Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The benefits of getting your eyes checked annually


Quite simply, our youngest boy has terrible handwriting. And his drawing skills are even worse. They’re so bad that his teacher went out of her way to show us an example of what level a grade one student should be at vs. what level our boy is at. The results weren’t pretty.

This is not our son.
His skills (or lack thereof) were something that we noticed almost the day he joined our family. And in all honestly, we did ask ourselves if handwriting is really that important? I mean, let’s face it… adults today rarely raise a pen to write a note. Can you imagine what it will be like when today’s children are adults? Will pens even exist?

But we decided that handwriting is still important so he should learn how to do it legibly. And if he could draw a picture, even better!

So in addition to his normal homework, George had him practicing his tracing skills, colouring and writing letters. And we began to see an improvement.

But then the other day all three boys had their annual eye examination. And guess what? It turns out that he’s basically blind in one eye and needs glasses for the other. Thankfully the doctor tells us this can be fixed… with the use of a patch on the good eye for one hour every day.

Of course he’s upset because he thinks everyone at school is going to make fun of him. But we did manage to convince him that only smart people wear glasses.

Oh, and our oldest boy no longer needs to wear his glasses.

There’s lots to this parenting thing, isn’t there?

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Our first concert with the boys


Parents who have children from birth get to experience so many “firsts”. Things like first laughs, first birthdays, first walks, first pees in the toilet and first days of school.

Sadly, George and I have missed out on all those firsts.

Yamato Drummers of Japan
Image is copyright but I'm
using it anyway.
Please don't sue me. 
And for many adults who adopt older children, there is often a massive sense of loss with respect to this. And now that we’re in that position (we adopted our boys when they were 6, 7 and 8) we can completely empathize.

But when we were going through the adoption training, our case worker suggested we don’t dwell on what could have been, but rather what is or will be. In other words, we as parents of young children are still going to experience a huge number of firsts.

And last night was one of them.

A few months ago, George suggested we pick up some tickets to see the Yamato Drummers of Japan at the Brampton Rose Theatre. Costs weren’t too high and they had half-price tickets for kids. It would be the kids first “concert”. And it was cultural, too!

So last night was the big night. After giving the boys “the talk” in the car (no talking during the performance, no farting etc…) we all made our way to the theatre, took our seats and waited for the lights to dim. In the meantime, the kids were full of enthusiastic questions.
“Why is there smoke?” (it’s dry ice and it’s for the mood)
“Why can’t we sit up front? (because we’re not rich)
“Why can’t we sit in the balcony? (because these seats are better)
“Can I have a snack? (stop asking for food)
“Can I have a drink? (no)

Once the lights dimmed and the drumming started, we knew what “firsts” are really, truly all about. The boys were completely digging the music. Their clapping was crazy happy. Their eyes were bigger than pizzas. They loved every single minute of the night. And it was just as much fun watching them as it was watching the drummers (who, btw, were absolutely incredible!!)

Unfortunately we took off a few minutes early so we could beat the rush and get the boys to bed at a reasonable time (if they don’t get their sleep, boy are they grumpy the next day!)

Overall, the night couldn’t have gone any better and we can't wait to experience more firsts with them. 

Monday, 28 November 2011

Santa Claus Parade

This past weekend was our town's annual Santa Claus parade. We missed last years (probably because we didn't have kids so it wasn't high on our list of things to do.)
George and the little one
So this year we invited my parents to come stay for the weekend and enjoy the parade with us. They readily agreed.

Needless to say, it was a small town Santa Claus parade. Which means the parade was small in size but big in heart. Lots of shriners on lawnmowers, kids on floats, candy canes flying everywhere, and yes, a Santa Claus direct from the North Pole. 

Good times were had by all. And now the kids are even more hyped for Christmas. Next up? Chopping down the tree.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

We're hockey dads!

Very early on, George and I had decided that each boy would join an activity. Ideally separate from each other for two reasons:
Our boy at practice. 
1. They could meet other kids their own ages, especially since the boys are new to the area and would like to make some new friends
2. The two youngest have an unhealthy (in our opinion) need to do everything and agree with everything the oldest boy says and does.

We (and by "we" I mean "I") wanted to get the boys in Cubs. But because of their ages, they would be in the same pack. So we gave them all the option to pick one activity they wanted to do, plus Cubs.

The youngest picked Hip Hop. The middle picked Karate. And the oldest picked hockey. Yes, hockey. I think most Canadian parents would be tickled pink to have a kid in hockey. George and I, however, were really hoping hockey would not be chosen. And admittedly for selfish reasons. My goodness, do you have any idea how much hockey can take over a person's life? (And by person I mean parent.) There are practices, games, more practices, more games, fundraising, and more practices. From September through April!  And quite often at really ugly times. Like 7am on a Saturday. Plus, there are tournaments that are often so far away that parents are forced to pay for hotels out of their own pocket. Plus, the up front cost of registration and getting your kid in gear is crazy ridiculous. I know all this because we have watched our niece and nephew progress through their hockey leagues over the years.

Of course, there are lots of benefits to kids playing hockey. My niece and nephew both absolutely love hockey (it's always good to have a passion in life), they've made great friends and are getting lots of exercise.

So after lots of discussion, George and I decided to bite the bullet and register him in hockey anyway. Part of our rationale was that thankfully he didn't know how to skate so the first couple of years would be more about learning than actually playing real games.

Well guess what the little guy did? He got good!

So good, in fact, that the coach bumped him from level 1 after 1 week, then bumped him from level 2 to level 3 after 6 weeks. Now the coach tells us that he wants to get him into Atom (or maybe it's Novice) right after Christmas. Which means we'll become real friggen hockey parents driving him around to different towns for games and tournaments! Sleeping in on weekends is really over, isn't it?

Needless to say, we are incredibly proud of him. He couldn't even skate when he started! He is so happy, which makes us happy.

Oh, and about the Cubs. We couldn't register them because it conflicted with the Karate lessons.

Maybe next year!






Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Imagination. And a boy with a box on his head.

When the boys joined our family, we said to them, "You guys have 99 acres to play in. Go have fun!"

Instead, they followed us around saying things like, "I'm bored" and "There's nothing to do." For them, fun was sitting in front of the TV playing video games.
Our boy with
a box on his head.
We're so proud! 

We suggested that if they were bored they could help us around the house by, for example, cleaning up Hank's enormous piles of dog shit in the backyard. We thought that might kickstart their imagination. Unexpectedly, after getting over the initial smell and grossness, they began to help.

"Use your imagination," we'd say! "Go build a fort, climb a tree, play cops and robbers, build sandcastles, anything!" Instead, all we'd get were blank stares.

"When George and I were your ages", we'd tell them, "we would leave our houses at 9am, come home for some lunch, then take off again until dinner. We had no problems finding things to do." Why couldn't they, we wondered?

So we called our case worker up for some advice. What she told us  blew us away. Like many children in "the system",  they didn't know how to use their imagination. Basically, they didn't know how to "play" in the traditional sense of playing. In this aspect of child development, they were behind. Our job, she told us, was to teach them how to play. So we did. Or we tried to, anyway! Thankfully George was/is on parental leave so he could do a lot of playing. And believe me, he knows how to play. You should see his collection of Lego!

One Saturday George took down part of our porch and built the boys a fort in the backyard. They played in it for about 3 days, but eventually got bored of it.

Another day we covered the front porch with paper and spent an afternoon drawing a city on it so the boys could use their cars on its roads. Worked great until it rained and washed away the city.

We bought some kites and, on the first windy day, we went into the field beside our house to have some fun. It wasn't. One boy let go of his kite and it ended up in a barn's silo. The other boy got scared because the kite got so high. So he stood still and cried. The other boy, well, he just ran around not knowing what to do. We tried though!

We bought some board games and UNO cards and try to play with them as much as possible. We've also made Friday evenings Family Game Night, which they seem to enjoy.

George even dumped his entire collection of Lego (except the space shuttle) into their bin so they could have a mega-collection of Lego (which they absolutely love and spend hours and hours building really cool stuff.)

Lately, we've noticed them puttering around out back in the piles of dirt our neighbour has been ploughing. On their own. Without us having to show them what to do.

Anyway, long story short, our work seems to be paying off. Last week we bought some new lights for the kitchen. After unpacking them, the boys asked if they could use the boxes. 15 minutes later, we could hear them in the livingroom. One minute the box was a bus. The next minute it was a house. Then they took it outside and made the box the goalie for their hockey game.

It seems they do have an imagination.


Friday, 18 November 2011

You're so gay!

Since joining our family, the boys have been caught using the phrase “you’re so gay” or variations of that, toward each other about three times. The first time it was said we had a family meeting around what that phrase means and why it’s inappropriate, especially since it was used in a derogatory manner.  After talking with them, we came to the conclusion that they were saying it because, well, that’s what they hear at school and on TV. And believe you me, it's used a lot! We talked to them about how certain words and phrases can be hurtful and they should think carefully about what they say and when they say it.

A few weeks later, I was reading a nursery rhyme that had the word “gay” in it. This rhyme was written well over 100 years ago and the context of “gay” was happy, which I wouldn't expect them to know. As soon as I read the word “gay” they started to laugh. I stopped reading and asked them what was so funny. And being little boys, they said something to the effect that I said “gay” and I shouldn’t have. This is apparently quite funny.

I used this opportunity to ask them, “What does gay mean to you?” The answer I got was something like “When adults do dirty things to each other.” (Hell yeah, I thought, but that's another post!)  I know that kids find anything about sex to be gross, but I have to wonder if they have the same impression of what non-gay people do? I regret not asking them at the time.

Anyway, I decided to ask them if they knew that Daddy and Papa were “gay”?  Based on their expressions, they obviously didn’t.  Even though they know we’re married (which they thought was hilarious, too), I think they think we are just really good friends. Who happen to share a bed. And kiss. So I basically repeated what we told them before and to watch what they say.

Since then they’ve been caught using the phrase a few more times. Each time we have more serious discussions with them and tell them there will be repercussions around using that phrase. That seems to have done the trick… for now anyway. We get the impression that they are starting to understand why that phrase can be hurtful, and the last thing we want is our kids to be the “those kids” on the playground.

Since joining our family, we have had a number of discussions about “what/who makes a family.” We have said most families have a mom and dad. Some have two moms. Some have one mom or dad. And some really, really lucky ones have two dads. But ultimately it doesn’t matter who their parents are as long as they feel loved and are safe. And have a full belly.

I know we still have some work to do in this field, but we truly want our boys to understand the power of words. Not just around the infamous “You’re so gay”, but all words. 



Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Putting the kids to bed

Bedtime has been one of the absolute BEST experiences we've had since the boys joined our family. From day 1, there have been virtually no "I don't want to go to bed yet" arguments nor any of those incidents you've seen on Supernanny where a kid gets out of bed like 87 times before they finally fall asleep and the parents have a complete nervous breakdown.

On school nights, the boys go to bed at 7:30 while on weekends we've upped it to 9. Our oldest has the option of going to bed at 8:00 during the week but he seems to like going to bed with his brothers.

Our routine is as follows:

  1. Brush teeth and floss. George picked up toothbrushes for them that have lights that let them know when 2 minutes are up. They love them and hopefully we won't have to deal with any cavities in the future.
  2. Read a bedtime story. Usually it's a 5 minute fairy tale, or a nursery rhyme. Lately we've been getting into chapter books, which they seem to get a kick out of. 
  3. Thumbs up / Thumbs down. Our case worker suggested we spend a few minutes asking the boys to reflect on their day and to give one "thumbs up" moment and one "thumbs down" moment. The idea behind this is to get them to really think about what they did well and alternatively, what they didn't do well. This is absolutely brilliant! You can literally feel the energy in the room change as the boys think. And 9 times out of 10, they'll give an honest answer (for example, a thumbs down was when boy #1 hit boy #2.) Of course, we sometimes get answers like "My thumbs down is that today isn't Christmas." 
  4. We then tuck the boys in, give lots of kisses and say goodnight. 
The only problem, and it's not really a huge problem, is that they like to talk when the lights go out. Unfortunately it would sometimes go on for 30 minutes or more. So we came up with a solution. Boy #3 was given a watch for his birthday from Grandma and Grandpa. Before leaving their room, we look at the watch together and say something like "when the big hand is on the 10, you must stop talking." He knows he's in charge of this and we think the responsibility he's been given has made a huge difference because we no longer here them talking! 

Now if we could only get them to sleep in past 7 am on weekends. 

Do you have any tips or tricks around bedtime? Would love to hear them. 

- R&G

Monday, 14 November 2011

Our first "fine dining" experience

For those who don't know, our boys are of mixed heritage: Vietnamese and Caucasian. But they look like George. So we  tell people they're Portuguese.

When they first moved in, they kept asking George to make Pho. They said they used to have it and really liked it. George and I were a bit skeptical. I mean, really... Pho does not have ketchup in it nor is it fried. Well, this past week we received a brochure for a Thai/Vietnamese restaurant in Georgetown called Lily, which advertised Pho. So Saturday night we all jumped in the car and made the drive into town.

We expected the place to be somewhat casual. But no, it was a super cute bistro type place with table clothes, real cloth napkins and wine glasses on the table. To make matters worse, the place was pretty busy and there were no kids. I think it's safe to say that George and I were a bit nervous. But we decided to throw Pho to the wind and go for it.

Guess what happened? About an hour into the meal, a gaggle of older women stopped by our table on their way out to say what well-behaved children we have. George beamed like a Christmas tree while I picked my chin up from the fried rice.

The boys got not one, but two cookies for dessert that night!

Oh and the Pho? The boys loved the beef and the noodles. Hated the onions. And they tried Calamari for the first time. Of course they had no idea what Calamari was until they ate about three each at which time George told them. Surprisingly, they weren't bothered about it. But it did give them a chance to make jokes about squid squirting ink and stuff.

The Pho dishes were huge so they only ate about 1/3. So we brought the rest home, warmed it for lunch on Sunday at which point they claimed it tasted awful. Sigh.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Most disgusting meal ever...

Each boy gets to pick a meal a week.
The only condition is that the meal cannot be something incredibly unhealthy or just plain awful. An example that comes to mind are chocolate bars and a side of ketchup. Ick, right?

So when our youngest said his meal for the week would be spaghetti tacos, we said ok. I mean, how bad could that be?

Well, it was awful. Disgusting in fact. Spaghetti in hard taco shells do not go together.

For the most part they liked them. I am not surprised.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Reading glasses, part 2

So George drove him to school. Late. 
Turns out the secretaries don't ask why a student is late, which kinda shot a hole in our plan to have him explain why he wouldn't bring his glasses to school. 
Needless to say, George told them anyway. The boy was not impressed.

Last night I asked him why the bid deal over the glasses? He said "no one at school wears glasses." We talked a bit more about it, I explained that all kinds of people wear glasses to read, including both daddy and papa. He still seemed a little irked. Then Star Wars Phantom Menace was put on and I was irked because that movie is so bad. 

 

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Reading glasses, part 1

When our oldest boy joined the family, he came with reading glasses. However, he rarely uses them. In fact, he uses them so little that we forgot he even had them. 

Until recently. 

We've been asking him to wear them because, quite frankly, his handwriting is horrible. No word of a lie, his writing looks like something a child in grade 1 would do. I can say this because our third boy, who is in grade 1, has handwriting like him. His teacher has even been making comments on his homework that his handwriting needs to improve. 

So in addition to his usual homework, we have been asking him to practice his handwriting. 

Long story short, we have been insisting that he wears his glasses again (as this could be part of the problem), and until he goes to the eye doctor, he will wear them. Of course he says he doesn't need them.

Well, right now as I write this, him and George are having a showdown on our front porch about bringing them to school. He flat out refuses. And he's missed his bus because George won't let him leave without them. My suggestion to George is to wait until he's late, then drive him to school and when the secretary ask why he's late, he can explain it. At that point, the teachers at the school will be aware that he must always wear his glasses. 

I will post an update with the results later! Stay tuned for more "As the world turns on 1 Acre" 


Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Our boys are farting machines.

Seriously. Do all little boys fart all the time? Or is it just ours? Sorry, but I just can't imagine a little girl farting so much.

Of course if I'm talking about our boys farting, you know there's a story. Here's what happened:

George and boy #1 and boy #2 are at the hockey arena while boy #3 is playing hockey. Boy #1 lets out a quiet but deadly one. Man nearby accuses his own son of farting. Boy #1 knows what he did was wrong but won't apologize to neighbouring boy who is getting in trouble because it would be "embarrasing".

So boy #1 gets George's stinkeye and a good talking to.

Not 4 minutes later, George can smell it again. But this time it's worse. And this time other parents  are looking at him and boy #1 and boy #2 in disgust. Boy #1 says that boy #2 farted. Boy #2 confirms it and thinks it funny. Needless to say George is mortified.

Both boys say they "didn't feel it coming" and/or "couldn't hold it."

We say they're full of shit. Literally I suppose.

We said that all this farting must be due to excessive halloween candy eating. Therefore, we confiscated the rest of their candy. We may (or may not depending on our late night hunger) hide it and dole it out gradually after a few weeks.

We have had this discussion more times than we care to remember. They both know that farting in public is wrong. But yet, they still do it. One time, Boy #2 farted 4 times in a hospital waiting room. And one of those times was on my friggen lap!

So my questions is this. Are all little boys farting machines? And if so, when will they grow out of this stage.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

What to feed kids

Our three boys have been with us for just over 3 months now. We have lots of ups and many downs. Many of the downs can be attributed to "the adjustment period." After all, they're adjusting to us and we're adjusting to them. Like our case worker has said, George and I have been parents for 3 months while they've been kids for 6, 7 and 9 years. We're still getting to know each other.
Veggies from our garden

It seems that one of the consistent "downs" is around dinnertime. George and I firmly believe making two dinners (one for the kids and one for us) is completely out of the question. Everyone should have the same dinner. Fair enough, right? I mean, who has the time or inclination to make two dinners everyday? So George no longer uses hot spices and he chooses pretty basic foods kids enjoy (like chicken). But every night it's the same thing:
- one kid picks through the ingredients saying "i don't like this" even though he has no idea what it is.
- one kid arbitrarily saying "I hate tomatoes", even though he loves ketchup, pizza (with sauce) and other tomato related products. 
- one kid saying "I hate this" which is hurtful, even though it shouldn't be. 
- one kids saying "I'm not hungry" but 15 minutes ago he was running around asking "how much longer for dinner"

And the weirdest thing is how often the kids are asking "What's for dinner?" They'll ask that 5 minutes after waking up, and probably 5 more times during the day. This is just flat out irritating. 

We can't win. And it's trying on our nerves. 

And sadly, George is losing his passion for cooking. He is such an amazing cook. I mean, this guy can take leftovers from the last three nights and throw together a meal like something you'd find in a restaurant! 

My sister had a great suggestion that works (kinda) for us. Each kid can pick a meal for the week. The condition is that everyone must eat their selection as long as they eat everyone else's selection. Works most times. And they actually pick yummy stuff (like Sloppy Joes and Tacos)

We do the whole "no dessert unless you finish your meal" thing. That works sometimes. 

In the summer they got to pick veggies from the garden for dinners that were to be made that night. They seemed to get a kick out of that. 

My question is this: how do you get kids to eat consistently and healthily without bitching all the time? Or do you resort to giving them pop tarts because it's better than nothing? 

Any suggestions/advice/help would be appreciated. 


Monday, 7 November 2011

Harvesting Heirloom Tomato Seeds

Fermenting heirloom tomatoes
This past Spring we drove out to a place in Prince Edward County called Vicki's Vegetables to buy some Heirloom Tomatoes plants. We spent a mini fortune, bought a wonderful variety, planted them and enjoyed our bounty. For the most part, the kids did not enjoy the tomatoes (with the exception of the Chocolate Tomato variety... I wonder why?)

As the season wound down, I dutifully picked a sample from each bush and put them in a jar to ferment so I could take the seeds for next year. I let them ferment for about 6 weeks. So this past weekend when I went to pick out the seeds, I sadly noticed that there weren't any seeds at all. I think I fermented them to death. Plus, they smelled like what 6-week old fermented tomatoes would smell like. It isn't pretty.

Le sigh.

My Dad told me he ferments them for about 3 days!

Next year I'll try it all over again.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Letter to Santa

We gave the boys until bedtime Sunday to put together their letter to Santa. Apparently there is some labour strife up north so we wanted to get the lists in early.

Well of course they left it until an hour before bed. Which means the lists are pretty short and unimaginative. Next year we are giving them a Sears catalogue and some scissors.

Planting garlic

Bulb from last year's garlic
Last year we went to the Stratford Garlic Festival (yes it exists!) and we picked up a bunch of heirloom garlic bulbs. I planted 'em in the fall, cared for them in the spring, snipped the scapes (and fried them up) and harvested them in late summer.

Btw what's the hoopla with scapes? We were a little underwhelmed with them. Maybe next year we will fry them up with some garlic.

Our crop was spectacular! Really big bulbs. Thankfully George is a genius in the kitchen and uses them often.

This weekend I took 12 of my harvested bulbs and planted them and covered them with hay. 8" across and 3" down. I hope it's not too late in the season. I read that as long as they have time to grow some roots they should be ok. If anyone has some tips or suggestions I'd appreciate it!
Bulb being planted
Our plot of Garlic with hay on it.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Stop the Mega Quarry

So get this, a company called The Highland Group (a Hedge Fund based in Boston) quietly bought more than 7000 acres of incredibly fertile agricultural land near a place called Melancthon Township, Ontario. That's just outside Shelburne and about an hour north of Toronto.

From the start they said their intention was to keep it agricultural and to create the biggest farming operation in Ontario. I read somewhere that 50% of the potatoes consumed in Toronto come from this region.

Then, BOOM, they applied for an application to turn this land into a "Mega Quarry", which would be the 2nd largest in North America. Basically they want the Limestone beneath the land.

This "Mega Quarry" would be deeper than Niagara Falls. In fact, it would be 200 feet below the water table in an area that is known to be the primary source for water for millions of Ontario residents.

This is an environmental disaster waiting to happen.

Thankfully, the Ontario government has said an environmental assessment will be required.

We the people behind 1 Acre are of the belief that clean water and food grown close to our homes are more important than limestone.

To learn more, please visit these sites:
ndact.com
stopthemegaquarry.ca
citizensalliance.ca
http://canadians.org/action/2011/mega-quarry.html

Thank you!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Living in the country...

... means we have spiders! Lots and lots of spiders. Big spiders. Small spiders. and spiders from the Fukushima district.

Halloween

This was our first Halloween with the boys. And I've gotta say, living in the country during this most Hallowed time of year has its pros and cons. Pros? No one comes to our house so we don't have to buy any candy. Cons? No one comes to our house so we can't have fun scaring the daylights out of the kiddies.

So we did what everyone else does in the country - throw the kids in the car and go to town. In our backseat was Harry Potter,  a Zombie Hockey Player and some sort of Knight in Shining Armor (the armor being the lid to one of George's pots, which after about 15 minutes got too heavy so guess who was stuck holding it?)

We had such a good time. Everyone was really friendly, the kids were well-behaved and polite (although we did hear one person say their trick or treats could be a little more enthusiastic!) And they got enough candy to (unknowingly) share with us.

Our Harry Potter Pumpkin

Our story

My name is Robert.
My better half's name is George.
And yes, we're gay and married. For more than two years now, in fact. And look at that... the moral fabric of society hasn't come undone unlike the scarf I've been knitting now for more than two years. But that's another story.

We are in the process of adopting three amazing boys. And by "in the process" I mean we have just finished fostering them and are half way through the six month probationary period.

We all live in a georgous century home in rural Ontario, about an hour outside of Toronto on, wait for it... 1 acre of land! Hence the name of our blog.

We also have a HUGE dog named Hank. He's a South African Mastiff and is incredibly protective of us, the boys and our property. But in reality he's a big, lovable suck who loves to have his belly rubbed.

We also have 8 hens who have yet to start laying their eggs. But George just hooked up a lighting contraption to make it look like they have 15 hours of light a day. This, my dad says, will get their maternal instincts going.

Anyway, just wanted to introduce ourselves. Talk soon!