Monday, April 16, 2018

Another trip around the sun for KC

This guy is 14 tomorrow!  The celebrating began this weekend with a trip north where we celebrated with my mom and her companion.  I feel so lucky that not only were they part of the festivities, but that this is what KC requested we do.  His connection to family is real and deeply felt.  It was a really fun visit and he was, as you can see, very happy.

There are odd little family traditions with a trip to see Nana.  There is my wife rolling down the windows and greeting the Saco River as we drive over it.  No matter the weather, no matter what.  Every.single.time.  The kids and I laugh about it if we go up alone as this is not something that any of the rest of us do.

There is KC's love of a specific brand of orange juice that can't be found down here.  He has to buy three bottles of it every time we visit.  And my wife loves a specific 1 1/2 per cent milk that she only finds in Maine.  We all have to eat Amato's pizza because it is the best pizza ever and isn't found here in Mass.  None of the above are the reason for a visit, yet they are woven into the weft of the fabric of our journeys there; part of the memories that my kids will take forward into the world as adults.  It is the littlest of things we often remember most clearly.

KC is an amazing young man.  He is artistic and creative with a strong sense of what is fair and just.    I love that he is open and able to talk with me about the things in his heart, whether it is chatter about dance, his friends, or deeper issues of concerns about racism or questions about adoption. 

Over the past year he has matured so much.  Physically he is much more a young man--taller now than anyone else in our family, and getting his first razor just a month or so back!  He is also just a very gentle guy; so kind with younger kids.

He has volunteered this year with our library for the boys bookc lub.  He creates a game each month for the boys to play based on the book.  He puts a lot of time and thought into this. And although time management is NOT one of his great gifts (which means a lot of 11th hour scrambles to complete his vision) he still manages to come up with some great ideas.  He has made bingos and jeopardy games, a board game and this month a riff on the game of Headb*ndz.  He sets the room up for the meeting and puts the room away afterwards as well.  The boys really look up to him.  He is a "cool" looking young guy and yet stays approachable as well.

Tomorrow we have a small celebratory family supper planned and later at the end of the month a group of his friends have planned a rather extensive celebration for him.  A movie outing, a sleep over and allegedly an epic lip synch and dance off battle.  One of his friends is making a cake, we are providing snacks and other foods but mostly it is being done by friends for him.  At first I was a bit put off by this.  After all, I LOVE to plan a party. I would totally be down with doing this.

Then I stopped and told myself to shut up.  How wonderful is it that he has such a group of friends?  That is such a good friend that they want to do this for him?  How amazing is that? He is, as are all my kids, that which I am most grateful for always.  A greater gift I can not imagine

The Value of LIfe

So I am reeling a bit here.  I mentioned the Hart family murders in the previous blog post.  In the town just next to me yesterday a 6 year old girl was killed by her parents and her 9 year old brother injured by them as well.  A few towns over, an infant was killed. 

I can't imagine how or why these things happen.  I really believe life is sacred.  I don't really mean that in the religious sense.  I am a UU and a pagan.  My religious beliefs are probably pretty much outside the main stream.  However trusty defines sacred thus:

secured against violation, infringement, etc., as by reverence or sense of right:
properly immune from violence, interference, etc., as a person or office.

That sums it up pretty neatly for me.  Children deserve always to be immune from violence, to be protected and safe, to have the possibility that is every young life viewed with reverence.

Somehow we have lost that as a society.  It spreads across all demographics, all levels of social class.  As we gathered to begin celebrating my youngest son's 14th birthday I was mindful that there is a child the next town over that will never turn 7. Everytime violence is perpetuated against a child people try to make sense of it.  In the case of the Hart family much has been written about their adoptive family status, the fact that they were homeschoolers,the fact that they were a same sex marriage.  The abuse and murder in my area was by biological parents,though apparently also homeschoolers.

I watched my kids laugh and celebrate this weekend.  I gathered with friends and had the joy of holding and feeding their new baby while we visited and chatted.  These times fill me with peace, with hope, with joy.

I think as a society when we lose those feelings, when we stop valuing the youngest and oldest among us, we are truly in dark, and scary times.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Love your children well

My feed has been flooded lately with stories on the tragedy of the Hart family car crash.  Or maybe I should say the Hart family murder/suicides? I can't wrap my head around any  of it.  Adoptees and former foster youth are rightly outraged.  6 beautiful children dead.  People try to explain it.  People I know and respect in the adoption community are highly polarized about this. So let me just say for the record that in my opinion there is no way that what happened can be logically explained.  It was cruel.  It was horrible.  Six innocent lives were lost. Adoptive parents should be outraged and angry. They should not be trying to justify what happened by the real or imagined challenges of parenting the children.

It does not matter to me if the kids had "issues."  They were still children these two women chose to adopt.  How twisted people like that were allowed to adopt baffles me.  I guess I ironically always thought that becoming an adoptive parent gave me a leg up on some parenting issues.  Not all of them obviously.

I didn't know nearly enough about the mental health issues that challenge my eldest.daughter.  I didn't know anything about aspergers and autism and how they would shape my Chet's views of the world and his interactions.  I didn't know nearly enough about institutional racism until I became a parent of black and asian indian children.

But that didn't mean I was unprepared for everything.  I remember all those homestudy meetings.  They were filled with hard questions that I really took time to wrestle with.  No one comes from a perfect background.  I spent a lot of time thinking about my childhood and what I would want to bring to my kids experiences and why I felt some things should not be replicated.  We talked about how Kirsty and I felt about key parenting issues--schooling, consequences for actions, and so much more. We talked about racism, parenting a child of trauma, disabilities.

Did I still have a lot more to learn?  Abso-freaking-lutely!  But I felt like I had spent so much time working on the basics that when the less usual stuff came up--mental health issues, behavioral challenges, I could focus on needs and solutions to those problems.  I wasn't juggling say autistic perserverations and whether or not I believed in swatting my kid on the tush. (for the record, I don't)
I kept reading, I kept reaching out, I kept connected with people who would understand what my kids need.  Note that I didn't say what I need.  Because taking care of my needs?  That should not be my big focus as a parent.  I see it as a continuim.  When my wife and I first got together we had lots of time to focus just on us. From 18 to 27 or so we were all about us. We deepened our bonds to each other. We had spontaneous weekend getaways, we made couples memories.

Then we adopted Chet and our lives changed.  Everyones lives change when they bring a child home.  Yes, ours changed more intensely given his diagnosis.   When he became a teen and his needs were less intense and we knew we had love and energies to offer other children we adopted again, several more times.  In each case, we gave each child who entered our family time to settle in.  We reflected and had lots of conversation before each adoption. We made sure we were still both on the same page. (for the record, I personally wanted to adopt once more when my wife said no. I respected her wish.  Knowing your own limits, what works for you as a parent, that is needed for everyone bio or adoptive.) It was never about having the most kids on the block (though we probably do) It was about how deeply we love children and parenting and kids that needed both of those things.

There have been wonderful times and hard times.  I wouldn't trade any of them.  And I am grateful every single day for the gift of family and my children.  As the years race by--KC will be 14 in mere days, Lissa is 11, I know that in not that many years it will likely be just me and my wife and Chet. The wheel will have turned again.

Hold your children close.  Remember the gift that they are, always.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Falling into Easter

Easter with my troops.  The top picture was a good couple years ago.   Rob wasn't working full time then and was able to go to church with us.  Now that he is full time at the restaurant his skills are needed for Easter brunch which runs from 9-3. So he was not able to be with us except for a short bit this morning before he headed to work and we got in the car to head out to church. (our church is a goodly drive from our house.) He wasn't wanting to be in the picture initially.  Not duded up, in his work clothes, I said I'd stick him in the back if he wanted but that him being in the shot was way more important than what he was wearing.  And he is wearing his beautiful smile which is all I need to see anyway.

It was a wonderful weekend.  Fiona has not been home for an overnight in a long time.  Not from my choosing but because she said it made her feel too sad when she went back to her group home. But she was eager to spend the night when I talked to her and I arranged to pick her up Saturday.  She and Lissa wanted to see the movie A Wrinkle in Time so we planned to do that Saturday afternoon, and color our eggs after supper on Saturday.

The "wrinkle" in our time together was that on Friday night while roller skating I fell and did something to my right wrist and arm.  I actually did not know that i did anything at the time. It hurt but not excessively.  (in fairness, I do have a really high pain level and once performed a gymnastics floor routine with a broken finger) I kept skating, Lissa and I had fun (it was a birthday party for a friend.) 

I didn't know anything was amiss till Saturday morning when I went to go grocery shopping and could not press down to shift my car into reverse.  (I still drive standard).  However I have an abhorrance of hospitals, and the one in our city in particular.  On a number of occasions I have had less than stellar care for myself or my family.  Also I am a bit parsimonious and my insurance has a $200 co-pay for an ER visit.  I decided I would wait till Monday and call my dr then and our weekend would proceed as planned.

This actually worked pretty well.  I am able to do a ton of things left handed--the benefits of having my eldest be a lefty is that I learned how to do things that way too.  Our weekend was filled with fun and laughter and lots of love.  I wrapped my arm so I would not have to look at it but when my fingers started getting discolored my wife had me take the bandage off.  LOL

Monday the doctors office was closed so I actually did not see anyone till Tuesday.  By that time I had developed a truly technicolor lower arm, wrist and thumb. It remains purple green and blue. So very attractive.  However an x ray said no break.  Which may or may not be true.  An x ray said that when my daughter broke her hip so my faith in traditional medical things is somewhat weak. 

It is improving, though more slowly than I would like.  I can drive stick again, after almost a full week of having to use the van which is an automatic.  I went to yoga Saturday and had to be careful but there were lots of things I could do.  I can open doors again, but not first thing in the morning.  And I can't twist jar lids or swing anything heavy around.  But mostly, I can function well and I am grateful for that.    My most helpful thing was purchasing arnica gel and using that pretty regularly.  It helps with the discomfort and some of the swelling and bruising.  The poor nurse practitioner just didn't know quite what to do with me.

"Are you icing it?"  she asked. Nope.  I have reynauds and my hands are cold all the time. Icing is super painful to me.  "Are you taking ibuprofin for pain and swelling?"  Nope.  It hurts but less than a migraine so I didn't bother.  "Are you wrapping it?"  Only tried once.  I whipped out my arnica gel and she stared at me like I had three heads.  I tried to explain the benefits of arnica (I have used it before; this is not the first time.)  But it is such an alien concept to western medical providers I might as well have said something in another language.  Thank goodness I didn't  tell her that I just breathe through the pain when it wakes me up at night. (apparently I have an annoying habit of rolling over on it while I am sleeping.) I think for regular doctors I am a horrible patient.  I think mostly my body will heal itself, I do just want to hurry it up so I can open a spaghetti sauce jar with my right hand!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Black Panther!

This afternoon, Fiona, KC, Lissa and I went to see the Black Panther movie.  We were supposed to go weeks ago but Lissa had the flu and wouldn't be able to come and then KC got sick right after she got well. Fi showed remarkable restraint waiting till they were both well so we could all have the time together.  

It was an amazing movie.  Much has been written about the fantastic costumes, the scenery the respectful representation of a number of African nations in the creation of the fictional country of Wakanda. All of that is true, but that isn't what this post is about.

This is about the importance of all kids being able to have larger than life super heroes to identify with and admire.  All 3 of my kids talked at considerable length on the way to the theater about how *finally* there was a real super hero movie for black people.  They spoke of how rarely you see a movie with a primarily black cast (and while we certainly have seen dramas with mostly black casts I think the whole superhero genre is so important to kids that this was their primary focus)  This is not to say that there haven't been occasional black characters in highly popular movies as well.  For instance, the new Star Wars has Finn.  That was great for KC who wanted to be him for Halloween before the movie was even out in theaters.  But it sort of left Lissa in the dust.  She is a very literal child and if a character is not black, she feels silly being her.  Black Elsa and a black Rey were not her cups of tea.  

This movie had so many cool characters that they could choose from--it wasn't just one or even two. And the characters had well drawn personalities.  There was nothing cliche about them.  Lissa was very drawn to the younger techie sister for instance. Young, smart and sassy, I won't be surprised if that is her choice for Halloween! Fiona was fascinated by the female warriors. KC of course is all about the Black Panther specifically and the way the movie fits into the jigsaw puzzle of other Marvel movies.  For him that is important too--that the Black Panthers story makes sense and has a place in among all the other super heroes.

We also had an interesting conversation on the character of Killmonger and how he planned to use Wakanda's wealth to further black power in a military manner.  Now we have Wrinkle in Time to look forward to--and we want to buy a door mat that says "Welcome to Wakanda!"

**disclaimer, I wrote this 2 weeks ago and somehow forgot to hit publish!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Guns and Children

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I could not watch the news last night.  The coverage of the most recent school shootings in Florida chilled me to my core.  I thought of all the normal mornings that happened in the houses of those victims.  The things that parents meant to say and waited till after school. The things kids meant to say but that slipped their minds as they rushed to find homework, permission slips and lunch cash.  Lives that changed in the blink of an eye, never to be the same.  I look at my kids and can't imagine how i would go on if that happened to us.  I know you have to go on.  I don't know how.

I'm filled with anger that a country like ours can not find a way to keep our most treasured resource--human life--safe.  I come from a family of hunters.  My dad hunted every year--deer, rabbit, birds.  I am not a stranger to guns and I don't fear guns per se.  I have shot them.  I have had 16 hours of handgun training as part of my black belt test for my first degree test. 

But guns have a place.  And certain guns don't in my mind, have a place in civilian hands.  Guns like that one used in Florida would be one such.  You don't hunt deer with that.  You hunt people.  We are so afraid that legislation will take away our second amendment rights that we are willing to risk exterminating ourselves.  We blame it on mental health issues instead of the fact that access to these weapons is far, far too easy.  The people who wrote that second amendment had single shot rifles that took a minute to load. They did not envision the advances in weaponry that are available today.

Most people with mental illness are not violent. But we cut services to this population and then stigmatize them further by blaming them for this situation.  Both parts of the tragic equation need to be addressed.  Until we do, I see no way to believe things will improve.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Scare Others

I keep wrestling with the changes I see in our country.  I have a hard time wrapping my head around the incredible unkindness that I see in people's posts.  In the policies they want our elected officials to enact.  In their support of the things that are being done.  This video came through my Facebook feed and I was appalled.  It was a Jimmy Kimmel bit where he brought together Dreamers and people who are totally against DACA. Google it if you haven't seen it.  I couldn't make the link copy properly into my blog and am not sufficiently techie to fool around with it.

Despite meeting a family and seeing their situation (woman who is an employed mother, a nursing student and the fiancee of a military National Guardsman) the vote was overwhelmingly to deport her.  I was stunned, because I think in my heart I always thought if people could put a name and a face to the situation they would think differently. That this would remove the "other-ness" that seems to permit some folks to look at the situation so harshly.  Kind of like when gay marriage was not legal and people would say "those people--but not YOU, YOU are different."  I wasn't different, but I was known.  I was a face that was everyday normal to them and therefore people who knew us well were apparently moved to consider our situation through a different lens.

I'm not sure they would now, because somehow the climate of our country has changed so radically.  I can't even wrap my head around it well to write cogently what I feel in my heart, so bear with me.  The closest thing I can come up with is that we used to operate on the American Dream.  A belief that virtually anything was possible and that it was not harmful to lift up others in their quest for their dream.  We believed  our possibilities, our resources were limitless and available to all and that we could achieve the most by working together for a greater good.

 Now, I best describe our country's mindset as operating from a position of scarcity and "otherness".  Somehow we have become convinced that there are not enough jobs in this country for both immigrants and american citizens to build healthy, meaningful lives.  If we allow immigrants ,we suspect our own jobs will be lost.  If we allow Dreamers a path to citizenship, we foresee negative consequences, a perceived reward being given to a child who had no choice in what happened to them. That perceived leniency is not possible because they are "other."  They are not Americans and therefore their existence is a threat.  I have yet to read an arguement that made sense to me of how and why this was a threat but clearly the perception is that they need to be punished. 

I know some Dreamers in my real life.  They are hard workers and have tried their best to correct a situation that was not of their making.  They want to continue to build their lives here. What truly IS a waste is to send smart, contributing young people away so they can make a living in some other country.  I can't see how that benefits us.

I know some immigrants in my real life.  A lot of them actually because of the work that I do.  They are hard working, contributing members of society.  They do jobs at pays that no one else wants to.  Frankly if they were not there to hire, I am not sure that the jobs would get filled because us real Americans are not all quite as fond of some of those types of jobs. We've got the education and the birth right but not an over whelming desire to pick the fruits in the apple orchards or the lettuce in the fields.  We sure like to eat though so this could become interesting somewhere down the road.

Why don't we think there is enough to go around?  My guess is that our scarcity model is fueled ironically by the excessive consumption that is encouraged by the advertising nowadays.  Ever try to buy a regular sized anything these days?  It's kind of hard because everything is large, supersized,etc.  So we spend more than we need, we want more than we need and we become hard hearted because we are all out to "get ours." 

A sad legacy for our children.