Wednesday, 25 December 2013


It's supposed to be the happiest time of the year, and in a lot of ways it still is.

Two short - and yet very long - years ago, J and I were gearing up to spend our first night in our new home. Young newlyweds with a toddler, we were the picture of a happy little family. As we put the finishing touches on the walls and swept up the last of the dust leftover from construction, we discussed all the extra space in F's room for a crib - if we were lucky enough to have a second. We couldn't wait to host our family and friends for a Christmas celebration in the upcoming evening. I never imagined then that it just be F and I from there on out, but so it is. 

Christmas is so heavily wrapped in tradition for many families that it brings a sense of loss and sadness when the holiday rolls around. Five years ago, there would be as many as 20 people sitting around my Nanny's dining room table for Christmas Day dinner. This year, there will be 10. The emptiness fills the room, and there's a precarious mixture of reminiscing and avoiding mention of loved ones now gone. 

But Christmas is a time of new beginnings, right at its core: the arrival of the baby Jesus. It's a celebration of the magic of love. While I enjoyed seeing F's eyes widen at the sight of what Santa brought him and the smiles of family members as they unwrapped their gifts, I'm mostly relishing in the opportunity to just be. Just sit with F and watch snow fall. Laying on the couch watching movies with Dad. Laughing at YouTube videos with Mom. Sitting around the table with food and drink and just feeling the warmth of family, friendship and love.

In spite of the pangs of sadness that have an amazing ability to sneak up on me, I'm filled with the joy and magic of the Christmas spirit, not because it's easy but because it's the decision I have made. Wherever you are, I pray you have a safe and happy holiday. Hug your loved ones, call a friend, spread some Christmas cheer!

And if you still feel sad, watch this video

Merry Christmas! 

best, love and smiles, ashley & family

Friday, 20 December 2013

Before you open the box...

I knew going into my adoption disclosure that it wouldn't all be sunshine and rainbows. 

Life, you see, is ugly sometimes. Messy. Unexpected. And every now and again, shit hits the fan and you've gotta deal with it. Nobody is exempt from that, it's just part of the reality that is living in this big old world. There's no sense fretting about the past. It's unchangeable. It is what it is. Even if I could totally change the way things played out, I wouldn't. Thanks to a series of what some people might call "unfortunate" events, I was put up for adoption and came to have the fantastic life that I have today. 

And yet, I needed to know. 

I don't know why, but I struggled every day of my life with a sense of inadequacy. The bizarre idea that I hadn't been good enough. If I had, she wouldn't have done what she did. If I had, I wouldn't have been taken away. She was my birth mom, and the idea is as crazy as a bag of snakes. There's no reason there. No logic. Just confusion, the unknown, the unanswered. Curiosity, as it were, killed the cat.

I dreamed for years of finding out, but lacked the proverbial balls to do it until the day I put my request for disclosure in the mail and actually almost threw up on myself. I felt my heart stop when the phone rang and the voice on the other end announced that my birth mother had been found. That it had been an emotional phone call. That my letter and my photos were on their way to her. And then it unfolded faster than you can "genealogy" and the next thing I know my biological father's telling me to climb back into the hole I've been living in and I'm meeting my maternal grandfather on his deathbed. It's the stuff of soap operas and yet it's also the shit you just can't make up. It's that thing called life being unexpected and messy and unpredictable and amazing.

But there's no putting it back.

It's like when you receive a box of stuff and you take it all out to look at it, but no matter how hard you try you can't fit it all back in perfectly, the way it had been. No matter how much you try to stuff it in, not even if you sit on it and try to zip that baggage up, can you ever close it again. Because once that box is opened, it's opened forever. You can't tuck it away neatly until next time, There's no "pause" button. 

I'm not sorry I did it, but sometimes I wonder if I really understood that this was a lifelong commitment. There's no undoing it. There's no forgetting the moments that we all waited years to have. There's no wiping the slate clean, either. I can't unlearn what I've learned, un-read the social worker's reports or the doctor's notes. I can't unsee the photos. I can't undo the things I've done. I can't erase the sadness of spending time with Granddad knowing it was all I'd ever have, I'll never forget the hurt that came from the rejection of my biological father, and I'll forever cherish the opportunity to get to know my family.

If you're considering adoption disclosure, consider talking to someone first. Be it a therapist or a social worker, talk to someone so you're prepared for what you might uncover. Make sure you're ready. Once that box is opened, there's no repacking the contents. It's open forever. 

For more about my adoption, you can click here or here or here or even right here

Monday, 9 December 2013

Unbroken Family

Last week, someone "kindly" forwarded a link to my email.
(catch that? it's called sarcasm and i am dripping with it today)

The name of the article that the link was for was "How to Survive the Holidays as a Broken Family". I have an issue with the term "broken family" - though, admittedly, not nearly as big an issue as I have with the fact that someone felt it was necessary to send me that bullshit link. In case you're wondering, a "broken family" is defined as a family where parents are separated or divorced, but I'm still not really feelin' it. A "broken home" essentially mirrors that statement, except it's a house with a broken family living inside of it.

My family is not broken. It is not defective. It might not look like yours, but it's made of the exact. same. stuff. 

I had a broken family when I had a husband who didn't help me raise our child. I had a broken home when a truck meant more than a marriage, and when fun with friends was more important than family. I had a broken life when my heart ached because my relationship was empty and my dreams were in the dark. I don't have those things any more, and my son does not come from a "broken home". He comes from a home that's filled with love and support and he has a family that loves and cares about him more than anything else in the world. He might not have someone in the house who he calls "Dad", but he's got a group of great men to look up to, each of whom is more than willing to lend a hand along the way.

Terms like "broken" serves only to tell our kids that there's something wrong with their home. Their family is "bad", it's not right. It's broken, like a toy that needs to be thrown away. Isn't being a kid in a situation with only one parent hard enough, without society telling him or her that their family is wrong? Isn't being a kid in the society we're in hard enough? I know as an adult that hearing terms like "broken family" or "broken home" make me feel badly about my life, and it's bullshit because my life is pretty awesome, and perfectly imperfect in its one-piecedness.

Does it suck that my family falls into the category of "broken"? No. Sure, I didn't plan on being a single parent but I'd way rather raise F alone than be miserable in a relationship where I felt just that - alone. My kid is a Hell of a lot better off having a parent who is genuinely happy than he would have been with two parents who weren't.

Families, like the people they are made up of, are unique. I explain this to F all the time. Some families have brothers or sisters, some have brothers and sisters. Some have no children, some have one child and others have all kinds of children. Sometimes they're different colours. Some families have one mom or two moms, two dads, one dad or a mom and a dad. But for all the differences, families are the exact same because they're made of love, whether they are nuclear, blended, upside down, purple, green, single-parented and triple-childed. 

And every family has hiccups and crazy Holiday stuff to deal with.


Saturday, 7 December 2013

Advise me

Kids give great advice.
Some of the best advice I've ever received and the most important life lessons I've ever been taught have come from children, especially my own. It's the little things that as grown ups, we forget or we're too busy for, and it's the things that make all the difference in the world.

Stop. Appreciate your surroundings. Doddle sometimes.

While hanging out with a friend not so very long ago, we got into a discussion about relationships. Her nine-year-old was apparently listening in, and when I said that I often thought about getting back together a little voice piped up with, "isn't it called a break up because it's broken?". And it's true. While I won't pretend to know what the future holds or how things may play out, I've learned the hard way that if it didn't work the first time, a relationship doesn't tend to work the second or the third time around, either. 

So, if it ain't broke don't fix it and it's called a break-up because it's broken. Apply those simple principles to  your relationship and you may find that you created problems where there were none, or you tried to fix something that wasn't fixable.
As we were rushing to get ready one morning, I barked at asked F to put on his jacket, perhaps little more sharply than I should have and he stood there looking at me as I continued to rush about. When I asked him why he wasn't listening, he told me I hadn't said please and he was right. Being late doesn't excuse poor manners, and who better to remind me than the child whom I'm teaching this simple rule. 

And then, I started thinking (dangerous, I know) and I came up with this little list of things that F has taught me recently, and I'd like to share it with you...

1. Hugs do not need an occasion. Hug people you love for no reason, other than that you simply love them. Receiving an unexpected, love-filled hug is the best thing in the world. I know this because it happens to me every. single. day.

2. "I love you" also doesn't need an occasion? Love someone? TELL THEM. Don't put it on Facebook. Don't tweet it. Don't beat around the bush - just say the words. And don't not say it because "they already know". Tell them anyway.

3. Celebrate the little things. F told me I had done a good job when I flushed the toilet this morning. and while it sounds a little bit silly to a grown up, it was important to F to tell me that I had done a good job. I also get "Great job!" or, my personal favourite, "You're the best!" when I make meals, put on our boots or sometimes just run a bath. Thank people for doing the things they do each day, even if it's just emptying the dishwasher.

4. Say what you feel. F tells me when he's upset. In fact, I encourage him to. He says he's happy, or he's sad or he's angry and he says when he doesn't understand or doesn't like something. Can you imagine how much easier life would be if people told one another how they actually felt? My stars! 

5. Be silly. Laughing makes you feel instantly better. If it doesn't, you need a soul because you obviously don't have one. Don't take yourself too seriously all the time. Sure, there's a time and a place for everything but don't forget to take a few minutes to watch a funny cat video or share a joke with a friend or colleague. 

6. If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all. The words of Thumper's mum are repeated over and over at my house, and I'm as guilty as anyone of breaking this rule. It's extra hard when I preach "say how you feel", but you can say how you feel without making someone else feel badly. And if you don't think you can, that's one time you can keep your feelings to yourself.

7. Slow down sometimes. I often get frustrated when we're walking somewhere and F stops to look at leaves or some other random, inconsequential thing and hurry him along. But it's good to stop and smell the roses coffee. I tell him to hurry up when he's eating, as he takes a bite and then "mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm's" his satisfaction. How often do we shovel food in without appreciating the great flavours? I know I do. I've eaten entire meals without tasting them. Life moves fast enough without us hurrying it along.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013


In my last post, I referenced co-sleeping.

I started co-sleeping with F when he was about two weeks old. There was a multitude of reasons behind this decision, the least of which being that I was too lazy to get up and walk across the room when he cried. Then there was the fact that my child absolutely despised his bassinet. And, of course, the decision maker: I had no partner to help me with things like taking the baby from the bassinet or crib to the bed, changing those middle-of-the-night, breastfed-baby-diapers or anything else. Although J and I were "together", he was away working and studying towards his welding diploma, so it was just me. And both F and I got way more sleep. To this day, I don't think I would have survived if I had to get up and deal with formula through the night.

When people started finding out about my co-sleeping arrangement, I got more backlash than I ever expected. It was around that moment that I realized how important what I do in my bed seems to be to other people, and I reckon that was the time I said "fuck it" and gave up on caring what people think about what I do in my bed or anywhere else. Parenting isn't a "one size fits all" arrangement. It's trial and error with some alterations and a lot of sleepless nights as you try to figure out what that alteration needs to be. I can still hear the "don't start that habit..." warnings, and perhaps I should have listened but I'm pretty sure most kids don't go off to university still sleeping in their mom's bed, so...

But, here we are, about to turn four and F still sleeps with me almost every night. When I say almost every night, I'm talking 29 out of 30 nights a month - unless of course he's not with me for a day or two at which point I'll get another night to myself. Sometimes that happens. He usually ends up sleeping with Grammie and Grampie in those cases. He has his own bed, and he was pretty into it back in the days when Red was part of our little family. Sure, it took a long time for him to settle and I lost the ability to fall asleep before he did but it was nice to have a sleep without a toddler beside me. Now, I rarely get him into that bed and when I do, it's often not a full night's sleep.

Sleeping with Mommy brings F a lot of comfort, and I expect I'm not the only parent to give in to that. He's had a lot of upheaval in his little life and if he's more secure sleeping with me most nights, so be it. I'll soon be begging him for a snuggle, why let it go to waste now?