Friday, 28 November 2014

First Date

So, I promised you all out there on teh interwebz (because I prefer to labour under the illusion that people actually read this thing, thankyouverymuch) that I would write a little bit about our first selection meeting for foster adoption.

This is how it works. First, you call the office and they ask a series of qualifying questions, mostly to make certain that you aren't a lunatic living in a hovel - where do you live, do you have enough space, has anyone official (so, not your kids or your mother-in-law) ever told you that you aren't fit to raise a chicken, et cetera. If you can tick all the boxes, you are invited to attend an informational session within the following three months.

After a number of weeks and some (okay, a lot of) obsessive googling on fostering, the evening arrives. Three or so social workers ply you with sugar, caffeine, and heart-breaking statistics until all your defenses are offline, and then they hit you with the horror stories and the worst case scenarios to see if you'll break and run. If you hang tough, they'll see you the following week (or, you know, whenever you get your shit together.)

This is where the selection process starts. At our meeting, we all had to stand up and say who we were, what we did for work and leisure, and to say what our experience with children was, and our motivation for attending. The hardest part was to describe ourselves as parents in one word. What? As you may have noticed, I can't describe anything in just one word. Apparently a lot of others felt the same, and since there were about forty of us, it took some time to get through us all. Of course I was last, so I had a lot of time to build up all that public-speaking anxiety we all know and love. Naturally S nailed it, and I muttered something incoherent about how all I really do is read and aren't epigenetics interesting, then got red in the face and sat down. All the words I wanted to say in a clear and logical manner got tangled up in my larynx and fell over their feet before making it out of my mouth. The social workers were taking notes the entire time and I'm sure the ones on me say something like "??? couldn't understand a word, no apparent hobbies. Husband bright and articulate."

We moved on to a questionnaire, and let me tell you, that was definitely designed to weed out the crazies. Because, you know, my one year old baby is totally able to keep himself safe around dangerous objects, and my four year old always meets me at the door with a perfectly mixed Manhattan after a hard day at the office. Not. Some questions were harder for me because my answer really depended on the kid, because you parent the child you have, not the ideal one you expected, right? Right. So I wrote a paragraph on a few of them before we even got to the essay  questions.

Which were actually pretty easy; I just answered them all with examples of how I would  deal with my own kids. So I guess if we aren't passed to the next level, maybe I am not fit to raise a chicken! I felt like a high school kid again when we handed in all our 'tests' - nervous and just hoping for a passing grade.

But we won't find out until the new year, so here's hoping for at least a B.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Couch to 5k ... and back again

I used a couch to 5k running app once. Seriously, I used it once. I was so determined up that I was going to DO THIS THING, get in shape and if not in actual shape (because, well, round is a shape too, right?) then at least get healthy enough that my old ass could chase my kids around for years to come. So at five a.m. I fell out of my bed and into my shoes and stumbled out into the world. I probably looked like an extra from "The Walking Dead' and after a half-hour 'run' my body sure as hell felt like the real zombie deal.  I also felt pretty proud of myself for doing it. So the next morning I jumped out of bed at dawn again....and nearly fell right back over. You see, I didn't realize that mere act of running would be enough to reduce my hip joints to powder. I felt like I was eighty years old and nine months pregnant. So much for the couch to 5k.

I have an elliptical machine in the bedroom, that we picked up second-hand after my son was born. My husband said that if he agreed to buy and move the damn thing, I had to promise to use it. I use it all the time - it's handles are a great place to hang hoodies and damp towels. I'm not sure my kids  even know what it is actually for.

I joined Weightwatchers Online too. I lost ten pounds in eight weeks, which isn't bad. I did even better on the way back, gaining twelve pounds in six weeks. Darn you, summer, and your enticingly refreshing cocktails. I still have my subscription, so I sign in every so often when I feel like I need taking down a peg.

The thing is, I'm only about twenty pounds over my pre-kid weight and thirty pounds from a size five. So why this obsession with my body? I'm not generally a high-maintenance gal; haircuts happen when I get around to it, and when I don't - which is often - my hair returns to its ur-state (seriously, when old home-town friends greet me with "Wow, you haven't changed since high school!' they aren't complimenting my dewy complexion.) Clothes get replaced when they wear out. My makeup routine is five minutes long and never varies. Maybe it's because I am surrounded women who are as beautiful on the outside as they are on the inside (not that I'd ever give them up, because these are some seriously fantastic kick-ass ladies.) Maybe it's that I never want to weigh more than my husband, who has no trouble keeping his boyish figure. Maybe fashion advertising featuring 000 twelve year olds is getting to me. I don't know. I do know that no matter how much I pep-talk myself, or tell myself that it's the inside that counts, or make excuses for myself - I don't have time to exercise, I'll do it when the kids are older, it's not as easy when you aren't twenty-five anymore - I don't ever really believe me. I can insist all day long that don't care what the number is on the tag of my favourite jeans, as long as I can be more active with my kids - and that is true, but it is just the top layer of it. The  deeper truth is I want to be slim and attractive, no matter how shallow and vapid that is. The truth is that even though I love my where my life has taken me now, and would never want to go back to being that self-absorbed twenty year old, I'd sure like to still have her body, and somehow feel that I've failed because I don't. The truth is that it is just hard sometimes to get older.

And all this gets mixed up with wanting to do right by my kids, with wanting to teach them a healthy life-style and healthy habits. I want to be able to run, play, and hike with them, but I also want to impress upon them (my daughter especially) that who you are is not just what the mirror shows you. To give them enough confidence in who they are to armour themselves against the onslaught of ... well, everything ... that puberty brings. And I'm afraid I can't do that unless I myself have that kind of confidence, which I paradoxically can't seem to achieve without buying into the very beauty myth that I want my kids to walk away from. So I guess as soon as my hand heals I need to hop on that damn elliptical and shed a few pounds.

At least I still have my dewy complexion.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Thursday Thoughts

A quick rundown of a few things that have happened lately....

·     We took a day off yesterday and stayed at home all day waiting for  the new washer and dryer to arrive. We installed them, and the heavens opened and a choir of angels descended. Magic machines  that can turn seven loads of laundry into three are fan-freaking-tastic. Mt. Laundry, I’m -a comin’ fer you.

·         Pickle stayed home too. After watching Kung Fu Panda, he announced he was the Furious Five (all of them at once, apparently) and leapt off a kitchen chair. I thought I was supposed to catch him, but instead he tried to turn a mid-air somersault. (‘Cos that’s what they DO, Mama!) He landed right on the top of his lil’ noggin, and the Furious Five fast became the Wailing One. Luckily, S was is the middle of washing the kitchen floor and had moved the chairs to a carpeted area.

·          Holy crap  S scrubbed the kitchen floor! Apparently, it’s tan with a pattern. Who knew.

·         Panda grew out of all her jeans last night. I swear they fit last weekend, now they look like capri leggings.

·         Date night… We went to the first selection meeting for  fostering/adoption last night. I’ll write more about it later when I have had time to process.

·         I am taking a day off tomorrow to ‘love-bomb’ the Panda. I can’t wait! I’ll report back on how it went.

·         Panda got her report card, and I realized I still haven’t conquered my problem with authority.  “Must learn to co-operate better and  listen more closely.” The first thing that popped into my brain is “don’t you tell her what she ‘MUST’ do, Mr. Gym Teacher-man”. The next fourteen (or more) years of my two (or more) kids public schooling will be …fun. Maybe I should just turn this one over to S right now for all our sakes?

·         I lost the Swype Keyboard on my phone and can't figure out how to get it back. The Samsung one is driving me mad and may just end my love affair with my phone. I think it’s all a plot by Apple to drive us apart.

  • This happened:
The kids have been loving the first snowfall and can't get enough, Panda seems convinced that if we can just find the right magic carrot, we can make an Olaf come to life.

That's it that's all.... apparently I need to go make the kids dinner again. They want to eat EVERY NIGHT these days!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

How we found the foster/adopt path

I realized the other day that I never really explained here how S and I came to consider foster/adoption.

I don't recall S and I ever  discussing in depth before we got married what our future family would look like. Or possibly even mentioning it all. Perhaps because we'd sort of been friends for quite a while, we skipped over a lot of those important conversations and kind of jumped right off the precipice without looking. We did this a lot with big decisions and yet somehow we always found a soft - or soft enough - landing. This was no different.

As it turned out, we both felt that there were already an awful lot of people cluttering up the world, and so the voluntary human extinction movement seemed to make sense. It fit with our crunchy granola tendency to tree-hug,  and after all, there are hundreds of millions of orphans out there needing families. We reasoned that when and if we wanted to raise a family, we would adopt a little girl from China. We’re an interracial couple anyway, so my lily-white ass would be the only odd one out. That was plan A,  and it seemed perfect until we realized how much it cost. What can I say- we were young(ish) and naive. And broke. So much for China.

We'd mentioned our plan to a few friends and family members,most notably a relative who had worked in social services. She assumed we meant to adopt domestically. She'd witnessed the struggles her colleagues had been through with their adopted kids, and she regaled me with every horror story she could dredge up. It worked; I was inexperienced and childless, and parenting is murky water anyway. I was convinced I couldn't handle it. With foreign adoption a lottery win away and the perils of domestic adoption fresh in our minds, it was time to develop plan B. (Of course, now I realize that all adoption is rooted in loss, domestic and international, and that is a traumatic event for every child...but that is a whole other post.)

Several years later, Plan B arrived, followed shortly after by Plan B Mark II. We thought we were done until the kidlets got much older, when we planned to foster. Then last year, I learned about foster adoption in our province. I read everything I could about the program. I haunted message boards, did some deep thinking and some obsessive googling. I realized that I still wanted this -really wanted this-  and that the relative who had warned me from this path years ago is someone who not only hates to be inconvenienced, but isn't actually all that fond of children. Of course that person would advise against it! Now I was excited. The murky parenting waters had cleared a bit. I mentioned it to S, who was cautiously on board and agreed to attend an info session with me. The information presented in that session made it clear to us both that this was probably the right thing to do for our family, but it was probably not the right time to do it. 

We think the right time is now, or coming soon. Tomorrow we attend the second info session. This is a sort of joint evaluation, I think - they are looking at us looking at them. If we all agree that we like what we see, then they ask us on a second date -they invite us to begin the application process. I’ve been told that is a mountain of paperwork (it can make  friends with Mt. Laundry ) and can take up to a year for approval once the application is in. Then we wait for placement.

We know this won't be easy, but we believe it'll be worth it. We know it’s a hard, long process –and I am not the best at waiting. I find I handle it a lot better if I can plan and research, so I've read anything and everything I can find that is related to adoption, attachment, trauma, and fostering. I am still looking for more. I find it's reawakening my old punk self, tempered now with more common sense but still passionate about advocacy for the overlooked and disenfranchised, the poor and the disdained. My husband’s passion (other than art-making) is  in the conversation  around the treatment of  Canada's First Nations and the residential schools truth and  reconciliation. It is all part of the same whole to us. I think we may have found our thing. 

There is a quote from one of my all-time favourite novels, JD Salinger's  Franny and Zooey:

In my opinion, if you really want to know, half the nastiness in the
world is stirred up by people who aren't using their true egos.
Take your Professor Tupper…. I'd lay almost any odds that
this thing he’s using, the thing you think is his ego, isn’t his ego
at all but some other, much dirtier, much less basic faculty….
Scratch an incompetent schoolteacher — or, for that matter,
college professor — and half the time you find a displaced
first-class automobile mechanic or a goddam stonemason....
Nobody who’s really using his ego, his real ego, has any time 
for any goddam hobbies.

I’m not incompetent at my job, but we want a life where we don’t have time for hobbies. This is one step toward that meaningfulness in our daily lives. Wish us luck.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Life's half full of silver linings, or something...

I am pretty determinedly having a 'glass half full' kinda of November, so far. It's unfortunate that glass isn't half full of wine, because I think I deserve some. In the last two weeks...

  • S lost his beloved job by being passed over for the permanent position
  • I cut my thumb badly enough to require stitches
  • Pickle caught a nasty cold, resulting in continuous a snoterfall and persistent cough that keeps him (and me) up half the night. (But not S. A hundred roaring dinosaurs would not wake S.)
  • my apartment-sized dryer is absolutely done for. We worked it to death. Mt. Laundry has erupted, and and we are all continually trying evade the lava flows of dirty socks. Apparently the washer is also nearing it's last spin, and the damn things are only seven years old. I have underwear older than the machines that clean it (I know, I know - don't judge.) But hey, it's nothing that fourteen hundred bucks for new ones can't fix!
  • Pantry moths. It's buh-bye là to all my overpriced gluten-free dry goods....and an entire 10lb bag of Basmati rice.

I'm keeping my chin up though - all the better to see where the next blow is coming from. But  it ain't all bad...
  • I have my guy back at home where he belongs, and he did manage to pick up a 'filler' job right away. Half the pay, but in this economy we'll take it.
  • I need nerve-repair surgery on my thumb. Sure, they are going to slice and dice me just after it all healed up, but...wait, what was the silver lining there? Oh yeah,  a WHOLE day in bed, sans interruptions (except said surgery). Sure it's a hospital bed, but I'm counting it anyway. And I figure the added healing time should give me a free pass on cleaning the cat litter box for at least another three weeks, what with the risk of infection and all.
  • Since Pickle is awake all night anyway, he comes in for snuggles. Nothing is better than sleepy warm little boy snuggles.
  • Full size laundry loads and a dryer that doesn't wrinkle everything! 'Nuff said.
  • My pantry is clean, shining, organized, and empty. Now I never need to come up with some way to use up a half-bag of barley and  graham cracker crumbs. Also, I found and smushed a a pair of love-moths. Oh yeah you little fluttery bitches, I bring the retribution DOWN. With a flyswatter.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I need to trundle off into the falling flakes and pick up some cooking and baking staples, and maybe some newer underwear....

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Thursday Thoughts

·         I had this conversation with my four year old yesterday at the bus stop.  “Hey, why do you have fingers up both your nostrils? I'm keeping them warm."  (like duh, Mama, what does it look like I’m doing... Sigh.)

·         I can't do any laundry. About thirty seconds after turn the dryer on, it sounds like an emphysemic crow. Normally, lack of laundry duties would be a cause to celebrate, but if we don't remember to call the repair guy soon, I'm going to have to buy us all new undies.

·         I went through the pre-op to repair the nerve damage on my thumb. I have to fast for six hours before. Isn’t access to water a UN human right or something? Seriously, even women in labour get ice chips.

·         If Panda’s spelling abilities are an indicator of future academic success, I may be better off using her college fund for early intervention. I’m really beginning to wonder if we are dealing with a learning disability. The word has three letters, we’ve been studying it for two weeks, and somehow in spelling it those three letters never land in the same order twice in a row. Which kills me, because both because I am a word-nerd and because I know that kid is damn smart.

·         Just how many syllables can the word ‘mama’ have, anyway? I swear that at bedtime it goes up to at least six.

·         I think that little boy bladders have a timer that goes off thirty-seven seconds after lights-out.

·         How long can this geriatric cat that never remembers where the litter box is live? Another sixteen years? At this rate I might be sent to the Happy Mousing Ground before she is. At least then S will have to clean up all her ‘surprises’. Theoretically I could just leave them for him to deal with, but even I can’t slack quite that badly on the housework.

·         Someone made a typeface for dyslexics, and I think that’s super-cool.

·         I’m still waiting for someone to make a gluten-free Vietnamese sub. I miss bread SO MUCH. Damn you and your poisonous gluteny goodness. 

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Lest We Forget

November 11. Remembrance Day - the day that Canada honours  the soldiers who have served and continue to serve Canada in times of conflict and times of peace.

 I want to be a pacifist. I want to say that killing isn't the answer, that all wars must stop. I want to live in a world where drones don’t massacre wedding parties by accident, where the military –industrial complex is only a sad and shameful memory, where oppressive governments are  are not propped or installed up by foreign intervention for profit and ideology.  I want to be able to assure my children that all soldiers everywhere  always act morally and that they never do anything horrible to people. That innocent men, women and children will never again have to bear the cost of war to their businesses, their homes, their families, and their bodies.

But it is always more complicated than that, isn't it.

Panda recently asked me about war – where it was, why did it happen, would it happen here. I explained to her about foreign aggression – about people who want power, want resources, want land . About  what they are willing to do to get them. She decided that those people are bad people. Then we talked about how the other  people would fight back, to protect their homes, families, food, and freedom. She decided that those people were good people. But, I asked her, what if you were a mommy with no food to feed your children and no home to shelter them, but your neighbour had more than he could use? What if that neighbour refused to share?  Is it okay to let your children starve because that guy over there wants to buy another big screen TV, instead of giving you some food and a house?  Of course that is simplistic, but I needed to introduce some grey into her world view, and she is six. She got it. She said that maybe the people who were defending, too, might hurt someone by accident, someone who was just trying to run away or something. She decided that war is complicated, and hard, and everyone gets hurt.

Smart kid.

I know it is a thorny topic. I know that a lot of people don’t support the troops. I do. I support the troops, but I don’t always support the wars. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, as they say. Sometimes as a nation we are where we have no business being, and sometimes we aren’t where we should be. Sometimes we have no better choices, and sometimes we make the wrong ones. Sometimes, as a nation, we just have to go with what we think is right, based on faulty or incomplete information. And sometimes our leaders lead us astray for monetary or political gain. And I know that I don’t have the requisite knowledge or skill to decide that, so I will mainly reserve judgment, and just recognize that being a soldier is a difficult, painful job. The men and women who choose to take this path do so for a myriad of reasons, but the result is (mostly) the same. They expose their bodies, minds and hearts to some of the worst things imaginable so that maybe someone else, somewhere, won’t have to. Whether that means an eventual end to conflict (as some believe) or that the kid in that hut over there won’t lose his family today to a man with a gun and a fervent conviction in his right to impose his beliefs.

So we try to take part in some small way every year, whether it is to bundle up the kids and head off to Cenotaph  for the ceremony, or simply observe a few minutes of silence at eleven in the morning. This year we made poppies with the kids. We would have bought them from the veterans as we do every year, but we couldn't find anyone selling them. I don’t know if the recent attacks on soldiers in Canada has anything to do with that, but I suspect it might.

I’ll end with this with Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields”, written  May 3, 1915:

In Flanders fields the poppies grow,
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

We're going through changes....

I am probably the only one out there that remembers that old Black Sabbath song in the title of the post (it was already classic rock when I first heard it- I ain't that old yet!) You may have noticed a new look to the blog; please bear with me - I am an inveterate tweaker with an art degree. This thing might change looks more often than S changes his underwear. (So, like, frequently, but not every day...)
Or I might just leave it alone. What do you think?

Thursday, 6 November 2014

First Date Jitters

We have a date! We attend our second  session for foster/adoption in mid-November. This is where shit gets serious and they say either "Come on down - you're a contestant on The Paperwork Is Right!" or "Move it along Ma'am, nothing to see here, nothing see here...."

I am fairly confident we will pass to the next stage (famous last words, hah!) S and I are solid, we have done our trauma and attachment homework (by we, I mean I- he gets the Cliff Notes version from  yours truly) and our parenting failures would not make good reality TV.

Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Thanks, Life – and I’m sending you the therapist’s bill

The last few weeks have been a rollercoaster. Not a huge, Disney-worthy one, but one of those little ones at the country fair, you know the kind. Shaped like a dragon, they rattle and shake your shrieking preschooler to what seems like a great height –uuup the learning curve, doooown the learning curve. And away we go again.

Losing out a dream job to a union guy only because of time served just stinks.  It sucks to be young and less experienced.  This would feel a lot less unjust if S were actually a) young, or b) inexperienced.  Boo. Unlike.  Down the rollercoaster.  So he’s home for good and slowly reintegrating into life with the family full time, but feeling sad and displaced.  Me, I ranted a bit to the grrl posse and invented a few new and elaborate curses to adequately express my indignation. I’d  like to say that I followed  my family motto – “Don’t get mad, get even” – but planning and  grudge-holding  just takes so much energy (sorry, Dad.) I’ve got better things to spend that energy on.

Like Hallowe’en! Yay! We had a lovely quick dinner and less-quick trick-or-treating session with our fantastic friends and their three lovely and rambunctious kids. Since they live pretty much all the way across the city, we all stayed over and had a grand ol’ time.  Did you know that there actually isn’t a weight or volume limit to the amount of candy that one small almost-four-year-old boy can carry? I swear, they're like the little Spanish grandmothers that can carry a cord of firewood and a burro up a mountain path.  Also,  a quick slice of pizza, some carrot sticks and whack of candy is not, in fact, a solid enough base on which to stack three glasses of wine and a cocktail.

On Sunday I did something that almost certainly puts me as frontrunner for this year’s award for Most Idiotic Error Resulting in Injury, which is saying quite a lot considering that my highly-distractible husband works with power tools all day.  We were just putting the finishing touches on a birthday dinner for Pickle. I was wiping down the counter and bumped a glass - I felt more than saw it start to fall. Of course I tried to catch it. One broken glass, a bucket of blood,  one visit to emergency, one  severed artery, one  damaged nerve,  five hours and five stitches later....  The doc told me to fast from midnight and come back to the hospital at seven in the morning for the plastic surgeon to repair the nerve damage. I waited there all day with no food, no water and no surgeon. Ain’t medicare grand? So now it is heal and wait for an appointment for surgery, where they get to cut my hand open again. Yay stitches. I guess I should invest in more band-aids.

So what did I learn this week? That you never count your chickens before they hatch, that candy is not a food group, and that housework is not only never-ending, but downright dangerous. That I need to take life as I find it and squeeze all the goodness out of it- hilarious, loving,  Halloween-obsessed friends; fantastic kids,  and a husband who washes the dishes and hands you a sippy cup of wine, because he says that everyone needs one whole hand to work with. Smartass.

I am pretty sure I knew all that at one point, but sometimes I need reminding.