Saturday, October 15, 2016

Spooky Solutions

Fiona and I had a long phone conversation today. She is coming for a visit home next Saturday but the holidays are starting to be first and foremost in her mind.  I expected that.  Holidays are very much a mixed blessing for her.  On the one hand, she looks forward to them almost as much as KC and Lissa.  On the other hand, the double whammy of her birthday and Christmas remains hard for her to manage.  Though she is turning 24 this year she has no money concept and is prone to asking for gifts that are far beyond the price point of what I can provide for her.  I can expect several conversations this year with varying degrees of success about this.  Last year for instance, she wanted a 250 ipod touch as one of her gifts.  It was hard to explain to her that Christmas for 5 kids means everyone gets something that they want but that there are limits to what I can spend and how many gifts I can supply.

This year, Fi has had more visits home to her first mom, Mom J.  She told me today that Mom J wants her there for Halloween so she can go out when they take her sister R who is about Lissa's age, out trick or treating.  Fiona was feeling conflicted because she always comes with us and was afraid KC and Lissa would be upset. She thought she had come up with a solution which involved all of us going out together.  Which would be fine except that we live 2 1/2 hours apart!  

I explained that we would miss her but that in big families we have to take turns being together.  We had been lucky enough to have her with us for a bunch of Halloween celebrations.  It was J and R's turn and no one would be angry or upset if that was what she wanted to do.  I explained the logistics of why it was not possible for us to trick or treat together.  Distance, the week night etc all play a role.  Also I know J does not drive and I reminded her that I do very little night driving because of my migraines.

I suggested that she and I brain storm with the rest of the family about a place where next summer we could have a big potluck picnic type gathering.  Ideally we can find some place 1/2 way between us all with lots of space to gather, eat and play.  She was very excited by that possiblility and it is something I would genuinely like to do.  I am hoping her cousin N might have some ideas of possible places and I will start googling looking for ideas too.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Wandering and Wondering

 Last night the younger kids and I went on a walk.  We spent a bit of time at a park on our block.  It was a place we spent hours and hours at when they were small, basically from 6 months old to about age 7 for Lissa.  KC was about 9 when we pretty much stopped going.  The park is geared to the younger set and suddenly, the magically dinosaur themed  equipment was no longer massive.

The dinosaur that KC spent hours trying to climb was now an easy hop and a jump.  There are still large swings that Lissa enjoyed last night.  While she was swinging KC and I walked around the park.  He is a lover of memories, my child most likely to treasure a card or a "remember when" moment.  And sure enough, he was recounting all the things we did over the years there. When certain pieces of equipment arrived, who we met there.  Who we were still friends with despite having moved on from "dino days."  Funny anecdotes, like the splashing contests we sometimes had in puddles there.  It all came flooding back to him and we both really enjoyed revelling in the re-telling.

He got a bit weepy over the fact that he doesn't enjoy the park in the same way any more.  Moving on is hard for anyone and I suspect a bit more so for KC who clings to the magic of childhood with tenacious grip.  I reminded him that the greatest gift the dino park gave him was the fact that it was so magical that at nearly 13 he could remember how special it was and that nothing would take that away.  He smiled and said that he wanted to make sure that when he has kids that they go to the dino park just like he did.  I said that maybe they would, but that if life took him some place else, he would remember the fun we made there and would find something like that to give to his kids.  It was sort of an "ah ha" moment for him to realize that you could draw from the beauty of an experience and not necessarily have to replicate it exactly.  A huge growth moment among falling leaves and beautiful memories.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Chinese food Saturday

Today Fiona was due to come home for a visit and I wondered how things would go.  Not only did she have a stressful experience last evening, but her group home is again in transition.  The really good house manager that has been there just shy of 2 years has moved on and there are other staffing changes as well.  Whenever there is a transition it is tremendously hard for her.  Additionally, it means there is less support for her to access as she processes any feelings or concerns that come up as she reconnects with Mom J.

So I was not surprised when Fi called me mid morning, angry and confrontational.  She had been asked to not play her music loudly in the common room where others were watching TV.  She felt she had every right to do that no matter what.  Staff later told me that she was playing her music so loud the music could be heard clearly even though she was wearing her headphones.  Eeks!

While I agree that she was appropriately asked to move to another location or to lower the volume of the music the new staffer also told Fiona that if she didn't comply that she would "lose her visit."  Fiona quite rightly said that the only time her visit is jeopardized is if she has a hold.  I won't take her off site if she is that unstable but anything else, i am okay with.

However that comment from the staff was the tiny straw that broke the back of the tenuous grip that she has held on her emotions since the loss of the former house manager.  Much ranting ensued in thephone conversation and somehow she wound up telling me she didn't want a visit anyway, she didn't want me to bring spending money, and I could just leave her alone.  I explained that I would be coming with her months spending money but that she of course had a choice of seeing me or not.

By the time I got there, a more experienced staff had helped her find some calm, and gotten her to a place where she could more rationally discuss the other staff's mistake, and her own role in the incident.  I suggested that instead of coming home, that she and I go out for lunch and she agreed.

We ate at a Chinese restaurant not far from the group home.  A cute little family run place.  I had a yummy spicy tofu, and she had her favorite crab rangoons and chicken wings.  We were able to talk about her visit yesterday, happy anecdotes of her time there, concerns that she had over the transport issue, plans for future visits there with Mom J and plans for visits with us.

The best thing is that it ended well. A year ago, maybe even 6 months ago, she wouldn't have gotten things together enough to even go to lunch. Huge growth for my daughter and I am so proud.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Circling Fiona with love

I read often about adoption.  It is my duty to do so. To be vigilant and to remember that my joy--the children I love beyond measure--carry a pain that I can not heal.  I believe that adoption is something that means I welcomed more than my children to my home and heart.  I welcomed their first families, their extended families and they too should and did become people I love.

Some we see often. Some we text or communicate via social media.  Some I am closer to than others.  Most especially I have worked very hard to build ties of love and friendship with Mom J, my Rob and Fiona's natural mother.  I have never known for sure how she felt about me.  She always says how grateful she is for the life I have helped the kids to build.  But I don't want gratitude and I don't know if those are words that she thinks she needs to say to me. I hope not.  I have tried to show that she has much to give the kids and that relationships can be healed and recalibrated at any point in life.

And I think she took it to heart.  Today Fiona was at J's for a day visit.  The group home drive her to and from J's house which is a long way away from us.  While I was doing piece work tonight J called me. She said Fiona was trying to get a hold of me and that the worker who was driving her was ill and they didn't know what to do.   I called the group home and got ahold of assistance and when Fiona called me I explained to her what was going to happen and reassured her.  She had for the most part remained very calm, although the reason that she had not been able to contact me is that she was trying to video chat me via Facebook and I was not on line.

I was able to get back in touch with J after all this had happened and  reassure her as well.  I am grateful that tonight we were able to enfold Fiona in a circle of love and safety as she handled a stressful situation.  It is the very best of family building.

Monday, September 26, 2016

KC joins the big leagues!

KC is 12 and in full tween mode these days. But he just made a huge leap (pardon the pun) in his dancing.  He also began his Coming of Age year at church and had his first mentor/mentee event after services yesterday.

In the dance area, he has been promoted to the group 3 dance group for hip hop. He was previously in group 2.  Group 3 is made up of much older kids.  One 8th grader, but most are 9th and 10th graders. KC is 7th grade.  What prompted the boost was the fact that there were only 4 kids in his group 2 hip hop this year.  2 were bumped down a level and one other class mate was promoted with KC.

I worried that he would be nervous but he rocked it.  He could keep up with the class and the class members accepted him warmly.  Saturday our city has a big fall festival. The dance school has a booth there and dances periodically in the streets through out the day.  KC worked from 9 to after 1 and danced multiple times.  Most of the dancers and volunteers were the older girls from group 3 and when they were on break I would see KC walking around the fair with one or the other of the young ladies.

This was KC yesterday morning before church.  Last year at the end of the RE  program the kids made tie dyed shirts to get ready for COA  For each coming of age event they will wear this shirt. KC had a blast. He loves his mentor, with whom he shares a passion for the arts and was proud that during the question and answer period, there was very little about her that he did not know.  Like wise, she knew a lot about him.  For some kids, that might detract from the experience.  For him, it is a key foundation piece for him.

He enjoyed the canoe trip and came home happy and tired eager for the journeys and explorations that will happen this year.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Ties that did not bind

It never gets easy.  Social media is good for lots of things and for an over all feeling of connectedness.  But tonight when I popped on, I saw a post from my BIL.  He was posting about how thankful he was that his father in law was visiting from AZ.  Um, way to find out your father is in the state and not seeing you.  Again.

Most of the time his absence in my life is not something I think about.  It has been so long.  I have so much that is good and loving and right in my life.  In my head, I know that I am pining for something that never was.  Our relationship was not one where I felt loved, and I suspect he felt let down by me.  He must have, since he moved without warning, without farewell.

I'm glad for my sister.  She and my father are very close.  But I am glad I am camping this weekend.  We'll be by the ocean.  It will be cold but there is amazing restorative energies for me at the seaside.  And we are with about 150 friends from two churches.  The kids always have someone to hang with and I have time to chat with really great people.  I always treasure this time.  Today, I feel like more than anything, I need this time right now.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Life Guarding

Things have been going well for Fiona of late.  She has been less violent, and more able to talk through an issue.  Sadly I expect there will be some rough patches in the near future. The house manager is leaving for another position.  This seems to happen regularly with the house managers in this home and I find it frustrating.  I get a working relationship and just as things start to level out--communications are good, mail is properly sent to me, Fiona's needs are being met. . . bang they are on the way out.  There is always a hiatus while they try to find another house manager and this is the worst of all.  People covering the house rarely know the occupants well.  They are often over worked, over tired and uninformed.  For Fi this means there are going to be hurt feelings and outbursts.  Trust me, I have been to this rodeo far too many times.

Yet if I am frustrated, I know my daughter is frightened and angry.  Tonight she called me almost manically happy which is a sure sign that she is going to crash and burn behavior wise.  The house manager called me shortly thereafter and said he had told the ladies today of his impending departure and that Fi was very angry and upset.  I said I knew as she had all ready called and told me he was leaving.  (side note she was not happy he is leaving. She is deflecting this by mentioning his departure and talking about a bunny rabbit she has been trying to acquire for about 6 months.)

I know too that for Fiona  the change in preferred staff underscore the fact that their presence there is a "job."  She is work to them. And while she needs to be there, and while I know in my heart that there are days and times when being with her is so challenging that it is really HARD work, this has to all feel really ugly to her.

Even though I have been through this many times, I don't know anyway that makes this any easier for her.  I always feel like I am trying to help her tread water till the new manager is hired and then I can at least have a sit down and try and get a feel for their style and how to enlist the best assistance possible for Fiona. But for now, back to treading water.