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!!!”