsense.blogspot.com/


A quick recap of 2007 and the Case of the Missing Christmas Letter. 2007 was a Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Year. The loss of loved ones, through death and circumstance, the aging of those we care about most, grief, job stress, and general life sucked every last bit of Christmas Spirit from Jen and as such the annual Christmas letter stayed unwritten. The passage of time and the grace of God has brought healing and restoration. And she writes again.

So here we are again – Christmas 2008- that crazy, frantic, amazing time of the year that springs smiles onto the faces of most children and gray hairs onto the heads of their parents!
And I too am back after a hiatus of writing our Christmas notes; older, wiser, slightly more jaded but still aware that we are infinitely blessed with all we have been given.

Much has changed in the two years since we last wrote. The boys returned to school, Jen returned to work, at an actual paying-out of the house-have a boss and a dress code job and we are 6 again with nary an extra in sight. Much has changed and yet much has stayed the same.

THE FOUR: Let’s catch you up on the Boyzzzz (see how cool we have gotten in our old age?)


Gregory. Now at almost 14, 5 feet 7, 155 pounds, an eating, sleeping, body checking, high school loving, hockey machine. Hockey IS Greg’s life as he plays for both a AA Bantam Rep Team and for his Hockey Academy. Greg is good. Too good, according to his mom who hates (and fears!) the circling scouts while dad laughs.


Although he is one of the best hockey players his age in our city, he is far more importantly growing and maturing into an Honorable and Godly Young Man. This July, Greg and Jen decided the time was right for him to return to his birth place and reconnect with loved ones. It was an enormous event in his life and I was very happy to have had the chance to see first hand where our boys get their beautiful smiles, amazing talents and open hearts. He and I returned home wiser and more secure because of our visit, with no regrets of time spent with family who loves our sons as we do.


Eric, now 12 is almost as tall as mom and growing a whole lot faster than she is! He’s in Grade 7 and making the “A” HONOR ROLL! Eric is playing on the AA PeeWee Rep Hockey team and loving the challenge. Eric is a defenseman and enjoys the chance to play a more physical game.
For Eric who hates change, the transition to school was more challenging, yet eased, by the fact that Jen works in his classroom as the Teacher’s Aide. It is no surprise to us that our smiley, lively son has many, many friends! Eric works very, very hard and is being rewarded with great grades and a well deserved reputation as being a really great kid!


Tanner, now 11, made the jump this year from home school into Gr. 6 French Immersion and loves it! He too plays hockey, always as a goalie in the city league. Tanner has truly thrived attending his own school, with his own friends, and his own routine. His maturity is continually growing and his decision making skills are blossoming. He is most excited for the cross country trip he will make “sans les parents” with his class to Quebec in May, 2009. He is still as sweet, kind and gentle as always. Far taller than most kids his age, we hope one day he starts to gain some weight so we don’t have to tie him down anymore during wind storms!


Caden, our 7 year old second grader is everything a mother of 3 other too cool and too big for their own good sons could wish for – A child still thrilled to snuggle, hug, kiss and tell his mommy that she is the most wonderful woman in the world and he loves her more than ANYTHING! Ok, so Caden might be a bit on the spoiled side, but who could resist such beguile? Certainly not this mama!


Caden plays hockey, but without the same passion his older brothers possess, and as such is making plans for a future sport career in luge, karate, swimming, and then maybe hockey again when he is “all grown up and 10 or 11”.

Shelby and Jen. Oy, what a busy time it’s been! We survived in almost one piece, excluding that nasty not-so-little motorcycle hits cow-Shel debones his leg; gets an ambulance ride then an infection & emergency surgery incident in August. He’s still limping, still swollen and still using that Handicap Parking Pass and really grateful that he still has two legs! Shel is now in his 4th year attempting to sell commodities like lumber and drywall, for all that non-existent construction you might be aware of taking place around North America. He also has an up-to-date resume. Tough economic times all around.


Jen has survived. Noteworthy considering these last two years, for many reasons, were two of the most difficult years of her life; slightly battered, far less naïve and a whole lot tougher. Or so she keeps telling herself. Really she is just an older, grayer, and wiser version of Jen. Crushed but not broken. Going back to work after 11 years home with the boys has been wonderful. Her new job is school hours, school days and with her sons. God is good.



Jen’s Note: In the evenings after all I do is done for the day, I try to take the time to really SEE my family and remember that they are so worth every sacrifice I make, big and small.


Greg, my man-child, with his crazy sense of humor and snarky, wise cracking comments. When we hug, my head now rests on his shoulder.
Eric, my son with a ready smile, heart on his sleeve and always so full of passion. We stand toe to toe and eye to eye as my boy becomes a man, and still he demands his parents to be wise and strong.

Sweet Tanner, often quiet with his nose in a book is really a chatterbox waiting for the chance to catch your ear; a living dichotomy of a child who could have been an introvert but has allowed himself to be stretched by our craziness into a sport loving, out going, self confident child.

Caden’s passion for family time is unmatched even by my own. Still, at heart, my baby boy but only in brief, stolen moments that I realize will disappear all too soon.
And I write, finding my voice by putting the pieces of my heart out there for all to see. Life’s a journey with many seasons of pain but God is faithful and we are blessed. And this time to reconnect, renew and restore our relationships with you is truly a gift.


Merry Christmas from our family to yours! Love Jen, Shel, & boys

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

That which was lost, is found

I am surrounded by my family. Those I love absolutely MOST in the world are with me here, right now. And I choose joy.

And so the Christmas Spirit flows freely.

I am CHOOSING to be done wallowing; CHOOSING to start appreciating what I have and CHOOSING to not miss too acutely that which I have lost or choose to leave behind. Letting grief go for a day or three, maybe even five.

Merry Christmas to all. And to all I wish you a time of peace, absolutely true joy and that the love of the season, and the Reason for it, flow freely to you all.

Merry Christmas.

Jen

Not so Christmasy Thoughts

I was doing pretty good. "Fake it 'til you Make it" my tightly gripped motto. But just below the surface runs every loss, hidden but felt acutely if paid any attention. And there are many; Grandmother, Mother, Daughter, Aunt, Friends and Family.

We all do the same, and certainly my hopes and desires for a fun filled season making memories with my kids try to push the loss, the grief, and anger away. I suppose expectations simply set you up for disappointment, because everyone else is trying to do the same and they are fallible too.

Today, disappointment of reality rips away the scab and I feel raw. Sad. Christmas spirit? Lost. So for a moment I will wallow in every loss, feel it, acknowledge its presence in the very essence of who I really am and then pull myself up by the bootstraps and fake myself a Very Merry Christmas for the sake of my boys.

We leave in a few short hours for 5 days of intensive family time. It will be good DAMMIT and anyone who messes with my expectations goes on the naughty list - FOREVER.

Thanks to Nicole for posting this on her blog. Special thoughts and prayers to my friends in the adoption community who feel a particularly difficult sort of loss at this time of year.


River by Joni Mitchell (Performed by Sarah McLachlan)


It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on

But it don’t snow here
It stays pretty green
I’m going to make a lot of money
Then I’m going to quit this crazy scene
I wish I had a river
I could skate away on

I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I made my baby cry


He tried hard to help me
You know, he put me at ease
And he loved me so naughty
Made me weak in the knees
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on

I’m so hard to handle
I ’m selfish and I’m sad
Now I’ve gone and lost the best baby
That I ever had

Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
Oh I wish I had a river
I made my baby say goodbye


It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
I wish I had a river
I could skate away on

Saturday, December 20, 2008

And you think YOUR Saturday sucks?

Its 5:30 in the morning.

Its -33 C (that's pretty much -35F too). Yes you read that right. MINUS 33. Before the windchill. And its a clear and starry morning. With WIND.

My garage door opener is frozen. Shut. The van is parked outside. Plugged in (and not because its a hybrid as a California friend assumed).

And I am waking my two youngest up to go to hockey.

One game in 45 minutes. Another two hours later, and then two more this afternoon.

And my husband? Oh he is away with the oldest two in cities further north. Also for hockey.

'Tis the season. Brrrrrrrrr.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Nothing quite as painful ...

As a child's violin recital.



Trust me after 5 years of lessons, its still not getting easier.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ghosts of Christmases Past

Without question, Christmas brings back memories for so many people, our kids included. But for us moms it does too.

We decorated our tree this week bringing out ornaments from my own childhood, ornaments that the boys brought with them from St. Louis when they joined our family, ornaments that have been gifts over the years from friends and family. Silly preschool and primary ornaments always take center stage on our tree.


And then we brought out THE ornament.

There is nothing overly fancy about this ornament. It appears to be a simple blue ball with a place to slide a picture into. The face smiling out is a baby girl wearing a Santa Hat. You might notice a button on the back, and if you press that button you would hear the voices of 6 children wishing you a Merry Christmas. Yes, 6. Our 4 boys, our precious Baby J and her uncle that was also with us two Christmases ago.

Last year, putting up THAT ornament caused me to sit on the corner of the couch and weep for hours, eventually just putting myself to bed with a "headache". This year, the tears came, but not enough to ruin the entire evening. But the ache is constant. The memories are constant. Memories of a Christmas season that was so much fun and so full of hope, yet with a beginning of a shadow looming over us all. I think, deep down, maybe I knew the pain that was to come.


And come it did. And now, those Ghosts of Christmas Past bring good memories, painful memories and a remembrance of one who is missing.
But you know, all those tears are worth it to have that ornament on the tree. I can't imagine my life without the pain and joy that were that time of my life. But God knows how hard it is.

This is the only "family" picture of all 7 of us from that Christmas I have. I found it on my husband's company website several months later when the mere sight caused a week of emotional breakdowns. We have innumberable pictures of the kids from that season, or J and I, or Shel and J but this is the only picture of us all. It means alot.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Is there any color in your Christmas?

People often ask me how being a part of a multi-racial family has changed me. Its hard to express in a way that anyone who isn't part of our family could really understand but it has, fundamentally.

Christmas is one of those times of the year when its very apparent that I view Christmas very differently than many other white, 35 year old Canadian women. I view this season from the perspective of a member of a minority, part black, family.


First off, I collect Santas. That, in and of itself isn't that unusual, but what I collect is BLACK Santas. Now if you know me in real life, and know where I live (North-West Canada for those that don't) you realize that this is a CHALLENGE. In fact, probably to most in our area the fact that Santa is anything other than a large very white man doesn't even cross most people's minds. I search, I find, I buy, I am given. I have 6 or 7 of all shapes and sizes now.



Look close. You will see the elf lost his head. That's how living with 4 boys has changed me!


Secondly, my ornaments reflect the diversity of my family. I have many angels, knick knacks and decorations that reflect the beauty of an aray of black, brown and tan skin tones. Our angel at the top of our tree is definitely African-American.





Secondly, my Nativity scenes are probably more reflective of the truth of Jesus and his family of birth than many others (this one is NOT an example of that though!). You REALLY think Mary was a doe-eyed blond and baby Jesus adorned with a head of blond curls? Yeah. Right. But you do have to love how on this set the eyes are still blue. DUH.




I also have several ethnic African Christmas pieces imported from a variety of African nations. Our sons are not ethnic African but it is their heritage, and in the same way I proudly display my "Pere Noel" celebrating my long ago French roots, I want them to understand and appreciate the celebrations of their ancestors. Or at least feel that "I" appreciate and understand the celebrations of their ancestors, whether or not they choose to.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas makes 'em Crazy

Christmas, 1999


My first Christmas with my sons is marred by some very hard memories. The boys, 3 months into our home, were still raw with grief and overwhelmed with memories of Christmases past. Tanner at 2 was still trying to absorb the changes to his life and who were these new brothers that found him an easy target of their anger and rage at what life had thrown their way.


I was reeling with horror as my own much loved aunt had been killed in a car accident only a month before. My 11 year old cousin stayed with us, still deep in shock over the loss of her mom. World rocked, yet grief buried deep because it felt safer.


My uncle, sucked deeper into addiction and depression by the overwhelming need surrounding him was unable to cope with the loss his daughter and he faced, and he drifted far away. Unreachable. And we grieved, and pretended not to.

My own grief was buried under a need to "save" the season for my sons and cousin, and I soldiered on facing the day, the weeks before and after and took photos to "remember". I understood this Christmas was about surviving. Getting through.





My memories of that year are almost as fuzzy as the under lit photos we took. Temper tantrums & tears. A nap no one wanted to take. Behaviors that I didn't fully understand, despite my best attempts. The kids remember only good things, and I remember how very hard that was to achieve.

And now here we are 10 years later. Behaviors still triggered by the changing season. Underlying grief and loss that still lurks under the surface of brave faces. Many, many good memories to replace the difficult ones.


And still I sometimes wonder if I am sane. Or if my kids are sane. Because with the good comes memories of the bad. Of the loss. Of what can never be the same. And the behaviors we deal with are at times overwhelming and scary and I wonder. Scared.

And then I talk to other moms and realize that really we are so much further ahead than so many. With kids that function so well and have healed so much, and yet still the pain lurks under the surface, usually displayed in behaviors meant to rob the joy from the season from everyone surrounding. And I am thankful for my family, yet my heart breaks for those who struggle so deeply this Christmas Season.



My thoughts turn to other moms who struggle with hurting children who are acting out their pain or mental illness this Christmas season. To Debi, to Rachel, to Pam, to Christy and Sarah - the ones I know personally - and to the ones I read about and understand their struggles, my heart grieves for you this Christmas. I am sorry your children are hurting. I am sorry your hurting children are hurting you this season. You are in my thoughts and prayers. You are loved, you are supported and you are understood.



Merry Christmas my fellow moms of hurting children. May you find a moment of peace and Christmas spirit and may your child gift you with quiet, even for a moment, so you can remember what HOPE feels like.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Gifts of the Season

Family is who you make it and today I came home to gifts from two different parts of my family.

The first gifts came to my sons from someone who is part of my "Internet Family". Lisaca sent a huge box of Obama Election items for the boys to share. . This is a part of the history that we followed that my American children being raised as Canadians couldn't have otherwise had. And we are appreciative. Someone I have never met, yet is part of a family I hold dear.
Eric's bedroom wall

And I think we are more than likely --- ok absolutely --- the ONLY family in our town that currently has an Obama sign in our front lawn. More than likely, we are the only family in our province! And yes, thats 12 inches of fresh snow that fell today.



The other member of our family is our dear Uncle Norm. Norm is a friend who worked with Shel many years ago and despite the fact there could have been many things that separated us, there were many more that held us together. Over the years, Norm has been gracious, generous and always so loving to our family. Uncle Norm read Caden's Christmas List on here and today a package arrived in the mail ready to be wrapped and put under the tree. Unexpected, even unnecessary but appreciated! Thanks Uncle Norm, we love you and you are family.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

At this rate, starvation is imminent

I promise you, usually things aren't this bad. Maybe it's how busy I am? Maybe it's the fact lots is weighing heavily on my mind. Too much Christmas cheer? Not enough? Distracted by children? I figure its probably a safe bet to blame my mother. Or possibly YOUR mother? Either way its NOT MY FAULT.

No matter the reason, no matter my excuse it is now apparent there is a definite need for emergency intervention.

Tonight as I carried the meatloaf to our set kitchen table, already laden with side dishes (ok reheated scalloped potatoes I made from a box yesterday) I turned back to grab a forgotten serving spoon and dropped the ENTIRE THING into a sink full of soapy water.

Yes, you read that right. I FREAKING DROPPED THE MEATLOAF INTO THE FULL KITCHEN SINK.

Our dinner. Wet. I considered shaking it out and at least serving it to the children (at this rate they would probably think I had a new recipe to ruin) but I was laughing so hard it attracted their attention. You see, they ARE used to loud sounds coming from the kitchen, laughter usually isn't one of them. There was no way to explain why the meatloaf was floating merrily in a sea of bubbles.

Again, I would have taken a picture but, well that camera is still under the laundry somewhere.

We ate at McDonald's.

Send help.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Family Circle

Often in adoptive families, particularly those that have contact with their children's first or former foster families, the idea of drawing a family tree for their child's obligatory primary, elementary or high school assignment is stressful and difficult.

Who is included? And even harder, who is EXCLUDED? How do you balance the idea of the very different families that make part of the adoption world.


For those of us with children who have "step" grandparents they adore, how are they placed in the family tree that usually only allows the biological (or adoptive) grandparents to be listed. Many of us have seen the adoptive family tree that allows for roots and branches of a tree to be represented and that is also a great alternative, if your child is wishing to agknowledge various parts of their family.


I found this today while researching a project for the class I work in. I think its a BRILLIANT idea. The symbolism of surrounding the child with the people that love them most, and the people that are part of their family is absolutely wonderful. I hope that some of you find it useful in the years ahead. You can find the original here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Aiming for vindication, I fail miserably

Sometimes life is rather ironic. Last night was such a night.

Tanner, my dear, sweet and completely clueless 11 year old "forgot" to tell me that I was
supposed to help his school class cook for a fundraising dinner they were hosting last night. So at ten after five we were racing down to the high school to cook. Yes, you heard that right, apparently I had been volunteered to cook. For other people. Who were arriving to eat at 7.

Inside I snickered. Vindication. After liberally using exaggeration about my lack of baking skills in my previous blog posts, here was my chance to prove to myself, my son and the BLOG WORLD that I am in fact a Domestic Goddess.

And then they handed me the recipe. A recipe for quiche. At least I think it was for quiche, because it was COMPLETELY IN FRENCH. Yes, the entire recipe was in french. ANOTHER LANGUAGE. You understand that following a recipe for me is hard enough as it is, but in FRENCH?

"Ok", I think, "this is a class of french immersion students, surely someone can help me out". I am assigned four 10 and 11 year old boys as my cooking partners. You can see where this is going now can't you? Me, for all intents and purposes appearing to be a competent mother of four, assigned 4 young children to cook with. Did I mention none of them could follow a recipe either?

We chop and saute. Things smell good. Very good. I have HOPE.

I bake the pie shells (pre-made THANK THE LORD!). We mix and stir. Something looks wrong. I check the recipe. I re-check the recipe. Seriously what the heck is a Centi-Litre and why on earth do french recipes use that measurement? Tanner and I do some quick conversions again. We think we have done it right. We HOPE we have done it right.

The filling is looking awfully creamy to me. But what do I know, at this point my cooking confidence is so low I am going to follow the recipe (as much of it as I can!) and trust that it will work out.

My pride, my hopes at vindication, are tied up in this turning out.

We bake. And then bake some more. And some more. We raise the heat. We lower the heat. The pie crusts are now awfully brown and dried out looking. But the quiche filling? Liquid. No setting. No firming. Bacon, mushrooms, onions floating in egg and cream.

I pull out the recipe. I bet you didn't know that "farine tout-usuage" is FLOUR? Neither did I. Apparently I was supposed to add 100 grams of flour. Just how much is that anyways? Those four nasty little boys forgot to add FLOUR to the sauce. So, technically I was in charge and never noticed either, but let me tell you I blamed them loudly.

We pulled out the quiche. I dumped every scrap of sauted vegetables I could find to fill up the shells. I grated and re-grated more cheese. They looked ok, but none of us were volunteering to taste them.

I made a new sign. Crossed out "Quiche" and wrote "Tarte De La Creme". It sounded good to me.

And those 4 french immersion students didn't protest too much either.

And then Tanner and I? We (in his words) "booked it out of there" at 7:05 just after the quiche (minus the flour) were served, but before anyone had tasted them.

IT'S NOT MY FAULT.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Rejected

Strangely, after yesterday's post about my lack of baking prowess I found my named scratched off the Christmas baking exchange at work.

The organizer, who actually OWNS a craft show she is so crafty, slyly suggested I post links to my blog and hope for some sympathy cookies to come my way and then THANKED ME for not participating this year.

Phooey on her. Burnt cookies, cardboard pie and crumbly brownies are part of my kids' holiday memories and why should those be ruined with GOOD baking? I'll just call my sister for sympathy who is trying to think of how to pass off grocery store cookies tonight as her own seeing as her EASY-NEVER FAIL FUDGE failed to set. I tell you, its genetic and NOT OUR FAULT.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

My dirty little secrets.

I have many friends. Friends who cook lovely things for their families. Friends who design cards and jewellery. Friends who paint and decorate and convert junk into lovely pieces of art. Friends who bake.

And, believe it or not (because mostly I don't believe it!) they actually LIKE IT. And I envy.

My grandmothers both were women who baked and cooked. My mother's mother baked goodies that are intrinsically intertwined with my childhood memories. We each had a cookie named after us. Our favorites were always pulled from the freezer and set out the instant we walked in her front door. The front door of her spotless house I should point out.

The domestic gene died out two generations ago. The baking gene missed my mother and my childhood memories of baking at home are horror filled occasions of chopping sticky, glompy, awful dates for my mother's sticky, glompy, awful date loaf. Decorating? We went years in a gorgeous 4500 sq foot home with no paint on the walls because no one could be bothered. We were clean, but it was not an act of enjoyment for anyone.

The baking gene is completely absent in me. I have a housekeeping gene, but usually it is left down at the rink or hidden under the piles of laundry 4 active boys generate.

But what is it about the Christmas Season that pulls out that desperate need in all of us to prove our worth as Domestic Goddesses? And so I threw a weekend away trying to generate memories with my sons.

Greg asked to bake with me. So we baked. Actually, we burnt. Batch after batch of ruined cookies. Never Fail Ginger Snaps that failed. Apple pie with crust like cardboard. Brownies that stick in the pan. Cinnamon bread without enough cinnamon. Sugar cookies that will never get iced because the recipe has baffled me.

I can tie skates, tell a slap shot from a backhand, run a time clock and keep a score sheet. I can drive in the snow and wake up at 5 to bring a son to hockey practice. I can cook a dinner with a three step recipe and provide plenty of fruit and vegetables as long as you like them raw.

I cannot convert black feathers into artistic Christmas decorations. I cannot make perfectly creative jewellery. I will not fashion menu cards for Thanksgiving Dinner. I will not coordinate my living room furniture with the lights on my Christmas Tree. My towels only match on laundry day. My floors look like I live in a house with 4 boys and a dog. My kitchen is more often dirty than clean.

Take it or leave it, that's me. And I'd take a picture of my kitchen looking like a bakery exploded if I could find the camera. But I can't. I think its hidden under the laundry.

PS. For Christmas each year since I have had children my long suffering and very patient mother in law sends a box of Christmas baking to my family. A LARGE box of Christmas baking that allows me to pretend that I actually know what I am doing during the entertaining season. Did I mention she has a triple dose of the Domestic Goddess gene and her son, my husband got the shock of his life when he married me and realized it was not universal? Ah yeah, the adjustment of married life.

Friday, December 5, 2008

I really don't know what to say ... so I wrote.

December 5, 2008

Dear President and Board of Fort Saint John Minor Hockey, BC Minor Hockey Executive and all it may concern,

Tonight, December 5th 2009 in Kamloops at the PeeWee AA Rep Hockey Tournament, a player or players on the Fort Saint John team were heard addressing a player on the **** AA PeeWee Team by the term “Nigger”. The child being addressed happens to be African-American and the only visible minority player on **** team. Racist hate speech has no place on the ice at any level and we would like to know that Fort Saint John Minor Hockey and BC Minor hockey considers this to be an extremely serious offense and will be taking immediate action.

As the player being racially attacked also happens to be our son, we demand an immediately inquiry by the association into both the behavior of this particular team and its’ players, as well as Fort Saint John coach who endorsed this sort of behavior from the bench by not preventing it or addressing it when it occurred.

We would like our son to receive a formal apology from the Fort Saint John association and an acknowledgement that verbal attacks of this sort are never acceptable by any player at any time, no matter how intense the game. We would request confirmation that the entire team has received anti-racism education and that the player or players specifically involved in this incident have received appropriate disciplinary action, including immediate suspension.

We anticipate a timely response,


Shelby and Jennifer *** (parents of Eric )



I AM BEYOND ANGRY. A COACH NOT ONLY LET THIS HAPPEN --- HE ENCOUARGED IT BY NOT PREVENTING IT AND ALLOWING HIS PLAYERS TO USE LANGUAGE THAT GOT PROGRESSIVELY WORSE AS THE GAME WENT ON UNTIL IT DESCENDED INTO RASIST HATE MONGERING. There will be hell to pay for the players that did this. BC Minor Hockey says that this results in an immediate suspension and you can bet we will be following up. JERKS.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Question of the day

Greg: "Mom it says here that a lion can only eat 94 pounds of meat
in one sitting. Does that mean he wouldn't be able to finish me
off?"

Me: "Huh? Ah, yeah... I guess? Maybe you are really just 94 pounds of meat and 60 pounds of bone so probably he could eat most of you"

Greg: "Sweet" (standard response to every comment made to G-Baby these days)





It should be noted we live in the NORTH. The fear of a lion eating you for lunch is rather random, but you might freeze to death walking to school in that stupid hoody you refuse to put a coat over. I suppose 13 year olds aren't known for being the brighest bulbs in the box.

Admittedly, working in a Grade 6 & 7 class I get asked a multitude of really idiotic questions every day, usually along the lines of "Mrs. CommonSense do you have a pencil I can borrow? or "Is this for MARKS?" or "That was due TODAY?"

But THIS wins for today's unexpectedly bizarre question.

Dear Mr. Dion,

Dear Mr. Dion.

Leave my democratically elected government alone.

If I had thought for ONE MINUTE you'd be shacking up with the Bloq you would have never had my support. Trust me, the Liberals won't EVER again. Heck, I might even send a Christmas donation to the conservatives.

Yes, I get that this has nothing to do with the economic crisis you might have noticed the rest of the world is in and the fact that Mr. Harper wants to cut off your political party funding. DO YOU THINK WE ARE STUPID?!?! Do your own dang fundraising and leave my stable, elected government alone.

From,

Jen. A really irate Canadian.

PS. Dear American Readers - I realize you have no idea what I am talking about. That's ok, I promise we will stay the stable neighbour to the north. We might end up with someone you can't understand for a Prime Minister but we will still send you our water, gas and oil.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

At a loss of words

Seriously I have a GREAT post stewing about my experience at a card store last week and having racism slap me silly across the face. And THEN what happened when I went back the next day. Really, its coming. When I calm down.

And you know, I am almost COMPLETELY ready for Christmas, and if you are on the card list, they are already IN THE MAIL. And that would make a great post, because last year, I completely and totally had zero Spirit and the whole dam season was crap. That would make a great blog post.

And you know my mother? If you see her, could you send her to a shrink. PLEASE. Her life might actually depend on it. And no, I am not exaggerating.

Then there was that Hockey Scout who approached my dad's wife to ask about Greg and said "What is he?". My very smart stepmom replied "A right wing" (that's a hockey position not a political position in our family). Gotta love it when your extended family jumps on the racism aware bandwagon.

But you know ... blech. Its December, its freaking freezing cold and life is crazy busy. You don't care about any of that stuff and I don't feel like writing about it. So instead ... I take the bloggers easy way out and thrill you with some of my favorite old pictures.
Caden. Can you say I got pox?

The Princess and I. Not long before she was gone. I miss her now, at this time of year, so very, very much.

I miss being that Jen. I was happy then. I am changed.

Greg. Back when he wasn't too cool to be goofy.

And the first time I saw my sons' face. Sitting on the edge of the tub, giving baby Tanner a scrub down and my husband walked in with the mail. Our referrals.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gifts in the Balance

This weekend, between a bout of the nasty stomach flu that hit the boys, I wrapped, assembled and packaged gifts.

I have always sent gifts back to Missouri to our sons' first family, in particular L and their siblings. Not every single birthday has been remembered, but every Christmas certainly. Gifts signed from the boys, chosen carefully and sent so in some small way we let them know we were thinking of them.

Not once has a gift or a card or an acknowledgement been sent or spoken in return. It doesn't matter to me, but now it does matter to the boys. The boys are loudly resistant to send anything at all and Greg in particular has been vocal about it since our visit this summer.

I can imagine all sorts of reasons why gifts or a card has never been sent. Maybe the financial pressure is too much? Maybe they don't even think of it? Maybe they don't know what to send or how to send it? Are our seasonal expectations so vastly different? All possibilities I suppose, although I would love to hear your opinions.

If only they knew how little is expected. A Christmas Card would suffice. A note. A letter. An unsolicited phone call. Anything to agknowledge the value of the boys to them during the season.

I do know that the culture of our relationship is now establised. Clearly the expectation when we visited was that Greg would give and they would receive. Yet they bought a gift for me, the purse. Still nothing given was to Greg, and nothing sent home for Eric.

So this year, for the first time, I signed the gifts with love from ME. Gifts for the girls, gifts for big brother, gifts for cousin, gifts for L and her husband all from me. Eric chose to sign a card for his brother, but all other cards and gifts were ignored by the boys. They saw me buy them, wrap them and know I intend to send them, they just don't want anything to do with it.

I don't know if its the right decision to take this on, but it is also our truth. The gifts are from me to them with love and concern because I care about them. Right now, they are not from the boys. So do I think that the family will even notice the difference? No, not for a second but it still feels to me like the right thing to do.

I want and need to empower the boys to take ownership of their relationship and give them back a voice. At almost 13 and 14 I suppose it is time. I hope so anyways.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

19001 Reasons are all in the Details Baby


Thank You. Thank you for the comments, for the emails, for the facebook messages, for the IRL moments when someone I had no idea was reading here lets me know they are.

I cannot believe that 19000 and one hits later people still bother coming back. People from all over. People from small towns across Canada and the USA that I have never even heard of. People from countries I wasn't really sure had the Internet yet. People with a connection to adoption. People with no connection to adoption. Friends. Family. Strangers. Heck, I even have a crazy stalker or two.

Fair warning, nothing I say is really all that interesting. I am not really that funny nor do I have any great insight. Of course, my kids ARE quite extraordinary, but I am their mom and I am supposed to think that.

I ramble. I offer stories of my life and of my family. Thank you for reading. Thank you for coming back to read some more.

Back to regularly scheduled ramblings.

We are told, as parents, that our children process important life facts at every stage of development. We might explain adoption to our two year old, but explain again in greater detail when they are five, and the conversation continues when they are 9, 11, 13, 16 as their understanding and maturity continues.

Our youngest son experienced a season of great grief this spring over the loss of Baby J. Just when the rest of us were pulling ourselves together (finally!), he was crying daily over her. Missing her. Talking about her. 17 months after she had moved on, he was in the depths of horrible grief and it made little sense to me.

In a brilliant parenting moment (DUH!) I realized that the understanding of a 7 year old was very different than the understanding of a 5 year old and he needed to understand NOW why she was gone THEN. We had a conversation explaining the details of the experience again, and we realized the depth of his misunderstandings and confusion over the experience. His new maturity made the details not make sense and he needed to re-hear them in order to make sense of what he had gone through. Once he did, his grief and fear resolved (at least for now).

Last night I had a similar conversation with my oldest son. Out of the blue he asked about his biological father's incarceration. We have told him the details of it before, in fact many times we have talked about it. We have even visited him at the prison this year and Greg asked him then directly.

But again, seemingly out of the blue after not mentioning it in months, he wanted to know the reasons, the length of sentence, the long term consequences. This time I shared more details, as I know them, of why he ended up in jail this time. He wanted to know, and let me discuss with him, the original reasons why his first father chose, or fell into, a life of crime. We were able to talk about poverty, addiction, teenage pregnancy, gangs, absent fathers and how that affects children. I was thankful for the conversation we had had last summer in prison when his father looked into his eyes and encouraged Greg to make different choices.

And I am thankful I have had the courage to share with my kids, no matter what situation, the honest truth. Its not easy to explain to a child, especially a young child, that the person whose name they share and the person whom they most resemble in the world made some horrible choices that affected many other people. Its not easy to balance that with establishing a relationship based on respect and love for that very person. Its not easy to explain to a grieving child that there are some things in life even mommy can't fix.

BUT it would have been far, far worse to lie.

Honesty in age appropriate doses, even about difficult details, has been our key. I am thankful somewhere along the line, I realized that protecting my kids from the hard stuff would do them no good in the long run.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Frozen Moments

Tanner - Stopping a shot

Greg racing for a goal

Eric playing defense


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Births, Deaths, Anniversaries and Birthdays

Although all days are significant, some days are certainly more significant than others and Saturday was such a day for me.

Saturday, in the lives of each of my boys, was a good and significant day. Saturday morning my goalie child got his first "big team" shut out, which means he didn't allow the other team to score any goals on him at all. It also means I owe him twenty bucks. He was very, very proud.

9 extended family members, many of whom barely know Greg, came out to watch his game at an out of town tournament. He scored on an amazing play, was awarded player of the game (MVP), broke his stick, got a penalty and overall impressed his fans. He was very, very proud.

Eric's team struggled at home going down 3-0 early in the game before coming back and tying a team they have struggled against all year. Again, in the life of a 12 year old boy, a good and significant day.

Saturday was also my Nan's 84th birthday. I called to wish her a happy birthday from the home of my cousin, while holding my cousin's precious son I was meeting for the first time. This baby, also my Nan's 8th great-grandson.

A happy day you think? Yet we all choked back tears because Saturday was also the 9th anniversary of my aunt's death.

My aunt, the mother of the now 20 year old cousin on whose couch I sat, who was not very long ago, a terrified 11 year old little girl who cried in my arms the day I took her to the funeral home and held her as she saw her mommy laid out on a gurney and got to say goodbye.

My aunt, my Nan's precious, much loved, youngest daughter. Her friend. The daughter that called her every day. The daughter that loved the family dinners, the parties we held. The daughter that remembered her mother's birthday every year with special gifts and wonderful acts of thoughtfulness.

My aunt, grandmother to the baby I held. Grandmother to his brother, still a baby himself. Boys that will never know her laugh or the way she could sing a song at every occasion. Boys who won't know that their grandma would have spoilt them with gifts and worried endlessly about their mom.

My aunt. My friend. My fill-in mother when I needed one. Gone 9 years. My boys came home weeks before her death. She was coming to spend Christmas with us, and died a month before. She never met my boys. She never met her grandsons.

My aunt, killed; suddenly, tragically, accidentally on her mother's 75 birthday. 9 Years Ago.

It was a day of significance. And I don't understand why sometimes God, or fate or happenstance so intimately ties together days that you can never forget. We will never forget my Nan's birthday, and because of that, will never forget the day my Aunt died.

And I find my heart filling up with dread for the days ahead because in an awful twist of fate I too share my birthday with a lost "daughter". The baby girl I loved and cherished and held for a year before she was suddenly gone from our lives. The baby girl I could never forget if I ever tried. My baby girl, even if just for a time, even if just in my heart.

Because THAT baby girl and I share a birthday. And I dread it. Once again, after the rush of Christmas and the joy and the expectation comes the weight of another January. Of another birthday. A birthday shared once but now always, forever, apart. She will be 3. I will be 35. I have a lifetime of birthdays ahead to dread.

There is no more joy in my Nan's birthday because of the reminder of the horrific loss we all suffered on that awful November day 1997.

My birthday is also no longer mine. I don't want it to be mine. Instead, this year, as last, I will run away and forget.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Crazy, Busy Times

An oldie, but a cutie


This week has been the usual mess of hockey practices, school, and work.


You add to that report cards, parent teacher interviews, church leadership team meetings, having to actually TEACH (no sub could be found) my entire class, lead a evening youth class, a quick trip to the West Coast for Tanner to go to goalie school and two hockey tournaments, and well things are a little bit busier than normal and my ability to blog slides somewhere behind my ability to do laundry.


I am heading out for the weekend to watch Greg in a hockey tournament and to visit with my most precious new baby nephew and am leaving my computer access behind.

In somewhat random news this week, I was formulating a post about how to get brothers to get along when we had a great day with the kids and I forgot all about it.

Greg spontaneously told me he loved me and gave me several snuggly hugs. Our 2 hug a day mandatory touching rule seems to be paying off and that makes me happy.

Caden attended his first hockey tournament and we've decided that he is going to have a short hockey career; As in to the end of the season when we call it a day and move the highly uninterested child onto another sport. He wants to go into luge. YES LUGE. Ah, No.

I survived my first full day as a highly unaccredited teacher teaching a class of 29, 12 and 13 year old kids because my teacher was sick and no sub could be found.

I paid a deposit for Tanner to go on a trip with his class to Quebec City in May of next year. That's the other side of the country people. I think I am maturing as a mother, if I actually let him go that is. And his new lights? Rocking SAD out of our house. Happy son, happy mama!

Shel is still employed, which is saying something in this economy and in his industry. His limp is going down, but the scar is still noteworthy and he can't wait to show it off when short-wearing weather returns.

Eric and I had a huge, blow out, no holds barred fight one night this week. And we both apologized and hugged and were ok. Progress people, progress. I do love that not-so-little-boy very, very much. I sometimes wish I was a better mother and sometimes wish he was easier to parent, but mostly I am very proud of him and how far we have come.

Tonight we met with Every Single One of Greg's High School teachers. He is doing very well and apparently has a good attitude at school. Room for improvement in some of his grades, but overall for a kid going from home schooling to a school with 950 kids? He is doing VERY well. I am VERY proud. He is an amazing kid.




Tomorrow I write report cards, for the first time ever.

Tonight I drink a glass of wine. Watch Grey's Anatomy and giggle endlessly at the addiction of Facebook as I see evidence of its pull in the lives of two men I care about. One my son, one a friend. Seriously is ANYONE not on facebook anymore?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sophie's Choice - Haiti Today

So you maybe thought I was exaggerating about my experience in Haiti?

This article is from CNN today.

(CNN) -- Some mothers choose what their children will eat. Others choose
which children will eat and which will die.

Those mothers forced to make
the grim life-or-death choices are the impoverished women Patricia Wolff,
executive director of Meds & Food for Kids, encounters during her frequent
trips to Haiti.
Wolff says Haitians are so desperate for food that
many mothers wait to name their newborns because so many infants die of
malnourishment. Other Haitian mothers keep their children alive by parceling out
food to them, but some make an excruciating choice when their food rationing
fails, she says.

"It's horrible. They have to choose among their children,"
says Wolff, whose nonprofit group was formed to fight childhood malnutrition.
"They try to keep them alive by feeding them, but sometimes they make
the decision that this one has to go."


The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. declared in his Nobel Peace
Prize acceptance speech that "I have the audacity to believe that peoples
everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies." Four decades later,
King's wish remains unfulfilled. The global food market's shelves are getting
bare, hunger activists say -- and it will get worse.

... "It's the most difficult thing I've ever done," she says.
"You realize how absolutely blessed you are by the fate of your soul coming down
the chute in the United States of America," she says. "You wonder: Why
did this happen to me and not to them?'

Monday, November 17, 2008

Christmas Wishes

Caden Remote Controlled Car A skate board

A finger skate board.
A Playmobile Set. A fish.

A cool Sweat Shirt. A PS2 (erased)

A MP3 Player. A remote controlled

helicopter



Caden is 7 and I am realize he is on the brink of losing the childhood magic that is Christmas. With the loss of his last tooth (and the fact that the tooth fairy FORGOT to come, two nights in a row) he announced quite loudly that he just KNEW she was really me and could I please do a better job at pretending.

Yesterday he brought me this list and asked me to email it to Santa. The rule is (for the benefit of the older, much more cynical children in my life) that if you don't believe Santa does NOT come. Caden, however, still fully believes that Santa comes. He's also old enough now to understand, and fully believe, that Santa only brings gifts that are appropriate for your parents' tax bracket because parents have to pay the taxes on gifts and Santa would never want to create difficulties for parents. That, by the way, explains the crossed off PS2 on the list.

I have loved the magic of Christmas through the eyes of my children. An unexpected gift on Christmas Morning. The tradition of Advent readings. Christmas Eve services. And the magic that slowly disappears as puberty arrives.

My almost 14 year old's list? A cell phone (which he won't be getting) and a whole bunch of "it doesn't matter, whatevers and maybe some stuff". It just doesn't have the same ring to it as a whispered secret in Santa's ear.

Christmas Magic. If it is still at your house, treasure it. Enjoy it. Celebrate it. It will be gone in the blink of an eye.

Friday, November 14, 2008

In Honor of My Friend Cobb

4 years ago at an old adoption forum I stumbled upon a long and heart wrenching thread of a then stranger, now friend, going through a horribly difficult time of loss. Her words came back to haunt me because her story, in many ways, mirrored what our own family would go through a year or two later with Princess J.

Then just before Christmas she started a new thread annoucing that surprisingly her and her family would meet a beautiful, although very sick, little Princess. For over a year we celebrated along side Cobb and her husband the little one's triumphs and set backs. We celebrated as she grew strong enough to leave the hospital. Strong enough to grow, walk, talk and eventually even EAT.

If you can ever love a child you have never met, we all learned to love Cobb's daughter (well both in fact!).

Today, finally, Cobb finalized the adoption of two of her new daughters and I celebrate with my long lost friend!

Congratulations to ALL your family Cobb. I can't wait to see more pictures!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Emotional Thoughts - Jealousy, Fear and Anger

I've been thinking lately about jealousy. What causes it, what it triggers as a reaction and what makes it evaporate.

We see jealousy often in Adoptive relationships.

Adoptive mothers jealous of First Mothers. Jealous of the time they got to carry the baby. Jealous of the genetic link to their child. Jealous of the way they look alike or sound alike. An adoptive parent experiencing these feelings might begrudge sending those updates, or resent time spent arranging visits. Her heart might grip with fear at the thought of her baby in another mother's arms, and as such try to prevent contact. For her adult child, she might make reunion a miserable experience. This mother is scared.

First Mothers jealous of Adoptive Mothers. Jealous of the time they get to spend raising the child. Jealous of the way they know their child. Jealous of the family connections they share. A first mother struggling with these feelings might spend copious amounts of time criticizing the adoptive mother's parenting or blaming her for her own feelings of grief. This mother might feel hopeless or angry. This mother is scared.

Kept children jealous of placed children and their perceived "better life". Placed children jealous of kept children and their intimate, taken for granted, connection to their biological history. They are scared.

Biological children of adoptive parents jealous of the "special" status their adopted siblings receive. Adopted children jealous of their parents' biological children "not-adopted" status. These children are scared.

We see jealousy often in other relationships as well.

Marriages. One spouse jealous of outside friendships. A partner jealous of time spent at work. A spouse resentful of outside interests. These spouses are scared.

Friendships. Someone jealous of an old friend's new friend. Resentment at an old friend's new interests or the changing dynamic of a growing friendship. These friends are scared.

I thought about the irrationality of jealousy this week and tried to understand the many ways it drives people to act outside the realm of their normal behavior.

I've seen first hand normally sane, kind and considerate women turn into irrational, possessive maniacs at the mere mention of arranging a visit with their child's birth parent. I've seen adoptive parents pack up and move when they received an unexpected letter in the mail asking for an updated picture of a beloved child.

I've seen sane, kind and loving women upon reunion verbally attack the family that raised their child, in a futile attempt to undo the lost years and forge a relationship with a beloved child.

I've seen loving wives attack and manipulate their husbands. I've seen adoring husbands abuse and control their wives.

I've seen friendships destroyed. Jobs lost. Marriages torn. Reunions end. Open adoptions fail.

Its a logical leap that jealousy stems from fear. But fear of what?

And then I realized, its not fear that someone you love will love someone else; its the fear that they don't love you ENOUGH.

Acts of Jealousy are the attempts to stop your loved one from loving someone else, but the feeling really stems from the fear that the depth of their love for YOU isn't enough.

I have to trust that my sons love for me is deep enough to survive them loving their other mothers.

I have to realize that the boys not loving their other mothers doesn't mean they are going to love me more.

I have to trust that my husband's love for me surpasses his love of football or affection for his buddy.

I have to realize that making him not do his idiotic football pool or not talk to his best friend isn't going to make him love me more.

We have to trust that our relationships, ON THEIR OWN MERIT, are strong enough. We have to trust that we are loved enough. We have to believe that we are worthy of love.

If my sons, or my husband, or my friends choose to leave me its not because they loved something or someone else, its because the quality of OUR relationship wasn't strong enough. They could never love another soul in their lives, but it wouldn't mean they loved me any more. I have to be responsible for my own relationships. I have to believe that I am worthy of being loved. That the love I share with those I love the most is strong, enduring and timeless.

This might not make any sense (it is rather late, and I am rather tired). But to me, when thinking about crazy acts of irrational jealousy I have seen lately, it makes alot of sense.

When I act like I am worthy, I believe that I am worthy and I am loved as I am worthy.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Witness to a Memory

We took the boys to see Madagascar 2 last night and then headed over to my sister's house for dinner, stopping for pizza on the way.

As usual, all 4 boys followed us into the store to wait for our order. I think, quite possibly, I have the only 11, 12 and 13 year old boys on earth that would rather share a hard bench in Domino's Pizza or trot through a grocery store behind their mother than wait in the van and listen to their IPODs.

But I digress because the point of the story is what our family saw while we waited for our 4 large pizzas to be made.

A Veteran wearing a Legion jacket with a rack of medals on each lapel waited in line behind us. The child behind the counter, wearing a hoody and baggy jeans, looked all of 15. Baby blue eyes, blond hair and the look of a typical young person.

The child was in fact a man. A man who had just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. A man who had fought for our country and had just come back from a Remembrance Day Ceremony at the local cenotaph and changed for a shift at his "night job".

And so we witnessed a conversation from a man who served our country for 32 years in the Air Force and a man, a very young man, who had just returned from war. The younger spoke to the older with respect and honor. Asking about his tours of duty. His tasks. His memories. And he shared his own desire to serve again.

And my sons listened. And heard. And I hope learned something about what service to your country really means.

And the veteran? He got a discount on his pizza.

Lest we forget.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Day of Remembrance

Today is Remembrance Day. A national holiday in Canada.

A day to honor the men and women who have sacrificed with their lives to protect freedom around the world.

97 Canadians have died this year in Afghanistan. Young men in whose faces I see my sons and as I watch their pictures flip by on the TV screen, I feel the pain of their mothers.

Today my family wears poppies to honor those that died in the Great Wars.

Today, I honor my Grandfather who is a veteran.

My several Great Uncles who fought, and died. My Great aunts, who supported them at home.

I pray for my American friends who have sons, nephews and brothers (or daughters, neices and sisters) currently fighting.

May one day soon this slaughter of our young people end.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Update on My Nan

We are in the middle of "Fall Break" here and enjoying the time off with the boys. My thoughts and prayers however are with one of my grandmothers, my Nan.

Nan is in a hospital where she landed last week after taking a bad fall at home. She broke her femur and it required surgery. Surgery she can't handle because she is too sick to be put under anesthetic. So they inserted a rod into her leg while she had a spinal block.

She is disoriented, upset and in lots of pain. One nurse takes away her oxygen, forgetting she needs it all the time, another gives her too much. One tries to make her walk, forgetting she hasn't been mobile in months, another wants to tie her into bed because she is agitated and scared.

She needs to get back to her caregiver's home. She needs to be safe. Even more important she needs to FEEL safe. And where she's at, and with the pain she is in, the medications she is on, she doesn't feel safe.

Please think of her. What we want for her is that her time left is pain free and stress free. Unfortunately, that's not happening right now.

Jen

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Adoption Diary: My Asian Experience


Haiti changed my life and my perception of the world and what I wanted out of life. I had the opportunity to travel throughout my high school years and had seen interesting parts of the world. Haiti. Mexico. Hong Kong. Korea. I focused on school and worked like crazy to graduate with a 4.0, but I had long decided to take a year off after high school to give back to Haiti to repay what Haiti had given to me, instead of going straight to university.

I applied to work in a school in Haiti and was accepted. Just weeks before I was to leave for a year in a country I greatly missed and desperately wanted to return to, there was a coup d'etat. The government was overthrown, again, and the country was, again, in a state of turmoil. It was not safe for me to go and the country was essential closed down to foreigners. My trip was cancelled.

I was faced with a dilemma; too late to apply for university now and a strong desire to work in a third world country. A friend of a friend, of a friend knew someone who knew me and she was working and living in the northern regions of the Philippines and agreed to let me come and stay with her.


To say my adventure started off with a bang is quite literally true. On my flight from Seattle to Seoul our plane lost an engine. We returned to the airport after dumping our fuel over Alaska to a runway lined with ambulances and fire trucks. I ended up alone in Japan. 18, naive and incredibly unaware of any risks to myself.


Through Tokyo, Seoul and eventually on to Manila I made my way to a small village where I would spend the next four months living, quite literally, in the middle of the jungle. Snakes crawling above my heads. They were chasing the rats that were bigger than cats. Cockroaches, spiders and geckos scurrying everywhere. And that was just INSIDE my house.


For the first month I slept on a bamboo rack with my eyes tightly shut as I tried not to wonder what exactly was crawling on my blanket. Eventually cockroaches didn't gross me out and I could chop the head off a gecko with the same ease as a local.


Cultural immersion is a great way to describe the experience and I loved it. I ate a variety of foods with a smile on my face to not offend my gracious hosts. Congealed blood. Gelatin with ants. Sea Urchin. Dog. Yes, dog. And lots and lots of rice.


I worked in a church running children's programs, learning Tagalog and making friends. And slowly I began to understand the family dynamics of the families I was staying with. There were no parentless children, but many children not being raised by their biological parents. Kids absorbed into the families of aunts and uncles. Children being raised by grandparents. Maybe the parents had died. Maybe the parents were working overseas. Maybe the parents were addicts. No matter WHAT the reason, in this village there were absolutely no "orphans".


The concept of of taking an entire village to raise its children was part of the intricate make up of the culture of the Philippines.

When I left the north and returned to spend some time in Manila I saw how urbanization, extreme poverty and addiction had broken down that family structure that saved so many children in the more rural areas. Thousands of children living in and around a burning dump. Street kids selling their wares for pennies. Babies abandoned by mothers dying from AIDS.

I volunteered in an orphanage holding, changing and loving on babies. These babies were truly the unlucky ones. In a country that values its children more than anything, and where the definition of being family meant that even if your parents couldn't care for you, someone related to you would. These babies had no one.

These were babies with AIDS. Babies who were dying. Babies that were abandoned on the streets or at hospitals. Babies with no one and nothing.

Babies who, if they lived long enough, and got healthy enough would maybe, hopefully find their way from an Orphanage into a family. It was then that I learned about the restrictive policy of adoption in the Philippines. Filipino children can only be adopted by Filipino families, or families of Filipino heritage living overseas. No exceptions.

From the top of the government to those that worked with their abandoned babies they valued their culture, their heritage and their nationality enough to limit who could adopt their children. Because of the strength of their culture, and the relatively few numbers of orphans needing homes, their policy worked.

It openned my eyes to another side of International Adoption and appreciating that a culture, even if different than my own, had much to teach me.

I would return home and fall in love. Time to inform that man I was to marry how I envisioned my future family.