Thursday, December 31, 2009

More stuff w/ Rob's bio-fam

OK so today brought a weird phone call.  A message to please call Rob's cousin.  Cousin adopted Rob's other sister when she felt unsafe living w/ Fiona at our home.  The other sister , who I will call Crystal for purposes of the blog doesn't live w/ cousin though. She lives down south w/ other relatives.  I have a hard time wrapping my mind around that but apparently Crystal is doing well and planning on coming north to go to college in a year or so. (she is 17 now)

The thing is, the cousin, who needs a blog name and i am fresh out of names at the moment--really hates my guts.  She disappears from our life for years at a time and then calls.Acts real friendly but I have been told by any person who has spoken with her from any professional involvement with the children that she cuts me and my wife up like you wouldn't believe.  (I actually got told this from Fiona's present counselor.  Also Dee's family find worker. I told her not to worry.  I was a white lesbian and that I thought this was the biggest part of the problem and was therefore not too resolvable.)

  Typically  Cousin only calls to pump me for info on Fiona.  Apparently social services is not allowing her access to Fiona and she is heated about this.  I am conflicted.  On the one hand, Fiona has very few people (really, what it boils down to is us) who are not paid to be with her. Very few people who just love her.  We have been her consistant family, though from afar these many years.  Cousin was visiting when Fiona was in the RTC near us.  Then she just stopped coming.  And she would not answer calls from the RTC as to why.  Eventually a story about car trouble was offered but more dates to visit were made and not followed through. 

The reality is that this did a real number on Fiona.  We were trying our best but we were small potatos compared to a visit from her cousin and her cousin's daughter.  And perhaps even her sister.  Even at this point in her development, I doubt that Fiona has progressed to a place where emotionally she could handle any significant lack of follow through.  Today, cousin told me that she stopped contact because she had a small stroke.  Maybe.  I hate feeling skeptical but I will just say that stories abound.

I think that perhaps Cousin  thought that because Fiona is 18 that she would have access to her without social services having a say and that is I think, not the case.  Due to her trauma history and her cognitive delays, Fiona is in a special program that will care for her till she is 22.  This is the best case option for her and I tried to help cousin see that Fiona was in no way someone who was able to live independently.  I explained that for instance, Fiona desperately wants me to send her the toy oven she used at our home.  Cousin could not see that this was an example of Fiona's cognitive delay.  When I said that most 18 year olds don't want to play with Easy Bake Ovens, her answer was "oh poor dear is just holding onto anything."  Wrong.  She really wants to play with her oven! 

On the other hand if there is a shred of truth in her stories of how the department has handled Cousin's efforts to try and see her relative, she has been shabbily treated at best.  Part of me sees why. She is a tough person to deal with.  But she deserves to be treated politely and to have her story heard.  maybe her life has changed enough so that she could see Fiona.  Maybe she could send a card.  She says she is not allowed to send correspondence or a gift. She says her calls to workers go unanswered and that when she finally got an appointment to meet face to face with the worker,  that the meeting was 5 minutes long and amounted to being told "go away, you will never see Fiona."

Cousin did speak to Rob briefly after we talked and put her bio daughter on the phone to say hi as well.  That was really nice, as they are only a year apart and used to enjoy playing together.  I could tell Rob was edgy about talking w/ her.  The last time she called and I let him talk, Cousin started talking to him and then passed the phone around so that he was talking to something like 10 people.  He didn't remember most of them and it was very overwhelming.  At least tonight that didn't happen.

So I am left wondering what the new year will bring for Fiona and perhaps for us.  Whether these connections will strengthen or whether they will follow their old pattern of dancing closer, only to disappear like fog in morning sun.


Fiesta!  We had a lovely Mexican fiesta tonight to say farewell to 2009.  We made a huge amount of food.  Truly a gargantuan spread.  We discovered we loved the recipe for Mexican fruit cake and the calabacitas (squash) recipe.  Both will reappear on some future menu.  I loved the horchata drink. It was vaguely chai like, but less intense.  Very  nice.  I think Lissa liked it too.  We liked flautas but are not so much fried food eaters so I don't think we would make them again.  Tostados got mixed reviews as well. 

After we ate, we played a trivia game with some facts I had culled from various sources on Mexican culture and history, and topography.  I tried to mix it up between challenging and things that would be easy enough for KC to figure out.  Ironically, KC figured out one of the harder ones.  The word for town square is zocalo.  I gave 3 choices and because KC knew the spanish words of the other two choices (casa and estado) he figured out by default that zocalo was the new word that he didn't know. 

Then we played a home made version of Bingo using pictures of things associated with Mexico.  I printed off a bunch of clip art and just mixed them up on a piece of paper.  Also added some spanish words that the kids (except Lissa are familiar with) and then changed the arrangement 6 times, photocopying it each time.  So everyone got their own "game board" and then I just held up a copy of the picture or word in question.

After that we read through our "notable moments of the year"  We have a big envelope where we drop in notes about things large and small that are meaningful throughout the year.  It could be things like seeing an eagle, or going away to camp, or the Yankees winning the world series!  LOL  It was, to put it mildly pretty diverse.

After that, we put on coats and went outside to blow bubbles and play with lightsticks in the dark.  I had the skinny light sticks and we tried after we fooled around to spell out Happy New Year on top of our pop up.  We only had enough lights to spell Happy New!  So happy new and blessed old to everyone!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Jane and I email. . . a lot!

Jane is so great.  We re-cap after the phone calls w/ Fiona.  She has pretty much said that we can talk about anything now.  This will make things easier for Rob.  I know that part of his reticence is their history and that part of it is also worrying that he will say the "wrong" thing.  Jane had made us submit topics for discussion for her approval initially and i have sort of run the topics past her each week thereafter.  I know for instance, that Rob would love to tell his sister that we have a Wii now.  But was equally afraid that she might feel badly or react angrily.  Jane said that should be fine, Fiona got a camcorder for Christmas so there is some parity of "good" gifts there.

I told Jane we found the Easy Bake oven as promised in the attic and gave her the measurements as she wants to know if she can store it somewhere in her office or something if Fiona is not allowed to keep it in her room.  She said Fiona is sort of her "special project" and that it is her mission to make sure she does well.  I love that she is so solidly in Fiona's corner; this child has not had a lot of that. 

I told her that to have so many great calls with Fiona was a real rarity for us and that I was so happy that Fi was happy.  Jane said that one of the things about Fiona was her ability to put a happy face on things even when she wasn't feeling all that happy.  If so, that would be a totally new facet of her personality as this young lady has never had a problem letting anyone (and i do mean anyone) know when she was unhappy. So it still seems like a growth step to me.

Jane said also that Fiona alternates between feeling badly over what she did that caused the removal and anger toward K and I, blaming us for her removal.  Jane suggested that she wants to help Fiona take responsibility for her behaviors that caused the events.  I have been pondering that goal all afternoon.  On the one hand, everyone needs to take responsibility for their behavior.  That is a given if one is to succeed at some level in society.  At another level, this is a child.  A child with some trauma that makes me cringe, a child with some cognitive deficits that leave her still at 18 unable to write better than my 5 year old.  I am not so sure that I want her to feel she has to take responsibility for that removal.  I don't necessarily think blaming us is the better option, but I am tossing around the idea of  "sometimes we all have good ideas but things just can't be the way we planned and hoped."  And helping her see that this was true for all of us in the situation.  And that we are still there for her and will be, because though there are miles and miles between us, we are still family. I am still mulling over what to say.  I don't want to come off like a know it all.  I am so far from that.  There is so much about Fiona that I may never understand.  But I think that in this instance accepting responsibility could all too easily equate to self loathing and blame.  I can't see that help her and I can't see it help our relationship.  I'll keep mulling things over, I want Jane to see me as caring, not as someone trying to control the situation.

I heart Coquito!

Coquito is sort of an eggnog-esque drink.  I had it the first time when we went to Puerto Rico to visit friends just after Christmas.  I was surprised that I liked it as it has a coconut cream base.  I do not like coconut as a general rule.  But coquito?  I LOVE coquito!  This year the lady who runs the computer lab where I work (and is of Puerto Rican heritage) made a biiiiiiig bottle of coquito just for me.  Yum!  Course i only have a small glass at night. I am not really that much of a drinker but oh, it is so yummy.  And my house is so darn cold in our pantry that I don't even have to keep it in the fridge!  Here's a link to a traditional coquito recipe if anyone ever wants to try making something yummy for themselves.  You'd think for how easy it is that i would find time to do this at the holidays!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fiona's Call and a plan for New Years in Mexico

Fiona called tonight as planned.  Very happy, very animated.  It is always amazing to me the mix of true memories she has of the times we did things together and then there will be this event inserted that she is sure we experienced that never happened--or at least never happened with us.  I have been sort of wiggling out of those false memories (and they are perhaps only false in that they did not happen here or with us) by saying "gee I don't really remember that." Then the next day I email Jane and fill her in on how it didn't happen  here but something similar might have happened somewhere else.  But a lot of what she remembers is surprisingly accurate, which is amazing when you consider how many years it has been since she was here (9) and that after she was removed she was pretty much drugged out of her mind for years. 

Back in December I shared with the therapist Jane, the story of how Fiona had wanted an Easy Bake oven the year we met her.  She didn't get it and another foster child in the home did.  (she was not at our home that Christmas)  We got her an Easy Bake oven when she moved to our house.  By my recollection she got to use it maybe three times.  She actually lived here only 5 weeks before she was a serious physical danger to herself and to others.  After it was clear she wasn't coming home, I packed all her things in boxes into the attic.  I kept thinking she would need them someday.  I was able to bring a few things to her RTC placements.  Her bike went with her to the one close by us.  Clothing went.  But a lot of toys didn't because such facilities have a lot of safety restrictions for obvious reasons.  The easy bake oven is somewhere in my attic still.  Tonight KC was telling Fiona about the giant cupcake pan he asked for and which Santa brought.  Fiona immediately asked if I remembered her Easy Bake Oven.  I said of course I did, and I remembered baking with her.  She sighed and said I had probably thrown it out.  I said of course not, it was in the attic somewhere.  The big question was where in the attic and as it is bitterly cold here I couldn't spend much time in my unheated attic.  She wants me to send it to her and it actually sounds like Jane might let this happen.  I have to email her the specs on the oven so she can review it.  I hope she can have it.  It about brought me to my knees hearing the longing in her voice for it.  She is 18 now but still searching for the childhood she never really had.  On the other hand, I bet I have increased my cred with Jane since I told her how important it was  for Fiona to have gifts she really wanted at Christmas and her birthday.  

Watching Rob talk with Fiona on the phone, I think his body posture is looking more relaxed.  I am hoping this is starting to feel normal and safe to him.

We have decided we will not visit Greece for New Years this year!  Rob is bummed but I have to work till 3 on New Years Eve and K is not able to handle a lot of new recipes on her own. She is getting more into the amount of celebrating that our family does, but I am sort of party central and she is on board the train but not the engineer!  LOL Especially with helping to develop the decorations and games, she was quickly feeling overwhelmed.  So when KC said Mexico would have been a lot of fun I said why not "travel" there this year and do Greece next year, when I will probably not have to work the day before New Years. (my co worker and I have a swap system on the holiday weeks)  So today I visited Recipe Zaar (which I adore) and picked out some fun recipes to try.  We will have a Mexican squash dish (calabacitas), taquitos con pollo y queso  (taquitos w/ chicken and cheese, except it will be analogue chicken as we are vegetarian!), we'll have a tostado set up area where people can make their own tostado.  I have a recipe for a Mexican fruitcake which isn't anything like English fruitcake and looks delicious (I"m going to make that tomorrow night) and I have a recipe for Horchata which is a mexican drink that sounds neat and easy to make. (non alcoholic drink)  I'll start that tomorrow night too mostly cause the rice you use sits overnight!  I'd love to make guacamole but I'm the only one who would ever eat it so that would be a waste!  We will also have nachos and KC's beloved arroz con gandules even though that is more Puerto Rican than Mexican.  I know he'll eat it and he has promised he'll try a bite of things if we will have what he calls "spanish rice."  I did up some trivia questions today and hope tomorrow on my lunch break to create a simple picture bingo game of Mexico by printing off some pictures from the computer. I'm going to find some mariachi music and bring out my pottery from my trip to Mexico low those many MANY years ago to use as a decoration.  We have a lot of glow sticks and we will think of something fun to do with those as well. And we always toast the New Year with sparkling cider and my net research today indicated that surprisingly, this is one of the toasting beverages in Mexico! 

Our plan for now

Interestingly enough, it seems that Rob's dizzyness and headache was a direct result of our  conversation yesterday.  After we finished and he lay down for 15 minutes he was f ine and there were no other symptoms throughout the day.  I actually am pleased by this as I think that it may show how much he cares and that he frightened himself over the potential consequences of his actions.  Usually when Rob does something wrong, I can see him transport himself mentally to some place other than where we are.  He just drifts away and I could be talking to the wall.  Luckily I am not a lecturer and I can try and change up the tones of voice, move us physically to another space and try and keep him focussed.  I have no doubt that it was a trauma coping mechanism.  The fact that he couldn't or wouldn't do that yesterday, is a big step forward.

For now, I have told him that he is going to stay closer to us.  He essentially has to tell K or I anytime he is going to go anywhere in the house.  No just going to his room and disappearing for a bit.  I have allowed that figuring things had gone well and that as a young teen he needed time apart periodically.  In the evenings he can read in the dining room because I can see him from the work room.  Before this, I let him hang out in the kitchen as he liked to listen to the top 40 or sports radio.  But I can't see what else he is doing there and it is possible that some of the foraging for things like matches took place at those times. 

I try to have exposure to fire in controlled and appropriate ways often because I think then it could fill the fire need thing safely.  We light a jar candle at supper every night and I often have him light it with the aim and flame or extinguish it. 

We will leave things like this and then add things back slooooowly and see how he does.  And I am watching also to see if there is an uptick in behaviors continuing as the only other change is our now weekly phone contact with his sister.  There could be a connection and there could not be as this is a behavior that he had in the past when we didn't have contact so it is really hard to tell right now.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Reality Check

So today is back to work for me and back to the real world so to speak.  Did it have to be quite so literal?  I came into work to find a large project awaiting me (which I sort of expected) but got slammed with some scary behavior on Rob's part before I even got  out the door to go to work. I routinely search Rob's room.  Part of me feels badly about this but he is a wicked hoarder (I have to do this with Chet as well) and periodically I just need to get the junk out that they are unable to do themselves.  It isn't that Rob doesn't know how to clean; he can help greatly in other areas of the house. But deciding what is trash and what isn't, nope, can't do that. I knew he had done holiday wrapping in his room so I figured when I put laundry away it would be time for a quick "shovelling" out of his closet.  I brought a trash bag and sure enough, threw away a boat load of bits of wrapping paper, tags taken off the gifts, twisty ties (which I have to throw out or the dog inexplicably tries to eat them) and other oddments.  Found a few things he is not supposed to have in his room, but nothing too bad.  Until I found the empty box that matches come in.  And my heart stopped.  I saw no actual sign that he had lit any matches.  He swears the box was empty when he took it which I frankly find hard to believe. Rob has had an ongoing fire fascination for quite a while.  It ebbs and flows, but never quite goes away I guess. And Rob will lie till the sun comes up the next day if he thinks he is in trouble.  I wasn't yelling but I was freaking.  Part of me still is.  A 17 y/o boy died in a house fire a few months ago and the house is diagonally behind us.  That fire was no ones fault but the screams of that night will echo in my mind forever.  When we were talking things through he became very dizzy and had to lie down and said he had a headache.  I am not sure if it is stress (which it could well be) or the bug that is going around in our area (which it also could well be) but it was obvious that it was time to table conversation for now.  So it gives me time to fret, stress, and oh yeah, ponder the best way to handle this.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Over the river and through the woods. . .

to Nana's house we went.  There was only rain, albeit some heavy bands from time to time, but the traffic was light as it was early Sunday morning.  We got there right on time, which surprised the heck out of my mom.  Not that we are usually ever late, it is more that she had herself convinced that we were not coming.  (this despite my 6 a.m. email saying we would definately be coming as we had checked the doppler radar!)

I think she was as happy as my  mom knows how to be.  My mom is one of those people who seem to have lost the ability (and this happened long ago) to really grasp and embrace joy.  She has to say cutting things, compare my kids which drives me insane.  She totally is down on my youngest boy and favors my daughter tremendously.  The two older boys she is more even handed about, but I worry for the subtle slighting I see her doing.  This is the woman who knows how to hurt, I love her but she has it down to a science.  She is the woman who told me when looking at my senior class proofs to pick the one where I was "farthest from the camera dear; you know you are the brains,  not the family beauty."  I will not have her doing those kind of things to my kids.  My KC was excellent behavior wise, but I can see him stepping back a bit from his relations with her.  He is very tuned to emotions and i know he is starting to sense something.  I was grateful that every time Mom tried to say something negative that K jumped in and quashed it.  Last time, I was the quasher and then I heard that I  did not see that he did anything wrong and was blind to his faults.  So it is good for her to hear it from each of us, if for no other reason than to see that we are a team, and united as parents.There is the added wrinkle that KC shares the same first name as my mom's second husband and since I think she has unresolved issues surrounding that relationship, I think she takes it out on him.  Sigh.

She seemed to enjoy her presents as much as she ever does.  I opted for a gift card for groceries this year as last year she made such a furor over the camping lantern we got her that she unnerved the kids.  She thanked us and then told me her local fire chief gave her a certificate for groceries for $5.00 more than we did. The mug that said Nana was so gigantic that "who would ever drink out of something like that?"  Uh huh.  It was two hours of stuff like that.  Nothing that in and of itself really sounds horrible or even really IS horrible but which wears on you like water torture after a while.

But it is over.  Done.  And the next visit is supposed to be here in Feburary for Kirsty's birthday.  At least then she is on our turf and while that doesn't stop the sharpness of her tongue, somehow I feel more able to cope with it. 

We got to listen to the Patriots kill the Jaguars on the way home though and when we got home the rain had stopped and the sun was out so I took the kids in snow gear up to the park to run around and decompress.  We all felt less crispy after the fresh air break!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Ringing out Christmas!

Christmas went wonderfully well, however I know my kids.  I know if they looked at that big ole Santa mural in the dining room one more day, stared at the tree, or looked at any of the 5 bajillion decorations we had throughout the 11 rooms of the house, that we would slide rapidly from "wow what a WONDERFUL Christmas" into "why the heck are they acting like wild hooligans?"  Or wilder than usual hooligans.  Playing Santas workshop the week before Christmas is cute.  When it goes on after the holiday is over somehow it all gets frenetic and not so cool.  I can't put it into words well, which is tough when blogging but hopefully you will all trust to the veracity of the words.  At any rate, K had to work today, there was no dance class, the library was closed, and we de-Christmassed the house.  The kids were surprisingly into it.  I approached it by pointing out that if we got our tree down, that we could make a place space and the Dora kitchen and the Barbie doll house could return.  We did that and sorted toys and I took pictures of what goes where.  I plan on posting the pictures above the storage area for the toys so that in my little dream world the toys get put where they belong.   I fight this battle constantly.  I can never decide if I am being anal wanting things to be put away so that all the pieces are in the game and all the legos are together, or if I am allowing them to become slobs when I try and ignore it. 

I have decided I will try this for now as the old way wasn't really working.  I would try and ignore it, and assume that they had given their best effort.  Stuff was everywhere and then when they couldn't find what they needed, they made more of a mess looking for it.  So anyway, we did a boatload of cleaning.

Though the tree and all the Christmas decorations are down, things still look pretty and festive.  I have a big old snowman collection that decorates the cabinet tops in our kitchen through January.  We have 6 clear stars that we hung from our chandelier the beginning of December and I left those.  They look like they are carved from ice.  We have scratch art snow flakes on the dining room wall but the mural is down so that we can start making decorations for our New Years in Greece.  Things feel remarkably settled and there has been very little post holiday grumpiness.

Tomorrow weather permitting we visit my mom and celebrate with her and then in late January with my inlaws.  So there will still be celebrations and joy.

And one of my biggest joys?  Last night when I went to bed I found thank you notes there from my 2 eldest children for the handmade gifts we had given them.  All the other stuff is Santa at our house but they got their notes done pronto with no nagging.  Huge.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

The above shot was KC and Rob heading down the stairs from their rooms on Christmas morning. We rose early, the kids were awake at 5:30 but I made them wait till 6 to come downstairs. The photo doesn't capture the eubullient joy that KC had for the holiday this year.  Even Rob was cracking up watching his little brother. "Santa came!  He really really CAME"  he shouted with eyes as big as saucers.  ROFL  K and I said afterward that he acted like a kid in a holiday special on TV.  No one would believe that this was just how he was acting for real!  And was Lissa ever in the on the action this year.  Thank goodness for the color system for the presents as they were little present opening machines, especially the diva princess.

The interesting thing is that all morning long they played really happily with the rather simple toys that we got.  Art supplies, a wooden alphabet train, a glorified game of tiddly winks called Dino Toss.  All extremely low tech!  One of our family traditions is that Santa brings the toys but  everyone gets something handmade from us.  KC and Lissa got aprons for cooking(they cook all the time with us) , Rob got PJ pants, Chet got knitted fingerless gloves.  I got fabric for a gorgeous skirt that K will make me and fingerless gloves out of this cool sueded yarn.  I am sadly not particularly crafty so my handmades for K consisted of the cool personalized baking pan that I saw on the Pioneer Woman website and also a beautiful sequined scarf that I got on an etsy site.

Christmas breakfast was our traditional home made cinnamon buns.  Lunch is sort of catch can--sandwiches and sparkling cider for the kids usually.  We have a bigger meal about 5 and will have a pretty table set for that.  Also I have baked a cake for dessert in KC's beloved new cupcake cake pan.  He has asked Santa for this for 2 years.  Santa couldn't believe he wanted it last year but when it showed up on the list again this year, I guess he figured it was a for real wish!

I was especially proud of Chet who showed genuine happiness at the pillowcases that I helped Lissa and KC make for him.  The white one has snowflakes stamped on it, the pink one (Chet's fave color) has gold peace symbols (also his favorite symbol).  Lots of times, he says a thank you that is almost rote.  Probably  is  rote actually as I think about it.  Lots of autistic people sort of file away "x is expected when y happens" and they just sort of do it and don't feel the things behind the situation that neurotypical people do.  He really seemed to be touched by their gift so that was truly a huge gift to me!

We called my mom and wished her Merry Christmas. She bought herself a new car yesterday and seemed in a better place emotionally.  I am glad she is happier, sad that it took incurring debt for it to be so. I do know that when K's mom died, her father was much the same, buying things all new, like somehow starting fresh took away the pain of the loss.

  When I opened email (which I thankfully did not do before we called to wish her a happy day) I found that she was letting me know that she got the picture of the kids and our Yule card and that she thought it so sad that KC had to try and look like a sick reindeer.  Sigh. Sometimes the fact we live several states away is a very good thing!  LOL

Thursday, December 24, 2009

No I am not talking about being a slacker!  I tried out this new free music website today and am in love.  Seem to have lots more artists than  All morning I played R and B Christmas music.  This afternoon I played latino Christmas music.  Interesting to me to listen to ones that I know all the english translations as they are not identical when sung in Spanish.  KC loves this particular station as much as I do.  His day care provider for the first nine months was a dear hispanic friend--she still considers herself Abuelita--so he heard a lot of spanish music in the early years.  Anyway, he has been bopping to the songs and I have been singing along.

We needed an energy burn so I decided to create a new game.  Ornament baseball!  Take one wrapping paper tube for a bat and an under inflated balloon for a "ball/ornament" and you have 20 minutes of fun and chaos in our front hall!  LOL

Fiona calls after all!

Last night at 5 the phone rang and it was Fiona.  She sounded really good.  In the past when I  have talked with her after a raging, she has been sullen, uncommunicative, prone to slurring words or sort of snarling at me.  She was bubbly and happy.  It was cool!  She talked about the party they had the school on Tuesday.  Lissa told Fiona she got a camera (I had to explain it was a birthday gift)  The cool thing is that Fiona got a camera at the party.  The school has the kids open 1/2 of their Christmas gifts at the party which seems so smart to me.  Kids like Fiona can't handle excess emotion of any kind--even joy.  And the fact that they did this allowed a commonality between the two kids was great.  I am sure that a lot of the time there has to be a feeling on Fiona's part of how different her life is, the majority of it having been spent in RTC settings.  Thoughts of things she misses have to be in her head.  I know too that despite my best efforts that she likely perceives that I didn't want her, though that is so so very far from the truth.  The fact that for that small moment in time she felt just like the other kids, was so neat and felt so good. I couldn't ask for a better gift.

My mom on the other hand is going to drive me round the bend.  I know this year is hard for her too.  It is the first Christmas for her since her husband died.  We had invited her here for Christmas and she decided she would rather stay home.  I understand that.  A friend invited her to Christmas brunch and she accepted that invite. The hubbub of a family of 6 might well be more than someone 76 wants when a big part of them is still grieving. We agreed that we would come up to see her on the Sunday after Christmas.  I only have yesterday, today and Christmas off from work.  K has to work Saturday.  Unfortunately it seems that the goddess is going to bless us all with a storm that would make travelling extremely unwise. (sleet and freezing rain) So now my mom is flat out angry over the fact that we may not be able to  come.  She is angry over the fact that K has to work on Saturdays and angry over the fact that on Sundays Rob is part of a program through February that has mandatory attendance. Of course up to now, she hasn't minded those things and thought they were great.  But now they are impacting her and they are now from the Dark Side.

I feel badly, I really do.  She didn't want to travel down today, which I respect, but likewise I am not doing 5 hours of travelling with 4 hyped kids today either.  I work really hard to keep the mood of the day happy and not hysterical and i know that a long car ride could cause that.  Also they can't move around much in Nana's apartment so there is no energy burn at all. Christmas Eve night would be he** when we got back to our city.  So we will get together some time in January if the storm tracks as is projected and my mom is not emailing me at all right now because she is angry.  Sigh.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fiona may call today

Fiona was supposed to call us on Monday and didn't.  I knew that the staff who facilitate the call were on vacation so I was less concerned over this.  And today, other staff called me around noon and said that indeed, the call had just fallen off their radar and they felt very badly.  Would I be available to have a call at 3:30 today.  I had to take Rob shopping and to the bank first (otherwise he couldn't shop!!) but I said I would be sure we were home in time.  We were and staff called.  The worker who spoke with me said that her office is directly below Fiona's room.  She could clearly hear Fiona raging and staff trying to handle things and felt it was unlikely she would be in a place to speak to us now. 

Sadly, this isn't news to us.  Fiona always has a really really hard time in December.  The "good" part is that the trouble used to start at say Halloween and continue in increasingly difficult rages through Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Staff is going to try again at 5 p.m. to have her call.  I tried to stress that if the call is not in her emotional best interest right now that we understand.  At one level it might help to hear from us, at another, it might be more painful.  I hate that this never seems to get easier for her.

Crabby Elf!

Care to guess which wee elf  woke with not a shred of yuletide spirit today?  LOL  Here's a hint, it is the only elf that is female!  Poor Lissa is just off her game.  Too much--well probably too much everything.  At a very young three it does become overwhelming even though we try to keep things on an even keel.  Since KC is SO into the Christmas thing, he is constantly pretending he is an elf (seriously that hat in the picture yesterday?  Barely leaves his head!)  He has a toy shop in the living room and is filling a "sleigh" and is singing carols every time you turn around.  So really, low key isn't working here!  LOL

We have made paper snowflakes--an activity my kids adore--and soon I have to take Rob out to do the last of his shopping.  Meanwhile I have opted to give Cranky Elf a snack because she can't fuss if she has food in her mouth.  LOL

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

When an elf gets tired. . .

they just have to sleep!  All that toy making you know!

Solstice Night

Last night was really nice.  We had a solstice supper (not fancy; it was kid food, folks!!) but the dining room looked really pretty.  We used the white table cloth that has snowflakes stamped all over it and on the wall in the dining room we hung a snowflake decoration I got this year.  It has a suction cup gizmo and a battery inside allows the crystal snowflake that dangles from a thin cord to change color.  It was perfect and much loved by the kiddos.

We had our vote for the Heifer Project donation and I am pleased to announce that we will be buying a flock of chickens for some lucky family! Ducks came in second and only one lone vote for bees. It was interesting and fun, and hey the change jar originally started because one of my children has light fingers.  I instituted the money jar (which tells you how much is in it at the top) because the rule is all spare change goes there.  That way there could not be money in his room that he "found" and arguments over whose it really was.  I like that it has evolved into something that is not really a negative consequence of his impulsiveness and insecurities and has instead become something we all feel good about.

I thought I would get KC's scrapbook done but he woke from sleeping on the couch early in the evening so that didn't happen.  However I have printed off a bunch of pictures and graphics through Thanksgiving so I should be able to wrap it up tonight.  Then I need to get ready the photo calendars that KC and Lissa are giving their godparents, their Nana and their Aunt.  But today is my last day of work before the holidays so it is all good!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Snowy Migraines

Yesterday I woke to snow and a migraine.  Actually the migraine woke me up at 5:30 a.m. and as I crept downstairs to try and get aspirin Elisabeth woke up and bombed into my bed.  I tried to convince her to go back to sleep. Yup, sure that was going to happen!  LOL  I took my meds and lay back down.  Waited for the pain to abate a bit and listened to Lissa and KC (who she had promptly wakened) whisper to each other and play with his stuffed moose.  Clearly small things in life amuse me; I adore listening to the two of them converse.  I can't remember the details now; they are lost in the fog of migraine pain, but I remember that they were cute.

At 6:30 they were starving so I got up and did breakfasts for everyone, made tea and toast for myself and tottered back to bed.  I left the door open so I could hear everyone.  Breakfast chatter is much louder than the sweet whispers of early morning, but that way I would know if anyone was being killed.  Kirsty had not yet awakened.  She got up around 8 and by 9:30 my head was enough better that I could function.

I got up and puttered around the house, Kirsty decided to go to a big box store and shop, and the kids noticed that it had snowed the night before.  Not the big snow which was forecast.  Dire blizzard warnings had been all over the news for us but we got maybe 4 inches.  Fluffy Christmas snow.  This is the time of year i like snow.  I am done with it by January 1.  Then I am ready for seed catalogs and spring.

The kids wanted to go outside and play so I bundled everyone up and took them out sliding.  I didn't so much slide as haul kids and sleds up the little hill in our back yard but we had fun.  Lissa is getting into it this year.  The first time it snowed she would only stay out 5 minutes.  She was out nearly 30 with the boys and I.

Went in the house when she got cold and figured I would start their lunch.  Found 3 frantic messages on the service from K who was at the aforementioned store and the car (my beloved 98 Metro) would not start.  The funny part of this is that she had not taken the cell phone with her (remember we are now a cell phone family) and she was borrowing the cell of a "nice man" in the parking lot.  Which is what i have always said we could do if we had a problem.  LOL  In her last message to me she said that she had gotten ahold of our boss and he was sending someone to jump the car and she would be back soon.  And she was.  I have no idea what was wrong with the car though as it had started fine when she left and it started fine this a.m.  It is elderly but usually reliable.

I spent the afternoon watching football with one eye and working valiently on catching up the kids scrapbooks with the other.  I have Lissa's all done and this a.m. finished Rob's.  Now I just have KC to do tonight.  I try to make sure the pages include little things that we do too.  Not just the big things, like birthdays and feast days.  Those are there as well, but a small trip to the blacksmith expo was also featured, time at our community garden plot, the time a child's class lit the chalice at church, etc.  I want them to look back and see a myriad of experiences and memories.  Lissa is drawn to looking at her book now; so it is really a rewarding task.  Just time consuming and time is always a scarce commodity.

By evening, the migraine was fully done--something of a worlds record and they are usually 2 to 3 day events, and by my count it was 2 months to the day (weird huh?) since my last full blown one.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday plans

I am all ready tired and the day is only 1/2 done!  LOL  Tis the season for that.  We have mailed our card (Post office closed before I could get there  yesterday)  Amazingly enough we were in and out in under 10 minutes.  The woman in line ahead of me said yesterday she waited for 50 minutes!!  We have visited the library for this weeks streasure trove of books and videos, and have been to dance class and the accompanying party.  We have shopped for food, cooked lunch and now the afternoon tasks--some fun some not--are before me.  I have a new cookie recipe to try.  That will be fun.  I have to help the kids make some gifts and wrap others.  That will be fun, I hope.I have pine cones, bird seed and peanut butter to make solstice gifts for the wildlife.  Looking forward to that too.  I have laundry the kitchen and the bathroom to clean. That will not be fun. I have to sort a stash of tissue paper into 4 color groups.  This is how I wrap stocking stuffers.  That way although all the gifts are hidden together we know a) that anything in tissue paper is a stocking gift and b) whose it is by the color.  It is remarkably efficient in helping with the holiday morning hubbub.

  But some how we will get through all of it.  And then, when the wee elves sleep I will wrap the stocking stuffers and then ALL the wrapping will be done!!!! 

Friday, December 18, 2009

Rob Stretches, I shop!

Rob had his physical today.  He is officially 5'4" at 13.  Not too shabby!  Has grown 6 inches in 2 years which is also pretty impressive. I am doubly glad that his ocular pressure for the glaucoma is holding steady as sometimes growth spurts will trigger that. 

Today after the holiday lunch at work we were allowed to leave early.  I hit a store for stocking stuffers.  It was hard to make sure I was getting the right amount for each person because the store didn't have buggies.  Instead they had these round tote things of which I had 2, dragging them around the store like a demented sherpa.

I really really need to wrap gifts so I have my fingers crossed that all the little elves are going to sack out tonight!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Two holiday blessings

We had another call with Fiona this week.  The speaker phone at her therapists office didn't work so it was a "real" call with no one listening in which was neat.  She continues to sound excellent and I am so glad to have the regular contact.  She will call on a different day next week due to her school's party.  But she sounds happy.  There is a vocational component to her school and she will start by doing some kind of volunteer job at the school.  Once she has shown competancy and ability to handle that, she will move into a rotation of jobs within the community.  The 4 jobs she could move into are all ones that I think she would enjoy and that would match pretty well with her skill set.  Working with animals is one, working in an art environment is another and working with young children is the third.  I am so hopeful that this will work for her.  It worries me that when she is 22 the program ends.  She is 18 this Christmas and I don't want her to age out of a program without the skills needed to live safely and at least semi independently.

She loves the idea of earning money; she has seen gifts she would like to buy for Rob, KC and Lissa, so there is motivation there for her as well.  It just feels to me like a holiday blessing to have her in a place where she seems to be moving forward at a number of different levels.  She definately hit a plateau early on at the RTC that was close to us.  While there was the obvious benefit of our close promixity I would say there was a real threshhold in their ability to help her. That threshhold was reached really early, though she stayed there a couple of years.   The subsequent two placements made my hair stand on end (and by comparison made the close by RTC seem like she had been moved from heaven to he**) but I can so see the benefits to this program and the level of structure and learning they provid.e

Another holiday blessing came yesterday.  At Thanksgiving time there was a family that moved here who had nothing.  Their belongings that were supposed to arrive hadn't and the family which had a number of young children had no belongings except the clothes that they had been able to put in their car.  New to the area they hadn't been able to hook up with any of the agencies that would help provide a Thanksgiving meal.  My boss, myself and a couple coworkers got them a Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings.  We gathered air beds so they weren't sleeping on the floor and some kitchen necessities to borrow.  (a microwave, dishes, flatware) A TV, some videos, I sent some paper and crayons and watercolors for the kids.  Some of  the things were from my camping supplies.  Some were from my co workers camping supplies, and some we have saved over the years from apartments that have been vacated.  Sadly, there are all too often, people who come to us with their lives in ruins.  A fire.  A personal tragedy.  It isn't uncommon for some one to move in with nothing and a few clean blankets or some kitchen supplies don't sound like much but they can help a lot.  Anyway, the belongings finally showed up a couple days ago.  And a few days later not only had all the borrowed items been returned in pristine condition, but we received the most beautiful thank you basket of goodies from the family.  It wasn't the basket that warmed me so much as what it represented--the fact that they now were on their feet, feeling safe and stable and ready to give back to others.  That is the greatest blessing.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lissa's Party!

Today was Lissa's 3rd birthday and we of course, partied in our typical wild abandon.  If the pictures are in the order they are showing on my screen as I write this, the top left is Chet at the party.  Top right is the princess herself, replete with royal crown, sampling the Royal Cook's icing!  Second row left is the Prince who was on duty to help with all manner of party planning and execution.Second row right, is Rob, who wouldn't be caught dead in a crown but who brings a huge smile and sense of fun to every gathering.  Bottom left picture is the theme of Lissa's party.  The Princess and the Frog.  We haven't even seen the movie, but Lissa is all about princesses and their various trappings--wands, loyal subjects, etc so it was a perfect fit for the day.  Rob and KC and Lissa herself helped me decorate the dining room.  We had pink and purple streamers and I hid some of the Yule decorations, putting a clear bowl of pastel colored ornaments on the table with ivory tapers as a centerpiece.  Set off the purple tablecloth well.  Lissa had also requested that we include butterflies in the theme so the napkin rings were recycled from K's butterfly garden birthday party and we had a special butterfly balloon tied to her chair.  Rob used the helium tank and got all the balloons all set while I was doing streamers and banners and gew gaws!  Lissa requested home made pizza (known in our house as KC pizza as he usually helps make it) and a pink cake.  She got a magic princess wand for her birthday from KC, a home made matching game from Rob, a paint set from Chet, a camera from her nana, puzzles from her parents, and a gorgeous crocheted dress from her nana as well.  All in all it was a lovely celebration and we are all pooped!  December is so much about celebrating.  The next upcoming night is our Solstice celebration which is not really about gifts but is still exciting to the kids.  We have a candle lit supper, I decorate with a lot of glow sticks in containers and we embrace the darkness we are presently in and the promise of lights return.  Then it is only days till Christmas and the hubbub of that.  I still have so much to do that if I stop to think about it I will go batty.  However I know from experience that the important stuff will get done.  It always does.  And a lot of the less important stuff will get done.  And some stuff will fall through the cracks and we will either decide it didn't matter or we will work harder on those things next year.   For now, I will hope KC settles down to sleep in a bit and then after I read the last Harry Potter book to Rob (we might finish it tonight) I'll do some wrapping of gifts. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

55 Migraine free days!

I just happened to notice it is the middle of December.  That means my last migraine was October 20th or 21st.  Wow!  I can't remember this long a stretch without a migraine.  I have had a couple bad headaches but not the wear sunglasses in the house kind (though my youngest kids thought that look was kind of cool)  At any rate, it is kind of  a world record for me.  I have had migraines ever since I was probably middle school/high school age.  That would, coincidentally, be the time I started drinking diet soda.   I still miss my diet cokes with every fiber of my being, but I can't say it isn't worth it if this keeps them at bay.  Even going to the concert where the music was so loud it was vibrating through us and I was sleep deprived didn't trigger a migraine.  I'm celebrating this whole new existance!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Time to decorate the tree

Decorating the tree is hectic and fun in our house. During the day, Kirsty and the big boys got the tree down from the attic.  Rob assembles the tree and Kirsty always does the lights. She is the light diva extraordinaire, balancing color and brightness with amazing precision.  (some might call it OCD but this is the holiday season and we are focussing on joy!  After supper it is time for the kids and I to jump in and decorate.  I try and tell quick vignettes of stories of the ornaments as they fly from boxes to tree branches.

I can't figure out how to get the blogger to let me write in between the shots, so the first is KC examining one of the ornaments that his Nana sends each year.  He and Lissa get a Winnie the Pooh ornament to share and Rob gets a red sox one.  Shot #2 is Rob putting an ornament on.  A lot of our ornaments are nature based and reflect our pagan belief system.  I have gilded acorn garlands, faux cranberry garlands (with our dog you don't want any real food on the tree!) Small cardinals and blue jays nestle in the branches.  Pointsettia flowers and berries are stuck in the branches.  In Rob's shot you get a glimpse of how tall he has gotten.  Our tree is 6 foot tall to give you a barometer of my strapping young man.  Chet opts to not decorate; the hubbub has always disturbed him.  When he was little we did it when he was in bed and he would admire it the next day.  The next shot is Lissa decorating.  This is the first year she really understood and remembered some of the ornaments from previous years.  All the kids have little home made ornaments with them dressed up as elves; she was so excited to find hers!  I think all these shots were dark as the tree lights messed with the flash.

The last shot is all of us under the tree except for K the photographer.  Note Blake's festive scarf and our stylish head gear.  LOL  I love the fact that Chet is leaning into  the shot.  That is pretty huge for him. 

Rob goes carolling????

OK, so I accept my kids different comfort zones with a lot more equanimity than my wife.  Chet doesn't like touching and has trouble with smiling naturally--no biggie.Lissa likes cuddling, hates kisses.  KC doesn't like to be watched when he sings or dances.   Rob hates to sing.  All I request is that he mutter the lyrics to happy birthday and that he stand respectfully in church when others are singing.  I know he has never been a singer by nature and the fact that his voice pitch is a bit unpredictable now contributes as well.

So imagine my shock when we were at church on Sunday and he asked to stay and go carolling to shut ins with his class and the youth group.  Rob?  Sing? Well, he informed me, his best friend would be there. (also the  girl he is sweet on but I didn't mention that)  I said he would have to look like he was having fun and sort of at least LOOK like he was singing.  He said of course he would.  I bought him some soup and arranged to pick him up a few hours later and headed home.

And the youth group director sent me via email a wonderful picture of my son standing with the carollers smiling broadly.  I can't vouch for whether or not he sang, but that smile would like up any shut ins room. I love the fact that he had a good time and that he was comfortable enough in that environment that he could participate at a level that didn't cause him any anxiety.  And--get this folks, my rabid football fan was choosing voluntarily to miss watching his beloved Patriots to go carolling.  That absolutely, is my holiday joy!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cookie Baking!

It wouldn't be Yule without lots of baking.  We give a lot of cookie plates to friends, coworkers and people like our mechanic who adores cookies!  Today Lissa could not come to church as I was working in KC's classroom.  She got to help bake cookies though so she is very happy.  She and K made peanut butter cookies.  Previously Kirsty had put cookie dough together for chocolate chip, reverse chocolate chip, and flash frozen sugar cookies into shapes.  So the baking went quickly as a lot of the dough could be plucked from the freezer and plopped on the cookie sheets. 

The decorating was more time consuming.  This is the first year that Kirsty has had the inclination and the energy to go all out on her sugar cookie decorations in about 13 years.  It was the first of December 13 years ago that we found out that her mom had terminal cancer and that loss--way too young and way unexpected caused this holiday to be very hard on Kirsty for many years.  I, who adore all celebrations shouldered a lot of the holiday load but am not nearly as creative with cookie decorating.  Then the younger kids came along and K was sleep deprived and there were baby bottles that meant she didn't have so many hours for decorating even if she wanted to. This year, she spent hours making these cute little creations which I know will be appreciated by the hungry hordes who will look at them admiringly for one nano second before they plunk them into their mouth!  LOL

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Yule tide picture 2009

I don't put a lot of time into shots for the Christmas cards!  First off, it is really hard for Chet if you spend a lot of time fussing with him.  His autism means that he doesn't like being touched all that much and the more you try and tweak posture, or expression the worse he looks.  The more rigid, the more the smile looks like a grimace.

Rob on the other hand almost always does a great shot, and Lissa and KC are 50/50 mixes.  We need a picture though to send in cards to friends and family that have become far flung as the years have passed.  Our friends that have known us the longest often find us odd as their kids are all off at college or married and we are still raising a family.  Out of step with their lives, they still like to hear from us, probably so they can shake their heads bemusedly.

K hadn't had time for the photo shoot so today I blocked out 20 minutes (yes really!) and did it.  I took a plain disposable table cloth and stamped blue snowflakes on it.  Then I tacked it over our front door.  Took a tote and covered that with a red tablecloth, and arranged the kids so quickly no one had time to fuss, stew or freak.  Then I snapped this picture.  This one picture.  For the record, KC says he is holding his hands like reindeer feet in the picture!  LOL  I am saving the table cloth to use for our solstice supper as I can't bear to just toss something and I know it won't survive a whole year till next  year.

Now to get Kirsty to print off the pictures and for me to find time to write the cards.  Gotta love the holidays!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lissa is nearly 3

On Wednesday, my daughter turns 3!  It is hard to wrap my mind around that, but a collection of pictures helps me remember how very tiny she was, and how much she has grown, both physically and in my heart.  I admire her independent spirit (even though sometimes it makes me crazy!) I love listening to her giggle.  I love watching her growing interest in books and art.  I love watching her tackle her brothers even when dressed at her insistance,  in a frilly dress.  I love knock knock jokes about a pig and doughnuts.  I love talking with her while I do her hair and singing to her as I help her get ready for bed.  Only the goddess knew that day in December 3 years ago that this precious bundle would so quickly change our lives and give so much joy.

And I wonder too if in another part of the country, her first mother is thinking of her and wondering how she is doing.  I hope she knows that our daughter is very much loved, and that we are forever grateful.

Post Concert

Post concert, as in after the event, but also a post about the concert from my sleepy little brain!  Rob had such a great time (and so did his Ooma!)  We saw 6 acts,  Owl City, Boys Like Girls, Sean Kingston (YAY!) Jay Sean, Jordin Sparks and Rob's fave band, The Fray.  Oh and Justin Bieber so I guess it was 7 acts? Actually all the acts were really really good.  Well, Jordin Sparks was kind of weak but the poor girl.  I think in a different line up she might have come off better.  She has a great voice just not the stage presence of the other singers.  But she gave me a reason to sit down in my seat for awhile! LOL  Rob didn't mind the fact that I was singing hollering and dancing as all the people around us were--except for Rob and the 2 other dudes next to him. They would stand though, and Rob's eyes were glued to the stage the whole time.

We could see really well.  The stage was close for us but we had a bit of elevation; I suspect we saw better than the floor seat people.  But there were 2 jumbotrons to give close up shots of the acts as well.  Rob bought himself a commemorative Tshirt ($30.00) and I bought a water ($3.00)!  I'm all about hydration what can I say.  I won't pay $30.00 for a dress so I am so not going to buy a t-shirt for that price.  But he had the money and I told him whatever he wanted if he had the money for it and it was legal, he could buy it.

In many ways I am --well, polite people would say "young at heart."  People less charitable might say "immature."  I figure my kids keep my mind youthful.  But in some ways, you can tell I am not a teenybopper.  Like the tickets said "no food no cameras."  So I took them at their word.  I left the digicam at home.  But the other 9000 people did not.  And nothing happened.  People were videotaping with their camera phones.  The girls behind us had me snap their picture with a real sharp looking digital camera.  And me?  Our camera was HOME because I was being such a good do-bee!  I don't think Rob cares.  We have the t shirt and the ticket stubs to remember the night by.  Oh and the bags under my eyes!  We got home about midnight.

KC was awake when I got home.  He had slept till 10 but then woke and K couldn't get him back to sleep.  When I got into bed, Lissa was awake in the next room so I had to settle her too--and then Little Miss Sunshine woke up at 5:30 a.m.. today.  I was planning on sleeping till 6 (which is 15 minutes later than usual for those who care!) but instead was awake 30 minutes earlier. 

But it was worth it.  It was like what they say on those credit card ads.  Sharing an experience with your son, making memories--priceless.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Call Review

So I heard from Jane and she felt the call went really well.  She said that she felt Fiona was feeling a mixture of happiness and sadness at talking w/ Rob.  That seems pretty logical and appropriate.  At one level she was voicing "does he really miss me" (which thankfully Rob said he did) and at another expressing happiness to speak with us all.  At any rate things went well enough that have been allowed to set up weekly phone call times.  Very exciting!  I also asked Jane what to do when Fiona expresses her future dreams.  Though nearly 18, she very much is a magical thinker.  Once she turns 18, according to Fiona her job will be going on American Idol or Dancing with the Stars.  Ummm, probably not but I for sure didn't want to go quashing anything the first time I spoke with her after such a long hiatus.  So I kind of walked around that and said something about the volunteer program they offer at her school.  Jane said that was on target and that they deal with the magical thinking issues all the time, which was a relief.

KC is making Fiona a holiday ornament and we will mail that out on Saturday.   Tonight Rob and I go to another city to his very first concert.  I need to buy earplugs on the way home!  LOL

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snow Fun!

While I was slaving away at the office, fighting the good fight with computers and federal paperwork (sometimes calling it a good fight seems just wrong.  7 hours of H*ll with computers and federal paperwork would be so much more honest.  Anyway, while I visited H*ll, the kids had fun in the snow.  Rob and Chet were on shovelling duty, but the littles had fun in the back yard with Kirsty.  Kirsty who didn't want to play in the snow. . . hey, why didn't she offer to do my paperwork today!  LOL  KC is wearing a "tree hat" that K made for him.  He feels very festive in it. He is all about funky head garb!  KC played outside for at least an hour.  He adores snow.  This was the first year though that Lissa could really play outside.  Last year it was still mostly me just pulling her around on the sled.  This year she is old enough to do more, enjoy more .

And here is the pretty princess all decked out for some winter fun!  She is always happy when she can be out with the boys--or the bruvvers, as she puts it! :-)  She did get tired quickly, she is not used to walking in snow.  And for her, it was deep we got between 6 and 9 inches I would say.  Less out there now as after mid day it turned to rain.  Yuck!  However, I am just glad the storm was today and not tomorrow which is the night of the big concert for Robbie. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Fiona Called!

I can't believe it!  Fiona finally was able to call.   She sounded so good.  In the past when we spoke she often was I think over medicated.  Her words would slur, she would mumble almost incoherantly and I would often spend most of my time on the phone feeling like I really needed a hearing aid.  I was worried what it would be like on a speaker phone call because of that. But she was clear.  And animated.  And sounded so happy. 

The thing that I was amazed at was the clarity of her memories of times we spent together.  Remember that we haven't physically visited in 3 years.  But she recounted the time we brought them to the pumpkin patch to pick out halloween pumpkins.  It was the first time she had ever done that.  She remembered some experiences we had with horses.  She remembered Chet likes to change his hair color and wondered what color it was now.  It was so so good to talk with her.  I want to email her therapist tomorrow and find out if I was getting the right signals from her on various points in the conversation and also how Fiona was afterwards.  If things go well, we will talk every Tuesday night now.

And as if things couldn't get better, Kirsty finished decorating the front of the house.  Picture of the door is at the top of the post.

Anxiously Awaiting

More flurries of emails to and from Fiona's therapists.  It sounds like she will be allowed to have a supervised call with us tonight.  I have not told the kids this time around as I primed that pump way too well a few wks back and then we heard nothing for days.  So Rob will likely not be all that talkative but I have to consider his mental health and well being in this equation too.  It is only 5 minutes and if she gets to say hi to most of us that pretty much shoots 5 minutes.  But I am anxious.  And it is weird feeling because i have known and loved Fiona for years now.  She turns 18 this Yule and I met her when she was 9.  We have by now been in her life longer than anyone else has been.  But all the emails with Jane and all the lists that i have had to create of potential topics have wound up making me totally stressed that I am going to say the wrong thing.  Something not on the List.  Not only do I not want to incur ill will with Jane (how long have I been working on getting the phone calls? I have lost count) but I for sure don't want to trigger Fiona.  December is a tough month for her.  Always.  So I am sitting at work, and instead of fighting with the federal paperwork I need to fight with I am thinking about Fiona.

Also thinking about the fact that I wish I had time to proof read my entries before I hit "publish".  When I looked over yesterday's post my entry didn't match the order the pictures were up in.  Well they sort of did, but when I was looking at it on the screen before it went to publish the words were right under the pictures.  somehow they weren't afterwards.  It also made it sound like I just got black Santas for our house this year, when in fact they have been in our house since Rob came home to us.  I noticed them in the first visit we had at his foster home and I saw one in their house and went on the great Santa search right afterwards!

So now I sit here waiting. . . maybe I'll check my email to see if Jane has written again!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pictures of Pink Santa!

Here is one of Santa's little elves . . .
and down below is the "pink Santa" in his fancy sleigh.  Kirsty cleverly used some scrapbook and craft embellishments to enhance the toys coming out of the pack!  Over on the right is the chimney of the house.  The bricks are pieces of red paper that was blackened by kids and then K "grouted" with black paint in between.
I'll try and post more pictures as the mural unfolds.  The sleigh is my favorite part.  There are gems on the snowflakes and it is just so stunning.

Why must Santa be pink?

I have done my darndest to make sure that my kids see their skin tones reflected in the Santas that decorate our house this season.  Yes, there are the anglo Santa's of my childhood (in our house we have decorations dating back to my grandparents!) But there are AA Santa and the Missus salt and pepper shakers.  A jolly black Santa checks his list on our sideboard.  I have a really good sized "brown" plush Santa (this is my kids description) that is motion activated in the corner as you enter the room. There are others too, but you get the idea.

So imagine my distress when KC informed me that the Santa on the "mural in progress" in our dining room had to be "pink" like Mom and I.  Pink?  I sputtered weakly.  First off, pink is way too colorful an adjective to use for me.  Dead white, Morticia had more color in her cheeks than I do this time of year.  And I rarely have time for more than a swipe of lipstick so there is no artificial enhancement going on most days!  I just am naturally really really pale.  Kirsty, well yup, pink is sort of accurate.  She's a rosy faced Swede.  BUT, more pressingly, why does  my son think the "real" Santa is pink?  Sigh.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

It isn't even Yule and we're thinking about New Years!

Yup, cause that is just the kind of forward thinking people we are!  LOL  Actually it is because we celebrate New Years Eve a tad differently than other families I know.  I am not a fan of cranky kids. I get them sometimes despite my best efforts but I really truly try to prevent the crankies.  Lack of sleep equals mega crankies.  Lack of sleep for some of my kids equals an inability to think their way (as my mom would put it) out of a paper bag with both ends open and a pair of scissors.  So we don't stay up till midnight at our house.  But I still wanted it to be special and festive and fun.  Remember I am also the queen of celebrating and we have to balance this with my practical side.  We also are homeschoolers. Thus New  Years Eve around the world was born.  We have done Italy, Australia, England, Spain and Poland.  Because the whole evening and the decorations revolve around the country we choose, there is a family summit that nearly rivals that of the Olympic Committee when choosing the country.  This years contenders:

Brazil--  Rob's idea. Sadly the carnival folks lost out as we are not meat eaters and most of the recipes are seafood based.   Those that are not, like black bean soup are too every day for us to feel festive with.  (cue the big BONG of a gong here)

France--possibly still a contender.  I can envision some cool decorations involving building or drawing the Eiffel Tower.  I can envison a fun meal with both savory and sweet crepes.  I could do this one, but it hasn't sold the majority.

China--KC's vote because of his music teacher moving there.  Well, that and the chopsticks!  We had to explain about how Chinese New Year doesn't follow our calendar.  He was bummed.  We often celebrate Chinese New Year anyway in February though so he will not mind for too long.  (cue the big bong of the gong here)

Mexico--Another suggestion from KC  I can picture a cool night of fun with this country. Food would be easy and very kid friendly.  The colors and music would be bright and lively. I even have a friend living in Mexico who could likely send us some stuff (and I have some stuff from my student trip there)  But Rob just finished a big research on Mexico and I think he is not all that interested in Mexico at the moment.  The tamale crew may be out of luck here.

Russia--I adore Russian music, culture and history.  I was one of 12 students who actually chose to study Russian history in high school. But research into the Russian diet left us a little underwhelmed.  A whole lotta potato going on there!  LOL  (cue the gong, Russia didn't make the cut)

Greece--I think Kirsty suggested this and it might be a winner.  How can I argue with visions of baklava dancing in my head?  LOL  I can envision beautiful blue and white decorations being made, faux marble columns painted or created and acting out a Greek myth.  And I found awesome greek food recipes.  Greece is  a strong contender.

So for now, the field is narrowed to three, Mexico, Greece and France.  We will have a big family vote in a week or so. Stay tuned!

Saturday fun

I am tired and it is only 1:30 p.m.!!!!  C'mon where has my get up and go gone to?  I have had a busy day but not unlike any other Saturday to be honest. The kids got into bed with me about 6:15 and we were up by 6:30.  By 9:20 we had done banking and visited the library and were at the dance studio. Then there was KC's class. From there we went grocery shopping and from there to the clubhouse where my wife works on Saturdays. We visited and made the kids lunch and I swapped our cars.  Rob has a class in Worcester today and while I don't have to bring him, K has to pick him up along with 3 friends.  This way she will have the van and can leave right from work.

I made a double fudge mousse pie for dessert for tonight or tomorrow. I had promised the tribe I'd do another since the Thanksgiving one was inhaled the day of the feast.  I don't eat chocolate so I rely on them to tell me if something with chocolate is any good.

After Rob leaves I will walk the littles down town to the holiday stroll but I can't decide if they would like the tree lighting more or some of the other activities.  Decisions decisions!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Low key holiday traditions

There are a lot about the holidays that are NOT low key no matter how I try.  Decorations, for instance.  We can choose to decorate minimally but it is pretty useless because once you step outside the bubble of your home, you are positively bombarded with decorations and light up gew gaws everywhere.  So decorations are a big thing for us and we just try and make sure most are not of the breakable variety.

Food.  We can't seem to get through the holidays without 27 dozen cookies.  While we give away a vast amount of those to family and friends (EXTENDED FAMILY who don't live in this house!) a lot go in our tummies too.

Music.  K and I adore the music of the season.  It is everywhere anyway, so we embrace it in our home as well.

But to avoid the gimmes and try and slow the pace, one of our family traditions is creating a mural on the wall of our dining room. We put up a double row of craft paper and Kirsty who is immensely talented  sketches it out. The kids help with details like making bricks for the chimney of a house, decorating a tree, shingles for a roof, etc.

I have found a few pictures from the past to give an idea of what we do.

I can't find anything from 2006, I know we took pictures but something went awry and they were not saved.  This is a picture from Elisabeth's first birthday 12/16/06  You can see a bit of the mural in the background of the shot.  There was a big painted tree and K cleverly adorned it with lights that really lit up.

This was part of 2008's mural.  A faux fire place. The kids did the bricks and then Kirsty glued them on and painted the "grout" and did the rest of the scene.  Somewhere in there was a window with Rudolph peeking in but I don't have a picture that shows that part.  Obviously I am a sloppy photojournalist!

This year the kids' vision was of Santa's sleigh being pulled over a house top.  Kirsty has the scene roughed out and the sleigh done.  Actually she has done considerably more since this picture was taken earlier today.
One of the mural helpers hard at work!Paint is supposed to go on the PAPER?  Now you tell me! See KC?  Like this, says Lissa!

So anyway, more memories are being made and I will post pictures of the finished mural when it is done.

Working toward that phone call!

Yesterday I exchanged numerous emails with Jane.  She seems willing to have weekly 5 minute supervised phone calls starting as early as next week.  I am very excited that we seem to be finally getting this going.  I have also saved every single email that she and I have exchanged regarding Fiona.  So I have submitted a new list of potential topics to discuss (she wants to approve them at this point) and hope to hear by Monday that we are ready to roll for a Tuesday phone call.

I also finally got some Yule ideas from her and did some online shopping for Fiona yesterday.  I found a pretty comforter and sheet set, a necklace shaped like a snowflack and a stretchy bracelet of amethyst chips all on sale.  Yay for me!  (grin)  The comforter and bedding was on Fiona's wish list. She also wants gift cards for shopping and I will do that but I think she needs to open something that is realy tangible on Christmas.  Especially since it is also her birthday.  And since she has a low frustration tolerance and it isn't clear when the shopping trip could be scheduled, I want to make sure that there is something she really wants that day.

That is important to me for all my kids, but definately more so for Fiona.  The year we met Fiona we got to visit her December 19th.  I remember coloring with her and her sharing that the only thing she wanted for Yule was an EZ Bake oven.  The foster mom where she was staying had a fair number of foster kids but I think all but Fiona were somehow related to her biologically.  We were not allowed to provide any gift for the kids when we first met them, but were allowed to call Christmas day.  We did, and Fiona was very upset.  One of the foster kids had received the oven and she had not.  Foster mom explained to me that the other child's bio dad had provided it and it "wasn't her fault." Fiona got coloring books and some clothes as I recall.  Since her birthday falls on Christmas it was really a double whammy to her.  I realize to the foster mom (who it turned out later could not wait to be rid of her) it seemed very trivial, but to Fiona it was huge.  And it was a preventable hurt in a life filled with so many hurts that could not be prevented.

Frankly I am long past caring if she shreds up, pees on or treasures the things we give to her.  I don't spend tons of money on what she wants, but I do try and make the dreams come true.  At least for that moment in time, she has a dream that does come true and however transient our dreams are, some of them really, really should.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Yule tide decorating!

Somehow, in my efforts at photographing Yule decorations, I took the picture in a lopsided way.  So you get a bit of the Chinese writing at the top border of our bedroom and a relatively good idea of the cute arrangement K made on the display shelf.  I love holiday decorations but like serene bedrooms, so this fits the ticket perfectly!

I also have more news on a phone call with Fiona but will write when my head is not aching.  However it is not a true migraine, just a bad headache so I can't complain.  I have had NO diet soda (sob) since 10/21/09 and coincidentally NO migraines since then.  I still drink coffee once a day and tea several times a day so it isn't hte caffeine thing.  I think it is the aspartame.