Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Labor Day Weekend

We have been looking forward to camping this long weekend for weeks now. Made our reservation at the beginning of summer and have anticipated this longer camping trip all through the summer. Not that we wanted to wish summer away; it is my very most favorite season and I would never do that. But with gas prices so high we determined that we could not afford a lot of small trips and that 2 or 3 camping trips were all we were going to get this year. So this is camping trip number 2 and here's to hoping all goes well.

For starters, everyone is in varying stages of recovery from a cold that beset our house starting last Saturday. KC was the first victim, Kirsty was the second. I have had it the lightest (perhaps thanks to zinc lozenges?) Chet has had it the worst. At this point no one is so ill that there would be no reason to go. Fingers crossed that it continues.

Kirsty has been her usual pre-camping self. This is hard. I wish there was a way to get across to her that it would be so much more fun not to have her yelling and carrying on the whole week before we leave. Nothing I do, little the children do, is right. If I take them to the park I am there too long. Despite being told to bring them back tired and ready to sleep, I have kept them there too long. Despite bringing them back 20 minutes earlier than the night before, I have brought them back too late. And she is ranting at the kids again---sigh. Hopefully things will lighten up. Hopefully the kids will all be healthy enough to enjoy themselves. Hopefully we will make some beautiful memories that will see us through the dark cold days ahead of us.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Elisabeth's Journey 3

We were very lucky to be in a truly wonderful hotel. We stayed at a Marriott Residence Inn (I think . . . it is amazing to me that it hasn't been that long and yet I can't honestly remember the hotel name!) Because of the size of our family and Chet's autism, we had the penthouse suite, 2 bedrooms, a kitchenette a living room and bath. It was spacious by hotel standards and we were most grateful. Chet does not do well in small spaces and this was really the minimum size he could function in. the hotel also offered complimentary breakfasts daily and also suppers on occasion. We were really able to keep costs down by eating in the lobby at their offerings and having a small supply of easily prepared items that we cooked in our suite.

Elisabeth was a fretful baby from the outset. Likely a combination of her drug exposure in utero (mom used consistantly through her pregnancy) and a lactose intolerance. She was very sensitive to noises and easily wakened from her restless sleeps. We spent our days holding her, keeping KC and Rob occupied and talking with our adoption attorney and our MA agency that did the homestudy and our Chicago agency that did the placement. Kirsty did most of the phone work which I was grateful for. I worried that we would not be home in time for Christmas. We hadn't thought about Yule in the frenzy of leaving and flying to Chicago. We had presents at home, not even wrapped, but they were there. What would we do if we were in a hotel over Christmas with no gifts on the morning for the boys. KC had just started to learn about Santa, Rob was a true believer still--this was hugely worrying to us.

Our Chicago agency had not filled out our names properly on the paperwork our lawyer needed and this was a glitch. We did finally get our court hearing, a rainy chilly day as only the windy city can offer up. But we were on cloud 9. The court hearing would initiate the proceedings that would, roughly 6 months later, make Elisabeth ours forever. It has always felt to me like setting a stone into a setting somehow, as a jeweler does when he spies the perfect gem. A promise of permanancy. Lissa wore a darling red velvet dress and we have pictures of all of us with the court official and of course of Lissa in our arms showing off her adoption dress. In every adoption picture Rob looks blank. The same thing happened when we went to court for KC as well. I wonder if something happened in his past that makes courts scary. I don't know if the kids attended any of the hearings surrounding termination of rights in his family, but I do know that he has a real deer in the headlights look in the pictures. And yet, I know he loves his sister and brother. He is a very gentle person with young children, especially infants. In fact he was the first person Lissa gave that gassy, baby smile to when we were still in the hotel room in Chicago. I have a great picture of that and it is a better benchmark for how he was during the time we were in Chicago.

Once the court process was over the next hurdle was the approval of the interstate compact. Massachusetts is known to be a state that has a myriad of issues surrounding IPCs. We knew from our adoption of KC that this could be difficult. We cautioned our agency in Chicago to please make sure that they did everything necessary and said that our agency in MA would be happy to facilitate and go over the way things needed to be submitted. I pleaded that we wanted to be home for Christmas (we were now at 12/21 or so here). Suddenly our warm and friendly agency in Chicago was less so. They said we should be prepared to stay however long it took and to remember that if we left before the IPC was approved that we could lose our daughter forever. We knew this; we were not trying to skip out in the night early. We were just asking for help. Feeling increasingly alarmed we called our agency in MA and explained our problems.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Changes Changes!

I had intended to write more of Lissa's story this morning, but find my mind awhirl with more present changes in our lives. On the home front, Dee's social worker called me at work yesterday. Many many weeks ago, we sent letters to him and in turn received a phone call from him. But there has been no contact since. I sent more letters to the social worker but didn't know when if ever Dee received them.

The social worker said yesterday that she had a long visit with Dee and they talked at length about Robbie and how best to proceed. Dee expressed worry that he might say things that would cause Rob to have nightmares; he didn't know what Rob remembered from their family and also knew that Rob had some horrible experiences in foster care. He told his sw that he could tell what those were to her but he didn't feel he should because they really were Rob's stories to tell if he wanted to. At the end of the 90 minute visit Dee finally decided that he would like to visit Rob and that they could just hang out and do things together. Not that the past didn't happen, but that they didn't need to re-visit it together to have a relationship now. It all sounds amazingly mature for a 14 y/o boy. Apparently he has also been at dance camp most of the summer so this is also part of why we hadn't heard from him. So some time in September we hope to have Dee visit. Plans are for baseball or shooting hoops down at the school, it is sort of nebulous at hte moment as the sw has to confirm the dates with me.

It is hard to tell if Rob is excited, nervous or what with regard to this. I know I am nervous! I want this kid to like me. He sounds like a neat guy and although I don't figure I can step into his life at 14 and be his family, maybe he would let me be his friend. I don't know what his expectations of our family are; and i have to explain to the other kids about Robbie having another brother that they have never met before. I sort of expect KC to be upset about this. More as in annoyed or angry, not hurt. He will feel we left out something important and not shared with him something we should have and because he idolizes Rob this may be hard to get across to him. I need to try and prepare Chet, who always has unusual questions and due to his autism an often off putting manner of communicating. And the thing is, I want Dee to like us. I want at a minimum for him to see and feel that Rob is safe and happy. In a best case scenario I would like him to feel comfortable enough to want to consider living with us. . . if not as a full time member of our family as a frequent visitor. . .

Then on the work front, it looks like my company may seriously be up for sale. This could be good. One thing is that the company I work for now, may offer a very nice severance pay that could seriously help our debt. That would be really good. Really REALLY good. And there could be other really good things. Some rumored, such as increased vacation time. Some implied, such as being part of a company that is growing instead of shrinking. I worry because our existing company is owned by 3 elderly gentlemen who may not be interested in retaining the property long term. What if they all die? What happens to my job then? On the other hand, it is the devil I know. and I am liked and respected here. What if things don't go well with the new company? I am the sole wage earner for my family. Kirsty works part time, but the lions share of our bills are paid by me. So I hem and haw, essentially about things that i can't even control. Change can be good, and i try to remember that change is an opportunity for growth. Even when it can also be scary.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Elisabeth's Journey 2

Our families were a bit unsure about our decision to expand our family yet again. Not that they didn't love our children; I think it is more that people have grown used to the 1.5 children in a family and we were definately exceeding that! However, my mom teared up when we revealed that if we had a girl we wanted to name her Elisabeth Ann. Although spelled a bit differently, her first name is my mom's middle name and Ann is Kirsty's mom's middle name. KC honors the grandpa's with his names, it would be a little girls turn to honor the grandmas. If we were blessed with a 4th son we wanted to name him Thomas Paul.

Our homestudy update finished quickly, we did up our family introduction books, sent off our paperwork and settled in to wait. Waiting is never easy but I have noticed that it is much easier to put the wait out of my mind when I am busy with other children. The wait for Chet was interminable. The wait for each subsequent child has been shorter. Probably also shorter in actual time, but also just because we were busy being parents, not spending every free second dreaming about the privilege of becoming a parent.

Kirsty checked in with Adoption Link each month to see how things were progressing and I believe it was in December that she was told that the list was progressing slowly and we could easily wait till spring before being matched with a birth mom. We were okay with that and planned our finances with that in mind. Shortly after that call, I saw a listing for special needs twins on the MARE list and we placed an inquiry about them. We were seriously interested, (my philosophy is you can never have enough babies!) and although a bit scared by the idea of feeding tubes (even ones supposed to be temporary) we decided to begin talking with the social worker regarding the little boy and girl. No sooner had we done this than the phone rang and it was Noreen in Chicago letting us know we had a baby girl! We needed to go to Chicago asap and meet our daughter!

I remember trying to focus on work while my mind whirled about in a frenzy of excitement. A daughter! Another blessed baby! I had to finish closing the books for the year so I kept trying to put the excitment out of my mind. But every few minutes I would stop what I was doing and grin foolishly at my co worker Colby and say "I have a baby girl!"

On the home front, it was left to Kirsty to organize flight plans for us all--we had decided that it was safer not to leave Chet home alone--dog care for our Irish setter--pack clothes and toys and arrange our finances. Somehow, she got this all done and to this day, I am not sure how. But we were winging our way to Chicago before we knew it, renting a car, and holding baby Lissa for the very first time.

I remember how BIG she seemed to me! Of course she wasn't big, though she is definately more inclined to be tall than her brother KC ever will. It was just that KC was such a truly petite package that she seemed big by comparison. She had the most quizzical look on her face and such a head of hair. Unfortunately our bliss at holding her made us not carefully look at the paperwork our agency had generated. They are lovely people but not careful about dotting i's and crossing t's when it comes to typing their paperwork. Days later, we would find that this would slow our return to MA as the interstate compact would not go through. For the nonce though we were thrilled and we returned to our hotel suite a larger family, filled with love and excitement.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Elisabeth's Journey 1

I think that KC wasn't more than about a year and a half when it happened. Life was easy. It had a flow and a predictable order. Kirsty was home full time now and things were good. In the back of my mind I was thinking about expanding our family again, but I hadn't had the guts to share my desire with my wife. Have I mentioned before that I can exhibit very cowardly acts? One of them is my fear of igniting her nordic viking goddess temper! :-)

But instead, Robbie gave me the opening. He was playing with KC one afternoon when he looked up and asked when we were going to have another baby. A baby? Why would we have another baby Robbie?

He looked at me as though I were demented and informed me that KC would need someone to play with with he, Rob was too old to do that. Rob quite rightly recognized that given the 8 year spread between them, that days would come when he had little time for the games of young children. I sort of knew that in some distant dark recess of my brain as well, but I think I was putting off facing it. Partly because Robbie was so happy now being a big brother. There were lots of little kid things that i think he missed in his first family. By being an active big brother he got a chance to explore those toys, those certain silly ways of play that young children do without fear of looking silly himself. After all, he wasn't playing with these toys because they were his, it was because he was playing with his little brother.

But Robbie was right. There would come a time when shooting hoops without a little brother tagging along would be important. When going to movies KC was not yet old enough to see would be his right and his privilege. This gave me a whole new slant to explore when I broached the subject to Kirsty.

Amazingly, she was on board pretty quickly. We called Jewish Family services that did our homestudy and inquired about getting an update done. They were surprised but happy for us. We called Adoption Link in Chicago and were told it would be about a year and a half to two years wait. Not bad, time for us to get our finances and our lives ready for a new little person to be part of the mix.

We began to look on Craigs LIst and Freecycle for baby things as we had given away a large majority of KC's real infant things. We were lucky and found almost all of what we needed quickly and inexpensively. It seemed almost like the goddess was affirming our decision.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

School and the zoo!

Yesterday I had to go to school for my job to maintain my certification as a certified occupancy specialist. It isn't a really big deal, usually a day or so of fairly routine things that I am all ready doing at work but it is required. The location was in Rhode Island and Kirsty thought I would get lost finding the hotel where the class was held so she offered to drive me in. Rather than waste precious gas driving home and then returning to pick me up and driving home again we planned for a day of fun for the kids in Rhode Island, packed lunches and extra clothes and we all set off. Kirsty took them to the Roger Williams Zoo while I was at class. I love this zoo and was genuinely sorry I missed the trip! :-) KC was thrilled because he hoped to see a zebra. Guess which animal wasn't out yesterday??? Seems the zebras share their space with the wildebeests and they aren't getting along all that well so they go out on alternate days! Bummer. Still they all had fun and did see a red panda which was apparently exciting and watched an elephant get a bath which was very intriguing to them all. They lunched picnic style, went to the gift shop, and played in the playground and big field that is also a part of the zoo. Oh and rode a merry go round. KC doesn't realize that he rode one before because he was so little. When he was only a few months old he rode one in NH when we took Robbie to Storyland and Santas village. This is a ride he will remember thought!

After the zoo they visited the RI Childrens museum. Judging from the pictures this too was a hit. Dress up areas that imparted information on RI history, and a very cool water play area were the biggest high lights.

My class was scheduled to end at 4:30. Instead we were out at 3:15. No big deal, I figured that I would just wait outside till the tribe arrived to bring me home. Kirsty somehow sensed that I might be done early and showed up at 3:30, a full hour early! We were on the road and back to Leominster by 4:45 We supped at Uno's and were home by 6 p.m.

I am so grateful that a day of required learning for me also resulted in fun for the kids and time for us together as a family.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bridge of Flowers

Saturday we took a trip to Shelburne to visit the Bridge of Flowers. It is such a pretty place, with amazing plantings so densely planted on the old trolley bridge that you would never believe that once trolleys went back and forth. We haven't been out there in a couple years. Definately not since Elisabeth came home to us.

Kirsty let Robbie try video recording the walk across the bridge. It was both funny and interesting to watch his completed video. Funny because he went so fast that you would think he is a demented bee that has consumed 5 Red Bull energy drinks! Interesting because it did give glimpses (albeit FAST glimpses) into which plantings he found the most interesting. Robbie is my gardening guy so that was kind of cool.

KC had to stop and try to smell almost every flower. He would tell me how they smelled because he knows i have no sense of smell. Lissa rode with me in her sling and would point and say "pree" which is as close as she gets to 'pretty.'

We brought Blake with us too and he was very well behaved. After the bridge we walked down to the glass blowers and watched them make a beautiful ruby colored vase. The kids loved watching. Hey, I love watching. There is something magical about molten glowing glass turning into something both beautiful and recognizable. I was impressed though that KC could figure out so many facets of the glass blowing, what things were used for and why. Very cool.

From there we went to the glacier potholes. Also very cool, though it is weird as when Chet was little we could walk down there. Now for safety it is all fenced off. Probably for the best but they are definately even cooler when seen up close and not viewed from behind a safety barrier. So much of our society needs protection from itself. I wish there was a serum for common sense so that the rest of us who have it could innoculate those who don't. We would get to experience so much more.

But I digress! From there we went to the gift shop and bought commemorative magnets. Then we loaded back in the car and set off to the Longview Tower which Rob and KC and I wanted to climb. Lissa and Blake and K waited for us in the car. After admiring the stunning 3 state views we climbed back down and I made lunches from our cooler while K and the boys used the bathroom and visited the gift shop. We munched as we drove down the road to a beautiful view of Turners Falls. The water is so high this year with all the crazy storms. They were releasing water from the dam and it was a swirling pounding powerful turgid froth. K and KC got some neat pictures. From there we went to our final stop. Barton Cove, home of the island where eagles nest. We didn't see any eagles but we did see wild swans. And we got to do a short hike which was a lot of fun as well. We were home by supper time so it was a full and fun day. I feel very blessed.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Sleepy Friday!

Elisabeth woke at 3 a.m. today, crying and not ready to return to sleep. Her little arms clasped around my neck so tightly that there was no way that she was going back in her crib. however her foray to my bed was not successful either. She could not settle and dearly wanted to investigate and play. Sigh. It was so not play time. We went through this just last week; she is a light sleeper and it seems when a floor is not loudly whirring in my bedroom (right next door to her) that she wakens at the lightest of sounds. I don't know what woke her. Everyone else slept through whatever it was. However since the last early wake was also at 3 a.m. I suspect someone must arrive home from a late shift and a car door perhaps slams, or a car drives away with quick acceleration. I wound up passing the buck and waking Kirsty and asking her to bunk downstairs with Lissa after about 30 minutes of trying to quiet her down. So now both of us are tired as it took K another hour and a half to get her back to sleep. Which puts us right about the time we all start getting up to start the day! (groan) Now I am trying to figure out if a white noise machine would be a better investment than the baby bolster for co-sleeping that I was looking into. And this reminds me that I need to write Lissa's story on the blog.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Party Party Party!

Sunday was the big Johnson Erikson summer bash with a celebration of 190 years of living. Mum turned 75 this year, Dad turned 75 this year and Bri turns 40 in 2 days. Thus the 190 theme. We offered to host the BBQ this year as the rest of the family apparently fights over who has what responsibility and who will and will not come etc. Weird. Maybe because my family unit of birth is small it seems petty and unreasonable to me. Get together, have fun, don't sweat the small stuff.

We did it up a bit extra special because it was more than a BBQ and was also a birthday celebration. We had a canopy which was worth its weight in gold. Large enough for 25 people underneath comfortably it shaded us when it was hot and protected us when showers moved in at the end of the day.

Giving parties is hard for Kirsty. Not kiddie birthday parties. Not small intimate family parties. But hosting for 20 people or more, this is stress to her. I love it and honestly enjoy planning choosing decorations and color schemes etc. Slowly but surely, K came on board and as she put it, "embraced my Marthanity." Her philosophy has always been that it is family and why should you have to do stuff up fancy for family. I guess I just think everyone deserves a time to come someplace and feel that things look special for them. . .

We had small artificial swags on the canopy and a sort of tropical color scheme. Anchored with a deep blue but punches of lime and pink and orange. Small arrangements on each table and a taller one on the food table. Robbie picked a lot of queen annes lace for me and I put it in two vases with a single deep blue hydrangea from our garden. Rob and KC helped me make helium balloon bouquets as well. Kirsty made a cool balloon arch over the driveway that helped folks locate the house from afar and looked stunning to boot.

It was such a fun day. The kids could run around and play. Which they did as the day wore on and they became more comfortable around all the relatives--many of whom our youngest 2 have never met. It was especially great to see Kirsty's Aunt Nancy and Uncle John again. It has been years since we have seen them and they are some of my favorite people. When K and I first got together we spent tons of time at their house visiting. They are just neat people, very genuine down to earth folks that don't play mind games. I love them dearly and so does Kirsty. Watching John get to know Elisabeth was so much fun. He was so patient, waiting for her to decide that it was okay for him to hold her.

Mum was down and I hope enjoyed herself. I know she isn't feeling well, but she is also at a very sad and bitter place in her life. I hope that I don't ever look at people and the world that way.
What I have are lots of beautiful memories of us all gathered together for a day. I treasure that because time passes quickly and when you start marking 75th birthdays you don't really know how many more gatherings all these people will be able to be at together.

Friday, August 1, 2008

I am a coward!

Last week there was a tragic shooting at a UU church in Tenn. It is not the first time I have read of such violence or heard of a public shooting on TV. There was the Virginia Tech incident in recent memory and sadly many others. However most of it seemed fairly distantly removed from our lives. There was sadness for those involved, sadness over the fact that this has become more common in our society. (when did it become okay to display our fear and disatisfation with our lives by killing others who often had nothing to do with our situation?) But this is different. It is different because it took place at a Unitarian Universalist church,much like the one we attend each Sunday. The shooting happened during a musical production. Just 2 years ago, Robbie was in a musical at our church where tickets were sold to the public at large. The shooting happened due to the liberal views expressed by the church. Our church is decidedly liberal.

The difference is likely location. TN is probably more "red" and our church is located in MA which is very liberal and in a college city to boot. But the tragedy feels much more close, much more personal. And I need to tell my kids about this.

My struggle is with telling them in a way that doesn't take away the feelings of comfort and safety that they have at our church. I am not a person who wants to give away freedoms in order to feel "safe." I am not keen on the Patriot Act for example, or the fact that recently police in a DC neighborhood instituted police checkpoints due to the level of street violence. Granted I don't live in fear of bullets coming at my home or my person as a general rule, but I don't want to give away that much of the independence that our ancesters fought for. I believe in living life as fully as possible. Sometimes this involves certain levels of risk but I believe that thinking people should have the right to weigh those risks and not have some other person or agency decide for them what is safe and right.

I don't want my kids to think we should have a metal detector as you enter the sanctuary. I don't want my congregation to think that either. So I wrestle with how to share this news with my kids.