Sunday, October 7, 2018

Girl Time

Image may contain: one or more people, selfie and indoorAll right folks.  My tech skills are obviously a bit lacking tonight as for the life of me I can't make the picture anything but sideways.  And of course, we were not laying on our sides to take this picture.  Instead, my lovely Elisabeth and I had a girls afternoon at a hair care event in our city.  It was specifically for people of color and I was definately in the minority.  I didn't mind a bit.  It is important for Elisabeth, who is 11 now (and incidently HOW did my baby get to be 11?) to be surrounded by strong brown and black women. These women in addition to many owning their own businesses, know a lot about hair and self care.  People were friendly and easy to engage in conversation--course I am chatty by nature so you generally have to give me the cut direct for me to realize you don't want me hanging around!

They spoke knowledgeably about the dangers hidden in many of the cosmetics and hair products that are used.  They spoke on the importance of healthy diets and having a healthy self love.  There were free samples, free healthy food snacks and a time to talk and build connections.  She had a wonderful time and really enjoyed it.  She told me afterwards that it is usually hard to sit still so long but that this was interesting.  She is of an age where she has much more say (and often her own cash) involved in purchases and I feel that since she is such a fashion forward young woman, I want her to hopefully make smart choices that will enhance her beauty if that is what she wants, but not undermine her health.

We have had this gathering on our calendar for weeks but it was this weekend that a picture came through my Facebook feed of a TRA black child with a photo shoot in a cotton field with her white parents.  Seriously?  I have no words for the anger I feel at the insensitivity.  That lovely young lady could have been in a field of wildflowers if you were going for the nature look.  It did not have to be something associated with slavery and degradation of a people.

Do I think the parents intended it?  Nope, but I sure do think they were insensitive and that they need to do things like what we did today.  There have to be times my kids are not in the minority. Whether it is me being the only white face at a birth family reunion, or a gathering like this,  Adopting my children is not a case of them somehow becoming me with more melatonin.  It also means I have an obligation to honor and celebrate who they are and help them to feel positive about themselves.

Aside from all of that, it was just a "girl time" experience for Lissa and I. At 11 she is becoming a witty, sometimes sarcastic, but pretty clever and enjoyable companion.  It was a super fun experience.  I also came away with a contact for a photographer.  She was at the event and had a really calm demeanor.  We need to think about getting another family portrait done. The kids have changed so much since the last one.  Finding one that is a good fit for Chet can be a challenge but I really liked this woman's vibe.  We shall see.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

First Campout of 2018-- VERY Late post!

We are back from our first camp out of the summer and it was so much fun!  Hikes, theme parks, board games with friends.  We could see stars and the milky way clearly at night and I slept soundly tucked into my sleeping bag in our tent.

This year we brought another girl with us as well.  I don't really know her parents well; I have met them twice actually.  But I know her through our camping friends and my kids knew her as well.  She very much wanted to come on a camping vacation and her parents would not go. So her parents messaged me and wanted to know if I would take their daughter camping.

I was fine with it and she was very easy to bring.  I actually felt bad because everything we did was so new and exciting to her. She is 16 and clearly hasn't had a lot of experiences offered her in life. So making pancakes on the griddle outdoors was amazing.  Making "walking tacos" was thrilling. Going to Storyland had her over the moon taking pictures with characters.  Hiking up some waterfalls?  The absolute bomb.

I felt lucky to be able to offer those experiences to her.  I guess I hadn't really realized that there are lots of kids who don't get exposures in life.  My friends and i have camped together since 2012.  Our kids have grown up together camping and enjoying all that such vacations offer. This young lady's mom doesn't like warm weather and doesn't like to go out of the house and leave her a/c  Her dad thinks that kids don't need to go anywhere.

But they do.  The world is large and wide and in order to learn how to navigate in it, they need to get out in it.  They have to learn to make decisions (trying to decide what to order at a diner was torture for her) They have to learn to help (everyone helps police our site to keep it boring for bears as we camp in bear country) Everyone helps set up and everyone helps break camp but in between there is lots of fun. 

I am also a pretty laid back camper in that I tend to go with the flow--weather often dictates what can happen.  But kids choose a lot of the activities locations and experiences.  It was super super fun.  I can't wait for the next campout!

***Edited to note that I wrote this in July and forgot to post it!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Camping 2018

The kids and I are back from a camping trip with friends.  We knew we had been camping together a long time but Facebook memories says we have been at this since 2012!  Sure didn't realize it was that long.  Other families have filtered in and out of our camping group but the two of our families have remained constant.  Watching the kids grow up together has been pretty special.  They range from 8 to 16 now and hang out together really well.  No cliques.  Dynamics ebb and flow acording to interests.  Pool time found the upper aged teens horsing around in the deep end and then gathered on the pool stairs laughing and talking.  The younger ones were doing more swimming than chatting. 

But it was such an easy campout because there was always someone around who had an interest in what the other kid was doing or wanted to do.  So I had nearly 6 days with no whining or arguing--truly a Mom miracle! 

Us parents are good friends too--we feed each others kids, help each other out, and love to play board games by the fire at night. 

My campsite was less than stellar (noisy neighbors) but at the end of the day, I didn't care.  (and eventually the noisy ones packed up and left.)  Life is too short to focus on negative.  I was too busy watching the stars that you can't see in the city, cooking on the camp stove, hiking and swimming and making memories.  There are likely more years behind us now than ahead of us for these type of gatherings.  Those upper aged teens like my KC and my friends E and K are going to be busy with jobs and their own lives really soon. The signs are there now.  Older teens going off together when we are at a venue and stopping back periodically to check with us.  Evening games that don't require adults after dinner is done.

I'm loving where we are now, and how deep our friendships have become. I am loving the people all the kids are evolving into and watching that transformation from kid to young adult is really a privilege.  I enjoy also the fact that the more relaxed venue of camping has always made it easier for kids (mine and who ever else is around) to talk.  This trip it was KC, who shared his thoughts on taking a relationship from best friend to boyfriend/girlfriend status.  His concerns about losing a good friend, of not wanting to rush her were thoughtful and true signs of the young man he is becoming. 
But I am not going to lie.  I also miss this.  When Rob was younger than KC is now and Lissa was a bit of a thing.  Camping was probably a lot more work than it is now--though I don't remember it that way.  But my friends were teasing me this trip about how early my kids used to go to bed so I know a whole lot has changed as they got older. As things change as they grow and mature sometimes I feel like I am the one on the Chimney Drop!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Book Games

Apparently when your kids get to a certain age it is increasingly less cool to take pictures with/of them.  However KC was ok with me taking a picture of a game he worked hard to create.  He assists with our library boys book club every month.  When he started helping he decided that cooler games had to be introduced because the kids were sick of trivia games. 

He did Jeopardy, a board game of his own creation, a matching game, a home made Headbans knock off and a couple others.  However the final game of the season should be, in his words, so amazing that they would all want to return in the fall.  He decided to create Book Opoly. 

KC is creative and really good with the big picture concept stuff. The how to get it done stuff?  That usually still needs a fair amount of my help.  However he had a really clear vision of how to turn Monopoly into a book themed game.  We found blank property cards in a fillable pdf on line and made them the titles of books.  We renamed EVERYTHING on the board. We made cards.  It was a big job.

However he saw it through and it was honestly fun working on it with him.  Best of all, his group LOVED it.  So much so that 10 minutes after they were supposed to be done they were all still playing the game.  As the librarian said when she came out to talk with me--this age group (8 to 12 year old boys) is pretty unforgiving. If they don't like something you will know it.  The fact that they were still playing when they were supposed to be going home spoke volumes.

I could tell KC knew it too because when he finally came out he was positively glowing.  I don't have a picture of the giant grin on his face as he came through the door but I think it is imprinted on my heart forever.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Movie Fun-Horse Race Won!

Yesterday my wife was supposed to take this guy to see the movie Solo.  They had planned the date for quite a while.  Unfortunately she is very sick and on extra strength antibiotics for what turned out to be a double ear infection, throat infection and sinus infection.  A true trifecta of non-fun!

KC was devastated.  Apparently when you are a young teen you must stay off social media to avoid spoilers in the movies you are interested in.  The thought of at least another week in media black out had him having conniptions.

Being the kind mom that I am, I offered to stand in.  I sweetened the deal by offering to have him bring a couple of friends--aka people who might actually know what is going on in the film.  The kids could meet us, and we agreed on a 7 p.m. show.

It is a testament to my devoted parenting that i did not bail on this gig.  Because what I had forgotten in the haste to resolve the family crisis was that Saturday was the last leg of the Triple Crown race.  I am a Triple Crown horse race fan since I was about 7 and wanted to be a jockey.  The race would run at 6:30 and there was no way I would be home to see it. The movie theater is about 20 minutes from our home.

I sucked it up and adulted and went to the movies.  The movie was actually good.  The kids enjoyed it and chatted among themselves, totally not minding I was there.  My wife, bless her, taped the race for me so at least I can see Justify win the Triple Crown!

Saturday, June 9, 2018

We are all gifts.

In a week where two celebrities committed suicide, my social media feed is once more filled with PSA announcements on the lines of "hey someone cares, if you feel like this call this #" Or, friend to friend announcements of "I'm always there if you (and this is the general you as it was not intended to one specific person" want to talk.

And this is good.  But what I am wondering is what else do we do? Because i am willing to be the fashion designer and the chef who just died had friends.  In fact, as is also sadly typical, their friends and family posted on how they did not know something was wrong. That they had seemed so happy etc.

I know there are times when you know someone is going through a bad patch.  I have reached out to friends and coworkers who I can tell are stressed or upset.  But did I say enough?  Was the situation more emotionally painful than I realized and chatting over that cup of Dunks or on the lunch break was too superficial to matter?  I don't know.  And my natural New Englander reserve squirms at the idea of going back to them and trying to check further.

I seriously can't think of a way that doesn't sound super weird to start a conversation up again.  I mean do you just ask everyone who is having a really hard time if they are considering self harm?  And would people answer honestly or would they be offended?  I know I would ask my children. I know I would ask my spouse.  I am not sure I really would be comfortable asking anyone else.

I'll own that suicide puzzles me.  That level of psychic pain is thankfully something I have never experienced. And I believe profoundly that we all have a purpose on this world and gifts to give. Gifts we may not even know we are sharing.  So maybe part of my issue is  because I have never been in this emotional place? 

What I do know though is that we need to somehow do more.  I don't think Facebook posts will change anything.  I think a lot of people who kill themselves are really expert at hiding the level of pain from people who love them.  So I don't know what the answer is, but I sure hope someone comes up with something better than the memes I am seeing on social media. I want to be someone who helps; but I am truly unsure how.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Happy Birthday Rob June 2nd

Rob turned 22 yesterday.  It is hard to wrap my mind around that. The mom in me remembers the dinosaur themed birthday.  The year we had the bowling party with his friends.  The skateboard party and on and on. . But years have rolled by with increasing speed and he is a man now. And a good man.  No one is perfect and he certainly isn't but at the core, he is a just so good.  He is loving and caring.  Never will he be one for lots of words, but he is there showing his caring by the way he acts.  He's the kind of guy who gets his girl flowers just because.  Or who choses to make supper on a night he knows I have had a tough day.  Or who buys his brother and sister cool kicks because mean mom caps out the shoe budget at what I believe is a reasonable figure for growing feet! He is beloved by his siblings and we were all together to celebrate his day.  We had a lunch out at a restaurant of his choice and the meal was filled with lots of laughter and smiles and silliness.  (That is KC cracking up in one of the pictues and Fiona and Chet are laughing in a couple others.)  Lissa considers herself far too cool to giggle with abandon if there is a camera around!  It was special to be able to celebrate with Fiona here.

She and Lissa had a manicure first and Fi got her ears pierced after that.  So the lady folks were  all stylin by the time it came to lunch out to celebrate their brother.  After lunch we went home and had cake and gifts which left him a large part of the late afternoon and the evening to go and hang out with his friends.  Late that night he and his friends returned to our house for a campfire in the back yard.

The years have also woven birth and adoptive families together.  I always tag his first mother in the photos as well as the other first family members that I know.  I am friends (both IRL and via the internet with many of he and Fiona's first family but not all.) Those that I know continue the tagging of photos spreading news out to those in other states who want to know this child we share has grown, has thrived and is ready and eager to embrace all the world offers.

I feel lucky every time that we can celebrate with Rob.  I know that there are probably a finite number of such celebrations left to us.  He is fledging slowly but surely and is increasingly less consistantly available.  He has a wide circle of friends. He is a hard worker and I know in my heart that there will (and indeed, should) come a time when he will decide to take an apartment with a friend.  Someday birthday congratulations will be by computer and telephone so every moment we are able to celebrate together is precious to us all.  Happy birthday son.  Remember always that you are a most precious gift to your family and the world.