Thursday, December 31, 2009

Nifty Blog Review

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

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

Oh What a Year

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

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

But, let's start at the beginning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 28, 2009

Hockey Indoctrination Starts Early Here

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

Big bro helping out his little sis.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mama Got a New Camera

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

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

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

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Very Merry Day

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Letter 2009

Dear Friends and Family,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 18, 2009

Living in the Shadows

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My Mother in Law I am not!

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

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

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

And then we left the house.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Perfect Gift

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

She made my day!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Only Here ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Super Mom Reality

Scene 1:

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

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

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

Scene 2:

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

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

Smell miraculously disappears. Lesson learned.

Scene 3:

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

Cleaning my bathroom waits for another day.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Christmas Letter Out-takes

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

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

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