Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It's Wednesday all ready?

This week has been so hectic that I can't believe it is all ready the mid point. My mom was down Monday into Tuesday a.m. She had an appointment with the local housing authority regarding an upcoming unit. I didn't go with her to the appointment. People asked me why I didn't but I was very concerned that if I was there, that Mom might feel I was pressuring her in some way. She has no issues that would preclude her having the conversations regarding housing on her own. So she went on her own and met up with me at the park where the kids were playing afterwards.

The short story is that she hated it. The room sizes are very small and she felt she could fit nothing in the unit. I thought this would be her take on things as she has a pretty spacious 2 bedroom unit where she is at the moment. I said it was always her decision, and she told me she wanted me to tell her what to do. I told her I didn't want to do that but that I was willing to be a sounding board and to offer pros and cons about the situation. It came down to a list of pros that looked something like: close to g. kids
young and active enough to form new friendships and connections
she loved the picnic area on the apt complex's grounds
lovely park across the street
she could have her cat
close to us if her health continues to deteriorate
the unit was small but was her own space, as opposed to having only a
bedroom in the noisy bedlam that is my home
pull cords in all the rooms in case of medical emergency
no stairs (she has deadly ones where she lives)

The cons looked something like this:
she'd miss the ocean
she'd miss her friends and her church
the apartment was too small and she'd die if she lived in it
she didn't know if our state would make it hard for her to maintain
her drivers license
she would have to get new doctors

I suggested that she really seemed to be saying that despite the fact that she had thought she wanted to move back to our city that she really didn't seem to still want and need that. Perhaps now that her husband had passed, the fact that she could visit when and how she wanted to was enough for now. I floated the idea of perhaps applying to a housing authority in Maine and low and behold there was a community that she would love to live in. The waiting list is only a year or 18 months which would hopefully give her time to get used to the idea of downsizing her possessions. (note to self: when I am 76 I do not want to be owned by my possessions) She called her local fire dept when she got home and got involved in a program her town offers where they check on seniors once a day. I think she has to call a special phone number before 10 each morning and if she doesn't they will check on her. I really appreciate that. My mom can be a bit dramatic and when distance is involved and one is going on the contents of a phone call or email it is hard to know if "I am in excruciating pain" really translates to "my arthritis is acting up today" or "I am depressed so things feel worse than usual" or "I should go to the ER and need someone to get me there." There have been all of both situations and thus, those of us at a distance fret sometimes.

So as things stand now, she is declining the unit in our city and waiting for a unit in Maine. I have yet to explain this to the kids who were desperately hoping that she would move down here. My eldest in particular was unusually animated about it and had promised to visit her twice a week if she would move down. We visit her monthly so they will all stay really connected, but they were hoping for more. I am actually happy with the way things seem to be shaking out. Our relationship functions most healthily with a bit of distance between us and as long as she is safe and happy, it is all good to me.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Serene Sunday

Well,relatively speaking. Serene isn't a word that totally applies to my family! LOL But it was a good Sunday and I found that at church I had some time to reflect which is always good. It was a long morning as I unexpectedly had a 9 a.m. meeting. I worked out how the kids were going to be safe and occupied during the meeting which was a bit over an hour. Then we had time for registration into the RE program for the coming year and fellowship as the first service had finished. We went to the second service where I had a role in the teacher dedication ceremony. Lissa wouldn't stay in the pew with the other kids so I brought her up in my arms. I remember that when I had a speaking role and KC was very little, he waved to everyone while I was reading. Lissa was a little different but no less entertaining. She amused herself by removing my paper name tag from its lanyard. (as one of the heads of the RE committee I am supposed to wear a visible name tag) What I didn't notice while I read my part was that she was sliding the name tag down my cleavage between my shirts! LOL Now there's a little entertainment for the congregation!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saturday and a whine, sort of

Today actually went pretty well. It was our first Saturday with our new "school year" schedule which incorporates KC's dance class into our clipboard of Saturday fun. K works on Saturdays so I have the whole gang with me as we besiege the dance studio and surrounding environs during our errands. We set off at a bit before 9 and did the banking before getting to the dance school. I was impressed that KC was not nervous. He is the only boy in the class. He doesn't care. He didn't know anyone. He didn't care. There was a little girl the same age as him who wouldn't stay in the class because her sister was not there that week. She and her sister have been coming for several years. When I think back to the years of carrying KC around in the rebozo because he didn't want to be put down, to the years where he sat beside me in church because he despised the nursery and being apart--the fact that he has sprouted wings and flys with such confidence in his world delights me beyond words.

After the class which is a combo with 30 minutes of ballet and 30 of tap, we went to the library. This was the first time I have taken the kids to the library and not had Lissa in a stroller. She did pretty well and most of hte books were still on the shelves when we left! LOL Lest one think it odd that I restrained my daughter in that manner, we do not stay strictly in the childrens room when we go. We also get a weeks worth of books for Chet who can't handle the library since they made a fancy schmancy addition a few years ago.

From there we went food shopping and then over to visit K who was at work and is sick as a dog. Home to unload everything and got lunch for the horde. Got Lissa into bed for her nap and trimmed the hedge which is a chore I will not do with small children present. Sharp tools, impulsive children, not a good mix. After that, did a lot of house work which is my normal Saturday afternoon. Made a vegetable soup, and also pumpkin cookies with penuche frosting for dessert.

And stewed. I am annoyed, and a good part of the annoyance should rightly be placed with myself. I don't really bitch. It isn't my style. I have always kept things very close to the vest and I have also felt that dwelling on the negatives of life was probably not the healthiest outlook one could aspire to. However the dynamic that evolved from that choice is that my mom views me as the smart strong one and my sister as the pretty dippy daughter who is perpetually in need of help. That is why I should be annoyed with myself. I helped create this dynamic and now it has been a part of my life and my persona as perceived by others for so long that I am likely for better or worse, just stuck with it!

I will give you that sis has had some tough things in life. Many which involve choices she made, some also are things which no one would be able to control. Things are somewhat better for her now and I am glad. But I am weary to the bone of getting emails from my mother bemoaning the fact that life is so hard for Sis. That Sis deserves to have life be better because she is being responsible now and therefore things should be in line for her. (that is almost a quote believe it or not!) I do want things to go well for my sister. But she doesn't allow me or perhaps want me? to be a big presence in her life. She floats in and out of our life in odd ways. I will think we are developing a close rapport and then she will cease to email, not be home if I call etc. I confess that my life is busy enough that I can't bang on her emotional door. If she doesn't want to email me back, I probably won't think to email again for a week or two.

My mom also said that gee, sis was so worried about our father. This in turn made mom worry about sis. Apparently dad's present wife (which is I believe marriage number 3 but am not 100 per cent sure) is very ill. Sis feels if wife dies, dad will drink himself to death. I suppose he might but I would also say it is equally likely he will just find another wife. I never really know what to say when my mom or my sister drop information on me about him. My father visits and calls my sister but has not chosen to see me since Chet was 3. So I am not a very big part of his life and even as a child, our relationship was rocky at best. My all time best memories of time spent with my father was when he would take me to R rated drive in movies that my mom didn't want to go see. I sort of liked the movies (and to this day have really B taste in movies!) but I liked being with him there as it was the only time it seemed we never fought.

After supper the kids and I went up to the park to play. We spent a lot of time admiring the colors that are starting to appear in the trees. We have had a lot of wind and a number of lovely maple leaves were on the ground all ready. We sifted sand--for some reason sifting was lots of fun for them tonight--and felt the difference in the texture of the sand after we had sifted out the debris of wood chips and small rocks. We played a positively hilarious game of football and by the time I came home, all the family angst seemed so stupid. I know I have stuff I need to think about, and probably write about with regard to my father. There are a lot of abandonment parallels in our relationship that make me perhaps a better adoptive parent because of his choices. Walking away from relationships happens in so many ways. I am clearly a tangled up ball of string about my sister and my mother. But what I know is that I love my kids. I love my wife. And somehow, the rest will sort itself out.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lissa's new do!

Lissa's hair was semi-free for a few days as we undid the braids she has worn for September. I have a few 'taking out the hair' styles that work well and keep her looking very cute. Today was braiding day and K did braids that are mostly corn rows so that everything goes away from her face! Once she got past the mid way point of her hair she did the free braid so that we could put beads on . Lissa is all about the beads and helps load the beaders for us. So here is the miss in her new braids!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Last camping weekend

We are back from our last campout of the year. This one in a different part of Maine with members and friends of our UU church. The conference center is amazing and fun and technically, we could have had rooms instead of used our camper. But that would jack the price significantly for 5 of us to attend and also, I think there is a quiet that settles upon the little grove where the few hardy souls camp. It was cold, just barely above freezing both mornings when we got up. But we were all snug while we were under our layers of polar fleece. The camper has a heater but I have never used it. I have always had this fear of fire with it and with the fatal fire just behind us last week, there was no way this campout was going to be the time I would try it out. Technically the camper is more like a "tin tent" for us as the fridge doesn't work so we use the fridge as a literal ice box/cooler, we don't use the heater, and I never use the sink. I am a tent camper at heart still I guess!

The kids all had a really wonderful time and it was amazing to watch them. Lissa at 2 is just beginning to understand what this gathering is about. She could see that it was different from family camping and was eager to find her place in the mix. She did so well too, hanging in both days sans naps. When she or KC would get a bit overwhelmed I would plop them in our wagon and tote them around for a 20 minute wagon ride and that was usually enough to let them passively recharge.

KC is a veteren of these gatherings now and he plays well with kids of all ages. So he had a marvelous time. He was part of a big group making a giant sandcastle on the beach and I managed to get one of the very few pictures I took be of him with a coronet of dried seaweed on his head as the "prince of the sea." Cracked me up. I wish I had taken more pictures but managing the camera as well as the 4 kiddos was a tad more than I could readily do.

Rob had fun hanging out with his teen group. They are at the age when sitting on swings talking and not swinging is fun one minute, and doing something very typically little kid is the next minutes enjoyment. Also fun to watch. AND in the huge emotional growth category, Rob had a nosebleed and didn't freak. You have to understand that for us this is a gigantic leap. He has always freaked out over his nosebleeds, which can be strong but are not anything to medically worry about. (that part has been checked) But Saturday when he got accidently hit in the face and he got a nosebleed he took care of it correctly before I even had noticed that it happened. Huge, folks, huge!

And Chet, Chet was my shining star. He had some issues but so many fewer than in years past. He was helpful to me during meals. I had to figure out how to get the 2 little kids and I through the food line and hold 3 plates. For anyone wondering it is not possible to hold a tired 2 year old, the hand of a 5 year old and 3 plates! LOL He agreed to get his food first and come back and hold his siblings plates while I directed what would go on them. This was amazingly helpful. He found a group of young teens a year or so older than Robbie who were playing the game Magic. They taught it to him and he spent most of Saturday quietly playing it with them. I had someone come up and talk about how he had shared some information with them and how it was helpful and appropriate. They said he was still a bit spacially out of touch but they are used to that and they were so impressed that his info made sense and truly was germane to the general topic being discussed when he had arrived.

I think initially people thought i was brain dead for going with 4 kids alone, but it worked and we have some wonderful memories to bring forward into the months ahead.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Scary Night

Last night there was a very bad fire in a large old home diagonally behind our house. It is a 2 family dwelling and apparently the fire started in the second floor unit. However the cause is unknown. What is known is that the 16 year old boy who lived in the third floor unit is dead. His two sisters woke in time and were able to escape out a window in their bedroom. He apparently was overcome by smoke and was not found in time. I lay in bed last night listening to the noise, watching the flashing lights, hoping that everyone was okay. My wife went outside. I couldn't. I wanted to be inside in case our kids woke and were scared. And although I love sitting in front of a controlled fire, watching a building burn frightens me at a very core, very visceral level. I looked at all my kids at breakfast this morning and felt so very lucky and also, so very sad for our neighbors whose lives have been changed forever.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fiona's clinician emails me!

August 25th I spoke with Fiona's social worker and asked for a clinician contact because Fiona is in a new school. She gave me her name and email and phone number. I the clinician right off. I told her who I was and what I had been and was now in Fiona's life. I told her that I write every week or ten days to her and that I like to send small gifts throughout the year and also holiday gifts, which would require some input from her. (I count on staff letting me know what she wants and needs as well as what the school allows as not all wants are allowed in residential settings). I received no response.

I never really know how much to bother such folks. The reality is that my only recognizable tie to this young woman is that I am adoptive mother to her biological brother, and her disrupted foster to adopt placement. Not exactly a set of circumstances that all clinicians feel warm and fuzzy to. The previous clinician in her treatment setting was decidedly cool to me. She was very controlling over the content of my notes (remember that I have written to Fiona ever since she was moved from the RTC near us when KC was still a baby) I complied with all her demands and she eased up but was never what one would call warm and was certainly not given to really having much of a role in Fiona's life. This angered me, and saddened me in equal measures. She needs people in her life who love her. Being pushed away seemed unnecessary but I am not a clinician either and there may have been therepeutic reasons for it.

At any rate, this week I decided that I had been patient enough and even allowing for the Labor Day holiday, the start of schools and an influx of new students, the clinician should have responded by now. So I sent another friendly email. Lo and behold, I received a prompt reply indicating that she had never received my prior email. She said their server had crashed one day in August and perhaps this was the day I had sent my mail. She asked that I re-send my email if I still had it and I did.

Her correspondence was very friendly. She wants to talk w/ me by phone. She would like to meet with me in person. The latter is logistically challenging as the RTC Fiona is in is a very long way away from where I live. It is also in a Very Big City and I am not a Very Big City driver. Scares the bejesus out of me frankly! But I want to meet this woman also, and i am going to look into train or subway if I drove 1/2 way to the Very Big City. It can't happen as quickly as the clinician suggested--she gave me 3 dates this week, but I will need to negotiate time away from work to do this.

She said her goal, if the dept of children and families support her in it, is to develop a strong kinship connection with Fiona and us. She is willing to send us a picture. (I haven't had pictures of her since she left the school near us. I offered in my email to pay for school pictures if they would promise to send me one, or to send a disposable camera if a staff member would take her pictures for us and then mail it to me for development. ) She loved the picture idea and said she would meet with Fiona's mini team to see what they could do to create a photo project. She also said she liked my notes to Fiona (I make a card each week or so with a picture of someone in the family--like Blake getting his doggie hair cut, or the kids at the farm on Sunday).

I don't know where it is all going but for the first time since I met Fiona I feel like there is a strong team of loving people advocating for her and I am so unbelievably grateful.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Look closely at this picture of our front garden. That is our light post, wrapped artfully in fall colors and artificial fall garland. And then look at the flower blooming in front of it. Yup, that is an IRIS????? What is up with my iris blooming now? Is it demented? Is this proof that global warming has totally messed with Mother Nature's mind???

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday outing shots

Clearly, I am stylin' on the purple dinosaur at the tot park! Photo courtesy of Robbie, he liked the fact that this same dino is on our local park premises as well as the far distant one we visited today.

KC and Lissa enjoyed not just the play equipment but the splash park. Last year Lissa was totally freaked by the splash park. This year she was right in there with her brother KC.

My photo of the kids at the farm land. Look at the goat checking them out!

I love this shot. KC is using the scooter toys, but I love the sense of motion in Lissa. She is my perpetual motion daughter.
Rob is now at the audubon sanctuary for an overnight with his homeschool group. It should be great. They are going to do a night hike and have a campfire. You can typically see some cool wildlife there in daytime and especially at night. So I can't wait to catch up with him tomorrow night and see how things went.


Things have been sort of crazy here the last couple days. Friday Kirsty woke up with severe vertigo. Literally didn't know if she was up or down in her bed. Rather weird, but I have since spoken with several other folk in our area who experienced that same thing in the past few weeks. So I assume it is a fluky virus. Unfortunately my boss was out at work so I could not stay home with her. I set her up downstairs so there would be minimal movement required and read our kids the riot act and went to work. The kids did wonderfully and she survived. By Saturday the vertigo was gone.

In its place was a severe back attack. Lissa had done something weird when K picked her up on Thursday and all the lying down probably made things worse. By Saturday morning she could barely move. She isn't up yet so I don't know if things have improved. Even if she is better though she won't be up to much. So I shall have a busy day today.

We had signed up for an adoption picnic that the agency who homestudied us for Lissa and KC put on each year. It is at a farm with a petting zoo and play area and they all have a ball. From there I have to get Rob to our local wildlife sanctuary and help him set up his tent because there is a homeschool overnight campout there tonight. I am going to bring our hiking back pack so that I can wear Lissa while I do this otherwise I think I will not get the tent erected! LOL

Then I need to get the littles home with me and have Chet help me load our finished work into the back of the van so that I can drop it off at the factory on Monday before I go to work. I know K won't be up for lifting any of the boxes yet.

Whew! I am tired all ready and it is only 6:30 LOL

Oh, and yesterday I got KC his tap and ballet shoes for class. He starts in two weeks. He was so excited about it (tapping up a storm in the store!) that he positively enchanted the clerks. Then he had to try out the ballet slippers and was twirling around in them as well. Thank the goddess he was so happy and they were so engaged by him as when I got to the cashier it turned out the store no longer took checks and that was all I had with me. They took it but I suspect a great deal of it was because they didn't want to tell my glowing 5 year old that he could not bring the shoes home!

Friday, September 11, 2009

"Snarky mom" had this list of things kids should know or have experienced by age 5. I took the liberty of copying it over here so that i could see how my kiddos are doing in their life experiences. LOL

1. Sit back and listen at a library storytime (both KC and Lissa have)
2. Go to the zoo (both)
3. Visit a farm (both)
4. Go on a hike (both)
5. Play with kittens or puppies (both)
6. Make a snow-man (both)
7. Blow bubbles(both)
8. Plant seeds and watch them grow (both)
9. Have a pillow fight (both)
10. Jump on a big bed (both)
11. Jump on a trampoline or in a bounce house (both)
12. Hang out in a tent (both)
13. Spend days at the beach (both)
14. Build sandcastles (both)
15. Play with blocks and puzzles (both)
16. Read the classic picture books (KC, Lissa is just getting to be interested in books)
17. Read a classic chapter book (KC)
18. Check out library books with their own library card (I ck out books for KC and Lissa on my card because it is just easier but they get books each week)
19. Get a passport (none of us have passports!)
20. Carve a pumpkin (KC)
21. Love a special doll or stuffed animal (both)
22. Bake cookies and cakes (both)
23. Help plan their own birthday party (KC)
24. Go to the circus
25. Go to a museum on a quiet weekday (KC and Lissa)
26. Play hide-and-seek (both)
27. Play a board game (KC)
28. Try a sport (KC)
29. Learn to swim (both in process)
30. Be tickled in hysterics (both)
31. Paint and draw as much as desired (both)
32. Have the use of scissors and glue (KC)
33. Display artworks and other creations around the house (both)
34. Learn to use a camera (both)
35. Pick flowers (both)
36. Climb a tree
37. Gaze at the moon and stars (both)
38. Toast marshmallows (both)
39. Learn to eat an ice-cream cone (they are allergic to ice cream!)
40. Watch a sunset (both)
41. Learn to write their own names (KC)
42. Learn their addresses and telephone numbers (KC has address down, not phone)
43. Learn their parents' full names (KC)
44. Set the table (KC does this, Lissa also helps)
45. Clear the table (KC and Lissa)
46. Learn to say their pleases and thank yous and excuse me's (both of them)
47. Watch fireworks (both of them)
48. Go to the ballet or theater or a puppet show (both of them)
49. Face paint (both of them)
50. Dress up in costumes at will (all the time!)
51. Learn rhymes and poems and songs by heart
52. Invite friends over to play (both)
53. Get to know grandparents (both)
54. Play with cousins (both)
55. Learn the name of our president (KC)
56. Know the name of their town, state and country (KC knows all but country)
57. Listen to music from many different ages and genres (all my kids)
58. Learn the difference between trash and recycling (both)
59. Grow their own vegetables (all my kids)
60. Learn to ride a bike (or try!) (both)
61. Take a road trip (both)
62. Draw a self-portrait (both)
63. Slurp alphabet soup (both but they hate soup)
64. Learn to twirl spaghetti on a fork (KC)
65. Pick apples (both)
66. Practice writing letters (KC can write all upper case and most lower case)
67. Practice counting to 100 (KC)
68. Make up stories (KC)
69. Send a letter (KC)
70. Receive a letter (both)
71. Ride on a merry-go-round (both)
72. Give away toys and books to less fortunate children (all my kids)
73. Learn the value of coins and bills (KC just starting)
74. Keep a piggy bank (KC)
75. Try a musical instrument (both)
76. Swing high up into the sky all by themselves (both)
77. Ride on a roller coaster
78. Pick Strawberries (both)
79. Go to an Aquarium
80. Pick Blueberries (both)
81. Go to an Amusement Park
82. Camp (all my kids)
83. Splash in a Puddle (all my kids)
84. Play in the Sprinklers (all my kids)
85. See a manatee
86. Bake cookies for your neighbors (all my kids)
87. Play Putt-Putt Golf (all my kids)
88. Go Bowling (all my kids)
89. Fly a kite (all my kids)
90. Help make pancakes (all my kids)
91. Go to a science museum (all my kids)
92. Go on a water slide
93. Have a "paint your own pottery" afternoon
94. Throw a Ball (both)
95. Kick a Ball (both)
96. Hit a Ball (both)
97. Fold a paper airplane (KC)
98. Jump in leaf piles (both)
99. Build a fort out of blankets (all of them)
100. Find the US on a map
101. Find home state on a map (KC)
102. Recognize 5 types of bugs
103. Recognize 3 types of flowers (KC)
104. Name the 4 seasons (KC)
105. Explore the properties of water (KC)
106. Look through a microscope or magnifying glass (KC and Lissa)
107. Hear the ocean in a shell (both)
108. Button buttons (KC, Lissa starting)
109. Zip zippers (KC if you get it started)
110. Snap snaps (both)
111. Ties shoes
12. Open a milk carton, juice box, and snacks (both)
113. Make a PB & J sandwich (KC)
114. Go on a treasure hunt
115. Pour a bowl of cereal
116. Read 10 words independently- start a, and, the, it, I, we, at, by, me, is (KC reads way more than that!)
117. Copy text that is written for them (KC)
118. Write/dictate, illustrate, and publish a story (KC)
119. Be able to say a few words in a foreign language (KC speaks spanish, Lissa is starting)
120. Name the 12 months in a year (KC has most of them but not in order)
121. Name the seven days of the week in order (KC)
122. Learn birthdate (KC)
123. Say "Nice to meet you." (KC)
124. Shake hands (KC)
125. Know where to put a stamp on a letter (KC)

Not that I think these are all "necessities" and there are some things that I think are that aren't included, like learning to help make the bed, putting clothes in the hamper, making salad, being able to get dressed should be on the list too! But it was fun to kind of look through and see.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Camping picture

This picture was on our hiking trek at Wolfs Neck. K and I have learned that it is nigh onto impossible to get a shot where we ALL look good at the same time. I have proof that even the pros can't do it with my gang! LOL I have given up on Olan Mills and Sears and embrace the pictures we get with all their various imperfections. They are somehow dearer to me, and more true to the family that we are.
It was a chilly hike, with a stiff breeze coming off the ocean. Rob however is a macho young man and could hike comfortably in shorts . . . at least that was his story and he stuck to it! LOL Lissa was wearing KC's thermal underwear top and i had forsaken my perennial camping shorts for my leggings. Chet likes hiking with us. The only caveat is that he has to be first. He can't walk behind anyone. Ever. Years of work on this in school and at home have come to naught. Now I just clear the decks and let him go first. It isn't worth it to me to fight over it, because I love that hiking is something we can all do together.
And I love watching the dynamics that unfold as our kids grow. KC definately has a perception of "the brudders" as he says it, doing things together. In the case of hiking this means that the eldest 2 go charging off with Blake our dog, and KC is racing right behind them.
There is a different sense of time for me when we are camping and hiking. Even though I rarely sit for long, there is a sense of slowness to the days. They somehow stretch as long as they need to without feeling rushed. It isn't like that in the real world. It has been such a busy week at work and this weekend has a lot of things going on too. I have a retreat at church that i have to help run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. I am looking forward to this like dental surgery.
I like the people, I like being on the RE committee. But the retreat was originally set for August which was fine for me as K didn't work on Saturdays in the summer. However when they moved the date to after Labor Day, it meant that I had to bring the kids with me to this. Can we say stress people? :-)
Sunday we have an adoption picnic to go to and then we will bring Rob to a local wildlife sanctuary where he and a homeschool group are going to have a campout. Yup, we are still camping!! (smile)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Turning 50

Today is the day that I choose to celebrate my birthday. Technically, I turned 50 back in January, but when I was 19 that was the day that my father decided to leave home. I remember the most stilted and painful of parties--a party my mom had planned weeks in advance. I remember his suitcase was literally by the door. I decided after that not to celebrate my birthday then but chose September 9th, which is also my grandfather's birthday. Usually around the time the kids are 12 or so, I explain it all to them so they aren't confused if they see me fill out official paperwork with a different date!
Anyway, so today was my birthday and it was a truly wonderful day. The kids and K worked so hard while I was at work, decorating, making a cake, creating a fabulous dinner and gifting me with lovely gifts from the heart. Bulbs for our garden were in abundance. I love that at a couple of levels. They will remind me that there will be a beautiful spring when I am shivering during the winter. AND, my kids remembered on their own that this was what I told them I wanted and made sure to remind K (who had ironically forgotten)! I received some very pretty and very unique jewelry pieces. I don't wear a lot of jewelry but what i do wear I like to be distinctive and to feel special to me. These pieces do. Chet gave a donation to Heifer International in my honor and some hand made certificates for help around the house. I love the fact that he chose giving to others to honor my day. And my in-laws, Kirsty's sister, brother, his girl friend and their dad (whom I always refer to as Dad) sent me the most gigantic delicious arrangement of edible fruit. I adore it and have all ready been noshing on it. I was surprised that they sent a gift; we don't usually gift among the adults. But then Lynne reminded me via phone, that this was a "big" birthday.
LOL Big? I suppose thinking about it that it is. Coming right down to it, I have embarked on my second 1/2 century of living. The thing is, I don't think I can actually wrap my mind around that. I don't feel 50, whatever 50 is supposed to feel like. Virtually no one who meets me knows that i am 50. Having young kids I suspect is part of it, but I am also just a fairly high energy person who physically hasn't changed a heck of a lot. My clothes get worn till they fall apart because my size hasn't changed since I was in school. Good for the budget, can make it hard to have an interesting wardrobe! LOL
What I think the most, is that I am just really lucky. I have a wonderful family. Filled with quirks, challenges, and love, I still wouldn't change any of it. Kirsty and I have been together since May of 1978 and married since the year it was legal in our state. I think being happy keeps you young. Well, that and reading "Goodnight Moon" and "Panda Whispers" and sharing Harry Potter with my 13 year old.
And the picture at the top of the post has truly nothing to do with my birthday. It is from our visit to Portland Head Light this past weekend. KC, me, Lissa and my mom. And, yup, that IS a Yankees hat! LOL I am the only true Yankees fan in the family though various young children at time try to be Yankee fans so I don't "feel lonely." K took some amazing photos while we were on vacation and I want to share some more later.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Camping Fun

I really love camping,and I am truly lucky in that my kids do too. Lissa was initially a reluctant camper but has come to love it and actually was angry when we had to return home. Our only other camping trip earlier this year was dampened (if you will pardon the pun) with frequent rain storms. The weather was picture perfect this time around though. We were able to get into our campsite a bit early as no one was on it the night before. This was a real treat as it gave us most of Thursday to have fun and not lose the day to transport and set up. I am all about maximizing our time for fun so we did a lot this weekend. I was walking back and forth with the kids so much (usually pulling 2 in a wagon) that the staff of the campground just would shake their heads at me in bemusement. I took them all to the beach twice. Our first visit the water was very warm and we stayed a really long time. The second time the water was cold but the surf was better for playing in and we didn't stay as long but had lots of fun. We always visit the candy store on the way back from the beach and my kids crack me up there. The store is known for its home made candies and fudges. My kids go in. . . and buy bubblegum and dum dum lollipops. Go figure!

We spent a morning at Portland Head Light playing and picnicking with my mother. I think at first she was reluctant to meet us there. She kept saying we could go to her house. Which we could and often do. But I wanted the kids to have a chance to play with her, not fret about making noise, or breaking something in her sweet little apartment. Chet has lots of memories of doing things with his Nana and as she often goes to the lighthouse on her own, I figured this should work. She seemed to see afterwards that it was good. It was just little things, like Lissa taking her hand to go over to the swings at the little park there, and KC showing her his beach treasures.

We hiked at Wolfs Neck which is sort of near Freeport. You can see osprey there and we did. The adults were excited about that, the kids were more excited about seeing a dog in a kayak. Really! We were looking out into Casco Bay and could clearly see this big lab type dog on the front of a kayak. My kids were so noisy and excited about it all that the kayaker noticed and waved at them, further adding to their glee. LOL

I took Lissa and KC to the campground pool. It was only 63 degrees that day but they were determined to visit the pool. The pool was blessedly heated but the walk back to camp was um, brisk!

We played basketball at the campground park and all kinds of different games with kids from the campsites. My kids are good about making friends easily and this campground is exceptionally family friendly.

We had lots of campfires, made popcorn, played with lightsticks in the darkness and snuggled for stories and songs in our camper at night. My kids had a contest to try and collect the most acorns and I have about a gallon of acorns in the back of our van. I am frantically coming up with crafts that will use such a copious quantity of nuts! LOL

In many ways, this has been a hard summer. Weather was pretty yucky for many many weeks. Our gardens consequently did not produce what we have come to expect and count on for winter provender. My flower gardens suffered from the bad weather and though we do have some pretty flowers, there are some that we usually have that just didn't produce this year.

Work had some stresses that typically don't happen in summer which meant that I couldn't take a lot of time off in the summer. (as in, I couldn't take a full week of vacation) Ken was diagnosed with terminal cancer and eventually passed. It was expected, it was a blessing for him, it was a normal turning of the wheel, but it took emotional toll on all of us. But this long weekend has so many memories that I will treasure. Even though the leaves are all ready starting to turn color and the nights are chilly, they will warm me for months to come.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Of laundry and the kindness of strangers

My mom calls me Pollyanna. I almost always see the good in something. Not always--look back through my posts and there are rants here and there. But mostly what I mean is that I truly believe in the essential goodness of people. That there are way more good folks than bad, despite what the network news would like us to think. That there isn't a murderer around every corner. That it is not only OK to talk to someone you don't know, but in most cases it is good to do so. I suppose the fact that I am a relatively accomplished martial artist contributes to the confidence I feel in doing that. But mostly, I think I have really always pretty much felt that way.

I'll write about our camping trip later, when I don't have a wicked migraine. But I do want to quickly post about our post camping laundry. Usually we have 2 washers in our house. We have a LOT of wash. Something on the order of 4 loads daily. We were camping 5 days. That would be a 20 load back log. Except it was probably more than that because there were extra things that were needed for chilly (45 degree) evenings. Fleeces to wrap the kids in which subsequently were trailed through the campsite till their original color was nigh onto indistinguishable. Bathing suits and towels galore due to 2 beach trips and one trek to the pool. Yup, way more than 20 loads. Right now one washer is ill and can't be used. Hopefully a repairman will come soon to fix it and restore it to health. Meanwhile, on a daily basis, the single washer is okay. But clearly we were never going to get caught up any time soon with only the single washer.

I suggested that I visit the laundramat and throw the clothes in 3 of the super duper sized washers and catch us up in one fell swoop. K eyed me dubiously. "You WANT to go there?" she asked. I was game. Grabbed my diet coke, my Clive Cussler novel and three ginormous totes of sorted laundry. I was off.

I am not sure it is universally true, but in our city, these facilities are not in the "better" parts of town. They are either in the truly seedy, the sort of "heading to seedy" or if one is lucky in the parts of town once known as seedy but supposedly making a comeback. The very last is where my laundramat is. There is a new bit of development nearby but mostly the neighborhood is still forlorn. Filled with tenement multi-family houses in poor repair, with several bars, and a gigantic liquor store nearby and a reputation for being a "rougher" area.

I unload all my totes of dirty laundry into the facility. I peer around trying to find a coin machine. I have all paper money and no coins. I also don't own a debit card so I can't go to an ATM. Alas, there is no coin changing machine and none of the machines take anything but quarters. It is Labor Day and banks are closed. Hmmm, what is a desperate mom with a mountain of dirty laundry to do? I hie myself over to said package store and tell them my tale of woe as creatively as I can. The very curt man behind the counter says to wait till there is no one in the store. I am happy to do that. I stand there as unobstrusively as I can as people parade past me with more liquor than I would have believed possible. But eventually the flood of customers is stemmed for the moment and he asks how many quarters I needed. I said whatever he could give me and he offers to exchange $10.00 in quarters. Eureka! (by the way when I got home my wife had the hardest time believing they did this for me!)

Back to the laundramat I trundle, eager to get the washing underway. Hmmmm. There are no instructions on the machines. Literally. None. Nothing saying how many quarters to put in. I stand in front of the largest one and am trying to find something in ANY language that will tell me what to do. I simply don't want to believe that I have been flummoxed by mere machinery.

A fellow who'd been sitting near the door weaved his way over to me. Smelling like he had imbibed copious spirits he offers to help. I explain my predicament. He says the machine takes 18 quarters and shows me where to put them. I thank him, get it loaded, he puts the money in while i load the soap. I move to the next machine. This one has a different set up for the money and even my trusty helper is confused. By now a pleasant African couple have entered the laundry. The gentleman watches me and my tipsy helper while his wife is loading a different machine. He explains that we have not put the correct number of coins in the machine because it is a double load--one must load it with coins twice to make it start. Silly me, I thought that meant it took a double load of wash. DUH! Between the the three of us, we finally get two of the machines going.

I like Clive Cussler and enjoy his novels but I like talking to people more.
So when a young boy about my Rob's age came over and started chatting I was happy to put the book down. He thought it was funny how confused I was by the machines. He couldn't believe all my wash was from 5 days of camping and thought it was cool that we did that. He wanted to know what it was like. He was the oldest of 3 kids and we talked about how he helps his mom out with "stuff." My first loads finished and I took them out. I was exactly 3 quarters shy of being able to run another gigantic machine with the last of the laundry. I drove the finished laundry home to hang out on the lines and scrounged 3 more quarters and headed back. The African couple were still there and just started laughing when I reappeared. They laughed even harder when they heard I was running our home washer as well. I proudly loaded the machine and got the coins in and the soap and all first try. I felt like a pro by this time. We chatted about our kids, small stuff, nothing major, but time flew by and the buzzers on the machine went off.

It was a really congenial afternoon. People are not always nice, I am not naive. And I try never to intentionally put myself in a situation where I would truly be in danger. But I do believe that if we enter into relationships both large and small, open to the idea that people mostly want to do the right thing, that this will usually be the end result. So tonight I am grateful for unexpected kindness, for help freely given, and for laundry that is clean!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Lissa's hair

Lissa's star and glow in the dark beads! Her hair is getting so long, I love it. The parts are geometrical and the picture doesn't show that too well, but she loves "click clacking" her beads. Sometimes I get tired of the braids hanging down and do french braids down the back of her head. She looks sweet but tends not to like the look as much cause it doesn't make noise when she shakes her head. My girl is all about noise! LOL

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Party Time

We have a bunch of pics of Chet's birthday celebration but I love this shot so much. Chet is normally rather stiff in pictures. I have a lot of pictures where he thinks he is smiling but it looks like sort of a feral snarl. Truly not a friendly happy smile. This is different. He really looks happy. KC got him these earrings. Chet loves big earrings. I could care less what he puts in his ears as long as the object is sanitary and safe. Around his neck he has a peace symbol necklace that Robbie made for him.
You can't see the decorations much in this shot and frankly I have to fight too much to get the shots in the right order for me to bother with it on the blog so use your imagination guys. Lots of shiny fringey decorations in all techno colors hanging all over our dining room door ways. Shiny spirals hanging from the chandelier with equally shiny purple blue and pink stars. Chet's favorite color is pink. The cake was frosted pink too. The stars I suspect were KC's contribution. He is my celestial child, a lover of the stars and the moon. But Rob did most of the actual work of putting up the decorations and he did a great job. It was festive enough for Chet to feel honored and loved and not over the top that would stimulate him off into the ether.
KC's job was passing the gifts to big brother, and he was as usual inside out with the excitement of it all. What impressed me the most though was that after he gave Chet these earrings, he looked at Chet for a moment and then he leaned way up and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. "Everyone needs a birthday kiss" he informed me on the way to the park later. While I certainly second the veracity of the thought, it was a surprising thing. Surprising because though KC loves Chet greatly he is intensely frustrated on a daily basis by Chet's behaviors, or his inability to show emotions or understand others emotions. KC's emotions run so close to the surface that for him, Chet's failure to notice his feelings is very much akin to physical pain. It was surprising too because Chet let KC do it. He didn't pull away. He didn't respond to it with a kiss of his own, but I think KC knew Chet couldn't do that. I am writing this rather badly but just trust me that it was really REALLY good. Above all I want my kids to love each other, to have each other's backs, to be there with and for each other when I am not. I know that Chet will need his younger brothers and sister to understand that and to continue to aid him in his interactions with others and the world at large.
We are taking off to go camping in Maine tomorrow. We are so looking forward to it. Work was horrid this week, my coworker was out sick 2 days out of 3 and I had no other office support. But somehow by some miracle known only as "no lunch" and "I have been there in that job since dinosaurs roamed the earth (!) everything got done. I am leaving with a clear conscience and a desk that is only slightly messy.
K did a marvelous job doing the pre-cooking and packing prep. We don't do a lot of cooking at the campsite due to the age of the brood right now. In a few years they will be more reliably safe around open flames and I will not feel like everything has to be a quickie meal but for now, it is. Just leaves more time for hiking and swimming and fun anyway.
I brought the kids to the park after the party. The wee ones needed to burn off steam. The double whammy of excitement of party and impending mini vacation would not have resulted in sleep had I not run their little bodies around the field for awhile. We met up with some friends there and it was a lot of fun. The angle of the sun has changed though and the field has a golden cast to it at 6:15 when we leave . I know our times up there are coming to an end for another season and I wish that wasn't so.
Summer is "my" season. I love everything about it and some of it practically didn't happen this year. 1 week of hot humid weather. Come on!!! It has been so chilly in the a.m.'s lately we had to run the pellet stove for 20 minutes or so to get the chill out of the house. Love the pellet stove, but mourn running it so early. We have no salsa put by for the coming year and i am not sure enough of our tomatos will ripen for us to do it from our garden plot. That 6 wk stretch of rain and clouds sure did the crop in. We thankfully had no blight but not a lot of ripe ones either.
So this weekend is going to be my weekend to cram in as much fun that one would associate with summer as I can possibly do. We are visiting Portland Head Light which is one of my kids favorite lighthouses. There are nice fields to play in there and a beach to collect rocks and shells on and cool boats that go by where you picnic and can watch the water. We will swim, and hike and play like crazy. We will make our own "flashlights" by mixing mountain dew, baking soda and hydrogen peroxide in tiny bottles. We will play with lightsticks and our glow in the dark basketball. We will pop popcorn by the fire and snuggle under our quilts because it will only be 40 degrees at night, where I will read and sing to the kids. I will have 2 kids in bed with me so I will be warm. LOL I don't know what all else we will do--I actually have a book I bought the last time we were there that has a lot of free and low cost activities in the state so if we find ourselves a bit lost with the free time, there will be something to fill it.
The moon is shining so brightly as I write this and all things feel possible.
Later I will post a picture of Lissa's hair. K did it in fresh parts and braids and beads for the campout. Some of the beads glow in the dark.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

24 or 12?

Chet's birthday is tomorrow. I still remember the tiny, sickly, and utterly so filthy he was crusty little fellow thrust into my arms by the director of the adoption agency. I remember the feeling of equal parts elation, fear and exhaustion. I had waited so long, and at last, had a son. I remember fingering his wavy hair and staring at his big dark eyes, and how he would quickly look away from me.

As a new parent I had no clue what to expect. The director of the agency said he just needed a room of toys and he would be fine. He needed lots more than that. The first year he was so desparately physically ill. He was frightened and unable to communicate his needs. He had no concept of how to play, having received insufficient early stimulation.

But it would be years and years before the depth of his needs and his disability would become known to us. Then I would have to face the fact that my dreams for him, dreams of a college education, driving a car, moving away from home, would have to be adjusted. Dreams for his future changed to receiving SSI, to finding ways to help him remember self care, and to help him find work or volunteer opportunities in our city.

It isn't that I am sorry for him or for myself. It isn't that I feel cheated. Life is what it is and in all respects, despite the challenges, my life is greater for his being my eldest son. Hopefully, he feels the same way, though this morning I somewhat doubt it.

On Tuesdays Chet volunteers at a local agency that provides meals to seniors. He helps in the kitchen in a variety of tasks. The chores vary enough to keep things interesting, not enough to confuse him, which can happen easily. Instead the confusion happened as a result of the car pool that he participates in. A few weeks ago the ride came significantly earlier than usual. We had no clue this was going to happen and Chet is adament that the driver never told him this would happen. He wasn't ready, they would not wait, and the ride left without him.

Although this has never happened since, his anxiety over not being ready "on time" has escalated bit by bit, week by week. I usually remember to reassure him the night before that I will as I have always done, get him up on time. Chet also has to have a glass of juice before he gets up every morning as on occasion his blood sugar drops and he passes out. Needless to say, knowing that he needs juice before he gets up has certainly taught me to be on time and consistant so waking him late is not something that would typically happen anyway.

However I forgot to remind him of all these details last night before bed. He obviously spent the night consumed with worry that he would not get ready for work on time. The result was a horrific morning where he became so out of control he couldn't even go though he was physically ready.

He came gallopping down the stairs 15 minutes early. This meant the juice had literally hit his system only seconds before. His breakfast was not yet ready and his noise woke his younger brother. I calmly explained that he needed to follow the same routine that he always did. Breakfast wasn't ready yet and I would call him down as I do every. single. day. He stomped back upstairs and now I had a sleepy KC bumbling around the kitchen, grumpy that big brother woke him in a startling fashion.

Chet came back downstairs when I called him and ate. He was reminded to stay on task and all would be well. Except that in his frenzy about work he forgot his morning tasks. Some things, like his hygiene he had totally skipped and had to be sent back to do. Other things he mixed up and did out of order, which meant he was messing up other family members who typically use the space before or after him.

He convinced himself that Lissa's high chair was in his way and attempted to move her out of his way on his own. Not only does he not usually walk on that side of the kitchen, Chet is never allowed to put his hands on the little kids or the space they occupy. He doesn't know his own strength and since he has trouble physically feeling things he could hurt them accidently. It was at that point, when he was reminded that Lissa's space had nothing to do with his morning preparations, that he melted down completely and lost control.

Much yelling, crying, body fluids running all over the map, waving of arms. Truthfully it became a point where it wouldn't have been safe to send him. When he loses control like that (thankfully something that doesn' t happen all that often nowadays) it takes most of the day for him to recalibrate. There is no way he would have safely worked in a kitchen with his temper hair trigger like that.

The behavior he exhibited isn't the worst thing in the world. It is about what I would expect from a 12 year old. The sad part is that Chet isn't 12. He turns 24 tomorrow. But in the areas of emotions and self control, it will take a lot more years to help him make the journey toward increased maturity.