Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Liam and birthdays

Hilary's 40th birthday was spent sitting in an ER room with Liam while he went through his first migraine.  We were supposed to be sitting poolside at the hotel we had booked, but kids have the darnedest way of changing your plans.

My 45th birthday doesn't have the same pizazz as an ER trip. I just got to sit in the waiting room of our doctor's office so that this could be dealt with.


Last week while we were on vacation, Liam casually mentioned that his toe had mould on it.  Intrigued, I got up to check it out.  Yeah... that's not mould buddy.

After having already spent 3 hours of our vacation sitting in a walk-in clinic for his ear infection, I decided to attack the mould with peroxide and Polysporin till we got home.  He now has a 10 day course of antibiotics and ointment to try and clear it up.

Another birthday to remember.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Goodbye Elementary

We had a very busy and exciting day.  Fair, school picnic, a concert and Grade 6 graduation!  

This was Liam's last school fair.  Twice a year, for the past 9 years, we have attended a school fair where we got to see what Liam has been studying.  This semester they studied biomes. Liam's areas of study was mountains, with focus on Mount Everest and Snow Leopards.  He wrote a story about the two and Fair culminated in a book signing!




This year at the end of school picnic they had the grades 6-9 bands play for the crowds.  I had missed Liam's concert in February, so this was he first time I got to see him in action with the band.



After the concert, they gathered the graduating grade 6s all together and handed out their certificate.  Each kid then when through the line of their teachers and got a hug from each of them.





And with that, Liam has finished elementary school.  The adventures of Middle School will start in September.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Burgers

Even though there is STILL snow in our backyard, we decided to have burgers this weekend.  Not just any burgers, but homemade sliders, with homemade buns!  Hilary's Mum told us about a great potato burger bun recipe from Cook's Illustrated that she uses for burgers, so we gave it a go!


It's been a long time since we've made bread, but I think we are bitten with the baking bug again.


We had 3 different styles of sliders.

Bacon, cheddar and dill pickle.

Avocado and spicy Thai  pickle

Blue cheese and caramelized onions.


My favourite of the 3 was the Blue cheese and caramelized onions.  Hilary also made plain burgers for Liam.  When we were in the Dominican he was eating 4-6 sliders a day from the burger bar.  We didn't have a lot of hope that he would like them at home, but we thought we would give it a shot.  He scarfed both of his down in minutes and asked if next time we would make him 4!  You got it buddy!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ancestors

I have long struggled with the definition of "ancestor"

Webster's defines the word as "a person who was in someone's family in past times : one of the people from whom a person is descended".

As an adoptee this becomes a bit of a head scratcher. Are my adoptive parent's "people" my ancestors? They are my family. But so are my birth parents, and their people. Does ancestry imply a DNA connection? Or is it a weird bit of both?

There is a new show out (at least new to us) put on in part by Ancestry.com They help famous people research their ancestors and you get to follow along on their journey to find out if Great-times-8 Grandma was an axe murder or the local librarian. (Hint, in the episode we watched, she was an axe murderer!)

There seem to be 2 types of people doing the research. Group 1 finds out some trait about one of their ancestors and immediately decides that this is why they have that same trait. "I'm musical because I share 1/100th of my DNA with someone who sang in the church choir 300 years ago" or "I'm a strong believer in human rights because my great-great-great grandfather helped out with the Underground Railroad." Group 2 doesn't attribute their own successes/failures, likes or dislikes to their long dead kin, they just think it's cool to find out the history of people.

I find these shows uncomfortable to watch, mainly because of group 1. Knowing that my adoptive Great-Great-Great Grandparent did XY or Z really has no bearing on my ability to do the same thing. But I doubt it matters if my biological Great-Great-Great Grandparent could do it either. Do I get my sense of humour from genetics or being surrounded by funny people as I grew up? What makes me like animals, music, reading or anything else? Am I the product of my ancestors, or am I just only me?

When I was 11, I became very interested in tracing my adoptive family tree and spent a lot of time working on a big chart, filling it out from found obits and family stories. Since my adoption was during the closed-era, I had very limited information regarding my birth family and I figured I would never be able to find out anything about them. My interest with my adoptive family's history was very much an attempt to be able to connect with the past, any past. It felt important to me at the time to be able to say that these were my people and this is where I came from.

When I was 13 my mother, grandmother and I travelled to England to meet my grandmother's cousin. The trip was steeped in history, visiting gravesites and castle grounds where "our" ancestors had worked (we didn’t stumble across any long lost royalty, just a couple of gardeners). About halfway through the trip, I had a complete breakdown one night before bed. "I" had no ancestors. I didn't have any people that I came from. These stories and this history wasn't mine.

One of the few things that my birth mother sent me after we were reunited was 20+ pages of her family tree. She and her daughter that she raised had worked on it together for a school project long ago. She thought that I would like to see where I came from. It was a bitter sweet gift. Finally after 30+ years of not knowing where I came from, I was holding it all in my hands. But it didn’t mean anything to me. They were just names and dates on a piece of paper, with my name and birthdate penciled in like an afterthought. I realized that I had no connection to any of these people, even if we did share our genetic makeup.

It’s very difficult sometimes to feel like I belong and have a connection to the past. Other times it feels like my history starts with me, that there isn’t anything that came before me. I think I will follow the advice of Ralph Nader “We must strive to become good ancestors.”

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Checkers

Whether you are 6 or 12 years old, checkers with Grandpa on Easter weekend is always fun!




Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Out loud

Today is World Read Aloud Day.



One of my favorite times of day is the last hour or so before bed. For the past many years this has been the time that we read out loud. Hilary started the tradition by reading the entire Harry Potter series out loud to Liam. Actually, to both of us, because I would listen in too. It took just over 3 years to get through the whole series. Then I took over reading and we have made it through a variety of books. One of our favorite author’s is Kenneth Oppel  who hooked us in with his Sunwing series. Last night we finished one of his newest book’s, Boundless, a wonderful tale about a train full of adventure. Liam especially loved all the Canadian references (the Boundless starts out from Halifax and works its way across Canada) and it allowed us to have some great discussions on the building of the Canadian rail system, the involvement and treatment of the Chinese workers (one dead Chinese for every mile of track), racism against Métis people and the story of the last spike.

The books we read out loud are sometimes books that Liam could easily read to himself, and some may even be slightly below his reading level. We are starting on the 3rd series of books from the 39 Clues set, which Scholastic lists as being a grade 3-5 reading level. While this series is an “easy” read, they include a lot of history, geography and facts about world treasures. It opens up discussions about Russian Monarchs, the Sedlec Ossuary, Egyptian mummies, famous paintings and so much more. We often stop reading to turn to the internet to do more research on the topic in question.

I never thought that we would still be reading out loud once Liam was a tween, but it is something that we all enjoy and he is disappointed on nights that our schedule doesn’t allow us the time. I always equated reading out loud to kids with “bedtime stories”, something that you did when your child was young, and that they (and you) would eventually outgrow it. This article  lists 7 reasons why reading aloud to older kids is still very important. One of my favorite reasons is “life lessons”. So many times something has come up in a book that has allowed us to stop and have a great conversation about a topic we might not otherwise talk about.

The other out loud option that we love as a family is audio books. We listen to them in the car and at home. Liam has even been known to take his ipod and speakers into the bathroom while he has a bath so that he could keep listening to a story. We have the entire HP series on audio books and Liam (and I) will listen to them over and over, to the point that it feels like the reader Jim Dale, is member of our family.

We are getting ready for a weekly long trip for March break. We are going to be completely tech-free for 7 days, including no audio books. The dilemma is how many and which books to take with us? I’m envisioning us needing to dedicated an entire suitcase to our reading supply. This is not, however, a bad problem to be faced with, just a heavy one.

Do you read out loud to your kids? 
If you don’t anymore, what age were they when you stopped? 
If you do read out loud, what kind of books do you read?

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Evolution of Coming Out

Because society assumes that everyone is straight, those of us who are not end up having to “come out” and let people know that we are gay. I first started doing this when I was 19 and how I have come out has evolved fairly drastically over the years.

The first time I came out  was a horrible experience. It was in the middle of the AIDS epidemic  and around the time that the Ryan White story was first airing. Being out and gay was not considered a good thing and we were feared by many. The first person I told, in a letter because I couldn't bring myself to say it out loud, was my best friend. That was the last time I would speak to her for more than 20 years.*

Back then, coming out could also mean losing your job, which happened to me. You learned very quickly to read people, to sit back and wait before sharing personal details of your life.

Coming out got easier as society became more accepting. Luckily I live in one of the most accepting countries, as many LGBTQ people are not yet at a point where their coming out is easier. Many are still persecuted, or worse, if they do come out.

Coming out also got easier as I got older. I learned to fight for my rights, leading one company I worked for to include same-sex families in their new benefits packages that they were rolling out to employees. Before I spoke up it had never crossed their mind that they should.

Yet there were still difficult times. Canada may have passed anti-discrimination laws, made gay marriage legal  and as a whole seems like a very inclusive country. That doesn’t make every individual suddenly open minded and ready to embrace us.

I’ve had problems booking a motel room for our family of 3, with the owner insisting that since there was only one bed (Liam was going to sleep on the couch) that Hilary and I would need 2 rooms. I’ve had people physically step away from me, not wanting to shake my hand and I’ve had people who were previously friendly, chatting around the water cooler, suddenly avoid casual chit-chat before work.

Having worked at my last job for more than 10 years, and with Liam now in his 9th year at the same school, my opportunities for meeting new people and having to come out to them were fairly limited. When they would come up, a new kid joined Liam’s class or a new hire at work, I was surrounded by friends to whom I was already out and who were supportive. It made for a very safe and comfortable environment and I rarely gave much thought to “coming out” and would more likely simply refer to Hilary as if the new person already knew that our family was made up of two women.

Then 5 weeks ago I started a new job. Suddenly the prospect of having to “come out” to a whole group of people, people that I didn’t know anything about, was before me. That was when I realized not only how much I have changed in the past 25 years, but how much society has changed too. Not a single person batted an eye when I mentioned Hilary. No one stepped back or even made it seem like it was worth mentioning. I was telling them about my family the same way they were telling me about theirs. Every single one of them, regardless of their age, background, strong religious belief or nationality simply took it in stride that I was gay. They were more interested in the fact that my hair was blue.

I’m glad that as a society we have come so far. There are still many problems in our world to overcome, but for me at least, it seems that the evolution has taken me to a place that I no longer need to "come out" and I can just be me.



*We reconnected briefly on Facebook a few years ago. She, now the mother of 4, apologized for how she handled things and realized that being around someone who was gay was not what she had once feared. She hoped that she had grown enough as a person to not pass that negativity on to her children and that should any of them come out to her, that she could be there for them.