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.

11 May 2009

Where All the Good Fishes Go

Picking out Treasure

We said good bye to Treasure this weekend. She was Bella’s easter fish. Treasure was a member of our family for less than a month because she got sepsis and died.

The fish hadn’t been doing well for about a week or so. It wasn’t swimming and had difficulty breathing. Wifey did some internet research which enabled us to make a diagnosis.

On Saturday, we knew it would be time to say goodbye to the fish. We discussed it with Bella and we decided to flush her. Well, in actual fact, Wifey would be in charge of the actual transferring the fish from one bowl to another and giving Treasure the ceremonial flush back to the ocean.

It didn’t happen quite as we intended.

Wifey and I had a quick errand to run. Treasure was looking real bad and the time was near. Since we really needed to do this errand (which I cannot now remember what it was so I guess it couldn’t have been all that important after all) and didn’t want to get into what was anticipated to be a long fish funeral, I hurried us along and said we’d deal with it when we got home.

We left, ran the unmemorable errand, and returned. Only when we got home Treasure was no longer in her bowl. She had disappeared. Gone. Vanished.

It took me a moment to connect the disappearance of the fish to my daughter. In our absence, Bella had peered into the bowl and took it upon herself to scoop up her pet and end Treasure’s suffering. Only there wasn’t any ceremony. Or a goodbye. There was just a plastic baggie and a kid who doesn’t connect her head to her heart too well. A kid who took this action solo.

As we were the crappy Mommies, in our absence, our daughter had euthanatized her fish.

My heart tugged for her. I was amazed that she had opted to take this on by herself. I didn’t even want to be part of the fish’s death and had nominated Wifey to deal with it. If I couldn’t handle it, how was Bella going to? We didn’t want Bella to feel directly responsible for Treasure’s death.

We wrapped Bella in a hug and tried to insert a little goodbye with a few kind words for Treasure. We tried to use metaphor that Bella had stopped Treasure’s suffering and she was now enjoying a swim in the great ole’ fish pond or the big wild ocean.

We were trying to distance her from the grim reality of the situation. But Bella’s a realist. She knew that her fish wasn’t going for the trip of her lifetime.

That’s when Bella took the opportunity to educate us on the water and sewage treatment process.

Clearly, Treasure was not swimming in the ocean. Treasure was floating in a pond of poopy water that we’d make clean and one day drink again. She watches “Dirty Jobs” and knows all about sewage treatment. I, on the other hand, now know more than I ever wanted to.

01 May 2009

The Looking Glass Forgot to Tell Me About This

My mother took me to see a psychic. This was years ago. The psychic spent an hour telling me about my future and wrapped it up with five minutes reading my palm. None of the things she prophesized, to my recollection, have come ever come true.

But the highlights from the palm reading stick with me.

I will have one, perhaps two, children. She oscillated on the specific quantity and finally settled on somewhere between one and two. The only certain thing is that there would definitely not be more than two.

One mark represented the intersection of my life with Wifey. A notation of soul mate met and partnered with.

The proliferation of x marks on my hand tells the story of a life to be lived with many ups and downs, highs and lows. All of those crosses enabled her to tell me that my existence is going to be hilly, rocky and not in the least bit dull.

There are moments where I crave a simple mundane existence. Where I’d love to not have checklists, projects, drama and child antics. When all of that dissipates and regulates, if only for a day, I’m not able to just be in a non-chaotic life. It’s discomforting. In the absence of full, I want nothing more than to get tossed back into the ebb and flow of the daily tide. When back in that current, I want nothing more than stillness.

This week the children’s birth mom came back into the picture.

She found us two years ago through the internet and has been in and out of my life. She calls us repeatedly a few times in a short time period, asks about the kids, we hold her off and then she disappears for months. This cycle repeats itself. This week marks cycle four.

Only, there is something different about it this time. Something more pressing. This time she asked to speak with them.

Perhaps we’re tired of lying to the kids. Perhaps we’re worried that the time we can shelter them from this is limited. Perhaps we know it’s only a matter of time before they find their entire extended birth family on facebook or twitter.

So we’ve decided to let them know we’ve been contacted and let them make the decision about what they want to do. Do they want to write a letter, talk on the phone, or see their birth mom?
I thought that when this moment came I’d feel threatened as their Mom. I’m not. In the least.

What I am concerned about is what this will do to them and the family balance that’s been created in our house. I’m worried that this could destroy them. That our kids could regress to the hurt beings they were before and we’d have to spend years undoing that - again. I’m worried that they’re going to feel conflicted. I’m worried that she’ll not be the person they constructed in their minds and will be sorely disappointed.

I’m just, well as any parent would be, anxious, concerned, protective and fearful. And yet part of me is hopeful that this could be a good thing for them.

18 April 2009

It's Not Pretty, But It's Functional

A new pea trellis. Total cost =$5.99 for the netting. Everything else was already laying around the house. I'm trying to get Wifey to ignore that it's a bit of an eyesore for now, but I suppose that's the hazard of having your veggie garden right outside your side door.

Snow peas, sugar snap peas and mammoth melting sugar peas have been planted, along with two rows of spinach and shallots, and one row of bunching onions.

Last year was my first time growing peas. I thought the package was stupid for telling me to plant in April once the ground could be worked. Last year at this time, I couldn't see the ground. All I could see was snow. This year, the package isn't so stupid.

17 April 2009

Fish Can’t Live in Puddles

After much debate, hemming and hawing, we finally made the decision to let the kids have pets. One pet per child. Pets in the form of fishes.

We have a dog who is somewhat lovely. Other than the barking, herding and jumping. But he’s our dog. I mean, he belongs to Wifey and I. We adopted two children and they’ve never really adopted our dog. They see him as part of the family, but not necessarily as their family pet.

Turtles, lizards and hamsters were quickly rejected as additions to our family because of our pooch. Aside from my frugality and fear that I didn’t want to be an active participant in the possible starvation of a living creature to help bolster the responsibility personality trait, these animal forms wouldn’t fit into our family.

The aforementioned dog doesn’t really have manners and we’d inevitably spend more time trying to rescue the new family pets from his jaws. The dog really doesn’t understand the difference between 'pet' and 'dinner.' Kinda like most typical two year olds.

The announcement of “fish are welcome here” was incorporated into our annual easter egg hunt. It was the 3rd clue given via two glass fish bowls and matching packages of fish food. One for him and one for her.

On the following day we treked to the local Petsmart so that Bella and Bubaloo could choose their new fish. Before we even arrived at the store, Bubaloo had his heart set on a beta fish. He was determined to get a really cool one.

For those who’ve never explored the world of fishes, beta fish for some reason are not kept in aquariums. They’re usually kept in small separate containers. I think this is because they’re fighting fish? I don’t know how they’re shipped or how they’re kept prior to being placed on a shelf for purchase, but they are kept in clear plastic containers around the size of a sippy cup.

Bubaloo picked out several colourful beta options, all of which Wifey vetoed. They’re all sick she said. She diagnosed some as being listless and others as having some sort of gill disorder. Over 15 fish were selected and declined before Wifey finally okayed one to bring home.

The fish is in his new digs. He’s not doing too good. He’s not very active and has refused to eat a few meals here and there. I’m not sure what his predicted survival rate is, but I’m crossing my fingers that I won’t have to deal with tears and a toilet bowl flush this weekend.

Bella has a regular ole’ goldfish that is doing just fine. But she is not okay with this fish business. Not one bit. She’s infuriated and this sense of justice has propelled her to take action.

Instead of doing her homework, she sat down at the table and wrote a letter of complaint. Completely unprompted. Quite a surprisingly brilliant letter, actually.

She’s let Petsmart know that she doesn’t think what they’re doing is okay. Fish can’t live in puddles, she wrote. Those are her exact words. In little kid writing and all.

The letter is now in a sealed envelope and should make it to the mailbox today. My daughter is a little activist. How cool is that? I just can’t wait to see how the store responds.

15 April 2009

Adventures in Starting the Maybe Baby

While we haven’t even decided whether or not we want to have another child, I like to be prepared. Just in case. So if it is a yes, we can move full steam ahead.

In the interim, I’ve donned my researcher cap.

I’ve sought out TTC blogs and have added some books to my future library reading list. I’ve found online family planning services and have began to make sense of the nitty gritty mechanics of conception. I know where we can get sperm if we choose to go the unknown donor route. I have ideas about men should we choose to go the known donor route. I even bought a basal thermometer to see if I could figure out ovulation patterns.

Ever since I bought the thermometer, my cycle has gone to crap.

I was so sure that I was in tune with my body. Before temperature taking was inserted into my daily routine, I was confident that I could pinpoint the exact moment of ovulation. My ovaries would give me a little pinch and the fluids were all aligned.

Ever since I started taking my temperature, nothing makes sense. All the old tell tale signs have disappeared. My temperature is a roller coaster. The charts look like garbly gook. I fear that going down the TTC road could just be a recipe for disaster. One of those all consuming journeys that completely consume my life.

While we were out in the garden tonight pruning the raspberry bushes – in the lingering daylight wearing flip flops (sans socks)! – Wifey made fun of me. She noted that we haven’t even officially begun this adventure yet and already it is interfering with our routines.

Instead of being woken up by the sound of the CBC each morning and then rolling over for a 9 minute snooze button cuddle, she’s now waking up to the beep-beep-beep of the thermometer followed by my typing in data on the computer. I'm not quite sure what she's going to say when it dawns on her that she might be woken up every three hours because a screaming child wants to be fed.

12 April 2009

Laughs That Rumble Up From Your Belly

I love slapstick humour. I LOVE it. There’s nothing better than the kind of misshapen accident to make me laugh. I’m also quite partial to incidents that are the result of people doing something stupid that has an unintended comical consequence.

As a kid, I still remember some of my favourite clips from America’s Funniest Home Videos. One of them involved some guys playing football in a backyard. One of them goes long for the ball, jumps up to catch it, body checks the fence and the entire fence falls over. That kind of stuff makes me laugh so hard that I nearly pee myself.

Yesterday, I was at the grocery store loading the week’s entire haul onto the conveyor belt. Everything was up there and I went to grab the last item from the cart. Wifey had selected some black grapes and set them in the top part of the cart where kids and purses usually reside.

I must have grabbed the bag funny because it got caught in the wire cart and caused grapes to go everywhere. They flew. I tried to correct it, but I fumbled. More grapes got loose. Nearly 50 grapes rolling all over the grocery store floor.

A young employee walked by and I let him know that I had spilled the grapes and it needed to be cleaned up.

He looked at me. He looked at the grapes. And, gave me a look. Not the kind of look that said “you’re such an idiot.” The look of “who the fuck cares” tainted with “I don’t really see what the problem is” and an indigent dash of “it’s not my job to clean up the floor.”

Before I could even turn to let the cashier know, who was still caught up in a huge language barrier miscommunication with the previous customer, someone goes flying.

A poor lady. Her feet go right out from underneath her, fly up into the air, and she smashes down on her butt. With a thud she lands on the hard concrete floor.

People scuttle to help her up also sliding around on some of the now smooshed grapes. They get her to her feet and I hear threats of suing the store. She’s in shock; the crowd is disgusted at the danger of spilled grapes.

The lady is mostly embarrassed and if she’s not okay she’s not about it admit it. The small crowd surveys the grape disaster and their eyes fix on me. Standing there. Mouth open. Holding the incriminating bag of grapes.

I’m still in shock. Thank goodness. Because I’m not laughing. For the first time in my life I’ve managed to somehow maintain control.

I interrupt the cashier’s conversation with the previous customer to let her know about the grapes on the floor and the flying lady. She looks at me. And does nothing about the grapes. She does continue to scan my groceries.

I’m actually speechless for once.

As I’m formulating my next plan of action to get the grapes off the floor, another employee walks by, and says to my cashier as if she’s an idiot, “Can you please call for clean up?”

My cashier looks confused. Clean up? What needs to be cleaned up?

She doesn’t move other than continuing to scan my groceries.

The other staff person now shouts the order at her she quickly picks up the phone to call for a clean up. The cashier turns to me and says, “Well I didn’t call because that other guy knew about it and I thought he would come back. I guess not.”

All of this has taken place in less than a minute. Wifey, who was bagging the groceries, was completely oblivious to the entire incident that had taken place. As we’re rolling the buggy out of the store, I start to laugh. I’m laughing so hard that I can’t tell the story. Tears are forming in my eyes because this is so awful, but oh-so funny.

Later on in the night, I need a good fix. So I explored the Cake Wrecks blog.

After having had a dinner party on Friday, where the desert provided was an utter cake wreck - the middle of the out-of-the-box cake wouldn’t cook so my friend just cut it out and then she ran out of space while trying to write “Happy Easter” in chocolate chips so it read “Happy Eastr” – I was hooked on the endorphins provided by a good belly laugh. This site provided them.

It was late and Wifey wanted to sleep. My laughter wasn’t appreciated. I didn’t want to stop reading so I picked up the laptop and carried it to the bathroom.

I couldn’t stop laughing. Out loud. At 12:30 am.

Wifey tapped on the bathroom door. She wanted to know if I was okay. Then she clued in. But was still kind of uncertain. She was in disbelief. Could I really be holed up in the bathroom, with the laptop, reading about baking disasters?

I had to inquire, “Is there something wrong with that?”

06 April 2009

Signs of Spring

It’s spring. The crocuses have bloomed. Or so Bubaloo let me know.

Bubaloo: Mom, I’ve got good news and bad news.

Me: Oh really?

Bubaloo: The good news is that it’s now spring because the crocuses have bloomed.

Me: So what’s the bad news?

Bubaloo: The bad news is that heads of the flowers are gone. A squirrel ate ‘em. I know it. Chopped the heads clean off.

Me: Yeah, I noticed that.

Bubaloo: Well this just can’t happen. I’m going to guard those flowers all day long.

He grabbed his hockey stick and headed out to the garden. He never actually got to the flower bed before he was distracted by some other element of nature.

Later on in the day I witnessed Foo-Foo, the leader of the neighbourhood wild rabbits, hopping along the backyard and snacking on grass. Something tells me that the crocus eater isn't a squirrel.

29 March 2009

Gauging Winners and Losers in the Ultimate Power Struggle

When we returned home after our first ever family-out-of-the-country vacation in January, the whole family was out of sorts. Easing back into the daily routine was challenging for all, especially given the changing nature of each day being exacerbated by snow storms and the transit strike.

On a particularly horrific morning, Bubaloo and I butted heads. He wasn’t listening, wasn’t getting ready and was going to miss his school bus. The very bus that had been giving me a daily headache due erratic pick up times which often made me very late to work.

It was the last request that led to this disaster. I asked him to do something simple like brush his teeth. I asked him again. Then I asked him again. And again. And again.

He was in a state by the time he got to the bathroom. When I came up the stairs behind him, only moments later, he had LOCKED himself in there. Normally I would have gone straight to lock picking, but that very child on the other side of the door had broken the lock by jamming it with a piece of plastic a month earlier, and we hadn’t got around to fixing it yet. The only option left in my arsenal of parenting skills was reasoning.

Things were already heated. My patience had already evaporated under the exercise of my temper. This was the power struggle of all power struggles – I wasn’t going to lose. The kid was about to miss his bus, which would result in me having to drive him to school, which would add an hour on to my commute making me even later than I was going to be initially.

I knocked on the door and asked him to open it. Silence. I asked again. Silence. I then pounded on the door and threatened him. Silence. I then pounded on the door and pleaded with him. Silence.

Quickly my mood went from pissed off to terrified. The child who had locked himself in the bathroom was the same child who had lit a toilet paper on fire in the bathroom a few months earlier. He was angry and frustrated and silent. Possibly up to no good. All I could visualize was the possibility of my burning house.

I panicked and issued an ultimatum. I told him if he wasn’t out of the bathroom by the time I counted to 5, I was coming in there. I told him I was going to kick down the door.

Slowly I began to count. 1. Silence. 2. Silence. 3. Silence. 4. Silence. 4 ½. Silence. 4 ¾. Silence. 5. The door was still closed. So I “Chuck Norris-ed” it.

With one deft, cleanly placed, martial arts inspired kick that door was open and the kid flew off the toilet and out of the bathroom. I banished the child to his room.

I was so angry by this time. Simmering. But I was also triumphant because I did not lose that power struggle. I was also pretty amazed that I kicked that door open so easily. I was slightly impressed and in awe of this untapped skills. Then, I looked at the door and felt a twinge of regret. Wifey was going to be pissed.

I called her to fill her in on the situation and she came home immediately. School and work were out of the question for both Bubaloo and myself. We needed to resolve this conflict.

Wifey came home and was angry. She was mad about the door. Mad about being called home from work. Mad about Bubaloo’s poor choices. Mine too, apparently. She admonished us both.

She called a family meeting and wasted no time in mediating a resolution to this issue. The door would need to be replaced, and Bubaloo and I would be responsible for that. We’d have to go to Home Depot to get another one and we’d have to split the cost 50/50. With a job that pays slightly more than $5 allowance per week, I got the better end of the deal, or at least I thought so until I got entangled in sorting out the ensuing complications.

It took three trips to order the door.

On the first trip we discovered that we’d need to order a custom door as our 76 inch frame was much shorter than the standard 80 inches. We went back a week later with the measurements, only to be told by a different salesperson that a custom door requires more measurement than the length and the height of the door. He sent us home with a worksheet. On the third time we went back, we finally had the information we needed to place the order, and after 45 minutes of dealing with a very nice but not so computer savvy gentleman, we had finally placed our order.

The new door arrived last weekend and today I set aside some to work with Bubaloo to install and paint it.

We went to put the hinges on the new door and they had milled it incorrectly. We grabbed a chisel from the garage and quickly chipped away at it to make it work.

When we hung the door, we noticed another issue. While we knew the frame wasn’t square, it became evident how unsquare the frame was. While the door is 5mm from the frame by the hinges, on the handle side, it’s much sorter. A ½ inch much more noticeably shorter.

Then, because the door is no longer square, it wouldn’t actually close with the handle into the lock hole. We had to chisel a new one of those, too.

Four hours later plus another five where I decided to repaint all the trim upstairs because the can of paint was already open, the door is painted and the hardware installed. It sort of closes. It just needs a little extra firm push.

When I reflect back upon this, the 3 month process to get and install the door, plus the back and forth to Home Depot, I’ve learned some pretty valuable lessons.

  1. I will replace doorknobs with broken locks as soon as they break. It’s worth the $25 cost and 30 minutes of my time (plus another 10 minutes to find the screwdriver that no one claims to have taken from the toolbox).
  2. Always know whether or not you have custom doors before you decide to let your alter martial arts personality loose.
  3. Call Home Depot and let them know about the crappy mill work and numerous trips just to order the stupid door and they’ll cover the cost of the door for you.
  4. Think about it, if only for 5 more seconds, before you ever utter the words “I’ll kick down that door if you don’t...”
  5. When you’re in the midst of door replacement suckage, and you’re about to lose your cool in frustration, just abide by the mantra “It was so worth it to win that power struggle, because if I hadn’t I’m sure I’d have to be fixing other little disasters because my kid wouldn’t have counted on me to follow through.”
  6. Always, always, always win a power struggle. No matter the cost. As the grown up, however, you should probably be a little bit smarter (i.e., quickly mentally evaluation the financial, time, spousal and pain-in-my-ass cost) about which situations you make into power struggles.

25 March 2009

A Lesson in Positive Reinforcement

The kids were sitting at the table tonight after dinner mowing down on cookies. The very cookies I spent most of my day dreaming about and secretly demolished two right before dinner. With this treat, Bella pulled out her homework.

Bubaloo: Whatcha workin' on?

Bella: A poster.

Bubaloo leans across the table to get a real good look at what she's working on.

Bubaloo: Is that a REAL poster for the army?

Bella: No, it's a fake poster. It's for a war a long time ago. The war of 1812.

Bella proceeded to read the copy she drafted inviting men to sign up as soldiers, "Join the Army and Come to Tom's Tavern."

Bella: I put that there because I thought 'army' rhymed with 'tavern.'

Bubaloo: Army. Tavern. Um, those don't rhyme. ...But good effort!

21 March 2009

My Kids Love Me


One perk of adopting older kids, at least when they write on the furniture they don't use marker. This made my heart melt.

20 March 2009

Crimes of a 13-Year-Old and Her Adoptive Mother

I spoke too soon. All is not well in the portion of the humpty dumpty house that is occupied by the 13-year-old. The same goes for any part of the house that I have to occupy alongside her.

This week Bella has had the luxury of attending a week-long program at a local art school. With this great freedom have come copious opportunities to make poor decisions.

Here’s a short list of her (irritating) crimes:
  1. Getting some kid to buy her candy and then not being able to pay her back
  2. Getting me to give her an advance on her allowance to pay back the kid
  3. “Losing” the allowance advance money on the way to art school less than 10 minutes after getting it
  4. Then borrowing money from the art school’s receptionist (who thankfully happens to be a good friend) to give to the other kid
  5. Confessing to #3 & 4 when getting caught on the items below, but with no intention of paying back the receptionist
  6. Biting into an apple (against the requirements of her recent dental surgery) and breaking one of the dental chains (for the second time in less than two weeks)
  7. Taking an enormous box of granola bars to give to her art school “friends” leaving nothing else for anyone who resides in the household
  8. Leaving art school at lunch to wander around the market and being late to return to class in the afternoon
  9. Everything else she hasn’t been busted for yet
I hate lying. I hate dishonesty. I hate that I have to spend all this time dealing with this kid on stupid stuff. I hate that all this stupid stuff is totally able to get my blood boiling. And, I hate that all this stuff makes me like her less than I already do and it’s not like her likability was all that high to begin with.

This is the crux of our attachment issue. We haven’t attached to Bella and she really hasn’t attached to us. She’s nearly 14.

We spend all this time trying to make it work, and I worry that it just won’t. We spend a lot of time worrying and wondering if what’s broken can even be fixed.

I worry that we may want to begin actual work on the Maybe Baby next year and I’m terrified that we could face the same issues with another kid. I’m resentful because the Maybe Baby may never be part of the plan because we may not have the space, food, money to have another kid as what I need to have a Maybe Baby I have to spend on this kid that I’m not all that crazy about. You can’t trade up or out on kids. But this totally isn’t what I thought I was getting into.

I feel awful and guilty about this all the time which really can’t be helping whatever attempts I make at bonding with the kid I already have. I’m consumed by this day in and day out. It’s horrible.

19 March 2009

Four Weeks Into Career #2

Life is great. I can’t really complain. I guess this means I don’t have much to say as I’m not tormented or desperately searching for amusement in my kids’ antics.

I started a new job five weeks ago. I spent the first four weeks actively seeking not to pass judgement on whether or not I liked it. I may have, this past Friday, mentally muttered something to myself about this job being a great fit. The weather was balmy. My Friday afternoon consisted of a staff team lunch and then being given the rest of the afternoon off so I could pursue my shopping hobby (seriously, living in this insulated city is great because what global economic slowdown are you talking about? We’re pissing money/investing too much in our house/kids’ teeth right now).

This is the most relaxed place I have ever worked. I feel valued as a staff member. This value is manifested in both what I can contribute to shaping the growth of this start-up not-for-profit and in the size of my biweekly pay cheque. While I’m at the low end of the salary range for a fundraiser, this is the first time in years that I feel adequately paid as an employee in this sector.

We have an awesome mission, no shortage of challenges, and it’s not a daily battle with red tape. The other big occupational perk is that I get to wear jeans every day to the office. Comfortable pants make me want to work.

After the weekend, however, I returned to the office slightly deluded and cursing the productivity of my colleagues.

I think I’m the only one who has actually done something of tangible significance during the past 4 weeks that will contribute to the future success of the organization - output as known as "ensuring that we all have jobs next April."

Four grant applications, two of those being major ones. An operating budget and annual activity plan. Serious progression on Board committee development. New website in development talks. Celebrating my rockstarness, I accomplished all of the above while I had a week-long flu and I haven’t actually really had an official orientation session yet.

The thing that is the source of this irritation is that I haven’t seen any output from my boss. Well, to be fair, she did do her dishes for the first time before she left today. And it may be because her brother has been incredibly sick in the ICU and skirting a terminal diagnosis which has totally left her understandably drained, exhausted and distracted. What I’m not sure yet, and trying to hold off passing judgement on, is aside from this illness would it actually be any different? I’m either a bad person for asking this question or undeniably intuitive and realistically setting my self up for disappointment.

I think at the root of this may also be a clash in working styles of type A and type B personalities. Anal retentive, high-achiever meets organic, uber-relaxed thinker and actor. It’s good to write this because I remember again why I choose to take with job and work with this person – we’re yin and yang – and in this will create leadership balance that will hopefully thrust this organization to success.

10 March 2009

Down With the Greenhouses

Tonight at the dinner table Bubaloo was on a comedian kick. Unintentionally comedic, albeit quite funny.

"Nay with the greenhouse gases!!!" he extolled.

"Yay for those who destroy greenhouses!!!!!"

This makes you think about how we, as adults, name things and how kids use this to make sense of the world.

All I can imagine is my little boy wearing big ole rubber boots with a hammer running around the neighbourhood threatening to destroy the evil, bad, polluting greenhouses.

We clarified the metaphor for him, but he still seemed a little confused and couldn't quite comprehend how the earth's atmosphere is similar to that of a greenhouse.

08 March 2009

Brother and Sister Love Story Meets Battlestar Galactica

When Bella and Bubaloo first moved in with us, they were children who didn’t know how to self entertain.

Coming from a foster family where there were 3 bio kids in addition to the 5 other kids who frequented the home-based daycare, the house was constantly filled with people. It was a house where the TV was always blaring and there was someone always around. The family had each of their children enrolled in an uncountable number activities, topped off with regularly scheduled family outings, so Bella and Bubaloo often spent much of their time in the family van being shuttled back and forth from one thing to the next and waiting in the van for any given activity to end while being amused by a DVD entertainment system.

When they moved in with us they experienced an immediate culture shock. Saturdays weren’t planned out weeks in advance. There wasn’t a constant influx of entertainment, outings and activities. It wasn’t go, go, go. It wasn’t one thing after another. Both kids were beside themselves and didn’t know what to do. It was also quite surprising that as kids they were quite lacking in the imagination department.

Then one day they dreamed up The Game. Although, it wasn’t called the The Game at this time.

As Bella and Bubaloo began to discover one another as siblings and playmates, they did this through pretend play that can be likened to a verbal rendition of Chinese Letters. Instead of creating a story line by line on paper, they would sit for hours constructing elaborate narratives alternating weaving a shared tale. This wasn’t an action-oriented game. It was totally verbal with the kids sitting across from one another.

One munchkin starts with an idea, and the other builds on to it with their own idea. The idea can only be one sentence long. It also has to be linked to the previous idea by the phrase, “And then...”

In action, it might sound something like this. “And then, they were on a pirate ship searching for gold. And then, out at sea there was suddenly a big storm. And then, the boat was tossing in the water. And then, it began to fill up with water because the pirates had sailed too close to the shore and hit a rock.”

In the early days, this was very secretive. It was as if they were almost embarrassed about the discovery of this new imaginary world. They wouldn’t play within earshot of the grown-ups. And they liked to play behind closed doors.

Before we knew what it was they were playing, and how it was played, we inquired as to what they were talking about all the time. Bella responded, “We’re playing a game Brother and Sister Love Story.”

Before I jumped completely to conclusions, but already half-way there, I asked her to share a little bit more about what this was. “Well,” said Bella, “it’s about a brother and sister who live in a far away land and have adventures on pirate ships and slay lots of dragons.”

There’s nothing inappropriate about that, so I had to ask why it was called Brother and Sister Love Story. There was a big piece missing here.

“Because it’s about a brother and sister who love one another.” Simple. Matter of fact. Appropriate. Since we explained to the munchkins how Brother and Sister Love Story didn’t really best describe what they were playing, we suggested they come up with a different name. This is when The Game was born.

The kids love The Game and it’s become a staple of how they play together. Now that they’re 11 and 13 it hasn’t died down one bit. They don’t have marathon 4 hour sessions any more, and The Game is leading to more sibling squabbles, but they love it and play it all the time.

This morning, I came down to get a cup of coffee and they were at the kitchen table eating their breakfasts while playing The Game. Fully engrossed they didn’t even notice or acknowledge me. That’s when I my ear latched on to the phrase, “Battlestar Galactica.”

A few weeks ago, when the adults were down for the count with the flu, we actually let them watch lots of TV/movies and in a moment of delirium we allowed them to watch this show. I love Battlestar Galactica because it’s such a brilliant and intelligent show, but the sex and killing in the later seasons doesn’t really quite make it kid-friendly. They only watched the initial mini-series, but they’re completely hooked. They're fascinated by humans creating machines and space travel. They ask to watch it all the time and we keep on finding ways to distract them.

I hadn’t heard anything about Battlestar Galactica for a few weeks, so I thought interest had finally waned. Waned it has not. It’s just completely permeated their play.

01 March 2009

Exactly What It Looks Like

This is exactly what it looks like. A jar full of socks. A jar full of stinky boy socks. A jar full of hopeful Guinness Book of World Record stinky socks. Almost.

Without letting the family in on his challenge, Bubaloo decided to beat a world record for stinky socks. He made it three weeks wearing the same pair of socks before he got busted.

I don't know why it took us that long to catch on, but even three days after we kept on smelling an odd funky smell, we couldn't quite figure out where it was coming from. When we finally figured out it was coming from Bubaloo, we asked him to shower. But he came out of the shower and was still stinky.

That's when I spotted the dankness of his socks. Which compelled me to inquire if he had changed them post-shower. He let me know he had changed his socks. I then re-phrased my question to inquire if he had put on clean socks after his shower. He hadn't. He had changed back into the pair he had been wearing that day. The very pair he had been wearing for the last three weeks!!!

I finally wrestled the horrid stinky socks off his feet and was about to toss them into the laundry bin. But he pleaded and implored with me not to ruin all his efforts with a touch of detergent. He was determined to be in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Instead, we came to a compromise. He could keep the socks but he'd have to promise never to wear them again. He'd have to put them in a jar so that no one in the house would ever have to be subjected to the smell of the putrid socks again.

Since that time more socks have been added to the jar. Whenever he manages to make another pair stinky, but not quite as stinky as the initial offending pair, into the jar they go. Occasionally he walks around the house with his stinky sock collection in hand and beams. We've also caught him from time-to-time unscrewing the lid of the jar to take a whiff just to ensure that the stocks haven't lost any of their stink.

19 February 2009

A Salt Rifle

Bubaloo is fascinated with all things war. Guns, army men, blowing things up, war strategy. It horrifies me.

We’ve spent some time talking through war with him and trying to discourage him from his future ambition of being an army man. We’ve tried the gruesome approach – you could have your arm or leg blown off. We’ve tried the morbid approach – you could die. We’ve also tried the tugging heart string approach – you wouldn’t be able to have cuddles and kisses whenever you wanted if you were to be deployed far away.

Nothing has worked. He is totally fixated.

To accompany his obsession with being an army man, he is enthralled with toy guns. We don’t allow him to have toy guns. We were somewhat reluctant to even get him a water gun this past summer for fear of encouraging this fascination.

But no matter what we do, he has this incredible boy-ability to turn any inanimate object into a gun.

A wooden spoon. A stick. A ladle. A broomstick handle. And most recently, the Swiffer.

We have a Swiffer that comes apart into four metal pieces. Using elastics, he managed to tie the pieces together so that there was a longer and shorter side that he was able to refashion into a gun. This time he called it a rifle. A sniper rifle to be exact.

An out of town friend stopped by for a visit, and Bubaloo was up and down the living room with his toy making it so that no one could focus on the conversation. I asked him to play somewhere else in the house and to take his assault rifle with him.

He grabbed the Swiffer gun and muttered as he went up the stairs, “It’s not an assault rifle. It’s a sniper rifle.”

Confused I shouted after him, “Bubaloo, what’s the difference between an assault rifle and a sniper rifle?”

Indigently he retorted as if I were the most uneducated and informed person on the planet, “a salt rifle shoots salt and a sniper rifle shoots bullets.”

A salt. Assault. Those homophonic words will get you every time!

15 February 2009

Cleaning House

When one is under the influence of Mary Poppins room cleaning can get a little creative. Picking up over 100 plastic army men is not much fun. Using a slingshot to fire them into a box - while wearing your skateboarding helmet which doubles as an army helmet - is an entirely different story.

12 February 2009

Love Me With a Cookie

Bubaloo asked to mark this Valentine’s Day with a cookie. A cookie for his one true love and enduring crush: the girl who likes Golden Oreo Cakesters. Actually, he asked to take her out to dinner and a movie, but we didn’t quite feel that was a good fit for a kid in grade 5 so we put forth a counter proposal that would have him woo her with his baking skills.

Bubaloo and Golden Oreo Cakester girl have been officially boyfriend and girlfriend since early January. Funny thing though, she has two boyfriends. Both with the same name. Bubaloo goes to school with her every day and gets to play on the computer with her and share snack time treats. The other boyfriend with the exact same name apparently lives quite far away. Bubaloo doesn’t care one bit that he’s the second boyfriend. He’s totally smitten.

To mark this monumental Valentine’s Day, Wifey committed to a baking project. My Wifey is brilliant in the kitchen – only as a cook, and definitely not a baker. She can intuitively mix and meld, fold and blend, and tease out flavours in food. She lives by the dollop and the dash. She knows when a pinch of salt or a squeeze of lemon is required. She can tell by smell what each and every unlabelled spice on our counter is.

What my Wifey is not good at is being precise and following directions in the kitchen. She can’t measure. And therefore, she can’t bake (well).

To compensate for this weakness, she bought a partial pre-fab cookie mix. All that had to be done was to add an egg and butter. This should have been easy for her to do, and it should have been easy to incorporate the kids into the process.

Admittedly, baking followed a tough day and rough night with the kids. They’re all sick with that horrid two-week-kick-your-ass bug that’s going around.

It all started off well and good intentioned.

Bella got out the cooking sheets and placed the parchment paper on top. Wifey emptied the contents of the package into a bowl. Then she melted the butter. Bubaloo was called over to crack the egg. Due to a ridiculous repeated questioning that the recipe couldn’t possibly require only one egg he was swiftly relieved of his baking duties. Sidelined, he couldn’t let the one egg only go. He just kept on stating that there needed to be more than one egg.

With exasperation, Wifey took completely over. She began to mix the batter. With a whisk. She was trying to cream together the butter and egg with the flour/chocolate chip mixture with a whisk. The butter was all stuck on the inside of the whisk, she’d try to move it around faster to get the butter out, there was butter flying across the kitchen. It rivals some of the funniest baking incidents I’ve ever been privy to.

When I finally got around to clarifying that whisks were for whisking (don’t you love it when kitchen tools are aptly named!) and that other instruments were better suited for stirring, she was done. Balls of dough were quickly dropped on the cooking sheet and the trays went into the oven.

The only bit of love Bubaloo had been able to pour into his Valentine’s treat was his fear that the cookies would crumble without two more eggs. It didn't matter to Golden Oreo Cakester girl. Bubaloo was rewarded for this thoughtful efforts with a phone call.

10 February 2009

Life Gets a Little Messy Sometimes

One of the first things you do as a prospective adoptive parent is fill out a lot of paperwork. Every aspect of your life is under scrutiny as your fitness to become a parent is judged by a barrage of social workers.

While your capabilities to potentially parent are being assessed, and sometimes I hope that your abilities to parent the kinds of children who are available for public adoption are taken under consideration as well (although, I’m not entirely sure on that one), there’s very little opportunity for prospective parents to assess what kind of kids they can parent.

Very early in the process we filled out ½ of one page that defined our “range of acceptance.” Simply a behaviour, characteristic, or challenge was listed and it was your job to select yes or no. Yes, I’m willing to take a child with X. Or no, I don’t want a child with X. Nowhere on the form are any details or further information on any these yes/no items to be found.

A prospective parent who is completing their range of acceptance may have a conversation like this:

Wifey #1: What’s the difference between FASD and FAE?
Wifey #2: Let me check on the internet. Oh, these are kids that have been exposed to alcohol in the womb to varying degrees.
Wifey #1: I suppose that might be okay. What the heck is this RAD thing?
Wifey #2: The internet says that’s Reactive Attachment Disorder. I quickly skimmed the page and can sum it up as a strong opposition to authority.
Wifey #1: Well I hate authority so bring that kid on!

And the list without a lexicon or further information continues on with things like fire starting, experienced sexual or emotional trauma, stealing, anger management issues, retarded (seriously, in this day and age the form actually used that word to describe children) and so on.

As a parent who now knows a lot of other parents who have adoptive children who face a huge range of challenges, I now have more clarity as to what issues I wouldn’t be able parent. At the time, however, there were only two boxes we checked ‘no’ on. Both ‘nos’ were related to things we were familiar with.

Wifey didn’t want a fire starter and I didn’t want a child who was ‘retarded.’

While I won’t copy the entire narrative I wrote to CAS scolding them about their use of the word ‘retarded’ and how I expected more from an organization that works with children, I knew I couldn’t raise a child who was experiencing global developmental delays.

I’m not a patient person. I’ve worked with kids for years. I’m also the older sibling to a brother who has a genetic disorder that has resulted in significant global developmental delays.

When my brother was born they told my mother he would never walk and never talk. Initially his diagnosis was Down Syndrome. About six months later it because clear that that diagnosis was incorrect but they weren’t quite sure what was wrong with by brother.

It wasn’t till my brother was seven or eight that my brother got a label that fit. Our family was finally connected to a doctor and a geneticist, the only in the world, who were working with this particular chromosomal mutation.

My brother is a phenomenal human being. He’s resilient, good hearted and indefatigable. He has poor social skills, experiences depression, has had major medical complications and setbacks. He’s surpassed every limitation he was told he’d have. He walks and talks. He even drives – it took him an extra 6 years to get his license but he did it!

My brother has never really had a true friend. His friends are primarily friends of the family. People forget his birthday all the time and he spends upwards of a month picking out a birthday gift for them. He dreams of finding a girl to date and marry. My brother will never financially be able to independently support himself and the amount of money afforded to him by social assistance would barely provide enough to pay rent, let alone food or transportation.

My brother also happens to be the most irritating person in the world to me. Because he is the brother of an impatient sister and he knows exactly which buttons to push, I’ve usually hit my upper threshold of tolerance within 10 to 30 minutes of being in the same room as him.

I’ve seen how challenging and self-sacrificing it has been for my Mom to mother him. She loves him unquestionably, but he consumes her. There is no end in sight because my brother will never move out of the family home. My mother has been parenting him for 30 years and will be his primary caregiver till she dies.

The cost has been high for my mother. Two marriages . Near financial devastation. Family vacations. Numerous career opportunities. Relationships with other family members and children. Unconditional love is costly, yet my mother wouldn’t change a thing.

Having witnessed my mother’s life, feeling constantly guilty about how I relate and react to my brother, gave me firsthand knowledge that I couldn’t parent a child with global delays. I will also become the primary caregiver to my brother when/if my mother dies and I knew I couldn’t handle two kids like my brother.

It’s the truth and it’s ugly. It’s something I hate about myself. But I couldn’t in good conscience check off that box with a ‘yes’ on the range of acceptance. With each checklist item, we were asked to dig deep about what we wanted and about what we could or could not handle.

This past weekend the Globe and Mail published an article on a new test that could assess the genetic health of unborn children. I read the article from beginning to end and handed it over to Wifey.

Given our ongoing discussions about the MaybeBaby, and my deep fear that I could somehow pass along the genetic disorder my brother has even though I know it’s not how this particular disorder works, I had to again confront an ugly truth. If we were to get pregnant and we find out that our fetus is compromised, I wouldn’t want to carry it to term.

I, like all other parents, want a healthy baby. My baby doesn’t need to be, and surely won’t be, perfect. But I don’t want to be an ugly person all the time. I would be a horrific parent to this child. I would be resentful and angry. I would feel guilty and awful. I would be the kind of parent that no one deserves.

When we make these kinds of decisions, it’s less about the kind of children we bring into the world. It’s about making sure that the kids I have do have the best parent possible. I want this for my kids. They’re entitled to and deserving of this. And so this truth - my truth - is messy, ugly and complicated.

07 February 2009

Finding a New Normal

On December 10, 2008, transit went on strike. On January 30, 2009 just as the federal government was about to debate back-to-work legislation on the premise that transit was an essential service, the City and the union agreed to end the strike and put the matters into binding arbitration. The strike lasted 51 days. By the time we resume partial service on Monday we’ll have been without buses for around 61 days. But who is counting?

Over the past two months we’ve heard transit horror stories. There’s been lots of opinion about whose fault this fiasco is – the City or the union. We’ve also heard some great things about people making connections and friendships and building a sense of community.

The last two months have been incredibly rough and stressful on our family. By no means have we had it the worst, and we’re not one of the many horror stories, but I am so excited for Monday morning because I can resume pre-strike routines and will endeavor to appreciate the things I’m grateful for.

1) I will not have to write Chauffeur on my resume.
We have one car and I have free guaranteed parking at work. This means since the transit strike, I’ve been getting up to drive both Wifey and Bella to school every morning and then driving back from downtown to wait at home with Bubaloo for his bus. My morning commute will now return to being a delightful 5-10 minutes in a single car ride. No more 30 minutes to 1 hour of driving two people where they need to go followed by 1 hour of waiting for a bus or driving Bubaloo to school because his bus doesn’t show up. My family can now get where they need to go. And, they can do it on their own.

2) My moving-clock will be delayed.
Our neighbourhood is okay. It’s turning over. There are not a lot of kids, and the kids who do live here our kids have managed to alienate. The schools are kind of sucky. On the bright side we do live close to parks, a bike path, have great after school care and are 5-10 minutes from Downtown by car. Location is key and to make our house work better for us we just need to pay down debt so that we can fix up the basement and have more space and a second bathroom. Before the strike we actually contemplated moving to Orleans. Thanks but no thanks. I get a headache thinking about traffic and the possibility of having to spend 1/3 to 1/4 of my waking hours in the car each day.

3) I will be happy Mommy.
I am a morning person, or so I thought until the transit strike. It turns out I need to have one cup of coffee, a shower and thirty minutes of quiet “me time” to not be a mega bitch in the morning. I’m so glad that I perhaps will be able to avoid barking orders every morning as my blood pressure goes through the roof. I will endeavour to count to 10 a lot more and will have the will power to do so.

4) I will appreciate how others benefit from transit.
I like that we’re a one car family and that we live in a city with a town-like feel. I like that I can espouse those values because my family members are the ones making these two things happen. I don’t personally like the bus or take the bus unless I have to (I’m not patient and it’s unbearable to me to take 45 minutes to do what I can do in 10 minutes with a car), but I’m thankful that my family members do like transit and like to use it. I am happy that lots of other people use transit so there are fewer of us on the road. In return for getting use of the car each day, I’m the one who responds to all kid emergencies and makes sure that the kids get to all regularly scheduled doctor, dentist, orthodontist and school appointments.

In less than 48 hours, our city will resume to being a mobile city. While I’ve been in denial, I’m also hoping that the teachers don’t go on strike this month. My head really will explode if that happens, too.

04 February 2009

The Maybe Baby

There’s been talk in our house of late about adding a new member to our family. We call this person the MaybeBaby.

When we first looked into building our family we wanted an adoption-bio mix. Our plan initially was to adopt one child, a boy between the ages of 5 and 8, and then to have a baby girl sometime thereafter.

Instead we ended up adopting two kids, a boy and a girl, both older kids. Still, we think of adding a baby to our household…maybe.

The MaybeBaby is contingent and can only come to be once we’ve dealt with all the things that make it a maybe. Once we’ve paid off the debt from fixing our money pit house, have refinished the basement and the very near orthodontic and educational bills our children will incur. Once we’re sure Bella and Bubaloo will be okay with a new sibling. And, once we’ve figured out what is the best way for us to make a baby (known vs unknown donor).

We’re working on all of these items at once and hopefully with in the next year or so it will all come together.

Last night at the dinner table, we worked on the last two maybes. Talking more with Bella and Bubaloo about a sibling and the mechanics around how that baby would come to be. Talking about a baby inevitably leads to a great sex education opportunity.

Wifey turned to Bubaloo and asked if he had any questions about how we, as two women, would make a baby.

“Babies are made through S-E-X. Duh!” shouted Bubaloo. Not sex. Because he couldn’t say the word aloud. All he could muster were the individual letters and spell S-E-X out.

Wifey and I exchanged glances. For all our talks about sex with the kids, we weren’t sure if we were understanding him correctly. Did our son just articulate that two women having sex can make a baby?

So we inquired.

“Yes! You and Mom have S-E-X. And, that’s how babies are made.”

We backed up and went through baby making 101 with the kids again. Babies require sperm and an egg. Women have eggs. Men have sperm. You need both those things, often acquired through sex, to make a baby. We also inserted a lesson here on safer sex and STI prevention.

To ensure the kids retained our lesson we went through it one more time.

“Can two women having sex make a baby?”
“No!” choursed the kids.
“Can a man and a woman having sex make a baby?”
“Yes!” they shouted.
“Can two men having sex make a baby?”
“No…” they said. Then Bubaloo piped up, “They don’t make a baby, but they’d make a mess. Men make a lot of sperm and with two of them it would get everywhere!!!”

28 January 2009

If I Had 10 Million Dollars

Two months ago, Wifey’s colleagues did the impossible. They won the lottery. Four of them. They split one of the biggest jackpots in Canadian history.

We told the kids and began imagining what we would do if we were to win $10 million. We’d get a bigger house, pay off my mother’s mortgage, pay for Wifey’s sister’s schooling, take a huge month-long vacation, set up a trust fund for my brother, buy a Playstation and have some fun.

I’d also quit my job and finally achieve my life long career ambition to be a philanthropist. Can you imagine anything better than finding great charities to fund and making their work happen?

The flipside to all this imagining is that our kids started to have a new ambition. They wanted to win the lottery. Since it was so easy for Wifey’s colleagues to work at winning the lottery, and they did win, the kids insisted that we should be equally successful at winning. Missing from this equation was the element of chance.

Bubaloo suggested that we spend all our money on lottery tickets, while Bella extolled on the sins of gambling.

We opted to set up a little family experiment. For the next year, every week we’re each going to invest a dollar.

Bella and I will combine our dollars and place them in a savings jar. We’re 10 weeks into the experiment and our jar has $20 in it.

Wifey and Bubaloo have joined forces to win the lottery. Each week they spend their $2 on a lottery ticket. Any winnings they receive must be placed into a jar.

So far they don’t have a jar. They haven’t even won any cash to put into the non-existent jar. The only thing they’ve won with their $20 is a free ticket. One single lonely free ticket. Even with two tickets in one week, we still haven’t won the 649 or Super 7. Just imagine.

The idea is at the end of one year we’ll compare the contents of both jars and make a family decision on how to spend it.

Well we’ve already decided that it will be spent on a ‘fancy dinner.’ We just haven’t quite come to agreement on what constitutes ‘fancy.’ I do believe that the kids have nominated McDonalds, Swiss Chalet and the Lone Star as their options.

25 January 2009

LGBTQ (Adoptive) Parents

Right now, I’m sitting in the Porter lounge having just doused my pants and laptop with a latte. I think I was a little overly enthused to sip some of my free latte. I’m here catching a flight after having attended a weekend-long conference on post-adoption peer-to-peer supports.

With 28 moms and 2 dads, I was the only queer person in the room. This only reinforced my need for LGBTQ-specific post-adoption supports in my community. All of us had one major life-changing thing in common – we all had at least one adopted child. Despite this, I wasn’t able to connect with any of these people.

In part it could perhaps be because I was an average of 10-20 years younger than all the other parents. The generational gap was evident every time I didn’t get one of their cultural references. Who the heck is Davey Jones and why was running into him at a hotel such a life defining moment for you? (Apparently he was from the Monkees and had a huge teen scream-your-head-off-and-faint following).

It wasn’t a one-sided generation disconnect; it was mutual. Any time I mentioned Facebook they didn’t see the networking potential or the future challenges posed by our kids being able to search for birth parents and relatives.

I’m still flabbergasted by the number of people who assume that birth children are not a possibility for us or that we have not faced an extensive infertility challenge. As far as I know, both wombs are functioning. We just lack the sperm to allow an egg to take up residence there. No matter what Wifey and I do, any child in our home will not be the biological likeness of both our parts. So, why should adoption be any different for us in this respect?

There was even a general disgust in the room of referring to themselves as adoptive parents. Not parents who adopted children. Nor parents with 4 children - 1 adopted and 3 biological.

I love being an adoptive parent and referring to myself as such...if only because I commonly use the specific phrasing to disassociate myself from having had any role in my children’s public display of poor behaviour. Sometimes, I just want to avoid judgmental people who I clearly see thinking “how did such a smart girl get pregnant, not once but twice as a teenager.”

My family is complicated and messy. I’m out. Sometimes more than others. My kids are out and constantly out me. I just spend so much time trying to sort out how my identity puzzle fits for me and has a place in the larger world.

So yeah, I’m going to make me another adoption splinter group and bring together the queers!