Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas to All!

It's quiet here - the Reds are happily munching on waffles, Daddy's sipping a hot coffee and I, still in my pj's am feeling so very, very blessed.

Though we will not be visiting my parents as planned, as they've succumbed to the same bug that felled the Reds last week (Sorry, Mum and Dad!) we will be joining my in-laws later today.

Until then, I will enjoy these peaceful moments with my family and send love to you, dear readers. Thank you for reading and for being a part of this amazing, charmed life I am living.

Boys, being boys!

Santa's offerings!

Merry Christmas!
Bellymonster and the Reds

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tale of Two Sickies

The Reds have been felled by the 'flu. Here's the whole stinkin' mess, as posted on Facebook

Wednesday evening, having written my last exam:

Thursday morning, having been woken by Matthew shortly after midnight:

And then Luke woke up, crying and complaining of stomach pain:

 By late afternoon, we were all miserable:

Later that evening, blessedly alone and wishing for Baileys:

 Sigh. Even when they're sick, they make me snort-giggle:

Apparently I get a teensy bit twitchy when my kids are sick:

And finally....wait for know this one's coming......

 Apparently, I also get sick when my kids get sick:

And you? How do you deal with sick kids?
Are we friends on Facebook yet? Come and find me!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

PART TWO:On Resilience, Faith and Courage - Joe Clayton's Story

Part 2 of 3:

Joe Clayton was 12 years old when he walked through the cavernous halls of Rideau Regional Centre for the first time.

Essentially ejected from the foster care system, rejected time and again by those who were meant to protect and nuture him, he quickly learned to fend for himself inside the institution's walls.

In this overcrowded and  brutally depressing place, Joe spent his days trying to avoid the staff  - and his nights unsucessfully warding off the abuse heaped upon him by other inmates those who lived there, too.

"I was always scared," he recalled, years later, finally free and speaking to my DSW class at Loyalist College. "I always felt ashamed, like no one cared because of how I was treated. I was always scared for my life."

Joe had many reasons to be afraid. During the day, staff and orderlies tortured their young and vulnerable charges, punishing them for the slightest infraction. Joe spent many long hours scrubbing the kilometres-long hallways with just a brush, or banished to a "Side Room" where he would huddle naked on the floor, weeping.

More than once,  staff members grabbed the boy and shoved his head down the toilet, flushing even as he struggled to breathe. Or they'd wrestle him into a "monkey suit" (a straitjacket) and leave him trussed up for the day, just because.

The staff were our God, our mothers, our fathers.

Joe and the others were paid 25 cents an hour to pluck feces from the mountains of soiled linen used by the residents of Rideau Regional. It was dreaded, horrible task but one which Joe and the others were forced to repeat hour upon hour, day after day.

Even the nights offered little solace for Joe. As a resident on a giant ward, he had no privacy - beds lined every wall, spilling out into corridors and hallways. But his blankets offered little protection for the slight boy, for Joe was raped and sodomized almost nightly for 6 years.

In fact, years later, an examination revealed heavy scarring in his rectum - the result of repeated assaults. Beatings were regular and cruel and meted out by staff and residents alike. In the dorms, in the showers, inside the darkened doorways of the institution's long corridors, Joe knew mostly fear and pain.

Many times, Joe tried to escape, sometimes alone, sometimes with his friend, Freddy Sanderson. Joe says that the staff began to taunt him and Freddy, teasing them with thoughts of freedom:

"They played a game with us. They said, 'If you run away and don't get caught for three weeks, you'll be free.'"

Once, the pair almost made it to Montreal before they were caught and they spent several weeks in "Side Rooms" as punishment. After that, they were no longer permitted outside the Centre's locked doors. Besides, staff reasoned, where would he go?

Joe never received visitors at Rideau Regional. In fact, he was told that his family had all died. No one was coming to rescue him. He was alone, except for Freddy, his blood brother, his friend.

An terrible reality for a young boy who came of age inside a cage.

 "There was nothing wrong with a lot of us when we went in," he says, his voice shaking only a little. "But we were all of us broken when we left."

Part III coming soon...

Sunday, December 11, 2011

When Santa Calls...

Yesterday, wee Luke had a hard time listening to instructions. Specifically, he threw two decks of cards all over the floor and refused to pick them up. No amount of asking, cajoling or hollering was working, so, like many a desperate parent before me has done, I threatened to call Santa.

He begged me to hang up the phone and hurried to pick up, only to be distracted by dust motes dancing and hunger and Lord knows what else. Suddenly inspired, I posted this on Facebook:


Within minutes, my friend Jamie offered to make the call. This is how it went:

Luke: Hello?

Santa: Hello Luke, it's Santa! How are you?


Luke: Fine.
Santa: Are you having trouble picking up your toys? Are you having a problem? Mommy asked you to pick them up.
Luke: Yeah. But all I wanted was someone to help me pick up.
Santa: Did you ask someone to help you? Did you make the mess? If so  you have to pick it up. If you need help, ask Mommy.

Luke: Ok.

Me: If you pick up your toys Luke I will look into getting you that "Cars" guitar you wanted. You still want that right?

Luke: Yes.

Santa: Well then you pick up and be a good boy for Mommy and I will see about getting one to you for Christmas, OK?

Luke: OK.

Santa: You go clean up Luke and I will talk to you later and have a Merry Christmas.

In the meantime, Jamie and I were conversing madly on Facebook, hopping between a thread on my wall and one on his. The conversation on his had me howling with laughter, as Luke scurried about behind me:

Luke: Hello! Luke speaking.

Santa: Luke. It's Santa again. Did you clean up your toys?

Luke: Yep.

Santa:  Good boy. I knew you could do it. Now I will look at getting that guitar in the sleigh for you OK?

Luke: Ok bye.  CLICK.
My son had indeed hung up on Santa, but boy, was he proud of himself:

 The fun didn't end there. In between the picking up, hysterical laughter and mad Facebook'ing by me, Luke managed to jam his finger into the pencil sharpener, proceeded to sharpen his finger and then burst into panicked tears. In the midst of the ensuing chaos, "Santa" rang again:
Matthew:  Hello! Matthew McLennan speaking.

Santa: Hello Matthew! It's Santa! I heard you wanted to talk to me too?
Matthew: Yeah!
Santa: Did your brother clean up his toys?
Matthew: Yes.
Santa: Good, good. What happened to his finger? He tried to sharpen it? That's silly! You tell him Santa is bringing him pencils so he won't have to sharpen his fingers OK?
Matthew: ( giggling): OK Santa. ( giggling)
Santa: Now. you want a police man costume and drums?
Matthew: YES, PLEASE! 
Santa: Well I think I can get you the costume, but the drums are a bit big for my sleigh, maybe when you are older OK, buddy?

Matthew: That's what my Mom said too. So that's OK.
Santa: Because when you are older you get bigger things and I can make more room in the sleigh.
Matthew: That's fine.
Santa: Now you be a good boy and help Mommy and I will get you your presents OK? And tell Luke to stop sharpening his fingers! I will get him some pencils!
Matthew: ( Giggling again) OK Santa.
Santa: Good bye, Matthew and Merry Christmas.
Matthew: Bye! Merry Christmas, Santa.
 Proof, dear readers, that the magic of Christmas is all around us: all you need is a good friend, Facebook and a phone.

With love and thanks to the awesome Jamie Terry, for playing along and for letting me plaster his Facebook wall all over the place. Merry Christmas, my friend! xo

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mark's Dreaming of a PINK Christmas...

Tonight's after-dinner conversation:

Matthew: Daddy! Mummy's making a Christmas Wish List. What do you want from Santa?
Mark: A d-a-u-g-h-t-e-r
Luke: A dog?
Liz: Ha! No way, buster. Uh uh.
Matthew: What does he want, Mummy?
Liz: A daughter. Ha!
Matthew: A daughter?
Luke: A girl?
Mark: I have two boys. Don't you think a little girl would be a great addition to our family?
Liz: (telepathically, to Mark): You. are. insane.
Matthew: A sister?
Liz: A sister for you and Luke. Would you like a sister?
Matthew: Uh...not really. I like being just Matthew and Luke.
Liz: Me too, Matthew. I don't want another baby, either.
Luke: No sisters. No babies.

Poor Mark. Another dream, dashed.

To Matthew, I whispered, "Tell you what, though. We can buy Daddy a baby dolly - a girl one. And that can be his daughter, OK?"

Matthew (laughing uproariously): Okay, Mummy! Let's buy Daddy a daughter!

"Welcome Home, Baby Emily"
An Ashton-Drake Doll

So, to the McLennan Christmas Wish List, I added two things:

1. Baby Girl Dolly
2. Vasectomy

Guess it's true, what the sign on our wall says:

"Remember, as far as anyone knows, we're a nice, normal family..."

Sigh. More fodder for the therapists, I say.

And you? What sort of crazy stuff is your family up to, these days?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

On Resilience, Faith and Courage: Joe Clayton's Story (Part One)

Part 1 of 3:

Some weeks back, a man called Joe Clayton came to visit the DSW class at Loyalist College.

Joe Clayton with some of my DSW classmates
November, 2011

An eloquent though soft-spoken man, Joe visits Belleville every year, speaking to students about his life in Rideau Regional Centre,  - an institution that was once "home" to thousands of mentally disabled Canadians.

His presentation brought to vivid, awful life the reality of institutional life. Rideau Regional was, in fact, a house of horrors and as Joe wove his tale, I could not help but feel three things:

1. Enormous shame that in this awesome country, there were are  places like this, where we treated  treat our most vulnerable citizens so very, very badly,

2. Awe and almost overwhelming gratitude for Joe, that he survived years of abuse - mental and physical - and neglect, only to emerge strong and clear and willing to tell his story,

3. Determination that I, along with my classmates, will be among those strong enough to help heal the wounds of men and women like Joe, who deserve the best lives, instead of memories like these:

       Joe Clayton was born in Pembroke, in 1953. In poor health, Joe's mother was unable to care for him and so entrusted him to a family friend. Sadly, the friend died and in 1958, Joe was made a ward of Children's Aid Society.

Remembers Joe, "I sat in the back seat of the car and then I got up and I stood and looked out the car window. My mom got farther and farther away from me and then she was gone out of my life."

Joe was five.

 His first foster family actually adopted him, but within six months, decided they'd made a mistake. He was too aggressive, they said. "Mentally slow," doctors declared.

And so began years of bouncing in and out of foster homes, where Joe was beaten, neglected:

"I remember in one of the foster homes where I was, we went to the beach. I was playing in the water and having fun. Then I was upset about something. The people who were taking care of me they got really mad at me. When I got home, they told me to go to my room. They came to my room and tied me up with a rope. They put my arms back and tied my hands and put a cloth over my mouth. They left me there like that on my bed for one day."

 The only bright spot came in the early sixties, when Joe  landed on the doorstep at his second-to-last foster home. The Polish man who opened his home to the young boy "treated me like a son," according to Joe.

Sadly, Joe's kindly foster father fell from a tree while cutting down branches and died, so Children's Aid Society sent Joe to Rideau Regional Centre.

(Photo courtesy of Joe Clayton)

 He was 12 years old.