Friday, September 26, 2008

Why am I angry?

My sister annoys me. Everyone has family who annoy them, we are all different and we see the world and our responsibilities within it differently. But I am angry that her constant life turmoil seems to spill over to everyone else's causing a seemingly endless cycle of fretting and stewing for all of us.

Part of me says that people should grow up and take responsibility for their lives and their choices. Part of me says I am being unkind and unfair. People should also have the right to expect and enjoy emotional support from family members and close friends. I guess it is just that I don't really feel that i get that back. I give but it seems to be mostly one way. Goddess knows, I could regale with stories about tight finances, problems with Chet, worries of every shape and form. But I don't. Mostly because I think that it is unfair to just dump on people but also because I think that as an adult it is pretty much my job to figure out the answers to the problems in day to day life.

So I sit and stew and what i need to do is learn to just let it go. I can't change who she is and how she lives her life, but i don't need to let it color mine.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Homeschool Review

Our homeschool review for last year took place today. A little late, but the city has been restructuring and organizing and forgot about us. We had called twice and frankly I felt disinclined to hunt them down. We did our part, it was up to them if they wanted to see work samples to contact us. Well they finally did, so Kirsty brought our portfolio down today and the meeting went well. It is always a sigh of relief moment when these meetings are done. I can't quite figure out why, honestly as we are both good teachers. We don't let our children slide by with less than their very best efforts. We offer a wide array of opportunties for enrichment. Personally I love learning and try to impart that love as well. With Chet I know I did. With Rob I would say that goal is still a work in progress. :-) But at any rate, we have been given the city's blessing for another year.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

More Appliance Stories!

So yesterday we hemmed and hawwed and decided that we would not buy the $2000 fridge from Sears. We were stunned by its price and perhaps even a bit more than that, I was stunned by the fact that we couldn't find a fridge that really really was what we wanted as far as features went. We clearly don't eat the way most of America does. We have no need of nifty little molded can holders on the side door "just perfect for sodas." Uh huh. We don't need a deli tray feature; as vegetarians we need a lot of crisper space. Obviously the reason so many Americans suffer from illness is rooted in their lack of veggie and fruit consumption. The veggie bins were dinky to put it bluntly. Yes the freezer was neat and it might be fun to try an appliance with the freezer on the botton but not for 2k when it didn't really make us go "wow what a neat fridge." Instead we have a used fridge from Riverside. It is smaller than we had before. Much smaller, but it works and it gives us time to save, and to find a fridge that has features we will really use. And it is free. That's right. FREE! I can deal with smaller when something is free. When I am paying more than I paid for the previous fridge and not getting what I need, that is a tougher pill to swallow.

So we invested the money we were going to spend on the fridge in a new stack washer dryer combo. This was a samrter chocie. Yes we still paid a lot of money, but we really got something we wanted and more importantly needed. Presently we have no dryer. Haven't had a dryer since oh early spring I guess when our 7 year old dryer quit for good. It had had several pricey repairs all ready so trying to fix it again just wasn't viable. And with a family of 6 there is a lot of wash and there are too many cloudy and inclement days where we needed a dryer. We have been strewing wash around the house and on the clothesline and making this deficit work but it hasn't been easy. This is not to say we will dry everything. We will still use racks and the line till it is too cold to do otherwise. But we will at least have the option of drying when needed. The washer was a bit of a bonus and on the one hand a bit less mandatory. We have a working washer in our cellar. It is a very basic top loading model. It isn't an energy star or anything fancy but it has gotten the job done. However I know it uses a lot more water than a front loader which we had previously. So the purchase of the new washer has some economic practicality as well. We will use less water partly because it is a front loader. We will also use less water because it has a sterilization feature so our diapers may not have to be double washed. We will open our back door less often in cold weather because we won't need to go down cellar. This will help with our heating a bit as well. And I won't worry that Kirsty is going to fall going down cellar some day when she decides to do a load of wash late at night and i am allready upstairs with the kids. It comes sometime this week. Now for the installation to go smoothly!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Frugal Living

OK so we read this article in the Readers Digest about a family who spent nothing extra for 30 days. I think they gave themselves a $100 for the month and paid only their essential bills. They didn't do meals out, the impulse shopping etc. We thought it would be interesting to see how frugally we could live for 30 days---and the very next day our fridge died. Literally died. It is 8 yrs old and has had 3 repairs totally 1/2 of the total original purchase price so i figure at this point, adding any cash to this appliance is a bad investment. Immediately we race to Sears. We find a fridge. It is 2K with deferred payments for a year. We buy it. We find out it can't be delivered till next week. 7 days plus of living with only coolers for our essentials. Hmmmmm. We start thinking more clearly when we get home. The appliance is so expensive. and the wait is so long. We can get a used fridge for free from where I work. It will be used. It will be smaller. It will be I repeat--FREE. We decide that we will try downsizing our fridge size. We need a new dryer. Desperately. We have been going to the laundramat when the weather has not cooperated with our drying efforts. This can't honestly continue. Also I need to warm towels for the kids when the weather really gets cold because our bathroom is cold for them. A new dryer will run us about $600.00 That is $1200 less than what we were going to spend on a fridge. So I guess we are still spending yet i think we are coming out ahead of the game. Now we just need to figure out how to pay for the 2 ton of pellets and the repair to the stove . . .

Friday, September 19, 2008

It's Complicated

Last evening on our nightly visit to the park I was speaking with a mom who I have become quite friendly with over the summer. She is a great person, a former school teacher with a darling 2 year old boy who my kids love to play with. As we sat in the sandbox watching her son and my daughter, she told me about how her sister, a single mom, adopted a little girl through foster care just a year ago. The baby was 8 months old when she came home to her, born to a drug addicted mom who supported her habit through prostitution. New mom and baby are both doing very well now. The kicker was when my friend said, "but the birth mom is probably pregnant again by now." I acknowledged that this was possible, perhaps even probable. My KC's birth mom placed two children with the adoption agency. He has a half brother in NH as a result of this. My Lissa is the 7th child born to a woman whose addictions made her unable to parent any of her children. The others are being raised by various family members who simply could not take on one more. My Rob's birth mom had another baby 2 yrs ago. She went on to say that she thought that such women should be sterilized so that no more children would ensue. "I'm just thinking of the children", she said. And i do believe that. I know her to be kind caring and compassionate.

It is such a thorny issue. I wrestle with the fact that hard and sadly painful conversations are in my children's future. It isn't easy to learn of other siblings raised by family ("why wasn't I?") or to learn of the circumstances of birth. (How do I share with KC that he was a result of rape, possibly when Mom was under the influence of drugs?") It isn't going to be any easier for Rob to learn that the mom who couldn't parent he and his other 3 siblings has gone on to have another baby who she apparently is parenting at this point. I grieve for my children in this. It seems unjust to be so young and innocent and have this to deal with out of the starting box. And I am sure to the marrow of my bones that there are many many children who are not given up for adoption who are forced to live years or their whole childhood in frightening dysfunctional families where their little spirits are warped and their little bodies are not nourished but endangered.

On the other hand, I am selfish. I would not have the 4 beautiful children i have today if mandatory sterilization existed. I might have my eldest as he is the result of international adoption, but all the other children would never have been in my life. I would have missed smiles and tantrums, joys and sorrows, and i am so very very selfish because I know my life would have been much poorer as a result. I am not saying children should suffer so that "nice" people can adopt them. I also don't believe in taking away human rights by doing things like mandatory sterilization or forced abortions. A woman has a right to choose. For me, her choosing ends when her choices emperil her child. That is when the balance changes. But if we said we would sterilize drug users, or prostitutes, do we then sterilize people with a lower IQ? Where do we go from there? It is a slippery slope at best and a worst a big step toward a society I could never live in.

I grieve for my children and the loss of their first families. But I rejoice in the family we are making together and i hope with all my heart that as a parent i give them enough strength and inner courage that they can meld their pasts, and their presents into a bright future.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How they grow!

I was musing last night after our trip to the park at how much and how fast the kids all change. Rob is on the cusp of the teen years now and you can tell he isn't all that comfortable in his skin so to speak. He vascilates between wanting to recapture the times of childhood and feeling "too cool" to even be near me. I remember going through that myself, I am waiting patiently for him to come out the other side of this changing time and realize that we can still be close and loving and he can still be "cool."

I watch KC running at the park, chattering with friends new and old and marvel at the fact that this confident, exuberant young boy was once a frail, helpless baby, then a very shy and reticent young toddler. KC was slow to speak and loved nothing more than cuddling and being carried for a long time. He still is the most tactile of my kids, craving skin on skin contact much more than any other. But he also has this strong sense of being able to do for himself and wanting to do for himself. He happily engages other children in conversation and enjoys knowing I am nearby but not necessarily involved in what he is doing.

Elisabeth just a year ago was such a different little person. For one thing, she is much happier now. The first 6 to 9 months of her life were hard. She, like KC was born drug dependent. However in her case the exposure was much more prolonged and I think her withdrawals left her feeling uncomfortable much more than his did. She had to learn to like being cuddled and held and though she is still the lightest sleeper of all my children she does at least usually sleep through the night now. She loves to move and to climb and run. Her words are beginning to be more clear and more often used. She has developed a friendship with 2 two year olds at the park and looks forward to playing with Andreas and/or Thomas each evening. She has learned to love singing and her tubby time.

I wonder what changes will come for all of them. Some I can anticipate. Rob's voice is starting to change for instance. Some will be unexpected. I hope I remember to notice them all and not take them for granted because our children are only children for such a short time.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Elisabeth's Journey 4

Never forget that there are many truly good and wonderful people in the world. I think back on the crazy Chicago trip for Lissa and I know that the goddess was watching and helping our family through the actions of many. Our Chicago agency ceased to be helpful and actually became somewhat hostile. They seemed unable to understand that a toddler and an elementary aged child were going to have very sad Yule's if we could not get home. But the folks at Jewish Family Services of Metrowest understood. The folks at the Interstate compact office understood. The two of them moved heaven and earth to get clearance for us to leave IL. Meanwhile there were other kindly folks. The travel agent that kept booking and rebooking flights for us because we would be told we "might" leave such and such a day. With Christmas coming ever closer it was getting harder and harder to schedule a flight for 6 people. The Residence Inn we stayed at knew we didn't want to pay the $250 per day if we didn't need the rooms and on the day that it seemed most likely we truly would be able to leave for home, they let us remain in the room till after 1 p.m. Then we moved down to the lobby and they let us use the phone at the main desk to network with the IPC and JFS. Though it felt unbelievably stressful at the time, even during it, I could see how hard so many people were working to bring our newly expanded family home. and finally the call did come. We were cleared to leave Chicago and fly back to MA. Jubilantly we drove to meet our flight. Unfortunately we hit another road block. The airline said that Elisabeth was too young to fly and that we could not board. We found out subsequently that there is no FAA regulation to that effect. JFS thought that perhaps because we were such a large family and of a different constellation that we somehow tripped someone's radar and they thought something inappropriate was somehow going on. At any rate whatever the reason we could not fly home for an easy 3 hour flight. That was the bad news. The good news was that we had not yet turned in our rental car and were able to retain it and drive home. We opted to drive straight through. It is too hard to try and settle all the kids down in a hotel room. By the time that happened, we wouldn't get much sleep anyway. And we were only 2 days away from Christmas. We needed to get home and make that holiday happen for everyone. So though it was exhausting it was a straight through journey. Chet and Rob amused each other by seeing how long they could stay awake (Rob till 4:30 a.m.; Chet till much later) KC is a good traveler, Lissa was not amused by the length of the journey. We were blessed with safe travel conditions and though the journey was long (20 hours) we were safely home the day before Christmas eve.

I remember that KC wanted to ride in his Little Tykes coupe car right after we got home and that is what he did to help acclimate himself back to the familiar surroundings of home. Shortly after that, he tipped over the Christmas tree :-) I had been awake during the whole journey but thought I was still doing pretty well. I decided my job would be to go to WalMart and get stocking stuffers and gifts for baby Elisabeth. Off I went. Obviously not doing quite as well as I thought because when I got to WalMart there were no buggies in the front of the store. Of course there wouldn't be that close to the holiday. But in my sleep deprived state I couldn't figure out what on earth to do about this and stood there gap mouthed staring at the empty corral. Eventually some one came and asked if I needed help and I explained my need for a buggy. Somehow they found one for me and i managed to find the requisite gifts and pay for everything and return home.

Christmas Eve day I wrapped gifts and though I don't remember much about the actual day---by that time the adrenaline was worn off and all that was left was true bone weary exhaustion--I have pictures of our family. And we are happy. There is a sparkle in our eyes (even if there are bags under them!) There is a picture of KC looking tenderly at baby Elisabeth, and of Rob and Chet opening gifts they had longed for. I do remember feeling a warmth that had nothing to do with temperature, a warm cocoon of love enfolding us all. We had been and continue to be, so very blessed.

Farewell to Summer

I know according to the calendar it isn't over yet, but it feels that way to me. Last weekend the boys and I went with many friends from church on our final campout at Ferry Beach in Saco Maine. It is an annual event with our church and another church in Worcester and the kids are familiar with the way things go and the flow of the weekend. Despite a considerable amount of rain it was a lot of fun. I love watching the way the kids have grown over the year. KC has blossomed from a wee guy who only wanted to be carried everywhere and attached to his Ooma to a gregarious 4 year old very capable of making friends on the playground or the beach. Rob has developed a strong circle of friends and this gladdens me as well. He always struggles with sharing his deeper self with us. It is my hope and prayer that he does this with friends as we all need sounding boards in life and if he isn't comfortable with that being me, I hope he finds one who will listen fairly and honestly and answer with thoughtfulness. I think his best chance of that is the group of kids he hangs with at church who are members of his coming of age class. Ferry Beach also gives Chet a chance to shine. There are always those "Chet issues" but he also gets to be helpful to others in ways that don't require a lot from him socially (i.e. carrying bags to dorm rooms). He feels and is genuinely useful and always returns in a better mood than he went.

K decided to keep Lissa home with her and while I know I could have had a good experience and brought her, it was easy with only the 3 boys. People seemed shocked that i felt I was relaxing but really, I was. And i have memories of seagulls and sandcastles, laughter and whiffle ball to carry me forward as the bustle of fall begins to take over our lives.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Camping at OOB

Camping is such a wonderful experience for our family. We had a truly amazing time camping from Thursday through Monday at our favorite place in Old Orchard Beach. We were there last year over labor day weekend as well and apparently many of the families return to this same campground annually for this send off to summer weekend. So the kids saw friends they had made the year before and there were calls of "Hey Robbie want to play some ball" and "Hi KC!" Reminded me of that Alan Alda movie "Same Time next year" a bit! We had the same campsites and the weather cooperated as well. That had looked a bit dicey earlier on, but the goddess smiled on us this year and we never had to break out the rain gear.

We pack a lot of "adventures" as KC puts it, into our camping times. We visited Nana, went to the Maine Wildlife Refuge in Gray which is tremendous and a great deal of fun. We went to LL Bean in Freeport, the Carters outlet to get Lissa winter outer wear and the Wolfs Neck Wildlife Sanctuary to do hiking. We picnicked there as well at a lovely site that bordered a field where the kids could run around after eating and burn off some steam. Then we hiked our favorite trail which allows spectacular views of the ocean as well as lovely forested spots. This was Lissa's first year in the hiking back pack and she loved it. KC charged along under his own power. What a difference a year makes. I remember last year that he had to rest part way through the hike because he was so tired and I even carried him a bit of the way.

We went to the beach, and to our favorite candy stores of course. And there were lots of fun things that might not seem really momentous to other folks. Hours of play at the campground playground, evening walks through the campsite while the boys played pseudo frisbee with circlets of glow sticks. Campfires and burned marshmallows. Making patterns on the ground with our glowsticks on the last night of camping. Cuddling with the kids in the camper and singing them to sleep. Lissa and KC's faces as they woke in the morning and peeked out the camper windows at the dawning day. Truly, wondrous memories to carry forward into the busy fall and the darker harder days to come as the wheel of the year turns onward.