Wherefore art thou

It’s been a very stressful… while. Everything just sorts of blends together, and after a while the constant state of anxiety starts to feel so normal that I forget when it started, or what started it… everything just feels fucked up in one way or another. While I was in the store, an elderly stranger offered the perfect description of this feeling the other day: the days are long, but the weeks are short.

I haven’t wanted to write because I didn’t want to put it all down where I could see it all in one place, look at everything and say, “Hey wow, that’s a lot of stupid bullshit”. It’s been bad enough actually living in it all over the course of months, and even with leaving a lot of shit out it’s a lot to write down; it’s exhausting for me just to read back through this. It’s not like we had life-altering bombs dropped on us (well, I guess we sort of did – but I mean no one got cancer or anything), it’s more that the impact is long, emotional and stretched out over a period of weeks or months and that makes everything that much more draining. It leaves you feeling vulnerable, and sad.

Everything is gradually better and much more stable, though the thing about having shit crash down around you is that it’s going to take a bit to recover from no matter how great things may go afterward. And it’s not like they’re super fantastic right now… just, “not terrible”. You know things are shit when “not terrible” is a goddamn miracle by comparison. Things are stabilizing, but everything feels very precarious; it’s been months since I’ve had a good night’s sleep.

This is long, and rambling, and really personal for the first time in a long while, and so if you make it to the end I applaud you. So hey, here’s where I’ve been for two and a half months…

Far before the most recent things went down, we got news that Xan’s school might be closing. The suggestion was handed down to the parents as a possibility, due to shit government funding and budget crap within the school board. BC treats its schools, teachers and students like shit – this is especially evident during the most recent teacher strikes – so I suppose I should have seen something like this coming… but instead, I was completely blind-sighted.
The issue was broached as a ‘maybe we’ll close the school, or maybe we’ll move it to another building’ thing, and the parents were told that it wasn’t set in stone and plans weren’t made yet, so clearly they could be changed if we could show it was worth it to the board to keep it open. Enrolment was falling for the first time since the school opened its doors more than 40 years ago, and we needed to raise both the student count, and some money, to show it was worth it to keep it open.

So, parents were given a few months of time in which to come up with ideas, set up meetings with board trustees, make contacts and draft proposals. An email list formed overnight, and quickly blew up (far, far exceeding the immediate family of the tiny alumni of 60ish kids). Thousands of emails went back and forth throughout the six or so weeks that went by before the meetings took place. So many parents, and kids, worked so incredibly hard. There were scads of research papers, private interviews with staff and parents that were seen all over the city and the province, radio spots and newspaper articles, TV programs and so many, many, many meetings and ideas and discussions. Even students as young as 6 or 7 came forward with their own ideas and desperately pleaded – at times literally in tears – to make their voices heard. Kids even went up against the board members themselves to speak from the heart about how much this school meant to them. They sobbed into camera lenses as they delivered impassioned speeches they wrote themselves… it was amazing, and deeply moving.

We all poured every tiny piece of ourselves into the hope those meetings gave us to save this school… there were even recent examples of similar situations being brought forward with other schools in the province, which did get saved by this type of brainstorming and planning, so we were feeling cautiously optimistic about it all.

But it was all for naught.

This small and unique school has existed for 41 years and relied entirely on word of mouth for enrolment, and it’s only this last year or so that the numbers have gone down. 41 years of life-saving, small, individualized teaching just gone. poof. Once the news was given, the vote closed, I didn’t stop crying for days.
All the parents were crying, exchanging emails and messages of grief; we feel abandoned, and deeply betrayed. Everyone spent weeks – months – campaigning and brainstorming and planning and there were two official meetings with the board who were voting. The whole point was to show them the other side; show the value and absolute necessity of the school. Several board members didn’t even BOTHER TO SHOW UP AT ALL and in the end we discovered the whole thing had been a farce. The fate of the school had been decided long before they even announced the possibility… the whole planning, brainstorming and meeting shit was just an attempt to ease a few guilty consciences. We’d all been betrayed, used, humiliated and our children taught that their voices don’t matter and their happiness doesn’t count. I’m disgusted, and devastated, and scared about the future.
The vast majority of students there were “refugees” from other schools where they couldn’t function, fell through the cracks, were bullied like my son or were otherwise not cut out for it and for one reason or another weren’t a good fit for home-schooling. These children and their families are extremely vulnerable, and in this place they all flourished to become incredible and motivated learners.

We all feel so lost.

The worst was having to tell Xan. We all had such hope… and watching his face fall from disbelief, to shock, to the most horrible twist of devastation and betrayal; it felt like a knife to the heart. When I first told him about the “might” months earlier, he lay in my arms crying and shaking. I’d never in my life seen him more afraid than he was when he had to consider that the school might close. The absolute certainty was a nightmare for him. He just kept crying and asking, “Where will I go? Where will my friends go?”.

There are so few good, alternative, affordable education options like that one in the city. The vast majority are private schools, the cost of which range anywhere from 5k to 40k a year. This was free and open to all, and had by far the best attitude and curriculum of any public elementary school in the city. When I tried to get Xan to switch over for grade one, they still had a waiting list, which means there’s only been a year or two of “decreased enrolment”. That’s practically nothing… and yet they were willing to throw all these children under the bus for it? Over 40 fucking years and they didn’t even give us the chance to show we could improve enrolment, in spite of the fact that parents ACTUALLY PROVED THEY COULD if given a mere few months to promote it.

It’s been over two months now since the news was final and it still feels like a nightmare I can’t wake from. I keep having to remind myself that, no, it’s really gone. The end of June and this wonderful place and all these wonderful, amazing teachers will be gone. The first principal I’ve ever met to legitimately care about kids and families with many different abilities and limitations; who reaches out and takes the time to individually know each situation and do her best make every person feel heard and loved… gone. Just fucking gone.
Families have tried to stick together in little clumps, scattered around the city’s school system, in a desperate attempt to find something to support their child without sacrificing their health and wellness. A few other parents and I, including the mother of Xan’s best friend, have enrolled our kids in a medium-sized school that seems nice – though a considerable distance from our house. I honestly have no idea how we’ll manage with no car, but we’ll figure something out.

I spent a long time going through the hoops and this one seems to have the best chance of being good for him… but I hated every minute of it. The touring, the discussions, the decision making, the interviewing principals and asking the same stupid questions and getting the same stupid answers. I hate going through the same accessibility song-and-dance with staff that will never care as much as the ones at his “old” school did. As much as I hear positive things about this new principal, I just hated hearing him argue with me – fucking argue with me – over my bringing forward the issue of accessible school performances and his answer essentially being, “Well if we designate accessible seating, people who aren’t disabled might sit in it, so there’s no real reason to try”. They even have a child at the school who is wheelchair-bound, you’d think they’d care a bit more about creating a environment that is positive toward accessibility issues. I get that the building is 100 years old and there’s only so much you can do, but come on, don’t give me that “it’s not worth trying” bullshit.

I hate wondering if Xan will be safe there with his sparkly nail polish, beloved stuffed animals, terminology like, “girl with a vagina” and close friendship about a boy his age who came out as trans last year. I worry about the trans friend himself a lot, and how he’ll fare there after his life was a complete non-issue his last three years in the “old” school. I just talked to his mom last week about it and she was smiling and saying how lucky they’d been that no one had ever said or done a single unkind thing to him about being trans. Staff, teachers, students, other parents… all perfectly wonderful. They all congratulated him when he came out at the beginning of grade 2. Kids didn’t even mention it at home for months because the issue was approached as, “Oh hey, [your friend] is happy and comfortable now and this is who they really are, isn’t that awesome?!”. The school was an oasis – and now it’s gone.

I’m trying to be positive and look forward to new experiences, but I’m devastated, and I can’t keep it at bay. Every time I drop him off or pick him up I’m reminded that it’s one more day at this wonderful school that’s gone forever. I’m torn between wanting to get as involved as possible in these last weeks, or staying far away because I can’t stand to watch such an incredible force of wonder and good slip away with a whimper. This school changed the course of Xan’s entire life for the better; this school has changed so many, many lives for the better.

I wish I could approach every single person who was a part of this decision and say, good fucking job, you assholes. Fuck you so fucking hard. You’ve successfully broken the trust of every family involved with your pathetic toying; you’ve taught our children that they’re worthless, that hard work never pays off and the good guys lose. I hope you fucking choke.

While we were recovering from that blow, in the midst of trying to figure out where Xan was going to land next year, Curtis lost his job very suddenly and without warning. And by without warning I really mean without the tiniest little bit of warning. He showed up for work one day, worked five minutes, then was called in and handed a letter stating he was terminated by the owner. No conversation, no explanation, no “three strike” policy or write-ups or anything. To add insult to injury, there’d been an ad out for his position for two hours before he’d even arrived.
The closest thing he got to a reason was a short paragraph referencing an “incident” allegedly taking place the night before that never even happened. And it’s not like the issue is unclear: other on-duty employees also confirm it never happened. And the thing is, even if it hadn’t been so blatantly made up, the thing wasn’t even a remotely fire-able offence (the short version is, “people didn’t know where you were for approximately 20 minutes and someone could have needed your help, but didn’t” when in actuality he was very literally 15 feet to the left of them). At the worst this is maybe a, “Hey man, did something happen?” conversation, but he didn’t even get the respect of a single question.

He spent more than three years at this job; he absolutely adored it and was really fucking good at it, too. It was completely devastating. After it happened he called me in tears and asked if I could come pick him up in my father’s borrowed car, because he didn’t think he could bike back home while crying. I hadn’t seen him that depressed and defeated in a very, very long time.
I’d love to go into detail, but I can’t, because we’ve already taken the first step with a lawyer and with every passing day there’s a bigger possibility this will end up going to court because the whole thing is shady as fuck. And everything gets all stupid complicated when it involves the law, or suing people and all that… I’m tired of the whole thing already and we’ve barely even started

At the very least, (most of) his co-workers all seemed to see how big a shit pile it all was. When he came in the next day to drop off his keys an employee literally ran right off the line, out of the restaurant, up to the car and had Curtis roll down his window so he could give a small bow, shake his hand and say, “It’s been such an honour and privilege to work with you”. Curtis was this guy’s immediate superior, which makes it all the more moving.

Following this, life was really intensely scary; nothing was opening up and getting illegally fired and worrying that your references won’t bother to pick up the phone because they’re scared for their own necks doesn’t exactly look too awesome on your résumé. You know how they say that the vast majority of working people are one lost paycheque away from homelessness? We’re not exactly the exception to that rule. Without my mom helping out the little that she could, it would have been a lot scarier. Despite what people may think, chefs here don’t make a lot. Managers in the business don’t make a lot. Even his immediate superior, who ran the fucking kitchen for the last decade, barely made $15.50 an hour. BC has the highest cost of living, and rent prices, in the country (with our area at number one within that), and it’s fucking hard as shit to support a family on that income. We balance, and we’re good at it, but it’s not easy. Losing a job without warning, without seeing a penny of your severance pay, is completely. Fucking. Terrifying.

The restaurant market is not that good right now; no one has full time work. I mean, they say “full time” but they don’t actually mean full time… and getting good pay is even harder, as previously stated. Just when we started to get really fucking scared, my dad offered to take Curtis over to the mainland to work with him on a construction project for a family friend. He’s single-handedly rebuilding their entire downstairs and giving them a suite, or something, and he needed the extra help. He’d be gone a week, working full days, but bring home a few hundred when he was done. It’s not like we had a choice to say anything other than, “yes”.

The first night I was by myself, after I’d put the kids to bed and the house had gone quiet, it struck me that while I’ve left a few times for business trips I have not been the one ‘left behind’ by Curtis since I was about 17 weeks pregnant with Tempest. He’d gone to visit his parents, but had to go without me as we could not afford for us both to go. I think he was gone about a week. That was over 11 years ago. It sounds terribly co-dependant to put it in writing, and I suppose it is, but when you’ve spent more of your life together than apart you don’t really have a ‘normal’ that is only about you – nor do you really want it.
The days dragged. It felt like both forever, and no time at all. I clung to routine because it keeps me going down a track from one task to the next with little time to think about the rest, which meant everything went alright up until the evening silence hit and the loneliness became overwhelming. We spent many years of our early relationship apart: long distance relationships suck and we often didn’t see each other for months and months – sometimes nearly as long as a year – all for maybe a few short days together at the end of it all… and it always sucked. I never thought I’d be in a place where seven days felt almost as hard on me emotionally as seven months. Curtis said the same when he got back; it feels different now. He left again the next week following a few days home, after my father gave him endless compliments on his amazing work ethic and swore he’d never had another guy on site in all his decades that worked as hard as Curtis did. It was a nice compliment, and my father isn’t the type to give them away without meaning it.

Curtis hasn’t had that many opportunities to hang out with my dad, just the two of them, so the work ended up being kind of nice for that as well. After it was all over, my dad told me on the phone, “You’ve found a really good man. I’m proud of you. I’m proud of him. I’m really glad he’s in your life”.
“I am too,” I told him.
The day Curtis was fired, when my father found out what had happened, he called me absolutely furious and wanted to talk to Curtis. He’d declined at that time; still too raw and reeling to feel like holding up his side of a phone call, so my father passed the message on to me instead. He went on for a while about how wonderful a person Curtis was, and how we couldn’t just let this go, and how he never deserved to be treated that way after putting what he has into that job, and how loved and appreciated he was by not just my father, but everyone who had ever known him. After we hung up, I was struck by how mixed I felt about it being my father that was the one to call Curtis up to console him, tell him he was proud of him, that he was a good person and deserved better. I was struck by the fact that I’ve never seen, or heard, either of his parents ever even come close to that kind of support. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever heard them pay him a compliment that didn’t come as part of a joke.
Some days later we were all assembled at the courthouse in support of my sister (which is another story that I will not be telling here) while Curtis was at home watching the kids, and after the day’s events were over my father followed me downstairs to find the paperwork I needed to file an order against my ex-landlord (more on that shortly) and I had the opportunity to tell him how grateful I was that he was so wonderful to Curtis. I told him how much it meant to me – to Curtis – that he was there for him. That it was him before anyone else who called us up and wanted to give him love… and how he’d showed him more care over these years than Curtis’ own parents had shown for him over his whole life. As I spoke, I watched as my father’s eyes well up and his mouth tighten to hide a quiver. He pulled me in for a hug before the tears could fall upon his cheeks and his voice cracked as he whispered, “That’s too bad for them. They’re missing out… he’s a wonderful person.”

Every so often I am reminded of their betrayal, and abandonment, and I am angry all over again. I don’t know how Curtis manages to go through life without feeling that pain all the time; I am so close to both my parents, having them treat me that way would be devastating. When he talks about it, he’s disconnected and detached, and says honestly that he’s not even sure he loves them anymore. I suppose when you’ve lived your whole life with selfish parents, you learn not to depend on them for love and affection. So I guess having it taken away entirely doesn’t feel like too much of a loss; you really didn’t have it in the first place.
I think about them far more than he does – and I’m angry enough for the both of us. Even though I know that they couldn’t possibly know of the emotional pain that he felt upon losing this job, having had no contact with him for years now, a part of me feels all the more angry that they didn’t just spontaneously reach out to reconnect and give their only child a little love in a time of need. Logically I realize how ridiculous that is, but it also brings a whole life of not being there for him into focus and makes it all the more frustrating. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how a parent can be so petty, and mean. I can’t imagine treating my own kids that way over such stupid shit.
I used to have these paranoid thoughts about what would happen to the other, and our kids, if one of us died. I know without a doubt my family would never let Curtis sink into darkness: they’d be at the house, with the kids, taking him out, ensuring he wasn’t alone… they’d never let him slip away. But if the situation were reversed? I don’t know that I’d get more out of Curtis’ parents than a few obligatory phone calls followed by a slow trickle into silence. I’m pretty sure that after all this time they still don’t know my middle name, but I’d put money on the idea that I could quiz my parents about Curtis birth and they’d still get most of the details right.
I’m just glad that they don’t just say they care about him – they make sure their actions count, too. My dad did a lot to help ensure that Curtis didn’t become depressed following this loss, and as much as it sucked being away from him for so long, I’m very grateful for my father’s offers.

After that we got lucky: Curtis managed to find new work not too long after the construction opportunity died out, and from what he’s seen so far the new place seems to be very positive and a really nice work environment. The pay is better, but the hours are not (nor are they guaranteed) which means he’s bringing in less than he was before, so we’re just crossing our fingers that it improves soon so we don’t have to keep trying to tread water.
My legs are tired, and I’d just like to float for a while, just to catch my breath…
It may come as a shock to know that I’m not particularly good with anxiety and stress. Har de har. Once it gets a good, firm hold of me I start to feel that delightful depression-induced agoraphobia creep in, and then the idea of even going for a walk is so exhausting that it takes a day and a half to gather up the confidence to pop down to the store and pick up some fucking toilet paper. Once I accomplish that incredible feat and make it back home I feel drained, exposed, tired and jittery all at once. I don’t want to be around people and have to put on the “hi other people, you may have noticed I’m a person as well” show; make eye contact, or smile, and use my big girl words to communicate things. It’s fucking exhausting.
For me this is always the most difficult part of pulling my way out of a stress hole: the unquenchable desire to stay inside, wrap yourself up in the darkness and forget the rest. It’s easy to characterize it as laziness, but once you’ve started to feel the pull leading you to that place, everything takes effort. Everything from waking up and getting dressed, to eating food that your body needs because you’re hungry, to talking to friends that want to visit (and as much as you’re desperate for it, it’s also completely heart-stopping terrifying). It’s all about the fear by that point; weighing one anxiety-inducing act to another and trying to figure out which one you think you might barrel through today. The more you recognize what’s happening the worse you feel about yourself and how far down the rabbit hole you’ve gone – or “let yourself go” – so the behaviour is self-perpetuating.

We did have a major success with landlady court, so there’s that. As stupid and shitty as that all was, we didn’t actually have to try that hard to win. Twice. I mean, we did try hard… but we honestly could have showed up with absolutely nothing and still won because her tripping over her own bullshit stories was enough to sink her without us being involved at all. I mean really, the last time the judge didn’t even bother looking through our entire evidence package – and she literally said that on the phone (it was a conference call court both times). See, this tends to be what happens when you completely make up shit about people.
Crazy Previous Landlady was served a notice to pay us just under $2000, which she has yet to do (that money certainly would have helped during this whole job business). Fortunately there are things in place to assure we do get payment if she continues to fuck around about it. We gave her several weeks, then served her with a payment order (which she ignored), then gave her another month to change her mind about it before getting all the forms to take her to small claims court and enforce the payment order. Third time’s a charm! To be honest, this is just another thing I don’t want to deal with right now… but I will because we really need the money and fucked if I’m going to walk away from this after wining against her twice. She put us through enough of her power-tripping bullshit that I’m pretty comfortable saying we deserve to be compensated for it.
Once we get the money, after using the majority to pay bills and buy some necessities for everyone, we have a certain amount earmarked for “purchase something silly that we want” with a specific sex toy in mind that we’d normally not be able to get. There’s a sort of wonderfully sweet justice about turning around all the times she’s tried to fuck us over into something we’ll actually use to fuck each other.

Dealing with her was our first time ever going to court about anything, but after so many times just allowing people walk all over us because we’re too afraid to fight back, I think we both have reached a place where enough is enough. I’ve spent so much of my adult life shrinking away from confrontation after abuses because the prospect of standing up to someone who’s been getting away with it for so long is a scary one. I am small and they are big, and I’m afraid that any of my attempts at strength or self-protection would barely count in a fight. I don’t want to be in a room, either literally or figuratively, with a person that’s an old pro at manipulating others into accepting their abuse by believing they deserve it: it’s terrifying. The aggressor has likely spent their lives shoving people like me aside, and I have no experience fighting back against bullies like that.
Winning twice against crazy ex-landlady, and with such ease, gave us both a much-needed boost. Maybe it is possible to fight back against someone with so much more experience, and win. We have three kids now, and it isn’t just about us anymore – we have to protect them from being a part of someone else’s power trip, too. People do awful shit when they think they can get away with it because their victims are too quiet, or too loyal, too afraid, too poor… and I’m tired of it. I don’t want to be afraid anymore, and I want my kids to learn that they should fight back when someone treats them like trash. The job-related court thing has the propensity to be a much bigger deal if it goes that far (not to mention considerably more expensive: a significant problem), which makes it ten times more frightening, and confusing, and bewildering and worrying… but we have the support of a lot of people behind us and the least we can do is try. Really try.

Though if I’m being completely honest, every step closer we take to it kind of makes me want to curl in a ball and lock the doors. It’d be nice to say I’m a super brave, powerful, confident woman who always faces her problems head-on and is amazing at confronting her bullies, has witty come-backs, and never looks at explosions… but I’m not. Not even close. I’m an obsessive, neurotic, anxiety-ridden person who barely qualifies as an adult that secretly wishes her mom was still making all the important phone calls.
But, you know, baby steps.

At the very least, the kids didn’t seem to pick up on the worst of all this; we even managed to hide the job loss situation from them for over two weeks before they started to catch on. Though I can’t give us much credit for that, as they’ve barely been inside at all for the last month and a half. They’ve spent more time outside playing (and away from screens) than they ever have before – it’s actually really fantastic. Ever since we moved into the new place last October, Tempest has spent every waking moment outside in the community. Even getting her to come in for dinner is like pulling teeth. Xan… not quite so much. It’s only been this last month or so that he’s started to really enjoy being outside playing, and has finally stopped trying to come in every hour to ask when he can play video games again. This coincides with him finally learning how to ride a bike, which is a crazy story and so outrageously Xan that we’ll be re-telling it for years.
We’ve been trying to encourage him to practice riding for years and years, but unfortunately patience is not Xan’s strong suit. Practicing, and the idea of ‘trial and error’, is like his fucking kryptonite and he can be ridiculously dramatic when it comes to taking on any task that won’t provide instant gratification. Whenever we suggested, pleaded, ordered, bribed or whined at him to try riding he’d adamantly refuse (or try for about one minute before stopping) and always gave the same excuse: I will ride my bike when I’m older and I know how.
I’ve spent so many hours having the, “skills are not learned like magic” conversation with him that I’m surprised he doesn’t already have it memorized. Learning something always requires practice and you have to fail before you succeed, blah blah blah. I used examples from my life, from Curtis’ life, had Tempest try to talk with him, had him watch Tempest try and fail at various things and see how her hard work paid off (because bullheadedness is something she’s very good at), I even used examples from video games he’d learned and improved at over time… but no. He was having none of it. He was obstinate: we could not get him to budge an inch on this issue. Over and over again it was always the same answer, “I will not try to practice biking, because I’m waiting until I’m old enough to know how“.

So once the weather shifted away from the endless grey shroud we call “winter” on the coast, we brought his bike back out (with the training wheels) and once more started in on the gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) urging to get him to try again. One afternoon in April he begrudgingly agreed to give it another shot. He sat on the bike for less than one minute before putting on a big show of how frustrating and impossible it all was, adding in a few truly pathetic “I can’t possibly use the pedals” moves and then bemoaning the existence of hand-brakes. His fake cry is like claws on a blackboard to me, so once he started that crap I was also feeling done for the day. Before I went back inside, I suggested that maybe he’s finally “old enough” to try practicing without training wheels, adding that if he asks real nice he might convince Curtis to help him out. Curtis flashed me his best, “Thanks for nothing” glare as he grabbed the toolbox; then gave Xan another lecture about practice, trial and error and the merits of failure as he worked to remove the training wheels. Curtis adjusted the handlebars and seat, Xan’s helmet, Xan himself, and found a nice clear stretch of sidewalk to set up for the first-ever proper biking trial run. Xan seemed wary of the whole idea, but Curtis assured him that he’d be right there holding on to the back the whole time, and they’d go through the whole process together. He meant it too – he had no intention of doing the classic, “oh wait I tricked you, now you’re riding on your own” thing with Xan, because if he was caught doing it Xan would probably crash into a wall and then complain about the ruse for he rest of his natural life. After considerable pleading Xan finally made his way onto the bike, moping all the while. I was inside by this point, but could still hear bits of the “life doesn’t work like magic” conversation floating through the open kitchen window.

45 seconds later – not even fucking kidding you, it was under a goddamn minute – and Curtis walks back in the house, throws his arms up in the air and goes, “Well. That’s over!”
My shoulders sank: I anticipated another theatrical Xan-style tantrum about how he’ll never learn, ‘in a million, million years’. I looked to the door and waited for Xan to come crawling in after Curtis any second now, fumbling about on hands and knees crying crocodile tears about a scrape or maybe the idea that he might get a scrape…
I sighed at Curtis and said something to the effect of, “Oh my god, really?“.
He shook his head. “No. It’s just the opposite. I held up the bike, he got on, I told him to try pushing the pedals and he took off right out of my hands. He went all the way to the end, turned around and came back, then did it all again without so much as a wobble. He just… could ride–
And then, in unison, “–Just like magic.”
I went outside to witness the miracle myself and sure enough there he is, biking in big circles, going over bumps, waving with one hand, smiling this crazy smug little smile. “See?” he said, “I told you! I just had to wait until I was old enough to know how.”

And he wore that shit-eating grin the whole damn day while he biked around with ease, keeping up with Tempest like he’d been doing this as long as she had. By the next afternoon Tempest reported (or tattled, as it were) that he was now doing “tricks” like biking down the steps out of the courtyard and bouncing about on a single wheel. And for anyone who is wondering, there is absolutely no way he did this on the sly – this is so very, veryXan. He was telling people about this feat for weeks – anyone who would listen to him, even strangers in the store if he could find a good enough segue into the conversation. The next time we saw my mom he came tearing into her flat all excited going, “Guess what? I learned my bike LIKE MAGIC just like my mom and dad said was impossible. But it wasn’t. Because MAGIC.”

He’s going to be telling this story until he’s 65, and we are never, ever going to live this down.

Summer has come in rather suddenly, and that makes everything seem a little easier. I love the warmth, the sun, being outside and seeing my kids have such a good time playing. I love the long hikes and trips to beaches and forests that we can do in the summer with much more comfort and ease. We’ve had absolutely spectacular weather for over a month, and all the kids around the community are starting to celebrate with water gun fights and playing outside until parents have to literally drag them back in as the stars are coming out.
I know I’ve said it before but I need to keep saying it: in spite of all the trouble it caused, I’m really glad we moved, because this area is wonderful and the community is amazing. I love seeing all the kids playing out there together. I love hearing Tempest come in and tell me stories at the end of the day. I love seeing the kids playing out there by themselves instead of having parents on their heels every second of every day. I love seeing all these kids really be kids: trip and fall and sometimes get scrapes, have arguments and resolve them, experiment with ideas and have fun, and all the while everyone’s looking out for each other. I’ve brought an injured or upset kid back to their house, or applied band-aids to kids I’ve never seen before, and I’ve had the same done for mine. I’ve had a pack of kids show up in my kitchen and given out freezies or diced mangoes, and had mine come home after a few hours outside with a handful of strawberries they got from a neighbour. Never once have I thought, “OMG where are these kids parents?!” but rather, “Isn’t it wonderful that we are all parents looking out for each other’s kids?”.
All it takes to be part of a village without being an asshole is to just ask each kid, “Make sure it’s ok first!” and wait 30 seconds while they go ask. It’s really, really nice to be somewhere that maintains that “it takes a village” mentality with trust and care, rather than snottiness and superiority. When I do see parents outside, they’re smiling and waving, and no one’s yelling at random kids for things that kids do. I sometimes see adults correct behaviours, or gently talk to kids who are getting out of line (including mine – because they all do from time to time), but no one’s being an asshole about it and is instead treating other children the way they’d treat their own… and that rubs off on the kids themselves, too.

Last week a new boy joined in the games; he’d just moved from Turkey and his grasp of English wasn’t too great… so apparently all the kids have been working to teach him English every day and help him understand the games. How cool is that? Hell, Tempest has come in a few times with a friend and told me phrases in Arabic that her friend taught her after moving here with her family from Egypt. There is so much diversity here in terms of language, religion, games and experience and the kids are all so eager to share it with each other. I hope it stays this way, and it always feels this nice to be here. As depressed and isolated as I feel when I’m holed up in here with my stress and anxiety, it never fails to make me smile to look out the window and see all these kids all playing with each other, teaching and learning and making awesome memories. Six months of this place has done more for Tempest’s social and language abilities than years of OT and PT ever did. She’s making friends easily, communicating well, and the questions and ideas that come out of her mouth lately are blowing my mind with their depth and curiosity. I am continually impressed by the person becoming. It makes it a little less scary to think about her going into middle school in September. I’m still worried – I don’t think I could ever get to a place of being only excited and positive about the idea of her entering the part of life that almost killed me – but with how much she’s progressed in the last year or so, I have much more confidence that she’ll get through it with less scars than I did.

I haven’t taken many photos over the past few months, and the few I did I lost after I tried to uninstall a program in Parallels and for whatever reason it completely wiped my computer. Not even kidding. I felt curling up and dying when I realized what had happened. Thank god I had a recent-ish backup on my Time Capsule that I could restore from. I didn’t lose much, only a few entry drafts I’d been working on and about 10 photos, which I had to re-download off my Facebook (thank god I’d posted them somewhere). It could have been so much worse. Back up your shit, people; you never know when some random program is going to erase half your computer because fuck you that’s why.

These may be the last photos I post for a long, long time unfortunately. My camera seems to be dead. I’m really really worried it’s not coming back, and obviously I can’t afford to get it fixed (or buy a new body. Ha!), so that’s depressing. If you pray, you can pray that my camera is just being really eerily moodily and will one day soon miraculously come back from the brink of death so I don’t have to watch my only livelihood get thrown in the trash! Hooray! Alright, happy photos are more interesting than depressing bullshit, so here you go…

First some sleepy photos from ages ago

When I went in to take Xan’s photo, Serendipity was camped out on top of him as part of her nightly vigil. As soon as she saw me she came over to investigate, but didn’t roam far enough to truly leave his side.

Xan fell asleep reading a fact book I picked up for him the other day at a rummage sale.

Before I leave the room, Serendipity watches me go from the highest point in the room.

She then decided she’d follow me from room to room as I sneaked around trying to be as quiet as possible while she nipped at my heels and, “Prrt!”-ed all the way through.


Goddamnit, cat.

Tempest, whom I don’t expect to allow me the opportunity for many more pictures like this. She’s not exactly a little girl anymore.

Making merengue cookies, and giving the kids the bowl to lick. Xan left the majority for Z, just to be nice, and she went into the bathroom to grab her potty stool and just went to town on that shit.

Xan came back in in to join her for photos. Note the cookie batter mustache.

This, of course, required a bath afterward to get rid of the batter hair problem. Serendipity was most intrigued by this activity and spent the entire time trying to swipe the bubbles. There were several points where I was almost certain she was going to fall in.

I don’t get many of Tempest anymore; she’s too busy to pose and is starting to feel awkward, so images like these are special.

She’s looking more and more like a teenager and less like a little girl. 11 in two months! MIDDLE SCHOOL! 🙁

As a way of battling her camera shyness, she decided to pick up D’Argo and have him join her. He tolerated it, but wasn’t exactly thrilled.

It is cute how they “match”, though.

Zephyra playing out in the garden before we mowed down all the dandelions (much to her dismay).

“I’m hiding! You can’t see me!”

I cut off her shaggy hair shortly after that set was taken, and took a few pictures of the resulting ‘do once she got settled on the couch with her lunch.

A brand new litter of bunnies started nosing their way out from underneath the side of our house about a week and a half ago. When they’re this big, they’re always amazingly affectionate and curious. The kids from all over the complex flock to them and just sit in a semi-circle on the ground, around the hole, and wait for the babies to come out and explore. It takes very little to coax them; sometimes just a little scratch of a finger on the ground and they bound out ready to pounce. It’s hilarious and endearing. They crawl all over the kids with no fear at all, and it’s amazing to see.

Tempest’s lap:

Xan’s lap:

And a few of Zephyra playing in the back the night before the camera died for good. At least the last photos I got were of my kids.

Zism of the Day:
Z asked for paper to draw on, then proceeded to violently poke holes in it with a pen. After a few minutes she held it up for me.
“That’s… very nice. What is it?”

Links of the Day:
The day I left my son in the car – This is a compelling, well-written and thought-provoking article about the cultural shift toward overprotective parenting and the pressure to be a helicopter parent even when you know it’s uncomfortable… because the fear of facing societal consequences is far greater than the reality of your child becoming injured from a few unsupervised moments, or experiencing independence. Reading this woman’s account really makes a frightening point about how easily a family can be destroyed, and a real horrible fear of being “Taken by the police” instilled in children over absolutely stupid shit that was never an issue 25-35 years ago, and still shouldn’t be today (especially considering that our world is *safer*, rather than more dangerous, and this has been proven time and time again).
Female-named hurricanes kill more than male because people don’t respect them, study finds – This is not The Onion, but it sounds like it should be.
This is a generic brand video – Designed to sell stock footage in a humorous way, and ends up being the most hilariously brilliant take on a “generic commercial”.
A gentleman’s guide to rape culture – With killer misogyny in the news a lot lately, this kind of primer should be required reading for all men.
Daughter’s career dreams linked to dad’s share of housework – Actions speak louder than words, and if your male partner fairly divvies up the household tasks, your daughters are much more likely to pursue career and life choices that are typically considered more “male”. Boys were not affected, unsurprisingly. [ PhD in Parenting ] has more on this study, breaking it down beyond just the headline.
Raising a Moral Child – A fascinating article that explores how and when to instil lessons of morality and kindness into children, and how lasting the effects are. The theories are led by recent psychological evidence, and make a lot of sense. I know that for me, after reading this, I’ll be changing the way I communicate praise to my kids.
Teaching good sex – This is a long read, but absolutely fantastic. It’s an in-depth article about the sex ed program in a high school and how it affects the children who take it. The class is taught by an openly gay, practicing Catholic male teacher with a masters in human sexuality. He teaches not just the standard STI/safe sex, but how to have and enjoy relationships, communication, good sex, bad sex, consent, pornography, slut-shaming, advertising, homosexuality, trans* issues, masturbation, female pleasure and orgasms, sexual objectification, society and how sexuality is intricately woven into our world… and the kids are completely changed by it. It’s really an incredible approach – and (no surprise here) it works amazingly well. The kids don’t just get an education about safe sex, they also get an incredible arsenal of life and relationship skills and learn how to approach sex and relationships in an entirely new (and respectful, open, communicative) light. Kids who took the class more than a decade ago still talk about how much it influences their lives as adults.
It’s really too bad this isn’t the standard approach to sex ed for high school students everywhere, because the improvement it makes on teens’ (and adults’) ability to navigate sex and relationships for the rest of their lives is absolutely incalculable.



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