Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Baker's Dozen Review of 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Picture Perfect Christmas?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Letter 2008

Common Sense News 2008
**Restore ** Renew ** Reconnect**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

That which was lost, is found

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

And so the Christmas Spirit flows freely.

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

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

Merry Christmas.


Not so Christmasy Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

River by Joni Mitchell (Performed by Sarah McLachlan)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 20, 2008

And you think YOUR Saturday sucks?

Its 5:30 in the morning.

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

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

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

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

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

'Tis the season. Brrrrrrrrr.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Nothing quite as painful ...

As a child's violin recital.

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

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ghosts of Christmases Past

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

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

And then we brought out THE ornament.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Is there any color in your Christmas?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas makes 'em Crazy

Christmas, 1999

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Gifts of the Season

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 11, 2008

At this rate, starvation is imminent

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

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

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


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

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

We ate at McDonald's.

Send help.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Family Circle

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Aiming for vindication, I fail miserably

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, December 8, 2008


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

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

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

Sunday, December 7, 2008

My dirty little secrets.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 5, 2008

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

December 5, 2008

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

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

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

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

We anticipate a timely response,

Shelby and Jennifer *** (parents of Eric )

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

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Question of the day

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

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

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

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

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

But THIS wins for today's unexpectedly bizarre question.

Dear Mr. Dion,

Dear Mr. Dion.

Leave my democratically elected government alone.

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

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


Jen. A really irate Canadian.

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

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

At a loss of words

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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