Monday, July 30, 2012

More Epic Tripping

So the first full day at Miracle Beach started with a homemade zip line.  This was hours of hysterical entertainment and MUCH dirtiness (what else is camping about, eh?)

This dude was the most frequent and successful
zipliner.  He has no fear and is light and strong

Ayden is a chicken.  It took him a long while of
this before he would actually go... But once he
got the hang of it there was no holding him back

Riley, of course, needed assistance whether
he wanted it or not, and generally bit the dust
midway because he's not quite strong enough

Amarys' take on the zipline?  Dudes, you're interrupting my lunch.

Later that day we went down to the beach and it was super relaxing because for once in our lives our kids were simultaneously ferociously entertained and all we had to do was lie in the sand and watch them lazily from a distance.  Amarys LOVES the beach and spent much of her time rolling around in the sand and examining all the flotsam.

Always with the weaponry...

Baby toss!  She loved it

We had a late lunch and later dinner, then went back to the beach around sunset to do some fishing.  Man, we live in a beautiful country...

If you look closely, there are deer in the background 

This ocean camping is new for me, since I grew up in the interior and basically grew up in the woods, emerging for school season and returning in summer.  I like ocean camping, I must say.  It is gorgeous and way less buggy.  This campground had a jillion families, which means that everyone went to bed early.  Both nights we had dinner pretty late, and pretty much had to go to bed when the kids did because it was so quiet and we didn't want to disturb anyone.  That's okay, we need sleep like we need to breathe these days, so it was just fine.  And we spent hours just sitting around relaxing.  SO NICE.  We also spent hours running around on the beach.

More to come, soon ♥

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Taco Pie

I made another fantastic recipe.  Woah, nelly.  This was a mixture of an allrecipes(dot)com and my own imagination (what the Bloggess would call ivagination.  She's so hilarious).

First, look!  Yummmm..... It's Taco Pie

note the bottom quarter with no tomatoes, as my older two despise them.

First, make pie shell (or buy one; whatever).  My pie crust is the allrecipes no fail:

2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
mix in bowl.
cut in 1 cup shortening until crumbly.

in separate bowl, mix
1 egg
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/4 cup cold water

Add wet to dry all at once, toss with fork until it forms a ball, refrigerate until ready.
(I'm no good at pie crust but this one was quite acceptable)

1 lb ground beef
1/2 onion
1/2 cup or so of canned tomatoes, drained
1 cup water
1 package taco seasoning
1 can refried black beans
1/2 cup sour cream, mixed with enough milk to make slightly runny
two or three handfuls nacho chips
2 or three handfuls of shredded cheese
peppers, green onions, olives, as desired
diced tomato

Brown beef in pan, add onion, drain.  Add canned tomatoes, water, and taco seasoning.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Turn heat down low and add black beans.

Meanwhile, cook pie crust.  Place beef and bean mixture in pie, pour sour cream on top in loops or clumps, not too thick or it will take over the pie.  Crunch nachos and place on top of pie, add cheese and toppings (except tomatoes).  Bake at 350 for another 10 minutes to melt cheese.  Remove from oven and garnish with fresh tomato.  Woot!  Six thumbs up yesterday, which is a minor miracle  =)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Quick Fitness Update

I'm not falling off the exercise wagon this time, folks!  I ran and biked, as aforementioned, and then went to aerobics and then ran again.  That is four times in a week and a half.  Woot!

Okay, so this time I did aerobics for an hour, and it was awesome.  The teacher even recognized me even though it has been.... a very long time.

Then I ran yesterday and did run 6 minutes, walk 4 minutes, and tried to pick up my pace a teeny bit.  I ran for 36 minutes (run/walk combo), and included several hills.  I only fell down once.  It was only lots of embarrassing but I don't think anyone saw.  :/  I tripped on a curb.

Total weight lost: -1 lb.  (ie, I gained a pound this week.  HAWESOME.)  I have managed to avoid sweets and late night unhealthy snacks.  And dessert.

The Epic Vose Trip of 2012: Part I

Well it is about time I updated you with photos from our trip at the beginning of July.  This trip was awesome, and none of us wanted to come home.  It started off the evening before; I make all our bread lately, as a cost saving measure and then once you START making homemade bread, you're done for, because McGavin's just cannot compare.  Nothing compares that costs less than $6 a loaf.  =)  The downside is we eat a lot of bread.  And I'm responsible for making it.  However Ayden has been asking me to teach him to make it for awhile, so I got him to do it the night before we left for our Epic Trip to Vancouver Island, top to bottom.  He was so proud!  He even cut his initials into the top of his loaves.  So cute.
Proud baker

We're in business, peeps!  I'm here to help

Oh yes, I'm cute.

Initials on a loaf =)

The following day we got on the road "bright and early"~which for us means anytime before noon.  Not because we sleep in, but because we are six people, four of whom are small, and it takes us an inordinate amount of time to get out the door.  It's like herding cats.  And of course no one has to pee until after their seat belt is on, because, well, that is peeing.
Anyways, we had aimed to catch the 12:50 ferry.  Well, in my mind it was the 12:50 ferry.  In Brent's mind it was the 12:15 ferry.  We left and Brent was driving and I thought, "Gee, he must want to stop in town for something along the way," because he was driving the wrong way.  SOUTH, towards Langley City.  Rather than WEST, towards Vancouver and the North Shore, where we would catch our ferry.  But of course there are fifteen conversations going on simultaneously in the van and Brent and I just never get farther than six words into any conversation with EACH OTHER, so I didn't say my thought out loud.  Brent was worried about the ferry being full since it was a long weekend so he handed me his phone to check online (the ferry website will tell you what percent each sailing is full at any given time).  He was getting antsy because it was taking me forever to get his phone to do what I wanted, and I said, "I'm just trying to get your phone to go to the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal listings.  It won't GO to the page I WANT!"  And he said, "Horseshoe Bay!  We're going to Tsawwassen!"  I laughed so hard.  He wasn't going to pick something up, he was going to the WRONG FERRY TERMINAL!  So we argued a bit over which one we had planned on taking (isn't it obvious?  We actually planned to go on different trips.), and which one we SHOULD take (isn't the wife always right, here, folks?), and in the end looked up the ferry percent full on each terminal and decided on Horseshoe Bay only because we had the best chance of getting to the terminal and on the ferry at that terminal.  So hilarious.
Anyways, that night we arrived at the Miracle Beach campground near Courtney.  It is HUGE (over 150 sites) and was chock full since it was Canada Day long weekend, but the grounds are so well planned that we had tons of privacy and it was so quiet it was almost disconcerting.  The beach was amazing!  We had so much fun.  There were deer everywhere and they are incredibly tame, because they have no natural predators in that part of the island.  The kids had a blast.  We did, too.

Before we left the driveway, after everybody peed

I'm such a dork.  But I have cute kids!

Ayden won't go near the edge of the boat.  It might tip.

Our campsite; you would never know there were almost 200 sites!  There were huge spaces between sites, and ours backed onto forest, which had deer and plenty of what we thought were mosquitoes but must have been some kind of mayfly or something because none of us got bit.

Just behind our site, the first day

Also spotted: little boys in the woods

Monday, July 23, 2012

Fish Tacos

Okay so at a my friend's baby's first birthday party on Saturday two other friends, BF and OF (best friend and other friend, FTR) were talking about how incredibly NON DOMESTIC they are, and I thought, Hm, that used to be me.  And now it's not.  I'm somewhat generally okay with that, although I may have felt somewhat defensive  =)  Ergo, a new recipe!

I'd heard of fish tacos as SO GOOD for years and I was like, are you bloody well kidding me, FISH IN A TACO?  NO THANKS.  
But the praise for fish tacos both from a delicious standpoint and an easy to make standpoint was just so persistent, that last summer on our Portland anniversary trip I tried them in a restaurant.  They were AMAZING!  I was so wrong about the fish in a taco thing.  Though you couldn't do it with just any fish (say, for example, trout, or something).  White fish is where it's at.

So, I buy my fish at Costco--you can get Cod for fairly affordable, $15 to $20 per package and enough in there for a few meals, and it is WILD which is apparently so much healthier and more eco friendly.  BF is a marine biologist and this is what she says.  I asked her recently, what are the top priorities when it comes to marine ecological issues?  Because I do lots to protect the air and land but not much for the ocean.  If I had to pick one thing to do to protect the ocean what would it be?  And she said to avoid farmed fish.  So now we only eat wild fish, as of two weeks ago.  =)  SO.  Cod, Costco, Wild, Cheap.

I melded together two allrecipes(dot)com fish taco recipes because one had better sounding fish and the other had better sounding dressing, and voila!  Melissa Vose's Fish Tacos Extraordinaire.  They were a big hit, and Ayden ate five of them.  With cabbage (which he has always shunned before) AND tomato pico de gallo (ditto) AND the dressing which was spicy and amaaaaaaZING and which I figured he wouldn't touch with a fifty foot pole.

set oven to 450, put cod filets in dish with butter on top and chicken bullion sprinkled over it, and bake until fish is flakey (recipe said 4-6 minutes, but mine took 15 minutes.  I think the recipe was for sole).

1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used sour cream, works just as well)
lime juice, enough to make slightly runny
minced jalepeno (I did two chunks just big enough to fit in a hand mincer and it was perfect)
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp dill weed

Other toppings:
shredded cabbage
Pico de Gallo~diced tomatoes, diced red onion, cilantro, lime juice (optional: also jalepeno, but doesn't need it b/c it's in the dressing)

Hard and soft tacos, fill with some flaked fish, dressing, cabbage, and pico de gallo, and even your pickiest kids will devour them (so long as they like fish).  YUMMY!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Day in My Life

Okay so tonight at the dinner table Ayden and Matthew were brainstorming ideas to name their invention that amalgamates a fork with a pair of chopsticks.  Matthew's final idea was, "Cockshits!"

I died.  (Matthew has no idea what cockshit means or that it could be considered a word).

 Not only did I die, but I did it silently.  Because I didn't want to tip him off that he had stumbled upon a Very Bad Word.  (He thinks the "S-h" word is "Shut up" and the "S" word is "Stupid.")  So I posted it on facebook and texted his dad, instead.

WOW is life ever fun.

Earlier today Ayden and Matthew devised a plan to ride their bikes about 1/2 kilometer to the nearest gas station to buy candy.  Being free range minded, I considered this plan for a few minutes, and then gave the okay.  I gave them lots of "guidance"~reminders to say please and thank you, and to look the cashier in the eye when paying, rather than looking at the counter and mumbling.
Cheerfully, they replied, "OKAY!" and off they went.  This is huge!  This is a major milestone; going to the corner store on your bike with your brother, ALONE!  I can't believe this day is here!  And they returned with much candy and without major incident or problems.
This was super cool.

I went for a bike ride today.  I did 6.9 Kilometers, and FOOK my ass hurts.  How do you bicycle people do it???  Mainly my tailbone but some other parts didn't fare so well either.  I will leave details to your imagination.

However, did you catch that news I tucked in there?  I went for a bike ride.  Okay, so here is my deal.  Since injuring my knee snowboarding in February, I have not been able to run.  I mean, who's kidding anyone, I wasn't running anyways because I just didn't have any oomph for exercise.  Which is weird, because I've always been active.  But the birth of baby #4 just took all my active and after a brief burst last fall (which I blogged about, of course--neglecting to mention when I fell off that wagon straightaways), I just quit.  I tried to get anxious about it, but it didn't really work.  I know myself too well.  I KNEW I would get back in shape again, and it would just be a matter of time before I worked out the logistics of how and when and where.  In the meantime, patience.  I was kind to myself.  Wasn't that nice?  Well, nobody can accuse me of trying to get back into shape too soon after having a baby, that's for sure this time.  But sixteen months old is apparently a good place to start.  After baby #4.  Can I just mention again that she's baby #4?  Yes, thank you.  That will help temper my fear of judgment for outing myself for taking so long to get back at it this time.
I actually DID want to start earlier but my knee injury got in the way.  Until very recently, I absolutely could not run on it.  It still hurts if poked, or if I lie on my right side (because my knee then rests on the mattress exactly where my injury is), but it no longer flares up all big and ugly when I exercise.

Also, Brent and I have made ourselves a competitive get-in-shape competition, and I am kicking his ass so far.  By October I want to run 10 K without stopping in the Run for the Cure, AND lose 10 lbs.  Brent wants to lose his, ahem, extra belly tire, and possibly get so someone could see muscle there.  Like, a six pack?  Or even just four.  Or two!  He informs me.  So far I'm winning simply because I went for a run on Friday and a bike ride today, so I'm two workouts ahead of him, who has not started.  (Ha, ha.  LOserrrrrr!).  Of course my run on Friday was run 5 minutes, walk 5 minutes, for a grand total of 30 minutes so I have a long way to go, but it was something!  And I'm happy about that.  I'm apprehensive about the 10 lbs weight loss goal because those of us with diabetes nipping at our heels find weight to be remarkably sticky.  But 10 lbs would put me pre pregnant weight from RILEY so I would be very happy with that, and hopefully able to get another 5-7 lbs beyond that but one thing at a time here, and lets be realistic with October looming in my mind.

I will keep you posted on my progress, because accountability helps.  So far, weight lost: 0 lbs.  Exercise: 30 minute walk/run and 35 minute bike ride.  Tomorrow I'm going to an aerobics class because I WAY prefer to have someone stand in front of me and tell me what to do than to try and motivate myself all by myself.  And I want to mix it up to keep things interesting.  AND my abs are atrocious to the point of making it painful for me to run so I need some abs work and aerobics is pretty good for that, for me.  Woot!

Today Amarys looked at our fruit bowl, said, "Nana?" and picked up a banana and handed it to me to peel it for her.  What happened to my baby?
Also, she's the church nursery terrorist now.  Today in nursery she bit another toddler.  Hello, Universe?   If you put HALF the peaceful personality mixed in with HALF the intense personality, you have a NORMAL KID.  Instead, I have 2 ridiculously peaceful laid back born knowing how to share, be generous, and have empathy, and 2 mayhems.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Jason King, 1981-2012

This is my friend Jason.  I met Jason in Squamish BC when I transferred to the ambulance service there in the spring of 2007.  I immediately liked him because he was warm and kind, and remarkably funny.  Not everyone I worked with was as quick to make newcomers to the station feel welcome and, being sort of shy and emotionally backward, I appreciated it.

Squamish is not so busy an ambulance station, so we had lots of down time.  This was a festering pot for either whining and infighting, or developing friendships.  Jason and I managed the latter.  We hit it off, as Jason has the type of personality that I relate to the best~ self depricating, killer humor, open to adventure, deeply accepting, and naturally empathetic.  He is very metro.  He loves attention, from all camps, and spends lots of energy on his personal sense of style, which pays off, and which he manages to do without developing a superiority complex.  He is positive and open, and just so kind. 

He found his vocation in paramedicine, let me tell you.  Our job is full of the unexpected, and lots of adrenaline, which he loved.  Every patient got his full focus, and each got the full depths of his remarkable, natural empathy.  Actually he was equally empathetic to patients' family members, explaining everything to them and helping them deal with the situation at hand, without losing time in an emergency.  Jason was killer smart.  Like, smart enough for any field of medicine, but his love of adventure and semi-immediate gratification drew him to the ambulance service and it was a perfect fit.

I'm having trouble writing this in the proper tense.  Jason died this week, in a 4x4 accident at Whistler.  Like I said, he loved adventure.  I keep writing in the present tense and having to correct myself but it feels so wrong that such a vibrant person would cease to exist after only 31 short years on earth that I can't bring myself to do it wholly, yet.  Of course, Jason is/was so much more than his job.  He has so many friends from all walks of life, it is ridiculous.  He loves parties and good music.  He owns an enormous 1960s record player that looks ridiculous in his livingroom but is a source of immense pride (and a part of that whole sense of personal style I was talking about).  He had perfect hair (always; another of my medic friends wrote a tribute to his hair).  He was gorgeous. 

Although we were nearly the same age, we were at different life stages, and I felt very maternal towards him.  He loved hearing stories about my kids and talked about how cool being a mother must be.  We played hours of Axis and Allies, which he always won, and War (the kids' card game), and Go Fish, and just gossiped like crazy.  Jason introduced me to Nando's chicken, and how to get out of work scot-free.  He was a very hard worker, don't get me wrong, but he wasn't above skipping out on a boring, non lucrative Kilo night shift here and there.  He showed me how to extricate a spinal patient in the snow, and how to secure an IV bag for a ridiculous amount of bouncing and rattling on high mountain roads between Squamish and Vancouver.  We talked about how life beyond work was the most important thing, and how family was everything.  And adventure.  Never say no to an adventure, no matter how risky, and always volunteer for helicopter transports when the opportunity arises.  =)

I'm astonished that he is gone.  It feels like I had the wind knocked out of me, and I just can't wrap my mind around his accident, as though it was a movie and not real life.  How can you die at 31, with so much life yet to live, and so much charisma, and confidence?  So suddenly?  On the one hand, sudden is good.  There is remarkably less suffering.  But on the other hand, none of us got to say goodbye.  It hurts, more than I can say.  I feel for his family, and his closest friends.  And I feel for me.  It is a loss that hit me deeply.

Jason, since I never got a chance to say goodbye to you in life, here is what I would have liked to say~ You are a beautiful human being.  I admire you.  The world will never be the same since you were on it, and your mark on the world was as large as if you lived a thousand lifetimes.  I love you.  Thank you, for making me laugh so many millions of times, and pulling the best out of people in front of me, and for seeing the humanness that needed love and compassion in all the people we cared for, and for seeing ME as valuable and worthy.  Thank you for your love of adventure, and for not wasting a single moment of this short life.  Thank you for falling off the toilet in Squish so hilariously the day you broke it.  And thank you, thank you, thank you for being so authentically, genuinely, you.  Love, love, love, my friend.  May you find many wonderful adventures in heaven.  ♥

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Update on Flylady

I spent my evening jammin'.  Not the musical kind.  It was a gong show: I took the kids to the beach with my BF and her kid today and we got home around dinnertime, FAMISHED.  I whipped up pizza and it was totally from a box and I'm not even ashamed.  =P
Anyways, we had picked 20 lbs of strawberries today so I had to jam and freeze this evening, so I figured I'd get started on the jam after supper.  Riley and Amarys slept in the van on the way home from the beach and my older two can handle a later night, so I figured I had some time.  I got all the ingredients and supplies out and went to start, and realized I didn't have any sugar.  Groan.  I had ensured I had the correct size of lids and some pectin and everything; but I forgot sugar.  So, back to the store for sugar.  Fortunately it was on sale.
Then I made jam, got it to the jar stage, and realized my lids were the WRONG SIZE.  FTR, don't ask your hubby over the phone "Do I have small jar lids in the cupboard?" and expect your answer to be anywhere near accurate, because that is just kind of mean to do to someone who has never canned anything in his life.  He did get the pectin part correct, to his credit.
SO, back to the store for lids, while my hot jam cooled in the pot (drat!) and my hot jars cooled in the water (double drat!!) making the whole scenario this nutty circus.
Did I mention that Brent was working?  Oh yes.  This is me, four kids, twenty pounds of strawberries, 78 mm lids, and fiftythousand trips to the store.  HAWESOME!
So I finished the jam at 10 pm, put Amarys to bed because at this point she was pulling out my hair from the Ergo and pretty much begging me to let her sleep, put Riley and Matthew to bed, laid down next to Ayden so he could sleep (still with the anxiety), and nearly fell asleep myself.  But I knew I still had to face The Kitchen.

But you know what?  It wasn't that bad.  It took me only about 15 minutes to clean it, and another 10 to scour every spot of jam off the walls and cupboards and sink edges.  We have a bad tendency towards ants in our kitchen this year so every bit of strawberry had to go.
The reason it wasn't that bad is because of the Flylady.  Remember when I discovered her house cleaning system in around November or so?  And she helped me to rearrange my tasks and my time so that my house was drastically cleaner and I spent FAR less time cleaning it?  Yeah, well, I have to tell you I'm a convert.  I love Flylady.  I want to evangelize her to everyone I know =P  It still works!  It is hard for me to describe exactly how overwhelming my house was before, and I defnintely don't have any 'before' photos because, well, I was frightfully ashamed of how it looked and didn't want it recorded.  Now I wish I had a before photo, just so I could say "SEE?  I was like this and now I'm like THIS!!"  Not for lack of effort, trust me.  I spent hours and hours cycling in inefficient housekeeping systems and never got anywhere.  And I still have areas that need work; especially the bedrooms.  But seriously?  These are small routine glitches that I just need to form a solution for.  My house in general, especially the communal living spaces, is clean.  Not just tidy with piles everywhere waiting for attention, but CLEAN!  My sinks are all clean!  My toilets are clean!  My floor is clean!  My kitchen counter is clean!  All at the same time!  I never have to clean the kitchen before I can cook!  People come over and I don't clean up for them because IT'S ALREADY CLEAN!
Oh. My. Gosh.

Please do not think I am bragging.  I'm not; I'm ASTONISHED.  I always valued cleanliness, I just didn't know how to GET it.  Particularly with four kids and a man who, when he sets foot in a room, things crawl out of their rightful places and rearrange themselves behind him in some variation of abject chaos.  A man who will STILL say, after 10 years of marriage and four kids, "But it is not mine!" when I point out an item I wish he would put away.  Like, how many fucking times have I picked up an item that wasn't mine in this marriage?  He's not being facetious or sarcastic, either.  He's dead serious.  As though pointing out that an item doesn't belong to him is actually a valid argument as to why he doesn't put it where it belongs when he is A FATHER OF FOUR CHILDREN.
But I'm not bitter.

Anyways, as I was saying I used to puzzle over why my house was so messy, until my puzzler was sore.  And it wasn't til Flylady that I figured it out.  I used to tackle housework projects on a case by case basis.  Today I will clean the bathroom, for instance.  And I would spend an hour in there scrubbing and cleaning baseboards and shining the faucet and dusting and still dissatisfied I could never get it totally clean.  Meanwhile the kitchen was sitting there, full of dirty breakfast dishes, waiting for me, and laundry piles everywhere, and no hope of getting down TO the floor to vacuum it, no sirree.  Let alone the spare bedroom.  Dudes, I so did not have time.
Flylady taught me that a better system is to actually break each area down into small pieces, and tackle these more often.  I get up, get dressed, and clean my bathroom sinks and toilets.  Because I do this every day (or nearly), it takes only 2 minutes.  Then, I empty the dishwasher from the night before.  First thing in the morning.  That way the breakfast dishes go right in the dishwasher and I have a clean kitchen.  Then I do one load of laundry and make beds.  Another 5 minutes, per task.  Then I'm done for the morning cleaning.  I do other things.  I play.  I crochet.  I take the kids to the park.  I meet my BF for coffee if Brent is home.  I grocery shop or go to meetings (endlessly with the meetings) at the school about Matthew.  I garden.  I tidy the deck or the yard.  Something other than housework!
Later in the day, I do one "Flylady task."  This is a 15 minute project like wiping down the kitchen cupboards or the bathroom doorknobs, which tackles an extra.  One of those extras I always SAW but never GOT TO because I was so busy working my way to the bottom of an endless pile of top priority housework tasks, working on one at a time until they were 'finished,' which of course with damn housework is an elusive goal.  Then, after the Flylady task, I am supposed to declutter an area of my house for 15 minutes.  I rarely do this.  I don't really know why, except that I am an extremely busy woman and I always get distracted or tired before declutter time.  Sigh.
When I go to make dinner, the kitchen is already clean because I unloaded the dishwasher so it was easy to KEEP CLEAN!  Who knew?  Focus on the key task and all your other tasks fall into place.
I'm pretty sure most of you are like, well DUH that's the way it works but I'm so serious I had no idea how to do it before.  Key components: setting the timer~all flylady tasks are broken down into 2, 5, 10, and 15 minute chunks.  When I'm tidying an area, if I know I only have 15 minutes to do it in, I run.  Without the time crunch, I dawdle.  Also: if I'm not done the task but the timer goes off, I'm "DONE" in another sense and can leave that task and feel a sense of accomplishment.  Because it was the time I was finishing, not the task.
After dinner I tidy up and clear off 'hot spots' like the island counter in my kitchen, and I scrub my kitchen sink until it shines, dry it, and don't touch it again til morning.  Seriously, I wash my hands in the bathroom to avoid soiling my shiny sink.  =)  Then, in the morning, it smiles at me.  All shiny and perfect.  I LOVE IT.  This clean sink is another key component.  And a tidy sink is attainiable; even if my kitchen is messy and I'm too tired, I shine the sink, and I feel a sense of accomplishment.  I then fold my laundry (I've done another 2 loads throughout the day because with six people you must do three loads a day or else the emperor(s) will have no clothes, so to speak) while relaxing on the couch (after bedtime gong show, of course).  And the house is clean.

Since I started this system, only twice has the kitchen island gotten out of hand.  In both of these instances, I got sick.  And in both these instances, it was still better than my old normal, and the rest of my kitchen was tidy.

I also vacuum every Monday, mop, dust, recycle papers, change bedding, and wash the front and back doors (because the first impression for guests is your door and a clean one is more welcoming than a dirty one~brilliant!).  Each of these tasks only gets 10 minutes, so it's not a backbreaking neverending chore, yet it gets done every week!  Woot!  THIS I CAN DO!  Also, since cluing into how an efficient system works, I've started a few of my own variations of routines to keep things happening around here.  Like, I only take laundry downstairs to be sorted twice a week.  Saturday and Wednesday.  That way, it doesn't pile up into this huge job, and there's always enough downstairs to do three loads a day.  If I vary this system, someone always runs out of underwear.  Like today.  Camping threw a wrench in my rhythm.

Also key however, is not freaking out.  I know I will catch up again, because my system works.  I just have to do it again for a week and everything will fall back into place =)
Each day also has a focus; menu planning, or date night (we never do this at this point but someday I will; Brent's schedule varies so much and Flylady makes Fridays date night so half the time B is working.  I could change the day per week every week but I never remember), or cleaning out your purse.  I don't always do those but I'm getting there.  It's a slow gradual system of adding one more routine or task to your day, until suddenly your house is cleaner than its ever been and you do less work than you ever did.  CRAZY.
And like I say.  Bedrooms=disasters.  Playroom=disaster.  Spare bedroom=work in progress.  But I'm getting there.  This is so exciting for me and reminds me of when I learned to cook; I was so astonished all the time when I tried cooking something new and it turned out!  I'm learning to be tidy and it's working out!  I'm way less stressed.  It's awesome.
And things like ants in my kitchen; whereas before I would say, "OHMYFUCK there are ANTS IN MY KITCHEN it's because we are DIRTY PEOPLE I try so hard but we're DIRTY and there's DIRT and it's all DIRTY and if anyone really knew how dirty we are they would hate us.
But now, I will say, "Damn.  Those ants are industrious little bugs."  and smack them dead on my clean counter and KNOW it's not because I'm a dirty person.  It's just that bugs get in sometimes.

I hated the mess.  Now it is gone.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Back in Business

We went camping!  Ten days touring Vancouver Island, and it was AWESOME.  We SO needed a vacation, all six of us.  Wow.
I will post photos soon, I promise!

While we were gone, our nest of birdies learned to fly, and their home is now empty.  Also, our lawn grew really long.  And spawned some clouds of mosquitoes.  Yech.

The last week in June Matthew went to see a pediatrician for a learning disability diagnosis.  She was GREAT!  She was very thorough, took an hour and a half to get to know us, ask tons of questions, start to build a rapport with Matthew, and do a quick physical exam.  She said she wanted to read the file we brought her in detail before diagnosing him, but handed us a stack of resources on ADHD.  We go back in August.

I'm learning a lot about ADHD.  It falls under the mental health umbrella, as opposed to the learning disability umbrella.  More boys have it than girls.  It is often associated with other disorders such as anxiety disorders, oppositional defiance disorder, and other behavioral and mood disorders.  Matthew decidedly does not have  problems with anxiety.  He has some mild features of ODD but in general is cooperative and cheerful (you know, when he's not stealing his friend's lunch).  Kids with ADHD often have difficulty sleeping, and move lots in their sleep.  This does not describe Matthew.  They often have difficulty with food and eating, and nibble and pick their food and are extremely picky and slow eaters.  CHECK.  In general, Matthew needs to be moving all the time.  I would never have described him as 'hyper' but I can see now after what I have learned that he doesn't have to be bouncing off the walls 100% of the time to have the 'H' in ADHD; it can manifest more as wiggly, fidgety, picking at oneself, etc.  But by far the strongest features for my Matthew are low impulse control/high impulsivity, and high distractibility.  These two features make it impossible for us to trust Matthew in traffic, for example.  Parking lots are nightmares.  Another mom I know whose kid has ADHD jokes that if she only had a buggy or a stroller that would fit her eleven year old she could rest assured of his safety.  =)  I can totally relate.  It is also difficult to trust Matthew in social situations.  He's charismatic and outgoing and knows how to charm people.  He can also sometimes be defiant, ornery, or passively aggressively rude.  Not to us, but to other people.  He has never fit the category of listens-better-to-adults-other-than-parents, which is fairly common.  Au contraire.  He will often simply ignore other adults when they correct his behaviour or redirect him, or ask him to do something.

Anyways, last time I was at book club, which was in early June, we discussed the book "Hold Onto Your Kids."  It is about attachment parenting and how the basis for many social problems in children and teens have some roots in insecure parent-child attachment.  There is a section in there on ADD kids and although the author acknowledges ADD/ADHD as an existing condition, he says that part of the underlying solution needs to involve paying some attention to strengthening the parent-child bond.

This book is hard for me, and the discussion at book club was even harder.  I'm not sure I ever feel fully understood as an adoptive parent to a child who has a condition like ADHD.  [except by rare people like my BF, or my sister or my mom].  The reason why it is difficult for me to read this book and discuss it at book club is that people make a great deal of assumptions and these assumptions consider my family's reality to be pretty askew in areas that are core values for me.  I've always vehemently believed in attachment based parenting even before I knew it had a name.  I just thought of it as intuitive.  Kids need love.  Affirmation.  To feel known and valued.  Lots of positive touch.  Cuddles.  Play.  Eye contact. Opportunities to learn.  Etc.  Then as potential adoptive parents you have to take courses and read books on adoption, and lots of the focus is on building attachment because it is so fundamental to emotional health to forge strong, reciprocal attachments in the early years of life.  Particularly when you adopt toddlers, which is what we did with Matthew.  We worked so hard on transferring his attachment to us, and on building a reciprocal one (which took years to consolidate), and I still spend a ton of my emotional energy on enforcing that attachment and my value of him as a human being who happens to be a most treasured child (to me, and to many others who love him).

Sure, we get frustrated with him.  Daily.  He is not easy to live with, nor easy to raise.  He is impulsive, compulsive, sneaky, self absorbed, finicky, LOUD, messy, rude, and relentlessly persistent.  And annoying.    But he is remarkable, and sparkly, and fun.  And the things you fight the hardest for, you treasure the most in life.  My relationship with him is one of my life's best accomplishments, and something I feel fiercely proud of and very protective of.  So to have someone write a book that says anything along the lines of your kid has an insecure attachment to you if he exhibits signs of ADHD?  Well, it's just plain old vicious how I feel inside.  PLUS, it just feels SO INACCURATE!  If I live inside my family and my head and my relationship with my son, and I KNOW HIM like only a parent can know him and I have read tons of theory and practice on attachment forging with adopted children, I think I'm a pretty reliable source when I say he does not have attachment problems.  Any of his current difficulties in school and socially stem from a learning disability, not problems with attachment.

It is hard too because this book describes many behaviours my child HAS and says if children have them, it is a sign of insecure attachment or misplaced attachment horizontally with peers rather than vertically with adults in his or her life.  Well, I'm sorry, but my child has difficulty because his brain is wired differently.  This in turn sometimes affects his relationships, but it is not caused by difficulties in his relationships.  I KNOW HIM.  He is wired differently.  Beautifully.  And differently.  Isn't variety the spice of life?  Can we not simply celebrate my son in all his differentness and find ways to support him as he grows and protect his small heart from feeling outcast, stupid, small, or unvalued?  Because that's my focus.  Alongside nurturing the already strong attachment we have with him.

In book club there is another adoptive mom, and she partly blames adoption for the types of behaviour that Matthew exibits, and features like not naturally desiring to be 'good' or driven towards positive behaviours  by an internal force.  I profoundly disagree.  She said that having their trust broken in early relationships marks kids forever, and they lose their inner drive to be 'good' or to strive towards deep attachment with their parents if they are adopted as toddlers or older children.  This essentially places all of Matthew's symptoms, which fit the ADHD category quite well, firmly under the category of attachment based emotional issues.  I disagree so much that hearing it over again in my head feels like fingernails on a chalkboard.  My child is affected by his early experience of having to transfer his attachment to us, YES.  But adoption does not cause ADHD.  And adoption is more positive and more healing and more restorative than that paradigm acknowledges.  Adoption brings to a child one of its fundamental human rights~in fact one of the most important of those rights~the right to a FAMILY.  A child living in an institution feels something lacking which s/he recognizes as a need fulfilled when adoptive parents show up to take them home.  Do they resist?  Often.  Is it easy?  No.  But adoption fills a void in the child's life that cannot be filled by anyone other than a momma, a daddy, and sometimes some siblings which tumble into an adopted child's life and fill it up with love.  There is healing power in that love, and the grafting in of adopted children into the family's heart is so full and complete that you would hardly know it is there.

Adopted children have feelings surrounding their identity, their early lives, and their biological parents which are a lifelong journey for them, emotionally.  I'm not trying to discredit that journey or make light of it, or make myself out to be a deluded adoptive parent whose paradigm exists ONLY if the bubble of my family remains unquestioned and unchallenged by my adopted child.  To the contrary, we are firm believers that open adoption widens families and broadens the definition of family to include biological relatives of our adopted child, to his benefit.  And ours, immensely.  We hope to support Matthew as he grows up and processes the fact that he was adopted, and if he wrestles with any aspect of identity we hope to support him in that as much as we possibly can.

But I'm talking about the healing power of love.  I watched Matthew fall in love with his daddy three days after we arrived in Thailand, and I knew it was because Matthew felt a void, saw Brent, and it was filled.  (As for me, he was already solidly attached to his foster mama, so I'm pretty sure he felt me fairly redundant, at first).  Kids in foster care here in Canada who are adopted often see a reduction or disappearing of many of their behavioural issues because they need stability, love, and family, and these needs are met when they are adopted.

We also believe in the healing power of God, and that the gaps we cannot fill for Matthew can be filled by Jesus.  We believe that when we are weakest as parents, God is strongest.  He works miracles, and one of the most beautiful miracles He ever created was the gift of adoption.  What better reflection of how God works than to build a family with grafted branches in it, the same way we are grafted into God's kingdom?  My heart and arms and family is full, and much of its fullness is the gift of Matthew.  He is happy.  He is authentic.  He is joyful.  He plays with a sparkle in his eye and a determination of spirit.  He loves me deeply.  He loves Brent deeply.  He feels secure.  He IS secure.  It drives me crazy that people around me consider Matthew and wonder about his attachment to us.  Partly because it is so close to a core value for me, and partly because it is so wildly untrue.

Can adopted kids carry wounds that don't fully heal?  Yes.  Does Matthew?  Yes, we believe so.  We believe that part of why he is driven to care for #1 so strongly at all times is because of a fear that if he doesn't, nobody will.  There IS a fundamental something that is marred by losing your primary attachments early in life.  But is it broad enough to undermine all future attachment?  Not for my child.  I say that observationally, not protectively.  But are his behavioural and learning problems rooted in adoption?  No.  No, no, no, no, and no.

I just had to say that.  And also to say that I'm very sensitive to peoples' thoughts surrounding children, adoption, attachment, and health or other problems my child may have, so I pick up on subtle clues as to what those might be.  Frequently I intuit a curiosity or wondering about love and adoption.  People wonder how can you love a child that is not your biological offspring?  They wonder if children are more damaged or harmed by adoption than we realize?  They wonder if my kid is wild 'for attention' or because he is adopted and thus somehow damaged.  They wonder how a child can feel secure in a family with skin a different colour than his?  They wonder if I'm strict enough?  Or too strict?  Or if we don't enforce boundaries consistently enough?  Or if my child's learning disability stems from insecure attachment?

It's not that I disagree with "Hold Onto Your Kids."  It's just that reading it makes me feel like shit.  It calls into question all of the work I've done and the focus of the last six years in building a strong reciprocal attachment with Matthew and blames forces beyond my control and offers solutions inappropriate to deal with my particular problem.  Is it good to question?  Absolutely.  But it is not good to rip apart someone's confidence (hard won) and then hand them the tools to glue it back together.  At least not when we are talking about parenting.  I need MORE tools, not fewer.  I need MORE support and education and grace and affirmation, not less.  I need to feel like I'm on the right track, and that a few new ideas might sweeten the pot, so to speak.  My parenting has always been based on intuition and love.  I don't need to knock that down and rebuild it.

Mostly, I need to meet some other ADHD parents, I think.  Teaching myself about ADHD and simultaneously teaching people around me and defending my parenting to myself (and others) is exhausting and takes away some of my most important energy reserves which are more appropriately directed towards helping my kid cope with his beautiful, spirally wired brain.  In a beautiful, linearly wired world.  I'm the translator here.  Hear me say:  My child is loved.
My child is loved,
he is loved,
he is loved.
He is steeped in it.  Every day.  Every hour.  Every dropped sock and lost lego piece and soapless shower.  Every bit.

Monday, July 2, 2012

All Parts Ridiculous: In Defense of the Bjorn

So, I have this beef with babywearer Bible thumpers.  What is that, you ask?  It's those people who thump the rest of us over the head with their babywearing rhetoric kind of like the Bible thumping preacher evangelist types who can't shut up about Jesus (FTR, I love Jesus.  I'm a silent Bible thumper.  I might pray for you, but I won't ring your doorbell and tell you about it).  In particular, I get quite angry when the thumpers get hoity toity about what kind of carrier you use.  Because a mainstream carrier couldn't POSSIBLY do the job adequately, there are several photos and some drawings of carriers shared overly freely on FB which villify this one:

There's statements which claim it to be non ergonomic, hard on baby's hips, and (this said with as much disdain as one can muster in the text only genre of the written word), obviously uncomfortable for baby.  This expression on Amarys' face says it all:

Dudes, you're so wrong

This is referred to unceremoniously as the 'crotch dangler' baby carrier.  Now hold your horses, for those of you who tout the superiority of other carriers, I also own one of these:

It happens to be my favourite carrier, and I have quite a few of them.  The reason I like the Ergo the best is because it is the most comfortable for me.  This is how much Amarys loves it:

She doesn't.

Amarys hates that thing, and she has since day one.  In fact, now that she is 15 months old, if she's bugging me to hold her while I make dinner and I just want some space from her?  I pull out my Ergo and buckle it around my waist and offer to put her in it.  She yells, "NONONONONONONONO!!" and runs away, and leaves me in peace.
She also hates this one:

This isn't the most fabulous example of me using the ring sling, since we are all bundled in winter jackets, but it is a good example of exactly what she does when she's in it.  Lean WAYYYYYYYY back trying to get away from me.  What does she love instead?  The Bjorn.

Happy as a clam.

I'm just saying that if that 'crotch dangler' is so uncomfortable, non ergonomic, and damaging to her hips, why is she so darn comfortable in it?  I mean, if you had a baby with hip dysplasia or a family history of it or something, you might want to double diaper before you use this thing.  Or better yet, stick to the Ergo since it forces baby's legs into the splits in a very uncomfortable manner if you ask me, but one that is better for HD. But normal hipped babies are just fine in here.  And I consider discourse regarding types of soft carriers to be decidedly first world problem debates.  

Women in Nambia are walking 8 miles a day for water and we argue that a $200 device that keeps your baby close to your body, facilitates breastfeeding, and allows them the option to face mommy or face the world is bad?  Pshhhhhhhhhhhhhht....

And for the sake of proving myself an idiot, here is a picture of Amarys HAPPY in the Ergo.  Which is still my favourite carrier of all time despite her particular distaste for it.  And this whole thing is a moot point anyways since she is far too heavy for me to cart around on my front anymore and I gave the Bjorn to my sister when Oliver was born.

Aren't I cute?  So close to the boobies....Yummy....