When it comes to parenting Erin and I have learned there is a lot of guess-work and she is quick to say the challenges that she is now helping me puzzle through are going to be the same struggles she will have to work through with Junior. It makes me feel better that we are in this together.

She notices when I am shaking with rage and so lost in my own emotional reaction that I momentarily cannot function because Ben has been rude or thoughtless. I know when she calls because the baby has been up five times that night and she is walking into walls she is so exhausted, that she needs me to tag in.

We are a team, we are confidants and we saved each other’s bacon when we needed it most. I can honestly say God only knows what I would have done without her. I am thinking about this because Tess Kalinowski from The Toronto Star published an article on us about cohabitation and co-parenting; because we have to be strong allies when other people question our relationship from the outside and may not seen the intricacies and the intention with which we have build our unusual family; because my wedding anniversary is today and Erin knows how to hold space for my grief and my love for my lost partner.

It is a beautiful living thing that Erin and I have created that rises up to support us in our times of need. It is the continual tide pushed forward by honesty, commitment and respect. It is the container of joy that allows us to celebrate the courageous moments like when I sold my house, when Erin became a single mother, as well as the absolute silliness of enjoying time together. Just ask the melon ball that Erin launched across the table last night that landed exactly in the collar of Ben’s shirt.

I love my family. I love Ben, I love Junior and I love Erin. No matter what happens in the future, where we move, or when and if romantic partners come into our separate lives – WE are a TEAM. When I was widowed in 2012 I could not imagine having a partnership again, especially in such a unique way. So in the end this post is just about my heart, trying to understand that when something is ripped away from you, you get something back; a healing balm (or bomb) that offers you the opportunity to heal and live the life that you were meant to live.

Here is a link to the article in the Toronto Star! And Erin’s radio interview!

Time To Get a Watch!

To those who love and adore me it is no secret, I am not so good at minding the time. It was actually the bane of my late wife’s existence. I guess it doesn’t help that I didn’t have watch…until now. Then comes Christmas 2018 and Erin’s bid to try and keep Ben and I to a schedule. Erin is also a non-time-minder by her own admission, so it was an easier pill to swallow.

Erin was obliged to mind time for professional purposes, and now I don’t wonder why there is a clock in every room of her apartment…even the bathroom. To me this lends credence to the old adage “she can be taught.” Time management has changed in our co-habited house, not just because her gift to me was a Garmin watch, but also because it was her gift to Ben as well.

I have issues with my wrists so I’ve have never worn anything more than an ultra-light bracelet. Perhaps it was also my stubborn streak to avoid time minding… But now with this fancy watch that keeps me on schedule and counts my steps, time has become my friend!

As a family with Garmin watches we can participate in step challenges. With the kids watch Ben can earn “coins” towards rewards for chores on an app . Until he lost the watch and my mother and I spent three days after Christmas trying to help him find it… It eventually surfaced a few weeks later.

Erin and I designed a schedule for the mornings in 15 min increments which I can now monitor, and we have not been late this semester once!

Now I don’t have to be afraid that time has escaped me, I can just tip my wrist for an instant reminder. This allows me to relax during my daily activities. Since this little gadget is waterproof I don’t have to struggle minding the time for myself, even in the bathroom. So Erin as well as Kara was right, it was time to get a watch, and now there is someone on the other side of the pearly gates of heaven doing a happy dance! Love you babe, but don’t be so smug…lol.

Swimming With the Stars

Hi All, Kelly here,

There are benchmarks when you arrive at something and the situation suddenly feels more significant than the literal interpretation. Ever since those hours in swimming lessons Ben has become a diving, fluttering machine. So when we head down to Regent Park Community pool its a real treat. The water slide doesn’t hurt either. However this was not just any old buoyant family outing.

Erin healed up from from the cesarean business (feeling so much sympathy for that) and she wanted to take Junior swimming. It was a painful ordeal for Erin to abstain from the lake in August during our cottage trip, so she was raring to go. I was sure Junior would love it as he has a laugh and a half at bath time, creating a small tsunami in the baby tub.

At first he was not convinced about the cold air and the the loud echoing room, but as soon as he hit the water he pretty much lost his mind with excitement. As Ben dove for rings floating up and down like a wounded fish and Junior was splashing and swooshing, that is when Erin thought she recognized someone in the pool. She couldn’t place them at first until she, The Walking Dead fan, knew where she was from. Just like that we were swimming with the stars!

The beautiful actress in question was ogling Junior in his cuteness and we chatted with her while her family swam around us. Under her gaze I felt even more like a family unit. It was a peaceful feeling and everyone’s joy just accentuated that.

As Erin went to throw rings for Ben, I got Junior and we puttered around the pool, swishing his little legs in my current. Making faces and over exaggerated moves my little star fish rewarded me with the quintessential wide smile and infectious giggle. That’s when I felt it, my heart melted.

I know it was our intention to “fashion” our own family but suddenly, emotionally it felt like we actually had. I love Junior, he feels like mine just as Erin feels like Ben is hers. They are ours and being there together cemented a beautiful feeling between us. This is what our boys will know, two parent figures who love and support them, a wide community of family and friends and a home that feels…like home.

Now it’s you turn: so you tell us, we love stories at Fashioning Families. What have been your most memorable family times?

Ep 5: Self-Care

Ep 5: Self-Care is here. Erin is pregnant and finally looking like it!! Erin and Kelly, with a HUGE dose of humour, chat about self-care when dealing with physical and mental limitations. Spoiler alert, we have some graphic detail and hang on ’till the end for Kelly’s description of “the sausage.” Check it out!

Bittersweet Blessing

Queer single mom Kelly here. There so much to be grateful for in this world. So much love and care and compassion just waiting for someone to reach for it. I am grateful for this journey, I am so grateful that Erin and I found a place to create a new kind of family together. I am so grateful for the peace she felt with her decision to try and become a single mother, and I am absolutely at peace with my decision to sell the house that was literally falling down around me and make a new home with a second parent figure for my child.

These are the rewards that have come after surmounting a long period of struggle. I can remember the evening Ben and I were over for dinner at Erin’s basement apartment when the thought first occurred to us, we have lived together before, you have a kid, I want a kid and we both want some help. Wouldn’t it be great to share the cooking and the shopping and the bills with someone else?

The financial realities of living in Toronto make co-habitation a sure win. However it wasn’t until shortly before the move in date with our new situation imminent when Erin asked me how I was feeling about things, that I burst into tears and told her how relieved it was to not be alone anymore. Single parenting is hard work and it is a real challenge to see the beauty and joy of it when it’s not what I chose.

These are the good things life has yielded from that foundation of the shitty end of life. As we were getting ready to finish taping our last podcast I was feeling unsettled. Celebrating all the hard work we had done and the hours that we put in to this project (the most accrued during the editing of our very generous producer) was definitely fantastic aspect of the process. However there were some nagging emotions I had to unpack. It is true that I have embraced life as it is but along this particular ride I also have to acknowledge the pain of what I’ve lost.

I became a widow when I was 34 years old and my son was only 19 months. It was a very brief illness leading up to the death of my wife and none of us were prepared for that. I have struggled to try and talk to Ben about Kara and it is only now at the age of seven it is really starting to sink in how much he has lost as well. The joys of living with another adult do mostly make me feel supported and understood but there are nights where I just want to shut myself in my apartment with my pain and try and move through the weight losing a spouse.

Kara has become a hot button topic with Ben and it has gotten to the point where he knows he can pull the emotional strings of his mother who can become a puppet in the wake of his loss. Just the one phrase “I miss mama” creates an emotional collapse in me and he sees it. He really is coming to understand the significance of not ever having known or felt or heard his other mother, however he also uses it to stall going to bed or cleaning up his toys. Whether it is genuine or put on, as a parent I can show him that I am grieving but I am still the adult and must handle it as the situation requires.

The sanity preserving benefit of our living situation is, once he is in bed, I can go downstairs and tell Erin what happened and have a good cry with her arm around my shoulders. I did not choose to lose Kara, I did not choose to become a single mother but I did choose to put myself in a situation where I could receive more mental, emotional and physical support, and I am grateful because that is what family is all about.