Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Scary Bits

There are scary bits of life.  For everyone, but anxiods have an open channel for a very high frequency VHF kind of sensitivity to those scary parts.
This morning I was carting laundry up and down the stairs while the boys were at school and Amarys was playing in the hallway.  She had a big fuzzy blanket from the living room, a board book, and a little people figurine.  I went down, sorted a bit, and came up within 4 minutes.  In the hallway, I saw the blanket in a huddle, and Amarys' feet poking out the end.  Her head and body were completely covered, and her feet were really still.  I called her name to make sure she was okay, and she didn't move.
That was probably my worst parenting moment with her so far.  I really thought she was unconscious.  I dropped the empty hamper I was carrying and yelled her name and dug around in the blanket to get to her face.  THEN she moved her legs and peeked out from under the blanket and said, "Book?"  She was just reading her book in the dark.
Pheeeeew.  But now I'm battling my old tendency to go over and over it in my mind and plan out what I would have done if she'd been hurt.

I have determined that it is not so fabulous that I have seen so much as a paramedic, when it comes to the being anxious.  But it is in fact fortunate and fabulous that I have, because when I saw her so still, I didn't feel helpless.  I felt panicked but I knew exactly what to do, and was equipped to respond to the number of ways a toddler might manage to become unconscious in the upstairs hallway of their own house.  [And I knew that the vast majority of the time, they are rescued and recover fully].

Toddlers.  Shortening the lives of parents around the world, every day.

Monday, November 26, 2012

World's Best Compliment

Tonight as I was rushing around getting squirrely kids in bed, I was in the bathroom brushing Amarys' teeth.  I had just finished brushing Riley's teeth (which he HATES) and Ayden poked his head in the door:

You know, you are really good at your job.  I mean the parenting job.

And he smiled sincerely.  Sheesh, that was nice.  =)  And timely.  Solo bedtime is not my favourite.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

On Working and Having Kids

I'm very close to being hired at a full time job.  I'm not counting my chickens but I'm trying to mentally prepare for this life change that's coming down the path in front of me.  This past year has been a bit of a failed experiment.  Last December, at the end of my maternity leave from the Ambulance Service, I resigned.  With some fear and some trepidation, we set out to be a single income family.  It just made logistical sense, since we were spending so much time passing each other children and running relays that something fundamental got lost in the shuffle.  You know, one of the things about Brent that fits me so well is how peaceful he is.  Living with him is peaceful.  I know where I fit in the world, and it is right next to him.  What we've built together is a complex piece of music, and it is so beautiful.  What I lost when we both worked and when we had more than two children, was some of that peace.  I don't want to rush through life and at the end think, why didn't I savor it a little more?

But I don't want to live my life and think, Gee, too bad we were homeless, either.

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

Our plan was for Brent to work overtime to make up my income, and he earned a position that gave him a decent amount of overtime JUST as I resigned so it seemed made in heaven.  The downside to heaven is, sometimes life on earth is not.  Heaven, that is.  Brent's employer has this weird, convoluted, multi faceted process for approving overtime (which has already been worked!!  And submitted).  This means overtime payout is often significantly delayed.  Like from June to October.  And also frequently it will be paid out in large chunks, so half of it disappears in taxes because it looks suddenly like we're super rich.  Which we are compared to much of the world but that doesn't really improve my access to groceries and gas for a family of six people, two cats, and one rabbit.  We get that chunk back at tax return time but THAT DOESN'T HELP ME NOW, DOES IT??!  Anyways, that doesn't really work as a way to replace my income.  We never know when we're getting basic pay (which leaves us $40 for two weeks of groceries and $80 for two weeks of gas, and nothing else), or overtime pay.  BOUNCE payment, BOUNCE payment, BOUNCE.

So after trying this out for about 9 months, I said fuck it.  I'm an adult, I'm smart, I'm capable, I'm experienced, I'm talented, and I'm driven.  I'm getting me a damn job.  We're a team, so let's TEAM IT UP.

We'd love to move out of this area, which was recently rated the most expensive housing costs in the entire world (although we'd miss everything and everybody ASIDE from the expensive houses) but at this point we are locked in to Brent's current geographical job location. So, I must work.

I feel a TON of emotions about this fact.  First, I feel relief.  I will have to scale back and let tons of stuff go. I will have to hunker down and save every spare emotional kilojoule of energy for my family.  This is good.  I feel relief that we won't have to feel so much stress anymore, so much worry, and bounce so many things.  We have no cushion, no emergency fund, no travel allowance, no school photo fund, NOTHING.  That's no way to live because in life you have to expect the unexpected.  Yes?

I've been driving around in a van with a broken heater/air conditioner FOR A YEAR.  We didn't even have money for a replacement heater from the scrapyard.  =(  Well, now we will have a second income to fix van heaters and purchase school photos and maybe even go out on a date every once in awhile.  Not that we will have TIME mind you.

I just hit a wall, with the stress and the effing nonfunctioning budget and the rice and beans.  There were a few times that Brent and I were pretty hungry.  We had to save the food for the kids, you know?  That only happened a few times.  But it still happened (Brent's parents' freezer is full to the brim with frozen food.  They let us raid it a few times last spring, that is how we ate when things got bare around here).  So.  You see where I'm coming from, here?  I'm an adult, smart, capable, talented, driven: = job.
[Another option is to sell the house and downsize.  This is possible but not entirely practical.  Housing market for townhouses is abysmal right now, which makes us vulnerable to getting stuck here for longer.  Many townhouses in the size we need for six people are close to $420,000; add strata fees, etc, and you are close to our house now for monthly payments, etc.  But add in a lack of privacy and autonomy via strata.  Plus, we would lose in interest and realtor's fees, not the wisest financial choice long term].
I've been hunting for something that fits my skill set and personality, yet is less physically demanding than my previous job.  I applied for a few things outside my field; it is very hard to break into something new!  But I knew I'd find something.  I just had to keep trucking.

For the first time since high school, I wasn't looking for a career building job.  I don't mind if it turns INTO a career, but what I mean is I was wide open to any possibility~I applied at the township, rec centre, Big Sisters Vancouver, I considered applying to Amazon and a few others as well.  I wanted a good paycheque and a positively ranked employer.  I'm tired of being mistreated by employers, it is time to work for a company that appreciates its work force and whose employees enjoy working for them.  (rather than enjoy work, despite them).  I stumbled across a job for a nearby city that pays well and is well ranked by employees, is interesting and stimulating, and works well with my previous work experience.  It's a fifty four million step process to get hired but I'm pretty close to the end of that process.  I will see real work pretty soon.  Real pay.  Real skill development.  Real outside of mommy world friends.  Real conversations with real adults.

It is shift work, which makes childcare a freaking nightmare.  So we're looking into hiring an Au Pair.  That's like an exchange student who doesn't go to school, and who babysits your kids for pay.  I looked into being an Au Pair when I was just out of high school, but it just never worked.  It's a way to travel, see the world, immerse yourself in a culture, and deepen your knowledge of another language (if necessary).  Au Pair's commit to 3 to 12 months with a family, live with them, become a part of their family, travel, eat, and hang out with them, earn money looking after their kids, and then use that money to travel around once their commitment is finished (or on shorter trips on weekends or weeks where they aren't needed for babysitting). This way, you have a cultural exchange (which we were totally interested in doing anyways), live in help (which makes both of us doing shift work so much more possible), and cheaper childcare costs.  It's cheaper than a nanny and actually, with four kids?  It's cheaper than daycare.  The kids are in their own home, their own beds, their own routines, and there are three adults living in the house.  Sometimes Brent and I will work the same shifts and sometimes we won't.  Sometimes we will need to both sleep during the day, or be gone all night.  Live in help makes it so much less stressful.

The downside to an Au Pair is that it is temporary.  You can apply for another Au Pair when yours leaves, but your kids have to switch care providers a few times a year.  Also, you have less control over who comes into your home; they are screened and matched with families by an agency that guarantees them, but still it is not the same as a nanny, who you interview and get to know before hiring them.  However there is no bloody way we can afford a nanny, it would make it not worth it for me to go to work at ALL.  I'd take home about $5 an hour and no job makes that worth it.

Aren't they cute?  I can't sell them short.

I'm afraid of the impact of less time with my kids.  I'm afraid it will cost them more than I'm willing to ask.  I'm afraid they will miss me.  I'm afraid Amarys will cry.  I'm afraid my house will be a constant pigsty disaster and lose its peacefulness.  I'm afraid my life will whip by and I won't have time to savor it.  I'm afraid I will damage my kids by working.  I don't know why.  I didn't damage them before when I worked.  In theory I think having mothers who work outside the home can be good for kids, broadening their village and helping them to see their parents in empowered roles, as good role models of balance and as an example of how we are more than simply parents.  We have a life and talent outside our children (this is totally possible without an actual paying job, by the way), which can be demonstrated by working.  It can also be demonstrated by having balance in life an striving to maintain relationships, hobbies, outreach and volunteer work, etc, etc.  But it CAN be demonstrated by working as well.  But I still fear that I'm wrong.  That my theory is wrong and I'm damaging my kids by working again.

Who can resist underwear hats?

Or this?

Brent feels a heavy burden to provide for us financially, and I just want to carry that WITH him rather than watch him slave so hard and work so much overtime and still NEVER get ahead.  Still feel so stressed on payday.  Still have to negotiate what to bounce and what to pay, every month.  Still have to borrow money from our parents, sometimes.  Enough is enough, we are becoming a dual income home, period.  I'm going back to work.  And you guys?  Cheer me on.  Remind me on the hard days that I can do it.  That I'm strong enough.  That God will carry me through, and carry my kids through.  That my kids would be protected from the big, bad world, and all its hurts.  That I can still savor my life. And their kisses.  And homegrown peace.

Remind me.

Monday, November 19, 2012

On Being an Adopted Mom

This one is the hardest to write.  It hits closest to home.

Being a mom is hard.  It's hard work, it is lots of work, and pretty much every philosophy, idea, parenting style, fad, or medical advice tidbit somehow makes you feel like you're doing it wrong. It is impossible to do perfectly, yet imperative to do so.  It is the hardest job I've ever done, one that demands I turn myself inside and out and loosen my hold on most of my ideals and all of my youth.  It is harder than I ever imagined it could be, from the outside.
Being a mom is also awesome.  It's fun, and hilarious, and makes me cry with joy on a pretty regular basis.  Every day I have moments of pure joy and sweet victories.  It is the most rewarding job I've ever done, likely because it demands so much of me.  It is more rewarding than I ever imagined it could be, from the outside.

Adopting a child adds a new twist.  An extra shadow.  Every action, every thought, every decision, all of parenting has this extra shadow on it.  Not a dark shadow, but one like you see on a summer morning; lots of reflected light makes it seem barely present and you hardly notice its there.  For awhile, I parented Matthew in the shadow of his foster and biological moms.  I was certain they could be doing it better.  I hated myself for my failures.  Then the shadow changed a bit, shifting colour or something.  Less angry and more worried.  I worry all the time: what's he thinking about?  Does he harbor fear?  Is this normal eight year old boy behavior, or is he acting out some sort of inner adoption struggle?  How much is adoption, and how much is living?  Would it be better to celebrate his uniqueness or focus on his sameness?  Does he care?  Does it hurt?  How often does he think of his birth mom, and how can I help him?

He lives in the shadow of what he has left behind him in Thailand.  He has photos of his birth family in his bed.  They are wrinkled and creased, frequently wind up under the mattress or behind the dresser, and resurface.  He treasures them.  He doesn't yet fully understand that he lost his family, and he lost the language and culture of his birth, but someday he will.  As his momma it hurts me that someday, it might hurt him.

I also parent under the shadow of the quiet scrutiny of others.  People are curious about us, and about him.  They watch us.  Sometimes, they ask questions.  Most of the time, I don't remember that this shadow exists because most of the time I forget that he is brown and we are white, and thus noticeable in public.  I catch people giving us double takes, or looking at us closely and I think, "Is there toilet paper stuck to my pants?  Do I have something on my face?  Is my boob hanging out again?"  But then I realize, it's just Matthew.  Those polite Canadians.  Looking and not asking.  And looking again.  Pshhht.  But once I am aware that people are watching, it gets awkward.  Every interaction is proof of love.  Demonstration of stewardship.  I own this boy and he owns me: we are family.  I feel like everything I do is a small shout, "Yes the love is the same!"  "YES HE IS MINE!"  But only when I'm aware of being watched, which isn't often.  Thank goodness.  For that shadow is heavy.

All parents worry about their children's well being and future happiness.  There's just an extra layer of worry shadowing the adopted mom.  And a lurking desire to demonstrate proof.  Proof of love, proof of having earned the right to raise this baby, proof of legitimacy as a mom.  Proof of health, balance, emotional stability, parenting mastery.  But who "masters" parenting?  My BF says anyone who acts like they have all their shit together?  They're faking.  It's all a lie.  We none of us get it right all the time.
She's right.  No parent gets it right every time.  Adopted moms feel a heavy burden of responsibility to get it right, and do it well, because there's that added shadow of grief and identity that awaits their child as they grow up.  If we mess up, the consequences are bigger.  We do the heavy manual labor of parenting and are questioned and scrutinized at every turn.  When really, what we do?  It's magic.  We graft a stranger into our hearts and make them family overnight.  It is brilliant, beautiful, gorgeous, breathtaking.  Adoption grows our hearts in impossible ways, and pulls us inside out to wear that growth on the OUTSIDE OF OUR BODIES, walking around all naked and soft.  For our babies.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, 
to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap according to mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you

Hosea 10:12

Monday, November 12, 2012

Response for Rough Day

I just wanted to give you a heads up that I finally responded to your amazing supportive comments on my Rough Day post.  If you left a comment, you can go read my response/update and I'm sorry it took me a week to respond.

Which is kind of funny, now that we are in instant response land (ie, the facebook era), what we said yesterday seems expired and if a comment is not responded to rather fast, it seems like the distant past when it's been only a week.  I kind of don't like that.  But it's the way it is.

Oh, and p.s. I started painting again.  I'm doing a five foot high canvas illustration of the Hannah Georgas song I posted here a few days ago.  It is amazing.  I heard the song in church (my pastor is awesome; he plays secular music in his sermons on a pretty frequent basis) and instantly got a painting in my head.  It's developed as I work on it and WOW is it awesome to be doing this again...  Painting is something that I can't NOT do, you know?  It doesn't matter if I have an audience or no one will ever see it, I have powerful images in my head that must be painted.  Too bad that talent is not more lucrative.  ;)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

That Time I Went Skydiving

I like living an unconventional life.  There is nothing wrong with conventional: I like lots of convention, myself.  But I like living on the FRINGE of my conventional life and being open to adventure.

There is, however, ONE THING I had never considered doing no matter how adventurous, amazing, allegedly fantastic, or fringe, and that is SKYDIVING.
I'm all about flipping the bird to tradition but jumping out of an airplane with nothing but a silk backpack on JUST ISN'T LOGICAL.  Being a human, I like logical, and being an anxious human I parTICularly like logical.  It keeps me safe.  (laugh in the face of my existential ridiculousness, go ahead.  If you must).

photo credit: danceinthesky via photopin cc

I am just a big fan of keeping two feet on the ground, generally.  I'm not a fan of airplanes.  I know they are safer to travel in than cars, yaddayadda, but they just don't dovetail nicely with my desire for control over my environment, and to avoid death defying high speed crashes.  9/11 did nothing to help me in this regard.
Anyways, LONG, LONG AGO, before I got married, my friend and bridesmaid Keli Harrington decided it would be really fun to take me out for a day.  We went to the SPA for FACIALS, massages, and relaxation in the steam room.  We ate fancy food.  And we drove out towards Abbotsford for a "big surprise."

I'm sure you all can guess that the big surprise was skydiving.  We drove up to the little private airport with signs advertising SKYDIVING HERE, and I got hit with an intense wave of nausea.  I did NOT WANT TO GO.  Being pragmatic AND polite kept my ass in the seat and kept me from refusing outright from the driveway, but I hated myself some Keli Harrington there for a few minutes, just a little bit, okay not really.  But I was PET. RI. FIED.  Two things kept me from hauling ass in the next quarter hour: the thought that skydiving was REALLY EXPENSIVE and Keli might not get her money back (I'm frugal.  Hate me), and the teeny tiny chance that I might actually like it.  I'm adventurous.  I won't go searching for jumping out of airplanes type of adventure but if it leaps into my lap, I might not say no.

I got out of the car and walked to the building but I stopped talking.  I was just too overwhelmed and afraid, and maybe a bit green.  Keli laughed but she was worried when I stopped talking.  She thought maybe she pushed me too far past my comfort zone.  (She did.  But I survived, obviously.  This was in 2002).  She said, "One great leap deserves another!  You're taking the leap to get married so I thought you should leap out of an airplane, too."  Crazy ass friend, Amiright?

They were expecting us, but the appointment time for our leap kept getting postponed because the airspace was being used for something legitimate, like an ambulance helicopter or search and rescue or something.  I can't remember what, I just know we had to wait.  And wait.  And WAIT.

Finally we met our instructors/tandem jumper guys.  They went over safety but really most of the safety was up to them.  We just had to TRUST.  Snort.  I just prayed I wouldn't die.  They had jumped so many times it was like baking bread to them, but for me?  It was death on a plane.

We got in the airplane, and they hooked us to themselves.  This airplane was a decomissioned army plane, just big enough for maybe eight to ten people.  Not on seats, on the floor.  You could see the ground go by through cracks in the fusilage as we taxied down the runway.  I put my head on the back of the person in front of me and seriously considered upchucking.  Keli looked all bright eyed and sparkly, and I couldn't even manage a smile.  There was no going back now.

We got up in the air and a few other people jumped, tandem.  One girl jumped solo (she was working on some sort of certification and needed seven solo jumps.  I remember she was all of 95 pounds and 5 foot 3, and I thought, really?  How is this a logical choice for you?  Heave, heave).  Then it was my turn.  We scootched over to the door and sat on the ledge and looked down about 1200 feet and I thought, "I cannot make my body jump."  But when my tandem instructor counted backwards from four, I jumped.  We were supposed to curl into a tight ball until clear of the plane, and then when tapped, spread out like a starfish, opening our bellies up to certain death, random seagulls, and the cold, hard ground.  I did as I was told.  It was the scariest thing I had ever done, but I did it to save money and because it might be fun.

photo credit: alvy via photopin cc

And you know what?  As soon as we left the airplane behind, IT WAS FUN!  It was so fun, I exploded with adrenaline and shouted with joy.  I had thought I might suffer the freefall and enjoy the parachute ride, but I LOVED the freefall most of all.
What made it amazing rather than frightening was that the ground didn't rush up to meet me.  It didn't feel like falling at all, it felt like flying.  It was incredible.  I was sad when we had to pull the parachute and slow down, although that was incredible too, floating around in lazy circles 800 feet above the ground, with Keli a hundred feet to the right of me and ten thousand pounds of adrenaline pumping through my veins.  It was awesome.

I was green going into it, and laughing and wishing to go again right away at the end of it.  Ah, life.  What a trip.

I've never been since, but I'd go again in a heartbeat if I had the chance.  =)
I thought about the life I had originally planned from the safety of the road. The life I had planned before I knew that there are deserts to traverse. The life I had in my imagination with two perfect kids and an effortless marriage. And I thought about what a long and thirsty walk it was to trade my plan – and myself – for something more raw, more wild, more real and more beautiful.

-beth woolsey, from The Wilderness Boundary and The Unexpected Life

Saturday, November 10, 2012

On Birth Mommas

Birth moms are a topic I feel particularly passionate about.  Birth mothers are the most misunderstood and undervoiced members of the adoption circle (except maybe for birth fathers, but they are far less villified).  I believe the reason for this is because most women who have relinquished a child feel a whallop of shame and judgment, along with a sizable helping of pain at the memory of relinquishment.  ALSO the media persists in misrepresenting birth mothers in its narratives about them.  Thus, they remain largely quiet about their experiences and feelings and remain misunderstood.

People don't understand relinquishment and they harbor a deep fear of fundamental parental rejection, and I believe that this is the root of judgment and negative representation of birth mothers in books, movies, television shows, and news articles.

We think, "Wouldn't it be awful if our mothers chose not to be present in our lives?"  and, once we have children, we think, "I could NEVER."  And that's as far as we go.

I'd like to unpack that one a little bit.  Really?  You could NEVER?  How about if there were a war and by sending your child to friends in another country you could save them from the worst danger?  How about if there were a genocide against your race and you could save your child by hiding them in a convent, disguised as another race?  Even if there were an overwhelming chance you might never see them again.  How about if your choice was poverty with your child or opportunity without them (for both of you, or solely for your child)?  How about if your choice was an unhealthy environment with you, or a healthy and stable environment without you?  We all make choices for our children that keep in mind the love we feel and the best interests of everyone involved.

Birth mothers make a heart wrenching choice when they relinquish their children.  They miss their babies forever.  They experience great loss.  They weep.  And many of them know they made a good choice.

Our culture villainizes The Birth Mother.  Being particularly sensitive to adoption themes, I've noticed it over and over again in movies, t.v., books, and news reports.  The way people talk about women "giving up" their child or "abandoning" them, or "choosing ____" instead of their child, is just not consistent with my experience of adoption.  There certainly are exceptions: women who "choose" addiction (don't EVEN get me started on that one), birth mothers who don't want reunion thirty years after relinquishment, and selfish or dysfunctional birth mothers.  But the majority of those who choose relinquishment are just normal women in difficult situations, making the best choices they can manage at the time.  Of course, I think the world should gather around women in difficult situations and help them out rather than forcing the choice in the direction of separation, but since that is not currently universal, relinquishing a child for adoption is something that can happen within the context of love.

One of my fellow students in school was a Birth Mother.  She opened up to me and told me her entire story once.  She told me her daughter's name, and how she exchanges photos and cards with her adopted family several times a year.  And how, on her daughter's birthday, she takes the day off school and work, locks her door, and curls up in bed to cry and remember.  Her own mother sends her a pink rose every year, to say she remembers, too, and feels her pain.  She was sixteen when her little girl was born, and just too young to really give her daughter what she deserved as well as needing to have an opportunity to grow up herself.  I asked her, "What would you want most for your daughter to know about you?"  She answered, "That I made the choice I made out of love."

Every year on Matthew's birthday it hurts to think of his birth mother.  I KNOW she misses him deeply.  I know she remembers.  How can I do anything other than feel tremendous gratitude and love for giving me the most amazing, sparkly, wonderful, spunky, open hearted, fun loving gift in the world?  The magnitude of what she gave us is breathtaking.  The courage it took is breathtaking.  The TRUST she had in God and the good that is in the world is breathtaking.  And inspiring.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

It Gets Better: B.C. Mounties debut video supporting LGBT youth

I cried all the way through this.  I can't embed it, but it's worth clicking over.  

It Gets Better: B.C. Mounties debut video supporting LGBT youth

Rough Day

I was going to write about birth mothers today, but I think I don't have it in me.  Today I'm struggling.  Today I want to yell Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle!!  as a preface to my presence.  Just so people know.  I'm trying hard to hold it together and so far, it would appear as though I have.  But my insides are having a fight to the death with each other and shit does it ever hurt.

This time of year is ALWAYS hard for me.  As soon as it gets dark and wet, I'm full of fear.  So full of fear that I can taste it.  I'm preemptive; I take Vitamin D in the dark months and increase my iron and B vitamin intake.  I spend as much time as I can manage outdoors when the sun shines, but still my fall season usually has a rough patch in it.  Not a day.  A couple of weeks of wrestling.  [I gave this post the name Rough Day but really it's been rough for a week and likely to remain that way for a bit longer].  This is why I dread autumn and the advent of winter, why I celebrate spring so much, and why I have a hard time shouting and kicking up piles of gorgeous leaves with everyone else when fall arrives.  This year has been AWESOME but I think the long Indian Summer [WHAT is the politically correct term for that?  Anyone???] had somewhat something to do with that.  Plus, my summer was so good, it lasted into October.  Sweet!  I had kind of hoped to skip right over my autumn funk but, well, I DO have an anxiety disorder so maybe that wasn't so utterly realistic.

I just feel so damn scared.  Afraid of judgment.  Afraid of my kids dying.  Afraid of waking up one day wondering what the hell I did with my life that was worth anything.  Afraid I'm in an alternate reality and don't know it (that's a common one for me).  Afraid of losing my artistic talent by never using it.  Afraid of feeling shame.  Afraid of loss.  Afraid of anger from others.  Afraid of my husband dying at work.  Afraid of him dying, period.  Afraid of fucking up my kids.  Afraid of making mistakes.  Afraid that I will always be afraid.

A friend of mine IS angry with me, so that doesn't help.  My mistake towards her was unintentional, but it was a mistake.  I have a very real, valid, strong fear of loss of relationships when I make mistakes like this one.  This fear has been confirmed by loss of central relationships several times in my life and it ties me up in knots and actually damages relationships sometimes because I'm so afraid of loss.

I'm also up next to share my story with my life group tonight.  You know that small group I've been going to with amazing women, where God is doing some really palpable work?  We are all new to the group and to each other, so we are taking turns sharing our stories.  Tonight is me.  I'm going to die.  [or not, I haven't decided].  I'm afraid they will judge me.  I'm a weird hippie with a mental illness: what's not to judge? [?!!]  I just want to curl up in my bed and forget I exist.  It's just too exhausting holding it together and falling apart inside.  I've been grinding my teeth so hard at night, my teeth hurt in the morning.  I keep thinking I have cavities but the pain fades by lunchtime so I know it's from anxiety.

Maybe I'll load up on St John's Wort and do some self care today.  [Self care=eat too much chocolate and let my kids play too much Wii so they leave me alone].  In fact, Amarys is in the bath and Riley is playing Wii right now, because that is what will keep them occupied long enough for me to write about it.

Deep breath.  Here I go...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

20 Months!

Sweet 20 month old baby.  I knit her this hat.  She loves it.

Amarys is 20 months old!  I missed the 18 and 19 month posts, so sorry... But here we are all grown up into a feisty toddler.  Fiercely independent and cute as a bug.

I loooooove the baby stage but once they are toddlers, they really get fun.  More sleep, a longer "umbilical cord," lots of love and cuddles, and the beginnings of the unfolding of language and a sense of self.  I LOVE toddlers.  They are lots of work, they get into lots of 'trouble,' but it is amazing to watch them learn.  They are so transparent, wide open, and beautiful in how they learn, and they do it at wicked speeds.  Yesterday, I had a baby.  Today, she's picking out her own clothes.  Tomorrow, she will learn five words and that blue crayola marker shows up on the brown leather couch and that her new preference is for the blue dress she rejected all summer long.  She is amazing.

Amarys (which, by the way, rhymes with "glamorous"~I keep thinking I should do a phonetic explanation of her name since it is unusual and if you haven't met her in real life, you wouldn't know how to pronounce it) is putting two words together consistently, like "No boots!" or "Pick nose!" or "Where daddy?"  Or her newest one, "Ep peas?"  [Help, please~which I taught her to give her an option besides ear splitting screeching when she needs a hand with something].  She jumps like a maniac.  She climbs like a maniac.  She eats like a maniac.  I've never seen such a high strung kid.  She's WILD (although she likes to hide it in public.  People generally think she's sweet, quiet, and diminuitive when we are out and about: she saves her freak on for when we are at home.  Mostly).  She calls animals "Lo-lo" and for awhile that applied to all animals except cats, which were "Pay" for Paige, and rabbits, which are "Pa-bay" for Panbeh.  But now she's figured out that dogs are dogs.  Most other animals are still "Lo-los" except pigs, which are "Tawee" (scary).  

Her main focus in life is our family.  She's usually bringing up the tail end of whatever her brothers are up to, or dragging a chair over to "Ep" me in the kitchen.  She talks incessantly about the family members which are not present: so when Brent is working, she asks me all day, "Daddy?  Daddy?  Where daddy?"  And when the boys are at school, it's "Riwee?  Da-yew? {Matthew} Ae? {Ayden}" and repeat.  As she's falling asleep at night she talks about all of us.  "Mommy?  Daddy?  Ae?  Riwee?  Da-yew?"  And whomever is putting her to sleep has to respond with the location of each family member, one by one.  And possibly their body parts.  "Riwee?  Ha?"  Yes, Riley has hair.  "Riwee?  Eye?"  Yes, Riley has eyes.  "Riwee?  RIWEE?"  Riley is sleeping.  "Ae?  Ha?"  Yes, Ayden has hair.  "Ae?  No?"  Yes, Ayden has a nose.  "POOP-EE"  Did you fart?  "Hm." {yes}

She loves her accessories; shoes, hats, mittens, bracelets, necklaces, socks.... you name it, she loves it.  She has JUST started exhibiting the first gender differences that I've noticed as separate from my boys.  All my kids played with dolls on and off, because we don't really believe in excessive or strict gender stereotyping and prefer an androgynous approach that supplies neutral, 'boy,' and 'girl' toys for play, regardless of whether they are a boy or a girl.  We don't go in for the adage, "Boys and girls are so DIFFERENT!"  We acknowledge some differences but like to provide an array of toys and allow them to develop into who they are based on what comes naturally.  Matthew liked to play kick ball with the dolls.  Ayden liked to role play feeding them and carrying them about in the little play carseat we have.  Riley loved to cuddle up with his baby doll when he was sleeping for a few months of his toddlerhood, and when Amarys was born he had a doll that he carted around and put to bed at night.  Amarys is no different, she likes to toss around balls and play with plastic power drills and cart around dolls (especially one that says "Mama?  Mama?" when you squeeze/punch her stomach, and cries when you touch her face), but she's more nurturing towards her dolls than any of my boys were.  Just a bit.  She likes to change their diapers, cuddle them, and pat their backs.  She likes to talk about them and cuddle them at night while she's falling asleep.  It is similar to the boys, but just a little bit deeper.  It's pretty sweet.

She's in love with baths.  She likes to be clean.  She's also in love with colouring and has actually drawn on my leather couch with blue crayola marker on several occasions.  She's in LOVE with our new kitten and about 274,509,284 times a day we have to rescue Sasha from Amarys' death grip/suffocation embrace/neck hold.  Sigh.  I really think she's got a deep animal love streak that she inherited from Brent's sister, who has a famous animal whisperer thing going.  There are many, many photos of Cherilyn carting around kittens by the neck when she was a little girl.  =)  Amarys has the same love for animals.

She's enthusiastic, energetic, fierce, and the love of my life.  Happy 20 months, pemp-in {pumpkin} ♥

'Elephant' by Hannah Georgas

Friday, November 2, 2012

My (probably surprising) Opinions on Adoption

November is Adoption Awareness Month.  As an adoptive parent I have experienced AND thought a lot about adoption in abstract and practical terms.  Here is some of what I've hashed out (with open ends to allow for more growth)...

Ah, family photos.... Christmas 2007

Although I am a firm advocate for adoption, I don't actually believe it is the bottom line when it comes to the world's children.  Hear me out.  My friend and fellow adoptive parent Jolie says, "There are so many children in the world who need homes.  If only the Christians of this world would rise up and adopt, we could do so much that is good."  I agree so much.  And not just about Christians; PEOPLE of this world, rise up.  It is hard for me to understand how people can read the Biblical admonishment to care for the orphans of the world and immediately translate that into a non literal, abstract concept.  No, this is not symbolic for caring for the emotionally wounded, those abandoned by others, or "the unreached" (ie, non Christians).  This is one of those literal directives.  Go, care for orphans.  Period.  Give money, give time, give your self, but GO.

A word on orphans: children without living parents are considered orphans, but I expand this to include all children who are not able to be cared for by their parents.

We adopted because there are children in the world who need families, and we have a family.  But what if there were no children who needed families?  What if there was no poverty?  No AIDS?  What if there were adequate mental health infrastructure?  High quality intervention for at risk teens?  Stigma free support for single moms or young parents?  Better support for families in crisis?  More families willing to adopt their own kin?

See, there is a lot of loss involved for adopted children, particularly those adopted outside of their culture, language, religion, and extended family.  This is not an acceptable loss.  It is not minor.  It cannot be brushed aside, and it is not without consequence.
The first best solution for families in crisis is to remain intact.  With education, access to protection, clean water, legal rights, health care, and peace, MANY MORE of the world's parents would be able to care for their children.  With mental health support, effective substance abuse treatment, and financial help, MANY of Canadian parents would be able to care for their children who are not currently able to.
Matthew's mother relinquished him because of poverty, lack of access to education and employment, lack of  effective social welfare, and lack of access to rights to child support from her ex spouse.  If poverty were eradicated in the world, she would not have needed to relinquish him at all.

However, sometimes the first best solution is not possible.  That is when your second best solution becomes your first best: and that is adoption.  Kinship adoption can be an excellent way to keep extended families intact when nuclear families cannot stay together in a healthy and functional way.  Sometimes this is not possible, or healthy.  Enter 'regular' adoption.
Adoption is a beautiful solution, it saves lives, it saves the hearts and souls of thousands of little people every year.  It heals so much.  But it does not magically fix all that was lost or broken.  Those of us who advocate for adoption as part of the solution must also advocate for the eradication of poverty and the creation of better, healthier societies who raise the healthiest children possible (who will then raise healthy children).  The world's response to children in need must include encouraging adoption: for without a family, a child has bottomless loneliness, little protection, and no foundation from which to grow healthy and whole.  But it must also include ways to keep families in crisis intact.  Adoption is NOT THE ENEMY.  The Hague Convention on the Rights of the Child has, in the past 10 years, effectively eliminated adoption as an option for tens of thousands of the world's children by attempting to preserve culture and keep families together.  This is ethically wrong.  It removes adoption (particularly international adoption) before there are other solutions in place, and then children who could have had families remain in orphanages or foster care indefinitely.  Adoption is not the enemy, but neither is it the ENTIRE SOLUTION.

BC has over 1000 children waiting for adoption in the ministry waitlist.  That means, of all the foster children in our system, more than one thousand of them are available for adoption.  Many of them are part of sibling groups, have aged out of 'desirable' adoptable age, have physiological or behavioral issues, and over half of them are aboriginal.  Aboriginal foster children are only able to be adopted by parents of aboriginal ancestry (or rare cases of kinship adoption by non aboriginal extended family).  I understand the cultural drive behind this rule, but I firmly believe it is unethical, because children who might otherwise be adopted stay in foster care because there is a shortage of adoptive parents with aboriginal ancestry.  Same as above: removal of adoption by healthy parents outside of one's culture without first establishing infrastructure and solutions within that culture results in children with no families.

Children need families before they need culture.  This is politically incorrect but absolutely true.

Cultures need their children.  This is also absolutely true.

So, I advocate that people of the world need to rise up and adopt in masses.  And we need to simultaneously work for the eradication of poverty and the development of societal supports that keep families together, whole, and healthy.  Go, rise up, care for the orphans of the world.

Halloween 2012