For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Moving On, and see what else has been going on.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Video: Angels We Have Heard On High (feat: Cody Carnes & David Osmond)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ups and Downs

Things have really been all over the place lately.

On the up side, we've transferred to a larger unit in our co-op.

Which is also a down side.

Moving sucks. 

We've gone from a 3 bedroom townhouse to a 5 bedroom townhouse.  We were able to use the last 9 days or so of the month to move, which we did slowly.  Very slowly.  We all got sick.  First, The Watcher got a mild cold.  She recovered quickly, though she did try to milk it for all she was worth at first.  I had a talk with her and she stopped the behaviour, which was a help.  Unfortunately, she passed the cold on to the rest of us.

Except her sister, Beetle Child, who got a UTI.  We'd been working with her on the bedwetting, with little success and a whole lot of stress on me.  Unfortunately, we couldn't get past the fact that she 1) didn't care and 2) had been convinced by her father that she was incapable of controlling her bladder.  We got rid of the pull ups, stopped putting a soaker directly under her, instead putting it under a plastic sheet, and otherwise threw in the towel and let her deal with the consequences.  That turned out to be a painful UTI (she'd had others before, without knowing it).  Though painful, she acted as if it were the end of the world.  At least she tried to.  She didn't get much of a rise out of us, so she tried it with her mother, which cut a visit short.  I have no doubt she was experiencing some pain, but the exaggerated performance ended before we even got home, and stopped entirely after that.  We weren't impressed, considering the stress we were going through with the move at the time, on top of myself, Eldest and Youngest being thoroughly ill.  Dh, thankfully, didn't catch it until *after* we got to the point that he could start sleeping in the new unit (he had to wait until our Internet got transferred, so he could work from home).

This is move number 18 for me, and it was the most difficult and stressful of all of them.  You'd think it would have been less stressful, considering we were moving such a short distance.  Except we were moving from a 2 floor unit, with an outside set of stairs that are equal to 1 1/4 floors, to a 3 floor unit with 2 indoor sets of stairs.  Plus, the old unit had the balcony stairs, which are split into 3 sections and equal about 1 1/2 floors.

I stopped and tried to calculate it when we were finally done.  In one 4 day stretch, I figure I walked the equivalent of 300 floors.  Or, should I say, 150 floors up, then 150 floors down.  There was the up and downing within the old unit, my frequent runs outside to and from various things, plus the stairs in the new unit, over and over again.  My last morning of moving, I did the equivalent of 30 floors of stairs in 2 hours, plus the walk between units, before I finally crashed and burned, scaring the heck out of Dh.  Dh was banned from helping because of his back problems, which have gotten worse lately, and Eldest and Youngest were both so sick that, at one point, I was the only one left who could continue packing and moving things, and even that was only because I medicated to the gills.  Eldest and Youngest, sick as they were, were amazing in getting things done.  I could never have managed without them.

But it's done now, and we're slowly unpacking.  The unit is so completely different from the previous one, it's difficult to figure out where and how to unpack.  Odd differences.  For example, we now have 3 bathrooms.  The first floor bathroom is a half-bath, just like the main floor bathroom in the old place.  The difference?  No medicine cabinet.  Plus, it's slightly narrower.  So we can't just move the stuff from one bathroom to the other; it doesn't fit.

Then there's this odd thing about the second floor bathroom, which is a 4 piece bathroom.  The sink is mounted off centre in the counter.  There is actually more counter space than our previous full bath, yet there is less storage space.  For some reason, instead of installing drawers under the part of the counter that doesn't have a sink in it, the drawers are on the opposite side.  The top drawer is only about 6-8 inches long, and the bottom one is maybe 10 inches long.  Barely anything fits in either of them.  Meanwhile, the cupboard doors beside them still have some of the piping running through part of the space, so even that section doesn't have as much room as our previous bath.

As if that weren't strange enough, the toilet is so close to the counter, my arm rubs against it when I use it, but there's plenty of space between the toilet and the tub.  I'm thinking the counter got extended at some point.  Whatever the reason, the lack of space means there's no way we could put in our over the toilet shelf, even if we still had it.  It didn't survive the move.  There's also no place to put the cart we were using for towels nd washclothes.  We'd kept it below the towel rack before, but now there's a toilet roll holder in that space.  It does at least have a medicine cabinet but, again, there's no way we can simply transfer one bathroom to another.

Then there's things like getting rid of our desk.  It was a great desk, but huge and heavy.  It couldn't go upstairs, where we have the computers and Internet hooked up (Dh now has a workstation in the master bedroom, where we have also been finally able to assemble the weight machine we got for him as part of his physio).  As our new unit has a ground floor front door, the girls' mom will be able to visit us, so we want to keep it as open as possible for her to be able to maneuver her wheelchair (we even have little ramps we can put down to make it easier for her to get in and out!).  So, no more desk, which means all the stuff that was in and on the desk is now homeless.

On the up side, Eldest and Youngest have the entire 3rd floor to themselves, including a bathroom that is bigger than the bedroom I've converted into my office/crafting room.  Three of the 5 bedrooms are huge, and Eldest even has a balcony, where Youngest will be doing gardening in the spring.  Eldest tried to put a priority on setting up her art desk and supplies, so she could get back to work as quickly as possible, but it still took a while.  She almost used up her entire buffer of pages before I was able to get the computer and scanner set up for her to get new ones up and ready.  Youngest, meanwhile, finally has her own private space, with room enough to practise her guitar (though we still can't afford to start her lessons up again).  She plans to get herself a rocking chair, so she can sit in a corner and rock while working on her crochet.

Then we had an upside that turned into a downside.  There was actually a possibility that The Watcher and Beetle Child's mother could move into our co-op, as several accessible units came available at the same time.  Unusual enough on its own, but even more unusual because nobody died, which is how accessible units usually come available.  The units are all 2 or 3 bedrooms.  The accessible units typically have a multi-year waiting list, and their mom has been on it for at least 2 years.  In fact, the only reason she lost the girls to their dad was because there were no accessible units with care staff like we have, anywhere in the city.  Her membership was approved in general, and a 2 bedroom unit had been set aside for her, but the care staff and provincial home care had to approve it, too.  Everything was looking good, and we were actually looking forward to helping her move in the next few weeks.  That would have allowed the girls to see their mom every day, if she were up to it, and we were even planning on transitioning them to her on a permanent basis over the next year or so.  Then home care determined her needs were too much for our care staff and didn't approve the move.  How utterly disappointing, and extremely frustrating.  There's a lot behind it I won't mention here, but I'm pretty pissed off over some of the reasons she got turned down.  There's another major down side to this happening, too, but I am not going to write about it here.  At least not yet. 

Aside from all that, the new girls have been doing really well.  One of the huge changes is that, in the last while, they have been doing a lot of truly creative play, and without having to have someone walk them through things.  At home, they've actually started playing with their Lego creatively, which they hadn't been before (how does a child not figure out things to do with Lego??), they've both started reading for pleasure, and their imaginative play has become more... well, imaginative!  With their mom, they have been doing lots of arts and crafts type things and playing games and discovering that math doesn't have to be boring and painful, but can actually be fun and useful.

There are still issues, of course.  A lot of them are the sorts of issues one would normally expect for a 9 and almost 8 year old, but made more complicated by the damage done to them by their dad.  Their speech problems are still an issue, but it will take time and a lot of effort for those to be helped.  Their vocabulary is increasing, yet sometimes they both suddenly play dumb and don't know the meanings of words they know and have heard and used themselves, many times.  Beetle Child had stopped bedwetting for a while, what with the UTI and all, only to start up again for no conceivable reason; she went from being pleased with herself for being able to hold it all night, to not even bothering to use the toilet before bed, then wetting herself in less than an hour after lying down.

A much more dramatic improvement is in their learning how to communicate in a more direct manner.  They had picked up on their dad's habit of talking in circles around what they actually wanted to say, rather than say it directly.  That resulted in utter and complete incoherency at times.  Now they are learning to stop and think through what they want to say, and to say it concisely, rather than the verbal diarrhea they were doing before.

All in all, the improvements are huge, which sometimes makes the difficulties which remain that much more incomprehensible.  Every now and then, they just seem to regress.

Monday, October 07, 2013

A bit of Time

Gosh, it's been ages since I've posted.  At the moment, I've got all of 15 minutes before I have to start heading out again, but I thought I would take advantage of the time with a quick update.

Things have been... interesting.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, we're restarting our home school journey as The Watcher (almost 9) and Beetle Child (7) have joined our household.  For how long, we don't know.

The summer has been difficult due to their father turning out to be a serious problem, even while out of the country.  As we've learned more about the level of neglect, psychological abuse and even physical abuse the children suffered while living with him, we've had to deal with threats, police, children's services, the courts and more.  At this point, I'm really, really glad I have kept this blog and my main blog anonymous, too.  I truly believe that, even though their father is still out of the country, he is a real threat to the safety of our family and his own children.

As for our home school plans for the year, one thing we've decided is to stay well away from anything formally "academic."  Especially with math.  There's a fair bit of trauma associated with math.

Instead, despite the fact that they have always been home schooled, we are going through a period similar to "de-schooling."  They're taking part in a 1 day a week home school supplemental program with a Waldorf school their mom was able to get them into, which is interesting and seems to be doing the girls some good, even if I do find them a bit on the creepy side - a tale for another time!  They're also taking part in a group program for children who have suffered traumatic loss of a parent, whether through death or divorce.  That program is just for 10 weeks.  They seem to be enjoying it as well.  I've been taking part in the parent's portion in place of their mother, which is something that is not normally how it works, but our situation is rather unusual. 

In other areas, we're looking to get them individual counseling, but that will require a court order, and building up more legal walls to protect the children from their father.  They no longer want to communicate with him at all anymore, and have even asked not to be told if there is any communication from him of any kind.  They have been much happier and relaxed since then.  Thankfully, after serving him with documents letting him know he faces a civil suit, criminal charges and a restraining order from us, he has stopped trying to contact us at all.  Instead, he's started contacting their mother again and has been threatening her if she doesn't give in to his demands for unrestricted, unsupervised access to the children.  That's not going over very well for him.  I'm not sure what's more amazing - that he thinks he can get away with this behaviour, or that he thinks anyone would actually give in to his demands.  He still portrays himself as some sort of victim, and the only person who actually cares for the children.  Obviously, he doesn't believe how he parented them was at all neglectful or abusive.  After all, he loves his children!  You can tell, but all the shoes they have (almost all of which turned out not to fit) and clothes they have (many of which are shockingly inappropriate for the children or don't fit properly).  Because love is measured in the things you buy, which apparently can make up for abusive and neglect.  Funny, that.

We're also working on teaching the girls how to speak properly, as they didn't have proper speech or grammar, not to mention the ability to communicate thoughts coherently, modeled for them.  Speech therapy should be in order, but I have to figure out how to do that, as we can't afford to pay for something like that out of pocket.

Now it's time for me to get them ready to go to their group program.  The Watcher is proud to have learned how to tie the laces on her new shoes properly.  What.  She's only turning 9 this month.  It's normal for a 9 yr old to not be able to tie her own shoelaces, right?


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Fun times, difficult times

First, I'll start off with the good stuff!

Youngest has been doing well with her driving lessons.  In her last lesson, she parallel parked for the first time and did it perfectly, except that she stopped a couple of times rather than doing it in one smooth move.  It turns out her instructor has come up with a mathematically precise method for parallel parking.  After describing it to her, she followed it and it worked perfectly!  She's described it to me and I *think* I understand it, but I'm not sure.  I don't parallel park very often, so I haven't had a chance to try it myself.

Eldest and I had our first sales day at the event that will be happening every Saturday.  With the weather, we ended up indoors and some artists never showed.  Still, we had traffic and people who came specifically to see the sale.  No one bought anything from any of us, but I hope the word spreads.  We've got word of a couple of other events, some my stuff doesn't qualify for but Eldest will be able to take part in. 

On Father's Day, we had plans to go to some botanic gardens run by a local university.  Dh had asked for it as his Father's Day gift, as we haven't been in years.  In the end, he had to stay home as he was in too much pain, but he encouraged us to go anyhow.  Youngest stayed home with him, but I went wtih Eldest, The Watcher and Beetle Child.  The girls had a blast right from the start as we left the city and drove through farm land and small towns to get there.  The gardens are extensive and there was no way we'd be able to see all of it (we've been there several times in the past and still haven't seen all of it), but we got the big ones - a wetlands area, some different temperate zone gardens, a butterfly garden and finally a gloriously groomed Japanese garden.

On Monday, the girls got to spend most of the day with their mom, then they got to see her again on Tuesday, which is pretty darn awesome!  It's so good to see them being able to spend time with her.  Their behaviour and attitudes are noticeably changing.  Perhaps the most obvious change we're seeing is how they are responding to the other residents at the care centre.  They had been taught by their dad to avoid the residents for fear of catching whatever they had, and when a resident greeted them, they would turn away, avoid eye contact and ignore them.  Now, they're talking to people and getting to know some of them, and are so much happier!  It's been an amazing thing to see.


I finally got an email from their dad on the Saturday.  He apologized for not contacting us sooner, explaining that he had to search for a company with month to month internet rather than yearly contracts, so it took a while.  He mentioned some things about his father's condition and, to be honest, it sounds really off.  I have no idea what his father is supposed to be sick with, but the combination of things he mentioned just don't make sense.  Ah, well.

Then he said that he wanted to Skype with the girls on Sunday at noon.  He's never asked us when would be a good time before, but until now, it had never been an issue.  Since we were already planning on the trip to the gardens and wouldn't be home at the time he wanted, I wrote back saying we wouldn't be there and gave an evening alternative, or a Monday morning alternative.

I ended up going to see the girls' mom that evening and arrived as she was reading an email from him that had just come in.  It was mind blowing!  One of the most vile, disgusting emails I've encountered.  He repeatedly went on about how much he hated her, how much he wished she were dead, etc. etc.  It was so bad, she's planning to get a restraining order for when/if he comes back.  So completely different from the relatively polite email I had received just a short time before.  Wow.

I didn't hear back from him about the alternate times until Monday night, though I sent him an email on the Sunday night with a link to a photo set I'd put online, as there were so many photos.  I logged onto the girls' Skype account at the times I'd suggested, just in case.  I didn't hear from him until Monday night.  This time, the email was far less polite.  He objected to the photos being online, which is fine, but then went on about how the photos of the girls belonged to them and should only be on their computer.  He then proceeded to make accusations and insults about various things, then making vague threats if I don't do what he wants, then telling me what day and time he wanted to talk to the girls.

I answered his email and put him straight about a few things, from the copyright on the photos to calling him on his insults and threats, pointed out his ungrateful attitude towards those trying to help him and told him to never threaten me again.  I have not heard back from him.

The day and time he asked for worked for us, though, and that was this morning.  I set The Watcher and Beetle Child up on their laptop and we waited.

And waited.

After more than half an hour, I logged them out and shut everything down.

Interestingly, while the girls were clearly looking forward to talking to him, they didn't seem as excited as the first time we tried this.  When he didn't show up, they didn't express any disappointment, either.  They just made a few questioning comments about why he might not have been able to log on.  Then we had lunch, Eldest painted their nails, and now they're watching Avatar - Eldest has the entire series, and they've been really enjoying working their way through it all.

So now what?  I don't know.

The poor girls.  As much as I dislike the man, the girls want to talk to their dad, and this is incredibly unfair to them.

I really hope this all works out well in the end, but I can't even imagine what "works out well" would even look like at this point.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Cars, Courts and Communications

Lots and lots of running around lately.  This is wreaking havoc on our gas budget! *L*

Youngest has started her driver's instructor training - all of one session so far, but another in the morning.  I was also able to get her a bit of driving time for her to log in as well.  She's got a card to mark down how much time she drives, including with the instructor.  The driving school recommends 50-60 hours of driving time before taking a road test.  She's definitely a lot more comfortable behind the wheel after just the one session.  I'm hoping to be able to give her more opportunities to drive, but the limitations of her learner's license make it a bit difficult at times.  Ah, well.

Also, the vehicle she gets to drive during her sessions is a lot smaller than our minivan, and handles quite differently.  I'm glad to see her awareness of the differences.  Learning to drive on a larger vehicle will sure help with her confidence, I think!


The Watcher and Beetle Child have been doing well.  We had a bit of a breakthrough, though I expect other incidents like this over the next while.  The Watcher had been moody and taking it out on people; especially her sister.  Eldest called her on her behaviour, asking her what was wrong.  At first, The Watcher said there was nothing wrong.  Then it was because she was missing her dad.  Then it was because she wanted a Popsicle.  No, actually, it was because she really missed her dad...

Eldest could see that these answers were not genuine and, after making sure she knew that we wanted to help, but that we couldn't help if we didn't know what was really wrong, she finally told The Watcher to go to bed and have some down time to think about it.  Then she came to me, suggesting I try talking to her, which I had already decided to do.

It didn't take long.

When I got there, The Watcher was clearly upset and on the verge of crying.  I invited her to sit with me on her sister's bed (since I can't climb up on the top bunk!) and gave her a hug. I told her I was sure that missing her dad was part of what was wrong, but that I thought maybe she was feeling angry, too.  After asking a few questions, it all started to pour out.  She started to talk about court dates, and how she feared that when her dad came back, she could only see him at limited times, as they already do with their mom.  She was upset because he had promised to spend a whole day with them before leaving, then suddenly he was at the airport and gone.  She was upset about not knowing when he would be coming back.  Basically, it was just all bubbling inside her.

I told her it was perfectly understandable for her to be having so many confused feelings, and that she and her sister have had to deal with a lot of things they really shouldn't have to be dealing with as such young ages.  I ended up sharing some stories from my own family to help explain how sometimes, things don't turn out the way we want them to, but we have to deal with what we've got.  I told her that, while we could hope that he would be back in a few months, we really don't know much of anything, so their mom and I have to plan for all sorts of possibilities.  I made sure to tell them (her sister had joined us by then) that we were glad that they could be with us, and that we would make sure that they were taken care of, no matter how things worked out.

By the end of the conversation, she was feeling a lot better, and even laughing and joking.  We got some cuddles in and were able to move on.

After that, there was a noticeable improvement in her behaviour.  In fact, the last time I saw their mom, she commented that she has noticed positive changes in both their behaviours in just this short length of time.  They're really starting to open up and blossom. 

On top of this, I joined their mom for a court date the other day.  This was something the dad had instigated.  This was actually a follow up session, as the court wanted more time to look at the files and have a longer time in court to deal with the issue.  The dad, who was representing himself, has apparently blocked the email addresses from the lawyer, refused papers he was served with and not picked up registered mail he had been sent, all of which was information he needed to be able to represent himself.  He made a vague attempt to cancel the court date but, when told the process he needed to go through to do so, didn't.  He never told anyone but us and the girls that he was even gone.  He cut communication off with them entirely. 

Needless to say, the court session went well for their mom!  Most of it will have no affect on him until he comes back, and nothing has been taken from him.  The big thing for me is that the court has appointed me interim guardian.  This will make things much easier - for example, I can sign the home school registration papers for the girls.  I have joint decision making with their mom.  If he's gone for 6 months or more, I can apply for full guardianship, which would be a simple process under the circumstances.  Whatever the situation is with the dad, as long as he's gone, their mom is the only person who has any legal responsibility for the kids and, with MS being the illness that it is, there's no predicting how her health will progress over the next few months.  Hope for the best, plan for the worst.  If something happens to her, I can now still take care of things.  I just have to wait on the court documents to be sent to me to make it official.  Well, it's already official.  I just need the paperwork as proof.

As for their dad, we have heard nothing from him since the phone call I wrote about in my last post.  He has not responded to the emails I'd sent (it's unlikely that he still has had no Internet connection of any kind in all this time).  He has not tried to call again.  He had been at his brother's when he called, but we have no way of knowing if that's where he still is.

At this point, he's completely vanished.

Who knows what will happen next.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Oh, man...

... these poor kids.

Today, Youngest and I went out for tea and what was supposed to be a driving lesson (which got skipped, because she is having troubles with her eyes.  We're going to have to take her back for another eye test).  This was the first chance I've had to talk to Youngest about some of the things she's had to deal with since our two new charges have joined us.

I've also decided on handles for them.  The 7 yr old is the Beetle Child, because when she goes to bed she curls up like an adorable little beetle.  I have to fight the urge to squee every time I see her do it. *L*  The 8 1/2 yr old is The Watcher.  We're not sure what's going on yet, but she has a tendency to come up and just... watch.  She doesn't say anything, though she looks like she's about to.  When asked, she says she doesn't want anything.  She just... watches.

Which is disconcerting when I discover her behind me while I'm on the computer checking my email, and I find she's trying to read it over my shoulder.  I've had to explain to her that reading over some one's shoulder uninvited isn't a good thing, but it's especially not a good thing to be reading other people's email.  Her response?  "That's your email?"


So.  Back to today's chat with Youngest.

The other day, while I was out with Eldest for a couple of hours, Youngest was home with Dh and the girls.  The girls had been promised that we would use their Blizzard machine to make some blizzards before the packets it came with expired.  Since Eldest and I were out and Dh's back has gone downhill again, that left Youngest to take care of it.

The machine had never been used before, so Youngest first had to wash it, then assemble it, use a hammer to crush ice cubes in a bag, and finally set it up so they could take turns working the machine.  When finished, she doled out the resulting treat, which they ate with gusto. Then she cleaned it all up afterwards.

The entire time this went on, they managed to be in the way at every step of preparation, from blocking the path between kitchen sink and table to hammering to assembly, etc.  They completely ignored her requests for space.  They were also dismissive, displayed a demeanor Youngest described as extremely entitled and not once did they thank her for what she did, nor show any sort of appreciation for all the work she did to prepare everything and do everything. 

Youngest told me that, for the first time in her life, she was angry enough to cry!  Rather than take it out on the girls, she want for a very long walk.  At least a couple of miles.

When I found out a bit about it, I had a chat with the girls and let them know that Youngest was very hurt and angry about what happened, and that she deserved both thanks and an apology.  When she got back, they did thank her for her help (though I don't recall hearing either apologize) and one of them had whipped up a bracelet for her as a gift.

I don't know that they actually got anything out of it, though.

So that was one thing Youngest filled me in on.  The other was about a conversation of sorts she'd had with the girls one night.

I don't recall at the moment if I mentioned that their father is a Muslim ... of sorts.  He doesn't seem to be much of a practicing Muslim, other than in some of the things he tells the girls and that he expects them to do.  Some of these things are not really part of Islam, and some are actually haram - forbidden by Islamic law.

Then I heard about this conversation.

Apparently, The Watcher started the conversation by telling Youngest (paraphrasing slightly), "just to let you know, so don't freak out or anything, but we're Muslims."  Youngest told them she already knew that.  Then The Watcher began telling her about Islam - at least the version she has been taught!

First, there was the story of Adam and Eve, except she skipped the Eve part.  When Youngest mentioned Eve, The Watcher threw in a dismissive comment about Allah having given Adam a wife.

Then, without actually naming them (it took a while for Youngest to figure out who she was talking about), she started talking about Cain and Abel.  Allah apparently liked Abel because he was a good boy, but didn't like Cain because he was a bad boy.  Then, when Cain killed Abel, Allah came down in the shape of a bird to teach Cain how to bury the body, and that's why we bury bodies now, and isn't that a good thing, because if we didn't the world would smell really bad.

Youngest did not know how to properly respond to this.

At some point, The Watcher asked Youngest if she knew who Jesus was.  She answered yes, and was then told that Jesus was a prophet.  Youngest mentioned that she was a Christian and pointed out her Bible in her bookshelf.  Beetle Child then piped up to ask what a Bible was, to which The Watcher answered, "it's a book that Jesus wrote."

Youngest did not know how to properly respond to this.

The conversation then got around to dreams, with The Watcher asking if Youngest ever had bad dreams.  Youngest answered that she didn't usually have dreams, but when she did, they tended to be weird.  She was then informed that:

Bad dreams are caused by Shaitan.

Weird dreams are also caused by Shaitan.

No dreams at all are a good thing.

Youngest did not know how to properly respond to this.

This from the child that was telling me in another conversation (while this was happening, in fact) that sometimes, when she eats and still feels hungry afterwards, her father taught her to say a word, which she repeated to me, telling her that it would make her not be hungry anymore, and it really works!  So if she still feels hungry after eating, or if her stomach hurts, she should say this word and she feels better.  She had been given another word to say if she was in bed and couldn't sleep, and it really worked, too!  I asked her if she knew what the words meant, but she didn't. I couldn't even repeat either word, as they were in Arabic (a language she does not actually know how to speak) and all I could hear clearly was that they ended with -allah.  Basically, she was taught to use these words like some sort of magical incantations, without any explanation as to what they actually meant.

Their dad also believes in the djinn, thinks people get sick because they are possessed by evil spirits and had their mother, who has MS, exorcised.

The more I find out about the environment they were raised in with their father, the more concerned I am about their psychological well being.

Meanwhile, they had an appointment to Skype with their dad this morning, which I only found out about last night.  They neglected to mention it to us until it happened to come up in conversation with Dh.  So we got them set up on the laptop their mom provided for them (which has been a major point of contention between their parents, for the most ridiculous reasons, yet bad enough to be brought to the court level).  At first, we were going to set them up in the living room, where they had more space and could sit comfortably on the couch while both being visible to the web cam on the laptop.  We were told, however, that this would not be good, as they would be talking about "family matters."

Okay, I can respect the desire for privacy, but their father also taught them that not to talk about "family matters" with their own mother, too.  Considering some of the things we've heard them saying afterwards, I have concerns as to just what is discussed as "family matters."


They got all dressed up in pretty dresses and sat together in their little chairs in front of the laptop, which we've had to set up on the top of a storage bin we gave them for their toys, waiting.  We did warn them that they might not be able to talk to their dad, as Dh told me he couldn't get into the account their dad had set up for them (turns out they just couldn't remember the password), so I'd made a new one.  I sent the information to their dad by email, but had not received a response.  In fact, we'd heard nothing from him yet, but figured there's a lot going on right now at his end.  If he hadn't checked his email, he wouldn't know how to connect with them.  Since they couldn't remember what his Skype name was, I couldn't sent an invite.  After a while, I did try something and logged them out.  When going to log back in again, I checked the drop down list and found his Skype name on the list, so I was able to send an invite to him.

Anyhow, they waited.

And waited.

And waited.

After a while of sitting quietly, staring at the computer, waiting for some sort of pop up or call notice or... anything, they finally started to get chatty.

That's when The Watcher started telling me about the wallpaper on their laptop.  It's the cover artwork for a children's movie called Muhammad: The Last Prophet.

Now, I'd never heard of the movie before, but Eldest noticed it and she *had* heard of it before.  It's notorious for being an incredibly terrible movie, made only because of the popularity of The Prince of Egypt.  We are all also aware that, in Islam, portraying living things is haram, and portraying an image of Muhommad is especially haram (though apparently Muhammad himself is never depicted in the movie).  Even their mom, on seeing the wallpaper, mentioned to me that the image was actually forbidden by Islam.

I didn't mention this to them.  I don't think they're ready to hear it yet.  There's just too much else they need to deal with.

The Watcher then went on and on about how this was her favourite movie and how great it was; that they watched a download of it and tried to find it at the library, but the library didn't know what they were talking about, so they borrowed another movie about the prophet instead, but it wasn't the same one...  Then Beetle Child piped up to say that, now she had "that song" stuck in her head, a song from the movie, which was also her favourite movie and it had her favourite song in it...

Hmmm...  Depending on the sect, isn't music also haram in Islam? :-/

After almost half an hour, we gave up waiting.  Understandably, they were quite upset.  About an hour later, however, we got a call from an international number.  It was their dad. It turns out that he has not been able to find a reliable internet connection yet.

Almost as soon as they started talking, with each of the girls on a different handset, they started bickering, with Beetle Child tattling on The Watcher for a laundry list of minor irritants and complaints, and The Watcher throwing in her own accusation right back.

Then the call got dropped.

When it became clear the call was completely cut off, Dh had a conversation with them.  He pointed out that they were going to be able to talk to their dad only once a week, and did they really think he'd want to hear them bickering and complaining right away?  They both started to make excuses ("that's what I'm used to" is their most common justification for their behaviour), but he shut that down and told them again why it wasn't a good idea to do this, that it would make their father worry at a time when he's far away and can't do anything about it, etc.

Then the phone rang again.  It was their dad, trying again.  We got both girls back on the handsets again and...

They immediately started complaining about each other, at the same time, even worse than before.


Thankfully, today was their day to visit with their mom, and she was able to talk to them about a few things - including the fact that the reason they hadn't been able to see her for so long was NOT because she didn't want to see them.

These poor kids.

I just hope we will be able to help them.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The need for speed...

So... how fast can I post this before 3 out of 4 girls come back, making it impossible to string two thoughts together again! LOL

We've how had our two new additions to our family living with us for about a week and a half.  Eldest and Youngest have gone above and beyond to make them welcome and keeping them busy.  As I write this, Eldest has gone out for a walk with both of them.  Youngest is waiting for Dh to wake from a nap and, hopefully, go for some driving practise.

Things have been truly interesting, and not all in a good way, with the girls.  Their father should be in Egypt by now.  We got a phone call from him at 8am on Monday morning, asking to talk to his daughters.  In passing, I asked where he was, and he told me he was at the airport.

The number he was calling from was from Toronto.  He's actually been out of the province since at least the 31st, and I only know that because I had to talk to his old building manager.  A building manager that is quite unhappy with the stuff and mess left behind, as it's going to cost them a lot of haul it away and fix the apartment.

There are going to be legal issues to deal with, but our biggest concern is going to be dealing with the fallout of their situation.  Their dad may have been talking to me about being away for a year or two (while also saying he might come back in months), but the girls are under the impression he'll be back before the end of the year.  He'd promised them a whole day together before he left, which turned out to be just a couple of hours on Thursday, saying he'd be leaving on Sunday.  I now am thinking he had told them he'd see them one last time before he left, to say goodbye.  As if that wasn't bad enough, as I was trying to comfort one of them after the phone call, along with her sister (who was pretty blasé about the whole thing), she mentioned wanting to be on the plane and going to Egypt with him, only to have her sister say "yeah, but Mom wouldn't let us."

Yeah.  Nothing to do with him being gone for months or years or who knows how long.  Nothing to do with the travel advisory against Canadians traveling to Egypt that's in effect right now.  Nothing to do with the uprisings and violence going on there.  Nope.  It was Mom's fault.


Thankfully, the girls were able to see their mom later that day, and she could talk to them about it.

So far, they seem to be quite happy with us, and have told their mother as much, which is nice to hear.  They're great kids, and we're happy to have them with us.  It's still going to have its challenges, as we discover more and more that we will have to address carefully.  The last thing we want to do is seem like we are attacking their father or trying to turn them against him (which he has been doing with them against their mother for about 2 years now), yet the reality is he's mislead them, lied to them and taught them behaviours and attitudes that are not appropriate (though some go a long way to explaining why he was never able to get a job).  I will never lie to the girls, but how to I explain to them the reality of earning money, and what a privilege it is that Dh earns enough to support all of us, when their father was essentially scamming the welfare system and too proud to take jobs that were all but handed to him on a platter (actually, at least one job *was* handed to him on a platter, and he refused it.  It was beneath him, you see)?  How do I explain to them that they really are allowed to see their mother whenever they want, and that his keeping from her in the last while was not only completely his fault (he told them it was hers), but illegal?  We're still working on basic manners and social behaviour right now, and it's only been a short while, so there will be time.  It's a fine line to walk!

On top of all this, he left without passing on to me any of their important ID, from birth certificates and citizenship papers, to health care and SIN cards.  The only thing I got was their library cards, and we couldn't even use those, as there was a note on their file that nothing could be taken out without his signature on it.  Their mom ended up having to get completely new cards from them.

It's all details, though.  As long as they're safe, healthy and reasonably happy (as much as can be expected, under the circumstances!), the rest will be dealt with in time.

Meanwhile, we had our scheduled facilitator visit, and he was able to do the girls at the same time.  It went rather well, and they were actually pleased to be able to show him their stuff (I had some concerns, as they had been taught to fear/be rude to strangers, and that men/boys are bad).  He'd come late, so they had just enough time to do that before heading to bed.  Thankfully, he was able to stay for quite some time after that and we had a great visit as well.

Eldest is now officially completed her schooling, so only Youngest is registered for next year with us.  We can't register the girls, but their mother will be able to take care of that, thankfully.  It's pretty loosey-goosey with Youngest these days, since she's pretty much in charge of her own direction now.  Recently, she's started on a script for one of her stories that Eldest has promised to illustrate for her.  With Youngest's background in mythology, particularly Norse, she's come up with some very unusual and creative story lines.  At least one of them is something she'd like to see animated.

This spring, we were able to get a plot in the new raised bed gardens assigned to us, and last night we finally planted.  On one side, we've got lettuces, onions and peppers (Eldest *really* wanted us to have veggies in there!) while the other has groups of flowers that Youngest and the girls picked themselves.  We've also got our balcony garden, which is all Youngest's this year.  The girls have a large pot where they've planted some beans they had and we just added a couple of strawberries, too.  Youngest planted dill, lettuces, carrots and spinach, as well as her Forget Me Nots that she got from the veterinary hospital after we had to put down her cat, planted in a decorated pot.  Those are all coming up nicely. There's also some avocados that she'd started indoors over a month ago, and a couple of flowers she'd picked up in the last while.  She does love her flowers!

Well, the kids aren't back yet, but Dh is up - though his back is not up to taking Youngest driving after all - and the TV is on behind me.  Very distracting!  Time to say goodnight.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Loving me some Alex Boye

Adele - Africanized Symphonic Cover- Set fire to the Rain (Ft. Alex Boye')

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Blur

One thing you can be sure of.  If you see very few blog posts, it means that life has been very busy, or at least very distracting!  Time has been flying by in a blur.

The primary distraction of our home routine is that Dh has been working from home - or just plain home - most days.  Sometimes, he manages a few hours at the office, but not very often.  Part of that is because the special chair they ordered for him still hasn't come in, so the temporary chair he's got is not doing is back any favours.  What usually happens is that he goes to bed feeling fine, gets up to get ready for work, but by the time he's done his morning routine, his back is either in massive pain, or it goes out completely.  So he works from home.  Meanwhile, we've made plans for the day that typically involve using the computer, or at least the downstairs.  Those go out the window.  Some of it can be delayed only so long.  It really messes with Eldest's scanning and graphic work.

Speaking of Eldest, she's got good progress on her web comic and online stuff, and still has a display of her paintings at a local tea shop.  One of those sold, then she got a phone call from someone interested in a print of it.  She doesn't have a good enough digital copy of it, but she might get a commission, instead!  Meanwhile, her first festival is coming up soon, then in the middle of June, she'll have her weekend activities.

Youngest is in the middle of her driver's ed. classes.  She's learning lots, and it not too impressed with some of her classmates. LOL  Her in-car instruction will be next month.

Our facilitator visit is coming up soon, too, and then our school year will be officially done.  This was the last year we could extend Eldest's registration, so next year we'll only have Youngest to register.

Not that we're nearing the end of our home schooling journey.  In fact, if things go well, we're going to be starting all over again with a 7 and a (by then) 9 yr old.  It's a long and convoluted story I've made reference to before, but the short of it is, we will be having the daughters of a friend moving in with us this week.  Their father is expecting to leave the country for a family concern, but we don't know when.  We don't even know how long they will be with us, but their father has been talking a year or two before he can come back.  To us, Dh and I welcome them as our own daughters, and I'm truly honoured that their mother felt she could ask us to take them in.  I can think of no greater compliment than for someone to feel we are good enough to parent their children when they are not able to.  It's quite humbling.

The girls (I'm going to have to come up with new handles for the kids, since Eldest and Youngest won't quite work anymore!) are already home schooled and have even been registered with the same board we are.  They will continue to be registered through their mother, but we'll likely transfer them to our facilitator.  I've already mentioned the possibility of a couple of extra children around when he gets here for our visit.  Should be interested!!  They should have already had their own facilitator visit, I think, and their registrations would have already been taken care of there.

It's going to be exciting times!  We're really looking forward to having them with us, and having them along on our adventures!

Hopefully, I'll even have time to write about it here, too!

Monday, April 08, 2013

Round and round we go

I've been seriously lax in updating this blog.  That's not a good thing, since this is where I'm supposed to be keeping at least some record of our home schooling activities.  I've discovered a few different short cuts to posting, some of which don't require actually being on the computer, that should make things easier - I just have to remember to use them!!  Most of the time, I've been using them to make more posts on my companion blog

One of the main issues that has been keeping me away from my writing has been my husband's ongoing health problems.  He's been working from home quite a lot lately.  I am so incredibly grateful for how supportive his employers have been!  Just to give an idea of how often he can't make it into the office; this past week, he made it in to the office on Monday.  Tuesday, he lasted until 11, then finished the day at home.  Wednesday, he worked from home again, but by Thursday he was in so much pain, he wasn't even able to do that.  Friday, he worked from home again.

With as much absenteeism as he's been having, it was no surprise when, a while back, he got called into a meeting with the new HR person.  It's always nerve wracking when that happens.  There is always this fear in the background that he's going to lose his job.  Each time this has happened, however, he's only been asked what was going on, and if something at work has been causing problems (high stress levels, for example).  The last time this happened, he had been called to a meeting at office headquarters, which is just a few blocks from our place.  He can't really walk the distance anymore, so I drove him in, then found a place to pull over so I could drive him to his work site after.  Instead, I got a text saying to go home.  The person he was meeting was running late.  She ended up being 20 minutes late, breezing in with a passing apology, then started asking him about the absenteeism.  By the time he described what was going on with his back, the entire atmosphere of the meeting changed dramatically.  He got a much more serious apology for her lateness, as well as for asking him to go to HQ for the meeting instead of her going to his work site or just having a phone meeting.  After more discussion, one of the things that came up was how painful it is to sit for extended periods.  We've been able to set him up at home where he can sit with better support for longer, plus he can go lie down when he has to, but he doesn't have anything like that at work.  In the end, with a prescription for a proper chair from the doctor's office (did you know you can get a prescription for a chair?  You can!), she started to ball rolling and he soon had a new chair at the office that provided the lumbar support and adjustability he needs.  Things got a bit weird when they suddenly came to take the chair back - it turned out to be just a tester - but his on-site boss had a bit of a fit when he found out about it and was able to get it back again, rather than waiting the 4-6 weeks it would take to get the paperwork finished.

Yeah, 4-6 weeks.  Did I mention he works with a government office? :-P

Anyhow; his employers have really been bending over backwards for him, and I just can't express enough how much that means to us!!

There are two downsides to Dh working from home so much, though.  One is, he really doesn't have the temperament for it.  He's gotten a lot better than in past attempts to work from home, but I think it has more to do with the fact that he has little choice than because it's gotten any easier for him.  Even so, after a while, he really starts to go stir crazy.  He *needs* to get out and to the office.  Interestingly, he often accomplishes more working from home than in the office.  Fewer disruptions, no getting pulled into sudden meetings and so on.  That probably goes a long way to alleviating any concerns his employers might have to his working from home so often.  Still, sometimes he just needs to get face to face with his co-workers, the client and so on.  On top of that, cabin fever starts to eat at him and he starts getting all jittery and stuff.

Meanwhile, he didn't even bother to mention the problems he's been having with his knees, ankle and a few other issues he's been having. 

As for treatment, he's been in a bit of a bind.  One of the best things he can do, and recommended to him at the spine clinic, is swimming.  He's got a gym membership and he's supposed to do more to improve core strength and try to lose at least some of the weight to take the pressure off his back.  The specialist at the spine clinic didn't make a big deal about the weight and was very clear that he understood that this was something Dh has little control over.  As long as he can manage to improve his core strength, it'll help, even if it doesn't translate into lower numbers on the scale.

So Dh has started swimming.  He's starting slow; just once a week, doing breast stroke laps.  Unfortunately, even taking it as easy as he is, by the next day he can barely stand upright, never mind walk, from the pain.  It's going to take time and we know it, but it's incredibly frustrating.  Dh has always been very physically active, so on top of the frustration, it's a pretty huge blow to his ego.

The other downside of Dh working from home so often is that he needs the desktop.  Which means the girls and I get it for 2 hours when he takes lunch.  Yes, when he's at home, he takes 2 hour lunches, which involve lying down.  He doesn't take any of the 15 minute coffee breaks he's supposed to.  At the office, unless he goes out to lunch, he eats at his desk then closes his eyes to music.  It works out.

One thing he has learned to do when working from home is to "leave the office" at the end of the day.  In the past, he ended up working longer hours from home than he would have outside of home, and that was just not a good thing at all.  Now he's very firm about ending his day.  He does, however, still enjoy his Warcraft, and the office chair we've got at home is still the best one we've got in the house for his back, so he does come back on again later in the evening.

Which means the rest of us have just a few hours to catch up on the things we need to do on the desktop.  Eldest often has pages to scan for her online comic, or paintings to scan in pieces and stitch together to post in her online gallery. She's got her photo blog now, too.

Eldest has really been focusing on her art.  She's now set up to do online sales and commissions.  She's pushing to get a large buffer of pages finished for the comic so that she doesn't have to worry about it during the summer festival season.  For one of them, which will be weekly in a nearby bedroom community, I plan to set up a booth and sell my crochet, too.  We're hoping it'll work out better than last year.  A few changes have already been made that should improve things.

Youngest is still in a bit of a funk.  She wants a direction to aim for, but has no idea where that is.  She's still enjoying her guitar lessons, though she isn't practicing as much as she knows she should, which bugs her.  She's been working on her own art skills which have been improving, though she's having a hard time seeing that in herself (flipping through old sketchbooks helps).  Her interest in mythology has had her finish going through all the Norse stuff she could find and she's now working her way through Icelandic sagas.  She still detests Greek and Roman mythology. *L*  She's been working on a few crochet designs, and has taught herself to knit, which had her almost immediately doing cables and now she's working on a pair of socks for me using elastic yarn and 4 needles. 

Then she wonders why the rest of us are all agog at her progress.

We haven't been able to take her out driving as often as we expected to, so we're planning on using some of our homeschool funding to pay for her to go to a driving school.  I have to find one that does purchase orders, which means I need both the computer and the phone at the same time; something I haven't had during business hours with Dh working from home so often. *sigh*  She's also wanting to get herself a job, but doesn't know what job she wants to apply for (though she knows what she *doesn't* want, such as cashier or sales).  Will need to help her with that.  There are lots of jobs available right now, so it's mostly her own self doubt that is keeping her from going out there and getting one. 

As for me, I've been teaching crochet classes, but as a job and as private lessons.  Not a lot of people around here are interested in taking classes, though.  Instead, I've been getting commissions, which is kinda nice.  I'll use this summer to see how doing market sales will work out, and I still need to sit down at the computer and write out some of my patterns to international standards so I can start selling them.  I've also got some writing work that I need to step up on, as well as a novel to finish before I can start doing re-writes.

So while things have been quite on the blog, it's because things have been hectic in the real world - which means I've had plenty to write about, but little opportunity to actually do it until things start getting quite late. 

Like right now, as I finish this at past 2 am!!