Featuring Joy & Geoff, Big Brother , Little Brother , Sis , and various household (and outdoor) critters...

Saturday, 31 December 2011

A Quick Farewell to 2011, or, The 7th Day of Christmas

(The above baby elephant has spent a great deal of time with us since Christmas Day, and Kitch has been mysteriously vanishing for extended periods of time. Hmm).

I entered Christmas week with some trepidation. My introverted, tradition-loving soul anticipated all the changes now that three little ones are the stars of the show, which included NOT spending all day, every day reading, shopping, eating, watching movies, and knitting. Everyone who spoke to us before Christmas commented on how excited we must be this year, and Geoff and I both agreed that this particular feeling was not at the forefront for us.

I am, therefore, tremendously thankful for everyone's sake, to be able to say that we have had a lovely week. I have read, shopped, eaten, watched movies, and brought out my knitting (not started yet), albeit in smaller doses. I ended up enjoying watching the kiddos unwrap their gifts: they seem to enjoy their new items, and expressed lots of appreciation for them (the way they often take their possessions for-granted made me a bit reluctant to indulge them with more, more, more - although we tried to fill "gaps" by choosing things that are new to them, and have various creative and learning potentials). And since it's not all about me, I have been very glad that the kids' first Christmas with us has been marked by peace, joy, and positive experiences, as we knew this might be a time of mixed emotions for the boys. (Actually, their coping and behaviour has been remarkable this week - when things settle down and there is less adult attention to go around, we may see some challenges, but are glad things have gone smoothly to this point).

Having my parents here during the holidays every year has sometimes seemed stressful in terms of extra stuff, sounds, routines, etc. in the house, but I must say that this year, despite being unsure how having house guests would work out, things have been excellent. Geoff and I also managed to get out for a number of hours for a belated anniversary shopping, dinner out, and movie outing (just in town this year, but lovely nonetheless) while my parents provided child care (thanks)!

While we are spending a very unglamourous New Year's Eve at home, with children fighting colds and fevers (ok, so minus the children and illness, tonight is not too far from our usual brand of festivities), and while we continue to adjust (sometimes, still, with discomfort) to our new-ish lives and roles, all is as it should be as we enter 2012.

Merry Christmas, and a fulfilling, peace-filled New Year to you!

Monday, 19 December 2011

13 Years

13 years ago today, Geoff and I were married on a dreary, wet afternoon
(there had been snow the previous day) - just like today...



And, here we are now! It sure flies by...

Friday, 16 December 2011

The Sweet and The Sensational

I just posted these anecdotes as a Facebook status update (so if you read both, sorry for the duplication...but these tidbits are worth repeating):

At breakfast, Lute noted that Kitch "sometimes" cries at night after going to bed. With clarification, this apparently happens when I am out for the evening (which is, hmm...maybe once per month?). Lute stated he is sad at these times as well, and when asked why, explained, "Because I love you." (First time for that one, folks - I've had lots of "I really, really like you" from Lute previously...).

While bra shopping with Kitch & Caye (yes, if you need fun ideas for things to do with toddlers, just ask me), Kitch noted that he wants to "wear one of those" when he is a lady (but not while he is a boy). And to see his great delight simultaneously sporting fairy wings, a sparkly butterfly mask, plastic high heels, and a wand earlier this week...well...I see he is leaving his future wide open!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Subtle


At first it was a casual observation on my part, but later I realized the significance, however subtle...

This morning, at our town cenotaph during Remembrance Day ceremonies, a man (friendly, holding a printed program, so having something to do with the event) moved over to stand by me and the kids (me on one side of the boys, this man on the other), who were a little removed from the crowd, smiling and greeting us. And my boys, without hesitation, looked at the man, then up at me, and came over and physically leaned against me while holding my gaze and sneaking one or two more small glances toward the man.

I nearly missed it, maybe because it felt so "normal" to have my kids take cover in this way. But I am glad I noted their response, because this was new for our boys, who typically greet (and sometimes seek out) complete strangers with enthusiasm and confidence (which has included calling out to people from a distance to say hello, losing themselves in interactions with other adults - often strangers - without so much as a glance our direction, going off on their own in public places without checking in with Geoff and I, throwing themselves onto people they may have met once, etc.). Occasionally, Lute will play shy with someone (although often that seems to be a bit of a control thing around people we want him to greet), and just this week Kitch asked me twice about whether someone was a stranger (a cashier) and about receiving a greeting from a stranger (a fellow shopper)...but usually they will dive into interactions with just about anyone (and to be fair to the boys, other unknown adults are really inappropriate about approaching our kids and asking personal questions of them - names, ages, etc., taking their hands, and so on - what's a kid to do, when the adults are modeling these poor boundaries?)...

Anyway, I thought to write a quick post, and add this observation to our patchy written record of events in the first months of family life (which, by the way, is approaching 5.5 months of being home together, and has been nearly 7.5 months since meeting...wow - more than half a year of knowing each other).

Moments like this are humbling, actually, because the boys' action today followed a not-so-pretty leaving-the-house scene (a stress/frustration trigger for me at times, let me tell you). A child's ability to attach to people who spend half their evenings lamenting less-than-perfect parenting responses and reading up on how to do better next time, and to one parent in particular who is admittedly a bit reserved in her own attachments and affections, is pretty amazing. But that is a post for another day...maybe.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Baby Lion and Friends Go Trick-or-Treating


Our 19 month-old baby lion insisted on independently following along with big brothers (a dino-dragon and bat), carrying her bucket up stairs and down, opening and ingesting three mini-chocolate bars while in the truck in transit (oops), and altogether proving her readiness for the Trick-or-Treating festivities. After leaving Grandma and Grandpa's (pictured above), she spotted some older kids up the street, and took off down the sidewalk after them in an effort to avoid returning to the truck with us...

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Glimpses...

Hmm, I'm trying not to get my hopes up TOO much, but...it seems there has been an up-swing for all of us the past few days.

Both Geoff and I felt encouraged after our social worker's visit last week - not sure if it is her confidence in us, her confidence that some of the rough stuff in recent weeks is a normal (and even necessary) part of the boys' adjustment process, or maybe just the chance to vent/sort through things, but we'll take it! For more than a week now I have been thinking the sneaky stuff has been improving, and the anger stuff is still alive and well, but with some sort of emotional regulation being achieved sooner and with a bit less mayhem. Still room for improvement in a few areas, for sure, but there's been a bit more room to breathe.

In addition, we've heard a few comments over the past few days, like:

"I think tomorrow [Saturday, Geoff's day off] is going to be really fun, because I like Daddy so much!"

"Those books [recorded by the foster family] don't make me sad anymore; when I listen to them, I feel happy that I live here."

The energy levels and physical self-control over the past few days seem to have been a bit more regulated, too, and Geoff and I noticed that a shopping errand and quick lunch out felt more like our vision of "typical" family today - less cueing, less wild/impulsive/restless behaviour, and so on. Kitch has been playing "baby" a lot again, calling me "Mama", wanting some extra snuggles and rides in the Beco carrier, and Luton has been taking pride in positive feedback for making wise choices. Time will tell, but these little glimpses of what *might* be in our future are comforting.

This morning in church, I was touched (hasn't happened often - partly because I'm slow to warm up, and partly because there's been so much not-too-warm-and-fuzzy around here lately) glancing over at the boys during the opening hymn, as they sat with their hymnals open, attempting to sing along.

Anyway, knowing where my last post left off, I wanted to update. Realistically, I am still anticipating some ongoing struggles, but a bit of light now and then really helps re-build motivation, hope, and a sense of being a family.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Cue maniacal laughter. The wild, desperate kind.

This likely isn't the week for me to write this post with appropriate objectivity. But this is the week during which I feel like doing it, so take it for what it is. I will write while I polish off the Halloween chocolate, and balance out the intellectual effort with some "Say Yes to the Dress" and "What Not to Wear" as a backdrop.

Today, unless I hear anything too suspicious, I will not be heading upstairs during rest/nap time to make sure everyone is in his assigned location/conducting themselves in a generally responsible manner, and will hope for the best (despite somewhat shaky confidence).

Let's head back in time a couple of months. August. If my increasingly unreliable memory serves me correctly (read: recently cancelled a day of music class and a school outing due to the "theft" of my engagement ring, which I had apparently misplaced all by myself...although in my defense there was excellent reason to suspect/assume it's theft), during late summer I was starting to feel more comfortable with this whole having kids in my house business. As I have stated previously, we really didn't experience any "significant" issues with the kids over the first few months. Much of what we were facing appeared to be pretty typical 3-4 year-old stuff around attentiveness, emotions management, following rules, etc., and some not-uncommon infant sleep and temper issues (some of which I now see as very possibly being attachment/transition-related, given some recent progress/change). Likely the biggest struggle during that time was my own adjustment, which was in many ways less overtly difficult than I feared, but which involved a definite sense of discomfort in my new role, and with having toddlers around 24 hours a day (particularly toddlers who very much dove in and made themselves more than comfortable in "my" environment). So, likely by sometime in August I was starting to relax into daily life and the permanency of our new little family, and began September with a general sense of optimism.

Cue more maniacal laughter. The foreshadowing.

I must qualify the following discussion by stating clearly that anything we are experiencing at the moment is still very, very mild in the world of adoption and attachment. But, I am definitely framing some of the current issues at our house in the context of attachment and adjustment (for all of us), when previously it was not clear what was due to transition and attachment, and what was just typical kid stuff. And, having at least two children heating up at once likely isn't helping my energy level and frame of mind.

Just to keep us on our toes, one is experimenting with the more deceptive/sneaky end of the spectrum, and the other has ramped up his anger and oppositionality and limit-testing beyond what I would consider "typical" for his age and stage. I *think* the sneaky stuff may be tapering off a bit, but it has involved pilfering (from school, home, and a store), rummaging through drawers and cabinets all over the house, sneaking around upstairs during rest time, and misusing materials/property (tape & glue on hardwood, etc.). For this child, increased supervision has been necessary at times, but (due to a high need for attention of any kind) almost enjoyable for him (even when I try to keep it boring). The defiance in our other little guy (often over very trivial things, or his own intentional actions) typically leads to rages in response to even the kindest re-direction, which now require swaddling and holding, due to the onset of destructiveness and physical lashing out. He is also demonstrating very little inclination and self-control in regard to rule-following when outside of our direct supervision (well, within it, too), and is often out of bed after bedtime, making noise in the morning, etc. He gashed his finger last week on the stroller MINUTES after being re-directed away from playing with its wheel, and this sort of attraction to non-toys is constant (occasionally resulting in personal injury, and often in some sort of property damage). Trying to supervise and engage with all three effectively when managing some of the current issues is quite a creative challenge. Some days I find myself literally fighting sleep by lunch-time (which is thankfully followed by rest time for all of us).

It has been a relief to see the covert issues of our one little guy dissipating a bit the past week or so. I am trying to give him lots of positive attention, some special 1:1 time in bits and pieces, and need to keep working on being a bit more patient with some of the personality quirks and behaviours that really get to me. Overall, he's actually the "easiest" to parent on a day-to-day basis - very quick and responsible in following through with chores, loves to help out, gets excited about any and every activity. However, I have the most trouble just enjoying him - he's so bold (which can look bossy and demanding) and impulsive (which makes me self-conscious in public in particular) - qualities that don't appeal to me. Our other little man has the same enthusiasm for life, and still LOVES to be babied - he likely would be very happy if I could realistically wear him and cradle him all day. He is cute as a button, and can comply with beautiful cheerfulness when so inclined. His distractibility and slowness to complete tasks is astounding and frustrating, and I think is sometimes a bit of a game for him (but it's hard to tell). The oppositionality just comes out of the blue most of the time (although is often predictably associated with any expectation for follow-through with basic responsibilities - this week, he finally started verbalizing that he doesn't "want" to make his bed, and was trying to get his brother to do it for him yesterday - this issue is currently escalating - hopefully peaking???). I recently drove him home from a family gathering while leaving Geoff with the other two, after he continued to become more and more aggressive and dysregulated, after a minor incident.

Needless to say, while I spent the summer reading standard parenting books, I am back to the attachment literature to come up with strategies and responses which might be helpful (and if anything, which will give me a consistently calm and measured way of interacting). I have particularly appreciated revisiting Deborah Gray's "Attaching in Adoption" and Karen Purvis' "The Connected Child" (I have also ordered her "Trust-Based Parenting" DVDs). I hope to dive into more Daniel Hughes, and just finished "Love and Logic for Early Childhood", which I found very practical (although the concept that I will "keep" any toys left for me to pick up doesn't really work well when the kids start handing me things and telling me to take them so that they don't have to tidy up completely, or happily letting me take some of their money as "payment" for clearing their breakfast dishes. I'm sure someday I might find these memories amusing, but right now this stuff leaves me perplexed and uncertain what to do next). Another blog highly recommended Denise Best's "Therapeutic Parenting Manual", and I am curious to have a look at that. I also continue to be thankful for our very supportive, experienced, and helpful adoption worker, with whom we continue to meet about every three weeks (and can contact anytime in between).

Overall I keep thinking, intellectually, that we can do this. And that things are really not that bad. But when I am standing in the middle of three children, completely tongue-tied (seriously, I sometimes stand there frozen, frantically trying to come up with SOMETHING to say or do so we can move on. Today I had them all take a long "break" sitting and doing nothing, while I reviewed some tips and pointers in the Love & Logic book), I feel like some kind of pathetic joke. And when I've been all therapeutic and unfazed for incident after incident, and then lose it over a child asking an annoying question, I feel like the kids would be better fending for themselves while I spend the rest of the day in self-imposed time out (don't worry, I have always opted to keep supervising and meeting basic needs - if boxed mac & cheese can be considered a way of meeting basic needs - even when in a zombie-like state). Or, when one child has not fulfilled the basics of bed-making and PJ put-away (required before coming down for breakfast), and could possibly benefit from some moral support/connecting time, but two other hungry little ones are waiting to be fed (which in fairness, in my opinion, becomes the priority)...what is one to do? All of this has also challenged the progress Geoff and I have made toward our attachments to the boys in particular. I am hoping we will come up with some clear strategies, learn more about neutralizing our responses (and thereby neutralizing our internal emotional reactions), and benefit from this more challenging time by becoming more skilled and confident.

Next week marks five months with everyone home, which will be seven months since first meeting each other. I often remind myself how thankful I am that we studied and learned so much in the years leading up to this point - I can't say we have been surprised by anything we have experienced yet, so I think it's primarily a matter of coming up with a plan and giving it a fair chance, while also staying connected with each other and the non-kid parts of our lives. Some of the blog-reading and church sermons and discussions lately have focused on thankfulness in all circumstances (what with Thanksgiving having been this month) and peace in the knowledge that we are asked only to do our best without worry for the future.

With that, I must go - I may soon hear little Caye calling for me from her crib, which will signal the end of rest time for everyone. It's Friday, and there is always some relief in knowing the morning and days will be a team effort with Geoff home for a couple of days.

Friday, 7 October 2011

The Dance

"Ways have to be found to let the child know that certain behaviors are unacceptable, without making the child herself feel not accepted. She has to be able to bring her unrest, her least likable side, to the parent without fear that it would threaten the relationship. When that is made possible, absolute security is established. We can reliably expect emotional growth ...to follow.

Parents need to keep asking themselves which goal they think is more important: a desired short-term outcome, or long-term development. It's nice when that question does not have to be faced, but often the two are incompatible and even antagonistic. Choosing one means, for that moment at least, giving up on the other. If the child is to be freed to go through the necessary developmental stages, the attachment relationship with the parent has to be made paramount. Our immediate objective of getting the child to obey or to perform this or that task may need to be sacrificed. On the other hand, tactics needed to achieve short-term behavior goals may have to involve the weakening of the attachment. Especially in the beginning, the parent will be confronting those options regularly."

From "Scattered Minds" by Gabor Mate
While reading this, I forgot this is a book on ADHD (not something our kids have been identified with, but I think there might be some helpful strategies to draw on, so I picked it up for a browse), and felt like I was reading an adoption and attachment book.

So much of parenting discussion, dilemmas, and experiments at our place these days hinge on these issues. We see behaviour that needs to change (we think it needs to happen now, but reading excerpts like the one above cause me to consider that maybe we need to think in terms of 'eventually'), and often want to try certain contingencies which are sometimes in competition with what is recommended during the process of building attachment in adoption.

All this raises questions around where we are at as a family in terms of attachment, and how this impacts which approaches would be most effective in addressing other issues (most of them typical pre-schooler stuff, but perhaps with somewhat greater intensity and frequency than might generally be expected). Even without the adoption factor in our situation, there is much in the attachment parenting literature that resonates with me. However, I'm not sure I would naturally gravitate toward being attachment parenting purist (in fact, I really have not been since the beginning, somewhat to my surprise).

Without wanting to minimize the trauma and loss involved with moving to a new family, and being raised outside of the biological family unit (and the resulting attachment risks), our kids came to us having had an as-close-to-typical parenting and family experience as one would ever find in adoption, and as such, we are not faced with most of the trauma and attachment issues present in many adoption situations. However...we realize that while our kids' attachment needs may be more subtle than some, our family is still new, and even some (or many?) of the behaviours we see could very well be attachment-related.

I surely don't have answers at this point. My desire to extinguish problematic behaviours does compete with things I should likely be doing to promote further attachment. As well, some attachment strategies are difficult to implement when there are other little ones around. For instance, having kids tantrum and rage in my presence, with siblings around (to keep them close, while also supervising siblings) - particularly when the tantrum involves name-calling, hitting, or other inappropriate behaviour being modeled for siblings - or giving extra nurturing to a little person having a rough spot, while the others clambor for attention (or occupy themselves, then later, possibly demonstrate the effects of too little direct time with me) don't seem feasible or desirable. Hence, we have been using time-out-style removal for such behaviour, and yet I realize it doesn't seem to reduce the behaviours - either the initial acts leading to the time-outs, or the resulting dysregulation (screaming, name-calling, thrashing, etc.).

I have recently started considering contingencies like suggesting that in order to participate in certain desirable activities (e.g., holiday crafts, certain outings/community activities), one must conduct oneself in a respectful manner (e.g., not screaming at me, calling me names, or hitting me when upset) - and this has so far shown the most promise to stop the melt-down in its tracks (I have had to follow through with the contingency a few times, too). I think one reason I hesitated to go this route was in wanting to give us as many opportunities as possible to connect and build attachment through family time, special and memorable activities, etc., without those activities necessarily being contingent on behaviour, so that the kids feel accepted and see that they belong no matter what. I suppose we could consider a "baseline" of opportunities for participation which are not contingent on behaviour (generally speaking), with some "extra-special" opportunities that can become contingencies. I don't know. I have also been reluctant to head into structured behavioural approaches using charts, rewards, etc., but wonder if there might be a time and place for some of that as well.

Really, I feel wishy-washy. I can always see good points in multiple perspectives, which prevents me from buying whole-heartedly into one particular philosophy and approach (and I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing). I suspect a thoughtful, individualized, and consistent "eclectic" approach could be wonderful, but how to sort out the preferred elements based on our kids' needs and what seems right to us as parents, and weave it all together?

With that, I really must pack a few things for our last camping weekend at the trailer, and start reminding myself to greet the kiddos with hugs and kisses when they get up from their naps. And the journey will continue from there, in all its messy glory.

Friday, 16 September 2011

18 Months' Eve

Yes, another Caye post. Everything about her development just stands out so much right now. It's a fascinating time! Again, this is partly for my own sake, to look back on down the road. Even tonight, reading her bedtime story, I was struck by the sudden and significant changes in this little person - she was interacting with me and the book in ways I have not yet seen - repeating sounds, pointing out familiar animals and objects, laughing, mentioning events/characters from previous pages...

Over the past few days, she has been consistently using two-word sentences (and I've heard a couple of three-word ones). Lots of "Hi Cat!" and "Look, Mommy, Look!" and "Eat cracker/cookie" (while attempting to open the pantry cupboard). A few weeks ago, her "first" two-word sentence was "Eat cruk-cruk [cracker]" while in my bedroom, before heading downstairs for the day. It was the first time I heard her talking about something she wanted to do, something other than the concrete here and now. Tonight, at bedtime, she looked at me, glanced into the hallway, and said, "Tub", which seemed to be an effort (the first I have seen) to discuss an activity she had been doing previously (Daddy had given her the bath, and she seemed to want to tell me about that experience). She attempts to imitate so many words and phrases throughout the day, and uses such effective tone and expression. At the mall this week, she tried out "Thank You" a minute or two after we disembarked from an elevator, following me having said the same to the woman holding the door for us.

Lately, Caye is also waking in the morning and asking for her brothers (Kitch in particular), wanting to see what they are up to. This morning, the baby gate at the top of the stairs had been left open, and while I was occupied in my bedroom I realized I was hearing her voice from the main floor, as she had headed down to join her siblings. This is fun to watch, although it was sometimes easier when she was more oblivious to their activities (such as when they are outside playing while I prepare lunch, and she decides she really, really wants to be out there with them). One of the benefits of Caye's increased abilities and desire to be with her brothers is Lute's growing interest in her. Initially, he demonstrated a combination of disinterest and occasional resentment at having a baby sister around all the time (keeping in mind that he only met her last Christmas, and had very few visits with her before we came along). He was never unkind, but perhaps saw her as a hindrance to his interactions with me. Occasionally he would hand her a toy or alert me when she was upset, but would typically respond that he didn't really like having a sister. Recently, though, he has even asked to play with her, and has approached her to help her with something in a big brotherly way. I try to find ways of encouraging his protective and nurturing side with her whenever possible, and he delights in having any sort of "responsibility" for her, including "keeping an eye" on her while playing (even under my supervision). Today he came up to me and stated that "it's fun having a baby sister" and has also referred to her as "my baby". He has also been noticing when she imitates himself and Kitch, and is pretty tickled by that. Now our issue will be Lute attempting to be her parent, but we'll keep an eye on that, and be thankful that he's enjoying his role as her big brother.

To anyone who has parented a child at Caye's age and stage, I know I am seeing what every other parent sees - but it is pretty neat to watch for the first time. Exciting, but with fleeting moments of wistfulness when I realize how soon her baby days will be a foggy, partial image in my mind.

(I am also feeling sentimental about beginning to dress her in full-length pants and long-sleeve shirts and closed-toe shoes - covering up those little arms, legs, and feet until next spring and summer. Sundresses and cute sandals are much more fun. Same goes for the boys, other than the sundress part - love to see them in little khaki shorts and collared t-shirts - jeans and long-sleeve tees and runners just don't say "handsome" and "adorable" in quite the same way).

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

17 Months


I would love to be more disciplined about journalling little bits and pieces about the kids as they grow and change, because I am well aware that my memory will fail me.

In many ways, I don't see tons of differences in the boys since we met them...but I think that also means I have forgotten a bit already. Because when I really think about it, I suspect a few changes based on earlier, already foggy, impressions. Given the boys' ages, development will be a bit more subtle, but I believe we've seen some language development, and increased sophistication with various skills. They have certainly learned a lot since working on things like basic counting and drawing. We're working on introductory negotiation and other life skills as well (and seeing some progress - like, Mom not having to assist with any aspects of toileting/wiping most of the time - hooray)!

But little Caye, at 17 months old - oh my! Each day, the new words, skills, and mannerisms stop me in my tracks. This week, she has started answering my previously-rhetorical questions with very sincere "ya" and "no" responses. She has already been following simple one- and two-step instructions ("go get your baby and stroller") for a while. Increasingly, she is showing interest in "joining" the boys in play. If the boys go out to play in the backyard, she has started (unfortunately for me), saying "shoes" (shrugging in a "where are they?" gesture) and then going to the door (becoming upset if I am not in a position to escort her out quite yet). She climbs the playhouse ladder outside, and loves to "pretend" eating and drinking. She feeds her bottle to toys and book characters, pets, and family members. She has donned shoes on her own, correctly (ok, a bit of a fluke), a couple of times, and I let her spend the morning with a sundress pulled on over her shorts as a skirt recently, because it was very cute. The best is when she does something like drape Geoff's boxers around her like a toga. Caye loves to kiss the animals, will sometimes kiss me on demand (and always loves to be picked up and squeezed), and is generally cheerful, funny, and affectionate. She is very into pointing (and poking at) body parts, especially eyes and nostrils. I just bought her a water bottle like the boys', and she is totally into carting it around, loving it far more than her sip cups. Caye loves to dance, spin, copy characters' movements on television. More and more of her actions and vocalizations are intentionally goofy and humourous - a few times I thought I was hearing Kitch making various sounds, then realizing it was tiny little Caye.

So, there's a quick glimpse of Caye at 17 months. I must do the same for the boys, too.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Sand & Pizza


We enjoyed an extra-full, but pleasant weekend. I began to second-guess the wisdom and feasibility of heading to the campground Friday night, but since the keys for our second vehicle had been left there the previous weekend (resulting in sharing my brother's car last week), we headed up for a night, making our first beach trip with the kids the next morning before heading home (I am not a beach-goer, but Geoff has been wanting to take them - he camped and spent time in the area growing up). The kids (at least Lute & Kitch) have been to lakes and beaches, but not a Great Lake. As far as I know, it was also Caye's first big beach adventure. Had a nice dip in the warm water - the only down-side was the sand in our day-old pizza!

One fun thing was running into the craft vendor who tipped us off regarding Aboriginal Day celebrations back in June. She and her partner (and kids) were selling their lovely jewellery on-reserve up the road from the beach. Geoff had a big chat about their plans for children and youth programs in native jewellery-making, drumming, etc., in the city, and he exchanged emails. So we shall see if this connection develops further.

Arriving home, I headed out for a few hours of shopping with my mom (who needed a dress for my cousin's upcoming wedding), while Geoff and my dad stayed with the kids, fed them, and put them to bed. The dress shopping was a success, and it was nice to get out for a bit. My parents were up in our area for the following day - our child dedication at church on Sunday. My sister and her husband were also dedicating their second daughter. They hosted family at their home afterward, so we had a hot, but enjoyable afternoon before heading home to relax with the kids and a Veggie Tales movie (and then renting a couple of us after the kids went to bed - been a while since we've done that).

Ok, so overall not a terribly exciting post, I realize. This week so far we've had rain off and on - which we have not seen much of so far this summer. I'm a bit frightened to realize that mid-August is approaching. I have been aware of the need to put Caye in as many of her pretty summer dresses as possible over the next few weeks of warm weather, make a firm decision (and take action) on school registration for Lute, and get outside for as many summer activities as possible.

We have various events coming up each weekend into September (in addition to at least one night of camping at the trailer each time), including baptism celebrations with our pastor's family (their two eldest, now young adults, are being baptized this coming Sunday, and we have been very involved with them through youth group and a young adults group), a family reunion picnic, a shower/welcome celebration for our kids (an outdoor event at a close friend's property - we gave the green light on that a few weeks ago, and set a date), and then my cousin's wedding in Ottawa over Labour Day (which reminds me, I must make reservations for that trip). Then we're into September, and with it any remaining summer activities as well as the forced beginning of fall and harvest events (ready or not). I've actually been thinking Christmas the past few weeks...not getting ready for the season itself, but really getting down to business on the house/yard/to-do list I've been neglecting, so that I might for once feel on top of things come October and November.

Ok, will stop boring you now. Really just wanted to publish a picture, and didn't need all the rambling chatter, but once I get started, I just keep typing. Oh, and the picture reminds me to mention that the hats are from SunDay Afternoons, and arrived in time to try out over the weekend. I really like them so far - adjustable sizing, lightweight, nice fit, etc. Thought I'd mention it, since I spent a fair bit of time trying to find cute but functional options in neutral colours (although they do have a wide range of 'fun' colours as well).

And now I will truly close this post.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Five, you say? Perhaps next time...

While we "officially" stated an interest in adopting two siblings the first time around, I knew that with the increased flexibility of public adoption (e.g., having general parametres, and being able to consider matches outside of those...unlike international adoption, where the ages and number of children are much more specifically identified in the homestudy, and approved as such at the Ministry level) I would be open to "at least" three or so at once, depending on the circumstances. More accurately, the thought of three or four was actually kind of exciting. For the few years I spent browsing photo-listings on a provincial public adoption website, I always gravitated toward the larger sibling groups. While Geoff was overall really drawn to our kids' profiles right off the bat, the thought of three seemed a bit daunting to him initially. I was not-so-secretly quite pleased about the number!

After almost-but-not-quite being chosen for our three at Christmas, our first call about a potential match through our local agency was for a sibling group of two girls. All right. Two was ok, but didn't really get me worked up. And I always envisioned a boy or two in there somehow. And after all our focus on transracial and cross-cultural adoption, envisioning what our family might look like, these little ladies could not have been more blond-haired and blue-eyed (not an issue - just ironic and a bit amusing, that's all)! We took the match very seriously, but did not feel great about it in the end, and declined it. The day I called with our decision, the matching worker thanked us for being thoughtful and honest, and then proceeded to say that they had some other sibling groups in mind if we wanted more information - one group of three (ages 0-3), and one group of four (possibly going on five), ages 0-4 (which included a set of twins!!!). Well, that news got my heart beating a bit. Although, with a tiny bit more information (we never did get as far as official information-sharing meetings), there were some other factors which made us a bit hesitant. But, there were boys in each situation, and more than two, and those facts alone piqued my interest greatly. The workers' eagerness to tell us about these larger sibling groups also indicated that there may not be too many prospective parents out there considering that many children at once.

The reason we never explored the local matches further was that we were also told there had been a call to our agency regarding our three, as their workers were back to the drawing board and wanted to know if we were still available. And here we are. But this post isn't really about our current family...

So, in addition to browsing the provincial photo-listing frequently over the years, we also have a basic profile entered into that system. Last week I attempted to update it to show that we are not currently available for matching, having just had a placement, but the site was slow and I gave up. Yesterday our worker left a message suggesting I update our online profile, as she had received a call from another jurisdiction wondering about a sibling group of five children (after reviewing our profile, I noticed that I had entered up to 4 children as a possibility...not wanting to rule anything out). Anyway, we are now updated, so our worker will hopefully not be receiving calls about us for the next while at least. I emailed her last night, and included a little joking comment about considering five "next time". She emailed back today to see if I was just kidding, or whether I was "even remotely serious about considering" a sibling group that size "down the road"...uh...hmm...is that because she is remotely serious that they might keep us in mind for sibling groups that size in future? Based on the past few months, it does seem like there are large sibling groups waiting, that's for sure. And just yesterday, I received the Duggar book I ordered, hoping glean a few tips on running an organized household and raising respectful, responsible kids...

Hmm...

Friday, 22 July 2011

The Calendar Doesn't Lie...

I've been realizing this week that we wrapped up our pre-placement 8 weeks ago. In other words, the kids have been home for 8 weeks. For nearly two weeks prior to placement, we were with them full-time at a cottage in their area, so we have been together for nearly 10 weeks without intermission. Geoff has been back to work for 7 weeks, which marks the beginning of our "new normal".

My stomach dropped a little (and is still recovering) after confirming those numbers. One thing I can't argue with is how incredibly quickly time passes. Each day (even a rough one) is over before I know it. Each week closes in the blink of an eye. Any fears of time dragging on have not been validated. At the same time, I can't really say this feels comfortably like "my" life yet.

When I note rough days, I mostly mean rough for me! The kids certainly have their moments, and some days have more moments than others. Still, for the large part, I see those moments as being generally typical for their ages. Generally. Some things certainly have looked adjustment-related (things as simple as getting used to a new routine, rule, or fact of life - like having bedrooms on the second floor, or things a bit more complex - like figuring out who calls the shots and how to communicate respectfully and effectively), but for the most part, fairly mild in comparison to what could be the case. Sometimes the "big kid" stuff our boys picked up in their first home is amusing (e.g., various slang terms), and sometimes not so much (e.g., various slang terms...plus "noogies", "wedgies", and condescending expressions like "I tollld you...", and forms of "actually..." such as, "actually, I wanted...", or "actually, you forgot..."). My rough days don't necessarily coincide with increased kid-related stresses. It seems a bit random. Some days I drift through calmly with nary a raised eyebrow, and others consist of constant (too often losing) battles for any semblance of maturity and poise. Yesterday, I calmly addressed a broken baby gate/damaged wall issue resulting from careless behaviour and disregard of house rules, and coped poorly with minor nuisances. Random.

In some areas, I do notice increased mutual comfort and positive shifts in relationship. I was realizing yesterday that I would be jealous if I had to send baby girl off to daycare, and have others spending all that quality time with her instead of me. I do think it's been easier to integrate baby girl into my identity and feel like she's just part of the picture. The eldest still feels like a bit of a stranger at times, and as I may have written previously, is very watchful of my every move, which can feel stifling and unnerving. Baby girl reminds us daily that she is moving from baby to toddler at astonishing speed. New words, mannerisms, skills, and behaviours emerge constantly. Along with increased intensity in her tantrums, she is also being more overtly affectionate, so at least there's a balance! I marvel at how one can instruct a barely 16 month-old to go find her baby & stroller in the toy room, and have her toddle off, only to return moments later with the aforementioned items. Lute (at just-turned-4) can remember long series' of instructions, and carry them out (although continues to inconsistently count to 3...hmm...). Kitch can be a bit of a free spirit, easily distracted, and is so cute when ignoring direction sometimes that it can be hard to determine if he really didn't hear me, or if he simply prefers to continue playing away...at other times, he makes it quite clear how he feels about complying (for better or for worse).

One interesting aspect of public adoption is the ongoing contact and relationship with our social worker. Overall, since we have a good relationship with her and get lots of validation and extremely positive feedback, we appreciate her input, and find it useful to have someone available for questions and information. At other times, it would be nice to think we are just a "regular" family, all on our own! It feels a bit cumbersome to remember to inform her about things like getting a new vehicle, so that all the information about make/model/year/etc. can be added to the case notes and file. We also have to call in for more "serious" injuries - anything that might require stitches, say, or that "looks" nasty.

Ok, so at two months, there is a fair bit that I feel good about. The kids really do seem to be transitioning well. I am SO thankful for how the dogs have transitioned as well (this was one of my big worries)! So far, we have managed to do many of the things we would have done without children, which makes us feel like we can basically go on with the familiar things of life (and we did get out to dinner alone this week, thanks to Geoff's sister, niece, & nephew minding the kids, and our social worker's motivational input - the kids, by the way, did great having us go out for a few hours). While I will welcome the day when I can honestly be enthusiastic about having handed my life over to three kids, I could be in FAR worse shape - I enjoy many moments, continue to see them as great kids, and look forward to seeing who they turn into as they grow up.

Over the past couple of months, we have attended a family wedding, gone to a theme park, enjoyed dinner with friends, attended downtown festivals, gone to church, enjoyed family gatherings, attended music class, met up with friends & family for splash pad adventures, gone shopping (Wal-Mart, alone, with three kids, was an air-conditioned blessing in the heat we've been having in these parts), (finally) done a craft, and gone camping (more than once, at our trailer...including one hot overnight with no power after a thunderstorm).

That said, I am at the point where regular bouts of restlessness are hitting. I realize how quickly the coming months will pass as well, and although we have a fairly consistent routine, there are some components we haven't introduced yet. We do night-time Bible stories, but I really want to to do family devotions at dinner (and dive into some of the "Kids of Integrity" materials - free, online). I want to help the kids engage in more creative and imaginative play, building, and crafting...and find time for more reading (other than just at bedtime). We have been getting out about twice during the week (in addition to weekend events), but I still haven't checked out any library programs, cultural activities (other than the pow-pow we attended), or other summer-time events in the area. I also need to start thinking about any fall programs I might attend with the younger two, while Lute heads off to JK for a couple of mornings a week (most likely - long story, and worth a post all to itself). Around the house, I am craving some crafting time of my own, along with a concerted effort on the weedy, weedy gardens and the "catch-all" front porch office/crafting area (necessary if I am actually going to start crafting and mending again). I have been reading (for pleasure and parenting), and keeping up with photo uploads, but have numerous computer projects (e.g., adoption announcements, life book text writing before doing the actual books, photo organization & ordering) and other things of fairly high importance on my "to-do" list. I would also dearly love to have professional photos taken of our little (some people say "large" - really?) family during our first summer together.

Anyway, forgot to grab the baby monitor from my bedroom earlier, so should likely see if baby girl is up yet. The boys must still be sleeping (oh yes - hooray - forgot to mention that they have all been napping daily at the same time)! I do have a few pictures for you, but they are not wanting to upload at the moment, so stay tuned (still not sure whether or when I will post facial photos, for one or two reasons, but have some back shots I am happy to share).

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Philosophically Wishy-Washy

As can be expected in life, the application of various theories and approaches in real-life situations is not quite as simple as one might hope.

In regard to parenting in general, I have tended toward notions of simplicity, natural nutrition, media-free living, attachment, learning-oriented activity, etc., etc. In regard to adoption parenting, I have typically bought into the attachment literature and associated disciplinary recommendations. Some ideas are being neatly implemented, while others (sometimes surprisingly) have ended up tweaked, postponed, and turned right over.

1. I don't like to be bothered in the morning (that's no surprise). Actually, not really at all. But especially in the morning. Or the night. So as much as the image of cute little folk creeping into my room and snuggling in my bed in the morning seems homey and delightful, I have been much happier and more willing to face the day (and churn out some semblance of a warm morning greeting) having the boys head downstairs on their own when they wake up, with a laid-out snack, and not coming for me until I call for them, typically after baby girl is up and dressed. This didn't happen right away, but we've been trying it for nearly a week, I think. I am often awake to hear them, but crave the privacy and quiet of my bedroom as I gradually rouse myself. We are still working out the night-time issues with baby girl, who has been demanding bottles at least once through each night lately, and keeping us guessing with her sleep patterns (she was previously a through-the-night sleeper, so we're hoping this is mainly a transition issue that will resolve in time). She could not scream any harder for a bottle if she tried, and there isn't much of a grace period for us to get downstairs to the bottle warmer and back. Thankfully she usually settles right back to sleep after her bottle, although I have had a few 1.5-2.5 hour sessions with her. I find night wakings most difficult soon after I go to bed, and within an hour or two of getting up for the day.

2. I don't like to be bothered in the morning (see above). So Geoff puts the TV on when he leaves for work, along with the boys' snacks. Yes, the TV. Ugh.

3. I really like some quiet time/nap time in the afternoons. This initially meant a movie with the boys while baby girl slept. Yes, more TV (fully sanctioned by our social worker as quality bonding time while we snuggled together on the couch - I'll take it)! Now, they have actually been going up willingly for individual rest time (which has always resulted in at least a 2-hour nap). So...I feel guilty about not spending that nice quiet time with them anymore (because it was nice, even though there was movie guilt), but am really glad to have some down time to read, tidy, or SLEEP a little myself.

4. I am super-easily frustrated by screaming and raging in a child of any age, even if she is the most adorable 15 month-old around, and definitely if he is a 3 or 4 year-old little guy. This results in deep breathing, and some mutual time outs to re-group.

5. Speaking of time-outs. Regardless of any advice to the contrary, I have a hard time letting a child scream at me or anyone else while remaining in the same room. So yes, when the boys lash out verbally and disturb others' peace we do have them sit in a different area on the same level of the house until they can be respectful again. Or if they have an off-moment and refuse to don their pants after toileting (particularly if assistance has been requested, even when not needed, provided, and rejected), and as a result must remain in the bathroom until fully clothed once again (so far this has only occurred once or twice per boy). Or when they make a scene at dinner (neither has food/eating issues, and they are used to having to eat whatever is served, but are occasionally feeling out our stance in regard to meal-time behaviour), and are therefore excused from the table. In many adoption situations, I would NOT disregard the advice of attachment experts regarding time-out/time-in. However, our boys were raised from birth in a loving and healthy family, and were well-attached there. They are familiar with time outs, and we try to use them only when their behaviour is socially inappropriate (not broken rules, etc.). I do sometimes sit with them, but often they are being asked to take a few minutes for yelling/screaming continuously at me, and so I leave until they compose themselves, which they tend to do quite quickly. If I remain present as an audience, the yelling seems to go on a bit longer. Both boys will yell, cry, and scream on cue, and can turn it off just as quickly. It seems that they may be used to being able to scream a bit, then settle and go back to doing what they were doing (e.g., eating supper, playing outside/heading out for a walk), which is not happening here. Anyway, I do check back in and have a calm chat at the end of the time-out, and I have been implementing mandatory apologies. I am a bit torn on this. I was initially thinking that an apology should only be given when completely sincere, but am realizing that sincerity is a complicated thing in pre-schoolers. Now, I am leaning more toward having them go through the motions of apology and forgiveness, so the words and actions become comfortable and familiar, and can be used easily as sincerity develops. Part of the post time-out process includes some repair/re-connection through hugs and affirmations.

6. I don't want to label or read into things, but also don't want to minimize attachment needs. Both boys are generally quite comfortable with people. Sometimes too comfortable, in my opinion. But then, I am pretty reserved and introverted, and come from a family with a few other introverts and generally very carefully-boundaried people. I am not used to bold children, and have always been more impressed with children who stand back a bit, wait for invitation, and demonstrate some awareness of others in social environments. Our boys...ha ha ha. They will dive into play with anyone, say hello to pretty much anyone (except, of course, when asked - working on that with the eldest, who has been choosing when to be mannerly, and when to ignore others), accept anything from anyone, etc. They don't ask our permission for snacks and treats offered by others, or necessarily even to go visiting the neighbours at the campground. My attachment alarm bells were ringing loud and clear (and are still tinkling away just to be vigilant), but I also realize that the boys were raised in a busy home full of teens and young adults, who had lots of friends and relatives coming by. They also spent plenty of time at a small campground, owned by their foster grandmother, which promoted constant mingling and casual interaction with anyone and everyone around. We witnessed fairly open access to food and drink at their first home as well. The informal, outdoor lifestyle they are used to seems to be clashing at times with my more traditional ideas about social interaction, particularly when addressing adults, and spending time in others' space.

7. I find it challenging being the introverted mother of an extroverted, attention-seeking child.
The oldest thinks nothing of asking for whatever he wants (food and drink, entering or moving between rooms and levels of others' homes), and invites himself to be first for everything. He jumps on people in play (even when he has just met them), throws balls at people (even when they have not been asked if they want to play, and aren't looking his direction), generally pays no attention to personal space, and has no concept of waiting for invitation instead of making requests. At music class this week, he copied the teacher's demonstration of a bug crawling up from her toes to her head...by having his bug roughly crawl up her...while she was teaching class...laughing and chatting the whole time. Both boys can be found running and jumping and spinning during music class, when others are seated or doing a gentle activity. Again, the class is informal, and the boys are, I think, generally very social by nature...and have never been exposed to structured group settings with written or unwritten rules of conduct. They will take some cueing from me in these situations, but definitely tend to dive right into things in whatever way suits them. While I can see some explanations for these tendencies based on their life experience, I also want to be alert to any concerning attachment flags, or even basic social skills issues so that we can help them make the most of social situations and build appropriate relationships. I must give them credit, after all this commentary, for having very nice manners in some respects - they have been taught to use please and thank-you, and can show some lovely sensitivity toward others (our younger little guy in particular).

At home, there are some issues of entitlement (the oldest will state what we are going to do next, announce that he is hungry and expect a snack on cue), and a constant thirst for attention and recognition. If I pick up or hold one of the others, the oldest barges in for his exact share (which really means bumping the others out of line and stealing the limelight). He would far rather sit and watch me assemble meals (meal prep is stressful for me at the best of times - I don't cook) while chatting incessantly (loving to ask questions about and comment on what I'm doing - he unfortunately has picked up some less-than-attractive catch-phrases, such as "actually, you forgot...", which can be really annoying even when the context indicates he doesn't intend to be condescending), than find a toy with which to amuse himself, or a sibling to play with. I can be scrubbing food off the floor, or changing a diaper, and he is in complete seriousness asking me to play hide and seek or join him in some other activity...right then and there. At times, the more attention he has had from me, the more he demands. One afternoon, I spent two hours with him while the others slept, did some learning worksheets (which he loves...thankfully, since there is a LOT to catch up on in terms of basic counting, shape, and colour recognition - he had plenty of outdoor and gross motor development in his first home, but not so much in the academic department)...and then witnessed a complete breakdown when Geoff arrived home and the other two woke up. He chooses difficult activities (indoors and at the playground) which require adult assistance, and otherwise restlessly, aimlessly flits from thing to thing when needing to occupy himself for any amount of time. To his credit, we have seen a bit of improvement with the expectation that he keep busy with his "job" of doing kid stuff, while grown-ups do their "jobs" at home - he has started to self-correct at times when making certain requests, and points out when he is "being patient" by amusing himself while waiting for me.

8. Convenience does occasionally trump...everything else. Food-wise, activity-wise...yep...sometimes whatever is simpler wins. Hopefully I will soon be more willing to rise to the occasion, and challenge myself in this area (I would really like to be doing some crafts, more reading and drawing, more creative play), but for now I am most concerned with harmony and my own sanity. We are devouring tons of fresh fruit and veggies, at least, and we have spent a bit of time gardening.

9. I have no idea what to do about toys. We tried to stock up on a few quality items for the kids - things with potential for imagination, problem-solving, etc. Some of these get occasional use, although lots of toddler games still require parental involvement (good, but not useful when needing a diversion), and building toys aren't very practical when baby is awake and in the mix (hopefully the boys will fairly soon be independent and reliable enough to use some of these toys on their own, upstairs, if they so desire). The boys arrived with a bin of cars and trucks, which they enjoy to some extent. Baby prefers things like the kitchen table, sinks, toilet, cooking utensils, etc. Even though I don't feel swamped with toys, it still seems like too much. Some promising items never see the light of day, other items have no redeeming value (in my opinion), and some are constant fodder for fights over use. We need to gradually do some weeding out...and the more extreme side of me thinks I should just order the Waldorf book of activities and toys I found on Amazon, and trash everything else. Books, too. I love books dearly, and hate to identify any as meaningless...but when really intelligent, creative fare stays on the shelf, while various mass market, "flavour of the week" stories with no literary/language or character development value are chosen consistently, I am very tempted to do a purge. I will likely box up anything that came with the boys, which we don't intend to keep out, so that they can later choose what to do with it.

10. I may cave and send my 4 year-old to school part-time. Oh my. All my homeschooling, keep kids at home as long as possible ideals...where have they gone? I never thought I would be contemplating sending a youngster off to JK, especially within three months of joining our family. But a few factors are giving me pause to re-consider my earlier position. Lute does seem to need a bit of work on peer social skills and early academics, which makes me think we might want to do that at home and through mom-supervised community activities. On the other hand, a small dose of school might help things along. I wouldn't mind having teachers' opinions on his language and academic development, either, given that we have been thrust into pre-schooler parenting. It might also be helpful to get to know some other families, observe other kids, and get feedback on his social development as well (in some areas, he has advanced skills in interacting with adults, but I'm not sure how many other young kids he's been around, other than his brother). As well, when Lute was under the weather for a few days recently, it was quite fascinating to observe Kitch come out of his shell in a way we had not yet seen (with us, or when spending time at his previous home). We knew Kitch leaned toward the creative, cute, quirky side of things, but were able to see even more of those qualities when Lute was in the background for a couple of days. Hmm. I had been concerned about separating the boys within such a short time after transitioning here, figuring they have spent every day of their lives together so far...but maybe it wouldn't be an altogether bad idea...Kitch and Lily also seem to connect a bit, and I wouldn't mind seeing them spend a bit of time together as well (Lily was introduced to her brothers only last December, at 9 months old, and had some visits with them before becoming part of their lives full-time with us). I spoke with the principal of the private Christian school I attended, and they have an extremely flexible JK program, with a minimum commitment of one day or two half-days per week (lovely, since most of our public schools are moving toward all-day, every day JK - although technically we should be able to negotiate reduced attendance if we insist). So, we will keep thinking about it. There isn't really a rush to register while the offices are closed, which gives us time to continue observing and discussing.

____________________________________

There are a few of my observations and reflections from our first weeks together. Time does go pretty quickly. I don't know that I feel much differently about things than I did initially - kind of in a one day at a time mentality - but there's really not much I can complain about (other than my lack of a morning nanny).

All three are enthusiastic kids who love to laugh and smile, and spend time with us. They are interested in just about everything, and generally seem to be settling well into new routines. Oh, and I have continued to be really pleased with the mutual child-animal adjustments. Lovely to see a little person perched beside a dog, or summoning a cat, and talking happily about how the cats like them now, or how much they like the animals. The dogs have taken to running with the kids, and Gladwyn, our transforming timid hound, has been running joyfully after balls thrown by the boys. The boys are excited about attending a family wedding this weekend, wearing their dressy outfits, and staying in a hotel. Geoff is also excited to show the kids off a bit more. I will reserve my excitement for after the fact, depending on how things go (I am ushering, so will be pre-occupied for the ceremony). We have also been camping at our trailer, which has generally been going well (took the dogs with us last weekend, which worked out fine). Would be even better if Geoff was around with us all during the day, so we'll just have to keep working toward a completely self-sustaining lifestyle (totally realistic, right)?

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Our First Pow-Wow


At a festival on the weekend, we stopped by a booth of aboriginal jewellery and accessories. The seller and crafter (wordlessly noting our lovely children) let us know about an aboriginal event happening today at the same location, in case we might like to attend.

We have not yet had time for much investigation regarding cultural events and activities, so were very thankful that she thought to inform us.


The kids and I headed downtown just before lunch, and Geoff was able to join us over his lunch hour to watch some of the pow-wow, and browse the vendors' booths. I now have business cards for a couple of jewellery-makers (including a couple who does beautiful silver work), and we picked up a very pretty turtle suncatcher with colours that will blend in beautifully with our decor.


The significance of aboriginal and First Nations culture currently holds little, if any, meaning for our kids, but Geoff and I are very much looking forward to exploring and participating more in activities that will help us learn and connect with the aboriginal community, and which will begin developing a sense of culture and history in our children. A woman at our church, whose partner is First Nations, was at today's festival with her son, who was one of the child dancers in the entry processional. Quite a few dances were "inter-tribal", and therefore open to anyone who wanted to participate. Maybe eventually I will summon the courage to join the circle!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pow_wow

Saturday, 4 June 2011

And So It Begins

Well, the children have been home for a full week now, and we have signed placement paperwork, so are officially on "adoption probation" (finalization cannot occur provincially until at least six months post-placement...which is often more like one year). Everyone has been tucked in for another night, and I am settling in to my too-short couple of hours of down time.

Altogether, things have been going very well, and there really isn't much to complain about. Displays of homesickness from the eldest have actually decreased substantially compared with time spent at hotels and the cottage in their home area. Baby girl has had 4 reasonable nights of sleep here (two of them excellent - sleeping right through the night for 12 hours). The boys have slept soundly, as has been their pattern.

Little brother has been experimenting repetitively with "Mom/Mommy" and "Dad/Daddy". The eldest will use "Silly/Funny Mommy" & "Silly/Funny Daddy" when we're joking around, but is otherwise mostly sticking to our first names for now. Baby girl clearly prefers me. She is happy with Geoff when I'm not in sight, but fusses & reaches for me if I come into view. She very predictably prefers to be held and carried approaching sleep/meal-times in late morning and late afternoon. She turned her face toward my shoulder and tucked her arms in when our social worker reached out for her to see what she would do. She will smile and wave to others during visits, but sticks pretty close to me, and isn't quite as chatty "publicly" as she is when it's just our little family around. I would guess her "attachment" to me at this point may still be a bit insecure, but overall we're happy with what we're seeing. Little brother likes to snuggle a bit and be held (cue Baby girl becoming jealous), and enjoys playing "baby", having me put him in the crib for a rest (during which he closes his eyes and curls up tight). He has asked for a bottle, so we will likely try that for some role-play. The eldest is very physical in his play (rough, too - I've had a couple of wrenched neck incidents and a few bruises), so not as sentimental and overtly cuddly, but requests lots of play-based touch and makes great eye contact when doing so.

We have had some short-ish visits with grandparents, my sister & her girls, and inadvertently with a friend we ran into in the community. The eldest has picked one adult during each visit to which he clings (literally and figuratively), leaning on them/hugging them, asking for them to help him with things (even feeding), and generally being quite demonstrative and dramatic. So, we will definitely have to be very careful about physical boundaries with non-parents and continue lying low for a bit, as well as doing some teaching regarding social boundaries. This is an interesting and tricky situation to analyze. Certainly he is in the early stages of developing his attachment with Geoff and I, and has much further to go. He also appears to be a very extroverted boy - the type of child who might tend to be very excited about new people, and who likes to be the centre of attention (which fits with all the descriptions we have of him). As well, he has spent his entire life in a large, loving family, with multiple teens/young adults around, who all help with caregiving, and with lots of friends and extended family visiting regularly - so he is quite used to meeting people, and having special attention from visitors.

At home, all three are playful and seek out lots of interaction. The boys love new activities and a varied schedule. Baby girl is generally happy to putter around (preferably while carrying around things like glass measuring cups, remote controls, and other non-baby-friendly items). Both Geoff and I are quite tired of "Why???" questions already, and repeated requests/demands for information about meal-times, daily agendas, activities, etc. Much is likely typical older toddler/pre-school stuff, some appears to be temperament & personality, and of course, some could be attributed to learning new routines and rules, establishing who is in charge, etc. It is quite interesting being planted directly into developmental stages where constant explaining, cueing, re-directing, mediating, tantrum-managing, supervising, etc., are required. Baby girl climbs EVERYTHING, so needs to be in sight (and almost at arms length) at all times. The boys are not quite playing for any length of time with any one toy or activity, or doing so independently, at this point. They seem to enjoy each other, but do have quite a few scuffles throughout the day - sharing, negotiating, and thinking of anyone else are definitely not their most finely honed skills and attributes yet.

I am not experiencing panic or a "flight" response as I half-expected, so am very thankful. At the same time, when others talk about how "exciting" this is, I can't say that's the primary feeling I'm experiencing. Sure, it is wonderful in the grand scheme...but I have most certainly not entirely come to terms with a forever farewell to the simple couple-only life we have just left in the dust! The hardest time of day is morning - can hardly fathom how I might ever reach the stage where I welcome those smiling (noisy) faces greeting me far before I am ready to interact with the world. The kids actually sleep to a reasonable time, but even then, I despise all sound and interaction until I am fully alert, showered, dressed, fed, and finished whatever quiet activty (usually internet-based) I have used to tune in to the day. So...when Geoff heads back to work next week, I am dreading the early mornings that will face me if I am to get up & shower while he's home to supervise any early risers, and then the immediate barrage of activity *shudder* when I emerge from my cocoon. So far, I've taken every possible opportunity to have Geoff get up with the kids while I catch a few more winks (until Baby girl started sleeping better, I had good excuses, like less than 6 hours' sleep), shower, and prepare myself to meet the day. Alas, unless someone wants to assist by funding a morning nanny, I don't see any way around this issue.

Anyway, as my precious evening time is passing quickly, I will finish for now. I have been thinking of how to refer to the children on this blog, and have decided to go with their new second names, given by Geoff and I.

Older brother will be Luton (Geoff's grandfather's middle name).
Little brother will be Kitch (for Joy's grandfather, Kitchener).
Baby girl will be an as-yet-undecided diminutive of Catherine (Joy's first name).

Hoping I will be somewhat reliable in documenting our adventures over the next little while. I don't journal (despite trying off and on at various points in my life), so this serves as at least some way of keeping a record for my own future reference), and I have always found it interesting and helpful to continue reading others' adoption experiences after placement. We shall see how it goes!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Family of Five!

After 3.5 years since officially starting the adoption process, and a myriad of unexpected roller-coaster twists and turns, I am delighted to “introduce” our soon-to-be family of five!


I’m actually typing on borrowed time, here, as we are in the midst of final packing and preparations, hoping to leave within the next couple of hours to spend nearly two weeks in a cottage with the children, in their area.

So, to back up a bit…

After stalling on updating our homestudy and dossier for Ethiopia, concerned about a very long wait for siblings, and reflecting on our adoption “philosophy” in regard to our personal situation, we thought it was time to explore public domestic adoption.

To summarize, we had a couple of other bumps and changes of course traveling this new path, and at the same time experienced an amazing sense of movement and opportunity (and ability to be active in the process) that had not been present while waiting and responding to system changes in international adoption.

I think in part because of all the dead ends and closed doors, I haven’t really posted about our public adoption decision, not knowing where it would lead. Currently, I am still working on believing that this is actually happening, and that in two weeks the hope and goal is to sign placement paperwork!

We have had to hold our breath a few times along the way to the three lovely children we have been getting to know over the past 6 weeks. We attended a provincial event in spring and fall 2010, where public child protection agencies from around the province can come and present children available for adoption. At the fall event, we couldn’t help noticing a sibling group of two toddler boys, and a baby girl – the only children presented by that particular agency. After reviewing the brief profile available at the event, and watching a little video, we opted to formally “express interest” and see whether the children’s agency contacted our agency to obtain a copy of our homestudy for review.

Sure enough, the homestudy was requested, we were given more information, and the mutual decision-making process continued over the next nearly 6 weeks, until just before Christmas. At this point, we completed a final interview, and were sadly informed that the only other family still being considered had been selected.

Sorely disappointed, we turned our focus toward working exclusively with our local agency over the next while, as our worker was optimistic we would be matched quickly. Within three weeks after being officially added to the matching pool, we had a call. We spent another three weeks having meetings and gathering information, and decided not to proceed with this match. We were a bit concerned that we would end up turning down all sorts of matches, knowing that the three we had been considered for in the fall had “spoiled” us in terms of what we were hoping for.

After declining the local match, and being told about some other sibling groups of 3-4 children (which was very exciting to me – I have always secretly, and maybe not-so-secretly, had fleeting thoughts of a larger sibling group, all at once), we were informed that the agency for the children we had wanted to adopt in the fall had been in touch with our local agency, to find out if we were still available. We were asked if we wanted to find out more – and, well, YES, we did!

After another round of information-sharing and gathering, we had another interview, and were again absolutely wanting to be selected. Five very long days after the interview, we got the call! The next day, hardly believing what was happening, we hit the road to spent the weekend in the children’s area, to meet them and confirm our decision.

And it’s been a whirlwind of activity since then (I will not even try to describe the magnitude of the preparations – but there has been no rest for the weary around here lately). We have spent three more weekends, during two of which the children stayed in a hotel with us the whole time. I was away at a conference another weekend, and so we have had just the two past weekends to scramble, getting the house prepared at least in a basic way, and trying to grasp our new reality!

In nearly two weeks, we plan to head home, and the children with come with their current caregivers. The children will stay with us over the weekend, while the caregivers stay in the area. And…depending on how things have gone to date, we may have placement at the end of the month. Wow.

No time to get into all the thoughts and questions bubbling away. I’ve felt too busy to savour this time of transition, and we are just diving right in. One benefit of the busyness lately, is that we are both looking forward to starting this new family life, and moving on.

Oh, just a tiny bit about the kids (this likely won’t be the place for sharing too many details):

Our boys are toddlers:

The eldest is funny, imaginative, intense in both joyful and not-so-joyful emotion. Protective of his siblings, and loyal to the only family he has ever known (yet able to dive in and enjoy his time with us so far).

The little guy loves to imitate his brother, and is generally a pretty laid back, “go with the flow” kind of kid. A bit quieter socially, but busy, busy, busy climbing and inquiring about the world around him. Had a nurturing side, and enjoys being carried and held on your lap.

Baby sister is 1. She has a ready smile and uses her few words freely. Very curious and active, but open to lots of holding as well. Oh…and she growls…which is just about the best baby feature ever, don’t you think?

And that’s the story.

And now I really need to finish packing...

Friday, 13 May 2011

Holding Out

I think I've previously written about how, when I have lots going on, and lots on my mind, I find it harder to come up with blog posts (despite the massive quantity of information being processed, which would likely make decent writing material).

So, yep, we've had lots going on. And it's time to write about it...almost. But right now, I'm just about finished lunch, and have a chaotic house to organize in the next two days...so I'll try to process some thoughts into written form in the next day or two for you...stay tuned :)

Friday, 25 March 2011

The Land of Eternal Snow (and a mini-sermon)


Ah, Spring! At last...

Warmer temperatures, and the first signs of...
Oh wait - I can't quite see out there - my vision has gone foggy and white.
Horror of horrors, I am going blind.
Tragedy.

What's that you say?
Snow. Right. All is well.



It is, indeed, Spring. For a couple of days, actually, there was bare earth and grass, and plenty of mud to go around. I have been out a couple of times without a coat, and there are crocus tips nudging their way up and out. So, the season is slowly, begrudgingly, changing.



Since I can do nothing - no, truly nothing - about the snow, I generally make an effort to remain on good terms with it. I enjoy the photo opportunities it provides (and the temporary reduction in mud travelling into my house - floors, rugs, stairs, furniture, me). The degree of snow-related angst folks express seems self-imposed, to a point. To be perfectly honest, the cultural acceptability of complaining about weather and other inconveniences troubles me. I think that attitude can become pervasive, and can also become a standard way of relating to our circumstances. Can we not rise above the external, perhaps even have a sense of humour, and use these things to cultivate a character of graciousness? Is it so difficult to adopt an individual perspective, rather than latching onto the apparent mass mentality?

(A quick qualifier, based on Facebook feedback I received to a similar status update: To those, who like me, have experienced snow-related stresses, mishaps, and unwelcome adventures like car accidents and fallen trees/branches - both of which I have experienced in the snow - I empathize, and do not direct my comments at your experience of those situations. As I also noted on Facebook, clearly any "thing" can be associated with unfortunate events - other generally more welcome activities and circumstances - sunshine, hiking and biking and boating, cooking and woodworking, rain - all these things have unfortunate and even tragic events associated with them...but we do not shun them - we choose to continue making the most of them. We don't complain incessantly about them. And we don't wonder why they are part of our lives.)

Now, back to snow's lovelier qualities...



Ah, snow.

But won't Spring be delightful?





Wednesday, 9 March 2011

I Like Shrove Tuesday Better Than Lent

Mmm, fluffy pancakes, real maple syrup, chocolate chips, bacon, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. 'Twas a tasty all-in-one dinner & dessert last night!

Now, on to Lent.

Ok, so I have never actually observed Lent. I think I've tried to come up with something to "give up" before (one year in my former, frustrating workplace, I think it was "complaining about work" - which didn't go anywhere). Lent was never really part of our family or church tradition, but seems to have become quite a bit more popular for folks of various church backgrounds. I know lots of folks who do the usual giving up of chocolate, alcohol, and other, often food-related, things. I don't hear as much talk about the other side of Lent - adding or beefing up something (mmm, beef) with a spiritual focus (other than maybe to offer a quick prayer during a bad chocolate craving).

As usual, I haven't given much thought to Lent. But it's been hard to ignore entirely, with folks on Facebook and whatnot sharing their Lenten decisions here and there. And sitting here this morning (yes, yes, I'll start working soon...in fact, if I had been working already, maybe I would have saved myself from the notion I am currently contemplating), my dangerous mind suddenly allowed a distasteful thought to creep in - maybe I should consider NOT purchasing any new clothing items during Lent. What? Brain...stop working...stop, stop! But it kept going - perhaps "non-essential" book purchases should also be put on hold. Now, come on. If there is such a thing as a non-essential book purchase, surely all book purchases are at least noble and completely justifiable. Please???

Uh oh. I feel the shakes coming on already, and I haven't even committed. I am going to have to stay off the computer, walk with my eyes to the ground when in the community, stay OUT of Winners, and keep loud music playing at all times to drown myself out for the next 40 days if this is to be successful.

What about finding a nice, Easter Sunday outfit? I am planning to attend a conference in Ottawa in April...what about out of town shopping opportunities? Ahhh. Need to think this through more.

Although, I did just make an online clothing purchase last night, and I know I really don't need clothes right now. Just wait, though - I'll commit, and then horrible things will happen - like my favourite jeans (out of the very few that currently fit) will rip and have bleach dumped on them, my tops will all accidentally be shrunken, my shoes will spring leaks and tears. A fantastic, one-of-a-kind, limited time only pair of Toms will come to my attention (something like the Ethipia water shoe I missed out on last fall because I thought I should ask for it for Christmas instead of just ordering it for myself on the spot). Oh, the horror.

If I do this, please don't be alarmed if you can't find me for the next 4o days. Huddled in my room, with my loud music, and my eyes tightly closed against the world. Oh wait, I also need to replace my sacrifice with something of spiritual value. Ok, maybe if I sew up a storm of Africa bags (poor, neglected sewing) I might live to tell the tale. Yes, that might just do the trick. Deep breath.

Will keep you posted, or not. It all depends.