Sunday, December 25, 2011

Puke and Monopoly are what make a family a "family".

It's Christmas!

Santa has come and gone, the presents were opened, played with and left behind in a hail storm of ripped gift wrap, scraps of cardboard and shards of plastic (also, what's with the impenetrable packaging on kids' toys these days, it's like saying, "Here's your present, but damn me if you'll enjoy it").

D was up at around 5 am- despite the fact that he isn't a big fan of Christmas, the kids were up by 5:30 am, and I was up at 6. Then the REAL fun began.

Brat had already thrown up on the couch by the time I woke up, so my darling husband wiped it halfheartedly and covered it with a blanket. Wonderful. That will smell awesome come dinnertime tonight I'm sure.

So we handed out the stockings (I got a Bitchin' Kitchen cookbook in my stocking- and I didn't even buy it for myself). Brat continued to throw up, but wouldn't go to the bathroom and "miss" anything, so I have a picture of her sitting on the couch, holding her puke bucket and trying to open her stocking at the same time.

Ah. Family. Isn't it grand?

As of right now, the baby is whining, the older kids are fighting over who said a bathroom word first, and I'm trying to pretend none of them exist at all. But I wouldn't change a thing. Because having a good fight, having a good laugh, smacking someone smaller than you (sorry Soph) and biting are all a part of ANY good family get-together. Just like crying, hiding and playing board games (until Poppy gets mad and slaps the monopoly board into smithereens- which, to be fair, only happened seven or eight years in a row). Board games, stories, food and laughter.

I love everything damned thing about this holiday.

The spirit of Christmas is loving and giving. Just keep saying it until you believe it too. Time for some left over turkey sandwiches, with mashed potatoes and gravy on the side. And maybe a nap.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I'm crazy, but not crazy enough to shop at Walmart

I hate Walmart.

I do. Not just because of the shitty corporate practices (you've heard them all before), not just because they force small businesses to close, not just because it's cool to hate Walmart.

I hate Walmart because of everything. I hate the fact that every single time I've had to go to Walmart, it's busier than a Christmas Eve Midnight Madness. Why? Why is it always busy at Walmart? 24 hours a day. I can go any damn time and the whole freakin' place is still packed.

I hate that there are no carts, ever, available for you to use. I think they only have 100 carts, and not once have I ever been able to just walk up and use one. I have to stalk somebody in the parking lot, follow them to their car and ask if they are done with the cart. I had one guy say "No, I chain this one to the fence for later."


Then, there's the people themselves. PACKED to the rafters with people, each of whom is late for something. So, everyone in the store is tense, pushy, muttering about how busy it is, how long the lines are, why the things they're looking for aren't where they should be, etc.

I hate it. There isn't anything I need for one dollar cheaper. Because to me, one dollar off a pack of jello isn't worth the hassle. Walmart makes me crazy.

And that turns me into one of the masses of grouchy, pushy, muttering assholes who clog the aisles.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Shepard's Pie (Cottage Pie)

This is my take on a Shepard's Pie. I don't like lamb, so I use beef, but really, you could use any ground meat. So, in actuality, this is a cottage pie.

  • 1 lb lean ground beef (or 1 lb ground lamb)
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped finely
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil, for frying
  • 1 -2 garlic clove, minced
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 2 beef bouillon cube, or 2 tbsp bouillon paste, or approx 1 cup beef stock
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste (I buy the tube of double concentrated paste and use a 1" strip, because I rarely use a whole can of the paste)
  • 1/4 cup flour (you may not need all of it)
  • 3/4 - 1.5 cups water (cold)
  • 1 1/2 cups corn or 1 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables 
Mashed Potato:
  • 5 -10 potatoes, peeled (depending how much you love potato)
  • 1/8 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup milk, more as needed
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten (optional)
  1. Peel and quarter potatoes and set them in a pot of water to boil (on high).
  2. In a large pan on the stove, quick fry the onions in the olive oil (maybe 2 minutes), until they are translucent- NOT burned.
  3. Add the minced garlic to the onions and fry for 30 sec to 1 minute longer.
  4. Add the ground meat.
  5. Fry the meat/ onions until the meat is BROWN. Not gray. BROWN. Some bits might stick to the bottom. That's flavour, that's good. If there is a lot of fat, try to drain some off.
  6. In a bowl mix a couple teaspoons of water with the Oxo packets (I use fresh beef stock), and deglaze the pan with the beef stock.
  7. Add your salt and pepper now too- I find it takes quite a lot of salt. Almost quarter of a teaspoon.
  8. Next, add the flour to the remaining water (or stock) and blend it well. I add the tomato paste now too.
  9. Pour it into the beef/onion/stock mixture and let it thicken for a few minutes. I stir vigorously here so that there aren't any "lumps" in the gravy.
  10. Once the 'gravy' is thick, I add the veggies. Usually I use frozen, and just keep adding them until I think there are enough.
  11. By this time, your potatoes should be ready to mash. Salt, butter, milk and mash, until your potatoes are thick and creamy.
  12. Then, here's my trick (Thank You, Alton Brown)- I add a raw egg and mash the heck out of all of it. The egg helps the potatoes stay 'together' and brown nicely. Try it one time, and if you don't like it, leave the egg out next time.
  13. Pour the meat mixture into a cassarole dish (size depends on whether you like a "deep" pie).
  14. Top with the mash. I have a friend who puts some shredded cheese on top. I've had it, it's pretty good, but I prefer plain potatoes with a smidgen of butter smeared around the top.
  15. Bake at 400F for 20- 40 minutes, or until the top is nice and golden brown. Or, freeze it unbaked, well wrapped in saran wrap and tinfoil. Just remember to take the saran wrap off, because I forgot once, and that's an EFF of a mess you just don't want in your oven.

Neck tattoos and boogers.

I like food. 

Well, I like food that I like. I'm not so big on food I don't like.

There are so many wonderful restaurants in Winnipeg. I've heard that Wpg is the test market for pretty much every single new product/ restaurant chain in Canada. I believe it.

There is a restaurant every twenty feet in this city. Most of them are awesome. Some are terrible.

I'll talk about my favourite restaurant EVER now, with the reasons I love it.

I love Casa Grande.  Casa Grande Pizzeria on Urbanspoon It's a hole-in-the-wall on Wall St. and Sargeant Ave. It's Italian, and it's good.
It's really good. In fact, I don't think I've ever eaten anything on their menu that wasn't tasty. Mind you, I always order 1 of 3 things, so maybe I'm biased. But I'll tell you what, if you order the cream sauce pasta with mushrooms, you'll never finish and you'll not regret it.

My husband and I love to go there (when we can get away from our children), have apps, dinner and spumoni ice cream for dessert. So tasty. Then there is the 'decor'. It's old, it's faded, it's dark, and it makes me comfortable. It's not dirty, it's honest. The 'mama' who works there (I'm sure she's an owner), once came out and shouted at D and I to finish our dinner.

That might sound strange to some, but I like it. We saw a big table coming, and I knew they'd need our table, so we were going to scoot and make room. Next thing I knew, a 60 year old little Italian lady was pushing me back down into my chair and saying. "Nonono, you eat. You eat. Finish your dinner. I bring you some ice cream. You like our ice cream everytime- yes?"

So, I sat, because when someone tells you to eat ice cream, I think a good rule is to just eat the ice cream.

Rae & Jerry's Steakhouse on UrbanspoonNow, a restaurant I don't like? Easy. Rae and Jerry's Steakhouse. It's not good. It's not good at all. In fact, I'll go so far as to say downright gross. I only went once, with two of my friends, and I can say with almost complete certainty, NONE of us will ever go back.

The only thing that we got that tasted 'okay' was the steak. And you can get a decent steak most any place these days. But it was HOLY crap expensive. Which I don't mind- if I am getting good food. I will gladly pay through my nose for delicious food. I only get crabby when I get crap food at overly inflated prices. The Keg has better food than this place (and I think the Keg is pretty crap too).

Okay, the Keg isn't 'bad' but, it's QSM food. There is a HUGE, huge difference between QSM (which is basically tableside fast food), and fine dining. Fine dining, or home cooked taste, is where I am at. But I've discovered that people who think the Keg (or Applebee's, Moxies, Earls, Joeys) is 'good food', well, those people have never had REALLY good food. They just like the decor at the QSM restaurants.

Which is the point. Most of these chain restaurants spend several hundred thousand dollars to make themselves look as 'upscale' as possible, then they hire 1 good, well trained Chef, nationwide, to design their menu. But the restaurant YOU are eating at, it's usually some 20 yr old guy with neck tattoos (if this guy is hard then I'd rather be soft) and an eyebrow piercing making the 'Goat Cheese and Spinach Dip with Mango Chutney Puree and Toast points' that you paid $20 for. And he picked his nose just now. Enjoy that image next time you visit a chain restaurant.

I laugh at you. I'm sorry, but I do. I've worked in so many restaurants, and I know that in order to maintain standards, every single thing you eat at a "big Chain" restaurant comes out of a packet. It's reheated, 90% of the time. But that doesn't make it 'bad'. I don't mind some of the stuff at Earls. I just happen to know that you'll get a better product, with better flavours, better ingredients at a smaller restaurant- and that's almost always true.

Not every 'small' restaurant is good though, some cut corners. Well, lots cut corners. If you want the skinny on the best restaurant in the city, don't ask people who call themselves 'foodies'- they don't know what the back of the house REALLY looks like. Ask waitresses, bartenders and food service reps where THEY like to eat. You'll never be disappointed again.

So, from one food lover to another. Stop thinking YOU know what good food is, and ask someone who actually knows.

Monday, December 19, 2011


That's right. I win.

I'm done. I'm done shopping, wrapping, baking- EVERYTHING. I win.

Christmas is just as much of a race as parenting is. You know it. I know it.

Unlike the majority of my fellow Christmas-ers, I won it.

I do a happy dance everytime I manage to get something just exactly right. And I've been dancing for two whole days now. I WIN!!!

I'm not much of a 'twitter-er', but here we go #IWINCHRISTMAS

Now, I get to sit back, laugh gleefully at my husband who still hasn't started shopping (I'm the only person he has to buy for, so that's not unusual), and at all my friends who are freaking out over the number of things they have left to do.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Bringer of DSi's

Today I want to write about Christmas. The way Christmas makes me feel, the traditions I grew up with, the ones we've started with our kids and the ones I wish would go straight in the garbage bin.

The way I feel about Christmas? I love it. I love every single thing about Christmas. Family, food, presents, laughter, days and days of celebrating. Stockings (that's the best part).

There is something so calming about Christmas for me. Church pageants, collecting toys for the toy drive, spending time with people you love. The lights, the sounds, the smells. Everything. I love every damned thing about Christmastime.

Christmas in my memory always comes back to the year I was 6 or 7 years old. This was the best Christmas ever- and most of them were pretty close to this.

This particular year, every person in my family got together at my gramma's house. All gramma's kids, all their spouses, all the children. And back then there weren't many of us grandkids, so the 3 of us were spoiled completely by all the different adults. Our stockings were so big that they were put into green garbage bags to hold all of it. Awesome.

There was food, delicious food. There were boxes of chocolates on the countertops, cakes, tarts, pies, turkey, gravy, bread, potatoes- well, you probably have all those things too. But when you're 6, and there is such an array of food, you just get absolutely blasted by it.

So, that was us. Crackers got cracked, and all of us have to wear our paper hats, tell the joke to everyone else. Then the stories start. Things my mom and her siblings did as children- told by some of the absolute funniest people on Earth. All of it told at a volume that could deafen an apple. It's incredible.

My family- both sides- have done this year after year. The stories are just as funny today as they were 30 years ago. The food is just as good. The stockings have (unfortunately) gotten less impressive, and they are less of a surprise every year (I now have to buy my own stocking stuffers). But the feeling is the same. Sheer love and joy. Being with people I love, who love me- who always will.

The traditions we've kept with our kids are much the same. My in laws come over, my father and stepmother come over, we invite friends- Christmas Eve is a happy time here.

The new traditions are computer/ tv related. The kids track Santa on the Norad Santa Tracker website. We turn the "Holiday Firelog" on the tv and listen to Christmas music. My children go to bed, and I make the stocking- laughing with the other adults while I do.

There are so many things to be grateful for, to be thankful for. Family is top. Friends, God, gifts (of any size, price point or usefulness), food, love. But here is one thing I don't think we should keep up. I don't think we should keep up the consumerism.

There are so many things I want my kids to have. That's true. I want them to have the best I can give them of everything. But I don't want them to believe that something has to be expensive/ paid for in order to be worthwhile. And I think overall the kids know that- we make gifts every year for the people we love.

But then, the top TV commercials for the last month started me thinking. My daughter keeps asking for a DSi. She can't have one. It's not the money. It's the fact that she's 5 years old. What the bloody buggering hell could she possibly need a DSi for? She doesn't know how to play video games. But, she overheard one of the other moms telling a classmate that "Santa will probably bring you a DS".

I wish Santa brought only a stocking. Apparently, Santa gifts are expensive. I wonder how long I have before Brat points out to me that Santa brings her a 'crappier/ cheaper' gift than he brings her friends.  Ohh, poopballs. What age do kids figure out that the real Santa is the spirit of sharing- NOT the bringer of DSi's???

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Suggestion Box? I've got a place for your suggestions...

I wish parenting came with a pretty little suggestion box. You know, you leave the hospital (new baby tucked into the lastest, side impact resistant, composite infant carrier) and on the way through the front door, a little old lady who raised 15 kids, grandkids and great grandkids gives you a handmade, glitter covered, "SUGGESTIONS HERE" box.

Oh, that'd be helpful. I've got a place for all your suggestions all right.

 I read today, another mom's blog. She was discussing the fact that as parents in the world today, we have a never ending stream of information to digest, filter, and then apply to our own situations.

And she commented on the fact that, as every mother out there knows, someone you love, someone who loves you thinks, "they're doing it all wrong". 

Every other day another study comes out. Don't co- sleep with your kids, it fosters dependence. Co- sleeping with your kids fosters a greater sense of love and self worth. Don't vaccinate- it could cause Autism Spectrum Disorder. Don't vaccinate and you'll be the cause of the next huge pandemic of pertussis (and for MY record, just shut up and vaccinate your children). You'd better be breastfeeding, because the formula could have been made in China with ground up paint chips. Don't breastfeed- wait, no I've never seen anyone say that. But you get the point.

No matter what you choose, every single choice you make as a parent is up for scrutiny by every single person you know. And admit it, you do it too.

I do it. I disagree with some of the choices I see other parents making, thinking to myself, "Oh, God, that's going to bite them in the ass five years from now." But generally, I also know that there are things that I do that might rear up one day and nip my own ass. So, I don't point out 'mistakes' (as I see them) to other parents, because I wouldn't appreciate other people pointing out my failures as a parent (which, I am here to tell you- I don't have. My children are bloody angels).

Because I know how sensitive a mom can be, even when I have a suggestion, I try to make sure the other person understands that I believe it's ONE way; but, I know my way isn't actually the ONLY way. But yeah, I think my way is the best- that's true.

And I try so hard not to judge you for using your own way. Time straightens most all kids out. The way we get a kid from point A (in the here and now) to point B (five years from now) doesn't change the outcome. They will get there, and they won't still be pissing their pants (or being awake all friggin' night long).

I know that there are a thousand ways to sleep train a baby. Or to stop a baby from biting. Or wetting the bed. It goes on and on. I've been lucky to find what works with my children- and it's been different for both the older ones so far. I imagine that it will be different yet for this baby. So, please feel free to share your suggestions with me- IF/ WHEN I BLOODY WELL ASK FOR THEM (or if I don't- you can still tell me, I'm sometimes not smart enough to ask for help when I need it).

With that said, I cannot abide being given advice by people who do not have children of their own.  If you haven't raised a child, from diapers to kindergarten (I also don't want advice from you momma, because it's 30 years out of date- but you did a fantastic job with moi. Love you.) don't share your advice with me.

I heard for years from a childless friend that my older daughter is "bad". She's not. She's energetic, lively, passionate, friendly and loving. Sometimes she's mischievious, but she doesn't have a malicious bone in her entire body. This same friend spent years telling other parents the same thing- that their children were 'bratty', 'too noisy', 'too messy' or all around poorly behaved.  In fact, to listen to that friend, every child under the sun was wretchedly behaved, and should probably be put down for the good of all Mankind.

I don't have an answer to all of the things we were told we did wrong (by this friend without children) but what I do know is that if I took to heart all the criticisms, 'pointers', unsolicited advice, and general helpfulness, I'd believe what this person said. And I'd hate my children as much as she seemed to.

Banana Flax Seed Bread- for H.

I was told today by a friend that a good idea for a post would be some of my recipes. Fine. You can have them. But you owe me a sucker. No, TWO suckers. We'll start with my favourite banana and flax seed bread recipe. I'm leaving out 1 key ingredient- you have to guess what it is. Also, since I have almost zero inclination to continue typing all night, I'm going to cut and paste from my cookbook.

  • 1/2 cup butter (softened is best, or you can melt it completely in the microwave- more like a brownie though than a bread)
  • 1 cup sugar (I also like to sprinkle a bit of sugar over the bread after I pour it into the pan. It caramelizes nicely, and makes everything taste like happiness)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup mashed ______ (approx. 4 ripe _______)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (don't use nuts if you have a nut allergy. Just a suggestion.)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (I also like to change it up for any flavour yogurt- it works just as well)  
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed


  1. Grease a loaf pan, or line muffin tin with cuppy thingers.
  2. Mash the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla- they should get sort of fluffy looking, unless you melted the butter (like a jerk in a hurry)- in which case it'll look kinda glompy. 
  3. Add bananas, nuts, flax and sour cream. Mix it up thoroughly, THEN add the dry ingredients.
  4. Mix well-ish. But not too much, because then the gluten sets up and the bread becomes heavy and icky.
  5. Bake at 350 F for 1 hour. Or less. It depends on your elevation, your oven and the size of your pan. I like to use the muffin tins so I don't end up with as much overly- browned edgy pieces.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Underpants anyone?

I'm a big fan of direct speech, and being honest with people. That being said, I found myself plotting a small amount of vindictiveness against my husband yesterday. A small amount of passive aggressive vindictiveness to be exact.

I was irritated by his grouchy behaviour. I know he was tired. I know he works nights, and frequently has a hard time being awake during the day. I get it. And usually I'm the first person to send him to bed when he's tired (he turns into a ridiculous, whiny, snotty baby when he's tired). But yesterday was Bugs' confirmation, so D had to be awake, and gracious, and courteous; but, he was making faces and acting like a child about having to go to Church (Thankfully, he wasn't whining while we were there, just while we were dressing).

So I hid his favourite underpants.

The way he fixates on his underwear borders on weirdo behaviour.

"They're so soft... They've got just the right amount of stretch.... They are just the right size.." And on and on.

So, since I didn't like his attitude, when he went to shower, I 'mislaid' his favourite pair of underwear. He had to wear a pair of his "second string" underpants. HA!

At the time when I did this, I wasn't REALLY angry about anything, more disgruntled. But I'll tell you, it made my WHOLE day better. Knowing he wasn't wearing the underpants he would have chosen- well, it just made me feel happy to be small and petty, especially since he didn't know I'd done anything at all.

And for my bad behaviour? I got rewarded. D decided that the reason he couldn't find his underwear is the ever growing, never ending, slowly taking over the universe, pile of laundry.

So he used his night off and did the laundry. He packed it all up, drove to an all night laundry mat and washed, dried and folded all the clothes. He even took the blankets off the couch and the kids' jackets.

I mean WOW. Well done.

Now though, I feel like a super ass. Not because I did it, I'll probably end up doing the same thing again next time he makes me grouchy. But I feel like an asshat because I didn't think of this sooner. If I hid all of his favourite things, he'd have to do laundry more frequently if he wanted to have clean clothes.

I have spent YEARS, and I actually mean YEARS, begging D to help me with the laundry, to clean up more frequently, to do the dishes once in a while. It truly grinds my crank that after all this time, all I had to do was hide his clothes.

The end result is that I've learned that being honest, upfront, talking through your feelings and trying to be selfless isn't as rewarding as being passive aggressive and hiding underpants. THAT is what gets the laundry done. And eff him for making me do it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Teachers need redbull and chocolate too.

The last time I chaperoned a field trip to the Manitoba Museum, was when Bugs was in grade 4. I'm pretty sure I swore a blood oath to NEVER do it again.

I did it again. But it wasn't bad this time. Yes, the group was Kindergarteners. Yes, it was an all day event. Yes, I had to bring the baby. But I was prepared for the absolute worst this time. And, I brought a huge bag of Cadbury MiniEggs and two cans of sugarfree Redbull. I figured, even if they were crazy, I'd be so hopped up on sugar and caffeine I wouldn't care. I was right.

But these kids were better behaved than I expected. It was me and the other adults who were slightly out of control. And I take responsibility for that. It was the bloody redbull and chocolate. We gave up watching the kids at around noon. It's not like they could go anywhere- we had the coats locked up, and it was cold as EFF outside.

Anyways, we dealt with the children like grownups should. One of the teachers has a purse the size of Texas, so we took turns using it as a shield to hide behind and eat chocolates (we weren't stupid enough to show the kids the candies). The kids were being distracted by the 'magic show of lights', so the other moms, the teachers and I had a blast giggling away and playing "hide the baby". Every time I turned around someone else had the stroller and had wandered off.

It was almost a vacation for me actually. Better than the last bloody time. I still get cold chills of horror about that trip. Oh, God, talking about it has triggered a flashback.

The last time, I had a group of 2. Bugs and one of his blasted friends.

I THOUGHT the kid was a good kid; but, when his teacher forgot to give him his Ritalin, it made my day a nightmare. The boys RAN through the museum, right to the end, discovered that they'd taken the wrong path some place and missed the "Nonsuch" boat. So they turned around and ran back again. It's normally a 40 minute walk through the museum, and we did it in under 20 minutes-TWO TIMES. I'm not that fit. It damn near killed me. Then we had to wait for the other groups to finish. I spent the waiting time physically dragging the young man down from the stuffed bison and off all the other looky- don't- touchy- stuff within our vicinity.

Three hours of full on meth- head, speed freak, ADHD kid behaviour, THEN the teacher remembered the chill pill. Thanks lady. Not my favourite memory of a field trip.  But that still doesn't explain how today, with 45 children aged 5 years old, was an easier, less exhausting day than last time watching only 2 kids. I'm so thankful that my kids aren't ADHD, because I couldn't handle that type of behaviour all day every day.

So, I guess the moral of the story is this: bring redbull and candy on school trips. Let the kids destroy everything. When you leave and the museum staff shoot you dirty looks, make sure they know what school you came with- so they'll never let your school come back. Then you won't ever have to chaperone a class trip again.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

But for the Grace of God go I.

I had a really hard, hard time coping with something yesterday.

Nothing to do with my family, or my friends, thankfully.

But it affected me, and that effected the rest of my evening (and yes, that is the correct usage for both affect and effect).

I was so unhappy, because of an email I received from the director at the daycare my daughter used to attend (I'm the chair for the board of directors, so I am kept in the loop with most things).

This year, a family is without. No money, no food and no winter clothing for the adults, but even worse, nothing for the children, an 11 year old boy, and a 3 month old infant either.

I cried so hard. I just kept remembering what it's like to feel 'broke'- and when I say 'broke' I mean, no money. There were lean years for my husband and I when we first started dating, and our son was little. Sometimes there was no money for anything except rent- and food was dependent on how much I brought home in tips (it's a damn good thing I was a phenomenal waitress).

But hearing about this family brought those days back to me. Even when Brat was a baby, and I was on maternity leave, there were some leaner months- and my parents helped us. But what would we have done without help? Well, I suppose we'd have done what this family did, and swallowed our pride and asked for charity.

And it can't have been easy for this mother to tell the daycare that she didn't have a snowsuit for her 11 year old, or any other winter wear. That she didn't have warm clothing for the baby. That neither she nor her husband had a coat, or mitts, hats, scarves, or boots. It must have crushed her right to her soul to tell another person that if someone didn't help them, there was a good chance that this year, there wouldn't be a day when they didn't suffer.

And I cried. I am crying now. I know how hard it is to worry about your children, and to know that somehow, even if you have to swallow your pride, you need to provide for your kids. I am supremely lucky that my husband has a good job. That I have a good job to go back to. That we have a family that would never let us or our children do without the basics of life.

But the way that it effected my evening is that I posted on my facebook wall (well, plead actually) for used winter clothing donations, food donations and anything that could be spared from my friends and my family. And they responded. Tomorrow morning I'll be dropping off winter jackets for both children (the older boy gets a brand new coat, which he may never have had before) and the mother, along with formula (Thanks again to my lovely friends), clothing for the baby, some food donations for the hamper, and winter gear.

I am blessed to have such wonderful people in my life. People that I can turn to for help, for myself, or for others.

I'm thankful for the help that has been forthcoming, and I know the daycare is thankful as well.

 I am glad we live in Canada, I love my country dearly. But it shows that even in this awesome country, with social assistance and government programs in place, there are people, children, all over falling through the cracks and landing below the poverty line.

"But for the Grace of God go I".  I try to remember that, because it's so very, very true.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Nursing and Newborns.

I was reminded early this morning what it's like to be a first time, new mother with an infant.

It's magical, it's having a loving connection immediately, it's quiet and restful, it's happiness and joy.

Wait, that's what it's like to be ALONE.

Having a new baby sucks. You look at this little bitsy baby who came from you, whom you carried, whom you thought you would look like a perfect cross between you and your partner; and you think, "Why does he/she look like THAT?" They are a horrible let down. Yeah, I said it. They don't look like you thought they would. It's painful. You were so ready to love a perfect little cherubim- and what you got was a soggy looking little old person. Nobody told you that's normal.

You don't have some immediate connection. In most cases, a connection takes time to form- but most of us feel like we're supposed to have it right away, so we feel like we've failed and OH NO, we're bad mothers. Stop it. We're not. We're great mothers. I love my kids- I just didn't think they'd look like my sister in law more than me. But I am a loving mother (now).

Back to newborn letdowns:

The fact is babies don't sleep when you want them to. They're up all night long, or they sleep and wake in intervals that mean you don't get to sleep- ever. Just when you're ready to fall asleep, the baby wakes up hungry again.

Bottle feeding is easier off the bat, because you can pop a bottle in their mouth, and when they're done, you both lie down and get back to sleep- but if you are a nursing mother, or trying to be a nursing mother, you have to stay up and pump, then sterilize the equipment and THEN you get to lie down and sleep again for an hour until the next feeding rolls around. If you are lucky enough to get 2 hours between feedings- some people don't. More on that after.

I've done this twice now. The first time with Brat was much, much harder. She was a preemie baby, and didn't have a suckling reflex, so we had to bottle feed (and intubate) her in the hospital. After that, she didn't have any desire to latch on, so it took a LONG, LONG time (6 wks) to get her nursing exclusively. Bottles are easier for babies, they don't require as much effort to get the milk out. Fact.

During that time, I spent so long on the electric pump, I must have looked like I was trying to provide milk for three babies- but I was terrified I'd lose my milk supply, so I pumped after every feeding/ attempt at feeding before I gave her a bottle.

Eventually, Brat became a pro at nursing, and we were able to nurse, or bottle feed at will. It was overall a wonderful experience. Except for those first 6 weeks of torture.

With Monster, she nursed like a pro from the get go, but will NOT have anything to do with a bottle, or formula, or expressed milk. Nothing will do for her except me- which is frustrating for me some days, as I'd love a day to myself.

But there are other women who have other issues with nursing, such as oversupply, which is painful. Or worse, UNDERsupply. Some lactation consultants try to tell you there is no such thing as an undersupply- but that's not true. There certainly is. I mean, you could, technically, nurse constantly, every hour for 20-30 minutes at a time, and then start again a half hour later.

It's possible- if you had NO desire to sleep EVER again, or eat, or shower, or be human. But if you are trying to avoid postpartum issues, keep yourself clean, and offering care for this tiny baby- then chances are good that you are going to need to offer a bottle once in a while to compensate for lack of supply.

And many of the lactation consultants I've met myself, or heard about from friends, advocate AGAINST a bottle- for any reason. Which is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. If you type 'nipple confusion' into Google, what you get is a whole host of "La Leche Leaguers" and hard core yippies saying you should NEVER EVER give a baby a bottle, or you'll have a baby who forgets how to nurse. Bullshit.

Yeah, I said that too.  Bullshit. This so called 'nipple confusion' apparently occurs in less than 8% of nursing babies who get bottles- and it's reversible if you try hard enough. What isn't reversible is the emotional backlash of having a baby who cries for more, constantly. It erodes your confidence as a mother, makes you question everything you do. It steals your sleep- even when the baby is quiet you lay there worrying that you've done SOMETHING wrong. You haven't.

Breastfeeding is natural, but it doesn't come naturally. It takes practice, persistence and patience. All three of which are unavailable to most first time mothers.

Here are some facts: prolactin (milk making hormone) is only produced/ distributed when you sleep. So, you HAVE to sleep, which means sometimes, someone else has to give that baby a bottle so you can rest. Nipple confusion isn't 'real', babies may come to prefer the bottle as it's easier, but 92% will still go back on the boob. The amount of breast 'usage'/ feeding in the first two weeks will determine how much milk you are able to produce in the long run (that's when your breast produce the milk ducts), so pumping builds supply, which gives baby more to eat, which keeps baby satiated for longer, so you can rest, which means you can make more milk. See the pattern? Bottle once means rest, means more milk, means more rest? Nice. In a perfect world, this pattern would work for 100% of us, instead of just 92 %- but if you are one of the 8% who can't, it's okay too.

Regardless of how good breastmilk is for the baby, formula IS NOT POISON. So, if you can nurse, great; but, if you can't, don't beat yourself up about it. Your baby will grow up to be just as happy and healthy as other kids. My advice? Do what works for you.

My pattern of sleeping when I could, nursing on demand, with pumping after each feeding- that's exhausting. So when I hit the wall- and I did- I had my husband give Brat a couple bottles. She's as normal a five year old as I've ever met (and I've met a lot of 5 year olds).  Monster had a couple bottles at the beginning too (when she'd still take them), and I haven't noticed a detrimental effect yet.
I know other kids who were exclusively bottle feed from birth, from 2 months, from 4 months. None of them are anything except perfect. Your baby will be no different. He/she will be happy, healthy and whole because you were a good enough mother to worry about it in the first place.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Our Family Credo

In This House, we:
  Give Second Chances
Live with Grace
  Do Make Mistakes
   Say I’m Sorry
Get Loud (Really Well)
  Give Hugs
  Put Family First
 Welcome You

Most of all,
We Miss You When You're Not Here

It's A Wonderful Life.

Well, hot damn, it's almost Christmas.

"So it's Christmas- and I want EVERYTHING." This song has been in my head for the last week, and I can't seem to shake it. 'Tis the season.

So, normally, because I am such a huge fan of everything Christmas, I start pushing at the beginning of November for my husband to drag out the 'tree'. I say "tree" simply because I am not quite sure that a $70.00 fake tree that is almost 10 years old still qualifies as a tree- in any sense. The bristles are starting to fall, it's a bit threadbare looking, and the box is being held together with several different types of tape. Fact is, the only thing keeping this tree up is hope- and a precarious plastic stick.

But it's already the end of the first week of December this year, and our family just got the tree up tonight.

It's full of lights, glittery stars, icicles, pictures, balls, faeries, a pair of paper skates, and love. Even though it's clearly been decorated by demented, gluebag elves (or kids hopped up on sugar cookies), I love it.

My husband hates everything about Christmas (and if I'd known that when I met him, I might not have gone on that first date), but more than that, he HATES this tree (it offends his sense of colour, order, balance- well probably everything). I think, given the option, he'd launch it off the roof, and pee down on it.

Next year, we are getting a real tree. I love real trees- the only down side is you can only have them up for a few weeks. I would lose out on at least three weeks of treedom. But I still love real trees, there is something so much more Christmas-y about a real tree.

My dad always went and got us a nice big tree. The only thing I remember about Christmas for about five years running is this: dad comes home, with the tree in the back of a borrowed truck. The next five hours are a horror show, complete with screaming, swearing, hacksaws, and threats. And eventually, mom taking me out of the house, so my dad could have a complete meltdown in peace.

The absolute best year though, was the year my dad cut his own tree down at the tree farm. It was a glorious tree. Perfectly cone-ish, full branches on every side, six feet tall, dark green with a wonderful smell.

Dad put the tree up in the living room, right in the centre, spotlighted by the huge picture window. He put the tree into the holder, the leaned back to check the levels. The tree toppled instantaneously. He cursed. Mom went over and helped set it right again. But no matter how dad moved base level, the tree WOULD NOT stay up.  It was perpetually canted to an angle of about 30 degrees.

He had picked a tree with a crooked bole. It looked perfect- but if you tried to secure the base, the rest of the tree had an 'ell' shape in it. Eventually, after almost throwing the damned tree through the window, dad took a hacksaw to the tree, right above the bend.

It was still a perfect tree. Only four feet tall- and missing a chunk of branches on one side where dad grabbed it to throw it.

On second thought, next year we'll buy ourselves a new fake tree. It's probably safer all around.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Story You Need To Share.

Here's an older email I came across today, one that is still very much 'required' reading for parents in our day and age. I'm posting it here, hoping that maybe it helps someone, somewhere keep their kids safe.

*For those of you with children and/or grandchildren, please take note.*
Keep your kids safe. A.S.K.
- ALWAYS- Keep your computer in a family room, where you can see what the kids are doing online. And read your kids "histories" on their chat logs. It's informative to know what they're talking about, and with whom. (Learn to read their short hand too. It's stupid, but it's necessary. POS= Parents Over Shoulder. PAW= Parents Are Watching. etc.)
STAY ALERT- Keep your eyes and ears open- even if you don't like what you see and hear.
KNOW EVERYTHING- who your childs friends at school and in the neighbourhood are. What their phone numbers are, know their parents (at least to call if you're worried about something).

Let your kids talk to you about things. Try not to jump to conclusions, or to judge too harshly. Sometimes the best lesson you can teach your kids is that they can talk to you about anything.  Give them information about staying safe in today's world, and let them know they can turn to you for advice, and they will.

Remember, it isn't prying. It's PROTECTING your children to know EVERYTHING they do. I do it, my husband does it. My Mom and Dad did it. Your Mom and Dad did it too. They were just smart enough to not get caught. And that may be part of why you're here today.

Because parenting is hard, and it means fighting your kids everystep of the way (through teenage years), to keep them safe while they stretch their wings.

Parenting means protecting them, even when they tell you that they are old enough, smart enough and strong enough to protect themselves.

And if you're careful enough, and loving enough, and try your hardest not to judge their decisions, when they do catch you prying, they will know it's only because you love them. Remember though, that the dangers of our youth, were not the same as the dangers of theirs.

Now,  whether your kids hide their online activities from you, or whether you're on top of everything under your roof, print off the next section, and let your kids read it. It might just be enough of a wake up for messaging online "friends" that they don't really know. I don't know if it's a true story, or one made up to help illustrate to children some of the potential dangers out there. But it's worth using every tool in the bag to keep your kids safe- isn't it?


Shannon could hear the footsteps behind her as she walked toward home.
The thought of being followed made her heart beat faster.
"You're being silly, she told herself, "no one is following you." To be safe, she began to walk faster, but the footsteps kept up with her pace. She was afraid to look back and she was glad she was almost home.
Shannon said a quick prayer, "God please get me home safe." She saw the porch light burning and she leaned against the door for a moment, relieved to be in the safety of her home. She glanced out the window to see if anyone was there. The sidewalk was empty.

After tossing her books on the sofa, she decided to grab a snack and get on-line . She logged on under her screen name ByAngel213. She checked her "Buddy List" and saw GoTo123 was on. She sent him an instant message:

Hi. I'm glad ur on! I thought someone was following me home today. It was really weird!

LOL U watch too much TV. Why would some1 be following u? Don't u live in a safe neighborhood?

Of course I do. LOL I guess it was my imagination cuz' I didn't see anybody when I looked out.

Unless u gave ur name out on-line. u haven't done that have u?

Of course not. I'm not stupid u know.

Did u have a softball game after school today?

Yes and we won!!

G oTo123:
That's great! Who did u play?

We played the Hornets. LOL. Their uniforms are so gross! They look like bees. LOL

What is ur team called?

We r the Canton Cats. We have tiger paws on our uniforms. They are really cool.

Did u pitch?

No I play second base. I got to go. My homework has to be done before my parents get home. I don't want them mad at me. Bye!

Catch u l8r. Bye

Meanwhile......GoTo123 went to the member menu and began to search for her profile. When it came up, he highlighted it and printed it out. He took out a pen and began to write down what he knew about Angel so far.

Her name: Shannon
Birthday: Jan. 3, 1993
Age: 13
State where she lived: North Caroli na

Hobbies: softball, chorus, skating and going to the mall.
Besides this information, he knew she lived in Canton because she had just told him. He knew she stayed by herself until 6:30 p.m. every afternoon until her parents came home from work. He knew she played softball on Thursday afternoons on the school team, and the team was named the Canton Cats. Her favorite number 7 was printed on her jersey. He knew she was in the eighth grade at the Canton Junior High School. She had told him all this in the conversations they had on- line. He had enough information to find her now.

Shannon didn't tell her parents about the incident on the way home from the ballpark that day. She didn't want th em to make a scene and stop her from walking home from the softball games. Parents were always overreacting and hers were the worst. It made her wish she was not an only child. Maybe if she had brothers and sisters, her parents wouldn't be so overprotective.

By Thursday, Shannon had forgotten about the footsteps following her.

Her game was in full swing when suddenly she felt someone staring at her. It was then that the memory came back. She glanced up from her second base position to see a man watching her closely.

He was leaning against the fence behind first base and he smiled when she looked at him. He didn't look scary and she quickly dismissed the sudden fear she had felt.

After the game , he sat on a bleacher while she talked to the coach. She noticed his smile once again as she! walked past him. He nodded and she smiled back. He noticed her name on the back of her shirt. He knew he had found her.

Quietly, he walked a safe distance behind her. It was only a few blocks to Shannon's home, and once he saw where she lived, he quickly returned to the park to get his car.

Now he had to wait. He decided to get a bite to eat until the time came to go to Shannon's house. He drove to a fast food restaurant and sat there until time to make his move.

Shannon was in her room later that evening when she heard voices in the living room.

"Shannon, come here," her father called. He sounded upset and she couldn't imagine why. She went into the room to see the man from the ballpark sitting on the sofa.

"Sit down," her father began, "this man has just told us a most interesting story about you."

Shannon sat back. How could he tell her parents anything? She had never seen him before today!

"Do you know who I am, Shannon?" the man asked.

"No," Shannon answered.

"I am a police officer and your online friend, GoTo123."

Shannon was stunned. "That's impossible! GoTo is a kid my age! He's 14. And he lives in Michigan!"

The man smiled. "I know I told you all that, but it wasn't true. You see, Shannon, there are people on-line who pretend to be kids; I was one of them. But while others do it to injure kids and hurt them, I belong to a group of parents who do it to protect kids from predators. I came here to find you to teach you how dangerous it is to talk to people on-line. You told me enough about yourself to make it easy for me to find you. You name, the school you went to, the name of your ball team and the position you played. The number and name on your jersey just made finding you a breeze."

Shannon was stunned. "You mean you don't live in Michigan?"

He laughed. "No, I live in Raleigh. It made you feel safe to think I was so far away, didn't it?"

She nodded.

"I had a friend whose daughter was like you. Only she wasn't as lucky. The guy found her and murdered her while she was home alone. Kids are taught not to tell anyone when they are alone, yet they do it all the time on-line.
The wrong people trick you into giving out information a little here and there on-line. Before you know it, you have told them enough for them to find you without even realizing you have done it. I hope you've learned a
lesson from this and won't do it again. Tell others about this so they will be safe too?"


What could have become a tragic situation was averted; but other children are not so lucky. Teach yours to know dangers, and to expect them from the internet. The internet is NOT a toy. It's a TOOL- one used by child predators. And ALL kids are at risk- even the smart ones.

Please send this to as many people as you can to teach them not to give any information about themselves. This world we live in today is too dangerous to even give out your age, let alone anything else. Besides child predators, there are identity theives, con artists, and most everyone on the net is at risk. Lower yours.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Who doesn't want a 3D cake? I don't. Not anymore.

Alright, here's the thing about birthdays. I love/hate birthdays. I love them because they are so much fun. I hate them because I'm insane, and have to stop myself from overdoing everything.

I used to be the mom that every other mom ended up hating after the birthday party was done.

But over the years, I did get better. Now, I'm at the point where NOT doing anything is a huge relief. Oh, but THAT's right- just when Bugs is too old for parties- the girls are starting to want them.

When Bugs was 3, we invited EVERYONE over. I cooked, cleaned, baked, decorated, filled waterballoons for the kids, fed, and BBQ'd for hours. It was horrible. I barely remember that party. But, it was the first party I'd thrown, so I didn't know any better.
The year he was 4, we had a family and some friends at a waterpark and the goody bags were individual pinatas (they took forever to make, and I learned my lesson- sort of).
 For 5, we had family, friends and children at the waterpark with a homemade pinata (I swear, I don't do pinatas anymore).
At 6, we went to an amusement park and chased a billion kids around.
Half of the billion kids.
At 7, we went to a "ChuckECheese" style place, his cake was a 3D tank.
At 8, we were back at the amusement park- with less children but a 'ninja cake'.
9 was the year we were in Ontario visiting family- so I got a 'by'.
10 saw us back at the amusement park with a 'Zelda cake'.
This year he only wanted to have his friends do a day of video gaming (we switched that to a day of laser tag and pizza). Thank GOD! I still made a cake- of a skull erupting from a grave (I love kids- they're disgusting and hilarious).

Last May, I saw a 'Groupon' deal which involved 6 x costumes for the kids (to keep), crafts for them to do, gift baggies, cupcakes, a head table and all for only $40? Done. That's super easy. I got two of the tickets. And we're having the party at the Children's Museum tomorrow. It should have been super easy.

Except I have friends with little girls who are Brat's age, and boys who are Bugs' age. And family. Aw dammit! Right now, attendance is standing at 19 kids, and 13 adults. That's straight up B.S.- but it's my own fault for having friends or family I suppose. I'm moving to a hermitage.

One year, Brat had a party at the museum with a 3d Princess cake, and I made the goodie bags from the dollar store.  And the next year we went to Michaels' Craft Store, and had the party there, including crafts and lunch. Easy. Pay the money, have the party, leave. Good plan.

This year, I discovered something. It could/ should still have been so easy. Pick one or two kids from school and invite them. But no. No, girls are very different from boys. And that sucks for me.

It was never a problem with Bugs if we only invited 2 or 3 boys from his class. No big.

It's a BIG deal now. You can't invite just one or two of the girls from the class. If you don't invite them all, your child will get ostracized by the girls who are left out! How did this happen? Because parents let their kids decide who to invite. And because little girls are evil. Pink tutu owning, tiny wing wearing, tiara headed demons.

I gave out the invites with my breath held, hoping that at least 3 of them wouldn't be able to make it. No such luck. Most of them are coming- and some have smaller siblings that are coming too. Fine. I'll cope- because turning kids away from a day at the museum just isn't my idea of nice- especially when their older sibs are going. But it's out of control.

When I was a kid, mom had a rule, and that was, if I was 7 there could be 7 (AND ONLY 7) kids at the party. 8=8, 9=9. I hope you get the picture. It was never out of control. And it was at our home. And my mom got to make the cake herself.

I understand what happened here though. What I don't understand is why other parents fall for it. It can't possibly be the exact same situation for all of us? Can it? Are you all being railroaded too?

My theory is this: kids have gotten so smart that they've fooled ALL parents everywhere into some kind of ridiculous birthday race. Every kid wants the coolest party, and the biggest coolest cake (okay, I want the big, cool, cake too). And they threaten social stigma if we don't give them the best party.

Well, after this year, I'm officially out of the race. I won't play this game. It's going to be downhill from here for my kids.

I NEVER want to have a children's party at my home-  because I have NO desire whatsoever to clean up after school aged horde of locusts. But maybe I'll try to convince my daughter her birthday is in June and use a park.

I don't know what we'll do when Monster is old enough for parties. Maybe we won't ever tell her about her birthday. If she never knows when it is, she can't ask for a party can she? But then the fun for me is in the cakes- and I don't want to miss out on cake.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Random Bragging and Math.

Report cards came in today. And it's official.

My kids are smarter/ cooler/ more awesome than other completely normal kids are.

My boy got almost straight "A"s, except in his legibility.

My daughter got some very nice comments (in Kindergarten they don't grade)- except she's a bit flighty and overly talkative.

That's all. Combined, they are a metric tonne of awesomeness squared. Or a year of time cubed.

You can so cube a year of time. And a year of time cubed is roughly equal to how awesome my children are.

Equation proving above claim is:

MxMxM= T+L  where M= one year

See. Proof indisputable that my kids kick serious ass. If you need one, I can figure out the equation for your children and their awesomeness factor too.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm so lame, and I know it.

I admit it. I watched Twilight. Not the new one, but the previous ones. And I read the books. Now, to be fair, I only watched that first movie because a friend was over and she wanted to watch it. It was about what I expected (given that I hadn't heard anything at all about the movie, or the books before she mentioned it)- and I expected stupid.

But I can no longer claim ignorance as my defense for watching these movies. And I *have* watched all of the movies since then. Unfortunately for the hours of life which I'll never get back, more than once in a couple cases. I also read the books. Again, more than once.

I do NOT understand the fascination with these books. I don't understand why the teenage girls (and grown up women [me] love Jacob) love these movies/ Edward so much. But conversely, I don't understand the raging hatred for the books, movies, characters or the stigma around reading/ watching them.

Personally, I don't run around telling people I want to see the new movie, because I don't really care if I do. I'm not above watching it sometime though. And I realize that is the reason so many of you will think I'm lame.

But I've got so many WAY better reasons for you to think I'm lame. Here are a couple, free of charge: I also watch StarTrek (all of them, even Enterprise), StarWars, Firefly, Matlock and pretty much anything else I like. And I hope one day Gordon Ramsey decides he doesn't actually love his wife/ mother of his children and he wants to marry me instead. Fat chance, but still, a woman can dream.

So, I'll cop to being lame. I am. I once tried to learn Klingon, even so far as to practicing my pronunciation. (I almost wrote "pronounciation"- you know, when you're dealing only with pronouns.)

Anyhow, I don't hate Twilight. I think the vampires are rather stupid, but I do love me some young werewolves. And Bella is an idiot- but no stupider than I was at 17. And that's saying A LOT (I was remarkably stupid- if you knew me back then, you're probably just glad I grew up NOT to be a vampire).

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Special Friend (well, five special friends)

I have one friend (but not only one), who has been a huge part of my life. When I first moved out of the house at 18 years old, and went away to university, I was all alone (I felt) in another city. All my 'best friends forever" from high school were off in other cities, in other places. I was so scared.

Then I met Tom. And he was a weird one. He looked completely insane, with hair popping up off his head (at the time, I didn't know he used a blow dryer every morning, to make it look that stupid), skinny as a rail, wearing 2XL shirts and pants. I thought he was a lunatic.

Then I got to know him a bit better as we lived in the same dormatory. I was right, he IS a lunatic.

But he's also been one of the best friends I ever made. We got to know each other better over that year, him, Jesse and I. The three of us were virtually inseparable. Jess' girlfriend (now wife) lived in another city, Tommy's lived in another dormitory, and I was dating as many different people as I could, trying to find someone I liked.

That first year was a great deal of fun. The second year, the boys and I rented an apartment near campus and that was even better (except that they are DISGUSTING). Since that first day of university, there were ups and downs for each of us. But the three of us spent almost three full years living within arm's reach of each other, and spending all our free time together as well. They were the best part of those years for me. Sometimes years go by when I don't get to see them (we now live so far away). But I know they are there if I need to see them, or talk to them.

I still have contact with them- enough that when Tom found out that he and his wife were pregnant, I was the second call he made. To be important enough for your friend to call you- anytime, even in the middle of the night, whether the news is bad or good, that's a special thing.

And I am so very proud, and feel so blessed that I am important enough to Tom and Stef that they needed me to know about their joy too.

I don't have many friends that I can call day or night, any time, for any reason. I have several hundred acquaintances on my facebook. People who, I am sure, are wonderful, special people- to somebody out there. I have about a dozen people I see regularly, that I think are awesome- but that I probably wouldn't call in the middle of the night just because I need to.
There are only five people that I know will always be there. My husband is my best friend- that should go without saying.

Tom is my laughter.

Krista helps bring my "misspent youth" back to me.

Michelle is my sounding board (and a bit of a role model for me).

And my newest friend may turn out to be another one of those special people that change your life and never let you down. If she's not- well, that's okay too, because she's still an incredible person.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Worth fighting for.

I have been reminded recently there are things that are worth fighting for, and things that are not. My children are worth fighting for. And this is the story of my particular fight. Please keep in mind, this is all ten years old to me. I'm going to try to tell it they way it happened for ME; but, while I remember these feelings, I no longer suffer through them in the same way. So, if you read this and think to comment rudely about my sons' birth mother. Know this: I am fierce. And she is my friend.

Something that not everyone who knows our family is aware of: ours is a blended family. My son was adopted, at the age of 2, by me. He is my husbands' biological son from a former relationship.

When he was just past his second birthday, his biological mother chose to move overseas. I was already dating my husband, and was just "daddy's girlfriend".

When C (my son's biological mother) left, my whole world became chaotic, unmanageable, messy, financially unstable and full of noise. And I'll tell you, the first four months were a type of systemic shock I wouldn't wish on anyone. It was the worst four months of my life. I wouldn't go back and change it for anything.

Suddenly, without warning I was parenting. It was something I'd always wanted, yet not something I had put a great deal of thought towards.  And this child was angry and scared. "You're not my mommy. Where's my mommy?" I didn't have an answer. And there were days when I didn't know if trying to build a relationship with this screaming, demon- child was worth it.

But here was a little boy- still in diapers- who was in a haze of: confusion; terror; and hurt. I felt that I didn't have a choice- he was a great kid and I liked him tremendously (mostly when he wasn't screaming, biting, hitting or whining), and I didn't enjoy seeing him hurting and scared. I just kept trying to be a source of comfort to him.

My husband (back then he was just my boyfriend) was working long hours, late in the evenings and sleeping late most days. Since I was there anyways, it became my job to wake with a toddler, feed, dress, interact, teach, play and console.

Within four months, this small person was my whole day. Waking, sleeping, planning, clothing, feeding, disciplining and then one beautiful day, no longer consoling. He began calling me mommy.  The strongest feeling in the world- I was beyond thrilled. I loved him already. I already thought of him as MY child. My husband and I were planning on becoming married and that first "mommy" cemented all those feelings and my heart.

That left C in an awkward and strange position. She was so far removed from his life- not calling or trying to communicate with him at all as it was 'too expensive'. When she decided to move home again more than a year and a half had passed, and he'd been calling me mommy almost that entire time.

My son didn't know who she was. And hearing from her made him feel physically sick, vomiting and crying- he was still just a confused 4 year old.

But he wasn't the only person in our house who felt sick every day. So did I. My nights were a torment of terrifying dreams. What if something happened to my husband (then still just a boyfriend)? "They" (Government, grandparents, C) could take my son away. I'd been his mom for so long, but legally, didn't have any rights when it came to him.

I was constantly frightened something bad would happen. I worried incessantly. I was in a rage all the time against the injustice of it. In my mind, it would come down to kidnapping my own child if something happened to my husband.

Finally, my husband understood how this hurt me, preyed on my mind, every single minute of the day. We went to a lawyer.

The lawyer told us there were two things we could do. We could wait another four or five months, and I would be able to apply for a 'de facto' adoption- which meant that since I'd been his everyday caregiver for 2 solid years, he was legally mine. But this would also mean a court battle if C chose to fight. The lawyer told us that there was a less than 0 % chance the courts would give her custody, since she'd already abandoned him once, but I was still scared. Then he explained the second thing we could do- an open adoption. Which would be better for everyone involved if C agreed.

So, we had a meeting with her, her husband, my husband (married now) and I.

She may not have wanted to sign the adoption papers- but my husband and I made it clear that if we had to, we would fight in court for custody. We would do everything in our power to have her declared unfit. There was no chance in Hell that I was ever giving him back to her- she was still virtually a stranger to him, and he didn't like her very much at that point in time.

We also explained to her (and her husband- who didn't want kids of his own, let alone somebody else's) that they would still be able to see him one day every week; but that if they fought in court and lost, visitation would be entirely at our discretion.

The only question she and her husband had was about the child support payments they owed us (they were outstanding at the time). Not visitation, not familial rights. Just whether or not they'd still have to pay child support. I think that was the hardest part of the whole process for me personally to deal with. I'd have risked everything in the world just to keep him with me.

*It took me a very long time to get over my frustration, my anger and my disappointment in C's reactions and behaviour. Partly because I was told by one of her best friends the reason C hadn't been paying her child support (outstanding over $1500.00 at the time of the adoption) was because she was "busy" paying more than $5000.00 CDN to a weight loss clinic. It made me so sad, and so angry when I heard that. There were times back then when we didn't have money for basics- but she had money to pay someone else to help her lose weight; not to mention getting her hair done every month and all the clothes/ shoe shopping she did. It was very nearly a mortal (emotional) blow that she put her appearance ahead of her responsibilities- ahead of our son. Thankfully, the rage and frustration are gone; yet still the guilt remains to remind me- "What if I spend this money now; then don't have enough to buy X for the kids, when they need it most?"  I need to get over that, and learn to not feel guilty about needing something for myself, and I am working on it. Back on track.*

 When it finally came time to sign the adoption papers, OUR lawyer told HER lawyer who told C that if she wanted to be a part of his life, she would have to make a permanent commitment. She couldn't keep coming and going from his life- he needed her to be stable, and to remain part of his life. She couldn't leave Canada again for more than 30 days consecutively. That was our only stipulation. She agreed to it.

By all accounts, we had a WAY more open adoption agreement than most families do. We offered 1 day/ week, with every other weekend being an overnight visit. We offered pickup for afterschool visits when wanted, family gathering visits as requested, summer vacation time, holiday times. In short, we offered co-parenting; with us as the decision making family.

All she had to do was ask, we would accommodate. She only ever asked once for an extra visit- which was to take him to her work. But, my father had come to visit (he lives over 2000 kms away, and we rarely get to see him); we had to say "Not this time." She never asked again. She told her family that we wouldn't allow it. She told her family we wouldn't let her come get him before 3pm on weekends (we told her and her husband repeatedly that he was up by 7, they could come anytime after that). Or, on days when they had him over night, they told family that he had to be home by 3, in reality, all we asked was that they tell us what time he'd be home.

In short, she convinced her family that we were keeping them apart. And because her family didn't know she'd relinquished parental rights to me, they thought we were just being "mean and spiteful". They didn't know that we called her every day, asking when she'd come by, that we invited them for dinner. That we tried. Hard.

It was hard, always being portrayed to her family as the horrible one. The mean one. The evil 'step mother' keeping her apart from her child. Her family spent five years: condemning me; hating me; calling me names; telling everyone they knew that my husband was abusive and that C had 'run for her life' from him (which was later apologized for- but damage done). For five years, they made our lives HELL.

And because we were trying to maintain a decent relationship with C, who hadn't told them about the adoption, we didn't defend ourselves. It hurt though to be made into a monster. The family frequently told Bugs how horrible it was for him to have to live with us. That hurt worse, because it hurt him. He came home from visits crying almost every time. He wanted to be with us, to be where he felt safe- but other people- people he loved and trusted too- told him he shouldn't feel that way, told him he should want to stay with C. He handled it the only way he could. He cried a lot.

Because C and her husband regularly partied, having a child over for a visit every weekend made that hard to do. So they cancelled visits more regularly than they actually had them. There was always an excuse. Sometimes it was "I can't miss this party- I/ he need to network" or "I can't miss this concert- it's my favourite band" and once "His mom is visiting, and doesn't want Bugs over until I'm there to take care of him". And it all hurt so bad. I was the one left explaining to a child why his visit wasn't going to happen, and I'd take him to do something else fun instead. And he cried even more. 

When C's husband decided he didn't like Canada; missed his 'mommy and daddy' too much; he decided to move back to Scotland. C told her family I said she should go too. I didn't.

I asked her if she would end up hating Bugs if she had to give up her husband in order to stay in Canada. She said yes, if she gave up her husband, she would one day hate and resent our son. That was, and still is, untenable to me; so I said she should do what would make her happiest, and what would keep her from blaming a child for her own choices.

So, less than 2 years after signing the papers where she agreed to stay in Canada permanently, C moved back to Scotland again- and this time a 6 year old was left upset, feeling worthless (how many times can you walk away from a child before they think it's their fault?), angry and unloved (by her). We could at that time have legally closed the adoption: to her; to her family; to her friends. Except that it would have broken my son into a million pieces. It was hard enough for him to lose her a second time; to have lost her family as well? That might very well have killed his spirit completely.

My son had a very difficult couple of years after C left that time. Fighting, back talking, misbehaviour. More notably, an obsession with food which resulted in almost 30 lbs gained in just one year- despite his father and I trying to help him make good food choices, and encouraging exercise. All in all, it was a traumatic experience for my boy, and he wasn't yet 7 years old. He had problems with separation anxiety- every single time I left for work, he would cry and beg me to come home again. It was heartrending.

It is also in the past now. We work everyday to show him we love him; that we value him; that we will never leave him behind. It is probably going to take the rest of his life to prove to him that we love him and that he IS desperately wanted. He has been scarred irreparably- and where there is a scar there is also a reminder to take care in the future. 

In the intervening years from then to now, there have been fights.  MANY fights. There have been many a flurry of angry emails from us to her, from us to her mother, from her to her mother, from her mother to us, from her to us. And every time we fight; we also keep in mind what is best for Bugs. Regardless of how we might feel in that moment, it will be resolved, and we will still have that relationship to contend with. So, we have to work to achieve and maintain a happy relationship.  Each of us has only one thing we want- happiness.

We want peace and happiness for our family, C wants that for herself, and C's mother just wants to be a good advocate for her daughter and her own family.

Throughout all of this we have remained firm. He is OUR son. Ultimately, decisions about him, or his interests lie with us. But he is also a part of their family. And they are a part of our family. We are a family. Disfunctional? Yes. Extended? Stretched to the limits might be a better description. 

It has been a hard, hard road to travel. It's been painful. Full of tears, anger, recriminations, and guilt. More than anything else though, it has been joy.

Joy for me- I have my children, and nobody can take them from me.

Joy for my extended family who love all of my children very much.

Joy for my husband, who knows how much I love him, and our children.

Joy for C, who has been able to move on with her life, have a visit once a year for a few weeks, party as she pleases the rest of the time, and still be an 'auntie' to the other kids.

Joy for C's family who still see their grandson every other weekend, but now also consider our other children their grandkids as well.

 Joy for our son, who had the most painful experience any child can have- twice- but who still has an open heart, full of love, hope and knowledge that his father and I, his mother, will fight for him no matter what.

One day, I hope my son can understand the many reasons behind each decision that was made. The reasons we pushed so hard for C to sign the papers; and the reasons she chose to leave, both the first time and the second time.

I hope I have made clear to each of my children that they are worth fighting for. Worth risking everything for.

I would do anything for my family- except give up.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Please, don't ask that. It's rude, and you sound stupid.

  My 11 yo looks more like me than he looks like his biological mother's family- and that’s a blessing and a curse in one. A blessing because I never get asked ridiculous questions the way an interracial family does- in fact, most people don't know he's adopted.

But a curse just the same, because when an acquaintance finds out (it’s not a secret and I’m happy to talk about it if it comes up, but don’t generally say anything unless we’re on the topic)- I always get the same stupid, “I thought YOU were his mother. I’d have never known if you hadn’t said anything. Are the girls adopted too?”

Well. Here’s the problem- and it’s my own stubborn nature giving me the problem- I AM his mother. No, you wouldn’t have known, so why are you suddenly acting like it’s the twilight zone? He’s my son, I don’t love him less or more than I did five minutes ago, or less or more than my daughters. No, my girls are not adopted. I love all my children. They are all different people, so no, I don’t love them ‘the same’- I love them differently, but in equal amounts.

I hate the fact that once someone discovers my son is adopted they feel like they have the right to his birth story, our entire history together, and to treat me like I’m suddenly LESS his mother now than I was before- or even worse the people who act like I’m some kind of “saint” for adopting. I’m no saint. I’ve made mistakes as a mother, as a person, as a wife. But the expectation that I’ll suddenly open my life to their scrutiny (and their judgements) drives me crazy.

 But I don’t discuss it in order to make someone think better of me, or worse of his bio mom. It’s no longer a painful situation, but it can make some people uncomfortable- and since they can’t understand, they try to use things they’ve seen on TV as a standard for how they think I "must" feel. For example, one lady who decided I must be sterile, and have battled infertility. Another who wondered (out loud, but thankfully not in front of my husband or son) if his birthmother had been beaten or raped by his birth father. Total inappropriate bullshit.

I also don’t bring it up with casual acquaintances on first meeting them, and somehow, this makes them feel ‘tricked’ later.

As if I should introduce myself with, “Hi, my name is Sarah. I have three children. One of whom is adopted, and two ‘regular’ children. I will take questions for ten minutes now.”

Conversely, there are some people that I will NEVER tell about the adoption. If by some chance they read it here, or another acquaintance tells them, fine, but it will never come from me.

I have a highschool acquaintance, who judged me very harshly the first time he heard I (at 31) had an 11 year old. I got the standard, "Oh, you were really young when you had him then eh? You should have been more careful. Did you finish university? It's too bad you didn't."

All those small sentences are a huge judgement of my character. As if he somehow always suspected that I was a "slut" (that would be his opinion NOT mine) who would drop out and have kids instead of finishing university.

And I wanted to jump to defend myself. But I didn't. If someone has that low an opinion of you, nothing you say can change it.

I could play the "adoption card" and try to make him feel bad for his judgements; to make myself seem self sacrificing and martyr-ish, except that I'm not either of those things. I do my best every day for my kids, and that's all I can do.

My choices are my own. My life is my own. My children are THEIR own- and I am so proud of them. Our lives are what we make of them. I owe nobody an apology for the life I've made. Parenting my children is the best thing I've ever been able to do, and the most important job I could ever have is to raise them properly (and by properly, I mean so that they love themselves and are happy).

I don't care how smart my kids are (well, I do, but not in a scary, obsessive way).

I love to use the fact that my son won National Honours in Maths last year in as many conversations as I can. My 5 year old can sound words out (when she feels like it) on her own. My 8 month old won’t crawl, but she loves showers.

I think every child has their own unique and beautiful talents, and given the right encouragement will grow to be happy and healthy adults.

THAT’s all I truly care about. My children might not be the best at everything, or maybe they won’t be good at anything. But they’ll be loved just the same. And I think that might be more important than feeling great about an accomplishment.

There will always be someone ‘better’ at something.

But nobody will be as loved by me as they are. And nothing, no amount of genius-i-ousity or talent will make me love them more, and nothing could ever make me love them less. And because of that, one persons judgement of me doesn't matter at all.