30 December 2007

How to Make Friends

Our kids have really poor social skills. Like really bad. Their skills are so bad I'm no longer surprised by the immense difficulties they experience at school and in other social settings.

Bella is a bossy, know-it-all, control freak. Bubaloo is a belligerent, belittling and downright mean dude. While we, as their parents, know where these issues come from, other children do not and do not have the patience to stick it out.

We had an inkling about what they were experiencing at school and having seen them play with the neighbours over the past few days, I'm horrified at how bad they are. I'm not even sure after yesterday if the new neighbours will even play with them again. They are no longer friends with the handful of other kids who live on our street.

Our kids just can't seem to make friends or acquaintances, and without the ability to befriend other kids, how will they ever learn how to build a friendship?

We've put them in extracurricular activities. No click. We sent them to summer camp. No click. We've arranged play dates with other kids from LGBTQ families. No click. They go to school everyday. And still, no click. How do we help these munchkins?

We repeatedly re-visit what makes a good friend. Because often the kids they choose to hang around with don't inspire the best behaviours in our children. We see our kids being used for some troublesome purpose (like stealing chocolate bars out of a cupboard at school) or engage them in unbalanced friendships (like only being a friend when everyone else is mad at you) which negatively impact our kids.

Yeah, kids can be pretty cruel. But in turn, we know our kids dish it out back. Or, dish it out first.

Neither child has ever had a single good chum. And, we're at wits end to help them develop the skills they need to help them out. How do you help your kids negotiate the intricacies of friendship?

16 December 2007

Predicting the Future

Three nights ago a friend came for a visit. As we sat around the dining room table, Bella took an interest in her necklace. After commenting that it was pretty, I encouraged Bella to ask more questions about it.

Our friend revealed that the symbol on the necklace was a pentacle - a pagan symbol.

Bella's eyes lit up and she was so excited that she momentarily lost her words. When she found them again she blurted out, "But I'm a pagan, too!" And, um, part Moron to make that an interesting combination.

Bella's birth mom was a pagan; her grandparents Mormon. Which in her mind makes her religion 50/50, despite the inherent contradiction of the two belief systems and the fact that she's never practiced either.

Sharing a little bit of her pagan roots with our friend, Bella somehow got onto the topic of Tarot cards. Our friend let us know that she used to read them for money on the streets of Toronto. Eventually, the skill was laid to rest because it was tedious to constant predict one's career path or if one's true love was to be the person met casually the night before while downing drinks at a bar.

Bella raced up to her room and grabbed her deck of cards. These were cards that Wifey had given to her for her 12th birthday. Since the cards were gifted, they had been shuffled and gazed at, but never read. Bella didn't really take to reading the book that came with the deck to explain what the cards meant.

The Tarot cards came out and were divided into major and minor arcana. Bella was given instructions to pick up the major arcana pile, shuffle them and to ask a question. Bella asked her question in her head.

As three cards were flipped over to tell Bella her past, present and future in the context of her question, her eyes became increasingly wide. An abbreviated version of the dialogue would simply state that in the past it wasn't an option, in the present it was not so likely to happen and the future was open to possibility. The reading was punctuated with a detailed questioning of the symbols on each card.

Bella was thrilled at her reading. Bursting with excitement. She then offered to share her question with us.

I was sure her question was going to relate to adoption or to our future as a family.

Bella spoke. And, this is what she said. It was spoken in earnest seriousness. "I asked if I would ever have wings."

I looked at Bella and then looked at my friend. I was speechless and was momentarily incapacitated to deal with this unexpected curve ball. My friend, however, was not speechless and thank goodness thought on her feet.

After explaining that Tarot wasn't necessarily a literal interpretation or response to a question and that getting wings could mean one day she would be a pilot or find herself on a plane or perhaps be a genetic scientist who would engineer wings, Bella looked at us both as if we were stupid.

"I didn't mean wings as in a pilot. I meant wings, right here, on my back," as she pointed to the spot where the cards had predicted wings would grow.

She said it in a tone as if we didn't know what on earth we were talking about. She said it in that voice used by incredulous teenagers. And not willing to listen to anything further about the matter, she left the table with the whole air of how us adults know nothing and she'd show us the day she'd fly by our window with wings on her back.

06 December 2007

02 December 2007

The Swish in His Hips

Our little one is a wee bit swishy. In the best possible way.

It comes out when he dances or plays imaginary games with his sister. When we engaged all of the kids at a family wedding earlier this fall in a game of charades, he was the best supermodel of the bunch. He could work a runway better than a top ranked model, but less model and more queen.

At dinner parties, we like to speculate on the outcome of his sexual orientation. He has this dash of gay, but is oh-so-not-so-gay at the same time. We can't make him. And, so we wait and watch for him to make himself.

Keeping with the ambigousness of children's sexual orientations, we talk about all relationships in hypotheticals with him - "When you bring home a girlfriend or boyfriend..." or "What kind of things do you think makes a good girlfriend or boyfriend..." He sometimes talks about cute girls at school and other times he talks about his future with a girlfriend or boyfriend.

We've tried to make it clear for both kids that it doesn't matter to us whether or not they end up gay or straight. For a while there, Bella was feeling a tortured by the fact that she likes boys.

All of this came forth in a very interesting conversation on the drive home from a marathon candy shopping trip in preparation to the holiday building of a gingerbread village.

Piping up from the backseat in a most conflicted and endearing voice, Bubaloo asked me if I would promise not to ever embarrass him in front of a girlfriend. After clarifying whether he meant "intentionally embarrass" or "embarrass him by my mere existence and breathing in the same room," I discovered that he doesn't yet have a girlfriend but lots of prospects as there are a plethora of cute girls at his school.

As with all relationship conversations, we encourage our kids to explore what would make a good partner.

After reiterating his top priority, the cuteness of the girl in question of course, he shared his second need. He wants a girlfriend who won't make fun of him because he has two moms.

I nearly slammed on the brakes to turn around and face him to gauge the seriousness of the comment. Instead, I just looked in the rear view mirror and saw that he was dead serious.

Bubaloo has been experiencing some teasing in the past few weeks and is feeling incredibly self-conscious about his family. He loves his family in the comfort of his home, and shifts uncomfortably in the playground with his peers.

After affirming that respect is an important part of any relationship, I asked him what else would make a good girlfriend.

The next important value came someone who is nice, followed by someone who would do his homework. He was pulling my leg with this last one. I then asked him to think about how it might be important to have a girlfriend who would like similar things or like things that they could do together. In the end, he decided that this wasn't too important to him.

In recapping the list of the four important attributes of a girlfriend or boyfriend, Bubaloo stopped on number two again.

"I could have a girlfriend or boyfriend," he said deep in thought. "The good thing about a boyfriend is that he wouldn't care if I have two moms."

"Um, yes, that's right Sweetie," I said. "I don't think your boyfriend would be too concerned about you having two moms. But, it's also important that any girlfriend you have not care about you having two moms, either."

11 November 2007

Remembering Our Family

A year ago today, we met our children for the first time. Only at that time, they were only our possibly-maybe-future-children.

We received a phone call late in the evening of November 10 from the foster parents. They had been given a green light from their social worker to set up a rendez-vous with us.

See, as par for the adoption course, and especially with older children, the first meeting is set up to look like a chance meeting. You may go to a park, sit on a bench, and watch the child play. This is an observation meeting. The child is never to know you're there and never know who you could possibly be to them. From this, you're supposed to get a better feel if there's going to be a fit.

Since Wifey knew the Foster Mother, we were given the option to "run into" the family and have a little interaction with the kids.

I planned and plotted on the phone with the Foster Father. We decided that since they were planning on going to Home Depot the next day to take the kids to one of the store classes, and that Wifey and I were in the middle of a kitchen renovation, that we could have a chance encounter in the hardware section. Then, we'd be invited to join in and help the family out at the kids' workshop.

The only thing we didn't account for is that the next day was Remembrance Day.

The next morning, Wifey and I showed up early for our meeting. I remember feeling nervous, my stomach dancing, simultaneously excited and terrified. What if we didn't like them? What if they didn't like us? What if they were weird about us being gay?

When we pulled into the parking lot of Home Depot, we thought it looked empty. We parked the car and then dashed through the rain to the front doors. Only, the front doors didn't open. We looked for a sign, but we didn't find one. Then we went back to the car and waited.

We didn't have the foster parent's cell phone number. We had no way to contact them. We didn't know what kind of vehicle they drove. We had no way to approach them without giving ourselves away. So we sat in the car and waited. We thought about driving away. We were both on the verge of tears with the anticipation of about to being disappointed. And, upset that we were about to have to re-schedule a meeting that we'd been waiting to have for over 4 1/2 months.

Finally the foster parents drove up. The foster dad got out and went to the front of the store to go in. The doors didn't open for him either. He looked around and went back to their van. They pulled into a spot and waited.

We waited in our car across the parking lot mentally trying to get their attention.

Nothing happened. No one moved. We sat in our respective vehicles, each unaware that the other was there, trying to figure out what to do next.

I turned on the car, pulled out of our spot, drove around the parking lot to pull up at the front door. Wifey got out and went to the entrance again. The doors still didn't open. She waited and waited. Trying to look obvious. Hoping that the Foster Mom would see her and make something happen. Wifey then returned to the car. Just as Foster Dad left his car and went to the entrance, again.

Pretending not to recognize the other, Foster Dad and Wifey conversed. Foster Dad talked while looking at the front entrance with his back turned to the parking lot and Wifey talked while looking at me in the driver's seat. Once we discussed that Home Depot wasn't open, we didn't know why, and had no idea when it would be open again, we hatched another plan.

We could go to Chapters because that was a place they took the family to read in the children's section.

Twenty minutes later, and across town, we pulled into the Chapters parking lot and went to the front doors. The doors wouldn't open.

We couldn't believe it. I almost broke down in tears of frustration. Chapters wasn't open either and it looked like we would have to re-schedule. We walked back to the car.

Sitting there, dejected, Foster Dad tapped on the window. McDonald's would have to be open, he surmised. Let's have a really early lunch.

We came up with another story to tell the kids. This time, we were meeting them at McDonald's to give some renovation advice.

The foster family pulled up to McDonalds and went in. We pulled up to McDonalds and went it. And it was there, for the first time, that we met Bella and Bubaloo. Our 30 minute chance encounter turned into a 4 hour long pit stop.

We spent some time eating all together and interacting with the kids. The kids spent time playing in the play place. We spent some time to getting to know more about the kids through the foster parents. It was such an incredible afternoon.

It was during that time that is was confirmed for us - these were to be our kids. Even though they had no clue who we were. We were just some friends of the foster parents.

Today, in celebration, we went to McDonald's and relived our first meeting.

As a family, we always go back to the final minutes of that first meeting together. When saying goodbye and walking to our respective cars, Bubaloo donned his sneaky face. Waving goodbye as he walked towards our car, he proclaimed to the foster family, "See you later. I'm going home with them!"

All the adults laughed at his joke.

Bubaloo thought he got a laugh because he made a funny. We all laughed because little did he know how true his words were. In a few months time, he would be coming home with us as his forever family.

04 November 2007

The Dickie Bird Comes Home

Gran's Dickie Bird

My gran is in her mid-eighties. She still has her licence. How, we're not quite sure.

She stopped driving on the highway in her early-seventies, at night in her late-seventies, long distances in her early-eighties and now she rarely drives anywhere at all. The car is parked in her driveway for emergency use only.

From spring to fall, all of her extracurricular activities are based out of a local seniors centre. The art classes and tai chi she takes there is a 10 minute walk from her house. For groceries or medical appointments, she calls upon her children or neighbours to take her.

My gran has only lost her independence in the last few years. Her physical health, quickly and unexpectedly, has deteriorated rapidly.

It's hard on us and harder on her. This is a woman who worked full-time until her mid-seventies.

When she got the flu last winter, my mother found her passed out on the kitchen floor. No one knew how long she had been there. A few hours, possibly. More likely overnight. See, she's a diabetic. Type 2. She needs food to regulate her blood sugar.

Last winter, she also acquired several successive viral infections in her ear. It made her dizzy. She was unable to walk up or down the stairs in her home. She couldn't stand up for long periods of time or even tolerate car trips across town. She was confined to her house.

And, with the long Canadian winters, my gran is also subject to the fear of practically every senior residing in a northern geographic region which keeps them housebound or southbound for a better part of the snowy season: falling down on a patch of ice.

She lives alone and gets lonely. As her ability to interact with the outside world decreases, her loneliness increases. She wants a companion, but would never get one for herself.

While she spends heaps of money on her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, she'd never for a moment even consider spending a dime of her money on something frivolous for herself. This is a woman who grew up in the depression.

To put it in perspective, she never calls long distance or will end a conversation with you prematurely because she thinks it's costing you too much no matter how many times you tell her you have an unlimited call package that is quite reasonably priced.

Enter the German roller canary.

My grandmother once had a singing canary that rested in the pass-through between the kitchen and living room. It would sing its sweet bird song to her all day long. It was a German roller canary that had been gifted to her by a local breeder that couldn't be sold because it had a club foot.

She loved that bird and doted on it. It was her friend. I like to think that she would spend her days puttering around the house while talking to the bird and whispering her secrets.

The details on how that bird became not to be aren't quite clear. I know it wasn't her choice or doing. I know it had something to do with my grandfather and his irritation with the bird. Whether his irritation stemmed from the noise of its song, or her re-directed adoration, is unbeknownst to me. What I do know is that one day the dickie bird was no more.

My gran speaks of that bird fondly. She could tell you stories for an entire afternoon on its song alone. It wasn't any old canary. It was a German roller canary. She's very, very, very specific.

After months of research, connecting with breeders and anticipation, we brought a dickie bird home for her. We'll give her the gift she won't give herself.

He will be her companion till she needs a companion no more.

31 October 2007

Trick or Treat

A conversation heard this evening while securing free candy.

Man at door: What are you?

Bella: A zombie pioneer!

Man at door: Well, you're the first one of those at my door tonight.

Bella: Actually, I'm the first one in Canada.

Bubaloo: No! The first was an Indian zombie.

What impact the dinner conversations on colonization and celebrating our son's aboriginal history have had.

30 October 2007

The Haunting of Halloween

The munchkins have been planning halloween since the first week of school. From selecting the perfect pumpkins to carve to the best type of candy to give out, they've been busy orchestrating every detail.

You would think that with all of this planning that the costume department would be under control.

Bella's costume ideas have evolved greatly from the first day of school. Tomorrow, she will parade as a zombie pioneer. We're planning to wake up in the morning to put flour and egg shells in her hair and get the zombie makeup just right.

Bubaloo on the other hand has been wanting to go as the bloody screen scream. Being that we want to indoctrinate in our children that fun stems from imagination and not the purchasing power of the almighty allowance dollar, we told him he'd have to create a costume. He could not just buy a mask to plop on his head.

So when we piled into the car to head to Value Village last weekend for the costume shopping spree, the kids were all equipped with ideas. Bella went on her way to gather what she needed.

But Bubaloo was thwarted by a wall full of bloody scream masks. He stared at the wall. He begged. He pleaded. And then he edged into temper tantrum mode.

Since when has Value Village started to stock the commercial crap you get other stores? One of the reasons we went there in the first place was to avoid the aforementioned scene.

Bubaloo left the store without a costume and an idea of what his costume could be.

We spent the rest of our Saturday trying to inspire him. No success. We were stonewalled by a nine year old who was unable to think beyond the bloody scream.

Then it happened. While waiting in line for 1.5 hours on Saturday night to go to the city's haunted house/trick or treat event, Bubaloo announced his new costume. "I'm going to be Mr. Moneybags!" he proudly announced.

Wifey and I looked at each other. Did he mean Mr. Moneybags sort of alluding to the Fudge character in Double Fudge when Fudge falls in love with money? Or did he mean our friend M., affectionately referred to as Mr. Moneybags, who also volunteers on the Board with me as Treasurer and spends a lot of time at our house doing financials?

We inquired, and Bubaloo was all grins, but didn't directly answer the question.

Wifey was sure he was mimicking M. I was sure that he was loosely imitating the name we gave M. and was playing on his personal love of money and singing the money song from Double Fudge.

It all became clear the next day when Wifey took him out to get the final pieces of his costume. He proclaimed that he needed to get some spray to colour his hair. While his preference would have been to have had red and gold hair because that would be the coolest, he could not dress up as Mr. Moneybags without having blond hair. He couldn't BE Mr. Moneybags if they didn't look the same.

Our son is now imitating the closest person in our life that could possibly be a regular male role model to him. He's going to be M. And, M. is coming over to celebrate halloween with us.

I don't know what will be cuter.

Our adorable uber-masculine boy imitating our somewhat effeminate gay male friend. Or, the look of horror that will cross M.'s face when he realizes that the clothing selections Bubaloo has chosen to wear while emulating him scream out for the attention of the fashion police.

20 October 2007

Week in Review

On Monday morning, Bubaloo re-started his school year. He was transitioned to another classroom. Goodbye evil 'command and control' man. Hello 'touchy feely, make you feel good through positive reinforcement' primary grade teacher. He already seems to be thriving in the environment in his new classroom. Thank goodness.

On Monday evening, Bubaloo went for an emergency visit at CHEO. He was angry about having to empty the dishwasher and took it out on a glass. With fists full of frustration, he crushed a wine class in his hand. Wifey provided emergency first aid and then spent the next 4 hours waiting with him at CHEO.

While the big cut warranted stitches, but the location made that medical intervention a bad fit. He's now spent his week with steri-strips over the cut and gauze to keep the whole hand closed. Like a one-handed mummy. It worked pretty well with the exception of the day he decided to play in the sandbox.


And, this morning in other breaking news, Dumbledore was outed to the world. You can read about it here.

While I'm not a Harry Potter reader, I find something quite amusing about a literary world where an author creates a character with gay subtext and much, much later has to come out publicly about the character. Specifically for the 80-90% who didn't pick up on the subtext in the first place.

Apparently homophobia can consume your imagination and the imaginations you hope inspire in your young readers. Rowling was afraid how people would react and when she was met with resounding applause, wishes she had done it earlier.

There's so much to say about that, so I'm just going to say nothing at all.

08 October 2007

Moving Towards Finalization

As each day passes we're nearing adoption finalization. Our social worker did her "final" visit and is writing the report. We've been given names of lawyers to contact. We're just waiting on the government to send in the copies of the kids' birth certificates that CAS requested. When those birth certificates do finally come in, we'll move towards becoming an official family on paper.

It's surprised us the number of things we're unable to do without the birth certificates. We've been fishing illegally all summer. We can't open up RESP accounts and begin saving for their education. We cannot travel with our children, either domestically or internationally. I think the school even gave us a little hassle when we tried to register them last year.

The only legal ties we have to our children is through three sheets of paper provided to us by CAS. One giving us permission to act on behalf of their interests in the event of a medical emergency. One to let the Receiver General of Canada know that we have children for taxation purposes. And another general "to whom it may concern" letter.

It's impossible not to have our family composition and how it came to be constantly scruitinized. We're queer so people want to know how we had children. Our children are open about the fact that they're adopted so people want to know why they were in foster care in the first place. The ages of our children would have made us teenage mothers and there's always a judgemental look cast about that.

But as we near finalization, Bella and Bubaloo's feeling have been a wee bit tumultous. From a child's perspective, I'm not sure why it is more scary to move towards this thing called "adoption finalization" than to move into a house with a bunch of strangers to be adopted. But it is. And, we've been reeling from that impact for the past month.

Last Friday, Bubaloo and Bella called a secret sibling meeting. They were whispering behind closed doors. Then they came to us. They're scared to be adopted.

They're wondering if they say no if we'll be mad about all of the money we spent on them. They're wondering what it would be like to move back in with their foster parents. They're wondering how they can really like us and love us as parents when they're so fearful about being adopted. They're wondering how they can replace one mother with two others.

We backed up. And, explained the situation again. Adoption finalization is about the legal paperwork that says we're your new parents. It's not about giving up your past and erasing your first mother for two new mothers. There are many ways you can be a part of our family and it doesn't necessarily have to be through adoption. If you choose not to do the adoption finalization, you're not going back to CAS as you'll still live with us.

We talked it through. We cuddled. And, then we wrote a long awaited letter to their birth Mom. They talked while we transcribed.

They wanted to know if she remembered them, if she still had their toys, and if she thought about them a lot. They wanted to know where she was living and if she had a phone number...if she even had a phone. They wanted to tell her that they loved her and missed her.

Bubaloo had more questions to ask, but didn't at the time.

06 October 2007

Wipe Your Bum!

Ever since Bubaloo joined our family, his underwear has been a skid mark alleyway. He repeatedly proclaims that he doesn't need to wipe his bottom.

We've tried everything. I've wiped it for him, I've shown him how to wipe, I've let him know that he smells a little bit like poo every now and then and I've tried to impress upon him the importance of good hygiene. I consulted friends about intervention strategies.

Nothing has worked. Nothing. I bought dark blue and grey underwear so I wouldn't have to deal with it on laundry day. Until now.

Yesterday morning as I was getting ready for work, Bubaloo rushed into the bathroom and landed himself right on the toilet.

"I have to pee Mom," he says.

"Well, go on then. I need to get ready for work," I say.

A handful of minutes pass. He's still sitting on the toilet. "Bubaloo, I thought you said you have to pee?"

"I did. And, I have to poo too!"

"Well, go on then. I don't care if you poo in front of me. It's your other Mom who has that issue." (Wifey is absolutely horrified when the kids poo with the bathroom door open, and will not cross the barrier of being with them in the bathroom at the same time. We only have one bathroom, and if I need to get in there, I'm going to get in there!)

Bubaloo finishes up his business and grabs some toilet paper and wipes his bum. Without me asking.

"Look, Mom!" he says holding up the toilet paper.

"Oh, good for you," I say. All the while I'm thinking why on earth did I ever need to see your used toilet paper, but I'm so glad you used some!!! And, then he proceeds to count out a certain number of toilet paper squares for wipe number two!!! Another intervention strategy to keep the plumber coming from our home due to using 1/2 a roll of toilet paper at each bathroom stop.

I can't help myself, but I have to ask, "Bubaloo, whenever did you start to wipe your bum?"

"Mom, you know how I now wear more boxersthan briefs? Well, it's just yucky-blech to not wipe and wear boxers, you know?" This is said in a very serious and earnest voice.

Success at last. I have a bum wiping son. This proud parenting moment has been brought to you by the letter 'P.'

24 September 2007

Working Mother

I am a working mother. Six days into a new job in a new organization.

Each morning I wake up at 6:30 am, hop into the shower, wrestle the kids out of bed, make myself something to eat and make sure everyone else has made themself something to eat. From the main floor of our home, I coordinate when who uses our one bathroom, getting lunches into backpacks, brushing of the teeth and making sure that everyone dresses in layers. From the top level our home, Wifey coordinates the same.

The only thing that varies in our morning routine is who takes the dog out and gets the kids on the bus. And more often than not in the past six days who takes the only travel mug full of coffee to work varies. We have three mugs, only one of which ever manages to make it home at the end of a day.

I go to work and learn what I'm supposed to do.

Today I hit the wall of overwhelmed. In typical non-profit fashion, the responsibilities my one position encompasses ranges from basic office administration to senior managerial functions. I help people take out paper jams from the photocopier while simultaneously mulling over key strategic positioning for the organization.

My department consists of two and the occasional addons. Me, my one staff person, and a small rolodex of contractors.

Our regularly scheduled days are 8.0 hours with 0.5 hours scheduled for lunch. I eat my lunch at my desk and end up sticking around for another 0.5 to 1.0 hours.

I have to leave no later than 5:15 pm to pick up the kids at their after school program. Since I have the luxury of taking our one car to work everyday, I have to drive to the school. We walk through the front door close to 6:00 pm.

Dinner needs to be made and eaten, the packing of lunches coordinated and the completion of homework overseen. The munchkins head up to their rooms to quietly read at 8:00 pm and the 8:30 pm it's lights out.

I have so little time with the kids now. The distance has grown and I no longer feel like I know what's going on in their lives and in their minds. They're done with their days, talking about what happened and re-living the good and not so good parts by the time we sit down to eat. Only, I'm no longer taking part in the re-living.

Bella dumped her boyfriend. We spent a long time talking about their relationship over dinner out on Friday evening. They had been kissing at school. She was kissing him more because she had to, than she wanted to. Affection bred from expectation. She liked the idea of having a boyfriend more than who the boyfriend actually was. She came to the conclusion that he wasn't the right guy for her.

Bubaloo seems to be doing better at school. I had a long chat with the spec ed coordinator before I returned to work and her observations of what was happening in the classroom matched mine. We also shared the same feelings on the matter. We're going to try to work on the inside track before I escalate my concerns. As a first step, the classroom EA is developing a workshop on ODD. I'm shocked she asked us for resources. My more cynical side thinks she only asked as a ploy to make us aware of what they're doing. That would make her smarter than I've given her credit for.

I'm a working mother and I don't know how other working moms do it. There's never enough time, but time is all about what you choose to do with it. Different choices would mean different time allocations.

The hardest part is being one person in a household of three others and feeling like we're all living separate lives that don't overlap or intertwine.

12 September 2007

Command and Control

Last week when I picked up the munchkins from school, I was swiftly swooped upon by the Educational Assistant (EA) in Bubaloo's class. Not Bubaloo's EA mind you, the EA of another child, because Bubaloo doesn't need an EA according to his Individual Education Plan (IEP).

She was quick to talk to me in the voice she uses with the grade 4 and 5 students to explain all of Bubaloo's unacceptable behaviours. She went on and on about how inappropriate his was acting in class. The whole matter was related in a voice to convey the seriousness of the situation which could be likened to the world coming to an end.

What was Bubaloo's crime? He chose to read in class while he was supposed to be doing other school work.

It's not that he was being rude, aggressive or impulsive. He wasn't physically or verbally lashing out. He wasn't running away.

He didn't know how to do the math and was too embarrassed or frustrated to ask for help. He had completed his science cover page in black and white, and didn't want to colour it, and threw it out when that was requested of him.

We set up a meeting with his teacher to discuss.

When we arrived, his teacher knew nothing about our kid. He hadn't yet bothered to read his IEP or student record. He hadn't met with any of the special ed team to talk about supports and effective strategies in place for working with Bubaloo. He was walking into this meeting blind and expected us to fill in the blanks.

We filled in the blanks for him. Only, he didn't listen to a thing we had to say.

I can sum up his teaching strategy with these notions he repeated over and over - "I can't have one kid not following the rules or doing exactly what the other kids are doing because they'll all want exceptions, too. When we're doing math, he needs not to be reading. We need to tell him to do something once, and we expect it to be done immediately. We expect him to act in the way grade 4 students are expected to act. Are we on the same page?"

No, we as parents, are not on the same page as you.

While I understand and empathise with teachers working in our province, we chose to send our child to a school in the public education system that had an alternative program. The alternative program is supposed to be learner-centred and employ a variety of strategies to teach children. It's not supposed to deliver education as a cookie cutter one-size fits all.

Bubaloo's primary educational challenges are behavioural. The kid, as we found out in one of our last meetings with our social worker five months after the kids were placed with us for adoption which is an entirely different story, has been diagnosed with oppositional defiance disorder (ODD).

You cannot tell a kid what to do and expect him to do it right away. You cannot expect him to take accountability for all of his actions immediately. You can't expect him not to argue with adults.

The teacher knows nothing about our child. The teacher doesn't care to learn anything about our child. The teacher doesn't care to stretch his skill set to uncover effective strategies for working with our child. It's command and control. That's it, that's all.

It's going to be one very, very, very long school year.

11 September 2007

The Countdown

In less than a week from now, I'll be returning to work. Goodbye parental leave. I'm undecided as to whether it is the thought of no longer being a full-time parent or that I'm starting a new job which is more anxiety inducing.

It's been seven months now with the kids. It took us a while to get into the groove of things, but now, there is a definite groove. There's a household rhythm which I'm about to upset. And, to a certain degree, it's my reticence to have to find a new groove that has me riled.

Turns out, I like being a full-time parent. I like being able to work in the garden, oversee household projects, cook great meals, and play with the kids. I like hearing about their days after school. I like the maddening homework we have every night. I like watching my kids grow into the people they're becoming.

I never got into the housework thing. Housework is too repetitive and not project-based enough. For the same reasons I'll never get into yoga, I'll never get into housework. Having all of that time to reflect and replay my day mentally gets me riled up and angry without an outlet for the anger. There's no resolution in yoga or housework, so why bother going there in the first place. At the end of the day, who cares.

A dirty house is a sign of one that's well lived in. I should make that slogan into a tshirt.

In my early university days, I always scoffed at those people who said it was challenging or impossible to have a career and a family, and to do both of those things well at the same time. Now, I'm not so sure.

A career and family are both demanding, require equal amount of attention, and need it all, always, and at the same time. When choosing between the two job offers, the deciding factor was family. I took the job that perhaps I was less interested in because I knew that a lack of all-consuming fascination would allow me to unchain myself from my desk and blackberry. It's a position that will be as taxing and challenging as I make it. I also liked that the environment was sold as being flexible to the needs of my family.

On Monday. Six days from now. I'm about to retire my housewifey role and morph back into professional career woman.

09 September 2007

The Big Reveal

It's fixed. It's lovely. Thank goodness.

Introducing the newest structure in our garden....the fence!

At the right hand side of the house.

fence at righthand side of house

And a close up demonstrating how the great garden fence can compliment the kids' basketball net.


A look at the fence on the left side of the house.

fence at lefthand side of the house

Zooming in on the new step at the side entrance. Disregard the roses that have been sitting in containers since the end of July waiting to be dug into their new homes. They're being moved this weekend.

side entrance step

The final product.

whole garden fence

The fence was custom designed by Wifey and myself. We want to be able to build gardens that people can peek at as they pass by. We opted to have a gate on both sides of the house to allow for easy circulation.

We're planning on growing a rose up the arbour.

The poochie is loving his new digs. He can go outside and wander to his heart's content. He's been out there for over 30 minutes this morning. A large part of his new found fascination with the backyard is that he's discovered he can eat cherry tomatoes directly off of the plant.

This marks the completion of my 2007 garden projects. Whew! Next year we'll be installing more hardscaping in the side garden with some pathways.

And, just ignore the garden on the front lawn. We spent the summer focusing on getting rid of the wild violet. We're part of the way there. The garden is such a disaster, I don't know where to begin...and I won't be beginning anything else until next summer.

04 September 2007

First Day of the New Year

My poor neglected blog. I've got lots of material for fodder from the past month, only I never had the internet access, computer, pen and paper, or time to do anything with it.


The kids went back to school this morning and it was rough. ROUGH. There was attitude, tears and temper tantrums. All within the span of 45 minutes.

Bubaloo doesn't like change and copes with it poorly.

Yesterday, we dismantled the old step from the side of the house. It had been sitting at the end of our driveway for over a month begging the garbage collectors to take pity on it and stash it in the back of their truck. Only they never did. Which led to us having to break it into much smaller pieces.

Bubaloo stood at the end of the driveway for five minutes this morning mourning the lost of his "step-ey."


Summer camp has come, and gone. It was the roughest year we've had thus far.

We had to send five kids home for lice, had three disclosures, fired one staff and have to seriously re-consider whether or not a handful of them should be invited back next year.

We faced an assertions from two camp staff members that parents shouldn't be directors of this camp program. Mostly because we interfere with their camp counselloring. Well, if you think that when a camper doesn't get their meds three nights in a row that we're interfering because we're the parents of the kid not receiving his meds, you're dead wrong.

Wifey and I aren't sure we can invest another year of our lives into running this program. Camp is supposed to be fun. The fun was lacking this year.


On the job front, I applied for two and received offers from two jobs. Both wildly different and presenting different challenges.

When I found out in April that I would be laid off upon my return to work next week, I think I handled it with relatively little panic. I decided not to overly stress out over various"what if" scenarios, and waited to see what would pop up.

Today is decision day. I'm not exactly second guessing my choice. I'm just feeling mildly guilty by it because the job I'm not going to take would be working with a community I love. The organization itself is not in a good place and I'm still reeling from the last toxic work environment.

In 1-2 weeks from now, I'll be back at work. In a new job.


The contractors totally messed up my fence project. The erected it the week I was at camp. Poor craftsmanship. Design not to my specs. It's an absolute disaster. And, I'm pissed. I anticipate that the fence will fall over just after the warranty expires. They also tried to rip me off on material quality (pine substituted for cedar, and I don't even believe it's pressure treated pine at that).

I'm writing the email, with photos enclosed, this morning.

The worst part of this is that I researched the company. Saw their work. Talked with clients. How on earth have I again ended up with a shoddy contractor???

10 August 2007

Cleaning House

It seems now that we have kids the cycle of house cleaning and cleaning closets is perpetual. Once we've completed a cycle, we're back at the beginning and starting over.

Yesterday, I went through the kids' clothing with them in preparation for the new school year. I know it's a bit premature, but we're at Grandma's next week, then at camp, and only home for 5 days before we have to take off on the long weekend for a wedding and then it's already back to school time.

The kids have received heaps of gifted clothing, they each came with a small box of clothing and we've bought them a few items along the way. I had to toss a bag of clothes that they've managed to demolish through the course of play and have another bag of clothes to pass on to their cousins.

The only thing after yesterday's fashion show that the kids really need is underwear and socks. They've grown a bit and are about to go up a size, so we're reluctant to drop a huge chunk of change on new clothing.

But yesterday, I did a bad adoptive parent thing. I took this opportunity of cleaning house to encourage the kids to pitch some of the clothing that they came to us with. There have been a few items that the kids initially wore with regularity, that has now petered off, and I used the "Mommy veto" to kick those clothes to the can. These are the items of clothing that have made us cringe and wince every time they are adorned.

The brown jogging pants, bleach stained, that Bella likes to wear around the house and in public. Bubaloo's yellow shirt with a flaming skull that now has brown, grey and black dirt sleves. Bella's horrendous bad-polyester pucci-like shirt, and her striped cable knit shirts, some old funky (but not in a cool way) sweaters and faded purple cotton shirts.

Clothes are one of the few possessions our kids have ever had. They provide a link to memories of the past. Clothes are the one thing that connects them to certain people and evokes memories of the life they had before us.

One of the things they ingrain in adoptive parents is not to throw out all of the clothes from the kids' previous life the moment they move into the new home. The clothes are familiar, hold familiar smells and can provide a small source of comfort.

It's hard as an adoptive parent to have two kids walk in the front door with only a single small box of clothes, many of which were long past their expiration date. Bella's size 7 bathing suit, sun-bleached and stretched out to fit her now size 12 body. Bubaloo's pants that always looked like he was preparing for a flood. Many of their clothes were mismatched, threadbare and stained.

I don't think their foster parents realized the dismal extent of the kids clothing situation until they packed for them to leave. The day before they moved Bubaloo found three new outfits in his drawer. Clothing that came to us with the tags still on.

Shamefully, I admit that I looked upon their possessions with disdain. I looked at them as reminder of a time where the kids had very little and what little they did have was of poor quality. The way they dressed put out a huge sign that I felt screamed to strangers, "no one cares for me."

Clothing for me, as an adoptive parent, was a representation of their past and the hard lives they had led. It took quite a bit of effort and the knowledge that I was putting their best interests first not to toss it all and have them start anew. Just like they were starting anew with us. But, we've always held a respect for their past so the clothing has stayed.

Slowly, as these clothes were outgrown or grew holes, I gently let the kids know that I had to throw them out.

We set up a a separate stash of "keepables" for the kids which we'll save for them. These are items that they've outgrown but cannot bear to part with.

Yesterday, the kids were a little bit more ready to part with their past. It also helped that they've developed new clothing favourites over the past six months and that it was becoming increasingly difficult to shut their drawers.

While I may have slightly overstepped my bounds, and used copious amounts of body language to show my distaste for certain pieces to encourage them to make a decision that would please me, I think we're all happy with the results today.

There are a few item left that I put expiry dates on. And in six months from now, I think we'll have a cleaner house. At which time I'll get to move on to helping the kids expunge some of the less desirable gifted clothing.

09 August 2007

Direction North

We visited the in-laws over the holiday weekend. Nine hours to drive there and nine hours to drive back. Gus, our dog, was the least cranky and best behaved of us all.

We went fishing, played croquet, saw the sights of my Wife's childhood, admired Nana's garden, feasted on heaps of food, explored Papa's junk yard, rode on an ATV with Pepere, and fed squirrels and chipmunks from our hands.

We still haven't managed to get the timing right for these visits. This time, we took two full days for travel and had a three day visit. I think we were all ready for us to head home after the second day of visiting.

The grandparent's don't know how to interact with the kids. They feel they should love them, have some bond with them. But they don't yet. That's laced with guilt. We all needed to be reminded that this was only the second time meeting Nana and Papa.

The kids are overwhelmed at discovering this whole new big family that has a history that pre-dates them. They only met four new people this weekend - an aunt, a cousin, Memere and Pepere. They both were overwhelmed and said it was too much.

Bella is phony and fake. Just as we thought we were discovering a realness in her, an essence of whomever she is, it quickly becomes shielded in a sticky, sweet fake. She crawls into strangers laps, albeit they are now relatives, for cuddles and professes her love. Tears stream down her face when we leave because she's going to miss Memere, Pepere, Nana and Papa, so much.

None of this emotion feels real. It often alienates and estranges her more from the ones she professes to love.

Worry creases the brow of all the adults in the room. We all see the danger in her actions especially in the looming teenage years. Bad boyfriends. Unhealthy relationships. Easy sex. Pregnancy possibilities. Yet, none of us know what interventions we can take to help.

Building self-confidence and self-esteem takes time. And, with our now 12-year-old daughter time is something we are lacking.

31 July 2007

Introducting Mr. and Mrs. Yummy Mommy

Gender is often discussed at our dinner table.

Bella wants affirmation that it is okay to like more so-called "boy" things, such as catching bugs, and still be a girl. She often tries to balance her masculine traits with her feminine traits in a mathematical equation so that the scales don't dip too far in favour of girl over boy or boy over girl. She's seeking equilibrium as a reassurance of some kind.

That same search for gender equilibrium also carries over to us. Even though the kids have two moms, they frequently have gendered discussions about who is more like a dad or like a mom. The way they explore gender is through activities which are easily categorized as boy or girl. To a degree, they try to uncover the essence of a father-figure in each of us so that they're not really missing out by not having a Dad.

While Wifey and I have never had a butch/femme relationship, or one that has been predominately defined by gender roles, during my parental leave how we decided to divide roles has definitely left us with a more common or stereotypical division of duties. I'm the primary homemaker and Wifey is the primary breadwinner. For now.

When discussing us over dinner one night, Bubaloo stated that I was his "Yummy Mommy." His rationale for this was that I did all of the cooking, was always working in the garden and was around during the day. Oh, and the yummy part came from agreeing with Wifey that I was cute.

Now that I was the "Yummy Mommy," Wifey inquired as to what she was.

"You're Mr. Yummy Mommy," Bubaloo said proudly. And she's, pointing at me, "Mrs. Yummy Mommy."

When asked why Wifey was Mr. Yummy Mommy, Bubaloo explained that was because she works, works and works, and fishes, too.

So there you have it. The Mom and Dad gender division in all its childlike simplicity. Moms cook and Dads work. Moms garden and Dads fish.

I do, however, wonder what the kids think when I mow the lawn or when I paint the house. I can tell you that their jaws dropped to the floor the first time that Wifey cooked them dinner. They were shocked to learn that she knew how to cook and vocalized huge disbelief when I explained that before they came to live with us Wifey did most of the cooking.

Just wait until September when I go back to work and their whole ordering of the universe is thrown on its head.

27 July 2007

Attack of the 6ft Tomato

Everyday I'm hoping that the contractors will finish off my fence project so I can finally show off my last gardening project of the summer. The new side step is built and installed, although it still needs to be stabilized. The posts for the fence are now in. I just need a fence to go between the posts. Oh, and some pictures of the project. And, I need it to stop raining so that the contractors can work on the project.

Instead, I'll share with you the tomato plant I'm in awe of.

While I haven't quite exactly yet measured it, I did have to stake it from the eavestroughs at the back of the garage. This involved standing on tiptoe and reaching above my head. I guesstimate that the tomato plant is well over 6ft in height, 5ft in width, and it's still growing.

monster tomato plant

This is a sweetie cherry tomato and it's covered in fruit. None of the fruit has ripened quite yet.

Holy compost. That's all I have to say. And my teensy regret is that I didn't put one of my heirloom plants in the former compost area. I'm sure that would have knocked my socks off.

The tomatoes in the raised beds are starting to ripen. Only the cherry tomatoes here, too. We've (kids, wife, dog and birds) been munching on some of the christmas grape variety.

cherry tomato

26 July 2007

Who Are the People in Your Neighbourhood?

Having kids makes you out and come out all the time.

We're pretty out. We're pretty big activists within the queer community. Having children makes you out, everywhere, all of the time. It makes you out to that huge mainstream community of which we were often only peripherally a part of as a couple and are now part of daily because we have kids.

While I've never had an incident or experienced overtly hostile homophobia, I'm always a little fearful when having to disclose that I'm a big old homo to new people. Even more so now because I want to protect my kids from any possible negative reactions others may have. I recognize that this fear is mine and I have to own it.

Most often when I come out to someone new, I get to hear all about a gay aunt, uncle, sibling, distant relative, high school friend, college buddy, co-worker, neighbour or random acquaintance. For the record, telling a queer person that you know someone else who is queer as a way to show that you're okay with queers in general is really quite bizarre. Even more bizarre is when you tell me about a same-sex crush or the homosexual experience you had when you were a kid, in high school or university. I'm left wondering if you tell me because you also needed to feel a huge sense of relief in finally having disclosed this big, dark secret to the only other gay person you happen to know.

Driving the kids home from camp earlier this week, we drove past a neighbour on another street who has fabulous rose bushes edging her property. I like to drive by and ogle her garden. But this time, the roses were gone.

I commented on their absence and Bella filled us all in on all of the details.

She's a lesbian Bella told us. She also had dug up the plants and sold them.

When we asked how Bella knew she was a lesbian and how she knew about the plants, Bella let us know that she had been chatting with this neighbour and shared that she is going to a summer camp for kids with lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans parents.

The lady then shared with her that she's also lesbian and a mother and two other gay guys live down the street from her. Not the same two gay postmen who live on our street.

While it's great to know that we live in queer central, we were more than a bit flabbergasted when we had to point out to Bella that the woman she was talking to was a stranger and she's not supposed to talk with strangers, and especially not share all the details of our lives.

Bella's come out about her family, we've been outed to a neighbour, the neighbour has been outed to us through our kid and has outed some other people in the process. Apparently, by fluke, we've purchased a house in Mr. Roger's very gay neighbourhood.

14 July 2007

I'm Back!

The vacation is now over. We're back from the cottage. It was relaxing, refreshing and enjoyable. I do think that if we had a choice we'd all rather be sitting by the lake right now. Well, I'd be sitting by the lake and the rest of the crew would be fishing in it.

I did manage to "sneak" my laptop to the cottage and "sneak" in some blogging time. When I get a moment, that is, after I deal with the earwig infestation in the garden, I'll back post the entries.

Update - I've back posted 5 entries from our vacation. Missing is a video on the Bug Buffet that I want to add, but it needs to be edited first. If only for length.

Also posted is the first installment of our adoption story, which as I write it is becoming less and less of a story and more of a saga.

13 July 2007

Scrabble is Educational and Leads to Educational Moments

scrabble at the cottage

Over our two weeks at the cottage, Scrabble emerged as the family favourite board game. I’m not quite sure why the kids love it so much and request to play it ad nauseum. I know that Wifey loves it because she has usurped me as the household champ and regularly achieves scores over 400. As a parent I love it because it involves language arts and math!

We’re using Scrabble to build our kids’ vocabulary and explore the world of words. The kids need quite a bit of assistance still, whether it is in deciding where on the board to play, what to spell or how to become a master in using all of your tiles laying only three letter words.

During a game earlier in the week between Wifey and Bubaloo, Bubaloo thought of a 5-letter word all on his own. Only he didn’t have the letters to spell the word correctly.

On our most recent game, he begged and pleaded for help again. Wifey quickly eyed his tiles and let him know that he now had the word he had wanted to spell the other day but didn’t have the letters for.

That’s when D-I-N-K-Y came into play on our Scrabble board. I raised an eyebrow and laughed.

Later that evening D-I-N-K-Y was replayed in conversation. Bella asked what it meant. I offered that it has two definitions: 1) small or tiny; or, 2) another word for weenie.

As in all good spelling moments, a definition is useless without putting the word in context. Before Wifey and I could offer up a sentence, Bubaloo came to the rescue.

“My dinky, as in my weenie, is dinky,” he exclaimed while pointing to his groin area and then making a small gesture with his thumb and pointer finger.

We all fell to the ground the laughing. But he wasn’t finished yet. In earnestness he continued on.

“My foster dad, even though he had never seen me…you know…naked…always used to joke that my weenie was dinky. I wonder how he knew that?” Bubaloo shared with a confused expression.

More and more laughter erupted from the family. But, the dinky conversation wasn’t yet over. Somehow it morphed into an opportunity to talk about circumcision. So I explained. While they now get what it is and the why, it was really difficult to give them a good visual picture of the difference between a circumcised and uncircumcised penis.

They requested photos. I suggested that we go to the library to find a book. They rolled their eyes at me and then asked, as if it would be a huge, taxing effort to go to the library, why I didn’t opt to use the internet instead.

09 July 2007

Gee, I Want to be Like You…Sorta

Here's a snippet of conversation lifted from our day.

Bella says, turning to me, "Mom, I want to be just like you. I want to be just like both of you. Except for the lesbian part. I don’t want to be a lesbian."

I'm not even going to bother going in to detailing the lesbian processing that occured with that one - both with, and without, Bella.

08 July 2007

Fishin' for Food

the biggest bass....EVER

I am the only non-fisherman in a house full of fisherman. (Can you guess who is not in that photo?)

While every now and then I don’t mind the thrill of a good cast and a fish to reel in, I don’t touch hooks, lures, worms or fish. I don’t use my teeth to break a line. I don’t search out the best fishing haunts or relish waking up with the sun to discover what will be the catch of the day. And least of all, I never engage in the exchange of the Great Fishing Tales.

Bella thinks her fishing skills are genetically imbued, an insight she garnered earlier this month when we shared with her an album her bio-father had sent to CAS for her. Bubaloo just really seems to enjoy fishing. Wifey lives for it.

Surrounded by three fishermen with open access to a lake full of bass, perch, trout and crappies, there has been no shortage of fish. It started out with bringing the small ones home to cook up for a snack. Each catch was precious cause it was some sort of first. And, as they began to hook the larger ones, it evolved into keeping the large ones for meals.

We’ve had countless meals of fish, and I’m fished out. I’m even eyeing the cans of tuna I foolishly bought earlier in the week with contempt.

I like fish, I really do. But I’ve gotten caught in the trap of being unable to eat what is brought from lake to plate.

From 1991 to 2001, I was a vegetarian. I really did believe, and still do believe, that you should be willing and able to be self-sufficient and sustainable with food and part of that philosophy includes a respect of the lifecycle and that we kill to feed ourselves. We rely on pretty horrid means to eat meat and are amply removed from that process because we don’t kill the animals ourselves.

I sort of like to think that if I had to raise chicken and cattle for food, that I’d be able to raise, kill and eat them as necessary.

The fish on my dinner plate this week has taught me a new lesson. I can raise animals. I could even possibly kill them if I had to. I cannot, however, bring myself to eat what we directly bring to our plates. I’m repulsed. I gag. I can’t eat it with any sense of enjoyment.

Exactly what I’m going to do with this, I don’t quite know yet.

05 July 2007

I'll Have a Dash of Tact With That Ice Cream, Please

Today it rained, and rained, and rained and rained. All of this wet was accompanied by a show of thunder and lightening.

The family was laid up in the cottage, listening to the CBC and the crackle of the fire in the woodstove. Wifey and I read while the munchkins worked on some crafts of some sort.

When the storm temporarily broke in late afternoon, we decided to take a drive into the town of Westport to explore the tourist trap and get a spot of ice cream.

After looking at boat upon boat tied to the pier, we stopped into a local ice cream shop. It was a terrific place in a fantastic old house, with art on the walls and posters advertising local happenings. It sported a variety of ice cream flavours, which included moosetracks (my favourite!).

The spot was nearly perfect. The service, however, was not.

Before the kids even had an opportunity to look in and read the labels on all 32 flavours, the server was already badgering them to make up their minds.

To take the heat off the kids, I placed my order. Bella then settled on Bubblegum which the server made her taste before she dished out because it was a special type of Bubblegum that wasn’t to everyone’s liking. It past the taste test and Bella got a dish along with explicit instructions how not to eat out of a waffle dish to avoid it breaking.

While Bella and I dug into the ice creamy goodness, Wifey was patiently helping Bubaloo make up his mind. She was reading him the various names. She was asking what he liked. He also took this as an opportunity to taste test multiple varieties.

Loosing what little patience hadn’t been there when we first walked in the door, the server barked at Wifey, “Don’tcha know what kind of ice cream your kid likes?”

When Bubaloo was at the table safely out of earshot, Wifey politely let the server know as she handed over the money to cover the tab, “We only adopted him four months ago, so ice cream is one of the many things we’re still learning.”

03 July 2007

Mom and Other Mom

Even before Bella and Bubaloo moved in, there were long and complicated discussions around what to call us. We were involved, the foster parents were involved, the adoption and foster workers were involved, as well as Bella and Bubaloo themselves. These conversations often ran parallel to one another and at no time were more than two parties engaged.

Our adoption worker asked us in early January, “Have you given any thought to what you would like to be called?”

Wifey and I shrugged no. Because it wasn’t up to us. Our soon-to-be 9 and 11-year-old children could call us whatever they would like. We couldn’t tell the kids what to call us other than the names we had been given by our parents at birth. I’d been down that road before with my serial step-parents. No way in hell would I have ever called any of them Mom or Dad.

After their second or third visit, Bella asked her foster father what she should call us. She’d wanted a Mom again for years, but having two at the same time had thrown her a loop in the naming department. He said that she could call us Mom. Bella asked which one. And, her foster father responded she should call us both Mom. But Bella couldn’t wrap her head around how she could have two “Moms,” or rather, call two people by the exact same name.

She briefly contemplated calling one of us Mom and one of us Dad. But since we’re both pretty girly, and embody differing so-called masculine traits, that didn’t stick. It did however, give Wifey and I ample material for an endless series of inside jokes.

It turns out that everyone involved had an opinion on what we should be called. It was like a huge grab bag of naming possibilities was circulating and what we were to be called, and by whom, at any given point in time was determined by a random blind draw from this little black bag.

After a time of building our family, the kids started to try on different variations of Mom to fit us. We suggested that if they wanted to give us the title of Mom, that I could be known as Mom and Wifey could be known be Mama. Sometimes that works, most often it doesn’t.

Most frequently we get called Mom, Mommy, Muuuuuum, Mother, Mama, Maman and others. Only the kids have yet to develop an individual Mom identity that distinctly refers to one or the other of us. With the exception of one (one which in academic-speak I might label a quasi-Derridan-like la difference).

Mostly frequently heard in our house is the bellow of Mom. Half of the time neither of us answers. In part, this is because we’re not quite sure which one of us the children are referring to. And in part, sometimes we both forget that we have this new name.

The other half of the time, only one of us answers to the call. And the response comes in an overly exaggerated and frustrated tone as if we should have instinctively known better, “NO! The Other Mom.”

Mom and Other Mom. That’s the moniker that has stuck most of all. It easily fits into a variety of social situations and wonderfully differentiates one of us from the other. It also clearly defines that there is more than one Mom heading this family.

For example, we took the family on a studio tour this past Sunday and stopped at a place with a wonderful rose garden. Wifey and I were admiring and smelling the various flowers, while Bella had engaged the owner in giving her a personal tour. Part of the conversation we overheard was a discussion on mulch. Matter of factly, Bella explained to the garden owner that unlike here, her Mom uses pine mulch in the garden as her Other Mom is allergic to hay and gets hives.

Mom and Other Mom. It’s fluid. Who is the primary Mom and who is the Other Mom shifts depending upon context. It’s a relational title.

It’s part humourous and part peculiar. We’ll see how its usage evolves in our household. I’m all for organic and novel uses of language. I just don’t know how thrilled I’d be to be permanently referred to as Other Mom.

01 July 2007

Finding Bella and Bubaloo - Part 1

We discovered Bella and Bubaloo quite like Wifey and I discovered one another. Through the internet.
In September 2005, one week after our wedding to be exact, we went to an adoption information session at the Children’s Aid Society (CAS). We’d heard that only a small number of children became available for adoption each year in our city and it would take 3-4 years to be placed with a child. We were eager to have our names placed on the list for timing purposes – we would be ready to have a child when one became available for us.

The session confirmed for us that in Ottawa approximately 80 children are up for adoption each year. People wanting children under the age of three need not apply. Older children with varying needs were the hardest to place.

We approached the worker after the session and laid out our adoption scenario. Older child. Special needs were okay. Behavioural issues were also okay. She told us that we could be matched with a child and placed before Christmas, a mere four months away. Shocked and overwhelmed, we ran from the room without placing our names on the list.

Our adoption plans were temporarily shelved.
The following spring, my biological clock began to tick furiously and I once again hopped on the family starting train. This time, Wifey and I had series of long, serious conversations about adoption.

I began to read book upon book on adopted children and the issues we could anticipate as adoptive parents. I found little published on public adoption and adoption of older children. It was then I turned to the internet to scour for blogs. The ones I liked, I read from beginning to end.

It was during my travels on the virtual highway that I stumbled upon an adoption website that actually allowed you to view children and read profiles of those waiting to be placed. With a single click, AdoptOntario quickly became my favourite site and I checked on it with feverish frequency. I could tell from the counter indicating the number of posted profiles when more children were added and when ones finally found a home.

I celebrated for a child when their profile was taken down and it saddened me when more children were placed for adoption.

AdoptOntario was a last resort for many of these kids because they were hard to place and efforts in their own communities hadn’t been successful. Sibling groups. Global delays. Severe disabilities. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Effect. Non-white children (as agencies often were holding out for a racial/cultural match).

Then one day “Rachel” and “Brad” appeared. Call it a gut feeling. Call it intuition. Call it mother’s instinct. I knew we had found our children.
In that moment of finding “Rachel” and “Brad” our lives changed. The mentally mapped life we had envisioned instantaneously changed from one child to two. Everything that we had imagined was turned on its head. Our plans of adopting a boy and birthing a girl flew out the window. Suddenly, we were compelled to adopt two and we had to redesign the blueprints of our architected life maps.
We expressed our interest in adopting “Rachel” and “Brad” through AdoptOntario. The children featured on the AdoptOntario website could be living anywhere in the province.

My phone conversation with the coordinator was quite enlightening. She requested the name of our social worker. I responded, “We don’t have a social worker at this time.” She asked if we could forward our homestudy. I asked, “What homestudy?”

It turns out that Ottawa was piloting a new intake model. Instead of sending all prospective adoptive parents through the intensive screening and homestudy process, they’d pre-screen prospective parents and send them through a training about fostering/adoption before determining their eligibility and putting them forth to complete a homestudy.

Adoption agencies across the province were apparently holing an abundance of parents they were unable to match with children. They were the wrong kind of parents for the kinds of children with varying needs that would be in the care of the CAS. Unrealistic expectations. Wanting babies or very young children. Not wanting children with special needs. Not understanding or wanting to erase the myriad of issues that adopted children face.

In lieu of having none of the prerequisites prospective parents normally came with, we were mailed a huge package of forms to complete. We completed the paperwork after an abundance of lesbian processing and really had to ask hard questions of ourselves that revealed some not-so-great things that we had to come to terms with.

Why would we be willing to adopt a child who was HIV-positive or deaf, but not a child who suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome or was blind? Why did we not want a child affected by global delays or of significantly impacted intelligence?
In choosing adoption we encountered ugly truths that we needed to reconcile within ourselves. Unlike biological parents, we did have a choice in the basic make up of our children. We got to pick and choose from a checklist of traits and issues that would be used to help match our family with children. It’s like genetic screening from a pool of children. Pick a desired age. Pick a desired personality. Weed out all that is not desirable to you.
We received a call from AdoptOntario shortly after submitting our paperwork to pass along the name and contact information of the children’s adoption social worker. We had passed our first test.

The social worker’s name was P. She worked with the Ottawa CAS. From anywhere in the province, we had chosen children living right in our own backyard. Coincidence #1.

We called P. and requested a meeting. Two weeks later, we met with her for the first time.
As spring had turned into early summer, we still noticed water seeping into our basement from the western side of the house. Having been apprised of the minor issue during the house inspection the previous fall, we’d already attempted the first level fix. Worst case scenario, we were told, we’d have to tear up the driveway near the house and pay around $4,000 to have the exterior wall waterproofed. We opted to explore the second level fix – to locate where the water was coming in and have only that section waterproofed.

Now that we were getting serious on the child front, we didn’t want to have the possibility of any environmental issues in the basement as a potential threat to their health.

I set up a series of consultations with foundation companies. The first one was scheduled to take place the day after our meeting with P.
In the two weeks before the meeting took place with P. we cautiously spoke about the adoption with random people. Namely, those of our acquaintances who were current and former foster or adoptive parents. We spoke in hypotheticals. We didn’t dare utter any of these hypotheticals with our families or closest friends.

It was during one of these aforementioned conversations, that Coincidence #2 was revealed. It only served to further solidify my belief that these were our children.

Wifey was chatting with colleague N., a current foster parent and decided to disclose that we were looking at a child-specific adoption. Wifey related the events to date and the colleague asked for more information on the kids.

As Wifey racked her brain to recall details from their profiles, N. began to prompt her on these details. N. knew as much about these kids as Wifey did. That’s because N.’s foster kids were the ones we were interested in adopting.


26 June 2007

Goodbye, P.

Yesterday we said goodbye to our social worker. It was harder than I had anticipated.

I spent snippets of the afternoon getting teary eyed as I selected a few photos, chose a card, and thought about what we should write on the inside.

Losing our social worker, for me, has been akin to losing a family member. She's been such an active part of my daily life for the past year, such a fantastic support, and it's going to be hard not to pick up the phone on a whim to connect with her.

She's been my confidante and somehow made the whole process of adoption seem much less invasive than it actually was. This woman knows everything about Wifey and I. And, yes, I do mean everything from our familial histories and financial situation to our sex life and values. That's how thorough the volumes of paperwork that Children's Aid had us complete in order for us to be considered as adoptive parents.

We've just said good bye to the woman who helped us create our family, who picked us out of over 50 applicants to parent Bella and Bubaloo. I'm thankful for her and the role she's had in our lives.

Our social worker is leaving the Ottawa CAS to be closer to her daughter who has a high risk pregnancy, and to do so, needs to move to another city.

Her departure doesn't mark the end our connection to the rest of our social work team at CAS. We're a minimum of two months away from adoption finalization and more likely a year from having all of the necessary paperwork in hand. Once the adoption is finalized, we'll actually get to see and hold our children's birth certificates for the first time!

I never expected to have a relationship with our social worker. It's been organic. I've learned so much from her. She's learned so much from us. It really was a great pairing and I only wish other adoptive parents would be so lucky to have the experience we had.

That's not to say it was perfect. Because it was far from that. There were often too many players at the table. Significant negotiation, mediation and intervention was also often required.

Though, I think it says a lot at the end of the day where we're able to recognize CAS for all of its faults - and there are many in both the organization and the system - and that Wifey and I are still willing to stand behind and to support CAS and the work that it does.

I thank my social worker for our adoption experience. I thank my social worker for helping to make us a family. And, I thank my social worker for have a role and an impact on my life in so many other ways that I don't think I'll ever be able to articulate.

25 June 2007


In five, count 'em five, days we will be leaving for a much needed vacation. We've rented a cottage for two weeks.

I'm imagining long, lazy days of summer. Lying on the dock, taking leisurely swims, canoe trips at dusk, fishing in the early morning, scattered naps, long dinners and plenty of naps. Something tells me that the adventure might not pan out as originally imagined once the kids and our barking dog are inserted into the picture.

Before I go though, there is a huge week with an even huger to do list to get through. Here's the top five.

#5 - Eat more strawberries. Find more things to do with strawberries.

We went to the Avonmore Berry Farm yesterday and came home with 12 litres of strawberries that we picked in less than 30 minutes. This is the first time I've been berry picking since I was a kid. I loved it. So did the kids, and my Wife (only, she wishes that they wouldn't use hay as mulch because she's horribly allergic to it and didn't take any allergy medicine beforehand).

berry pickin

So far, we've eaten warm sun ripened strawberries off the vine and fresh into our picking basket. I've made a strawberry rhubarb pie, and strawberry rhubarb tarts for teachers. We've eaten strawberries wrapped in basil. I've thrown together a strawberry, basil and cucumber salad. I've frozen a bag of berries. We've still got 4 litres to find something to do with!

#4 - Cart Bubaloo around to various doctors appointments.

Today, we're doing the ultrasound on his kidneys. I'm about to pump a boy full of a litre and a half of water. This is the same kid who cannot hold his pee more than 30 seconds after the urge hits. This is the same kid who doesn't even drink that much in an entire day.

We've made a plan. He's packed two extra pairs of undies and shorts. I'm imagining the worst and hoping for the best. I'm just wondering how many accidents a kid has to have in a clinic before they will call off this whole thing.

#3 - Garden, garden, garden.

Now that I've found someone to check-in as per my planned schedule to water my plants, I've not got to commit to writing out detailed instructions. This person is not yet a gardener, but it is my hope to turn him into one!

I know this may be anal, but I'm so fearful of going away because of the recurring nightmare that I'll come home to dead tomato plants. It doesn't even help that I asked Wifey if she'd be okay if I were to sneak back into town during our vacation to check on the garden. We're also going to miss our first crop of the season's tomatoes and that is making me oh so sad!

I've also have a slew of tonnes of miscellaneous gardening chores to complete. I want to be in a good position when we return from vacation as the contractors are supposed to arrive on the Monday to install our new fence and step.

#2 - Strategic planning, Board retreat, summer camp.

I don't blog about it much, but I'm heavily involved in an non-profit, volunteer-driven organization. I've been thankful for my parental leave over the last few months because I've been able to give an excess of time to growing the organization. In part, my ability to do what I love each day has made my parental leave all that more enjoyable.

Suffice it to say, there's a lot that needs to be done, transitioned over, moved forward before I can leave on vacation. Some of it is great. Some of it is not so great.

#1 - Make a tetris master plan for packing the car.

When we rented a cottage, we failed to take into consideration the size of the vehicle we have. Not only do we need to fit four people and a dog into one Honda Civic, we also need to fit all of the stuff we're going to need for the vacation. Everything from clothing to toys.

I need to start writing the mental list I've compiled onto paper and then make a plan of how it's all going to fit into the car. We're going to need a roof rack for the kids, er, I mean all of the crap we have to bring.

Five days. Five days. Five days. Gotta love it.

21 June 2007

Gone Fishin'

We live in a city, only 10 minutes from the downtown core, and yet two blocks from our house is a huge park that runs along the river. This is one of the many things I love about Ottawa.

Last night, we piled into the car in search of a bait shop as learning how to fish was one of the top three things our kids wrote on their "I have to do this summer or I will die" lists. We got to the bait shop fifteen minutes after it closed.

I turned the car around and headed to Loblaws. Armed with two fishing rods, some hooks and a package of hot dogs, we went to the park where we ate our picnic dinner and Wifey gave her first fishing lesson.

The munchkins had only been fishing once before in their lifetime and that was with their foster family. On this trip, they caught Bubay (their toddler foster brother) twice which quickly ended the adventure before a hook even had grazed the water.

The kids stood out in the river for about an hour learning to cast and while I watched bits of pseudo fish bait, the hot dogs, fly everywhere. Hot dog, it turns out, is quite tricky to hook for adults and kids alike.

Once the dog figured out that the bait was hot dog, he was the only animal in the whole entire river interested in what was on the end of the fishing rod. A few times, he almost forgot his manners, and tried to bite the hot dog right off of the fish hook.

The sun was starting to set. Bella had long ago tangled her line beyond repair and was catching minnows in the shallow weeds, and Bubaloo was hooking his final piece of hot dog. Wifey and I were taking self portraits on the shore and had given the munchkins their five minute pre-departure warning.

Bubaloo threw out his last cast, and moments later yelled to us, "I got a fish."

Thinking he'd caught another bunch of weeds, Wifey and I were slow to react. I then looked at the line and saw it moving in the water. Wifey dashed into the river, Bubaloo reeled the fish in, and they placed it in the net.

There stood my beaming son with his rod in one hand looking into the net at the first fish he'd ever caught. And, are you ready for this? He somehow had managed to catch a foot-long bass.

gone fishin

The whole way home he kept on telling me how proud he was of himself.

The whole way home I thought my heart was going to burst with happiness and joy for him. I was so proud. And, so fiercely protectively proud of him and his fish. This was the first moment of parenting like this for me. The "ah ha" of watching your kids succeed and grow by leaps and bounds in a single moment.