You Say It’s Your Birthday?

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No, YOUR child’s birthday is exactly eleven days away and you have made exactly ZERO plans to celebrate it.
 
This isn’t a call for help with ideas on how to celebrate. Captain Sassypants has had a new idea every week since before Christmas on how she’d like to celebrate, which may in fact be why we have no confirmed plans at this late stage. I’m not sure what’s gone wrong this year, because in previous years, I’ve had this birthday party thing totally wrapped up at this point. I’ve been a master-planner in the celebration department for the six years we’ve celebrated her birthdays, and each one has been a blast, if I do say so myself. Maybe that’s the problem. Perhaps I’m suffering some sort of party-fatigue brought on by my own obsessive need to outdo myself every year to give her a dreamy party she’ll never forget. Only to find out that by the time her next birthday rolls around, it’s me who is reminding her what she did last year and all the other years too. I know she’s just a normal kid, but it broke my heart that I had to remind her how three years ago, we took her to Disney for five days and did the whole “Bippity Boppity Boutique” experience and dinner with Cinderella on her birthday. I mean seriously – don’t the price tags of these things guarantee indelible inscription in their little memory banks?
So this year I’ve sort of given up. We’ve discussed so many different options; originally we were going to do New York City for her birthday weekend, but that fell through for a few reasons. Then we discussed a movie party to see the long-awaited live-action version of “Jungle Book” coming out, but I hate having to wait until the week before to confirm the exact show time. Yeah, I know. There was a brief excitement over laser tag, until we found out that the kids need to be a certain height and weight to comfortably carry the backpacks required. This eliminated about half of her friends who somehow don’t seem to be growing quite as quickly as she is. Each idea had some negative aspect or two that cause their elimination, until now we really aren’t considering very many options and I’m feeling like a play date party at our house just pales compared to the rainbow of bashes we’ve thrown for the past six years. Don’t worry, I’m getting over myself as you read this.
I’m trying new approaches to life this year, and *winging it* has never really been something I’ve embraced in adulthood, so I could simply say that’s what I’m doing now and sound very goal-oriented, right? Except I’d be lying. I’ve simply lost my ambition to create “memorable” kids’ parties that cost a fortune and end up making me painfully aware of how we spoil our kids. We stopped doing birthday parties for my stepson when he was ten and offered instead “experiences” like horseback riding. I tried this approach with Baby Girl this year, despite her only turning eight, and initially she liked the idea, but being the social butterfly that she is, quickly cast suggested experiences aside for group activities with her friends.
Part of me is really ok with my lack of motivation regarding this important milestone, but there is a sliver of hope because I do recognize something needs to be done really soon or I’ll risk utter disappointment from the star of my life. I’d call it a mom-fail, if I believed in such terminology. Instead, I’m going to classify it as a “Mom-exercising-last-minute-creativity-challenge” and get my ass in gear. Tomorrow. Possibly.
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On #InternationalWomensDay – Be You, Because You ARE Strong

Happy International Women’s Day!

You might be surprised to know that history records the first International Women’s Day as far back as 1911! Women have been fighting a loooooonnnnnnnggggg time for equality, and will continue to do so. I hate this fact, but to avoid dwelling on the negative, I will take pleasure in seeing how far we’ve come! Keep up the fantastic work, my sisters!

I’m seeing so many quotes and memes on social media today about women, and I’ve observed many of these quotes and memes focus on the word STRONG. Why is that?

Even my personal favorite: “Strong women: May we know them, may we raise them, may we be them.” urges us that being strong is the ultimate goal. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if this battle-cry is being interpreted the same way across the board.

Naturally, the physical sense of the word is a positive goal. Being physically strong isn’t just about how many pounds you can bench-press, but about being healthy. Everyone wants health for themselves and those they care about, right?

But what about being strong in other ways? How do we define that? And what about the women who don’t exude the “traditional” traits of “strength”? I use quotation marks simply because these words are so open to interpretation.

I worry that International Women’s Day is moving towards a different meaning – a celebration of society’s perceived “best of the best” so to speak. That’s not what it’s about.

The woman who doesn’t run marathons for herself or charity can still be strong simply running after her toddler at the park. Or watching Netflix marathons on TV.

The woman who doesn’t own a financially successful business or have a high-powered career can still be strong owning the responsibility to feed her children by working hard at her minimum-wage job.

That woman who doesn’t prepare kale-qinoa-chia seed-avocado crust-less pie to feed her family can still be strong asking her kids to set the table and put the ketchup and plum sauce out for the frozen chicken fingers with tater-tots her family will devour with enthusiasm.

That woman who never declares loudly “Fuck that shit!” can still be strong when she sobs into her pillow because someone hurt her feelings.

That woman who can’t be Ms. Independent-I-Can-Do-It-All-Myself can still be strong when she asks friends or family for physical or emotional support.

That woman who doesn’t kick that asshole partner’s ass to the curb can still be strong when she stays in a seemingly unsatisfying relationship for complex reasons that nobody but her really understands.

That woman who doesn’t proudly don her swimsuit while ignoring her obesity can still be strong when she avoids pools and the beach.

Nobody defines “STRONG” for everybody.

As far as I’m concerned, anyone who opens their eyes and confronts the challenges of life each day is strong, and even those who open their eyes but then decides to close them, stay in bed and avoid the world are still strong in making the decision to do just that.

If you are human and trying to live your life as best you can – you are strong.

Should women be equal with men? Youbetcha.

Should women stop being human to try to fit into someone else’s definition of “strong”?

I think you know my answer to that question.

Be you. That’s strong enough.

 

My Child’s Thoughts on Menopause

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Yesterday, I was rushing around to get out the door by a certain time and as is usually the case when you’re stressed and time-challenged, the process made my body temperature increase. I removed the sweater I was wearing and said to Captain Sassypants: “Phew! I’m getting hot and sweaty!”

Her response?

“I hate to say this, mommy, but maybe you’re getting the HOT SHOTS.”

I knew immediately she meant “hot flashes” but tried to contain my laughter because I wanted to know if she knew what she was talking about. I asked her “What are the hot shots?”

“Actually, you probably won’t get them, because you know it’s when a woman has made a baby in her womb and the baby has come out and then when the woman gets older, she gets the hot shots? Well, you’re old enough to get them, right? But you haven’t made a baby in your womb, so you probably don’t need to worry about it!”

I like her thinking. Yes, I DO deserve an exemption from menopause because I wasn’t able to make a baby in my womb!

Who do I speak to about arranging this?

The Realities of Trans-Racial Adoption

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Every so often, parents via adoption are confronted with their own complete and utter inadequacy. Oh sure, biological parents are too, I know, but I’m talking that extra layer of baggage that our children carry around that we must also deal with regularly – the hurt and pain of their pre-adoption experiences that never leave them, no matter how much we love and care for them.

Two nights ago, Baby Girl awoke and without getting into the minutia of the situation, ended up having a typhoon-sized temper tantrum at midnight that lasted a full hour and woke up our entire household, if not our entire street. Yeah – THAT kind of tantrum.

It’s interesting in retrospect to analyze how her behavior reflects so much of what I’ve read in adoption psychology books, yet somehow in the moment – I am completely unable to see that, nor am I able to draw on my research about how to deal with her adoption/attachment-related behavioral challenges.

So, of course when the tantrum started, instead of recognizing that she was feeling fear and insecurity related to recent circumstances that were putting her in touch with her pre-adoption experiences, all I saw was a bratty little kid looking for attention at midnight and waking me and the rest of the family up to get it. So I snapped. I shouted at her and grounded her from TV – which is a consequence that punishes ME far more than her, trust me. I threw up my hands and enlisted Huzbo, even – who did the same thing as me.

Well, we quickly found out the next night that our strategy stank, when Baby Girl woke up at 1am and proceeded to behave in the exact same way as the night before, despite how much shit she had gotten into.

I began to throw out threats of more severe consequences, which only served to both upset and incense her further. Huzbo was far more furious than the previous night and it was in the middle of this complete shit-storm that I realized something: her behavior was not something she was trying to do against us. She was attempting to reach out for help to deal with feelings that she did not have the skills to verbalize for us. The threats we were throwing at her were not intimidating to her – we were giving her choices, and when given the choice between watching TV or receiving love and assurance if she could get it via screaming and crying – she would always throw TV to the wolves.

I suddenly remembered a line I had read somewhere:

It’s usually when they are behaving in a way that it’s hardest to love them that they need our love demonstrated the most.

So I crawled into bed with the screeching, snot-nosed cyclone of hurt that was my daughter and held her. Oh, she resisted at first – she’s a fierce little example of the “flight or fight” response that many children who were adopted demonstrate in stressful situations – but she soon calmed and I was able to speak gently with her and give words to the overwhelming feelings she was having. When she began to weep and her little body sagged down onto the bed beside me, I knew I had done the right thing and had made the correct assumptions about the sources of her seemingly unacceptable behavior.

Flash ahead to yesterday morning, where I was putting her hair in pigtails for the dance class she was going to. Out of nowhere came this question:

“Do you wish you had gotten a white baby in your tummy instead of me?”

(WHY do they always ask these kinds of questions when you’re either in a public bathroom or in a hurry to get somewhere?)

I assured her that even though I had tried to make a baby in my womb before we had started our adoption journey, it was not because that was my preference, but because it was just what parents usually did when they wanted to have a child. I attempted to make her understand that it wasn’t about what I wanted more – that it was simply what most people do, yet I’m not sure I succeeded in convincing her she wasn’t a consolation prize in my efforts to become a mother.

Never a child to leave it at just one zinger, she followed up with:

“Would you have liked it better if I had white skin?”

I got down on my knees and looked her in the eye and told I would NEVER want her to have white skin, because if she did, she wouldn’t be my Baby Girl. That her beautiful black skin was a part of who she is, and that we did not care what colour skin our child had when we were deciding to adopt. I assured her that we didn’t love her DESPITE of her black skin, but BECAUSE of it. That we embrace the differences between her and us, but we also feel a very deep connection to her that we might not feel if she had white skin, because she would be an entirely different person. I assured her that if we had wanted a white baby so badly, we most certainly would have adopted one.

This seemed to appease her, as she went off to dance class with no further questions, but the conversation has been sitting in my mind, rattling the cage ever since then.

Do white parents experience their children asking them if they’d prefer their kids to have black skin?

Of course not.

Do bio parents experience their children raging in the middle of the night because they are feeling a hard-wired pain that occurred when they were separated from the mother who gave birth to them?

Never.

Do trans-racial adoptive parents ever feel guilty that they brought a black child into a white family?

Often.

It’s a tough, heart-kicking job we signed up for, as trans-racial adoptive parents. I’m not sure we knew back then how agonizing it would be at times.

But I wouldn’t change it for anything, because at the end of the tantrum and questions – I’ve got the most remarkable, tough, strong, joyful, happy, intelligent, gorgeous, stubborn little person who calls me “mommy”.

Sadly, my Baby Girl is the one who has so much more to contend with.

 

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I Like Big Jokes, and I Cannot Lie

There sure are a LOT of songs on the radio these days that aren’t really suitable for children, aren’t there? One day I’m going to write a post on all of the child-inappropriate pop songs that I’ve had to explain to Baby Girl, but for today, I’m going to only discuss the gem by Sir Mix-A-Lot called “Baby Got Back.”

Love it or hate it, for those of us like myself who have got some serious junk in the trunk, the opening line of “I LIKE BIG BUTTS, and I cannot lie!” has become a bit of an ego-boosting anthem. It has always put a smile on my face, even though the rest of the lyrics are sexually gross, objectifying and misogynistic.

So it was rather ironic when today, driving in the car, this particular song came on and I instinctively turned it up and crowed out the opening lyrics in my shouty-singy voice.

I immediately realized the folly of this action. With Baby Girl listening intently in the back seat, I was prepared for questions along the lines of “Why does he like big butts, mommy?” and “What does he mean by that?” which are the usual awkward queries I have to field as a result of banishing kid-diddys when she was only two.

Instead, I got a treat – an unexpected peek at her emerging brilliant and subtly sarcastic humour:

Does the guy singing this song know you, mommy?

The layers of humour buried in that statement made me proud, despite the fact that she was basically telling me I have a fat ass.

There was an intentionality to her humour that signalled her growing awareness of the world at large and how to make fun of it.

Sometimes her comments strike me in the worst possible way. Like the time she told me my bum makes a wave every time she touches it. THAT was unintentionally ego-crushing.

Or like the time she was splashing around in the bath and I had disrobed to grab a quick shower simultaneously. She sized up my nekked carcass and matter-of-factly stated “You look nice with your clothes ON, mommy.”

Not “nicer.” Just “nice” – because “nicer” would have been an obvious insult.

I may not like my butt being the butt of so many of her jokes, but I do know she is quickly learning what makes me laugh.

And I love it.

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Thanks for reading my blog! Feel free to share it, and if you’d like to hear more from me, slide over to the right side of your screen and “Like” my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter and subscribe to get my latest post in your email inbox – yes, that’s right – stalk me!

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The End of Lunch for Summer?

If I had a dollar for every time in the past week I’ve seen someone post on social media “Only X more days of making school lunches!” I’d be able to afford a caterer to make those lunches.

It seems that there is an epidemic of parents who really loathe making school lunches.

Here is what I have to say about that:

Is making a lunch each day such a big price to pay for six hours of free babysitting?

I think not.

And I’m not apologizing for that.

My first problem with this widespread whining about lunches is that the majority of school-aged children are fully capable of making their own lunches, people!

Yes – even my six year old daughter can slap some meat on bread, place a yogurt, apple, some carrot sticks and a drink in her lunch box – it’s not rocket science. If she needs help, we are usually in the same house as her to provide assistance or supervision.

Sure, if you want to heat up leftovers or cook something fresh, then perhaps six might be a bit young for that, but these are not lunch menus that happen every day in our home at least, so there’s no reason why children can’t at least help with their own lunch preparation regularly, if not make the entire lunch themselves.

Responsibility is good. The only way a child learns responsibility is to actually have it assigned to them.

Now, let’s talk about the bigger problem here:  all of you parents celebrating the end of lunchbox-filling – what exactly do you think your children will be eating throughout the summer between the meals of breakfast and dinner? Do you have some kind of special lunch-free summer arrangement with your child’s body? I ask this because my children actually eat lunch all summer long, not just during the school year. Sure, those lunches don’t have to go in a lunchbox that is currently so disgusting-looking that I would lose my appetite if I had to take food out of it to eat, but I signed up for the parenting plan that stipulated THREE meals a day. So I’m perplexed about this anticipation of school ending to have a break from making lunches. Do you parents in this category have a special summer lunch-maker service? Do your kids simply not eat lunch in the summers, their hunger under contractual agreement to make your life marginally easier for two months?

I am genuinely confused by this impending joy for a life without lunch-making. Do you people understand that when school is done for the summer, and you apparently don’t have to make lunches for two months – your children are at home with you ALL DAY for two months???

I love my kids, I really do, and I enjoy spending time with them, but if the only thing I have to do to have some time alone is make a lunch, or simply supervise or assist the making of a lunch – I’ll take the lunch prep with a smile on my face.

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Existential HUH?

ImageA few months ago, I had coffee for the first time with a woman I had recently met.  We got personal pretty quickly, which is fine by me – I’m a bit of an open book on most subjects.  I shared some intimate details of my life story and also the details that I’ve shared publicly.  When I was done peeling back my onion for her, she asked me if I ever felt like I was put on this earth and kept around (so far) to accomplish something amazing.

All. The. Freakin’. Time.

In a nutshell, there have been numerous occurrences in my life – some medical, some notsomuch – that could have easily snuffed out my existence.  Yet, that didn’t happen.  Each time, I somehow made it through, and some of those triumphs were tippy-toeing near the “miraculous” zone.

Now, some of you are probably dying to hear all the gory details of these experiences, some of you may not give a shit, but either way – that’s ok.  This post isn’t about that, mostly because all of those stories would fill a book…hmmm…

The point of this post is to talk about the never-ending feeling I’ve had since I was very young, that I’ve been spared or given back my life numerous times because I have some great calling to fulfill.

So great, in fact, that I haven’t even figured it out yet.

Which IS the point of this post.

What if what I AM doing is the wrong “something amazing”?

What if I find out too late that what I’m already accomplishing and will accomplish were NOT the reasons why I’m here?

I know – this existentialist shit makes my head spin most of the time as well, but when somebody else hits your innermost thoughts and fears all in the same sentence for all the same reasons you have those thoughts and fears – it gets pretty deep.

This is not about ego – I don’t think that I’m here to change the world or any other grandiose ideas like that (with all due respect to those who ARE here to change it).  But what if changing the world was my “destiny” and I’m sitting here telling you that I’m not buying into my own destiny?

I’m sure you can see how this could, at times, be a little crippling.

Scrubbing toilets, typing out the words in my head and posting them online because there is nobody in front of me to speak them to, making grilled cheeses because I don’t feel like going to the grocery store for real dinner food – I’m not convinced these are signs of a higher calling, but who am I to judge myself?

Yes, it’s hard sometimes to avoid saying “I was saved for THIS?” when my child comes home from school with sopping leggings, because she didn’t pull them down far enough when she sat on the potty (yes, sat – like I don’t worry enough about her at school?).  Or when she comes home from school wearing only transparent tights as pants, because she didn’t feel like wearing the skirt she chose to wear that morning, and explained to me her belief that tights and leggings are the same thing.

I have to remind myself that no doubt Mother Theresa’s mom or Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s mother had stories like these to tell – mommy tales.  Yet, look at the destiny they fulfilled.

Now, Baby Girl may not turn out to be the next Oprah Winfrey or Nelson Mandela, or she may – that’s not really the point either.

The point is this – I have to find my OWN value in what I do.

I don’t have to be an iconic world hero, nor do my children.  I don’t have to measure my worth by other people’s standards – how much money I earn, how many people follow me, how many hits my posts get, how much charity work I do, how often I’m on the news.

I simply have to look upon my life as one that matters – no matter what I do.

What more amazing accomplishment can there be?

 

 

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