Thursday, December 31, 2009

Nifty Blog Review

I had no idea my blog was reviewed for an article on Suite101, but, alas, it was.

Go HERE to read it. The other two women featured also happen to IRL friends of mine.

Oh What a Year

When you write a blog you realize quite quickly that this provides snip-its of our life. A glimpse here, a glimpse there and sometimes the stories written are disconnected and left unfinished because my life is moving on so quickly and I forget that I never finished the story . This is my attempt to wrap up some of the Common Sense Stories from 2009.

There is a part of me that wants to scream from the hilltops about how much I HATE this year. 2009 is the year I lost my grandma. It is the year that cancer tried to claim my father. It is the year cancer tried to claim me. I have experienced the very depths of horror and fear and loss. We experienced racism and loss and fear and hate. There were parts of this year I did not think I could survive. And then we got the babies. Love, joy, peace and excitement. This year has been the best of the best and the very worst of the worst.

But, let's start at the beginning.

In February I wrote about a difficult letter I had to write to our boys' father about the kids' concerns with contact and some of the issues that had come up here. He wrote back, not at all happy with our concerns, but careful to write out the boys entire names on the envelopes, including all 3 middle names. We have not heard from him since but I continue to write him every couple months sending pictures and brief updates on the kids. The boys continue to opt out of contact with both sides of their birth family and I no longer "force" them to sign birthday cards or Christmas cards. We are at an impasse. Greg stung by broken promises of contact and gifts refuses to reach out again, Eric follows his brothers lead completely. I play middle man and ensure that both sides are apprised of any new information. At some point this year the phone number and address information I had for the boys' first mother became obsolete, but I maintain contact through another relative and we exchanged emails on Christmas Day.

March started off on a low note and only got worse. Trip-Pee arrived. Trippy the insane. Trippy the dog that wouldn't stop peeing. Trippy, known as my bad decision of 2009. Trippy the dog I came **THIS CLOSE** to booting in front of a speeding train. Now, don't quote me on this but he is actually not half bad anymore. We haven't had a pee accident in at least 3 days, and maybe another one 5 days before that. In other words, we might actually like him, a little. Or alot. But you better not tell anyone I said so. We realized we liked him just a few short weeks ago when we met our dog sitter on the side of a freezing highway late one dark night and when she opened her truck door to pass us off the dogs, Trippy was GONE. Yes, only Trippy could escape from the cab of a pick up without the driver noticing. Did I mention it was MINUS 35 degrees? And dogsitter had just driven through a wolf and cougar infested forest? Apparently when she stopped at the edge of her ranch to unlock a gate, the (incredibly stupid) dog had jumped out to follow her and she had not noticed. An anxious hour later he was found running up the road back to her house. Apparently he is lucky too.

In March my father was diagnosed with Stage IV Cancer in his liver. My dad. The strongest, bravest, hardest working, most consistent man I know was given a very short life expectancy. My world stopped. Shock and horror would describe those first few weeks before a battle plan was drawn up. We started with the worst possible news, and every step since has been better. Amazing chemotherapy that my dad first had to qualify for, and then responded beyond expectations to. My dad has never wavered in his strength and attitude. So I share this news not because I want your sympathy but because I covet your prayers. In an amazing twist of fate and miracle of God my father qualifies for surgery that will cost him 70% of his liver but could give him back his life. It could give me back my dad. It could give my kids back their papa. January 8th. Please, please pray as it is a dangerous, complicated and very, very serious surgery. And I need my dad.

I didn't know it, but the baby that would become my daughter was born in March.

And then, also in March, my Nan died. My beautiful, lovely, kind and gracious grandmother. The woman who had been my rock in life. She was suffering and not who she would have wanted to be anymore but there was a part of me that didn't care. I wanted her still, I needed her still and I did not feel ready to let her go. Do we ever? Losing my Nan has taught me much about grieving an expected loss. I get through most days and you might never know the constant ache that I carry. I miss her every single day. Every day the boys do something funny, or the girls reach a new milestone I reach for that phone. My sister and I found that mutual ache that no one else understands drove us together for Thanksgiving. We needed to be together to remember her. So, in case you wonder, yes I miss my Nan.

Throughout that terrible, horrible month when I thought I could endure no more pain, I was being tested to be a kidney donor for my cousin. This had been in the works for about a year, but I did not blog about it at all because it seemed like a strange thing to announce. My immediate family knew what I was doing and they all thought I was completely and totally crazy for even considering it. I cannot explain the whys except to say that I knew, deep down, that I was supposed to follow it through. I was not overly vested in being a donor, but I knew I was willing and knew that I needed to follow the testing through until either I donated or the donation door closed. Of course it saved my life. MY LIFE. My kidney cancer was discovered and when I thought I could endure no more, I did.

Have I mentioned yet that March 2009 might just go down in the books as "worst month ever"?

Anyways, the cancer was removed and I am fine. I have alluded to some more tests that I have had to do and well, that is probably just going to be my life from now on. I am a "Cancer Survivor" and all that goes with it. Am I confident in my health? No. Should I be? Probably, but at the same time, I had cancer. My body betrayed me and maybe someday, someway I will feel confident again but for now every new ache, every new strange test gives me pause. What I do not think will ever change is my hatred of cancer.

This brings me back to the kidney donation. This is going to get complicated so follow along closely. Now remember, my cousin NEEDS a kidney? And I could not donate due to the cancer. So a friend of mine, who until she states otherwise is choosing to remain anonymous, decided to step forward to donate her kidney to MY cousin she has never met, in honor of what I went through. Now remember this, because it gets more complicated but that makes me jump ahead several more months. Just remember, my friend is donating her kidney to my cousin AND the surgery is on January 11! Again, a miracle. And I will come back to this.

So April was a blur of grief and fear and tests and overwhelming emotions. What I didn't know that it was the calm before the proverbial storm. I had my surgery, I came home, the dog peed on my head and Shelby lost his job.

And that, of course was nothing compared to what was to come. On May 28th the bad ended. The grief the pain the fear and the horror stopped. Or at least we got so distracted we could look away from the train wreck that was our life at that moment. Miss Tiny and Miss Curious arrived. You have no idea, and I am not sure I properly expressed it on here, what a shock their arrival was. We were NOT waiting foster parents or ever expecting to foster again. We had fostered in the past and it was not a good experience and we (particularly Shel) had sworn off of it forever. We were not looking to add to our family or expecting more children to be part of our family in the future. We got a call from a friend who happens to be a social worker. This friend had no open homes in our community that could take these two special babies. They spent one night in the hospital and one night in an emergency and over full home, and then were passed around the Social Workers Office as they frantically tried to find a placement. We became that placement.

We were told it would be "short term". We have learned that this is social worker speak for "the rest of your life". The girls are amazing. Absolutely amazing. I want to share them with you so you too can see just how beautiful and amazing they are, but for now, you will just have to trust me that they are incredibly perfect in every way. We love them more than I can ever express and we needed them so very much, and we didn't even know it. THEY are the reason 2009 wasn't as horrible as it could have been.

We dealt with racism in 2009 and we advocated hard for change . I am very happy to report that just before Christmas we received an update on the latest incident that Greg faced. There will be better training for referees as a response to our complaint. There will forced education for the team and player that offended. I am proud of my sons for standing firm and advocating for change in the face of hatred. Very proud.

Shel was out of work for the entire summer and found employment in the fall in a completely different capacity than he was previously employed. It's a hard job and a job that takes him away from home for days at a time, but for now, it's a job - with a pay cheque - and he is learning much. I didn't go back to my job in September, instead choose to stay home with the girls and I have never, ever regretted my decision. Ever. The girls needed me at home and its been a good, good thing.

Thanks to you, Annie had her surgery. Her recovery is ongoing but I am happy to report that she is doing just fine! Her fur has grown back and although she is a slightly grouchier version of her former self we are so happy to still have her around.

Then Miss Precious arrived. Miss Precious was NOT supposed to arrive here but she did. First, I was just her daycare for another foster family but that foster family turned out to be, well, not an ideal placement for Miss Precious and so she stayed. She stayed while we looked for another foster family for her. Now remember back with the kidney donation where I said that things get complicated? This is where they do. Thanks to my advocacy, and a community with a huge shortage of foster parents, Miss Precious was placed with a friend of mine. The same friend that is donating her kidney to my cousin. So, my friend that is donating a kidney to my cousin is now Miss Precious foster mom. And yes, I am still doing her daycare.

So in other words, it's been QUITE a year. The highest highs and the lowest lows. Thanks for being here with me. For my sake, I hope I have alot less interesting things to write about in 2010!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Hockey Indoctrination Starts Early Here

Having too much fun on Christmas Break to actually blog, but I thought you might enjoy Miss Curious first foray into ice skating. The bob-skates were Greg's gift to her. She actually did skate quite a bit today!

Big bro helping out his little sis.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mama Got a New Camera

Way back in July a certain-unnamed child dropped my camera in the creek and it was ruined. Since then I have been trying to survive with a little pocket point and shoot.

It has been a version of torture, and the result is far less pictures being taken or shared.

Yesterday, thanks to the amazing generosity of my in-laws and a dear friend, and my family's willingness to put aside their own desires for a "family gift", and a really good Boxing Day Sale I was first in line for, we (ok I) got a new camera. Mama is so happy with her Canon SX20!

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Very Merry Day

I laid out the gifts after wrapping until the wee morning hours. I had the not-so-cheerful company of my sleepless wonder baby girl.

The all night partier was still the first one awake this morning and got to examine all the presents without any competition. Notice there is not a shred of daylight out those windows.

Even a sleepy almost 15 year old has alot of fun on Christmas and loves a stocking full of candy. Caden was in heaven all day!

This look is all about "SERIOUSLY?!? YOU GOT ME THIS SERIOUSLY?!?" Followed by giant hugs and thank yous. Love it.
I would show you pictures of Tanner but he is wearing his new housecoat and snow hat and has his face stuck in the new book of Canadian Trivia and I haven't seen him in hours.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Letter 2009

Dear Friends and Family,

There is no easy way to start a letter that recaps a year where our family faced cancer, death and job loss except to say that we are incredibly, overwhelmingly blessed. This year has been a journey from the highest peaks to the darkest depths and the impossibility of sharing it all with you on this single page stands before me.

On March 28th of this year, Jen’s beloved Nan was freed from the infirmity and dementia that was plaguing her and we know she is far happier today than we can imagine. We miss her. Jen’s dad received the benefits of chemo that gave us the miracle, and gift, of time. We try to cherish today instead of worrying about the uncertainty of tomorrows. Jen’s kidney cancer was discovered and quickly removed and she is healthy and in need of no further treatment. Shel had unexpected time off to spend the summer with our children and care for his wife as she recovered from her surgery and then found a new job just when the time was right. And most importantly and amazingly, we became parents to two of the greatest blessings we could have ever imagined.

It was a time that felt the darkest. Shel had just lost his job, Jen felt overwhelmed with the difficult recovery from her surgery. Papa was sick and Nan was gone. We 6 felt scared and alone. And in the greatest orchestration of circumstances and fate, along came two angels to make us smile again. Miss Curious was 12 months old, her baby sister Miss Tiny, a mere 8 weeks. The world might say that they needed us, but we know we needed them more. God, in His wisdom, had orchestrated the impossible to be possible. Jen was off work, and Shelby too. We had the time and made the room. You cannot sit and cry when a baby laughs her first laugh. There is no room for fear and moping when diapers need changing and cuddles given.

Seeing the world through the eyes of hurting children allowed us to heal as we met their needs for love, security and a family. All of it, every single moment of fear and sickness was made worth it in the smiles of our baby girls. We do not know what the future holds for the girls, but we do know they will hold on to our hearts for eternity and we will be forever grateful for their arrival in our lives and family that blustery spring day.

The boys rose to meet the challenges of this year with grace and strength. Greg is almost 15. Serious about his sports and his school, his life is full of hockey practices, tournaments and studying on the bus. He is a beautiful boy, who looks like a man, both inside and out. His favorite time of day is seeing the smiles of the babies when he gets home from school.

Eric, now 13 and a half, has excelled in Grade 8 this year. His ready smile has made him a hit with the ladies, big and small. “Romeo” , as he is called by teachers, has more fashion sense and skills than the rest of the family combined. On more than one occasion he will send mom back to change the girls with a reminder “you can NOT take them out looking like THAT mom!”. He rocks!

Tanner, tall and lanky, is now 12. He left French, and he now goes to school just down the road and can come for baby hugs and food any lunch hour he chooses. His attitude is always good and never wavered!

Caden, 8, happily gave up his place as the baby of the family, but never his place on his mom’s lap. His constant words of encouragement and hope helped glue the whole family together this year. He quit hockey to swim and is thrilled!

Shel is working in a field he never, ever expected. It’s hard work and long hours, but it’s a job for which we are thankful. Jen is home with the girls and loving every moment of it. Her recovery has been long and emotions raw much of the year, but she continues to write on the blog and finds that a great comfort.

Annie, the dog, is still around to dig in the garbage thanks only to the generosity of Jen’s incredible readers who raised money for a life saving surgery. Trippy, a very, very, very dumb Jack Russell, also joined our family this year. You will recognize him if you come visit because he will be the dog peeing on your leg.

It goes without saying that this year has been hard. And truthfully, it was at times unbearable. You have surrounded us with prayers, meals, chocolates, donations, encouragement, and hugs. We would not have survived it without you. We could not have. Thank you for walking this journey with us. Let’s hope next year’s letter is easier to write, and easier to read.

This Christmas season, we chose to count our blessings. For six children we adore, for health we appreciate, for each day together, for memories good and bad; For an extended family that encompasses so many, for lessons that taught us what is truly valuable, and most importantly for the Reason for this season.

Merry Christmas Love,
Shel, Jen, Greg, Eric, Tanner, Caden, The Girls, Annie and Trippy

Friday, December 18, 2009

Living in the Shadows

I miss her.
I thought, I really did, that in some way the new girls would fill the hole left by her absence. They don't. They are loved equally in a way that is every bit as rich and as deep as the love we had for her, but we miss her. They are not her. The space in our family is uniquely Jazzy sized.

This season is hard and I have written about it before. Everywhere is tinged with memories of THAT Christmas. The Christmas we shared with her. And I know, or hope, that she is having a wonderful Christmas somewhere else today. But I miss her.

I put her dress on another baby today. Another baby of mine. To take to the same event that I took her. In the same place, on the same night except it's exactly three years apart.
My arms were full of my baby girls and I was surrounded by my sons and I felt her absence. Across the building from me sat the woman who took her away. There she sat. Angry, sad and alone. The baby, my baby, now her little girl, absent from both of us tonight. By her choice, by my lack of choice.

I wonder if the girls feel it at times. Miss Curious knows her by name, but only in pictures. "Azzy and Aden" she says pointing at the picture on the fridge of Jazzy and Caden. She wears a hat out to play in the snow that the boys still call Jazzy's. They wear her clothes, I don't want the memory of her loss to tinge my freedom to love these girls, but it does. The pain is too real, the memory of the agony too fresh. The real fear that one day, one Christmas, I will be grieving for them too presses in on me. I am not sure I can survive it again.
But we make new memories. Two babies wearing their Santa Dresses to the Christmas Concert. Two babies staring in awe at the tree. I miss Jazzy. I miss Christmas Past, but I will enjoy Christmas Present.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My Mother in Law I am not!

Some of my older readers may have remembered my last forays into cooking and baking. For new readers, I simply say that the domestic gene is absent in this family. Don't get me wrong, I can take 3 babies under a year and a half to walmart and buy 200 dollars worth of groceries when its minus twenty degrees outside. I can do laundry, vacuum and feed 11 supper without breaking a sweat. I can make sure my kids go to school in clean clothes, make a pony tail and sign a planner simultaneously. I AM competent. At least that is what I keep telling myself.

But what it is about this time of year that brings out the crazy desire to pretend I CAN bake? Needless to say, my success rate has not improved this year. Let me share so you can enjoy the embarrassment that is my cooking reality.

That there is the pinnacle of my seasonal baking. And yes, it came in a box completely pre baked, and we just had to assemble it. And we proudly left it out as the center piece of our Christmas Display on the kitchen table.

And then we left the house.

Trippy and Annie would like you to know it was very delicious.

I have fond memories of Nanaimo Bars from my childhood. My grandmother would bake them throughout the year and it was always a special, rich treat. I am smart enough to realize that I probably should not attempt the recipe from scratch, but I saw this box in the grocery store and realized that even I should be able to follow a recipe on a BOX! So I bought it and my kids were VERY excited to "bake" with mom.
I would like to point out, that to them, opening a box and pouring ingredients into a bowl IS baking, and please do not tell them any different.
Anyways, back to my Nanaimo Bar Baking Disaster. I really, REALLY think they should make the letters bigger on those bags of ingredients. It is NOT my fault that I could not tell the difference between bag "A" and bag "B". It is NOT my fault that I added Walnuts to the filling instead of the base and misread the two tablespoons of butter to be ONE CUP of butter.
Yes. One cup of melted butter. My version of Nanaimo Bars are very, very creamy.
Then we moved on to cookies.

A dear friend who knows me well sent up these packages of cookie mixes in with a Christmas parcel for the boys. Apparently my reputation precedes me. I think I got the ingredients right. I really, really do. And at 400 degrees, who would think that an extra two minutes in the oven would make THAT much of a difference? Not me, apparently.
I was wrong. Did you know that over cooked Snickerdoodles make great hockey pucks? I do.
And then, once again, Salvation came in the form of a box from Canada Post.
Our Christmas present from my in-laws is a box (a BIG box) of Christmas Baking. My mother in law is a saint and let me tell you the arrival of that box MAKES our Christmas. Plus, now when company comes over I can offer them Christmas Baking they will actually eat, AND I can take credit for having that domestic gene I crave.

Peanut butter balls, short bread, loaves of all sorts. Did I mention I love her very, very much?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Perfect Gift

It's been another one of those weeks. Doctor's appointments and not great test results and more tests and a forecast of more tests and test results. And today I got this in the mail from my sweet, never swore outloud in her entire life, awesome, friend since we were 12, Pam.

She made my day!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Only Here ...

Only I could get a "Repetitive Strain Injury" from changing too many diapers. Yes that whining you hear is me complaining about my sore wrist.

Only in my world could we go out leaving a finished Gingerbread House on the kitchen table, and come home to two very full dogs and a few crumbs.

Only my 19 month old can cause the spontaneous disappearance of numerous socks, cups, phones, cameras and 4 pairs of shoes. If you know where she is hiding everything, could you please let me know?

Only in my world could my furnace decide to retire (or take a holiday at least) during a week of minus (YES MINUS) twenty degree weather (that's like -10 F for my American friends).

Only my husband would take a 15 day course that involves massive studying and think he could still work 50 hours a week on top of it, and not only succeed but excel. Of course I am exhausted and a wreck, but heh! HE PASSED!

Only my babies seem to lack the capacity to actually keep their poop INSIDE their diapers. 3 babies times three changes of clothes a day times a mom/babysitter with a sore wrist means a pile of laundry that reaches the ceiling.

Only my son would "clean up his room" by stuffing all his laundry in the dog kennel, close the door and hope I not notice. And I didn't. For weeks.

Only I would consider it "Christmas Baking" with the kids because I squeezed some premade dough from a tube and baked it myself. Only half of them burnt but all of them got iced, and that was the funnest part anyways.

Only my toddler would be found drinking from the toilet while I was hosting a dinner for a class of Chilcotin People from her extended family and reserve. Yes. Really. Drinking FROM THE TOILET. At least she used a glass to scoop the water and could say the word for "cup" in Chilcotin while doing it? No, they didn't buy that sales pitch either.

And mostly, incredibly, only my dad, the strongest man I know, would be able to fight the unbeatable and kick it to the curb. We got the all clear today for surgery that could, God willing, be life saving. Please pray.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Super Mom Reality

Scene 1:

It's lunch time and the three girls and I are getting ready for their nap time. I pick up Miss Precious from her high chair and feel a familiar ooze from her back end. A very wet ooze. We are both now in need of a complete change of clothes. I quickly change Miss Precious, trying to ignore the fact that my sleeve is covered in diaper leakage from my elbow to wrist. I place her on the carpet with a toy and run downstairs to change myself.

I change in the bathroom so that I can wash myself off (yuck) and possibly have an uninterrupted pee (a very rare occurance). Somehow in the middle of washing, changing and going pee, my clean shirt falls in the toilet. THE TOILET.

All 3 girls are now crying, I am on my third shirt of the day, and when I get back upstairs I realize that Tiny has leaked and needs a bath to get the poop out of her elbow creases. Yes. Elbow creases.

Scene 2:

A stench of mould or mildew permeats Miss Curious' bedroom. I come ***this close*** to pulling down drywall to figure out where the water is seeping in. Husband is forced to listen to me gripe and complain over several days that this damage is probably due to the delayed porch repair I had been harassing him to finish.

Then I remember to last week and that load of laundry that sat in the washer for two days before one of the boys moved it over to the drier. And the fact I had asked my husband to change the crib bedding. I change her sheets.

Smell miraculously disappears. Lesson learned.

Scene 3:

Cleaning the bathroom with Tiny and Curious at my feet. As I wash down the counter I hear a splash. Curious is playing IN the toilet water. As I reach down to get her I smack my head on the counter. HARD. I swear, grab Curious Girl and try to scrub off her top layer of skin, while doing this I realize Tiny is now sucking on the toilet bowl base. In a house with 4 boys? This is not advisable. While rinsing her mouth out I hear Precious begin to wail from her crib.

Cleaning my bathroom waits for another day.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Christmas Letter Out-takes

I was bemoaning on facebook the fact that it is a little on the difficult side to write a Christmas Letter (like I usually do) when you have had a year like we have had. How to write in 300 words or less to family and friends that only hear from us once a year that you had cancer, your grandma died, your husband lost his job, your dad is very sick and SURPRISE you have two new kids?

My (brilliant, amazing, talented and wonderful) friend Sherry wrote me this little poem. I thought I would share. It brought a smile to my face.

"Well it hasn't been the best year
Remember Grandma? She is no
longer here!
But two new kids added to the brood.
Too bad cancer put me in
a bad mood.
My husband, Shel, got sacked last summer.
Money was tight, so
that's a bummer.
My dad got sick, we hope he'll pull through.
In the mean
time, he feels pretty blue.
So as this horrible year winds to an end,
haven't got much good cheer to send.
If you have any extra joy or good will
to share,
Send it our way to show you care!
And if we survive 'til two
thousand and ten,
We will start off a fresh new year again!
We know in our
hearts it can only get better,
So tune in next year for a happy Christmas

Sunday, November 29, 2009

When Your Kids Get It

Tanner was born my first and only son and, of course, our oldest. He then became our third son and youngest, and finally became one of the middle sons of 4. Now he proudly takes on the title as the middle of six. Tanner is sweet and sensitive and very, very calm. He reads with a single minded obsession only matched by my own childhood. Tanner is passionate about injustice. He reads books about World War II and has taken an interest in understanding the Civil Rights Movement. He loves sports but extreme competition is not for him. He would rather let you win so you could all be friends at the end of the game.
He is also a very typical twelve year old boy. He can't find the socks on his feet or the shoes he left in the hallway. Brushing his teeth or his hair is a chore that his mother inflicts upon him. He tends to assume everyone else thinks like him.
One of the interesting parenting dynamics of being part of a multi racial family is teaching your caucasion children that their experience is often different than their own siblings. This is a very hard concept to fathom when you are young but slowly Tanner is beginning to understand. Tanner understands that noone ever asks him where he is from, but they do his brothers. He understands that on the ice he might get some trash talk from other players just like his brothers, but that it never crosses the line to talk that devalues his personhood, equal to everyone else on the ice.

Yesterday my 12 year old was playing games on miniclips, a weekend only privilege at our house and time that is coveted. Miniclips is a relatively kid friendly web site with lots of arcade style games that I have never had any sort of problem with. Tanner had been playing for a few minutes when he suddenly shut the computer off and walked away.

"Mom" he said, with a look of deep concern on his face, "I think that game I was playing was racist. I didn't know right away, but once I did I stopped" Making certain I knew he would never willingly participate in anything racist.

"WHY?" I asked, my mind jumping immediately to worst case scenarios.

Tanner went on to explain to me that the game (based on a Winter Olympic Theme) had various teams you could choose to play. The characters on all the teams but one were all white and all had positive names like "Champion" or "Challenger". The last team was made of a single black character and under his picture? OUTSIDER.

Yes. Racism. Sometimes its overt with name calling or spray painted slogans. Sometimes it's subtle like identifying anyone not white as an outsider. I was proud of Tanner for being able to recognize that. I am not sure alot of 12 year olds would.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Our Best Day is Their Worst

I knew that my highlighted quote from the article in the Plain and Valley Newspaper would generate some questions. Out of context, it appears to be very negative and I would like to give a bit of an explanation.

When I dreamt of being a parent, I always dreamt of being an adoptive parent. I planned and read and prepared. I dreamt of all the fun and wonderful things we would do together. I saw a future of snuggles and hugs and Christmas Mornings. I knew by watching friends and family that being a mother was one of the greatest joys in life. And truly, it is. When Tanner was born I discovered how much I truly did love being a mom. I love everything about it. I love the craziness, the tears, the diapers, the snuggles, the joy. Truly becoming a mother was the best, and most important day, of my life.

When I met Greg and Eric I was meeting my SONS. I got to be their MOTHER. I would get to raise them and love them and be loved by them. They were my dream come true. The children I had prayed for and hoped for and longed for. I would get to watch these amazing two little boys grow into amazing men. I would get to shape them and provide them countless opportunities. I would get to be their MOMMY. It was truly one of the very best days of my life.

Now, go read HERE

That is what that first day was like for my sons. Without the maturity of years and experience they had no idea that they would learn to love me. I was a stranger. I looked different, talked different and smelled different. They were losing EVERYTHING they knew. On top of that they were losing many things they had no idea about yet - their country, their connection to their community of birth, their culture. And I was the one doing it to them. Not their birth parents or their foster parents or a social worker or a nameless judge. ME. I was creating their very worst nightmare. I was taking them away from all they knew, loved or cared about. Just like every other child placed into the arms of a stranger.

At that time, on that day, what was my dream come true was their worst nightmare.

Of course there is more to the story in the life of a child than that first day and I fully realize and advocate that there were (and are) many, many very good reasons why adoption might be in the long term best interest of a child or baby, but at the heart of it, at the very beginning of it, adoption starts in enormous loss. I gained everything from becoming their mother, but on that day and at that point my sons lost everything that was important to their toddler selves.

The adults may know and understand why adopting our children is best, and why they will hopefully one day understand, but we also need to know that at that moment in time to the tiny newborn who can't find the only mother it knows or the scared toddler aching for a foster mom or orphanage caretaker, that we are the wrong mom. We are the enemy at the centre of the nightmare of loss and change they are enduring.

Understanding that fact opens our hearts and minds to let our children grieve, to push us to focus on attachment, to truly understand that our journey as parents is not our children's journey as adoptees. To hold to the knowledge that even though our family started in loss, and at times the journey together might be very hard, and sometimes sad and lonely, that it can still be a wonderful journey. We love our children and we are family too.

Drug Dealers Beware

Apparently my reputation as a Hockey Mom-Drug Dealer got out because last night someone decided that I apparently hid my stash in our 1997 Ford Escort. You know, the typical car of very SUCCESSFUL drug dealing mothers.

Apparently the stench of sour milk scared them off, but not before they broke a window, the dome light and smashed the steering column.

The investigating police officer, staring rather ironically at our vehicle, wondered aloud why we were targeted, considering the much nicer vehicles parked in the driveways around us.

I didn't tell her they were probably going for my Advil. Living the life of a dealer is dangerous. I guess I will have to give it up now. Shucks. It was a fun 24 hours.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I walked into the dentist's office this morning with Miss Not so Tiny in one arm, Miss Precious in the other and Miss Curious wrapped around my leg. Quite a sight, I imagine. The receptionist at the office has been there as long as we have lived in the town and lives just up the road from us. In other words, she knows OF us, and knows the kids, but is not involved in the intimate details of our lives.

The conversation turned to what we have been up to in the last six months. She had heard of the cancer diagnosis and quickly turned the conversation to WHY I had cancer. I told her that we had no idea why I had cancer and I had no risk factors that we know of. There was a pause. A long pause.

"Oh", she said, "I heard you got cancer because you abused and over used Advil".

I swallowed. HARD. "No" I sort of calmly replied, "I have never abused any drugs. The issue with Advil is that after organ surgery you cannot take any medication like that"

"I guess it was just a rumor then" she said.

YES PEOPLE. IT IS JUST A RUMOR. A really, really stupid rumor at that. So whoever in town is telling people that I got cancer because I took too many Advil. Could you please stop? Thank You.

Oh the joys of living in a town where everyone THINKS they know your business, and they really do NOT.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hello Saskatchewan and Manitoba

When we took the girls back to meet Shel's parents during the summer, we attended the Forget Music Festival which is hosted on their property. While we were there we were a rather conspicuous family among the mostly white rural community members, and I remember mentioning that I was worried about how our reception would be, considering our last really awful experience with racism had happened in small town Saskatchewan.

Certainly we were noticed, and part of that being noticed was being approached by a young reporter wanting to do a story on adoption. ***** Inserting disclaimer here: She approached me the morning we arrived. We had just driven through the night, two nights in a row with six kids (two of whom were BABIES) and I was surviving on very, very little sleep. ******

She was keen and naive and very, very interested in adopting from foster care because "kids need families" and she wanted another baby. As an experienced adoptive parent, you might know the "type" of whom I speak. The beauty of a "needy child" and the novelty of a multiracial family overshadows the reality of parenting a child who has experienced foster care. The reporter was thrilled to tell me that she and her husband had completed the home study process and were waiting for their life to settle down before they accepted a referral. Her children scampered around her as we did our interview. A baby, a 2 year old, a 4 year old and a 6 year old.

Yeah. That's what I thought too. Interestingly the article leads off with the fact that they were declined approval, for now.

So, admittedly, my attitude might have been a bit on the harsh side due to the lack of sleep and the very real "REALITY" of parenting that I had gone through over the last couple of travel days and usually I might have taken a bit of a softer approach to explain the needs of kids being adopted from the foster care system. But, alas, I didn't and I wasn't and the result is actually a pretty good article. There are a few parts I wish I could explain more, but overall it is an honest assessment of the attachment needs of kids coming into a family from a disrupted family.

There are some gross errors, the most glaring is that she described Miss Curious as being "quiet and well behaved". This has caused great laughter in our house because our dear Miss Curious is rather well known for being, well, CURIOUS. And a curious 18 month old? Definitely not the definition of quiet or obedience. But overall, I think you might enjoy the article. If not, I am sure you will let me know.

If you found the blog because of the article sandwiched between the advertisements for combines and oil rig workers on page 13, welcome. If you have any questions, ask. If I offended you, I am pleading sleep deprivation.

Oh and I my sister mentioned that I should probably provide this welcome to distract all the new readers who come to the blog and see that picture of my son with duct tape across his mouth. Some wonderful adoptive parent I am!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

How Not to Parent 101

Duct Tape Might Be Silver
But Silence is Golden

*He did it to himself, but I can't say we all didn't enjoy the 35 seconds of quiet from the continually rapping, teasing, snarky comment making teenager :)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

November 22

It was 1999 and the boys were 2,3 and 4. Greg and Eric had only been in our family since early September and our lives were full and overwhelming. We had packed up the kids to make the 6 hour drive to Vancouver for an early Christmas visit. The first chance to really show off the boys and let them spend some time with their grandparents and extended family.
The night of November 21st we took the kids, my sister and her husband, and my Nan and went on the Christmas Train. The next day was my Nan's 74th birthday and more than anything she enjoyed family time, and so did we. We took a picture that night, long since lost, but it is frozen in my memory. It was the last night of my childhood. Yes, I was already 25 and a mother of 3 who had been married for 5 years but when I think of pivotal moments in time, that night, posed with my sons in front of the train smiling with my family I thought that life was good. Only good.
The next morning we took the boys to Walmart to get their portrait done. Their first portrait as our sons. Eric looking off at the computer screen making a funny face, Greg looking sad and in shock, Tanner forgetting to smile. They were beautiful, my sons, and yet I could never put that picture on my wall. Our first family portrait. At that moment, at that very moment we were celebrating our new family, MY family, my foundation, my rock, the glue that held us together was shattering. The roads were icy and my aunt, my Nan's baby girl, my second mother, the slightly crazy woman who sneaked peeks at Christmas presents into her 40's, who made every get together a party, who ensured we always felt like a FAMILY, died. Her car slid into the ditch and over turned in water. While I was posing my boys and hoping they would smile for the camera, she died.
I didn't know it yet and we bundled up our kids and took them to a giant play centre to meet more family there. I was paged, and paged again, and paged a third time before I heard it. In this time before cell phones my family was frantic to track me down. There I stood surrounded by hundreds of screaming children, in a world full of play and fun, on a day we were celebrating my grandmother's birthday, our family splintered. "Aunty Carol died"
I left my sons with my husband and raced to be with my Nan. I only remember that she vomited and vomited again. The strongest woman I had ever seen. A woman who had survived so, so much had lost her daughter. On her birthday. God, it seemed, had a very cruel sense of humor. We went to my Aunt's home, our focus now only on her 11 year old daughter. Our precious and amazing blessing, our Ashley.
The years passed, but that moment, that birthday of my Nan's will never be forgotten. It changed us all. The absence of my aunt permeated every family event since. Our kids don't know this as they don't remember those years of when we were complete. My sister and I have tried to fill that gap. To be the glue that holds us all together, but there are cracks, and breaks and we reformed into a new shape that was different and sadder and infinitely lonelier.
Eventually dementia provided the gift of forgetting what her birthday really meant and we were able to simply celebrate her last birthday without all of us remembering that awful, horrid day.
Today my Nan would have been 84. When you look at these pictures maybe you just see a little old lady and my words fail to explain to you the woman she was. The integral part of every childhood memory I hold dear. How strong she was. How beautiful and gentle. How flawed and yet perfect. I miss her at a cellular level I could never explain.
And yet I know you know. So many have shared your own stories of the people in your lives that have made you who you are, that held your hand or read you a story or baked you cookies. Today I honor my aunt and my Nan. I miss you both.
Happy Birthday Nan. Give Aunty a hug for me.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Food Obsessed

One thing you learn when you have a house full of babies is to obsessively track how much they are eating and when. As all parents know, the timing of the last bottle of the day is directly correlated as to the timing of when the baby will awaken during the night. Or so you hope.

Miss Tiny, who is anything BUT Tiny, is still not consistently sleeping through the night. I am a sleep loving mama. She is a 22 pound 8 month old who is perfectly capable of going 12 hours without a bottle. She would like you to know that about 8 hours is her maximum. She wins.

Feeding her has become an exercise in creativity. The child loves food. FOOD. Real, adult, people food. She has no teeth. NOT A SINGLE TOOTH. If it comes from a jar, her nose scrunches, her lips clench and she refuses to even consider it as edible. And really, have you tasted baby food lately? YUCK.

And so we get creative with pasta and canned fruit. She is lactose intolerant so all things cheese are out. Cheese has always been a staple baby food in my house and losing it from the menu challenges my creativity. I would love some ideas from the more domestically inclined of my readers. Or people who actually have enough energy to remember what they fed their babies.

At the same time I also have to feed Miss Precious, who is with her new foster family (HOORAY!!!) but continues to come here every day for daycare. Miss Precious and Miss Not-So-Tiny are pretty much polar opposites in all things personality. Miss Precious refuses to eat. ANYTHING. There are a variety of good reasons for her strong oral aversion, but let me tell you, nothing stresses out the motherly types like a skinny baby that won't eat. I feel like an abject failure and appease myself by giving Miss Tiny another cookie, and a few chocolates for myself.

Damm you cheap halloween candy.

Monday, November 16, 2009


I drove seven hours down a dark, desolate, ice covered highway in a white out. I had to pry my cramped and sweating hands from the steering wheel when we arrived at our hotel. To save money and time, we ate slightly soggy garlic sausage sandwiches for dinner that my mother had made several hours before.

The boys immediately found their team mates and arranged an impromptu session at the hotel pool and water slide. I was the only mother available to supervise. There is no word in the English dictionary to to adequately describe the sound that 15 boys can make an enclosed pool.

I fell into bed at 8:30, giving instructions to my hyper sons to make sure they found their beds by 10. I drank my glass of wine and took my sleeping pill. Sometime during the night the child with whom I was sharing my bed had an "accident". A very wet and smelly accident. I was so exhausted I didn't realize this until the next night when I crawled back into my now very smelly and now cold, damp bed. It did explain the dream I had had of needing to take the diaper garbage out though.

We made our way to the rink and I watched my sons get annihilated by a much better team. Tanner, the goalie, made over 60 saves and won the MVP trophy for the game. The problem was that he also let in 10 goals and his team scored none. What mattered to them was that he was proud of himself, and Eric was slightly embarrassed by his own play. What mattered to me was that I watched an entire game without having to change a diaper or corral a runaway toddler.

There was just enough time to head to the grocery store to buy some snacks before returning to the rink. I laughed at the irony that I was actually IN a grocery store on my weekend off, and not only that, but enjoying exploring a DIFFERENT grocery store than the ones we have at home.

Back to the rink, and Eric was determined not to be over shadowed by his little brother winning that MVP trophy, so he decided to put on a show. Four goals later, and a very ill timed roughing penalty that cost him his own MVP trophy, Eric had led his team to victory. I now had two very happy and very proud sons with a mother who was relaxed.

Back to the hotel we went. A Team Dinner. A partial cooler (because I was way to tired to even finish a drink). And I was sound asleep in my slighly damp and very smelly bed by 9.

Back to the rink for 6:30 am and two more very entertaining games where both my boys played well and their team won the Most Sportsman-like Team trophy. We turned back up that highway in the middle of a snow storm for another harrowing drive.

And I came home to two sons and two daughters and the most amazing husband who happily replied to my 97 texts updating me on every bottle and diaper change throughout the weekend, including sending me pictures of what he dressed them in for church. He had been happy to describe how Miss Tiny had managed to get poo up her back and down to her elbows just so I didn't feel like I was missing out on anything.

And the girls? Miss Curious curled into my lap, whined for a moment and hit me softly, and then gave me a wonderful kiss. The rest of our evening was full of cuddles and giggles and mama being put back to the top of the most loved list. Miss Tiny never faltered in her eye contact and slept through the night last night!!

It was busy and crazy and exhausting, and totally and completely glorious. I really, really needed it. Thanks for saying so.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Self Care

I am really, really good at taking care of my kids.

I am really, really bad at taking care of their mom.

In other words I never take or get a break. At least not very often. Mostly its GUILT. I am SUPPOSED to be home, I am SUPPOSED to be available 24-7. They will miss me. They might cry.

I am now, however, near my breaking point. It might be that Miss Tiny has decided that midnight to 2 a.m. is a "sleep optional" time, unless mama is rocking you at a consistent speed, while upright and humming a lullaby. It might be that whole "OMG I AM DYING" scare this week. It might be the fact I haven't been able to leave the house other than a frantic dash to run an errand between nap times in DAYS. Or weeks. It might possibly be months.

So I am taking a break.

It's -10C. It's snowing like mad. And my break involves taking 2 boys to a hockey tournament for the weekend in Valemount, BC which is a 6 hour drive in good weather. BUTTTTTTTT I am leaving the babies at home with a visiting Grandma and their Daddy. And I am practically GIDDY. GIDDY!!!!!! And this exhausted 35 year old mama does not get giddy often.

A bottle of wine is packed, as is a sleeping pill. For the first time in 6 months I fully intend to sleep through the night, even if it is pharmaceuticals induced. I am not going to have to change a bum. I am going to have a slobber free shirt, and arms available to drink coffee whenever I darn well feel like it. I will be able to have uninterrupted conversations with two of my sons AND the teen boys are totally fine with not crawling on my lap for 48 hours.

I will come home refreshed and missing my babies like crazy. I will have to attachment parent overboard next week to alleviate my guilt.

But I really, really need a break. And that's ok, right? Please tell me it's ok to take this break.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Would have been money well spent!

So there was the cancer. Then there was the surgery. Then there was the follow up CT Scan.

Now my Most Amazing Kidney Surgeon had asked me to do the follow up CT Scan in Vancouver back at the same hospital that my original was taken. That hospital is 7 hours away. I have alot of kids and alot of juggling to get there. There were gas costs that I can't afford right now and well, it was just easier to have my CT Scan done up five minutes down the road at our local hospital with a different radiologist and have my family doctor take a look at the results.

So I took the path of least resistance and had it done last Friday, here.

Then there was the heart stopping phone call from the doctor's office that they had found a 2 cm lesion on my liver. And of course the reassurance "not to worry, but please go for further tests as soon as possible".

THAT is not the sort of news you want to get. Especially when you know way, way, way too much about how horrible, awful, and most importantly terminal any sort of cancerous lesion on your liver is. And you have just watched someone you love go through a brutal session of chemo to treat their own liver cancer. And you have a sister who has to deal with a reality of a father and a sister with liver cancer issues.

Needless to say the last few days have been ROUGH. R-O-U-G-H.

We didn't tell the kids. I really just could not until we knew more. Which is probably a good thing.

A miss-read of the original CT Scan Report meant that my family doctor missed the fact that this "lesion" was ALREADY on my liver back before the cancer surgery. This lesion that I have been FREAKING THE HECK OUT ABOUT was already examined and determined to be absolutely nothing of any significance. It's the same dang lesion. And they didn't figure it out until a rather weepy me asked my doctor in his office TODAY to double check.


Future lesson: The $150 in gas would have been a SMALL price to pay for the absolute terror I have been living in the last few days.

For those of you that knew what was going on and picked up the jiggling pieces of terrified me. THANK YOU.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

That's My Boy

Pretty cool picture of my brave and honorable son that was in the Sports Section of the paper yesterday. That's him with the puck.

The bad part? He didn't score.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ever have one of those weeks?

You ever have one of those days where it feels like the world should really slow down because you cannot process all that is happening all at once? Today was such a day.

First off, we now know that the end date of "foster parenting" the girls will be August, 2010 and most certainly we have them until that point. It is not necessarily the end date of parenting them though. That's about as much as I can say about THAT right now, but needless to say it's been an interesting day. What we do know clearly after today is how much their mother trusts and respects us. We are honored.

And then I got my CT Scan results. Yes THOSE results. And it wasn't all good news. My kidney's are clear. That IS good. What isn't clear is my liver. No results, just concerns, a "something" and more tests to come. I will know more in about two weeks. To say this came as a shock would be a rather enormous understatement.

And sadly I know too much about liver cancer right now to be calm about this. Of course, probably, most likely and it is a benign something on my liver. But then again, probably and most likely that kidney tumor was supposed to be benign too. And it wasn't. I don't want to hear about "most likelys" and "probablys". I just want to be fine and I want to be done with cancer.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Mad Momma Update

I am VERY happy to report that we have an extremely supportive hockey association and team mates that viewed the events with the same sense of shock and horror as we did.

Greg feels supported and validated in his feelings about the event and believes our assertion that racism in any setting is wrong.

We are also happy to report that the concerns were taken very seriously, and most importantly there will be an educational component for all disciplinary actions taken.

Racists are NOT welcome in hockey, or society, and I am glad that we could help to be the change to ensure that this becomes progressively less and less acceptable in EVERY circle.

For those that would argue that racism is "harmless" on the sporting field, I would assert that complacency in the face of wrong doing is simply acceptance. If you are not part of the solution to ending racism, then you yourself ARE the problem.

I know the cost to Greg to stand up and report this event at the time it occurred to his coach and the ref. I know the cost to him to stand before the Directors today and share what happened to him. It would have been much easier, at least today, to stay silent.

But the cost if he had stayed silent and simply accepted the fact that people will sometimes behave this way? Far Greater. He believes that he is worth being treated with the same respect as any other player. Any other person.

He stood up for what is right this weekend, and he had our support. Not only that but he had the support of the coaches and Minor Hockey Executive that, without our knowledge, also spoke to the Directors on Greg's behalf attesting to his honesty, integrity and honor both on and off the ice.

So thank you. Thank you for listening. Thank you for being as upset as we were. Thank you for understanding that if we fail to react when this happens, we are giving our consent for it to continue.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Racism, Hockey and Mom Goes Mad

Remember THIS?

Nothing ever came of it. The President of BC Minor Hockey sent us a rather lame letter that said because it was not addressed on the ice, there was nothing that could be done about it. We did find out that the coach was fired by the parents later in the year. That made us feel better.

It happened again. TONIGHT. Fort St. James Bantam Rep Hockey Team. This time it was Greg. He told his coach ON THE ICE and DURING the game. The coach told the ref. ON THE ICE and DURING the game. The ref refused to do anything.

This time, the President of BC Minor Hockey is HERE. As in IN our town and AT our rink.

I maybe, kinda, sorta lost it on the coach of this other child. But if that kid touches the ice the rest of the weekend, I might be blogging from jail. Spray painting "Racist Twits" across the side of their bus is probably inappropriate and illegal but wearing a placard that says "Racists Have No Place In Hockey" isn't.

I hate racism. I hate it with a passion that causes my blood pressure to rise, my heart to race and my mind to go blank. I love my sons with an even greater passion. You combine the two? You have a mom that loses her freaking mind.

I will keep you updated. And if anyone wants to join a placard wearing mom at the rink tomorrow, let me know. That town, that team, that coach, that ref, that child and that child's parents need to know that there is NO PLACE for such stupidity in society. In hockey. Or in my town. I hate racism and sadly, right now, I hate racists.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Facing the Beast

That is a picture of my kidney taken in March of this year. If you know what you are looking for you can apparently see the cancer.

Tomorrow I go back in to have another picture taken. My first since surgery removed the cancer.

My life is so busy I actually almost forgot about the appointment until this minute. But I never, ever REALLY forget. Always, every single day it's at the back of my mind. Every ache, ever pain, every twinge. I trusted my body and it betrayed me and now I can't trust it at all.

Please God, please let it be clear. It just can't have come back. It just can't.

Book Review: Why Can't You Look Like Me

Trans racial parenting is a unique experience, but being the child in a trans racial adoptive relationship is even more complicated. Ola Zuri was one of the first trans racial adoptees in Canada when she, an African-Canadian child, was adopted at the age of 2 with her twin sister to white parents. Her own experience, feelings of isolation and pain shaped her view of adoption, and trans racial adoption in particular.

My first interactions with Ola were somewhat less than stellar. We had an email spat over terminology, both of us passionate people with a penchant for using words to advance our arguments. Later that same year we met in person, and the year after that she forgave me, kind of. Now, I dare say, she might even consider me a friend. It's a good thing because we camp together every summer.

If you come to camp, you will find Ola providing support to both the kids and the parents as she invests herself in ensuring that kids in multiracial adoptive families do not have the same experience she did, and when they feel those feelings as so many do, that they have supportive and understanding adults around them. You will also find her running after her girls who just might happen to be the most active and enchanting children I have ever met.

Ola is a woman who invests herself in what she believes in with great passion. She has written a children's book, the first in a series, called "Why Can't You Look Like Me?". A simple story of a young black girl with white parents feeling alone in her family and school. This story isn't about solving the problems that kids in a trans racial adoptive family feel, it's about acknowledging the feelings that some kids have. This book is meant to be a conversation starter with your child, and a jumping off point to approach a discussion of racial isolation.

Go buy it and add it to your child's library. You will not regret it, and maybe Ola will finally forget about our spat. (Right Ola?)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Complicated Kids, Complicated Parenting

In the scheme of things, although the babies have been dominating blog discussion here lately, the boys require far more brain power to parent. The girls? Should I chop their grapes into slices or cubes? Huggies or Pampers? Soy or Dairy? It's BUSY but it doesn't require much in the way of continual brain stimulation.

Reality is, despite appearances or successes outside the home, my boys are complicated and parenting them can be a challenging process. No child comes through the system of being inadequately parented (even during pregnancy), orphanage care or foster care and adoption untouched. NO CHILD. If you are thinking of adopting and you think your story will be different, I will tell you quite clearly that you are wrong. This is the REALITY of older child adoption. Our kids have been hurt and the consequences of that hurt is often life long.

One son in particular tends to cycle through times of brilliance and times of continual opposition. We are in the midst of a continual opposition phase, that seems riddled with absolute seeming stupidity and escalates into continual parental frustration.

This week he carved up an antique desk that was given to me as a child by my grandmother. So being destructive would fall under the label of oppositional behavior. The stupidity? He carved his own initials. The frustration? When confronted he blamed the fact that when his now 8 year old brother was 2 he colored on his comforter and we didn't get HIM in big trouble so he shouldn't be in trouble now.

He had a math test on Monday that he refused to study for on his own, and refused my repeated offers of help over the weekend. He stated repeatedly that it was easy and he understood it all, and he would be just fine. All fine and good except on Monday morning as we were leaving the house I noticed writing on the palms of his hands. The math formulas needed for the test. Trying to cheat? Oppositional Behavior. Using a bright red marker to do so? Stupidity. The parental frustration? Denial that his barely passing grade was unacceptable and that being provided more opportunity to study (aka losing his tv privileges in the evenings) was extremely unreasonable punishment.

He is refusing every request and being severely oppositional all the time. The rest of the family tip toes around him knowing that any interaction will be an excuse for an argument or worse. The only ones getting his good behavior are the babies. With the babies he is happy, engaging, and completely appropriate.

In other words, it's driving the rest of the family insane. This isn't a post that I can wrap up with a quick resolution. Parenting complicated children with complicated histories is difficult. Those going into foster care adoption, older child adoption or adoption in general need to be aware that even with the gorgeous pictures full of beautiful smiles there are many years of hard work.

We regularly examine and re-examine our medication choices for him. We work daily to provide him the structure that he needs. We pay for an education that is unique so that he can succeed. We love him. We struggle. We survive the day and know the next morning will start again with someone being screamed at or screaming.

We don't know the whys or hows. It could be hormones. It could be trauma revisited with the arrival of Miss Precious whose infancy experience mirrors his own. It could be adoption related, brain damage related, or it could be we are just horrible parents. It could be really ANYTHING, and as I said, not so gently, to a support person in our lives this week, I really don't care about WHY anymore because the "why" doesn't really matter at this point. One more diagnosis won't change anything or open up any more doors for help. The reality is, it simply IS. We have to deal with the present and finding blame won't make ANY of us feel any better.

Complicated kids. Complicated lives. That is our reality. Some days its smiles and cuddles and precious moments, other days its being the mom of the kid who cheats on his math test and carves his name into a piece of furniture.

And that, I suppose, is the rest of the story.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Messing Around

For those that like change, enjoy.

For those that don't, I am sorry but the previous blog format had GLITCHES. Glitches that affected paragraph formatting every time I uploaded a picture.

And I have pictures. What I don't have is time to mess around with formatting. So you ended up with paragraphs with no spaces, or 13 spaces between each paragraph and overall it was generally annoying.

I know everyone that reads on google reader has no idea what I am talking about, but if you want to check out the new 2009 upside down picture of my sons, read at the actual blog.

Thanks for putting up with me messing around. If anyone has any ideas on how to have a BETTER blog, I would love to hear them.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Not totally sure if I have mentioned the fact that Shel is working now? It's been sort of an accidental job in between some courses to upgrade and its not a GREAT job, but it's a job and it's most certainly better than Employment Insurance. This job involves being away for 24 hour periods. He was supposed to start next week, but due to the unfortunate death of his course instructor's husband and the subsequent cancellation of his course, he started LAST week.
He has a line on a better job that will involve him being away from home for two week periods at a time. Anyone want to keep me company? I have an empty playpen in the bathroom you could use. Well at least it's empty tonight. It was full most of last week, and will be full again tomorrow. Remember how child #7 (Miss Precious) was NOT going to be staying here? I was wrong. At least temporarily wrong. She has been here, and been here alot. I am tired. Two infants and a toddler, a middle schooler and 3 teens? Feels like alot. Of course, it also makes 6 kids feel very, very easy.

Back to the job. Yesterday, Shel unexpectedly got called into work at seven in the morning.

Yesterday? It was Halloween. I was home alone with 7 kids. The boys each had a hockey game, and all 4 were trick or treating with different people in different places. And the girls? I hold FIRM to the philosophy that all kids in my care will experience all the same things that my own kids have. For the babies, this was their first Halloween, for Miss Curious, the first she would remember.

So a friend came to my rescue to watch some of the little babies, while I took the bigger baby and a big son to grocery shop. Two carts, 4 cases of diapers and $400 in food later, the shopping was done for this week. You can understand why Shel needs a job. ANY job.

Then the day really began. Three car seats? You really have no idea how insane that feels. And when I decided that Caden (age 8 and not the biggest help in the world) and I should take the babies to trick or treat at the mall? Not my smartest moment. One baby in my arms, two in the double stroller and a very hyper 8 year old jumping off the walls. Oh and did I mention I was taking the babies to get their portraits done in their costumes?

Yes. In fact I am crazy.

And then, of course, the actual trick or treating part. Miss Curious threw a royal tantrum at every store when I made her LEAVE the nice ladies with their buckets of candy. EACH STORE. Kicking, screaming, laying on the ground and freaking out tantrum. Did I mention the other two babies in the stroller? And that hyper 8 year old?

Definitely crazy.

But you know, they won't remember my aching back, or the frantic digging in the diaper bag for bottles, or the temper tantrums, or the fact their diapers were dirty. They will remember the pictures of smiling babies in cute costumes and the mama that loved them enough to make sure they had a special 2009 Halloween.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Full Arms, Full Heart

Miss Tiny, Miss Precious and I hanging out on the living room floor.
When Tiny and Curious arrived in May I was till in the throes of surgical recovery and rather heavily drugged. I know, through looking back at photos, the startling changes that have occurred in the girls through these last 5 months, but at the time I think I was simply too overwhelmed and too shocked that I actually HAD them to even be fully aware. Thick and shiny hair. Bright eyes and beautiful smiles. Attached and happy.
With Miss Precious, the changes in even two weeks are mind blowing. Her eyes aren't sunk in anymore, her skin isn't sagging. She smiles and kisses and reaches for me. This child WANTS to live. She wants to attach and thrive and grow and heal. She can almost sit up, and has learned how to eat solid food. Normal milestones for most babies, but shocking that at almost 10 months old she is just learning now.
This job, or life, is HARD. Yesterday I had 8 kids here, two sick with the swine flu and 3 sick with normal colds. Miss Precious spent the night, relegated to a playpen in the master bathroom. By eight o'clock last night I was exhausted, cranky and "touched out". Miss Tiny woke up at 3 am and would only sleep if she was on top of me. And then there was hockey practice at 5:30 am. Morning starts again with another son sick with the flu, Miss Precious older foster sister arriving for the day, and my own kids to cuddle and love. It's hard. But in the smile of a baby who has never before known love? That is worth it.
Yesterday Shel printed out a quote in jumbo type and laid it on my computer for me to see, "NOTHING YOU DO FOR CHILDREN IS EVER WASTED." I struggle with the reality that these kids, MY kids, may never remember me, may never know the love I had for them or how I will carry them through my entire life as "my girls". Does it even matter if they are safe, loved and thriving now if they are returned to a life of chaos? Will it ever matter that they had these months of love and safety?
I have to believe it will. I just have to believe this matters.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Environment Made Me Do it!

If I am completely honest, I actually HAVE eaten dog before. It wasn't knowingly, but it definitely was puppy. If Trippy wasn't quite so skinny, he might make a good potluck dish. If only he could read, maybe he would know that my threats about his accidents aren't quite as idle as he seems to think they are!

Then I will feel better about the 8 passenger SUV we drive.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Good News. Very Good News. We know that it's not a forever sort of thing, but for now, for today and tomorrow and the next 6 months I will breathe a little easier.


My Miss Tiny has learned to shake her head vehemently while giggling in her baby form of a chronic rebellion. "No! NOOOOOO" insert head shake. She means nothing by it except it gets her copious amounts of attention. This from a baby who already gets copious amounts of attention. We are in TROUBLE with this princess!

My boys walk in the door from school with a quick nod to me they immediately make the rounds of the babies. Miss Precious is now part of that routine. If 13 years from now there are 3 incredibly self centered, certain they are perfect, male attention demanding teenage girls in the neighbourhood, just blame my boys. I am not sure they will ever find a husband who thinks they are quite as amazing in every way as my boys think they are.


Annie has quit howling. This is NOT because I personally cut out her voice box at 3 am one sleepless barking filled night. It is NOT. I promise.


Swine Boy, aka the kid who loves his mask, is FINE. TOTALLY FINE. As in so fine that I would have sent him to school today except for that little issue of being quarantined. Apparently our town has been hit hard. At hockey practice tonight there were 8 kids on the ice. EIGHT. For my American friends that is way less than an entire hockey team.


I have three half written actually interesting posts about adoption, disruption, racism and special needs. Do you think I have the time or inclination to do anything about them? Nope. The babies keep me mind numbingly busy. And when they all nap in the afternoon, I collapse on the couch in a pile of wipes and laundry and ignore blogging.

Monday, October 26, 2009

This Little Piggy Stayed Home

That there is Tanner. Tanner with H1N1. Tanner with H1N1 in the ER.

Remember how I said last week it was NOT swine flu? Yeah that was me being wrong.

Seven kids. The flu. This could be a long week.

Actually, he is feeling not too bad. He gets a whole week off of school and is laying around in bed watching tv. He is VERY proud of his mask and he should be just fine by Halloween, which is second only to Christmas on the Most Important Calendar Days of the Year for 12 year old boys.

Anyone want to come help me disinfect?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Small Town Fostering

When we decided to supervise visits with the girls' parents in our home many people online thought this was strange. Scary even. It was neither bravery or stupidity that brought on that decision - it was reality. Being a foster family, and a visible, well known multiracial adoptive family at that in a small city where we are well established means that any thoughts of being anonymous were completely pointless. We know way too many people, and with 4 kids in various schools and sporting events? The paths in a small community are tightly woven.

Fostering in a small community brings unique challenges and rewards. Through no effort of my own I realize that I know several professionals involved with the kids before they entered my life. I have run into the girls extended family members multiple times at my grocery store, at my mall, at my park. And those are just the relatives I have met and recognise. Their family friends attend our church. Their sibling plays lacrosse with my son. I am absolutely certain I have also been seen by people who know the girls but don't know me and are watching my every move when I am out and about with the babies. Having a good relationship, being honest, going above and beyond is alot less stressful than trying to stay hidden.

This was brought home to me yesterday when I happened to be involved in what resulted in a "police incident" when a foster parent and a foster child and a biological parent all turned up at the same location when they weren't supposed to have contact. Emergency calls to social workers, the police circling the building, nervous foster moms, angry parents, confused kids and a grateful me that I have a good relationship with my girls' mother.

Small town fostering is different.

PS. Miss Precious is TOOOOOOOO adorable for words and I love every minute with her but I have decided that mothers of triplets are saints. SAINTS. Do you know how many diapers three pooping machines generate in a day? All I do is change bums and make bottles, cuddle, play and repeat.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jen .... Plus SEVEN?

Well, here I was yesterday comforting my little sickie when the phone rang.

It was the social worker, on speaker phone. In my experience THOSE sorts of phone calls are always dangerous.

So. Yeah. I think we will call this one Miss Precious. She is not OUR foster baby, but she has recently come into care with one of the most horrific stories you can imagine. Her foster mom needs daycare so she will come and spend the days with me.

So now, that makes 7.

Greg, 14, hockey player extraordinaire. Mr. Serious.

Eric, 13, limit tester, hockey player. Mr. Smiley.

Tanner, 12, smartie pants, goalie. Mr. Sweetie.

Caden, 8. cuddler, swimmer. Mr. Teaser.

Miss Curious, 17 months. Dare Devil. Stunt Master. Miss Silly.

Miss Tiny, 7 months. Chub-A-Lub. Giggler. Miss Adorable.

And now Miss Precious. 9 months and desperately in need of love and support.

Please, if you pray, PRAY for this baby. She needs it. She has lived through hell.