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.

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')