31 December 2009

Moving Day

Today is the day, folks. Moving day that is.

I haven't been coming to the Humpty Dumpty House of late because it no longer feels like home. Just like one can find that they've outgrown a pair of pants, not in terms of size but in terms of style, I don't feel compelled to blog here anymore.

Yes, our house is still a crap-trap falling apart and in need of repairs. We're half of the way through fixing the disaster we purchased and hope to be able to finish the repairs in 2010. Today, it's no longer overwhelming. Somehow, it has become manageable.

We've even got the kids now. They're adopted and it's finalized. Nearly three years in that's become manageable, too. Even enjoyable most days. Except when Bella is in high teenage drama mode about applying to the local arts high school and Bubaloo pulls out a toy gun that looks frighteningly real on the school bus. Those days suck. Hard.

So on the eve of a new decade, I don't think I'm done blogging, I'm just done blogging here. For now, the journey of the Humpty Dumpty House ends. It picks up somewhere new.

If you'd like to follow along at the new blog, leave a comment or drop me an email at gumshoegirl [at] gmail [dot] com.

Here's to health, happiness and being grounded in all the forthcoming years.

31 August 2009

When Your Heart Swells and Swoons

There are moments when you fall more in love with your wife and kids.

I asked the kids to stand in the hallway closet so that I could chart their growth over the past 6 months. We discovered that they’ve each grown a respective 3 inches. Suddenly the flooding pants make sense. The dryer didn’t shrink their clothes. They’re just taller.

Bubaloo is playing competitive football. The only reason he’s actually on the team and sees some field time is because they don’t have enough players. In a game situation, he’s required to play at least once each half. (I thought football was played in quarters, but I guess the rules for the kids stipulate halves.)

My formerly over-the-top aggressive kid who had to be pulled from team sports for being too aggressive just stands and cowers on the field. He runs away from the kids who try to tackle him. He hasn’t quite yet discovered, despite our repeated efforts, the law of physics that could turn his small stature into a huge benefit. For now, he ends up in the way or is tripped over and that in and of itself has led to a few touchdowns for his team.

Bella has a boyfriend. Or she has two boyfriends. We’re not quite sure. She left the school year with a boyfriend, L., but she wasn’t quite sure if they were a couple anymore. They weren’t really talking, they didn’t walk home from school anymore, and by the end of July we had to ask, “So how long do you not talk to someone before you can say with certainty that they’re not your boyfriend anymore?”

L. called the very next day. They talked about stuff. Not about their relationship. So it wasn’t till she came home from camp and now called a boy named K. her boyfriend where we were really confused. Did K. know about L.? Did L. know about K.? Were they having an open relationship? Was everyone okay with this?

At times like these you have to remember not to place your adult frame of reference and relationship understandings on your kids. Simply, Bella totally forgot about L. That he was her first boyfriend. That he existed at all.

We went through a lesson on honesty and transparency and let her know she should do right by both boys and clarify her intentions.

She picked up the phone to call L. She didn’t have his phone number. She doesn’t know where he lives. He won’t be at the same school tomorrow as he is going into grade nine. I suppose you can’t officially break up with someone you can’t locate.

Yesterday was pride and it involved our kids convincing various merchants to give them lots and lots of balloons that were attached to their booths. I was too busy enjoying my beer and hanging out with Wifey and the gay boys to be too concerned about how they were actually doing the convincing.

They had collected so many helium balloons that we knew were never going to fit into our car. That’s why when they each lost a few strands the adults were okay with it despite our kids’ devastation. Total tear fest about how unfair it was to watch their helium balloons float up to the sky.

Since we came home, Bubaloo has been entirely unwilling to relinquish his last strand of rainbow coloured balloons. They go everywhere in the house with him. Even to the bathroom.

So when he piled on to our bed last night to quietly read before bed, the balloons came too. Wifey somehow came to hold on to them.

As he quietly read cuddled at the foot of the bed with the dog, Wifey drifted into sleep. Glasses on. Book on chest. Icepack on her injured back. And holding on to the strand of pride balloons.

21 July 2009

Dog Days of Summer

Every summer I wait for it to happen. I wait for that particular feeling that comes. The one where you know it is summer. The feeling you get when you’re in the midst of the dog days of summer.

Bright sunny days. Warm dry heat that wraps your skin. Sweat that trickles from your brow. Hot black pavement that burns your feet. Sounds of crickets fill the air. Ice cream quickly melting into a drippy stream on your fingers. Endless quest for a neighbourhood pool. Kids laughing on bikes while streamers fly through the air. A pail full of frogs. Drinking cold water from a hose. Reading a book under a large shady tree in the middle of the afternoon. Tall, cool glasses of lemonade or ice tea. Smells of BBQ waft through the air. Packs of kids roam through the neighbourhood inventing new games to play. Freedom. Lazy. Leisurely. Ensuing boredom.

When I think of my childhood, this is the montage that plays in my mind. Conversely, when I look at my kids’ summers, this is the montage we’re creating for them.

Scheduled weekdays and unscheduled weekends. Family rafting trip. Endless summer day camps both general and themed. Sleep-away summer camp. Family camping trip. Hikes to Gatineau park. Room cleaning. House cleaning. Bike ride around the street. Ice cream. Rain. More rain. Gardening. Feeding spiders. BBQ. Video game playing. Absence of other kids outside scheduled programs.

I love summer and I long for the days where neighbourhood kids could run wild and roam the streets. When neighbourhoods were full of kids who knocked on each others doors and called one another out to play. I think my kids could have that, only there aren’t really any kids in our neighbourhood.

Across the street, there are two kids the same age as ours, only they aren’t full fledged residents as they visit their Dad on alternating weekends. When around, the sibling pairs are only able amuse each other for an hour or so before their interests diverge. There is another sibling group around the corner, but they’re Francophone. While they speak English, they’re not in the least bit impressed that our kids are unilingual, and have no desire to include Anglophones in their social group. There’s only one other girl on the street, and while she’s the exact same physical age as Bella, maturity wise she’s about 2-3 years ahead.

As a result of a playmate drought, our kids entertain themselves and play with one another. In and of itself, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Our kids have incredible imaginations that they exercise through The Game and other kid-inspired forms of entertainment. It’s just that, gulp, they never really, really, really get bored.

I was bored as a child. After a few weeks, the endless days of finding stuff to do left me unstimulated. I constructed elaborate fantasies about attending a sleep-away summer camp. But, I was never allowed to go. I imagined have the opportunity to go to day camps, but those were few and far between. Instead, my mother hired a nanny from Quebec to care for me and my two siblings in the summer. The nanny took the job to work on her English, which meant that she spent very little time being able to actually interact with us for the majority of the summer.

Inadvertently, I’ve constructed the summers of my dreams for my kids rich with summer camps and family trips and lacking elements from the nostalgic montage I constructed above.

02 July 2009

Photo Post

There's been no time for blogging lately because my life has been consumed with the spring sports season which finally came to a close last weekend.

We've never put the kids in high time investment activities at the same time before. With football being 5 weeks and softball 7, we thought we'd give it a try. All of this sporting added about 10 hours a week in additional commitments to our already busy schedule. It was exhausting, but worth it.

Can you just eat up this cuteness?


It wasn't always cute, however. There were many memorable "you're going to football, dammit" moments.

Thankfully, football only happened on weekends. Softball, on the other hand, happened on both weekends and weeknights. Games that started at 6:00 pm. Who has time to pick up your kids, get them fed, try to squeeze in some homework and get out to a field when your own workday doesn't end until 5:00 pm? Especially, since at least one game of the week was 20 or 30 minutes from our house.


We developed a strategy. We always made practice and one (conveniently located) game each week.

Softball with pre-teen/teen girls was an adventure unto itself. I give the coach ultimate praise for enduring. There's nothing more comical than missed catches because the girls' were too busy talking. Or, they weren't wearing their gloves.

Ever so the recreational league, the coach developed a habit of not telling them which team won the game until it was over and they had completed their regularly scheduled lecture on how they needed to support each other better as a team instead of playing or eating when they were waiting to bat or sitting off an inning. Funny thing is that score never really mattered to the girls. Not one of them ever bothered to keep score themselves. They never asked the parents, coach or ref what the score was throughout the game. They were always pleasantly surprised when they won. And, they didn't really care if they lost.

Bella and Buballo's biggest fan? My #1 pooch.


05 June 2009

Things That Go Thump in the Night

I’m not sure what made me do it, but I’m glad that I did. I secured the hotel room door with both the lock and the bolt.

On Saturday evening after we returned from a family wedding, the kids were all tucked in their hotel beds, while I snuck in a little reading time before turning out the lights.

At 1:16 am, I was woken by a loud “guh-gunk” noise. Repeatedly. In quick succession.

It took me a moment to realize that unlike the night before when I was awoken at 2:00 am by a bunch of kids having a tailgate party outside my hotel room window that this noise was coming from inside the hotel room.

It was Bubaloo. At the hotel room door. Trying to get to the bathroom to pee. Only, he had mistaken the hotel room door for the bathroom door.

He was sleepwalking. Totally unaware of his surroundings. He had somehow managed to turn the lock on the door, but had not managed to unfasten the deadbolt.

I crawled out of bed to re-direct him to the bathroom. He did the rest of his business in the toilet after having done the first part of his business in his PJs. I wrangled him into clean-ish, non-wet PJs, and he crawled back into bed still sound asleep.

I was between extreme laughter and terror. What if he had of got out of the hotel room and peed in the hallway? How would he have got back into the room once the door had automatically locked behind him?

All I could imagine was this little sleepwalking boy wandering up and down the hallway of the Super 8 peeing on various peoples’ door (and frankly if he had of got out that wouldn’t be too far from the truth). I was simultaneously amused and horrified of how far he could have walked and what could have happened to him. How does one return a boy who is totally unconscious of his surroundings in a strange, unfamiliar place to the room where he is supposed to be?

This is the stuff that family legends are made of.

01 June 2009

Coming Out to the Birth Family

When we adopted our two children at the ages of 9 and 11, they had to come out twice. In no particular order on their first day at their new school, they came out as having lived in foster care and as being adopted into a household with two moms. They moved in on a Monday, started a new school on Wednesday, and hadn’t even had time to consider which aspects of their lives they would and would not immediately want to make public to their new classmates and teachers.

We had screened both of our potential home schools for their familiarity and experience with same-sex and adopted families. Neither of them had any. The deciding factor about which public school to send our children to was made when the principal spent an hour talking with me instead of dealing with a child who had been sent to the office for some behavioural infraction which she happily told me all about. We choose the other school.

As parents, we want to protect our children from homophobia and every discrimination they may face throughout their childhood - from being taunted in the playground to losing play dates. We strive, as much as possible, to keep their interactions with those who may not be accepting of our family to a minimum.

Since we adopted Bella and Bubaloo the biggest ‘outing’ I’ve been dreading is the one that would happen at the time of the birth parent reunion. This is the ultimate coming out that could go either way and result in acceptance or damage to our family unit.

Our kids always made it clear that when they were 18 they’d like to find their birth mom. We’ve always been supportive of that.

The files Children’s Aid had on our kids didn’t exactly make it easy for us to assess the possible tolerance and acceptance levels of the kids’ birth families.

Looking at religion alone, we were presented with a mixed bag. The grandparents’ who primarily raised the kids were Mormon. Bella herself, without any actual knowledge of the religion and how it works, identifies as Mormon. The files on their birth mom, however, revealed that at the time she handed over custody she identified her religion as Pagan.

Socioeconomic and education levels, if one were to make a sweeping judgement, were more likely to reside on the side of intolerance.

We reviewed the paperwork trying to elucidate further clues, with no success. The only thing we were sure of was that it would be a gamble to try to predict how the birth family would react to having Bella and Bubaloo being raised by two lesbian moms. With a safe seven years to pass between the adoption and the first probable contact with the birth families, we pushed it aside to reside in the deal-with-it-much-later-when-it-happens file.

One year later we were found by their birth mom. This was six years ahead of schedule.

Within moments of speaking to her on the phone, we came out. Her reaction? She was pleased. Happy, actually. She never disclosed to Children’s Aid that she was a bisexual and she thought it was great that her kids had coincidentally been placed in a household that would embrace and celebrate that part of her personal identity.

As the kids grappled with having two moms, their sometimes desire to have a dad, and how different they were from their peers in yet another dimension in addition to being adopted, we relished the moment that we were able to share that little piece of knowledge.

Knowing that their birth mom was bisexual, that they too could have been raised in a household with two moms had of they stayed with their birth mom, gave them a little injection of strength. It made the outspoken Bella a little bit more outspoken. It made Bubaloo, who was having a hard time at school with teasing, a little more proud.

This kids talked to their birth mom last month on the phone. For the first time in nearly six years.

They talked about lots of things. Activities they liked, favourite colours and foods. They reminisced about pets and family members. They shared stories of the things they do with their new forever family and adventures we have now.

It was casual the way they were able to talk about their adoptive family with two moms. It was no big deal. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just another day.

There was no big 'outing,' for which I'm grateful.

This post is in honour of the 4th Annual Blogging for LGBT Families over at www.Mombian.com.

19 May 2009

Learning Patience Through a Garden Retrospective

I'm not a very patient person. I've never pretended to be. This ongoing litany of gardening projects, however, has helped me to cultivate me a dose of patience.

Gardening grounds me. I'm learning to wait from season to season to see how plants emerge, unfold and fit together. I'm learning to embrace labours that have no finite beginning and end.

When you're in the thick of it, you think that things have to happen immediately. When you step back and reflect, you realize that 3, 6 or 12 months is often a short amount of time to have completed all of this gardening change.

In 2006, this is what the front of our house looked like. We moved in that past fall and were excited to see what the garden would hold. Thank goodness for online photosharing because I hadn't saved this anywhere, but given that the irises are up, this was taken late May/early June (two weeks later than the rest of the images in this series.

Front Garden 2006
Front Garden 2006

What a mess! But, a lush mess nonetheless. What you can't see is that most of the green is a wild violet that we've spent the better of two years trying to eradicate. The pine tree in the middle was a intentional victim of the foundation waterproofing later that year.

One year later, the garden is bare. Very, very bald and naked by the foundation. We've pulled some things we didn't like. Maybe we added a plant here and there.

Front Garden 2007
Front Garden 2007

Another year passes and the garden sees more change. The evil wild violet is nearly gone, so now the bottom part of the garden near the road is empty. We've put in some plantings near the foundation that really haven't grown yet so they look puny. I love Lady's Mantle, Wifey love moss, so we've planted some of that.

Front Garden 2008
Front Garden 2008

We also really wanted a fence, not only as a nice little hardscaping feature, but we to let our dog out to roam freely in the backyard. I designed the fence and had it custom built. The basketball net is big and pops. It isn't supposed to be a landscaping feature, but it is. Something for me, something for the kids.

Now entering our fourth summer, more change abounds.

The foundation plants were all wrong so we ripped the three Emerald Gaiety euonymus out. In their place, we've planted three false cypresses and are plagued by "mini plants need to grow" syndrome. I finally got a Japanese Maple (see it poking out around the maple) and the mock orange that is now entering its 3rd summer is getting quite big and may actually produce some heavenly flowers this June.

Front Garden 2009
Front Garden 2009

We also decided that our garden was quite lackluster in the spring. I've begun to plant tulips and daffodils to put on a show. My limit is about 30-40 bulbs per year because digging them in, and amending clay soil, while trying to obscure all activity from squirrels isn't fun.

Front Garden from a Different Vantage 2009

It's looking lush and spring like. Well, that was two weeks ago when I took this picture. Now there's weeds. Lots of weeds taking over. Thank goodness I don't mind weeding, sorta.