Friday, July 31, 2009

Of Fashion and Preparing for the Memorial Service

So this a.m. I checked each kid's wardrobe and determined that they had something to wear that would look appropriate to a memorial service. Especially since said memorial service is done by my mom's husband's brother in law (gotta love convoluted family ties!) He is a retired minister.

Lissa has a sweet little sundress. Her hair is freshly braided and beaded. KC has green shorts and a button down shirt that K made him. Chet has light weight black pants and a flowy shirt of the kind one does not have to tuck in. It actually has an oriental print across the bottom in black on the white fabric. Chet has sensory issues. He can not wear tucked in clothes without freaking out and a tie without looking like someone is trying to garrotte him. Seriously. I am not exaggerating. He also will only wear one kind of shoe. Lucky for me, it is black. Rob only had heavy weight pants and WANTS to wear a tie and had no short sleeved shirt that would look right with the tie he wanted. (blue and black stripe). So I went to Sears and found him light weight black pants (not because it is a death thing; because Rob at 13 is suddenly all about wearing black.) Found a short sleeved white shirt. The only short sleeved dress shirt in all of Sears. He is set now.

Then I had to shop for me. Have I ever mentioned that I hate shopping? I on line or catalog shop with no worries. But trolling through stores bores me to tears. With a capital B. But K always finds good things at Sears so I stroll to the ladies section. (at least I try to stroll. I also walk really quickly and am known to "trot" to the car. K has recently informed me that 50 year old woman do not "trot" and should walk with more decorum. I practiced this with a cane but gave up. LOL)

I find two dresses that would be okay color wise. The one I truly love is only in a medium. I am a small. So I have to monkey with the straps to make up for the fact it is a smidge too big. But it is a lovely earth toned maxi dress. And brown was Ken's favorite color. I like to wear a persons favorite color when I am bidding them farewell. But I am worried that maybe I should not wear a long dress, so I try dress number 2. Which is just a basic little black dress. It is the right size. It fits fine. I get that too. I bring them home and try them on for K. She says the brown dress is lovely but too "sexy" for the memorial service. I am going to trust her on this. My mom is from the Victorian era. She and I have never seen eye to eye on fashion. I am a sort of bohemian??? dresser. Maybe. I don't know, but I do know I don't worry about a lot of things fashion wise that my mom does. Or even K does.

As an example I adore red pumps. My mom told me and MEANT it, that only women of ill repute wore red shoes. I am a brat. I promptly bought three pairs! (but I was also 20 or so at the time.) LOL So anyway, I will wear the little black dress, my black pumps (I am leaving my red shoes home tomorrow!) and we are all set to go.

I am having everyone change at my mom's as it is a 2 1/2 hour ride and I know what will happen if I have the tribe travel is dress duds. Someone will pee. Someone will puke. Someone will spill food. None of those things will happen as they will all wear regular clothes to make the trek, but if I DID tempt the fates by driving dressy that is what would happen.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fiona's new school

So last night when Fiona called and said she was moving, I wasn't sure if it was true. Her time sense is erratic and she can still not read a calendar. She is 16 but reading wise has not progressed beyond first or maybe second grade level. I called her sw this a.m. I still have the social services phone number speed dialled on my work phone, even after all these years. I have been through something like 5 social workers with her. Calling them has always been an exercise in patience. Or maybe in futility because it would take a minimum of 10 or 12 calls to get a call back. And these were calls placed to social workers who saw that I showed up at every team meeting for this child, every IEP meeting, every therapy appt, visit, etc. Except of course for the times they didn't show up and i did. They probably didn't notice then.

At any rate, Fiona now has this kick a** social worker. I have never met the woman, but she ROCKS! She calls back. The SAME day! You have no idea how totally cool I find this. When I couldn't get people to call me back before I was a legal, intregal part of the "team" for Fiona. I was the foster to adopt mom. Later I was the visiting resource and educational surrogate. At any rate, now I have zippo legal standing and this woman calls me and has information! She told me Fiona moves next Tuesday and gave me the name of the school. She said it was nice. I sort of reserved judgement as the placement that was supposed to be so nice after they yanked her out of our locale was far from it. That was the place where she decompensated so badly that she wound up hospitalized for 4 months. Yup, 4 months. Not because she needed hospitalizatin all that time but because they didn't know where to put her. Finally they settled on the place where she has been for the past 2 yrs and she has really improved. When they said they were moving, I assumed it was a cost saving measure. I had reasons for being so cynical and jaded. Reasons beyond dealing with DSS, I mean. That was the reason she was moved from the residential placement near us. It was expensive. I was flat out told at the meeting that determined placement that the state needed to save money and this was a ridiculous amount of money for her care and education if she was not able to improve cognitively.

Once i got the name of the school I googled it. It is a fairly long way away from my home and still precludes lots of face to face visits. BUT this school looks like it totally is amazing. It is in a former mansion and each child gets their own room which they can decorate as they wish. The school focusses on children 13 to 22 with brain injury or neurological impairment. Fiona doesn't have the former but the latter would definately fall into her laundry list of diagnosis. The grounds look pretty. The school year is extended, which is something she really needs to prevent loss of knowledge. The teacher pupil ratio is 1:4 which is awesome. There are partnerships for vocational trainings with area businesses. There is a lot of structure. It is a dream come true that she be in a place like this again. In many ways--except for the focus on neurological impairment and brain injury, the school is very similar to the one in our area where she did very well.

I am over the moon with excitement for Fiona. I so want this to work for her. I really really want her not to be one of the kids who age out of foster care and become homeless, or abused, or a detriment to society and themselves. This could really be a step forward for her. Someone is really pulling for my daughter and I am grateful. There is no way this school is the least expensive option they found. But I think it is by far, one of the best.

Friends far away

KC and Elisabeth's favorite music teacher moved to China this past month. Mike was totally beloved by both the kids. He has a great musical ability but perhaps even more importantly a way to help kids interpret music in very fun and creative ways. KC in particular was devastated that he was moving.

He asked me last week if I thought Mike had eaten any dumplings yet. I said I didn't know, but he could email him. Realistically I could have emailed the guy and asked, but I figure KC enjoys the computer and is really learning to sound out words. So by last night he had decided that he would email his former teacher and I helped him write his brief email.

When I checked email before bed, Mike had all ready written back, so I read it to KC first thing when he got up. He was very excited to find out that Mike had eaten no less than 18 dumplings! LOL Mike signed the email "your friend Mike."

After I read him the post, KC stood there for a minute really quietly (you truly don't know how amazing that is for first thing in the morning!) and then he just beamed and said "not 'just' Mike".
I bet he signs his next email "your friend KC!"

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fiona Called

It has been a long time since we 've heard from Robbie's bio sis Fiona. I write to her each week and send a picture of the kids (or rotate pics of each of them doing something singly) weekly. It is sort of a leap of faith in a lot of ways as I hear back infrequently and it is like a message in a bottle in the ocean. You just hope someone is reading it, feeling comforted by the knowledge that they are loved.

But tonight she called! She sounded so different. So together. She was speaking clearly--often her words are hard to understand because she slurs them depending on moods and meds. But she was clear and happy sounding. Rob was in the shower so KC got to talk to her first. I know he doesn't really remember Fi beyond the pictures we have around and the stories we tell of visiting her. But he is a happy soul willing usually to chat with anyone and tonight was no exception. She said she was calling to say she was movin' on and did he know what that meant. He said it meant she was going somewhere and where was she going? Pretty good for 5! LOL She doesn't know where. She doesn't know when--but it is some Tuesday. Fiona has trouble understanding time and calendars. But later when it was my turn to talk she was still bubbly and happy. It makes my heart sing to hear her so animated and so engaged. It is what I want for her. She has been participating in a lot of day trips, to the zoo, the beach and other places where kids would want to spend time in the summer.

I am petrified that moving her will result in the progress being undone. I am an optimist by nature, but I have been through these moves from restrictive to less restrictive to hospitalization to restrictive to less restrictive . . . over and over. Less restrictive typically is frightening to her and her behaviors escalate rapidly. She becomes explosive, unsafe, and unstable. Typically she winds up in a situation of attempted self harm.

I want this to work for her. I want her to have some measure of happiness. PLEASE let this work for her.

She said she loves the pictures and the cards that I send. They are not going to the void, or to the ocean. They are going to my daughter. The child who can not live in my home but can always live in my heart.

Are We Done?

Ever since I can remember I have wanted a big family. Not a mega family. I don't think I have what it takes to parent more than say 6 kids. For some reason 6 seems like such a perfect number to me. I don't know why. I think I hung around with two families when I was very young who had 6 kids in their families and likely I glommed onto it then.

Yet increasingly, K and I have been saying to one another "are we done?" It is such a hard decision. K is feeling pretty strongly that she is definately done with babies. Between Lissa and KC we will have spent close to 7 years in diapers (and that isn't counting 2 yrs of pullups for Rob at night when he came to us!) and she is ready to be done with diapers. She did sort of hint that if I would go the disposable route she might reconsider but I am a cloth diaper die hard. Except for Rob and the aforementioned night pullups I have always been a huge advocate of cloth diapers. Better for their skin, better for the environment, better for our wallet. And truthfully, I doubt we could afford disposables.

And there is the real fact of our ages. We are both 50 now. I don't feel 50 whatever 50 is supposed to feel like. People don't think I am 50 when they meet me. But the fact is I am. And despite my good living, vitamin loving, healthy exercise freaky lifestyle, we are all going to take the next step on the journey some time. I don't really mind taking the step. But I don't want to leave little children behind.

So in those 2 paragraphs I have probably effectively ruled out infant adoption again. Though I keep dreaming about babies which is weird. I don't usually remember my dreams but the past few weeks my nights have been filled with babies. And I don't know if part of that is because we were supposed to have one more baby. My sister's little Izzy which she lost in a miscarriage.

Could I make myself do a social services adoption again? I don't know. We were so taken over the hurdles with Rob and his sister I just don't know. OTOH there are children who need homes, who need love (and yes, I am not being simplistic, I know they need other things too) but I just don't know. Would just having done it once make me wiser to the things that go unsaid and that need to be found out? What age would work? I see in Rob who i love deeply the scars from the first 5 years of his life. You don't get a do over. You get to try and help them heal and sometimes they do. And sometimes there are just scabs and sometimes, like with Fiona, there are always oozing sores no matter what you do, no matter what you try. This does not mean to imply that KC and Lissa were without issues. They were both born drug exposed, Lissa much more than KC but both had withdrawal issues. KC had low birth weight, prematurity and a "heart incident" in the words of the NICU.

And then there is the pragmatic in me. Why would I feel the need to go and throw all our effective systems into the air with another adoption? Right now life is pretty darn good. They all have their moments but by and large they feel safe, secure, and they know what the expectations are in our family. All that changes with the addition of another child. There are new issues, new dynamics to work out, and it all takes time. And work, did I say work? (grin)

So for now, I guess we are done. Maybe. . .

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


KC's worry of last night that he would forget what his grampa looked like has been in the back of my mind today. Because I think that for many adopted kids that thought is there, unspoken for their first families.

Rob's scrapbook has the pictures i could glean of his biological family, but there are not tons. Every picture we have ever taken of he and his sister and brother are there and are also displayed in our home. I can point out that they have similar eyes, or smiles, or even likes and dislikes. When I was able to get small bits of info about each person, I made sure to write that below or near their picture.

I have no pictures to share with Elisabeth when she is old enough to wonder about her birth parents. The adoption agency tried very hard to get the parents to share a picture and they declined. I have one picture of KC's mom and I have saved that for him. I have nothing about his birth father as that person is not known due to the circumstances.

I remember explaining to Chet that i knew nothing of his first family, only that they may have been desperately poor, or ill and forced to make a hard choice to help him have a better life. For the most part, his autism has been a bit of a savings grace. His very pragmatic nature made him less emotionally involved. He truly believes he would have died in India and is very happy to be here.

Because Rob is hard to 'read' I don't really know what he remembers about bio family beyond his siblings. The kids were each other's life line and their focus was almost totally on each other. But I wonder if he remembers what his first mother looks like; if he grieves for the fact that he doesn't. I feel like trying to ask about it would be like picking at someone's scab because some hurts never really heal. So I periodically bring out the scrapbooks and make sure I open to the first pages with the birth family photos. But I notice that if he brings out the scrapbooks he is more likely to bring book 2 or book 3 which is all stuff primarily of the family we have built here. I'd like to believe this is because he is happy and settled; but for all I know it means he is just not dealing with the other stuff.

On the plus side, Rob did ask a bit about the memorial service tonight. We were walking to the park and he asked if Ken would be at the service. He meant the body. I explained that he would all ready have been cremated (luckily we had this done for 2 pets so he is familiar with this) and that he was being buried (and explained the word interred) Thursday. That the service would be to share memories and celebrate the life of someone so many people had loved. He seemed ok with that, and trust me, it is a huge plus that he even asked!

Walking through grief

Last night KC came into my work room at 10 of 9. He was unable to sleep though he admitted he was tired. I brought him upstairs and we cuddled and he revealed that he really wanted to talk some more about Grampa. We talked about some of the things he remembered about Grampa and the things we loved about him.

KC said he wants to be an artist when he grows up and that he would like to draw a picture of his grampa then. I said I thought that was a wonderful idea. (I actually was dozing off and hadn't totally gotten the fact that he was talking about creating this art in the future--our house is festooned with art he creates constantly so I thought it was more immediate.) Anyway, there was a pause and then he said softly that he was afraid he would forget what grampa looked like.

(Mind you there is a picture of the man on our kitchen fridge that was taken at our last visit with him and shows Ken and all the kids together.) I told him that we had that picture and lots of other ones as well and I would print some off for him to keep just for him in his treasure box. He smiled, we sang a few songs, he slept.

Saturday is the memorial service and we will all be making the trip for that. My sister and her three girls will meet us at our house and follow us to Maine as my sis is as directionally impaired as I am. It will be good to see my nieces; I have not seen her eldest since she had her baby and the 2 younger ones who still live at home I rarely get to interact with as well.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ken Has Died

I just got a call this a.m. that my mom's husband had passed away. It is not a surprise. He was 96 and his health had failed greatly. Some months ago, cancerous tumors were found that were inoperative on a man of his age and health and he was given only a few months longer to live. He was tired in both body and spirit and this release is for him a blessing. And it probably eventually will be so for my mother as well who has had to spend untold hours at the nursing facility to make sure that he received the kind of care that he needed.

The passing was peaceful and that was the thing i hoped for the most. K's mom's passing was not and it hurt those who were with her in those last days and hours. Ken's days were quiet and he was able to smile and kiss farewell those who were closest to him.

He was not a father to me. I was grown and living on my own when my mom married him. But he was an admirable person who I enjoyed talking to and who was a good grandfather to my children. His passing will be hard for 3 of my 4 kids. Lissa is too young to know and understand. Chet has known Ken as a grandfather since he was 3. In fact Chet was part of the wedding party when he and my mother married. Rob is so hard to read that it worries me trying to know when and how he needs solace. KC is all ready upset,but seems to be using his love of art to help him process. He and Ken always shared a special bond. Ken was allready frail and using a walker when KC came home to us but KC was never fazed. He is one who sees clearly to the spirit within and he would make gifts and put them in the walker basket. All during Ken's recent decline he either made pictures for him or took pictures with our camera for him. My mom often said that sometimes the only time he would smile during a day was when she had a "KC story" for him. Luckily all my kids are ample story fodder! :-)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bucket List

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" KC asks me this every now and again. It always cracks me up; there is something endearing to me about the fact that he doesn't think me "grown" yet. And truthfully, part of me doesn't feel all grown up. So I have been thinking a bit about things that I would like to do at some point in the future. It is subject to change without notice, but this is what I have come up with so far. . .

1. take a whale watch
2. hike the Appalachian Trail end to end
3. hike all the 5000 ft mtns in NH (Kirsty and I started this before we began growing our family; I'd like to finish it!)
4. See the Grand Canyon and maybe ride a burro down it
5. Visit Yellowstone National Park
6. Go to California and see the state a bit; I always have wanted to go to California!
7. Go to Florida and visit Sanibel Island
8. Go to Hawaii
9. Take a vacation where my "vacation" helps others, builds something for people who need it, documents wildlife in an area etc.

That's a start! Should keep me going for a few years! LOL

Visit to the Beach

Yesterday we went to the beach at a local state park. I love to take the kids to this particular park. The sandy beach is wide and the water drop off very gradual. It is just a real kid friendly site. This was the first time we were able to go this year because our weather has been so weird. So many rainy weekends. Actually it rained like crazy the night before we went and the pounding of the rain woke me at 4 a.m.

When we got to the state park there was a clear indication that I have not been whining needlessly about our excessive rain fall. A bench that normally sat on grass just above the sandy beach . . . was now sitting in the water. The once broad beach is pretty decimated from the water level and storms and the water was very turbid. Thankfully the drop off was still gradual, because all the beach that was now under water helped with that.

We packed a big picnic lunch. I tend to pack lots of different items in smallish amounts so that people can grab them, get some re-fuel and get back to playing. So we had peanut butter crackers, cherries, granola bars, small chip packs, fruit punch, fig newtons etc. To add to the challenge the park is hosting a triatholon today and due to setting up for the race a lot of the areas where you can customarily walk were blocked off. So it was a bit longer walk to get to the water. I am glad the cooler has wheels!

We had a blast. We stayed a long time, because Kirsty, the woman who enjoys water but hates sand, stayed home. LOL Seriously, she likes to go to the beach but if someone gets a grain of sand on her, well it is not pretty. She also only likes to stay at the beach for about 45 minutes. So we all thanked her for our wonderful time when we got home. She kind of looked at us for a minute and said, but I didn't do anything. We all laughed and said "oh yes you did" and then she got it and cracked up.

I'm glad we went yesterday as it will be closed for that race today. Also it is very cloudy this a.m. which may be great for triathletes but less so for small children playing in water.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The life wheel turns

We took a photo walk again this week. The kids had Dr. appts for physicals and KC had multiple shots, poor guy. They needed a tension release but didn't have the energy for a park visit. KC took some neat shots, and this one is one of my favorites. It is sumac and it is turning red early this year. I don't love that because sumac is truly a harbinger of the wheel turning and moving toward the next season. But I like the shot KC saw and took. It is a wee bit embarassing that my 5 y/o is likely all ready a better photographer than I am at 50! LOL
On the other hand, the wheel is also turning for my mom's husband. Ken is likely in the final days of his life. A life that has been rich and full and at 96 the time is drawing close. Family has been and continue to be nearby and with him. Hospice has been amazing and all I hope for is that his passage is peaceful.

Thursday, July 23, 2009 I think I did the linky thing correctly. This is a blog written by someone who grew up in foster care. She is looking for someone who was important in her life and is trying to find him. I doubt I have enough readers to really help, but she asked folks to link, so I am.

I understand how important it is to her to find her friend. We all make our families to a certain degree. There are bio families to be sure, but families are also made through the friends who walk through our lives with us. The people we feel we can trust and share our souls with.

I hope she finds him.

Cheering for Rob

I find that sometimes the things I celebrate in my kids are very small. Things that occasionally others would wonder why I was even so darned excited about. Rob's background of chaos and trauma have led him to be a very quiet child, who works very hard at not drawing attention to himself. I think at some deep level does not trust adults. And when something goes awry (say a glass broken) his typical response is to stand there, frozen.

These issues have abated over time. But they are not gone. I don't know if they ever will be totally gone. But yesterday he spilled the milk he was pouring at supper. First he stared at K with that deer in the headlights look. She just raised her eyebrow at him and he got a cloth and cleaned it up. Totally had me celebrating when she told me last night.

And a few days ago when he got in trouble for something, I noticed later in the evening that he had made an obvious, kid level effort at tidying our kitchen island. It was clearly meant as an unspoken apology for the transgression and I was so thrilled to see him spontaneously find some way on his own to show remorse and try to make amends. I made sure he knew but also tried to keep my response a bit low key as if I praise too much it backfires. But I sure am happy!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Being black and educated isn't enough

July 20th there was an article on about Prof. Gates who was arrested in his own Cambridge residence. I can't link anyone there; I still can't figure out that magical process. Prof. Gates had returned home from a visit to China and he and his driver found that his door was jammed and he had a hard time getting in. A neighbor or passerby (it was unclear which) called in the sight of the two men manhandling the door to force their way in to the local police. OK, concerned citizen report. Big city, if it is a neighbor, probably doesn't know who lives next door. Cities can be like that. I get that. For me though it goes south from when the police arrive.

They find this emminent scholar all ready inside. He produces both his Harvard ID and an additional identification making it clear he is in his own home. He is understandably angry and makes angry comments to the police officer. To my way of thinking at this point the officer should have apologized, said he was following up on a citizen call and left. However it doesn't sound like that is what happened. Tempers flared on both sides and Gates was subsequently arrested for "tumultuous" behavior. He was held several hours, and released. Charges against him were later dropped.

If ever our country needed proof that electing a president who is a black man does not end racism, this incident would seem to prove that. I watched Greater Boston last night. They interviewed a police officer (not the arresting officer) a lawyer, a friend and colleague of Prof. Gates and Callie Crossley a black journalist.

The police officer appeared to me to be clearly uncomfortable. Although he was black, he could not speak against other police officers. The blue line. The code. All that. He did admit that speaking angrily without cursing to a police officer is not against the law. That is all that it is alleged that Prof. Gates did. No force other than his angry words were used. I wonder how the officer felt after the show aired. Walking the political line trying not to speak against a brother police officer, trying not to say something negative of a fellow black professional. IMHO he did no service to either, but I can sit here and say that as a white person who has not had to deal with discrimination in that same manner.

Callie said that she has a 17 year old nephew and there are frequent discussions with him on how to deal with the police when it happens, to prevent situations from escalating. She spoke of the frustration that builds from continually having to justify one's presence in a location over and over. That you don't mind the first time, but the next and the next is what grinds at you.

The lawyer commented on the fact that the fact that Gates lived in a upper middle class neighborhood likely contributed to the situation. There is still a perception that black people don't belong in upper middle class (read this more accurately as also predominantly white) neighborhoods. No, we haven't come so far, have we?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Maple Muffin Recipe

Process asked if I'd post my muffin recipe, so here it is. First however, credit to Lauren Hogeboom who contributed the recipe to

1/4 cup Margerine (I use butter)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt (I leave this out)
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup rolled oats (I use the quick cooking kind)
1/2 cup milk (I use soy milk)
1/2 cup maple syrup

1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
dash of soy milk

1. cream together butter sugar and salt if you decide to use it. (I omit it because my butter is salted)
2. add flour baking powder, rolled oats and blend with pastry cutter till crumbly. (I confess Lauren is more precise than I. I take my measured dry ingredients and throw them in the Kitchen Aid with the creamed ingredients and let it rip!)
3. In a seperate bowl mix together mlk and syrup. ( i just take a measuring cup and pour 1/2 cup of syrup and 1/2 cup of milk into that and whisk it lightly)
4. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix gently. (again my friendly mixer does this)
5. Pour into muffin tins. Bake at 350 for 15 to 20 minutes.

I prefer mini muffins for this as they are sweet but a nice morsel and kids -- at least mine--would rather have a few small things on a plate than one big one. Weird, I know!

Glaze is just mixed together and spread on the muffins when slightly cooled. The milk is just added a dab at a time to get the right consistancy.


Family Day

The glaucoma test went well. Rob's pressure checks in both eyes were in the low 20's right where his doctor wants them. We don't have to return til mid December which is cool. I am so relieved.

While he and Kirsty were at the medical center, the little kids and I were busy here. We walked downtown and mailed my mom a CD of Joe Jencks music. We ordered new CD's and they arrived yesterday. Joe has played at our church and our whole family loves his music and his message. For all of us to agree on a musician is something of an amazing feat. I am a hip hop/reggae/top 40 kind of gal. Rob likes top 40 but hates rap, Chet is mostly country, Kirsty is oldies, and the littles are into Seseme Street and the Wiggles. However I confess that KC knows an impressive body of lyrics to various top 40 songs. Anyway, I digress. The bottom line is, Joe's music touches all of us and because we have seen him in person KC in particular feels a special connection. I bought an extra CD when I ordered so I could send it to my mom. Cosmically, it came at just the right time.

Mom's husband is dying and it looks that he is moving into the final phase of that journey. He has had a long life; all I wish for him is a peaceful passing. We have seen him, his family have come from near and far to see him. He hopefully knows that he is loved. But for my mom this is all very stressful. Care facilities are really awful to deal with and she has had to be there daily to insure he gets the care he needs. Joe's music will be a balm to her spirit when it arrives.

So we went to the post office and mailed her a CD. Our kids are also super excited about the CD because they sponsored the CD and therefore, their names are listed in the liner notes. They all feel totally famous! LOL

We also went to the bank for my job and then we walked home. It was raining of course, but luckily not hard so it wasn't too icky for being out and the colors in the gardens we passed really popped out at us. We got home and Lissa helped squeeze lemons for lemonade and then I made maple mini muffins. They are obscenely sweet and the kids love them. Just about the time the muffins finished, K and Rob got home so they got a share of the goodies as well.

Later today Lissa napped and KC and I played bingo, Rob and Chet watched a Harry Potter movie (the one that is right before the one that is in the movie theaters now). Then I sorted the boys outgrown clothes and got them on freecycle. Someone is set to pick them up tonight. And we are having fresh corn on the cob with supper. Oh bliss! I adore corn on the cob. It is so great; it is the essence of summer. Well, that and tomato bruschetta with fresh tomatos and basil.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Glaucoma test tomorrow

Rob's pressure test is tomorrow a.m. so I am taking a sick day to stay home with the little ones while he and K go to the specialist for the testing. The last test was in March and was good, I am hoping this one is too. I worry each time because vision is such a fragile thing. I can't imagine not being able to see. Or rather I can't imagine him not able to see. Rob has such keen eyesight and such a love for athletics. I am grateful that our regular eye doctor was so discerning that he caught the very very earliest indicators for glaucoma many years ago. But I still worry at each and every pressure check. And I am positively anal about making sure the eye drops that he must use twice daily go in on time every time.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Home from Camping

We are home. We are grubby. We had a blast! Friday we got to the campsite and set up. You can't check in till after 1 p.m. so there wasn't a lot of the day left once things were set to order. There was time to take the kids to the playground though--always a big hit, and to go out to a pizza shop found only in the state we were in. KC calls it "the big tomato" and we all adore their food. We ate, came back to the campsite and had a campfire.

We had decided the 2 youngest kids would sleep with me. I recently have read all kinds of bad press on co-sleeping but frankly it works for us. Lissa doesn't normally co-sleep as she has always liked her crib. However there isn't a really safe way for her to sleep in the camper otherwise. So on the double bed it was KC, Lissa and I. I am a light sleeper anyway and I also am a person who doesn't move much in my sleep. When I wake in the morning it is extremely easy to make my bed! LOL Last year, we had Lissa sleep with Kirsty and KC with me and Lissa drove K nuts and maybe vice versa. I joke that I am so boring that children sleep instantly if they lie down with me, but it isn't far from the truth. We read 3 or 4 stories, we sing 10 or 12 songs and then by and large, they are out for the count. So this year we all slept very well, in sharp contrast to last year.

In the evening it began to rain really hard. We even got rain in the camper on the pillows the kids and I slept on. We think it may have to do with the way we had our awning set up, but there was a dryer on site so it wasn't a big deal to dry them the next day. We began our day by visiting a famous local outdoor clothing and recreation store. The weather was supposed to clear mid morning so I thought perhaps we would hike after our visit. Not so, as the skies were still gray and pouring rain. So instead we drove a short way into the city and I took the little kids to a childrens discovery museum and Rob and Kirsty went to the adult art museum right next door. We spent about 2 hours in our separate pursuits and loved every minute of it. Chet opted to stay in the car and read and keep Blake company. Give the guy a bunch of flyers and a camping guide for any region of the U.S. and he is a happy fellow! LOL

By the time we got back to the campsite, midafternoon, the rain had finally stopped and the sun was peaking out. The kids and I scrambled into our suits and headed to the ocean. We are beach lovers, K is not. We danced and played in the surf for more than 90 minutes and then walked back to the campsite, being sure to stop at the candy store. This is something of a family tradition, but I always feel like the shop keepers must feel like we are the locusts descending upon them, so raucous and loud are my brood. They have to see everything, ask about everything, compare everything. . . and then we buy each of them a lollipop and we are done! It cracks me up how important this ritual is to them. From there we walk back to the campsite (1/4 mile) It was also so EASY to do the trek this year. We got a wagon for Yule last year. Well, technically Elisabeth and KC got one but let me tell you, Ooma loves it too. In years past (last year and the year before) I would have one kid in a jogging stroller, one in a sling, and towels slung over my back. People didn't try to hide their snickers as I walked by. I would just smile back and say I was training to be a sherpa for an Everest expedition, but I know it looked pretty funky. The weird thing is, I never felt over burdened. But a wagon???? I was positively FLYING down to the beach and back.

We got home to our campsite, did veggie burgers on the grill and made our trip to the playground. In case you haven't guessed, that is a must do virtually every time we alight back at camp. Headed back to camp and helped set up the fire. Fire gets going, rain starts dropping. Yes, more rain! On the plus side I had so worn out the littles that the idea of sitting in the camper reading was appealing so that was what we did. And by 8 p.m. Lissa and KC were again asleep. Score 2 for the Ooma! LOL

Sunday morning dawned bright and beautiful and crystal clear. Not a cloud in the sky. Probably not in the whole state! But we had to leave and broke camp by 9:30 or so. The kids were all amazingly helpful getting things together. Even Lissa helped to tote and pack! Once home we all unpacked, set the camper back up (to dry) and the tent (also to dry) and began the wash. It is nearly done now and while part of me really wishes we could have had a few more days of camping fun, it is nice to be home as well.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Getting ready for some camping fun

We leave tomorrow to go camping for the first time this season. KC is inside out with excitement and it is very cute to watch him try to explain all to Lissa and pump her up for it as well. So far she has decided that she is sleeping with Ooma and KC and that she will "go playground" with us. LOL Oh yeah that and a whole lot more little girl.

KC was probably just over a year when he went camping the first time. We still had only tents back then but he has always loved camping. "I just love the way the trees smell, Ooma" he said this morning as he tried to decide whether to pack his T shirt with a big mosquito on it and find his one we bought with the campgrounds logo on it last year. I have no sense of smell so I don't know what the trees smell like, but they are big old evergreens so use your imagination. LOL

Lissa was less than a year when she first went camping but by then we had the popup. She took to camping with less enthusiasm. I tend to ignore things like that. I figure she will eventually grow to love some aspect of the experience one way or another. I am nothing if not an optimist.

Last night we were up at the park and there was a mom and 2 kids there. She was, unlike me, one of those perfectly coiffed moms. Hair to a T, nails looking fine. She was friendly and she was playing with her kids, but she was a sharp contrast to me in my cutoffs and pony tail and stubby fingernails. KC ran right up to tell her how many days till we left for camping. The woman looked at my brood and asked if I camped with ALL of them. I said, yup, I actually had one more at home that would be coming as well. "oh. . . " her voice trailed away a bit. "brave mommy" she finally ended with weakly.

The funny part is none of it feels "brave" to me. It is just who we are and what we do.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Photo Walk

OK, I love photography. Had I money and time, it would be a serious hobby. I have neither so I have a lot of fun with a digital point and shoot. It captures moments and memories and I am cool with that. Also my kids like to take pictures. Well, Chet doesn't. I think it is as hard for him to visually filter and grab a shot as it is for him to filter audio sounds. He likes owning a camera though! LOL Rob likes taking pictures. Sort of likes nature shots, mostly I think likes taking pictures of people. Lissa is all ready intrigued but at 2 not ready to do much more than play with the toddler one I bought KC for Yule last yearThe camera was in response to his request for one of his own. He has been taking pictures since he was a very young 4. I introduced him to photography as a way to help pass the time when Robbie's Little League games were feeling a bit tedious to him. He'd usually borrow our camera somewhere around the 4th inning and keep himself amused till the end of our time there. He took to it like a duck to water and I have always found his pictures fascinating. There are the usual out of focus ones but there are always some that startle me with their perspective.

Tonight the weather was overcast and threatening rain. I was tired and freely admit I couldn't get up oomph for a night at the park in the dank. But I knew we needed to do something, so I decided we would take a picture walk. We walked around 3 or 4 streets with the kids taking pictures. Rob hasn't downloaded his yet but KC made me do his as soon as we got home. I am going to share my favorites here.

Some cool moss on a stone wall.
A rather close shot of an arbor vitae tree that we walked past.

Gorgeous roses that I loved as much as he did!

And a picture he took specifically for Kirsty. They might be wave petunias, I am not sure, but I love the shot.

The way a tree canopy looks when you are 5.
I love seeing the world through my kids eyes!

Inspection at Work

The last inspection for this year is finally over with. This inspection takes place about every 3 to 5 years and is mandated by HUD to make sure that we keep our units in ship shape order. It started after HUD discovered units it had forgotten it owned or managed (forget which) back in the 90's and they decided to initiate this inspection regime. It is subcontracted out to inspection services and it is very luck of the draw what inspector one gets.

I have been through 4 of these and it is exactly a 50/50 split on reasonable vs unreasonable inspectors. The hard thing for us as management is that there are some things that are truly beyond our control as landlords. For instance, we have galley style kitchens. The fire door is in the kitchen--you know, the emergency exit. However probably 99 per cent of people put their trash barrel in front of it. I have had 2 inspectors that will cite us on this as a "blocked egress". I have had 2 who will let me move it to one side so they can see the door is operational and not cite us. We as landlords implore tenants not to block the doorway but the reality is, where the heck are the people supposed to put their trash basket? Thankfully, today's inspector was of the reasonable variety. He was not measuring the drop off by our steps with a measuring stick as a previous inspector did. He let me move trash barrels. If a door didn't close automatically he let us adjust it in his presence. He was thorough and there were a few minor violations, but he was really, really fair.

It felt so good just to have the inspection take place without the feeling that someone was trying to prove that we were slum lords. Nothing could really be farther from the truth. While there may be things I don't like about my job, I have always been proud of the work our management company does to maintain the property. It doesn't look like a "project" nor is it run like a "project." The apartments are all graciously appointed regardless of the rent that someone is paying.

It was obvious from the way our halls looked and our grounds that we took care and pride in the site and fortunately, the inspector really saw that and commented on it. Our apartment community has over 300 units and more than 350 children on the property. It could look very very different, and in fact DID look very different when I first began work there in 78.

In a very funny odd twist the inspector was speaking of families and mentioned that he was more "friend" than "son" with his mother. She had him very early in life and he is 30 and she is just turning 50. That would be my age. LOL On the plus side he had no idea that I was the same age as mom. So I guess I will bask in that knowledge and in the fact that the inspection and all its accumulated tensions are done for better or worse for now!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Making Friends

This hasn't been the greatest of weekends for me. I have been felled by a nasty combination of my moon cycle, a really intense cold, and a migraine. Gotta love a triple whammy like that! Mostly what I hate is that I know how my kids look forward to family time and family time is not typically playing while Ooma takes a nap. Usually it is something considerabley more fun. Now don't get me wrong, we did some fun things. We baked a cherry pie. We did two different art projects. We went to our local park twice. So it was probably okay for them. But for me, who had hopes of something of a grander variety (walking to a newly renovated park about 1.5 miles away and a trip to a zoo the second day. . . well it was a bit of a let down. Or a worry on my part that I was letting them down. Or some combination thereof.

However, there was a very cool thing that happened at the park tonight. There is a local police officer--I'll call him Officer Plod because my son KC watches a show with a cartoon policeman by that name. Officer Plod has a lovely wife and a lovely son who is just about my Elisabeth's age. Last week when the Plod family came to the park their son wanted to play with my kids. But every time he did, Daddy intervened and prevented it. I tried to reassure Officer Plod that his son was doing fine and was welcome to join us. I was told that his son should not bother others. That is not a direct quote but it was the gist of it. I did try to get across it wasn't a bother and they were having fun but I didn't really feel like I was getting anywhere.

Through my work, I actually know Officer Plod. He has been to my office with regard to tenants a number of times. I know he didn't recognize me though. I tend to look a little different when I leave my desk and office and don my Yankees hat and jeans and start hanging out in the local sandbox! And I thought that perhaps it was best not to bring up the fact that we know each other from work. A police officer must know most of the city from work and likely doesn't want to be reminded of it every time they step out of the house.

Tonight, the Plod family returned to the park. My kids ran to the gate to greet their son with cheerful welcomes. (because I have a good memory I had seen them coming and refreshed their memories of the little boy's name) In a stroke of pure luck we had packed snacks for the park tonight. We don't normally as we eat supper before we walk up. But tonight we had brought a feast--Wonderpets gushers (ick!!!) potato sticks in a can and bottles of water. My kids are instinctively generous with food. They immediately wanted to offer it to Little Plod. We asked if he could have some and the answer was yes. They had brought food too, and soon their grapes and honey grahams were mingled with our treats and all the kids were noshing happily. And Little Plod was allowed to play with us.

I was so glad for the kids. For mine, because one of the reasons I bring them to the park is so that they will continue to be friendly, outgoing and able to interact with lots of different people from lots of different walks of life. And mostly, for this little guy who really wanted to have some playmates. It must be really hard to be a police officer and worry about the ramifications of your child's playmates, and what will happen if your kid snatches a toy from some other kid. But at least today, it seemed like we got across that we are just there at the park to have fun. And we did.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Loving Wounded Children

I have been reading another blog for a while now. It is a blog about 2 women who have worked hard to adopt their daughter but now in fairly short order one of the two may be feeling that she can not love and parent their daughter. I probably won't continue reading the blog; it is too painful to me. Partly because everytime I hear of a disruption I grieve for both parties. Partly because it brings the loss of Robbie's bio sister Fiona back to the forefront of my mind.

However, I remind myself that Fiona's situation was different from the one i have been reading about. She was ultimately diagnosed as unable to live in any family setting. There is truly no family set up where she can receive the amount of supervision she needs to remain safe. We are still in her life though. And that is the only part of this that makes me glad. In fact at this point, we have been in her life with consistancy longer than any members of her biological family.

When she lived close enough to us for physical visits we were there twice a month or more. The state in their brilliance moved her a considerable distance from us which meant that we could not continue to do that. But we have continued phone contact and I write to her every week. I make a card on the computer with a picture of one of the kids doing something goofy. I have been told by her therapist not to write about details of our family life because it depresses her. So I usually write a joke, tell her we love her, draw hearts all over the card above where I write our names and mail it off. Fiona is cognitively challenged and not able to write much but she does occasionally draw pictures to mail back to us. Despite not being able to write much to her, I have been told she saves every photo and loves the cards. Once in a while she gets a therapist who is savvy enough to write down Fiona's thoughts as she dictates them. I wish that would happen consistantly; the thoughts are there, she is just unable to write them.

I worry for Fiona. I hope the Dept. of mental health and/or dept of mental retardation are able to provide long term services for her. She is 16 and could not ever live on her own. The current placement has an age out at 22 which sounds a long way off, but really isn't. and that is assuming that she doesn't have another decompensation requiring hospitalization. There is a significant history of this and if she is out of a placement too long she loses it and they have to start all over finding a place for her.

If there had been a way for Fiona to be safe in our home and for the other children to be safe, she would be there today. The meds she needs are not of concern to me. But it is of concern to me that she so terrified her younger brother that he was hiding, curled in the fetal position. That my eldest, autistic son, was so alarmed that he picked his chest bloody due to his nervous anxiety. Had she been my only child, I would have I think argued with the powers that be and tried to keep her in our home. In my heart she is still and always will be, my daughter.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Rob, KC, Lissa and I all have colds. Luckily (knocking wood furiously) it seems a light summer cold. I want it gone from our house by next Wednesday at the latest. I am announcing this in my firmest voice to the Powers That Be. We are going camping next weekend. I am due a weekend of fun and sunshine. The kids are due fun and sunshine. Snot and coughs don't enter into that equation!

This left a dilemma tonight as to what to do with the kids after supper. They are not ill enough to want to loll around and had spent most of the day indoors due to inclement weather. A short time when the weather broke allowed about an hour of outside play but that is a small amount for my brood. They had energy--sort of--to burn off. But not enough energy for park play, nor enough sociability to enjoy it. They had that sort of crankiness associated with feeling punky.

I decided we would take the double stroller and walk the loop up past our city's high school. It is about a mile and a half round trip. In a stroke of parental genius, I brought a magnifying glass that KC got on his birthday. This helped get KC to slow down (the boy loves to run with Rob most of the way, but truthfully he was too congested for this to be a wise idea) The idea of looking at the flowers we saw along the way, at shiny rocks, and other oddments with the magnification his lens provided slowed him down periodically. It worked brilliantly!

We also threw rocks in the stream we walked past and picked wildflowers up by the high school to bring home. I love that in summer our house is filled with wildflowers. Queen Anne's Lace, wild mallow, daisies, brown eyed susans, even clover, fill simple vases throughout the house.

We all had fun and had just enough exercise. They are all sleeping as I write this. I hope tomorrow they are feeling better.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Family Walk

Every once in a while it strikes me how fast the kids are growing. Last night was one such night. It had rained very hard all day---in a city not far from us someone had to be rescued when the major roadway turned into a raging river. We have only had 3 days of sun so the ground is just so darn saturated. I guess in GA it is really dry--wish I could send this there.

But I could not pump myself up for another saturated night at the park. And Kirsty had a book 2 days overdue at the library. I had a book for Chet that had come in there so I decided the kids and i would walk to the library. It is not too far; about 1/2 a mile from my house there. But here is the amazing thing--Elisabeth walked all the way to and from the library! No stroller, no carrying.

She loved walking on the stone walls with KC and we all admired gardens as we walked along. Only got a couple books at the library as I knew we would have to carry them home and in the back of my mind I was leaving hands free to carry Lissa if she became tired. Silly me!

Today I have awakened to yet more rain, but at least our phones which were out all day yesterday are working. Ever since the ice storm in December there have been problems with a main cable at the intersection of our street and another. We have lost phones about 3 times as a result. It is annoying and a little bit frightening because we are probably the last surviving americans with no cell phones. I used to be very blase about this until KC almost choked to death when he was about 9 months old.

We had switched to Verizon doing our internet and somehow when they swapped us, they accidently disconnected our telephone service. They told us it would take a week to return and repair. I didn't worry--we do have many neighbors close to us, and at least one is home all day.

Then a few nights later, KC choked badly at supper, turning blue as I heimliched him. I cleared his airway and he was fine, but the reality was the time it would take to run next door, and get someone to the door, in to use the phone, would have been too late. So I don't take phone service lightly any more!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sunny weather--Sunny Thoughts

Gosh 3 days of sun! I am in heaven. Bliss. Mold mildew and arks are becoming a less present aspect of my life. . . though I still won't spend much time down cellar till our dehumidifier runs for literally days!

It is warm and we could eat on the deck. 80 degrees folks. I am stoked. I am so all about warm. 80 for me is the very outer limit of my comfort zone. Below that, I am cold. Truly. Yesterday though I insisted on wearing shorts to the BBQ (it is JULY!) I had to wear a flannel shirt over my red top. Yup, really a fashonista, aren't I! But I was chilly. Today, I am comfy. Not sweaty, but comfy.

We have been to the park and lots of kids were there for my kids to hang out with. Somethng else my mom probably doesn't think about is that our park times are important social times for my kids. We homeschool so I actively seek out venues for them to interact with other kids. The park is one such place. It is also increasingly a multicultural place which gladdens my little heart immeasurably.

Tonight there was a young hispanic dad with his 3 y/o daughter. She was playing with my kids and when they played hide and seek KC for some reason did it in Spanish. The dad noticed and asked KC in spanish if he spoke spanish and KC proudly answered "si!" The dad told me how important it was to him that his daughter Isabelle spoke English as well as spanish. I told him the reverse was true for me with my kids. I firmly believe if we embraced other languages and cultures more fully when our kids were younger there would be less misunderstandings in the world.

But I digress. The real point is that it was just a fun night. I love chatting with people, so there is almost always someone for me to yak with. And I love that my kids are able to quickly form friendships and play pick up games of frisbee, soccer or baseball.

It is good and it is the right thing to do with and for my kids. So I need to just let go of the hurtful words my mom laid on me and enjoy life. It's too short for unnecessary stress.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Fifth of the Fourth!

Today was a wonderful day. Our friends--the kids' god parents-- are wonderful people. They take their commitment as godparents seriously. Though they lead very busy lives, they are really there for our kids. When Rob had his big coming of age ceremony at church, they were there. It meant a drive in to our state from another state for an 8 a.m. service but they were there. When Lissa and KC were dedicated in church, they were there. And they are there for little things too. Like our BBQ gathering today.

I love that they enjoy the decorations that the kids make. They always take home their placemats and napkin rings and use them at their condo for months afterwards. I love that there is time for adult conversation but also lots of time for them to individually play with our kids. I love the fact that they try very hard to understand my eldest and find a common ground for communication. Not a lot of people do that.

And I love watching the kids when we are together. KC was inside out with excitement from 6 a.m. on. Lissa was reticent when they first arrived but throughout the visit became very engaged and totally lost her shy miss act!

I loved watching Robbie watch his baseball team win while he and his godparents cheered them on.

I loved finding KC sitting in the sandbox in 6 inches of muddy water with a grin on his face. He wasn't supposed to go in said sandbox cause it flooded with all our rain. (this was a covered sandbox folks!!) But he is drawn to water and mud like you would not believe. However in an effort to placate me, he had removed virtually every stitch of clothing before getting in for some good old mud and water play. LOL

I loved watching Lissa literally do chin ups on a window sill that is over her head so that she could peek at KC and his godmother who were in the reading nook on the other side of the window. Man has that girl got upper arm strength.

I loved watching Rob hit a baseball so hard it went onto the roof of our very tall old victorian home.

I loved watching Chet hold it together in a crowded deck and succeed.

I loved loved LOVED Pioneer Woman's pasta salad! K was less impressed--she is more about Catalina dressing. :-) And I loved the Mitford cookbook pound cake. OMG that is so good. I am glad that a lot of it was eaten or I would surely be a large person in short order!

There was laughter and good food and good conversation. And if I had to watch the Red Sox (instead of the Yankees who went and lost anyway!) it was really honestly, all good. And no one mentioned the soggy, sad sack back yard once!

Satisfying Parents

I thought that when one grew up parents sort of let youlive your life. I mean, by most yardsticks, I am a relatively successful person. I have a stable job which although not high paying provides a meaningful service. I am respected in my field. I have been with my wife since 1978. We love being parents and work hard to try and make sure that they have a childhood filled with the kind of magical experiences that will help them to grow into well grounded adults. (note: I am not talking Disney's magic here! I am talking about family outings to local places, playing in the rain, flashlight tag in power outages etc) But (insert big sigh here) none of this guarantees parental approval.

I wrote my daily email to her the other day. She likes to hear from me morning and evening and I oblige. I also try and let a lot roll off me because I know her husband is dying and the emotional toll that takes must be horrific. However, my mom is also one of those people who appears to be happy being unhappy. And who very much wants to keep up with the mythical Jones'.

In my chatty little email I mentioned that our back yard will likely not be reclaimed this year. Virtually a month of rain has left it so soggy there is still standing water in it so I can't even get it mowed. The weeding and trimming we had hoped to do to the spyrea and other perennial plantings are likely not to be completed due to time constraints. In 2 weeks we are away all weekend camping and when we return we will be at the tail end of July. My wife's work schedule just changed and she will soon be working on Sundays so that will also mean less hands on deck for yard work.

But mostly I was thinking of the kids when I wrote the post. We have not been swimming once yet. (unless you count KC falling in the ocean when we brought Rob to camp!) Weather just hasn't permitted it. You can bet that if our weather pattern becomes more typically summer I am not going to gyp the kids out of a day at the beach so that I can have decoratively trimmed spryia bushes.LOL

Anyway, my mom wrote back and said I needed to find balance! That surely I could do some of both. Well, maybe. If you didn't factor in our multiple jobs as well. And caring for the vegetable garden we planted at the community garden this spring. And canning and freezing our produce.

My mom wrote that when she was a child her parents didn't keep up this property (it has been in the family for multiple generations) and that she "suffered" for it. My mom grew up in the depression and likely many many people were not keep ing up their properties. I know from stories my mom told of her childhood that my grandmother was much like me. She could take a bit of tissue paper and create a fun time for a child. I always loved the stories of what she did for parties and such with very little money and I think it impacted my parenting style far more than perhaps my own mother. But it saddens me that she can't see the joy that we share together. That she is so worried over the dang bushes and the lawn that won't stay grassy because 4 children play soccer and baseball on it.

But I am going to try and put it out of my mind now. We are having our "a fifth of the fourth" BBQ today and I want to have fun. I want my kids to laugh and play with the godparents and make memories that have nothing to do with picture perfect yards.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Robbie's Home!

Safe and sound and having enjoyed a rainy week at camp. Really did enjoy it too. The counselors all said that the kids were not fazed by the weather. I am glad. I know he has looked forward to this all year.

KC and Elisabeth were sooooooo eager to get to the conference center and get him. KC made him a welcome home poster last night with some stick on letters we got at Michaels. It was really cute. Then he put a scratch art picture on the poster board as well that said "I heart Robbie. Love KC"

KC was also the first one to spy Rob when we arrived. Threw his arms around his brother and said he was the "most awsome-est brother in the world." Lissa gave big hugs too and Rob even hugged both K and I. He is not always comfortable with physical demonstrations of affection so it felt extra good.

We got home and I plowed through 5 loads of camp wash. Phew! Thanking the goddess for sun and a stiff breeze I hung 3 of the loads on the clothes line. Haven't had much ability to use our clothesline in this rainy season but today was gloriously beautiful. I also aired the sleeping bag and his pillow before putting them where they belong.

After supper we walked to a park 1/2 mile from our home. Not the tot park that we normally go to but the one near an elementary school. The kids all had a blast in the slightly different environment and ran and romped and tried out the new equipment that has just been installed there.

When we got home they made napkin rings and placemats for our BBQ tomorrow. It will be a 4th of July get together one day late with our friends who are also the kids god parents. The napkin rings are sections of paper towel tube painted silver. (painting by me) Then the kids glued patriotic ribbon on them and adorned them with red and blue foam stars. The place mats are large pieces of rectangular foam from Michaels with stickers appropriate to the holiday making a border. Easy for all ages but fun and quick, since they had to make 8 of them. It was a good way for Rob to integrate back in with the other kids though and they all seemed to enjoy it.

I am trying a new pasta salad dish that I read the recipe for on Pioneer Woman. I am hoping it tastes good. I have never liked pasta salad but think that is because it usually consisted of cold pasta with peas and catalina dressing dumped on it till it begged for mercy.

We will be grilling up some veggie and mushroom burgers, having chips and dip, potato salad and pound cake for dessert. The recipe for the latter comes from the Jan Karon Mitford cooking book and it is to die for delish. It should be called ton cake though as one would weigh that if one ate more than a piece or two! LOL

Oh and in the a.m. the kids and i will make fresh lemonade as well. I think in a lot of ways we will be celebrating more than the fourth. It will be more about the feeling of family and love and connections.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Morning glorious!

Words of wisdom from KC on our first sunny day since May.

"C'mon Ooma, let's go look at the morning glorious before we go shopping" (he meant our morning glory plants! LOL

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Singing in the Rain!

Yup, raining again! Poured like crazy when I left for work. I park next door so I knew despite my rain coat I'd get drowned walking to the car. I was right! Locally some flooding; nothing serious but more a the level of annoyance. As in, the street the grocery store is on is flooded and I can't shop there. Not that we will starve; there are other options. But I like shopping in that store because I know where everything is. I don't really fall into the category of shopaholic. I am all about making trips to the store fast and efficient. Ah well.

I got home from work and the heavy rains had abated to the now familiar drizzle. We had supper and the kids clamored for the park. We opted instead for a neighborhood walk. Got them in boots and rain gear and we set out. We visited the ducks that live a few streets over from us. Ducks like this weather. They are very active. They also like the abundance of insects that are around thanks to this weather so if one is a duck, one is living large this summer. Can you tell we talked to the ducks' owner? LOL

Then we walked some side streets just poking and looking. We found a gigantic puddle to tap dance in--yes, really! I wish i had the cam corder. It was Gene Kelly's "Singin' in the rain" danced KC style. We looked at the ubiquetious mosses that have burgeoned in this season of unusual wet. We stroked their velvety softness, and admired the different shades of green. We compared mushrooms we found growing. We admired little rootlets beginning to grow o ut of the cracks and crannies of a stump we were jumping on. We played follow the leader doing silly things and having everyone copy their moves. Watching Lissa try to copy some of KC's moves was hysterical, but I suspect passersby thought the same watching me.

Tomorrow I have the day off. We have shopping and banking and the library to visit. Things that usually occupy our Saturdays but this Saturday we drive up to bring Robbie back from camp. I want to help the kids make some decorations for our 4th of July BBQ (which from all recent weather reports sounds like an indoor event this year) and I want to help them make a Welcome Home sign for Robbie. It will rain. Again. If we have time, we'll start on the ark!

Parenting Styles

Last night when we were puddle playing with our park friends it struck me how different our parenting styles are. About some things, we are very simpatico. Neither of us use corporal punishment for instance (duh!) We explain things to our kids. We give choices when possible. But there are some differences that seemed glaring to me last evening. Some of it may be that I am an older parent than my friend. Some of it may be that I am a control freak! LOL Some of it may be that I parent multiple children and she only one at present.

Anyway, we were walking to the pond. There is no sidewalk. Visibility was less than stellar with the rain and cars were coming up the road. Her 2.5 year old was running substantially ahead of her. Far enough to be out of her sight. Gave me the willies. I do this thing where we make a train and little kids get sandwiched between adults or more responsible older kids to make sure no one just darts toward that tantalizing puddle. Or I carry them. Or I pull them in a wagon. But they are never out of my sight.

Also, despite my love of water, I have to hold on to my children when we are near deep water. Especially when we are standing on slippery rocks. IMHO it only takes a second for a misstep to result in tragedy. So I loved the pond and seeing the heron, but I loved stomping in the puddles in the field more. The kids could stomp with abandon (which they did) and be safe about it. Then there was the waterfall. Actually it is an overflow area of the local reservoir. She and her son probably go there all the time so she thinks nothing of climbing over the guard rail and standing on more slippery rocks to float leaves. I am staring at the yawing mouth of the culvert which is where a child will wind up if they slip while doing this, a risk heightened with 3 littles eager to "float" their treasures.

I love doing that stuff at one level. Well, I loved that they had the chance to experience floating the twigs and see what a current does. But it didn't all feel safe to me so I was really REALLY glad when we trekked soggily back to her house for some indoor play.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Playing in the Rain. . . Again

Yes, it is still raining here. I hear they need it in Georgia. . . in Italy (where a family friend is talking of having to truck in water for olive trees). Can someone puleeze give the rain a GPS adjustment all ready?

Despite the perennial sogginess we had fun tonight. One of our "park friends" called and asked if I was up for a walk in the rain to a small pond. She and her had seen ducks and even a great blue heron there. The kids and I go out to play in the rain---otherwise we would have been housebound all of June--so of course I said yes.

We donned our rain wear and drove up to their house. The walk to the pond was not too far away and the kids had a blast splashing in the puddles on the way. I felt a little hypervigilent. The pond was deep, the banking steep, the banking covered with moss which made footing tricky. I am not edgy about water as a general rule, but I absolutely watch closely. The ducks were unwilling to come visit us at first, but eventually Lissa and our friends 2 y/o stepped back a bit and entered into a splashing contest in a puddle. KC was more able to stand quietly and the duck came over. And we saw the great blue heron. It was amazingly close to us and it was amazing to see.

From there we went to a nearby waterfall and sailed leaves and small sticks over the edge, watching them race and tumble in the ferocity of the stream. By this time, all the kids were soaked. KC had run and jumped into a puddle and lost his footing and landed on his butt in about 8 inches of water. Lissa and our friends son had puddle stomped so much that both of them were saturated as well. We walked back to their house, borrowed some dry clothing and played inside in their finished basement for about 40 minutes. It was a great energy burning adventure for KC and Lissa who at this point in the week are starting to miss Robbie and are starting to be sick of only playing with me!

Neil deGrasse Tyson

I watched a really cool interview last night on our local PBS station. African American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson was being interviewed. First off, I find science fascinating. Not as fascinating perhaps as my wife (though I should probably strike that comment; I think we are just interested most in different disciplines). In high school I was not on an academic track that gave me a lot of science classes. I thought the classes sounded cool (and routinely helped one of my friends cram for her chem class) but I was afraid of the math required. Math came hard to me when I was young. Partly this was due to severe illness keeping me out of school for vast periods of time when I was in elementary school. I was tutored but there were significant gaps in the building blocks needed for a solid math education. Part of it also was a result of our family moving to the western part of our state where the school I attended approached the subject totally differently, leaving me at sea as numbers seemed to float past meaninglessly.

My mom's response was to tell me I was just like her and she was always horrible at math. It was easy to buy into that. Easy because I loved her. Easy because it meant I didn't have to try and work hard and learn this stuff; I was genetically predisposed not to. That decision (which I thankfully reversed in college) shut me off from several of the higher level science courses that required more than Algebra II as a prereq.

Still, I was reading anything written by Carl Sagan in my free time and watched science oriented shows on PBS. I adored Carl Sagan. He made science understandable to people like me who had a passion but not a lot of scientific training. I adored him even more after listening to Neil deGrasse Tyson's interview last night.

At 9, this man decided he wanted to be an astrophysicist. That boggles my mind. At 9 I had no clue what I wanted to do the next day, let alone the rest of my life. He spoke of how visits to the Haydn Planetarium opened his mind and soul to the night sky and the wonders of the universe. At 17 he was accepted to Cornell University but wasn't sure that he wanted to go. Carl Sagan wrote to him personally and invited him to tour the school. He did, and had a tour of the school with Sagan and it was Sagan's personal attention to him that was a primary force in his decision to attend that school.

Like Sagan, deGrasse Tyson is a passionate scientist with a real gift for making the subject fascinating and understandable to folks like me. Unlike Sagan, he is also African American. Yet he doesn't consider himself a "premier African American astrophysicist". He considers himself a premier astrophysicist who also happens to be African American. He made the distinction abundantly clear in the interview and it made sense. There is not a different way that scientists who are black look at their discoveries as opposed to their caucasian counterparts.

Yet he also addressed racism and the subtle ways racism is evident in society. He felt pressure to follow a sports ability instead of his scientific leanings. Though he developed a talent for wrestling, he was ambivilent about whether this was just something he did almost to conform to a societal pressure. It did seem to allow him to walk with relative comfort in both worlds, as he described himself as a jock nerd. LOL Those terms seem so mutually exclusive to me and I wonder if that is my "white" perspective showing.

He noted he never was stopped by a security guard when he went to the gym late at night but was if he had been entering his office. I get the impression the gym and office were in the same building. He spoke of white colleagues who had to rationalize in converation with him about his findings; essentially saying they could have come to a particular conclusion themselves if they had wanted to. There was a clear undercurrent to him that the mindset that black people are dumb and athletic and white people are smart was driving their responses.

It was heartening to me that he isn't bitter. He is phenomenally successful. And, he feels that things have improved greatly in the last ten years. I hope he is right because I want my kids to have opportunities to follow their passions whatever they are. I admire deGrasse's ability to push past subtle negativity and racism and follow his dreams. And I want to give my kids the strength to do that if and when they need to.