Friday, February 27, 2009

She is gone.

Lisa, of Clusterfook, passed away today leaving to grieve her two young daughters and her husband and of course her many, many readers and online friends.

Rest in Peace Lisa.

Scared Spitless

I am heading off in a few moments to volunteer for the day with a bunch of scary high schoolers.

Challenge Day is being brought to our community and both of the large high schools are joining up for the event. My son went yesterday and came home teary eyed and worn out.

Teenagers scare me. Heck, teenagers scared me when I WAS a teenager. What is it about a bunch of teenagers in their hoodies and sneakers that can reduce a 35 year old woman to feeling like she is a bumbling idiot and not any cooler than she was as an awkward 13 year old.

The things I will do for my kids ....

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Who woulda thunk it ...

Sometimes I take a few moments to wonder simply at the amazing path our lives, and our sons' lives have taken.

How an American Boy from the country married a Canadian Girl from suburbia. How two incredible little boys from the Inner City of Saint Louis found their way to us, and us to them. How that American Boy and that Canadian Girl created two incredible little boys and we became a family of 6.

When I wonder at how our lives would be different if that 10000 miracles that brought us together hadn't happened. If Shel had decided to stay in the USA when his parents immigrated to Canada - he was going to, but at the last moment decided to come.

I intended to go away to university in Ottawa, but changed my mind choosing to stay closer to home.

If another family had been chosen for our sons. If the miscarriage that threatened to take Tanner's life at the beginning of my pregnancy had finished. If Caden had never been conceived.

What would we be doing? Would I be the journalist I had intended to become? Who would these boys be today? It's hard to separate the awe of who they are and imagine anything else. Would they have ever laced on skates? Would they be getting straight A's in school? Would they have a faith in God?

Too many if's to wonder. What I do know is who they are today. Amazing, thoroughly small-town Canadian boys obsessed with hockey with parents that love them, an enormous extended family that spreads across cultures and continent.
They are kids that chose to hang out with their family on a sunny afternoon and go for a skate on the pond.

Imagine the other possibilities.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Perfect Moment Monday

Our lives in the early months after adopting our sons were very, very full. I was suddenly the stay at home mom of 3 boys, ages 2, 3 and 4. My husband worked shift work and took our only vehicle with him every day. We lived 20 minutes out of town and had no family to rely on within a 5 hour drive.

Grief, attachment, bonding, mis-behavior, depression, cuddles, laundry, hugs, kisses, preschool and therapy appointments filled every moment of every day . What I didn't have time for was a necessary doctor's appointment for me. It was the biggest and absolutely best mistake of my life.

And so 9 months after our family added 2 sons, and the day before my husband was scheduled to have a vasectomy, I discovered I was pregnant and 15 weeks after that, I found out I would be having another son. I am not the person who "glows" when she is pregnant. I am the person who pukes - for nine months. I am diabetic and hypertensive and sore and did I mention the puking yet?

3 preschoolers, 2 needing me available and in tune at a far deeper level than most children need their parents, and a puking, pregnant, stuck in the middle of nowhere mother. Despite the absolute wonder of a new life joining our family, some days were hard.

And in the midst of the preparation for another new son, I worried. All the adoption books I had read advising about not adding more children too soon. The possible issues with biological and adoptive siblings flooded my mind. I worried about how Greg and Eric would feel. I worried that they think they weren't good enough so that we had gone ahead and had another biological child. I worried that others would think that. I worried that they were worrying that their place in our family would change with the arrival of a new child. I worried how I would cope with their needs and the demands of a new baby. I worried if they would be able to love another new brother.

I needn't have worried. My perfect moment memory is this picture of the boys meeting their baby brother for the first time, and the awe and love that overwhelmed them all.

Caden knit our family together in ways I couldn't imagine. He was "OURS". "He is all of ours from the very beginning", as Greg so eloquently explained to me one night. The one family member that had no transition issues, no "before" to process. Caden was simply born into our family the way it was. It was healing and amazing and Caden has brought us nothing but joy and many, many perfect moments since that day.

I am so thankful that God knew better than we did what our family needed. Caden was never a "mistake" and has always, always been a miracle.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Tough Letter to Write

I have had a stack of 60 pictures on my night stand for weeks. Sitting there. Waiting. They need to be sent. They were intended to be sent a long time ago to someone who is waiting for them impatiently. And still they sit.

Today I finally wrote the letter that I haven't had the words or the inclination to write that will go with the pictures. Our relationship with the kids birth father has tended to be happy-happy. ME so happy to hear from him because I know how important it is to the boys, HIM so happy to hear from us because he wants to know about the boys. So when you are clinging to contact and its so infrequent over the years, rocking the boat by addressing the tough stuff is sometimes hard to do.

It was time, however, for me to lay some things out for him that are bothering the boys. It was my job to toughen up and tell him the truth. I never want to hurt him, but if in not hurting HIM, I allow him to hurt the boys? That's far worse.

I ran this topic past adoptee friends, first parent friends, friends from the African American community and came to the determination that sometimes things left unsaid do more damage than saying the truth, with love, but truth none the less.

Why not have the boys write, some may ask? To be blunt, they never would. They would rather the relationship die out than to make the effort on their own. Contact from their first parents is so rare, so sparse, that to expect them at 13 and 14 to be able to write a letter and express their hurt and anger over a parents actions is simply too much of a burden to bare. Add to that the dynamic that this parent was also their abuser - the relationships are tenuous and for now, its my job as their mom to protect them, more than it is to protect the feelings of their first father.

The issue at hand? His refusal to use their last names in correspondence. I so can fathom his pain, the loss it must be to have to write a different last name for your child. A child once your "Junior" now carries the name of another father. A child named after a murdered cousin, now carries the name of another. And because I can fathom why it is so hard for him, I have let it go for years. But now the time has come where the boys scoff when the letters arrive, knowing that he won't acknowledge their reality - their truth. And so I wrote. Buried deep in a long, long newsy letter I tried to share my heart, but with as much honesty as possible.

G, I need to address some things with you and let you know its very hard
for me to do. Sometimes I like to pretend everything is wonderful
and never address the hard stuff, but sometimes doing that is wrong. **** I've deleted some other stuff going on in regards
to one of the boys wishes about contact ****

... Remember he is still just a kid and not able to yet understand
all the grown up issues. And from a parental perspective, the needs of the
adults HAVE TO come after the needs of the kids. Their needs have to be
the most important. This brings me to my third, and hardest, thing for me
to address with you. Greg and Eric both have a real problem with the fact
that you will never write their last name on the letters or cards you send to
them. I am going to assume its not a prison regulation thing, but rather a
choice on your part (correct me if I am wrong).

Greg, I understand how hard it must be for you to realize that they
no longer carry your name but I need to ask you to think of it from THEIR
perspective. They don’t remember ever being “B**s” – and that name, to
them, is associated with a horrible and sad period of their lives. They
were abused, seized by DFS, went through many traumatic things and then sat in
foster care for 3 years waiting for you and L to get things together enough to
parent them – all as B's. It was NOT their fault, nor ours, that the boys
were available to be adopted – but to them, adoption and their new last names
are VERY significant. It’s not their responsibility to help you process
your grief at the loss of your sons and the fact they now carry the name of the
man who gets to be their dad.

I can understand how hard it is for you to face, but if you could please
think of it from their perspective, I think it would help them. Greg
isn’t “Little Greg” or Greg Jr. anymore – he is Gregory J J , Eric isn’t
Eric B's, he is Eric R J. They don’t remember anything different and
what is important – the MOST important thing – is that is how they view
themselves. I so, so, so understand from your perspective that you
miss the little boys who were your sons, in every sense of the word – but if you
want to have a relationship with them someday understanding who they ARE will
help them accept you. I am sorry to say this so bluntly, but it’s an issue
to them, and I hate to see things building up for them, when maybe you had never
thought of it from their perspective.

G we love you and love the support you have given the boys – your words are
always encouraging and exactly what they kids need from you. I am sorry if
anything I have said in here is hurtful – that is NOT my intention, but its so
hard in a 5 minute phone call to address the tough stuff, even when it needs to
be said. I know you would have never, ever wanted this role or
imagined this situation when you first became a father. I know that
sometimes the consequences for your youthful choices must seem too
difficult to bear but I hope you know that always, always we put the needs of
the kids first. We love them with an undying, forever love, as we know you
love them too.

Hugs, prayers and many good wishes,

So, what do you think?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Teeny Tiny Signs of Spring

As my fellow bloggers share stories of their flowers and their spring planting plans, I decided you might enjoy the signs of spring when you live in the North.

#1) Filthy Snow: The once pristine snow turns brown, ugly and downright annoying. We have at least 2.5 feet of standing snow still in our yard, more in places. But what's left is ugly and lacking in any sense of beauty. Be gone.

My Driveway

2) "Break-Up": The 5th Canadian season. The time of year when the snow melts, the ground turns to mush and mud is everywhere.

It took me at least one "Break-Up" season here, far north of the temperate rain forest climate of Vancouver that I grew up in, to realize that people weren't referring to the end of their relationships. Up here, after Winter loosens its grip, but before Spring arrives, we endure this season. When you hear its break-up you know that means the forests are closed to logging until the roads dry out, and that means half our town is out of work.

#3) The Christmas Tree I threw 2 feet out the front door months ago, that was nicely concealed with a pretty layer of snow to hide our laziness from the neighbours is exposed. Exposed but still frozen solid into the snow beneath rendering it stuck for at least another three weeks. My red-neck roots exposed for all to see.

#4) Road Hockey. Its a National Pass-time and without a doubt the surest sign of Spring. The sticks have been dug out of the garage, the net dragged down the driveway and the 7 month long road hockey marathon begins. The neighbours SAY they miss it when the boys' games finish for the season, but on our otherwise childless street, I am not so sure they are telling the truth.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Day at the Beach

Our weather has been gorgeous lately. Gorgeous that is, if you like a clear blue sky and a slight breeze. But alas, it has also been cold. Still. AND STILL, AND STILL. We are in that strange time of winter where our temperatures plummit at night (-20C/ -4C) and are hovering just at a warm and balmy 0C / 32 F by mid afternoon. Mornings find us bundled up under scarf, gloves and coat and by the time the school day is done, coats are discarded and a trail of dirty water runs under the snow banks.

And yes, I am serious when I say coats are discarded. Its a sure sign you are surrounded by Canadian school children that when the snow begins to melt, the complaining begins. On the playground this week I have heard the following comments; "I am DYING from the SCORCHING hotness!!" and "There is NOTHING to do in the SUMMER" (this said by a child complaining about the inch of slush that is on top of the still very present 18 inches of snow!). I actually sent a capri pants wearing child inside at recess this morning because she seemed (amid strong protests) to be under dressed for the -15C / 5 F weather! She disagreed.

But I am not immune either from the pull of the warmer weather and gorgeous days. And so we headed out for a day at the beach. For comparison's sake, I show you our beach in June and our beach in February. For my southern friends who may not realize this truth - Lakes Freeze.

Summer on the Lake

February ON the Lake (quite literally)

We got out of the house. We ran. We slid. We thoroughly enjoyed the fresh air, the beautiful day and the time together. Who says it needs to be warm to enjoy the lake!

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Perfect Moment

Maybe you read my blog and know nothing about adoption. Maybe you have never parented a child that is complicated and interesting and tough and amazing and tiring. Maybe you have never dealt with Attachment Disorder and don't know anything about it. Maybe you don't even believe special needs exist.

But if you do, if you DO understand what its like, you will understand that when my son handed me this Valentine I promptly burst into tears. He had made it secretly and on his own, with no prompting from anyone. He wasn't expecting something in return or hoping to get out of trouble. He thought of it and made it on his own from candy he had received at school. My son made us a Valentine because he wanted to show us he loves us.

So if you don't know anything about adoption or have never parented a complicated, interesting, tough, amazing and tiring child it might just look like a piece of cardboard with some candy glued on it, but to ME, its the most beautiful Valentine in the Whole World.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

My Kids ROCK!

A weekend hockey summary ....

In our kids' hockey division there are two rounds of best of three games playoffs. This weekend was round one.

Friday night, Eric, accompanied by Shel, was playing in the city north of us. His team has had a ROUGH year with a nasty coach firing in the middle of it. The team Eric's team had to play to get on to the next round of the playoffs has, in teen speak "owned" them. Bad loss after bad loss with a few more bad losses thrown in. However, good things have been happening and the team has been rebuilding, practicing and coming on strong. All those efforts paid off when Eric's team beat theie nemesis in Game #1 on their home ice, 5 - 0. YEAH ERIC!!

At the same time, Greg's team was on the ice playing the Big City team. A Big City team means they have WAY more players to pick from and a larger talent pool to use, and as such, they usually, more often than not, completely dominate the smaller cities. Greg's team beat them 6-0.

Yahoooo!! Two shut outs in two games! Yeah boys!! One win down, one more to go to move on to the second round.

Saturday morning dawned with much tension in our house as Greg was completely focused on the games yet to play. If Greg's team lost this game, the final and deciding game would have to be played in Big City. It was not an option Greg wanted to face. He awoke exactly as the coach had instructed -- three hours before game time. He consumed a pefectly planned out breakfast exactly as mom had instructed. He paced. He growled. He wanted to play.

Big City Team came out flying and ready to avenge their humiliation of the night before. Greg's team struggled with a combination of nerves and over-confidence slipping behind two nothing by the middle of the second period. Greg was finally able to put his team on the board late in the second with a goal as he slid past the net on his stomach. It was exciting and woke his team up.

At the beginning of the third period, his team managed another goal and finally the game was scored. For 19 minutes the teams battled back and forth with a few scoring chances but nothing connecting. The stress was palatable. Big City Team was playing for their very hockey lives knowing that they were on the brink of elimination. Greg's team was playing for pride and the glory of winning on home ice.

Finally the coaches called a time out with less than a minute to play in the third period. I watched as Greg was put out to play. This is an honor for a kid the youngest player on his team. A visible sign that his coach sees his ability, his talent but also his determination and focus, and his faith in Greg was to be rewarded.

With 37 seconds left on the clock, Greg was perfectly positioned to receive a pass from behind the net and scooped the puck up behind the goalie and scored. I screamed my freaking head off as did every other parent in the stands (and so did the horde of teenage girls that now flock to his games, which is another post all together!). His team won. Big City eliminated!!! Greg the MVP of the series and he was one happy, happy boy!

Immediately after Greg received his accolades and was off the ice, we bundled into the van to head up to watch Eric face his opponent in the city further north. Again, his team "owned" the opposition, finishing with a 9-5 win over a shocked and disappointed team.

It was off to celebrate with good friends the victory of my hard working and talented boys. Most importantly, it means no hockey for Sunday. Thanks kids!.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentine's History at our House: Pink Supper

Valentine's Day is not necessarily a day for romance at our house. I suppose at one point or another it was, but I have no distinctive Romantic Valentine's Day Memories to share, so maybe not? As you might know, my much loved but slightly clueless husband tends to not think about these sorts of things. Ok, so he doesn't have so much as a spontaniously romantic bone in his body, but I can't really gripe this year because I got my Valentine's Day card on Thursday (three days EARLY!) and flowers too - that's DEFINITELY a first.

As an aside, I suppose the fear of public flogging on the blog if the Birthday of 2009 Debacle repeated might have had an influence on him. It might be the fact that guys he works with now read here? So - to be clear in particular to Paul S, Shel would like you to know he did buy me flowers and give me a card. And I thank you.

I must take part blame for the lack of romantic vision on Valentine's Day because I have firmly and forever turned it into a Children's Holiday in our home. First, its the kids that get the gifts, cards and special meal. In fact, I put more work into our Valentine's Day Dinner than I usually do for Christmas Dinner. Why? Well because EVERYTHING must be pink at Valentine's Day Dinner.

This started back when Shel and I were dating (that would be the dark ages for those that wonder!) and I made him his lunch for work. His heart shaped sandwhich had pink mayonaise and I filled his lunch kit with read and pink heart shaped confetti and stuck cherub and heart stickers all over his lunch pail. It should be noted here that Shel worked in a mill, with a bunch of "manly-men". Enough said. It's at this point in the story that I will point out he still married me.

So pink lunch, tacky confetti and stickers for my somewhat unappreciating husband morphed into pink supper, tacky confetti and stickers for my boys. Its a silly celebration in our house now, but one anticipated by those large and small. Pink mashed potatoes. Pink cheese sauce. Ham. Pink Milk. Pink Juice. Pink Jello. Pink. Pink. Pink. Pink Supper.

Now certain someones may claim that Pink Supper has made them sick from a toxic load of Red Food Coloring, but I beg to differ. The fact they puked for days afterwards was CLEARLY a flu bug. In the mean time I will searching out some carb free red food recipes for our Pink Supper of 2009 taking place on Sunday.

Why Sunday? Well Saturday we are at the rink. Surprise. Keep my boys in your thoughts, some BIG playoff games this weekend for them and in their words, they are "stoked". Hockey, hockey, hockey.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Day 10

Random thoughts after ten days with no coffee, Diet Coke and no carbs (ok, a few).

I was really hoping I would be skinny by now, alas I am not.

What's with having to pee all the time? Seriously!

Along the same lines - I think I am obsessed with my Ketostix. Nothing says progress like peeing on a stick. (and its been a LONG time since I have said THAT!)

I am running out of good ideas for food because when the whole family groans about having to eat steak AGAIN you have a problem.

I feel good. My energy level is fairly reasonable, I am not cheating, not even a little bit - unless you call that 2 carb piece of sugar free gum cheating.

I dreamt about cheese cake last night.

My children and husband are still alive, and husband is still eating like this along with me. Come the two week point, I think he is quiting. At that point, he is fair game. I am pretty sure that no judge would dispute that eating a potato chip in front of me would be reasonable grounds for divorce.

10 down ... 100 to go? UGH.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Parenting Thoughts: Sometimes the Little Things are Big Enough

One of the glaringly obvious things I did not realize about parenting until I was a parent is how much WORRYING parents do. I don't necessarily mean the staring at the ceiling, crying into your pillow sort of worrying, which comes with the big stuff, I mean the careful considering and weighing of options that parents do over the little issues.

Should I start to supplement formula?
Is it ok if the baby food is pre-made?
Oh My Goodness, I microwaved something in the sippy cup, is it toxic now?

And that's just a tiny sample of what crosses your mind before you really have to worry about "raising" your kids.

Nanny or daycare? Preschool or Play Group? Potty Training? Vaccinations? There are about three thousand points to consider for each question, and every good mom I know spends a great deal of time thinking about these questions and many, many more.

And then they start to grow up. And the worrying doesn't get smaller, if anything it gets worse. Schools, teachers, friends, influences, world view, community, family, education, death, crushes are all issues that cross my mind as I feel the weight of the responsibility of raising my boys into Honorable Men. And so I give you two examples of what is currently on my mind.

The Valentine's Day Dance. Our son asked to go, but knew the answer before he did. I know our position isn't necessarily going to be popular, or maybe even understood with some readers but because of our faith & value system, but the answer is no. (To be clear, I don't think dancing is in anyway wrong, its the sexually driven "Dance" atmosphere I have a problem with for early teens). Being told no is a hard thing to hear for a kid surrounded by friends allowed to go. Its hard for me to watch him deal with it, even if he does so without complaint.

He said to me this morning, weighed down with visible stress, "Mom its HARD to be the most popular kid in grade 8 ** apparently self esteem isn't an issue here ** in a school of 950 kids. It's hard not to be allowed to do this stuff." By "this stuff" he means swear, attend dances, date frivolously, and be disrespectful to teachers. I know. And I worry for him. I worry that we are making the right decisions. I worry that if I compromise on this issue he will feel our faith can be compromised too. I worry that I am showing a trustworthy kid that I don't really trust him. I worry that if he goes, he will be exposed and tempted by issues I am not ready for him to be exposed and tempted by. I worry that in my attempt to raise him right, I am harming him - holding him back from rites of passage I should be bearing through gritted teeth.

In my worry, I came up with a solution he could live with - instead of the dance, he and several other kids we know that aren't allowed or chose not to go will be going out with me for a night of fun and craziness. We've got the pool rented to take kayaking lessons. We will eat dessert (ok THEY will eat dessert, I am still under 20 carbs a day!! Yeah for ME!!). Maybe watch a movie? I hope its fun. I will worry from now until then that it won't be. That it won't be enough. That my son will be sad for what he is missing instead of appreciating what he has.

What will he remember about this weekend 10 years from now? That his mom was mean, strict and ruined his life and he should have been able to go to the Grade 8 Valentine's Dance? That believing in God and walking out your faith means life is boring? That his mom rocked and planned something fun for him because she loved him? That kayaking in the pool was a blast, and he won't even be able to recall why it was he took those lessons that freezing February day? I worry.

Quebec Trip. Tanner was signed up, registered and our deposit paid. He was thrilled, excited, planning and all set to go in May. And now he is not.

We got the final cost total on Friday and its double what we ever expected to have to pay. We simply cannot afford it. No excuses but many reasons and its just impossible for me to pay for it right now. Economy, hockey, 4 kids, rising costs and a dying van all mean the money, any extra money, just isn't there. And my heart breaks for the precious, deserving child I had to explain this too.

He was gracious and accepting and even feels like he made the decision to NOT go all by himself. I gently explained that I could send all 4 boys to summer camp for a WEEK for HALF the cost of sending him to go to Quebec for 5 days. That the price we would pay for his trip is double the worth of the car his father drives. Tanner is always anxious to please and he seems to understand that the trip is a luxury the family just can't afford. But I worry.
Is he hiding his great disappointment by stuffing his feeligns? Is he going to regret this lost opportunity well into adulthood? Will he feel deprived? Looked over? Will he know how loved and appreciated and valued he is and on that we could never put a dollar value?

Of course I came up with a compromise - Summer camp (one tenth the cost of the Quebec trip and now seems cheap by comparison), spending the week he was supposed to be in Quebec between my sister and his God Father, a couple of private lessons with a goalie coach.
Am I offerring bribes? Is this just cushioning the blow? Is it enough?

Most mothers, I am sure, wish they could be everything to their kids. Provide everything, give everything, teach everything, protect from everything. There is no greater job, but no heavier responsibility.
I wouldn't trade a minute of all this worry for anything. ANYTHING.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Cost of a Sport They Love

I realize that some of you that read my blog do so from areas that are NOT obsessed with hockey and you may wonder at my constant references to the sport that consumes my life. Hockey, in a Hockey Town, with 4 sons that PLAY hockey on 5 different teams means that a good portion of my life is spent at the rink, driving to the rink, working at the rink, warming up from the rink and most importantly financially supporting my kids' addiction.

The time cost is high, and for example since Friday my husband and I have been at the rink, (actually two rinks) combined, more than 24 hours. And its just 9 am Sunday morning. From September to March our life IS hockey. There are practices 5 days a week, and games every weekend. To sleep in past 5:30 on a Saturday morning means the kids celebrate having a "Late Game" that starts at 7:15 instead of 6:15. Three mornings during the week we are at the rink by 5:15 am. Two nights during the week we are there past 9:15, and that isn't counting weekend games. Yesterday morning required we be at the rink at 5:45 am and I stumbled home after my son's last game at 10:20 pm. I have friends who have been waiting to go out for coffee with me since October and the basket of unfolded socks is now two baskets.

The financial cost is also enormous. On top of registrations fees, rep team fees, travel fees, fund raising costs your kids have to wear specialized equipment. Hockey gear when our kids were little was not all that expensive. We hit hockey swaps. We hit up friends with older kids. Our kids wore hand-me-downs quite happily. Once we were even given some brand new gear by the Kids Sport Foundation. All in all, the sport sucked us in and we were blindly unaware of the extent of the cost of this habit as time progressed. Then, surprisingly, the boys got bigger and better and rougher and no longer would second hand equipment or cheap free-bees work.

Last summer we were fortuitously able to get a VERY GOOD DEAL on some VERY EXPENSIVE SKATES for son #1. I won't even tell you how much they are worth because its practically embarrassing but needless to say, they were worth more than my first junker car. The hope was that we could pass them down to the smaller boys as time went on.

I forgot that Son #1 plays very, very physical hockey. He needs, essentially, pro level gear now because nothing else stands up to him. I provide for you evidence of what one 13 year old can do to a VERY EXPENSIVE PAIR OF SKATES in 5 months of hockey, and why I scoff when family members suggest we just go down to the local discount sports store and pick him up the $89 specials.

These are his very expensive skates. Last week the toe busted out completely and yesterday the BLADE (the very expensive, high performance, carbon blades I would point out) BROKE!! (see the top skate?)

And if anyone has a line on some cheap, good quality hockey gear, drop me a line! 4 boys + 1 pay cheque = COMPLETELY BROKE PARENTS!!!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Days of Significance: Part Two

A while back I wrote with a deep appreciation that every day was a day of significance. I can talk about that with the assurance of a woman who supposes that she has many days of significance ahead. The privilege of raising my children. The privilege of loving on future grandchildren. The privilege of living each day thinking there are many days ahead.

Now imagine that you realize every MOMENT was significant because your days to come are few. A year or so ago I stumbled upon the blog of a mom of two little girls, then 10 and 7. She was facing her third diagnosis of cancer with a sharp wit, much hope and the intent and will to beat it.

I've watched, and read, as she has changed and accepted her days of significance are going to be far fewer than anyone deserves. Its heart breaking and fascinating as an outsider to watch someone quit sweating that which is really the small stuff - job, money, anger, frustration - and simply accept that each moment is significant. Her blog has morphed from angst over medical coverage (Thanking God, truly, I am Canadian with universal medical coverage), the annoyances of chemo, inconsiderate workmates that that which is truly significant to all of us, at the heart of it. Her friends, her husband, her daughters - truly that which matters every moment, but especially when your moments are finite.

As a mom, I can feel her fear for her daughters and her attempts to do right by them. As an adoptive mom I understand, more than many I suppose, the pain that her daughters will go through because I have helped my sons process the loss of two mothers and I see the grief first hand. It will break your heart, but its worth it if you remember Today Is Significant.

Go read. Honor Lisa's Moments of Significance. Remember your own.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

They're Trying to Take My Baby!!!

Ok so its not as if there are masked men beating down my door, these baby stealers are far, far more insidious and sneaky. They send letters. TO MY CHILD. Addressed to him. My barely out of diapers CHILD (ok so that is a bit of a large exaggeration but ... STILL!!!) Sneaky, baby stealing letters.

What are these horrible letters you might ask??? They are letters from JUNIOR A HOCKEY ASSOCIATIONS. Letters of INVITATION to "Prospect Camps". They use flattery. They use incentives. They use pretty pictures.

And they invite him to try out for teams FAR, FAR, FAR away. From ME.

I was under the illusion that he couldn't be scouted for another year. These letters tell me I was in denial. Am I conflicted? Heck yeah!

Proud? Absolutely!! Overwhelmingly so! This is a huge thing for a 14 year old in a hockey crazy town, in a hockey crazy province, in a hockey crazy country.

Scared? Absolutely!! The team that invited him out today is at least a 12 hour drive (and ferry ride) from our home.

Confused? Yah think?? This is his dream. To "make it". To get these opportunities, and who am I to deny my child their dream? But then there is reality, his dream means that he will have to leave home early. This is a kid who ARRIVED home late. What is the wisdom in letting a child who experienced much in his early childhood leave home so young? It's our job as parents to protect him, even from himself. What 14 year old wouldn't want to be asked to play for a team that would undoubtedly be a huge stepping stone for him? Would he regret that we let him as an adult and ask why we didn't stop him? Is he sacrificing his childhood for a sport? Would he hate us for denying him the chance?

Yes, I am jumping about twelve steps ahead of where I need to be because in reality its very, very different from being asked to come out and being asked to play, but it is these thoughts that flood my head when this happens because this is only the first of several invitations to come.

No easy answers. So today I am proud, and scared and wonder what the future holds for my talented baby boy.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Stay the Blankety Blank OUT OF MY WAY

If I seem a bit grouchier or heck downright miserable right now, I figure its fair warning to let you all know I have given up caffeine.

And not just caffeine in general, but the LIQUID ELIXIR OF THE GODS - Diet Coke. Yes, that staple in my diet. The drink I have been known to consume with my rice crispies before 9am. The drink i have in my coffee cup at school every afternoon. The fuel that keeps me going.

Gone. Done. Kaput. Replaced with some watery caffeine free version until I can break the habit completely.

Add to that, my morning cup of coffee, mentioned previously as being the BEST part of my day? Replaced with a decaffeinated version fit for the dog.

And in case that wasn't enough? Carbs too. Gone. So yeah, this is a house of fun and pleasure at the moment. Be warned.

Why you may ask? Well that little cow vs. husband vs. motorcycle accident from the summer resulted in some unexpected side effects for my dear junk food loving, diet hating Shel, namely he has turned into a slightly "fluffier" version of himself. For me, its a constant battle that I lose unless I have free time to spend at the gym. Free time? Yeah. Not happening right now either.

And so we are kick starting ourselves into being slimmer, trimmer, slightly grouchier versions of ourselves. Hopefully our marriage survives and the damage to our children can be undone by a year or two of therapy.

In the mean time, I would kill for some good low carb chocolate and am on the hunt for effective pain relief for this KILLER head ache I have going on. SO STAY THE HELL OUT OF MY WAY!!!!

If you don't hear from me for a while, you might take into consideration that my husband has a large shop with a lock on the door and it doesn't have internet access. He promises he will let me out when the ravings stop.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Adoption Thoughts: You're Thinking Too Much

You know you are thinking about adoption too much when you diagnose your dog with Reactive Attachment Disorder.

We are a dog family and a cat allergy in two of the boys has cemented that reality. We have had a few dogs, and although I started out writing this thinking only one has had a diagnosable disorder, I think I am underestimating our lack of doggy luck.

"Our" first dog, Kemper, was eight years old when we got her but she transitioned fairly seamlessly into our then small family. She had been loved, cared for and trained by her previous owner who was retiring and wanted her to be in a home with a yard rather than a small apartment. Her attachment to me took time, but it was firm and relatively painless to achieve. Well behaved and much loved she kept me company during those early years of marriage before children arrived and while Shel worked shift work.

Maybe due to her age, and maybe due to her disposition as a Blue Heeler/Border Collie, she always thought of the children as a responsibility to be tolerated rather than companions to enjoy. She was decidedly "my" dog and not the boys. She was already 11 when the kids started arriving, and as she aged, we realized her tolerance of children was deteriorating as her arthritis spread. By the time Caden began to crawl we knew the wise decision to protect the baby, and prevent Kemper from being hurt, was to put her down. Then Daisy, the dough head, arrived.

This disaster in doggy parenting came in the form of a pure bred Golden Retriever puppy. Daisy's mother had been rescued from a puppy mill run by an absentee psycho American owner who vacationed every summer on his ranch in our area, only to abandon his animals every winter. He returned to bury the bodies of the dead in the spring and "replenish" his stocks. When finally his dogs and horses were seized by the animal cruelty officers, one of the survivors was pregnant. By the special needs in her pups, we assume she was pregnant by her brother, who was probably also her cousin, nephew, uncle and quite possibly her father as well.

Daisy and her litter mates were as cute as they were dumb. Two died from seizure disorders. One ran INTO a moving train. One was hit by a car. Daisy was a chewer and completely, totally and thoroughly untrainable. She ate everything, and in a house with 4 boys and two teenager foster daughters, there was plenty to find and destroy. After she ate the hamster, knocked Eric down the stairs and broke his arm, ate two bikes, the high chair, numerous rolls of toilet paper and every single toy or shoe ever left out for a moment, and then developed the habit of barking incessantly if she was ever put outside, we decided she needed a higher level of "therapeutic parenting" than we could provide. Off went Daisy to a farm. No, really. It wasn't just a story we told the boys, we interviewed and found a "more suitable rehoming situation" for our dog. Eventually those owners had to have her put down as her untrainability turned out not to be a reflection of our inadequate doggy parenting abilities but rather her absolute brain dead idiocy!

The Daisy Disaster and still missing Kemper resulted in me making a "pet free" house declaration to the boys. Eric begged. And begged. And begged. Finally, after 4 years of begging, we began to look for a new dog just for Eric. She was to be a reward for his improving responsibility and behavior. At first glance, we thought we had found the perfect addition; Jack Russell, 3 years old, trained and small enough to be an easy inside dog. We were greatly underestimating the needs of our new addition (sort of like some pre-adoptive parents!) and you might see where this little tale is going.

Annie was a rescue dog (the fact she was rescued from my mother is a whole other story!). We were her third home in 3 years and she had been highly under socialized before she arrived in our highly socializing home. She had crazy behaviors we weren't fully aware of and deep seeded insecurities of abandonment based on her past. You might call it a sort of "foster care dog adoption". Little did I know how much my previous experience with fostering attachment in our sons would carry over into our dog.

We knew going in that we had no "out" with Annie. She was Eric's dog and we could never, ever admit defeat and decide that she couldn't stay with us anymore. I think it's that determination that got us through the next year or so of helping our Attachment Disordered Dog to "heal". Upon her arrival, Annie took one look at our crazy family and decided she was mine, or rather I was hers.

Now if you saw a child clinging to his new parents, you might assume the child was expressing his love and attachment and be happy for the family. For those of us in the know, we realize that this usually means a child has an "insecure attachment". Annie exhibited strong signs of an insecure attachment to me, never leaving my side, becoming frantic if I was out of sight, working herself into a state of frenzy if access to me was denied. She could puke on demand if too upset, and worse, punish any indiscretion on my part (like needing to grocery shop) by having explosive diarrhea throughout the house.

She chewed her way out of plastic kennels, bent the bars of a metal kennel, broke a window, chewed off door jams, ran several kilometers seeking me (and finding me) at a friend's house. She demanded my undivided attention, and thought the children were a threat to her status and needed to be eliminated; or at least reminded they were below her.

Through patience, retraining, discipline and the fortuitous happenings that I was now homeschooling the boys and we were home all the time with her, (and a BRIEF stint on Ativan at the suggestion of the vet) she slowly began to relax. SLOWLY. It was a worry when I went back to work in September that Annie would fall apart. It has been hard on her and in fact, she does sit in the front window the entire day watching the road for my vehicle to return, but she now believes that I will come home. She no longer needs to get sick with worry. She no longer destroys things when her frustration and fear get too much. She has a secure attachment.

Chalk another success up for Attachment Therapy.