Monday, August 30, 2010

Rocket Boy

My son. My little boy. My growing up way too fast child.    My 15 year old crazy makin' hockey player kid spent the week at the WHL's Kelowna Rockets Rookie Camp and had an amazing experience. 8 goals, lots of hits, a couple of shoving matches and many new friends.    A very special thank you to the friends and family and facebook status followers who came out to support him and to sit silently in the stands so that all the scouts weren't annoyed by our rather partisan support. 

The kids and I are off on one last kick at summer.  Waterslides, back to school shopping, tourist attractions and connecting with new and old friends.  This has been a good one!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Open Adoption: Thoughts and Feelings Part 2 "The Trump Card"

***** I am somewhat overwhelmed at the response to my last post.  I thank you for your comments, your emails, the facebook messages and even the phone calls. *****

Fear, insecurity and jealousy are not the only emotions I feel during our visits with the girls' family.  They aren't even the most dominant emotions I feel.  I sometimes feel joy and peace.  I am committed to our relationship.  I love her and I love how the girls love her too.  I respect her role in our lives, and I respect that it is her decision that made me their mother too.  And yet, that ugliness, that humanness, that realness is still there. 

When I think about why it is so easy for me to celebrate the love my children have for friends and family, and why I still twinge when those conjoined feelings of jealousy and insecurity rear their heads during visits with their biological  family, I think it simply lays bare the reality that is adoption. 

Deep down, somewhere I don't want to look or even admit exists, I must secretly believe that their mother holds the Ultimate Trump Card in our relationship, and in the relationship I have with our shared children. 

I might be married and stable and secure.  I might have a home, a driver's license and a car.  I might have never had my parenting deemed unacceptable and have my children removed from me against my will  (*** which is the case in our situation and certainly not the case in every adoption***) I might spend 99.999999% of the time with the girls.  I might be the one that reads them every bed time story, gets 99.999999% of every snuggle, gives every bath, takes them on every vacation, see every first, hear every sob and every giggle.  I might be the one they call mommy and I might be the one that gets to raise them until adulthood.

BUT, and this is a big BUT, at the end of the day I am not their only mother.  I am not their biological mother.  And to many in the world I am not their REAL mother.  And, of course, ultimately, that is what I wish I was and probably ultimately what every biological mother not raising her children wishes she was too.  THE mom.  The ONLY mom.

I still feel this.  I, who chose being an adoptive parent as a first choice.  I, who never struggled with infertility.  I, who not only tolerate the fact that some my kids are different from me genetically but in fact CELEBRATE that fact.  I, who have spent years nurturing friendships with first moms and adoptees and understanding their stories; shedding tears on their behalf.  I, who believe in fighting for justice and openness and fairness. 

I, who have actively pursued a relationship with all our kids relatives, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  Jen,  who sells openness everywhere she writes.  I, who have pictures of our kids other parents displayed prominently in our home. I, who encourages visits and nurtures relationships and who believes in this process. 

And still I struggle.  I hate to admit it, I was terrified to admit it, but still I do.  I don't want to.  I want to be secure and confident and of course I am working at getting there.  But these children hold my heart and nothing matters more to me in life than being loved by them and being valued by them.  Being a mom  - THEIR MOM - is who I am. Being a good mom is intrinsically tied to my sense of self and there is no award, no degree, no prize I want from life other than at the end of the day for my children to love me half as deeply as I love them and to say I was a good mother.

I will work this through.  I will talk about it so that maybe others will know they are not alone.  I will lay myself bare - stark and naked - with the ugliness and possessiveness and fear apparent so that we can talk about these feelings. 

And so I suppose, despite my feelings, there is no Trump Card in this process of relationship building.  These are OUR children.  This is our reality.  This is the reality of adoption.  And sometimes, love bites.  Just ask Jayde.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Open Adoption: Feelings and Actions

So, has anyone out there said this journey was going to be easy? 

No?  Because I want my easy button.  A big giant easy button that will erase every difficult emotion, every conflicted thought, every bit of failed humanness I don't like in myself and I want to FEEL like Super-Adoptive-Mom-Of-The-Year.   I imagine other moms feel strong and secure and never question or worry.  I imagine that other moms never weep from the stress of juggling the needs of their children, the needs of their children's family of birth and their own needs and failings.

I hope I imagine wrong.

What follows is a stark confession of my humanness as an adoptive mom and I am choosing to share it here  not because I believe these feelings are right but because I believe they are common.  This who I am today and where I am at right now.  It is my reality and I know I will process this and move through it, but at this moment, at this time I lay it before you so that hopefully I won't feel quite so alone.

I really like the theory of openness in adoption.  It's the practice I am finding a tad disconcerting. 

When my daughters crawl into my mom's lap and snuggle her, it warms my heart.  When they demand that grandma read them a bedtime story instead of mommy I am secretly relieved that I am unburdened of that nightly chore for a moment.   I thrilled that they love, and feel loved.  I feel there is no subtraction from my motherhood or the depth of their love for me, or my love and commitment to them. 

When they squeal with joy and race for that first hug when a favorite aunt comes to the door, I celebrate the fact that they have a circle around them that loves them, and that they love in return.  When a sleepy toddler kicks and screams to get away from me and into the arms of her brother or aunt or friend as I carry her to nap time I laugh at how transparent her disgust for nap time really is.  I don't wonder if I am failing her or if she hates me or question if I am making the right parenting decisions for her.  I do not wonder if maybe she loves those not taking her to nap time more than she loves me. 

I am thrilled when my daughter reaches for the computer screen to pat the familiar face of my sister.  I feel nothing but a firm understanding of their emotions when they sadly recount the names of favorite cousins far away and missed  or beg to stop at a friend's home when we pass a familiar driveway. 

I do not feel threatened.  I do not feel ambivalent.  I do not feel jealous.  I do not feel fear.  I do not feel alone.  Or less than.  Or unloved.  Or sad.  I do not want to grab my children, run out the door, quit answering my phone, move and pretend that these people do not exist. 

And yet when my daughter reaches for her mother instead of me during one of our frequent visits my heart sinks.  When my 2 year old smiles and asks for her first mother to carry her on our walk instead of me I die a little inside.

I know who she is.  She is their first mother.  The mother they look like.  The mother whose motherhood will never be questioned when we are out together.  The mother who spoils them with treats and plays fun games the whole time we are together and she is the mother that never has to say no or put them down for a nap or take them to the potty.  She is the mother who struggles, but it is my job to make sure the girls are protected from those struggles and only know her as the fun, loving mother they see. 

Her mere existence makes me question who am I.  Her presence makes me question my very worth.   Is my place in their hearts secure?  Is my role acknowledged?  Does it matter if it isn't?  Where does my security lie? 

The girls are growing up.  They aren't the babies they were a few short months ago whose entire world revolved around only the 6 family members they spent every day with.  They have friends they love and they are remembering and responding with recognition to many people in their little world.  Their other mother is no longer a stranger we visit while they cling to my legs. 

She is a friend.  She is a playmate.  She is a source of junk food and silly games. 

She is known and loved.  She is a favorite.

I have built the foundation of this relationship.  I have done all the right things.  Things I believe in doing.  Things that are right to do.   I have pictures of their mother in their room.  I talk about upcoming visits with excitement in my voice and recount stories to them of past visits during the weeks in between.  I am present at every visit so there is never any fear of loss or separation.  I throw all the rules out the window and let her spoil them with treats.  I do the disciplining.  I end the games when it is time to go.  I do up the car seats and give reminders about pending naps.  If you are 2 years old, I suck. 

I don't mind sucking to my child in front anyone else but HER.  With her,  I want to be the loved mama.  I want to be the favorite.  I want to be the center of the world of these children we share.  It may not be right, or mature, or Godly, but it is true.  I don't want her to question who they love more.  And I want the answer to be me.  

These emotions are hard.  They are real and they are hard.  If it was just about me, and what was best for Jen, I might consider not answering the phone the next time her number pops on the call display.  I might not be quite as available for visits or quite as willing to leave two thirds of my family to take the girls to her home for another visit, especially one that is being asked for weeks sooner than I had planned on going.  I might shut down conversations or put away pictures.  I might quit sounding quite so dang thrilled when I talk about the WONDER OF HER when I talk to the girls.  

I won't, but I might, maybe, possibly, sometimes want to. 

And so I give myself permission to sit back and say to me  "Holy Freaking Hell I am being triggered!!!".   I give myself  permission to admit that I am  human and selfish and raw and scared.  It is ok to look at the darkest parts of my  heart and admit failure and humanness.  It's ok to feel it.  It's not ok to pretend those feelings are reasonable.  This journey isn't about whats right or easy for Jen.  It's about what's right for my children.  The children that own my heart. I feel this because I love them so much. I don't act on those feelings because I love them so much.

Last night, after a long visit and a longer day robbed of joy because of my own insecurities and incomprehensible feelings, that same 2 year old who thinks I sometimes suck as a mommy came up behind me, laid her head on my shoulders, wrapped her arms around my neck and said "I lub you mommy".  

I know you do sweetie.  And it's ok with me if you love other people too, even if it breaks my heart.

Friday, August 20, 2010

2 Packs A Day

Well for all that bragging of never having smoked, I think I may start because I am not sure my lungs know how to breathe clean air anymore.

This is what the view of a local lake SHOULD look like.  Before the forest fires...

And this is what it looks like today, during the forest fires...

I am going to need a campfire-smoke-patch to recover.  We are still praying for rain.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


The forest fires are bad.  The smoke worse.  My home is at the center of a National News Story of the Fire that just won't quit.

For a period of time yesterday I had my truck packed with pictures and papers.  The vehicles are filled with gas and the list of what to pack is pasted to the door.  The sprinklers are going to keep the ground around our home moist and everyone stares to the west at the orange glow in the sky.  It is close.  Way, way too close.

It is wild fire season and we are in the middle of the worst year on record.

I have been spending hours at the evacuation center caring for the elders of my daughters communities and the stressed children of stressed parents who fear their homes may burn.  I pour coffee and make tea.  I hand out juice boxes and water bottles and color pictures with toddlers. I help seniors find the washroom and hold hands with the disabled. 

It seems very, very little but appears to mean alot. 

We need rain.  And more than a sprinkle.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

All Things Horrible

This is a post that has taken me too long to write because saying it "out loud" makes it real. 

My father was cancer free for less than six months. 

After chemo and surgery and a miracle that gave us time, it is back.  The cancer is back.

It is harder this time.  Last time I had the merciful gift of shock and disbelief and then we all went to the mountain top of hope.  And now we have crashed back to the cavernous gully of reality. 

I love my dad.  My incredible, amazing, kind, funny, grouchy, hard working  and overly protective dad who adores my children maybe even more than he adores me, and that makes me happier than I ever thought possible.    My ever hopeful dad who has faced the idea of another round of chemo, then hopefully surgery and radiation, with a strength I cannot comprehend.  He wants to live and he will do what it takes to live as long as possible. 

And I want him to live.  I need him to live. 

Cancer doesn't care and it is never, ever fair.  It doesn't care that my son desperately wants his Papa to see him play hockey for a "Big" team because it is his Papa that is his biggest fan.  It doesn't care that my girls are too little to remember their Papa and they need a grandpa doting on them for many more years.  It doesn't care that my dad's parents are still alive and that means I should have him for many more years just like he gets his parents.  It doesn't care that I really, really love my dad or that he is a really, really great guy. 

This is a journey I do not want to be on and yet  I do not want you to be on it either.  And that is the problem isn't it?  None of us deserve this, or maybe in fact all of us do and its the random way it strikes or avoids that feels so unfair.  If I wish this away, am I wishing in onto another family?  Another dad and another daughter who looks like a woman but feels like a little girl who just needs her daddy?

The fight starts again today and once again my heart is being held by a monster called cancer.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Annie Update

Annie seems to be feeling better.   Our biggest battle right now is keeping her off her leg and resting.


Annie is a Jack Russell. 

I think, however cautiously, that the crisis is over IF she continues to heal.  Donations *legal ones of course* of valium, sedatives and ear plugs will be greatly appreciated.  Annie has all the meds she needs already.


And just to make you smile ... here are some pictures of my middle two boys at Vacation Bible School last week.  My kids know how to have fun!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Rest'INg Peace(fully) Annie

She started limping last week.  Favoring her leg, resting more than usual and rejecting Trip's enthusiastic invitations for a game of chase.   I made her rest for the next couple of days and she seemed fine. 

Then Tuesday she quit walking all together.    Laying on her side, whimpering, it was obvious her leg was sore.

It was only ten months ago that you, my readers, raised almost $1500 for her surgery.  Surgery that saved her life and gave her back use of that leg.  I watched in horror as my son's dog, my dog, and really YOUR dog lay in obvious pain from a blown out leg again. 

I made another quick appointment with the Vet.  We sat the kids down and explained the reality.  This was probably "IT". 

We will not do the surgery again.  First, It's not fair to Annie, an enthusiastic Jack Russell to require her to be crated 23.5 hours a day for three months for a repair that doesn't last a year.  Secondly, it is simply too much money.  

Silent tears.  Then loud tears.  Then some wailing.  Hours of  cuddles and bowls of treats. 

They all said goodbye, each in their own way.    There is no more helpless feeling as a mother than watching your teenage son double over in grief that he can not hide or contain, and you know there is no relief for it other than simply walking it through. 

As I held the dog in one arm and hugged him with the other I whispered in his ear the only words of comfort I could manage "She knows how much you love her Eric and that counts alot to a dog".

I loaded Annie into the truck for her final ride and we headed to the Vet.  Shel met me there, skipping out from work,  knowing I would not survive this alone.   

The vet on duty is a fellow hockey mom, and she met my stricken look with kind words.  She knew by reading the notes that this wasn't a good thing and she could tell by my swollen eyes we already had faced that reality.  As she laid Annie's file on the table several printed sheets slid out and off to the side.  I glanced down at the pictures of my children and dogs.  The blog story of Annie printed off by the head vet and attached to her file.

Ahhh right.  I suppose they have google too. 

She probed and palpitated and we waited for the grim news we were sure was coming. 

Except it didn't. 

She thinks with lots of rest there is a CHANCE, however small, that the injury might heal.  She thinks that possibly the surgery repair is torn, but not completely ripped. 

And so Annie, soaked to the bone with salty tears Annie, came home.  If you would like to say a little prayer for a little dog, we would appreciate it.  Eric would appreciate it alot.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Smokey Hollow Part 2

Things here have gone from thick to thicker.  Rain should arrive shortly but in the mean time we are laying low and avoiding breathing at all costs. 

Of course that means we have extra time on our hands.  So in celebration of hair growth of note, Jayde would like to tell you that she has TWO pony tails today.  This is a first for my bald babe.

And then her brothers went a bit nuts.  Smoke will do that to you apparently.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Boys to Men: Year 5

I started this tradition by accident one hot summer's day in 2006.  I was laying on the dock and my boys stood above me asking for snacks.  I snapped a picture.


And I loved the picture and so we did it again.


2008 was not a great year.  In fact it was a really crappy year and I was not feeling sentimental or traditional, I was just missing the baby girl that had left.  And so we didn't take that picture.  I regret that now.

The next summer we re-started our tradition. It was a giant shock to me to see two of my sons with armpit hair. 


This year, the shocking revelation of THREE sons with pit hair meant that the shirts went back on.  Honestly, there are some things mothers are just never really prepared for.  Your children hitting puberty one after the other is one of those things. 

Oh how I love my sons, who despite being bigger than me and having more hairy parts than me will always, always be my little boys.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Open Adoption In Real Life

We were shopping.  Two babies in the cart, selected items piled around them.  I spotted her glancing at us from the end of an isle.  Once.  Twice. She stared. I smiled at her, assuming she was family,  but she purposefully avoided my gaze.   

She approached us quickly as I navigated the cart past the racks of shoes.  "Come see aunty"  she said reaching for Jayde.  Jayde turned away and whimpered for me.  She tried again with Taya.  "Come see me!" she said forcefully.   Both girls just stared, solemnly.

I said hello.  I told her the nickname that Taya responded to if she wanted to get her attention.   She did not look at me.  She did not respond to me.  Again, she tried to grab Jayde from the cart.  I noticed the hospital bracelet dangling from her wrist. 

At that moment her cell phone rang and she became distracted.  I smiled a quick and anxious smile and bolted for the back of the store.  She found us again this time camera in hand.  She reached to pull Jayde from the cart and I stepped between her and the babies. 

"I am sorry, but you can't take their pictures unless I know who you are"  I said I clearly and as gently as I could. 

"Oh, I am their aunt" she said.  For the first time acknowleging my existence.  "They are my nieces and they love me" and again she tried to convince one to "come with aunty".  Again it was if I was an invisible, yet unwelcome, presence. 

The girls stared blankly at this related stranger.  Someone they have not seen in at least sixteen months.  The teenager accompanying us on our shopping trip tried to disappear behind me. 

I held the girls while she took their picture and then we left the store.  Quickly.   The thump of my adrenaline fueled heart rang in my ears for hours.

Later that same day, in a bid to escape the heat of the day and the smokey evening air, we took the girls to the park.   Off they ran playing and splashing with children.  A faintly familiar woman I had met many months before approached me with a smile as we both attempted to bundle our tired children up.   "The girls look so good" she said with a smile, "I cannot believe how big they are getting".    She watched as her children and my daughters chased each other on the grass.  Cousins.  We chatted and compared parenting notes and as we left the girls smiled and waved.


We walked in the house today with cake in hand.  "aaappyyyy irtday L"  Taya said with a grin.  "Taya make cake! Taya make cake!"  she informed her other mother with an excited giggle.  For the first time ever, Jayde ran to her and asked for a hug.  The long days and long months of playing strange finally done.  

Two good visits in a row.  The last, Mother and babe spent painting toe nails and looking at pretties.   A girly-girl to her core, we, her mothers, both laugh at the reality of this little girl who is so different from both of us.  Today we sang happy birthday and shared a cake my daughters and I had baked for their other mother.   They cuddle.  Both girls' crawling into her lap.  Both girls demanding to hold her hand as we walk down the street.  Taya sleepily leaning on her lap as they sit on the floor sharing lunch from the same bowl.  They love her differently than they love anyone else.  I sense it.  I see it. It is what it is, and it is different. 

We say goodbye.  "Kiss please" Taya says over and over again.  Aunty, Grandpa, Uncle, Mother.  Kisses asked for and given.  She is buckled into her carseat.  She waves, she giggles, she blows kisses.  Then her Uncle climbs into the driver's seat of the truck in a simple attempt to see the car seat better to say goodbye. 

Taya screams. Panic written all over her face  "OUT! Mommy drive! OUT!!!  NO! NO!"  Turning to her mother standing by the open door of the truck she yells   "LOCK IT!! MOMMY DRIVE NOW!".  She cries until I am back in the driver's seat and her other mother closes the door with her inside. 

We drive away. 


Openness is what it is.  It is neither easy or simple.  But it is.  This is our reality.  Some relatives will be crazy.  Some relatives will be kind.  Some moments with biological family will be heart warming and some will be sad.  There is tragedy and there is joy, there is peace and anxiety.   This is our reality.