Monday, August 31, 2009

The Dog Days of Summer

Maybe its the heat but I have a jumble of random thoughts today ...

School is STILL not in session here ... and another 7 days of summer vacation to go and the boys are bored and driving me nuts. And I might be counting the minutes until they go, but I would
never admit it.


Foster parenting is hard. Missed visit days are hard.

Made visit days are also hard.

Supervising visits is hard. I feel fragile and drained, and can only imagine how hard it is to be on the other side. Because no matter how hard those two hours are for me, at the end of the visit I walk away with the babies.

One day it will be the other way around.


Miss Curious can now compeltely dismantle childproof door handle locks. This child is FIFTEEN MONTHS OLD.

At mom's request, we are getting the girls' ears pierced. I was also with Jazzy when she had hers done. Many things don't make me twinge, but I never know what will. This does.


My dog is an idiot. I know you all know this, but just in case you need a reminder, they are both in fact, idiots. Lovable, cute, peeing on my floor and chewing my shoes idiots. Annie will lick Miss Tiny's face three thousand times in a row. Apparently it carries some residual formula reserves. Maybe she is just hopeful? Maybe she is an idiot.


My sister is on an Alaskan cruise with her family. I miss her.

I WON a cruise I won't be able to take because even prizes come with costs.


I had to go for blood and urine tests this week. The Lab Tech knew I had cancer. My dad is sick from his chemo but is almost done. I read at the kidney cancer online forum this week. It makes me sick to my stomach with stress to read there. I want to forget, then realize I can't. My doctor booked my CT for November.


Today would have been my first day back at work. I am home. Unfortunately, so is Shel. He needs a job.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Family Time

Enjoying these last days of summer. Together.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back to School

I walked out the door this morning with a crying Miss Curious reaching for me, arching her back in protest of my departure against the strong and capable arms of my husband.

I had laid Miss Tiny into her crib for an early morning nap, knowing I would be gone when she woke up I gave her an extra kiss and stood and stared at her incredibly chubby cheeks.

My boys were still asleep enjoying the last lazy mornings of their summer holidays.

I sighed. I attended class. I returned at 3:30.

Miss Curious clung to me. Sobbing, she didn't let me put her down for an hour. Miss Tiny avoided eye contact until she finally melded her body into mine for an evening bottle.

I am not meant to be a working mother when I have babies at home. They have been through too much to have to deal with my absence.

You should know I quit my job. A month ago.

It would seem to make very little sense, with a husband that is unemployed and finances tighter than you can imagine and yet I did. The part time contract offered to me that cut my salary in half and dropped all my benefits sealed the decision (the economy is affecting even schools), but my heart was never into going back.

So instead of today being my first day back to work, today I took a parenting class for foster parents. Today I heard them talk about the necessity of "stability" and "routine". Today I remembered long ago learned lessons on attachment and foundation.

Today I came home knowing that it was the right choice for my family. That my husband can (and is!!!) look for work "away" (as in anywhere in this country or the next where there is work!) and I can stay home and keep the family going.

It is no sacrifice to give the girls the very best of me. They deserve, and I need to give it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

15 Months of Munchkin

After one too many dumped cereal boxes, and frustrated shouts of "NO! PUT THAT DOWN!" coming from my sons, I came home from the grocery store today with a box of cupboard locks.

"CHILDPROOF YOUR HOME" stated the optimistic packaging.

Miss Curious assisted Dad in putting them up, as only a 15 month old can. Lots of chewing on the screw drivers and dumping over the container. Some sweating and grumbling (from Shel) and whining and interference (Miss Curious) the locks were installed.

Miss Curious calmly walked over to the cupboard, examined the lock and took two seconds to undo it.

We've have decided to teach her how to let the dogs in the house to eat her spilled cereal.


We have been using "Mama" and "Papa" as our names with the girls in order to keep "Mommy" and "Daddy" for their parents. Miss Curious would like you to know she finds this ridiculous. Her boys (or "beeeze" as she says) call him DAD and she will too, correcting us each and every time. "Come see Papa" we will say. "DAD!" she corrects.

"Dad!Dad!Dad!" chanted along the highway with a huge grin as we raced home to see him after 5 days away.

Furious, sobbing tears when she finally did see him. Anger. Rage. Grief. Love.

The emotions of a little girl with too much loss and too much confusion. Papa-Dad was missed. Papa-Dad was not with us. I hate you because it hurts to miss you. I love you because I need you. Try to hold me so I can push you away, but keep trying because I really want you to hold me tight.



She is into everything. Nothing is so secure that she can't climb it, dump it, taste it, throw it or break it.

We spend all day every day undoing, checking, removing, redirecting, changing, wiping, cleaning and redoing. She is frustrating and enfuriating, endearing and sweet. She is perfectly, totally, wonderfully toddler.

At the end of each long day she grabs her blanket and her bottle and climbs onto my lap. She snuggles her face into the crook of my arm and pats my face.

I have the honor, the privilege, the responsibility of being this angel's mama for now. How did I get so lucky?


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Walked Through the Doors

I was back in St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver this week. Back on the transplant ward. Back to the offices where I was told I was in "Perfect Health" and would make an "ideal donor". Back to the offices where exactly one week later they told me I had cancer. Back to the elevators that took me up to the operating room where that cancer was removed. Back to the floor where I spent a week recovering.

I was back.

And yet I wasn't. This time I was not the patient or the interviewee, I was the friend. The Support Person of my friend who is considering being a donor for my cousin whom she has never met (God works in VERY mysterious ways).

It's interesting to realize what you didn't know back at the time things were happening.

I had to lay on the bed of the CT Scan machine for over twenty minutes while my films were reviewed by a radiologist upstairs. I thought this was normal. My friend? Hers was over and done with immediately.

My friend got the results of her CT scan the same day she had hers done. I wasn't expecting results and had no idea that the fact I didn't get mine was strange. My results came in the form of a phone call from my surgeon a week later telling me there was "something serious" and he needed to see me immediately.

Ultimately, I was rejected as a donor, but being willing to be a kidney donor saved my life. My friend was approved as a donor, and she may end up ultimately saving my cousin's life. My cousin she would have never thought twice about if it wasn't for the fact I was going to donate my kidney.

If I wouldn't have had been willing to donate, I would still have cancer. If I didn't have cancer I would not have my girls. If I didn't have my girls I would have missed out on loving them, and being loved by them.

Life is a tangled web. It was interesting to revisit the place where my life so drastically changed. I was glad to drive away with all my organs intact this time.

Monday, August 17, 2009

God and Child Abuse

I grew up in a family where an easy faith was taught and lived, more by circumstance than directive. It was a faith that I internalized to mean, however wrongly, that if I was good enough, good things would happen to me. God was benevolent and good and a pretty friendly guy. Bad stuff happened to others and my life easy because I was good. Abuse and loss were far from my early childhood years.

My life changed through my late teen years. My parents divorced. My mother revealed a horrible youth, and a surprise sister. Abuse entered my life but by then I could clearly blame "others" for that and not perceive that it was any fault of my own. Maturity helped, age helped and supportive friends helped. God was still on my side and my friend.

When my children arrived, passing on our legacy of a faith was something that was very, very important to me. The familiar Bible stories became part of our lives. Noah, Daniel, Samuel, Moses, and Jesus; my boys knew it all.

The hard questions were yet to come. How to explain a loving God, a God that wants the very best for you, a God that protects you, cares for you and loves you more than you can imagine to children who have experienced more horror and loss than most of us every have to deal with in a life time?

Where was a loving God when children are beaten and bruised?
Where was a loving God when children are burnt and neglected?
Where was a loving God when children lose everything they know and love?

My young son struggled with this concept deeply as he ached to trust in a God that had appeared to be so untrustworthy in his own life. One day he found this picture.

It was a tiny picture, cut out of the back of an Anne Geddes art book, just about the size of a business card. He carried that picture (pencil crayoned brown because in our house God is NOT just a Large White Man) with him everywhere, every day for over a year. It explained to him, in a way he could imagine, that although horrid, awful things happened to him; things that were never part of God's plan for his life, always through it all, God held him.

God held him close, God wept with him. God loved him. When he was hurt and scared and lonely. When he was alone and scared. When he didn't understand what was happening or why it was happening, God was there with him. My faith became more real because of his faith.

Ten years ago I stood before our church with my husband and sons and dedicated them, and our family, to Christian faith. My public statement to raise them to know God, to hear about God and to give them the opportunity to develop their own relationship with Him, a God they could trust, even when bad things happen.

Yesterday, despite this awful year, these horrible losses, the pain, the grief, the fear, the regret, the turmoil, despite all of that, my three oldest sons chose to be baptized. To publicly declare their faith in a God they trust.

It was one of my proudest moments.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sidewalk to Nowhere

"Forget" (pronounced For-Jhay) is typical of many prairie towns. Once a bustling town with a hospital, grocery story and garage the moving of the railway decimated its capacity to make money. Slowly the buildings fell down, the roads grew over and the population reduced to its current mark of 38.

It was fascinating for the kids to spy the remnants and reminders of the town that once was. Sidewalks that go nowhere, and are in front of an empty field, let us know that once this was a neighbourhood.

The Ananda Arthouse came to this community and with it came an influx of new residents, artists of all sorts. And so one evening Caden and I went for a little walk around the town. And we came across a concert on a back porch of one of the remaining homes.

They weren't content to just have us listen and enjoy, and so they gave Caden his instrument of choice, a Djembe just like the one he has at home, and he got to join in the music. Jammin, singing and sitting quite literally in the middle of the prairie, surrounded by 1000's of acres of nothing.

It was one of those priceless, timeless moments that you could never plan for. And I was thankful for the song that is in my son, the community that let him participate in it and the place that is Forget.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

An Anniversary of Sorts

It's three months since my surgery. The scars across my belly look fresh, but not swollen.

Sometimes I forget they are there until my hand brushes against my stomach and I feel the bumps, or I catch a glimpse of my naked self in the mirror. There they are - the lines that look like a toddler played a random game of connect the dots with a red marker across me.

And I remember. Cancer. That's right you awful beast, you were in me. Cancer.

Because most days I forget. My life is so full, so busy, there is no time to think and worry. The what ifs are chased from my mind by the present concerns of diapers and toys, dinners and hockey.

And then I am reminded.

Last week the mother of a child my son plays hockey against died. Mother of 4. Cancer.

Two weeks ago another online blogger friend died. Mom of 10. Cancer.

I am half way to knowing. 6 months post surgery I will get a CT Scan. A Scan that determines so much. If it comes back, survival rates are not high. If it stays away, I should be fine.

But today I will remember. I will remember those that lost this battle, and the ones that love them. I will remember with gratitude that mine was caught early, and the miracle that was. I will remember my fellow kidney cancer survivors. I will think of my dad and his battle. I will hug my kids closer and appreciate my husband more.

Three months ago a doctor gave me a gift. He gave me the gift of time. My scars might be ugly, and a reminder of a horrible experience, but they will also remind me of the gift of today.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Things You Forget

You forget how much one year olds love water. And splashing. And watching things float. And seeing what sinks.

You also forget that the toilet bowl is the easiest accessible water at the perfect height for the average 2 foot tall child.

You remember that your 8 year old never remembers to flush. You try to forget biology class.

You forget that pressing buttons is so much fun. You remember that your tv is programmable and forget how to get back the now missing 35 channels.

You forget that taking away anything from a one year old results in back arching, throwing, kicking fits. You remember that all they want is to hug you, the mean mama, because you make them feel better.

You forget the nighttime battles and sleepless nights. You remember the wonder of a toddler throwing herself on you for a full body cuddle, snuggled tight into bed.

You forget the food thrown on the floor off the high chair tray. You remember the delight of a toddler tasting her first popsicle.

You forget the awe of watching a child grow and change before your eyes. You remember that your gigantic sons were that toddler a blink ago.

I remember now. Do you? These memories are precious. Imagine watching those memories of your children through the eyes of another mother.

Pictures may never be enough, but it is something. I realized today I have given 1246 pictures in duplicate to my girls' parents. 1246. Since May. I want them to remember too.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Chaos Finds Me

My cousin was passing through this weekend and I invited her to spend the night with her family here with us. This is the sister of the cousin I was to give my kidney too, and although we haven't been close in years, there is a kindred bond there since the attempted donation and cancer diagnosis that is not easily broken.

Cousin J, her husband J, their daughter M, age 8 and their baby J who is exactly the same age as Miss Curious. Oh, and Turk, their 6 month old Black Lab / Irish Setter cross puppy. My house, always full, got fuller.

So yes, we had 8 kids ages 14, 13, 11, 8, 8, 15 months, 15 months, and almost 5 months. Busy? Oh yes. BUT then you add in 3 dogs. Annie, Turk and last but definitely not smartest, Trippy.

On this late summer evening my children were playing with their cousin on the trampoline, the dogs racing throughout the house, Trip flying off furniture like a rubber bouncy ball, and tearing into the back yard. We laughed at the sounds of everyone having so much fun.

Until I heard those dreaded words "MOM!!! THE DOGS HAVE A CAT"

I am not sure if you know much about Jack Russell Terriers but to my two, cats are merely chew toys with really loud squeakers. Squeakers that they want to get out, this often doesn't bode well for either the cat or the dogs.

The "Cat" turned out to be a tiny kitten. A tiny kitten that ended up named and sleeping in my bed.



This. One. Will. NOT. Stay.

In the last 24 hours the dogs have tried to eat said cat 37 times. I have had 33 heart attacks trying to save it. The kitten has discovered the crib, and the warm, snugly person sleeping in it.

This(tiny). One (currently sleeping on my lap). Will (purring loudly). NOT (for sure, probably). Stay (please mom, please)

Her name is Chaos.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Young Love

There is something amazing about watching your child, as large as a man, with a voice as deep as a man's, but still a child himself, whisper sweet, high pitched nothings into a baby's ear.

My boys, all 4, have enveloped both girls with a fierce and protective love. The babies are adored, hugged, snuggled, and talked to in a way that gives me a glimpse of the Fathers my sons will become. They care for the girls in a way that shows me that I have done my job in laying a foundation that will allow them to love a child with an all consuming love. To hope, and know, that we have broken the cycle that our oldest two stepped out of. Knowing, in fact, that THEY have broken the cycle of abuse and loss and abandonment for themselves.

And yet, when I think of how our family has enfolded and meshed completely with these two little lives, I remember the pain of prior loss, my stomach churns. Trying not to borrow worry about tomorrows, I choose to focus on today.

Today I will love these children fully.
Today I will celebrate that we are a family.
Today I will choose to mother them in the way it takes to heal them of their past hurts.
Today I will enfold their parents into our lives and support them on their journey.
Today is good.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Summer Reading

As a young girl I would often lose myself into books for hours on end, much to the chagrin of my sister who would much rather have had me interested in playing street hockey with her. I have no time to read myself nowadays, but I have passed this love of reading on to all the boys. Our house is overflowing with books, and often we take a trip to the thrift store to buy huge bags full of their ten cent novels. Books however have never held them in their grip for hours on end as I remember my long summer afternoons sprawled on my bed thoroughly unable to escape from a book's grip.

Giving birth to a child who is a clone of their father in looks and personality is an interesting experience. Tanner is an absolute joy but there is very little of ME in him whatsoever. He has been completely and totally his father's son. Tall, lanky, peaceful and sensitive, just like his dad.

And then there was the summer he was 11. Here is a selection of pictures of Tanner's week in Saskatchewan.

He read in the library...

He read in the kitchen ...

He read outside while he was "babysitting" ...

Now obviously a love of good books comes from both sides of the family as there are 2 formal libraries in my husband's parents home, as well as book shelves and reading chairs in every room, including the kitchen. But for once I see a reflection of my own childhood in my son, and it was nice. He was reading the series Jacob Two-Two by Mordecai Richler.

Monday, August 3, 2009

We drove. And drove. And drove. Two nights straight through to get there, with a day to play in between.

Looking across the open prairie of ripe Canola in the far distance you can see the spire of the church. Its the rectory of this church that Shel's parents and sister bought and restored.

Then you arrive at the art house and everything about it feels like a sanctuary.

Shel's family chose to share their faith through art.

They hold this value dear and it shows in all they do.

And we arrived and settled in. Tomorrow you can glimpse a bit of our time together, and the inside of the amazing rectory.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


7 days and no internet connection

437 pictures of my kids with their grandparents

Thousands of acres of blowing wheat

One tiny town with a large music festival

6 kids in one truck driving half way across the continent, and now we are half way back.

Not a single inappropriate comment to my kids (well by strangers anyways, the family issue remains silent)

Home tomorrow, pictures and musings to follow.