Saturday, May 30, 2009
But, I was wrong. He really is reading. Last week we were at the post office. I helped him read the sign "please wait for the next available clerk" He amused himself with it greatly and has since, been able to read "please wait here" and "please wait for the next available teller". All variations on a theme but showing that he was looking at words as opposed to rote memorization.
Last night he read a book Hoot Hiss and Howl out loud to Kirsty and I. It is a library book and not a book we ever read before. There are definately pictoral cues that helped on some pages, but not on all.
Today he went to put a CD on for his sister. He noticed from the title of the CD that it wasn't the one she had asked for and asked her if it was OK to listen to "bells" instead of "triangles." OK this is just way cool. He hasn't been 5 more than a couple of months. I am stoked!
Friday, May 29, 2009
Tonight after work I took Chet, Lissa and KC out to buy his gifts from them and decorations and other party "essentials." Chet got him a digital camera to replace the one he lost at camp last summer. Hopefully this one will have a happier fate! KC wanted to get him a baseball style cap with the Patriots logo on it, got that, and Lissa was noncommital. At 2 she is more into sweeping the shelves clear of merchandise, so she settled for Nike socks. Sounds lame but the thing is, Rob is very label conscious. I am not. I am about the best bang for the buck. Which means no name tube sox unless it is a gift. Then, he can get his beloved Nikes. He will be thrilled. We got little Star Wars action figures to decorate the top of the cake. We went to iparty and got star wars streamers and plates and napkins. KC was afraid of one of the scenes on the large plates and said he hoped we wouldn't get that one because he would be too scared to come to the party! Opted for a totally different plate and I know Rob will find that story so funny that it won't matter. KC was dancing around the store with such enthusiasm that everyone there thought we were getting things for HIS party. People asked me when his birthday was and how old he was going to be. I explained he had all ready had his day, he was pumped for his big brother. I love that. I hope my kids are always ready to celebrate with and for each other. That is the best kind of gift.
Kirsty's sister has a bad throat infection so she has rescheduled for June 13th. The kids were very bummed as they were thrilled to have "aunty" time ahead of them. At least it won't be long till we can see each other.
There is lots to do this weekend anyway. Sunday is our wrap up Sunday for the childrens program at church. As one of the new chairs of the Religious Education committee there are a few more responsibilities upon me than just showing up with all my kids! I had thank you notes to write, tomorrow I have gifts to purchase for people who have gone above and beyond for the program, and I need to bake something to bring to the picnic which happens afterwards. I found a new recipe for brownies. It incorporates raspberry preserves and white chocolate chips which sounds like it would be a nice combo. It would be something of a leap of faith to make it though as anything I make with chocolate i can not taste. I am allergic to chocolate and will be miserable for hours if I try to eat any. However I make what people assure me is a wicked good devils food cake so I am thinking I might just try this. I have this thing about trying new recipes. I get really bored doing the same old thing. So though I have a kabillion tried and true recipes, an event happens and I have to research and find something new to do. Plus the kids could help me make it and that is usually fun as well.
Then there is the food shopping and other sundry errands that need to happen of a Saturday. And it is supposed to be sunny at last after 4 days ---- 4 very loooooong days---of rain so I have to get some outside time in for the kids. It'll be fun. Somehow we will get it all done and it will be good.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
This will be a big job. Our kitchen is about 15 x 15. Kirsty is not enthusiastic about this but I am spinning it that we will have this cool new skill under our belts. She might be better about the idea now. The day I initially told her she was in recovery from replacing 7 boards on our deck! Timing is not always my strong suit. LOL My boss recently told me I will have an extra day off as a reward for a project well done. I am going to posit to her that we have a long weekend this summer devoted to the ceiling. That gives me time to freeze up some meals as one yucky thing I remember about this job was our lack of ability to use the kitchen as a cooking area. She will remind me about the demands of our vegetable garden, our camping trips, and the other 20 or so things on the "list" from H*ll that I created. But I will prevail. I hope. and if we get the ceiling up, I will post a celebratory pic of its new found glory!
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
But we haven't had work consistantly in about 5 weeks. A couple rush orders here and there, but nothing consistant. We may have an order coming in tomorrow. Goddess I hope so. Because I am going to be like 25 pounds heavier in a month or so if this keeps up! LOL
I am the only one in the family awake in the evenings. I don't watch TV if I don't have piece work, I prefer to read. And when I read, I like to nibble. A lot. OK I like to eat like I haven't seen food in days. . . And I read a lot if I am not working. I used to read 7 books a week in my pre-kid, pre-home schooling mom-pre home biz life. I would curl up every evening and read for about 3 hours. I so don't have that amount of time consistantly anymore. But can you imagine what 3 hours of eating does even inconsistantly?
If there are not tortilla chips in the house I eat saltines. I adore saltines. I can mow through an entire sleeve of saltine crackers. Kirsty says I eat them like a buzz saw. She is probably right! Last night I ate 1/2 of a giant (and I do mean family sized) bag of baby carrots. For crying out loud, Peter Rabbit doesn't eat that many carrots! Today at work someone gave me an awesome salsa and guacamole dip. It was too spicy for her and she thought I might like it. Actually I think she secretly wanted to see my eyes bug out of my head and smoke come out my ears when she gave me the sample. She looked the teensiest bit disappointed when I ate it, loved it and offered to take it off her hands if she really didn't want it. But I accidently left it in the fridge at work which is a good thing for my waistline. Tonite, with crackers, it would have been an orgy. If I have it here at the house when we have work, I would be more likely to use it as the basis of an actual meal which would be much healthier.
Sigh. I am off to brush my teeth. I won't want to eat if I brush my teeth. Well, I will want to, but I will know that i am too lazy to brush my teeth twice in a relatively short period of time.
Monday, May 25, 2009
However his milk allergy was not properly nor promptly diagnosed. We repeatedly brought our concern to our Dr but he thought the projectile vomiting and wheezing were a GERD thing that he would grow out of. Wrong. One night he almost choked to death, aspirating his own vomit. Because the nifty Amby held him snugly in the hammock he could not turn himself to even semi-clear the airway. We did of course, leaping out of bed like maniacs, hearts pounding for hours afterward. It was the first night he slept in bed with us. Back to doing research I also found that there was pretty compelling evidence that the risk of SIDS in preemies was reduced by co-sleeping. They tended to match their breathing patterns to the parent they slept with. There was less chance of "forgetting" to breathe, which sounds weird but apparently that is one theory on what happens.
By the time the milk allergy thing was resolved he was a fixture in bed and we all slept so well that we didn't bother doing anything to encourage his sleep elsewhere. He slept through the night so easily, and if he was ill or hungry, it was a cinch to care for him. People looked askance at us but we were okay with that. We love to camp and it was easy to camp with KC. We had a cool air mattress and put him between us. He stayed warm and cozy and loved camping.
A year passed. Two years. KC had zero interest in sleeping on his own. He slept like a puppy does, all sprawled in and around and over his "pack." Our house is very cold in the winter and that compounded the problem. My little heat seeking missile wanted to snuggle on freezing nights and who could blame him. People were really looking askance at us now and I kept trying to make their worries not be my worries. And he really was and still is, such a good sleeper that I felt there was much that was positive to be said for co-sleeping. So much so that when Lissa came, I didn't think twice about co-sleeping with her as well. However Miss Elisabeth had other ideas. She liked her space, likes no noise when she is resting and basically the princess let her loyal subjects know that they were not welcome to sleep with her except on special and rare occasions!
So here we are. KC is 5. And suddenly, he is interested in his own bed. Not his own room, mind you. (laughing) But his own bed. Not every night, but quite a few of them. Sometimes he cries in his sleep and winds up crawling up from the bottom of the bed where his toddler bed is, to our "big bed" and finishing the night with us. But last night he slept ALL NIGHT in his own bed, waking in the morning proud of his accomplishment. He will hasten to assure you if you ask that "it is not as easy as it looks" to sleep in your own bed. So I think that like so many other things in raising kids, they all have their own blooming cycle.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
There has been time to play in the yard with the kids. Time to plant at the cemetary. Time to take the kids to the park and time to worship together at church. I surprised myself by being rather (for me) overly emotional during the service. It was in some respects what one might call "typical Memorial Day". The focus was primarily on the loss of the lives of service men and women. The minister this Sunday is a veteren herself. Her reading to launch the service was from a collection of letters written by young enlisted men and women who did not make it home. The first two letters were from the Vietnam war, the second two from the Iraq war. Aside from the ages of the writers (all were 19) there were striking similarities in the way they viewed their war experiences. But I couldn't stop crying as she read the letters. Brimming with that confidence that they would survive. Filled with dreams for futures they never had, the words struck a deep chord in me. Part of it may be because I remember feeling immortal at 19. I am waaaaaaaay beyond 19 now and life is more fragile and cherished to me as an older adult, as a parent, than it ever was in the days of my early adulthood.
Part of it is also because several young people at the complex where I work are signing up and enlisting. Where only a year or so ago, the military was having a hard time meeting its recruitment quotas, the economy has changed that all up. They can be choosier again (previously slight blemishes in education or some run ins with the law were not likely to disqualify; now it might) The kids I know who have enlisted have done so because of the economy. They can't afford college and aren't gifted enough scholastically or athletically to be winning any scholarships. One wants to be a mechanic and hopes that his time in the military will be spent working on their heavy equipment. It likely will, in Iraq or Afganistan and the thought of it makes me shudder. I don't want to have one of those letters be his someday. But he knows that if he doesn't enlist, his only opportunities are really minimum wage, service type jobs. He has seen how this has worked in his family and wants more. Who can blame him? I just wish there was a less risky way to strive for that 'something better.'
After she read the four letters, our minister announced we would now sing our second hymn. The hymn was "Spirit Of Life". Totally appropriate, but I couldn't sing a note, even though I know the song so well a hymnal is superfluous. When I cry, I can't sing. Period. So I just stood there, rocking Lissa, wiping tears. Quietly, Lissa sang the last line of the hymn herself. I was stunned. I know I sing this particular song to her fairly frequently, but there was something so special about her deciding just then to show that she knew the words. "Roots hold me close, wings set me free, Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me."
Friday, May 22, 2009
This face is the look that Lissa bestowed on a child at the park tonight! We were up there messing around and Lissa started playing with a little 3 year old girl. Although there were differences in language development because they are a year apart, Lissa was actually exactly the same height as the girl she was playing with. And she was also able to do all the things her little friend was doing. However one such activity looked like it should be called "let's have a trip to ER" so I said to Lissa "please be careful honey; we don't want any owies." The little friend looks over at Lissa and says "only big girls can do this." Lissa laughs and announces she is a big girl. Her friend tells her she isn't. Lissa repeats her assertion with more vigor. Little friend says no she is a baby. Lissa then says "me no baby" and stomps off to the slide where she stood and gave the above glare to the little girl. We call this her basilisk look! It cracked me up though. She is so sure she is a big kid all ready. BTW this picture was from January, but the look, the look was totally what she did tonight!
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Unless my mom is coming to visit. We really did up Mothers Day for my mom this year. We always do something, but this year we knew she needed a bit of an emotional lift so we did a bit more. Mom wrote to me about a week or so ago and said "don't worry about doing anything for my birthday. You did so much for Mothers Day." Her birthday is the 29th of this month. I knew there was no way on earth I was really not supposed to do anything, so I sort of ignored that.
Then last night she wrote and said that she had decided she would like to come visit the 30th. Come in that day stay overnight and leave sometime on Sunday the 31st. Ummmmm, this is doing nothing for her birthday? I of course said she was always welcome. And she is. And I look at my house and now I think maybe I am spending Memorial Day weekend doing some serious Mom prep! I also have our vegetable garden to plant and we had planned to maybe hike one day as well. Kirsty works Saturday till 8 p.m. Hmmmmm. . . stress? What is stress?
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
During the service there was a time when each family went up with their youth and handed a candle to them. The youth lit the candle and placed it on the altar and then left the parents to sit up on the dias. Also their mentor helped with the candle lighting. It was beautiful; far more beautiful than I am able to express in words. Rob looked so grown up sitting there. There was no deer in the head lights look. He seemed calm and confident and at ease. Despite the crowding, Elisabeth did well during the service, right up until the soprano soloist stood in front of us and hit a really high note. Then she screamed and put both fingers in her ears! (sigh) I love the song too. She was singing "Defying Gravity" from the musical Wicked and I adore that song. I guess Lissa doesn't share my joy in it though!
We didn't stay for fellowship afterwards. The hall was very crowded which is hard for Chet and also the volume of noise bothers KC as well. So we made our farewells and went home. Rob announced that he needed new sneakers and wanted them just like his g. friends. I told him I didn't know what kind she had. He sort of did the eye roll thing and said I had been sitting right next to her and didn't I notice? LOL First off, I wasn't sitting next to her, HE was, but secondly I was way not watching sneakers! But off we went to Sears to get him sneakers. KC had outgrown his too and i had been putting it off so I got his at the same time. Rob knew exactly which kind of sneakers his friend has so it was a quick choice. I love that. I am so not a dithery shopper. I am all about go in, buy it and get the heck home. I don't like to wander in stores, poke or meander hte mall. Uh uh, no way. KC found light up sneaks so he was thrilled.
We got home and about an hour later I had to take Rob back to church for the wrap up party. He had a blast. I had told him we could only stay till 4 (parents worked the kitchen etc) but a friend agreed to bring him home when it ended at 6:30 so he got the whole experience. I really really had to leave by 4 as we also had 5000 pieces of piece work to complete over the weekend and K was home alone with all the other kids.
Rob's mentor found me at the party and told me how much he has enjoyed getting to know our son. He has been asked to mentor 8 times and always said no until Robbie. I didn't know that and felt really honored. He had some great insights into Rob and how he has matured during this process. He could also see that Rob is a deep thinker and though he is not a talker, the core of him is strong and growing in positive ways.
And best of all, Robbie didn't have to leave at 4 after all as a friend offered to bring him back home so that I could come home and do the things I needed to attend to with/for the rest of the gang.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
I kicked out a tenant who needed it. Who deserved it, and who had multiple chances to preserve their tenancy. But I worried at the time about her young child. Said child is right around the age of some of my kids and is cute as a button.
Yesterday child services called me about the now former tenant. I explained in detail, exruciating detail every problem we had. Why? Not because I wanted to screw the former tenant, but because child services had let it spill intentionally or otherwise, that the batterer was sitting there with former tenant and together they were looking for child services to provide housing solutions for them both. I have rarely been so precise in my concerns to an agency. I have rarely had so much hard data to provide but I had reports up the wazoo because we so tried to work with this tenant.
It is not nice to hope that protective services would take a child from a birth parent but I confess that I was hoping that this was going to be done on at least a temporary basis. There was no permanent housing now and the batterer was present and active in the household. Probably due to stupid laws I know nothing about, this didn't happen.
Front page of today's paper in our city was the arrest of batterer and former tenant. He beat her up in a hotel room while she was holding her child. Former tenant was substance impaired. Child is now, at last, in protective services. The batterers "extensive violent history was cited in the newspaper article. But it took a violent act on that little child to have removal take place. I am glad she is safe now though. I hope mom gets help. I hope they can be a family again; but most of all, I want that little child to stay safe.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
I am Robbie
I am friendly and happy
I wonder about science and fire
I hear siberian tigers roaring and dogs barking
I see light sabers and Johnny Depp
I want more pizza.
I am Robbie.
I am Robbie
I pretend I am a football player for the Patriots
I touch Blake, my dog
I worry about Maui, my cat
I cry when the Patriots lose
I can count on Chet, my brother
I am Robbie.
I am Robbie
I believe dinosaurs are still living
I don't know what would happen without the sun
I am guided by my conscience
I wonder where it is located
I believe in non-violence
I am Robbie.
I am Robbie
I understand why scientific research is needed--
I say it's obvious, to understand our world
I dream about morphing into animals
I try to ignore questions I can not answer
I wish I could help endangered animals
I am Robbie
I am Robbie
I am growing up.
I used to play with a toy military airplane and a toy dinosaur
I loved my cat
Now I can't wait until I can drive a car
I hope to be president of the United States someday
I am Robbie.
Windows into our children's souls are sometimes a lot like fun house mirrors to me. For me, my son's parent for 7 years now, this was one of the clearer visions into the child he is, the man he hopes to be (and geez I hope he learns that dinosaurs really are extinct!) LOL
Monday, May 11, 2009
Yup. Texting. As in looking at a screen instead of the train tracks. I can't fathom this. I know I love to read blogs, to keep in contact via the net with friends near and far. To email my mother instead of writing letters or running up my phone bill. But if I owned a cell phone (which I don't) I would not use it when I was driving. I won't even EAT when I am driving for crying out loud. Part of this may be that the majority of my driving is in a car that is standard, but it also just makes sense to me to concentrate on the road and the other idiots--I mean, drivers on the roads. So if I can figure this out in my little car, how can the driver of a big subway train not get it?
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Later I was at church with the kids. K stayed home as we had our piece work to pack and she could do this in a peaceful manner without the bedlam of our children there! (laughing) There were many things about the service that struck me. One was that the focus was on memories. How they are so much more important than anything we can actually own. I know that I would fear a diagnosis of alzheimers more than almost anything else. My memories are my greatest treasure and my greatest joy.
I also know that memories are not always a great joy and that this sad reality is part of what makes the day so hard for some of our kids. But I also wonder if some of the issues of the day are also a fear of losing memories? I know that Robbie still looks at the very first scrapbook I ever made for him. (he has been my child long enough now to have amassed 3 such creations!) I got every picture I could from his social worker. Pictures of foster families, birth family members, siblings, whatever I could glean. I wrote the little that I knew and then eventually moved it into the story of our first meeting and his homecoming. The picture I took of Rob with his brother D when he visited last September has been on our fridge since that date. I can't give him his birth family, but I can keep their faces at least alive in his memory.
The other thing that struck me was the openness with which people shared their stories at what our church calls "joys and sorrows." A young man who is very active in our church stood up. I have known that he was adopted and he and I have talked about the pros and cons of adoption. A year ago I think he was against the idea. This year, I don't think so. He spoke more warmly of his adoptive family and also how he knew essentially nothing about his birth family. He knows the state he was born in, how many siblings he has somewhere, he knows mom was very young when she birthed him and that due to "issues" the state stepped in and the children were placed with adoption. That is the sum total of his knowledge. But he could and did light a candle for her today.
A child who is a member of our church is a foster child. His biological father just died tragically this past weekend.
A mom stood up and shared a more traditional mothers day joy--a book her husband and her daughter made together somehow. It was an amazing book and apparently there are internet resources for making your own book.
My point is the sharings ran the gamut. My kids were sitting there and heard it all. I think the plus is that not only could we support those who shared, but it also made it clear that there are very different families out there. That there is loss and sadness with the joy. And that this was a same place and a safe community for exploring those feelings if they had them, and when they were ready to do so.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Friday, May 8, 2009
We have a pretty basic point and shoot digital camera. But I am not sure even with a fancy schmancy SLR type that we could have gotten a better shot. Rainbows are by their nature, such transient gifts!
We had a storm the other night and this rainbow was the gift at sunset. I'd never seen a sunset rainbow before. Actually this was a double rainbow but the double part really isn't visible in any of the shots Kirsty took. Robbie was still up and got to see it with us. KC had fallen asleep and only got to hear about it and see the shots that we took the next day.
I love rainbows. Maybe because they are so very short lived, I don't really know but they seem so magical to me.
Tonight was a magical night at the park too. We go virtually every night that the weather is even remotely pleasant. Today it was better than remotely nice. It was gorgeous. Warm but with a nice breeze.
Who we meet at the park varies a bit from one night to another. There are a few regulars but not always. Tonight it was a lot of new kids and it was fun. A year ago, KC would not have been happy to have new kids to play with but he is so much more outgoing now. And Elisabeth was charging around with a group of kids as well.
It varies too how chatty and friendly the parents are on any given night. My problem is that I can't not strike up a conversation with people. Kirsty is more able to pretend that she is just there in her bubble, but I have to chatter with folks. Sometimes this is a lot of fun and I meet people who are genuinely neat to spend time with. Sometimes it isn't but I am willing to risk it. Tonight was a fun night.
There was a really nice black mom there with her 3 y/o son. He was playing with Elisabeth. The mom was very pregnant and is going to have a little girl in about a month. We talked about the way raising boys and girls is so different, and how intellectually it doesn't seem like it should be, yet it so profoundly is. She liked Elisabeth's name; it was a contender as a middle name for the baby she is carrying. We talked about hair. Her son had the sweetest two strand twists and his hair was long, too. She admired Lissa's hair (whew! inside I was so doing the happy dance!) and we marveled that at 2 she was almost as tall as her 3 y/o.
There was another mom there with 3 children, 2 girls and a little boy. We laughed because her gender breakdown was the opposite of the little crew that I bring to the park. They had their dog with them, an aging but friendly small black pooch--or a woof as Lissa calls all dogs. We enjoyed talking about the way our heads keep swivelling working to keep all 3 of our kids in sight. We laughed, watching KC go charging by playing some imaginary game with her kids. We all laughed when the silly dog climbed the steps up to the slide and then stood there at the top, utterly bemused on what he was supposed to do now that he was there.
My city is not typically all that Norman Rockwellesque. I don't think pretty much anyplace truly is, but tonight came pretty close. I know it was just a respite, coming at a very good time, after a very emotionally challenging week, but it was wonderful!
Thursday, May 7, 2009
But one of the things that has put Kirsty off on really hoping for her Maine retirement has been the fact that if we stay where we are, or go to one of several other states, we are legally married. This is not a status that we want to give up. I don't have to worry any longer about being able to make sure that her wishes are followed in the event of catastrophic illness. I like the fact that she is on my health insurance. I always had the family plan anyway to cover the kids, but she had to work and have "single person" coverage until 2004. I enjoy being able to say that she is my wife and to publicly honor the commitment that we have shared since 1978. Through hell or high water we have been together, been true to one another and honored the vows that we made personally that May.
My mom was sure that the bill would not pass. She is not really the family optimist. I am. I think that some day our marriage will not be unusual and will not be a subject of debate. Gradually I think people are seeing that our relationship and our committment does not threaten heterosexual marriages. And some day, it may not matter where we want to live at all. We will be viewed by society as married anywhere.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
But I digress. Other than serving to probably contribute to early blindness, all the hours spent on the computer are fairly moot. Sort of job security. The other sucky part has been with regard to tenants.
This week I had to evict a mother and child. I hate that. The child is adorable (as all kids are IMHO) and helpless. Mom is likely a substance user who finances her addictions with her body. The issues began to impact other residents and unfortunately as a a landlord, despite numerous efforts, there was no choice left to us. But I know that last night there was a child with no home, and a child with a very unstable situation with regard to the parent.
Yesterday morning I got a call a bit before 9 about a former tenant. She was on the property and was attempting to break into one of the units. The unit in question is rented by someone who was in relationship with her. Former tenant is known to police, who warned me after they asked that I come down that "if things went bad she was known to be extremely physical." I am guessing this was police code for after I served the paper of no trespass to step back. I wasn't particularly worried for my safety. There were two cops and I have 12 years of martial arts training. Former tenant was many sheets to the wind despite the early hour of the day and my guess is I would not have had trouble keeping myself safe. She didn't try to assault me and I kept the conversation firm but kind of compassionate sounding. She was taken into custody to sleep off the booze and hopefully will not return. Again, this was someone who when they lived here seemed to be fulfilling a promise of making a better life. So not. Is definately in a worse place than she was when she first came here years ago. And she is now a mother who does not have custody of her children.
I blogged discreetly months ago about a court case which involved trying to help someone regain custody of her children. Despite all the evidence seeming to indicate that she had really pulled her life together, the ruling ultimately went against my tenant. I had not seen her since that court appearance and saw her for the first time yesterday. The devastation is easy to read on her face. She is clearly holding on by literally fingernails and I worry for her emotional well being. It is clear that she is very depressed and I don't know who to call or even if I am crossing boundaries if I did call someone. There are other issues there that are not bloggable and in fairness to the courts it may be that it took too long for her to become stable for it to be reasonable to reunite the family. I do understand and support (obviously ) the ties that the children and the foster adoptive families made over a considerable period of time. It is possible that the decision was in the child's best interest. It sure wasn't in my tenant's best interest.
Probably the only item of interest is that in all of these situations do not involve people of color. I find that intriguing. It is not because of a lack of diversity in our community. In fact there are more people of color here than anglo. I'm not really going anywhere specific with this. It is just sad situations and collectively they make me sad too.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Well, maybe except me. Not that I am a helicopter parent. I really don't perceive that I am. But different kids have different needs and different abilities to learn from and with experiences. KC seems more able to connect the dots and see cause and effect than either Chet or Rob. With Chet's autism, behaviors and appropriate responses are more rote and memorized. He doesn't have social acumen. His abilities to develop are seriously limited and if I intentionally allowed him to put himself in the negative situations, the consequences would likely be that he would not be allowed to participate in areas that have meaning and joy in his life. It is hard to have those venues for him and I am not willing to jeopardize those experiences as I know he feels isolated enough by his differences. And yes, I honestly tried natural consequences. He was banned from the local library for starters. For an avid reader, it was heartbreaking. I understand the reason; but his ability to learn from it was just not there. His take is they don't understand him and they are mean and someone should "wake them up."
Rob's lack of abilities to learn from consequences I think stem in part from his early years in foster care. A plethora of traumatic experiences led him to feel that bad things would just continue to happen to him. I don't think that he believes that so much now. But when faced with a more challenging situation his first inclination is to do a half baked effort. I think it is so that he can say to himself that "he could have done better if he had wanted to try harder." Initially I let him do the half baked jobs, figuring that he would want to improve. Didn't work. I stepped back for a loooooong time and it just didn't work.
So I changed my perspective. I decided it is my job to coach a bit and make him want to try harder . Rob's in a coming of age program and our church. There have been a variety of activities to help the kids explore their values, clarify their spirituality etc. They have had a lot of group building stuff and some fun activities, but also some big ideas to think about.
I have also learned that thinking abstractly doesn't come easily to Rob. Not that he can't--unlike Chet, for instance. But it is just hard. And when left in the hard place he falls into his familiar pattern. First he freezes, can't see a solution, then he goes for half baked. So for instance, when the kids had a mask making activity this fall, he and I did some brain storming. We went to a craft store together (well all the kids and I, which made for enough breaks in the conversation that there was no way Rob could get stressed!) By the end of the trip not only did I have the beginnings of Excedrin Headache #99 but he had managed to decide what things were inside himself that others didn't see from his outer self and find tools to show them on his mask.
Ironically Kirsty thought I was helping too much, but because I am pigheaded (LOL) and because I truly had a gut feeling that I was getting this right, I used the same tactic for each of the other activities that had abstract thinking stuff involved. I haven't seen the results but I have had other adults tell me how well Rob was able to articulate his visions, how focussed he was and best of all, how proud he was of his efforts. I noticed that he was glowing when I would catch up with him at fellowship after service. It was neat.
Also of interest to me was the fact that 2 or 3 of the parents in the class have cornered me and essentially expressed their regret that they hadn't offered more help on occasion to their kids. I said it wasn't really help; we just brainstormed together and I gave him access to craft supplies that could help articulate his visions. He doesn't really like to draw and why limit himself to drawing when he doesn't feel good about it? One mom told me how much her son hates his finished mask and how she wished she had done more to help him slow down. It wasn't that his ideas were bad. But he didn't plan them out and what he tried to do essentially wrecked the mask. When you are the only one with a wrecked mask, it hurts. Her son doesn't have issues of trauma and adoption, but he does have LD issues. My guess is he has enough instances when things feel wrecked. There also have to be enough times in our kids childhoods that they feel good about what they do, what they create and what they share of themselves.
The most recent project was a thank you gift from each child to their mentor. They had to paint and decorate a flower pot with things that are symbolic of their time together. There was a parent meeting from 6:30 to 8 on a week night to discuss the upcoming finale of the year's experience. The suggestion was to bring your child and have them make their pot while you were at the meeting. I know that by 6:30 p.m. the meds that help Rob focus are so not present. He is a fidgety little bug in the evening, unable to concentrate, unable to link thoughts all that effectively. I knew whatever he created would not be representative of how much he has really enjoyed his mentor. I emailed the coordinater and said he couldn't be there and why and he did the pot at home. 5 other kids did the project at home also, so he wasn't alone in this. But 2 of the kids who did it that night had a tough time concentrating and complained to their parents that it just didn't come out the way they wanted it to.
Bottom line, I think I'll keep on keeping on--coaching as unobstrusively as I can to help Rob learn that he has boundless potential and the courage to explore it.
Monday, May 4, 2009
The kids and I have started planning Mothers Day. KC and I painted egg cartons on Sunday afternoon. They will become a vase of tulips. Really. I promise! I am not sure what to have Robbie work on and I better think quickly. He will be at a high ropes challenge for his coming of age program all Saturday so he won't have the day to work on things as he usually does. Typically he plants out a garden for her but this year, I might have him buy the plants with me on Friday and we can put them in our wagon with a big bow and an explanation of future planting. Chet has all ready made his card and I think Lissa will make a paperweight. The kids also want to get her some jewelry.
We also cook her a special breakfast. This year the tentative menu is fruit salad, orange marmalade buns, yogurt and tea. The cooking is all from scratch and Robbie's home school work for math on Wednesday will be to halve the recipe for me. It is supposed to make 7 pans of rolls and although they look divine even for our family that would be a LOT of rolls! LOL
We also are pressing some violets that are going to be glued onto either a placemat or a card--depends on where their creativity takes them. I love that they get excited about doing things for her, and I love that we have a time to do that and a way to show her how important she is to all of us.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Friday, May 1, 2009
Saturday is the running of the Kentucky Derby, the first horse race of the famous Triple Crown. I am not a gambler. None of my fascination with the Derby has anything to do with handicapping the race. It is all about the horses. I have loved horses every since I can remember. I loved riding; there are pictures of me riding the first time when I was only 2 1/2 or something. They had to hold me on the horse but the family story is that I totally refused the pony and would only sit on the big white horse. If it wasn't for the fact that my mom has a nearly preternatural terror of horses, I would think she was an indulgent parent who made up the story. I tend to believe it though, because she spent most of her time trying to convince me not to ride.
Thankfully, I was blessed with indulgent grandparents who paid for lessons. And with a horse farm within a hefty bike ride of the cottage where we lived each summer. I would bike up to there and sit on the fence watching. Just watching. And at days end, any unexercised horse could be ridden by yours truly. For free. It was bliss.
I lived breathed, drew and dreamed horses. I decided that I was going to be the first female jockey and that not only that, I would win the Kentucky Derby. (See if you bear with me long enough there tends to be a point most times) It might have worked, except that I suddenly around age 10 or 11 shot up and became tall. Ever look at jockeys? They are wee things. And sparrows weigh more than most jockeys.
Suddenly I was no longer just under 5 ft. I was 5 ft 6 and my dream was dead. Kaput. Gonzo. Mom probably did the dance of joy. I was petty enough to point out that it pretty much guaranteed I was not going to be a prima ballerina for a big ballet company. (I come from a family of dancers and this was the dream my mother and aunt cherished for me). Ballerinas tend to be wee sparrows too! I told them I could still breed horses, maybe train horses, work in stables. . . but the truth was, I really REALLY wanted to be a jockey and that was now a fading possibility.
But despite watching my dream fade, I never lost my love of watching the Triple Crown races. A joy that thankfully my children share with me. I am not sure whether it is the contagious enthusiasm of their Ooma screaming and shrieking when the race is on, or my re-telling the stories of the Triple Crown winners I have seen, but we all love it. We even (gasp) eat in the living room on Derby night. Trust me, I don't do eating in the living room as a general rule. And almost never in front of the TV. But Derby night is different. I don't know what we will eat while we pretend we are sitting at the posh race. I am thinking raspberry iced tea and lemonade with mint sprigs. Or I was thinking that till I heard about lemonade pie which sounds pretty darn neat too! When we do errands tomorrow i am going to see if I can find some silly hats at the second hand store and we can decorate them and look like those posh southern belles. . . I am not sure what the boys will decorate theirs with but no doubt their unique creativity could turn it into something hysterical. Whatever we do, it will be fun.