Friday, October 31, 2008

KC's Song

And a Halloween memory I know i don't want to forget. . . This morning I went upstairs to see if KC and Elisabeth had yet awakened. The older boys were all ready downstairs and almost done with breakfast. I heard KC singing, a little song he obviously had made up himself. It was about how today was Halloween day and how happy he was and how tonight he would go trick or treating. I paused at the landing of the stairs, caught in the magical moment my 4 year old was creating. I thought he was perhaps singing this song to his sister, wakening her to share his excitement. But no, seconds later he appeared at the top of the stairs, still rosy with sleep, his "blank" tossed over his shoulder, singing to himself.

It would have been cute if he was singing this to his sister but there was also something special about the fact that he could quietly and happily sing his joy for himself. I think truly happy people don't have to have someone else make the happy for them. It wells up from within themselves and I am so overjoyed that this is the case for KC.

Happy Halloween

OK I am known for celebrating virtually anything, but I really love Halloween. There is something so fun filled about walking around at night. Sometimes it is less about the candy (really--not ALL my kids are candy fanatics!) and seeing the decorations, the stars, how differently things look in darkness. I know today will be busy and kind of crazy schedule wise but we will be having our spooky supper as always. This is an Erikson family tradition. We eat by candle light and the meal reflects the holiday. In years past we had a swamp water punch and merenque bones for instance. This year, for our family culinary pleasure I am offering up a simpler feast as Kirsty is working and i am home alone with the 4 kids. We will dine on worms (pasta and cheese) witches brooms and bones (bread stix that I shape) witches brew (mulled cider punch) and pumpkin cake.

Then it is off to visit KC's former day care provider who likes to see costumes each year and then to Riverside for the halloween party and then out to trick or treat. Some of my best memories as a child are of Halloween which may be why I make it such a big deal in our house. But it is also a night when on a more serious level I remember more intensely those who have gone before. I am lucky enough to be the 4th generation of my family to reside in our home and I feel the spirits of ancestors on this night when the veil is thin.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Reading Yondalla's blog about fairness has made me ponder this murky subject even more than usual. Fairness is something I confess to sort of obcessing about. I know life isn't fair. But part of me feels like families should be. That should be the one place where you don't have to feel that you were treated unfairly. Yet in real life, especially with 4 kids, that is a lot harder to put into practice than it sounds. Some facets of it, are not hard. We have a few traditions in our house that help to keep things fun and fair for everyone. Everyone has chores based on their age and ability. For instance, Lissa not yet 2 can and does with help take our napkins to the hamper after supper each night. She can and does put her clothing in the hamper before bath. She can and does pick up toys. And it goes on from there for each of the older kids. Chores based on abilities. Chores are not paid for, though the kids do receive allowances. I don't pay for chores because I subscribe to the philosophy that we are all working together to make our family healthy and happy and since no one pays either Kirsty or I to clean and cook, I shouldn't pay the kiddos for that either. Rather, allowances are an opportunity to have some spending money and to learn about savings.

So chores seem fair and straightforward and I honestly think the kids feel that way too. I think by and large birthdays and Yule feel fair to them also. We have a tradition of family parties for birthdays and they all seem to love helping to make decorations, wrap gifts, and be part of making the day special for the recipient. At Yule each kid has the same number of gifts to open. If it is a "big gift" it is either a family gift for everyone, or the subsequent gifts will be meaningful but have less monetary value.

The murky part of fairness stems more around their differing abilities and I think the person who feels the "un" fairness most is my eldest. Hampered by his Aspergers and his inability to read social situations there are so many things he has not been able to do. Go to away camp for instance. He wasn't really able to hold it together even when we went to a family oriented camp. Too much stimulation,too much variation in routine. Rob went to a camp for a week away this summer and loved it and had a totally positive experience. Chet could not do organized team sports. Again the stimulation, the noise of cheering parents, the fact that things changed unpredictably were not situations he could deal with. He would up climbing into the goalie cage for soccer and hanging from it like Spider Boy and shrieking. Trust me, coaches don't love kids who do that! :-) He could and did succeed at sports that allowed him to progress on his own. Swimming and karate were both achievable for him. But Robbie got to be on Little League this year, again something big brother couldn't experience.

Another issue that comes up is the fact that what is logical behavior to expect from a 2 year old or a 4 year old is not always acceptable for a 23 year old. Thus, I may say to Lissa who is tantrumming "You need to stop and use your inside voice." To Chet I would be more stern and say "You know that I am not going to have a conversation when you are screaming disrespectfully at me."

I notice that I hear the "fairness" complaint most from Chet and it usually centers around the things the other children are doing. It is most often expressed as "How come I never did that?" There is a hurt there, that all my love and all my talking can't erase. The reality is, there are many things that all the other kids will do that Chet will not do. He will not drive a car. He will likely have a hard time finding a mate. He will likely not have a full time job. He understands those realities but I think that he sort of puts them out of his mind much of the time. I know I do as well. Then he sees one of the other kids do something and it sort of smacks him up side the head.

Or I will hear on occasion " Now if I did that, you'd scream at me." The reality is I very rarely raise my voice. My wife, descended of Vikings--that is a different matter. I feel no one hears something if it is yelled. They hear the yelling not the message. But for Chet, the sentence isn't about me yelling. He will even admit if I ask him outright that I wasn't yelling at him. It is what he says when he feels that he has been treated unfairly. I have to say things like "yes, I would tell you to stop that in a way that is age appropriate for you" But I worry for the underlying unfairness that he feels. An unfairness that equal presents can't fix, that all the hugs and explanations can't fix.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Good News!

Yesterday was a good day. Really really good day. Robbie's glaucoma check up was excellent with his ocular pressure just where his doctor wanted it. Huzzah! Additionally, we don't have to return for another check until March and the end part of March at that.

Then my co-worker called and Robbie won the football pool. OK I know some people might feel that one should not encourage a child to gamble. But I figure it is $2.00 a week for 16 weeks. And I use the pool to talk about math things, averages, probability, win/loss ratios etc. It makes something that isn't fun for him more personal and enjoyable. He has participated since last year. He has come close to winning a couple of times but yesterday he got the call that he had won. I should add too that most other participants in the pool are adults so there is the added cachet of knowing you beat out a bunch of grown ups and have money to show for it! What could be better for a 12 year old boy?

In the afternoon I took Chet and Rob to the doctor for their flu shots. (got mine as well.) This too went well. Rob has a bizarre fear of needles but he kept his eye contact with me, didn't fight the experience and it was over before he knew it. Definately earned his ice cream reward.

So couple that with the Halloween tea party and the day was really just nice. I guess that proves it doesn't always take much to make me happy but I went to bed feeling extraordinarily blessed.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Halloween Tea Party

KC considers any day that I am home to be a "play day." LOL Last night he informed me that we were going to have a tea party today. I figured, why not. However he remembered that sometimes Kirsty and Robbie get home from the glaucoma appointments early and was afraid they would arrive before we had a chance to have a tea party. So at 9 a.m. I was informed it was indeed party time!

We took red construction paper and made big yellow full moons out of some sticky paper and then I cut out the letters to the word "boo". KC attached the moons and the letters to each placemat.

I took our sugar cookie dough and KC and Lissa cut out little moon shaped mini cookies. These baked and then we frosted and adorned them with sprinkles. While they cooked I took some old party hats (those cone shaped things) added a wide black brim and voila, instant witch hats. This and ice tea was ceremoniously served to KC and Lissa on his little table and the tea party was declared a huge success. I took pictures that hopefully came out so that Kirsty and Robbie can see what we were up to while they were gone.


I am home from work today, because Robbie has a glaucoma check up. It is a "long" appointment as they will do visual scans and not just a pressure reading. His pressure was up a bit last time and thus the need for the long appointment. I am back at the ranch with the littles as it is hard to keep them contained in a medical environment for the more than 2 hours that such an appt typically takes. Concern for Rob's eyes is always at the back of our minds. We know little about his family medical history. We know that glaucoma is often genetic and particularly so when it is found in a child. It appears that there is a possibility that his father has some kind of eye problem but this is actually hear-say from the maternal side of the family. His diagnosis was several years ago and we were told by the specialist that it was to our great good fortune that our eye dr picked it up so quickly. He appears to not have lost peripheral vision at this point. I know too that glaucoma is more prevalent in african americans. Managing it is a life long issue. Presently he has eye drops twice daily to help reduce the ocular pressure. Failing to maintain the correct pressure within the eye leads to damage of the optic nerve ultimately narrowing the vision and then at the end leading to blindness. While there are many ways to help control glaucoma, there is no cure. Also the management tools often need to change through out the lifetime. For instance, we are presently on his second type of eye drops, the first was initially effective for a year or so and then the pressure rose again.

I hate being home while the testing is done. It means I rarely get to speak to the treating physician. I have met her; I do trust her. But I am also a control freak and would like to be there! On the other hand, I also hate city driving and Kirsty is much better at handling the early morning commuter traffic so she is much the better person to be in charge of this facet of our family life.

It is also always a delicate balancing act dealing with the glaucoma and Rob. I don't want him to live in constant fear of blindness. I do want him to be pro-active about his medication regimen. A large part of successfully managing glaucoma involves taking the medication as directed when it is supposed to be taken. Rob is notoriously forgetful which I hope is just a sign of being 12 and that he will eventually start to notice the time and remember what is supposed to happen when. There are small signs of improvement. One of Rob's jobs has been to feed the dog. The dog eats at 6 p.m. each night. Well for a long time it was between 6 and 7 or 7:30 depending on when Rob would remember. Now Blake eats pretty consistantly right around 6 so I have to believe that some day there will be the same level of responsibility where the eyes are concerned!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Playground Evenings

Cooler New England temperatures and the fewer hours of daylight are inexorably taking away time from our post supper visits to the park. (I get out of work at 4 so we always have an early meal and then go to the park) Last night was a bit warmer than it has been the past few nights so I bundled everyone up and we went anyway. The kids are always so much better for having that last bit of the day to run around and burn off the wiggles. On the way, we met KC's park friend Andre and his mom. Holly pulls him in a wagon and lets KC ride with him. I feel a little guilty with the added weight she must be pulling with two kiddos in the back. On the other hand, the kids are having so much fun, I love watching them. And the amazing thing, is watching them communicate. KC is about 2 years older than Andre and Andre is slow to talk. Well at least his mom is concerned about his talking. In reality he signs something like 135 words, and speaks words in another language as well as english so I think it is going to work out fine. But the amazing thing is how well he and KC communicate with one another. While Andre may only sign something to me, or use a word or two to his mom, somehow this polyglot conversation takes place between the two kids while they ride in the wagon. Also, KC is used to trying to help his little sister learn language and he will patiently say a word to Andre and then ask him to repeat it. Something Andre seems more amenable to doing from KC than from an adult. We are going to get together once a week at an indoor play space once we totally have to give up our park evenings, but it won't be quite as much fun. There is a freedom to fields and less rigidly defined spaces that can't really be duplicated indoors.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Autumn Joy

Yesterday was a red letter day at our house. I wasn't there but between the excited re-tellings of children and the beauty of digi cams, I felt a part of my family's fun none the less. The day started with music class at JOMP in Worcester. KC pronounced the experience as "exceptional." Pretty impressive description for one not yet 5! He loves music and movement so much. When I think back to how chary he was when he initially was enrolled and contrast that with his eager happy participation now, it is like looking at two different children. They literally change in a blink of an eye it seems! After Miss Patty's music class it was off to Friendlys for lunch. This is a bit of an extravangance for us but it is a treat the kids love. And honestly I would rather pay $20 for them to have a relatively healthy meal than for that same amount to be dribbled out over the week in the form of french fries or doughnuts. After that Kirsty had a few errands and then it was off to Sholan Farms to pick apples. The kids and Kirsty were alone in the orchard so they could run up and down the paths between the apples, Rob could climb the tree carefully to get those luscious apples that are found only at the top and all of this was captured on camera for me! There is Lissa proudly holding out an apple nearly as big as her head, Robbie peeking between the branches and KC carefully choosing just what apple he wishes to add to the bag.

Today will be a day when Kirsty turns the bounty into pie filling to add to our larder. Apples that will be added to hot oatmeal on the chilly days to come when memories of yesterday will warm us as much as the food itself.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Blogging Revealed

OK while I haven't been exactly forthcoming about my venture into blog land, I hadn't exactly shouted from the rooftops that I have a blog either. I did mention it in passing to my wife as I explained how I had linked to her blog which she likes me to read. But I did mention it very much in passing knowing full well that my wife often listens with half an ear and likely wouldn't fully notice what I said. Why? Well, the thing is that sometimes I blog about concerns, irritations, whatever in my life. And I think this is a pretty good place to do it. But I don't want to hurt anyone. Realistically most things in life seem pretty small and manageable a few days later. Someone else faces a real tragedy or issue and i find myself saying "I was annoyed over what?" and remembering once more that my life is pretty good. Actually most times way better than pretty good.

Anyway, somehow this weekend the blog subject came up again and this time around she caught that I had a blog. Hmmmmmm. Maybe she will just decide it is boring because I don't put in 50 million pictures with weird captions and quotes. (can you tell i have seen some of the blogs she likes to read? LOL" We shall see.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Polar Express

OK this is just wild! For three years now we have tried to win tickets to a Polar Express event in NH. They totally recreate the experience of the Polar Express book (or movie for those who have experienced it cinematically instead) for kids of all ages. There are limited seats and trips so one must enter a lottery for the privilege of buying tickets. Like I said, 3 years running i have tried to win. I am not known for winning ANYTHING! This year the ad came in and dithered for about a week over whether or not I would enter. After all, I had flushed $20 the past 2 years and won nothing. (OK my inner voice reminds me, you didn't WIN but this goes to a non profit agency which helps promote literacy among low income children. That isn't exactly flushing money!) Yeah okay, but money is squeaky tight this year. And Lissa won't be old enough to remember this. But then I watch KC oogling the brochure. "Santa Claus is my best friend" he announces emphatically. How many years will I have when Santa is his best friend? And how many more opportunities to have Robbie immerse himself in a bit of holiday magic without feeling dorky or un-cool? That pretty much settled the deal. I wrote the check and mailed the entry form. And we won!!!! Did I mention we WON!!! We have spent an obscene amount of money on tickets and will likely have to spend money on a hotel room but we are all going to ride the Polar Express. Don't tell me there isn't Yule magic!!!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Last night was a weird night and I am feeling grumpy and down in the dumps this a.m. I am like that. If yucky things happen late in the evening, somehow they settle over me as a miasma while I sleep and I waken without feeling refreshed and without the joy that I typically feel at the start of a new day.

I know part of what happened was my fault. I took the kids to the park as usual. We had fun despite the wet weather as the temps were still warm and it is very exciting to slide in the wet--you go really fast, especially when wearing rain gear. :-) We came home and did our usual snacks and i tidied the kitchen and then I gave Lissa her bath. All normal. Gave KC his shower. All normal. The only thing in there was that I discovered in between the snack and the bath of Lissa that the living room was really messy. I asked KC to tidy it and he refused. I thought things over and decided that given the time of day I wasn't going to push things. I would tidy it myself and remove some of the extra toys so that things were not so overwhelming when clean up time came again. Also I had seen Lissa doing more than her share of demo to the room and felt it was not right that a 4 year old got saddled with the mess of a toddler as well as his own. I didn't convey this to Kirsty. She apparently walked into the room while I was showering KC and went ballistic. He exits the bathroom all softly warm and relaxed and she climbs all over him in a loud and really angry voice. He is startled and angry, his normal routine is to cuddle on the couch now and have a story and settle for the night. Instead mom is banging around the living room in a very angry way. I too am unsettled. I relax as well during the littles bath times. It is a time when I really try to have them have a good experience that will help sleep to come easily. We sing, play quietly and have a consistant bath or shower routine. I felt shocked and angry that all my relaxation efforts were being thrown up in the air. I did not support her demands that KC hop to it and clean up the living room. I felt it was unfair to him. And I still feel it was. However I also recognize that it was unfair to have her in a position where we were not a united front. I am not sure what i could have done to make the situation better. I could have allowed her to make KC help but he would have become hysterical at 7:40 at night. At 4 there are only so many emotional reserves a kid has left after a day and it just seemed like a "pick your battles" kind of situation.

However K didn't see it that way and the rest of the evening was very tense feeling. I know she was trying to make up as later in the night she put on some reggae music which is one of my favorite musical genres. More typically she would have put on the weather channel. But I just still feel lousy. I don't like feeling that I let down my wife. But I also believe that our kids are emotionally more fragile than she realizes. They take things to heart much more than she realizes. Even Chet with his issues will recount tales from their arguements when he was little. It is clear that they wound more easily than she believes and heal more slowly from it. She has a strong Viking temper and when in a rage, she is so imposing it is like she takes up all the space in the room. she is just so powerfully angry. It isn't that I think she would physically hurt any of them, it is about their spirits. And mine.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Holiday Weekends

Holiday weekends are just the best. They are my most treasured gift. I think sometimes i like them more than having a whole week off because in that sharply defined 3 days I manage to put so much fun! Somehow I am less intentional when there is a whole week, prone to saying "maybe we'll do that tomorrow" instead of getting off my duff and making sure it happens. (note to self: don't do that with December vacation!!)

Memories I will hold close from this weekend: watching Elisabeth stretch her little body out in the pool with joy and hold a kick board and try to swim! Not even 2 and she is getting the hang of things. I love watching her try new things and expand her abilities so. She is flowering into such a beautiful little person. I remember worrying so much when she was little. She seemed to be less responsive to cuddles and kisses. Now those little arms go tightly around my neck when we are together and she is more excited about doing things on her own or with us.

Our hay ride at the Sholan Farms festival. We are lucky to have an apple orchard remaining in our town and to have a festival where we can be outside enjoying the bounty of the goddess.

Our hike to the top of Browns Hill at Wachusett Meadows. Watching KC pretend he was a "knight" chasing after his brothers who were "kings." The cerulean blue of the sky when we reached the little summit. The feel of Lissa on my back and the sounds of her contented oohs and ahs as we hiked.

Watching KC interact in his church school class. He is making friends and expanding his horizons in so many ways this year but this is one of the biggest changes for him.

Walking with the kids to Barnes and Noble. The air was crisp and it was honestly fun to walk there.

I am blessed. I am grateful.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Nearly mid October

Wow, today is the 10th of October and it seems impossible. Maybe because the past several days have brought a return of warm summer temps, I have managed to push the prospect of colder days to the back of my mind. My only reminders were the diminished daylight and earlier return times when we have to head home from the park. Still I am looking forward to this weekend. It is Columbus Day weekend and that means an extra "family day" as KC puts it. Time to re-connect for all of us, time to maybe hike or apple pick or laze around playing board games. Well okay no lazing around--we don't really know how to do that. LOL But definately time. And time is such a rare and precious gift. I am ever grateful for the time I have with my family. They are so special to me.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Busy Times

I guess that our life is always somewhat busy, but fall seems to rachet everything up a notch. And I know it is only a precurser because then there is Thanksgiving and Yule and New Years until we all collapse in a heap sometime in mid January! I mourn the diminishing light we are experiencing. Our trips to the park are shorter now as it is dark by 6:30. But it is fun to look for pretty leaves and it helps make the turning of the wheel more something to celebrate than mourn.

This Saturday there is a peace vigil at church and I plan on going with the kids. I think it is important to take time and talk about the need for peace and peaceful solutions. And there is something magical for all ages to stand in darkness holding candles as we circle our peace pole and sing. Our lives are candles of brightness too, shining in the way we live our lives. The sight of the candles we hold reminds me of how I want my inner light to shine.