Saturday, February 28, 2009
I send her a card and short note every week to ten days. Used to be weekly but her therapist gave me mixed messages on this so I try to do it about every 10 days. I can't make myself go longer than that. No one has ever stayed in her life. In some ways that includes us. She ought to at least get cards and pictures and little stuff that lets her know we love her even if she can't be here.
She didn't ask to talk with the kids. She wanted to tell me that she might get a television and she might be moving. She didn't know where, they were just looking for a place. I know the RTC that she is in specializes in stabalizing kids so that they can be then sent to some other form of placement. And she has been there 2 yrs so it has taken a long time for the stabalization to happen. But that is typically how it works for Fiona. It takes her a long time to get the program. Her mental health issues and her cognitive issues are such a hard mix. When she finally gets what is expected and can achieve it, gee she qualifies to move. Typically to a place with less structure and supervision and guess what happens? She destabalizes all over the place. Winds up hospitalized. Can you tell we have been down this route before?
As we were wrapping up the phone call she asked if I would send her pictures of our dog and cat. I haven't sent one of the pets for a while so I wasn't surprised and said sure I would make sure they were in the next note. "Oh and your tea set" she added in a very soft voice. Tea set? I was confused. I might have written some time about "tea parties" that KC and Elisabeth had but it didn't involve a real tea set. I forget what exactly I said but she could tell I wasn't getting what she meant. No, in the dining room she clarified. "They were so pretty and I loved to look at them." In our dining room there is a cabinet with china passed down from my grandparents. There are tea cups there. I never knew she loved them. I wish with all my heart that there was more that I could do with and for her. I wish the social workers had been honest from day one and that the supports that they promised were there. (instead of just saying to call 9-1-1) I wish most of all that there was some way to help her have a safe and happy life. But I can take a picture of the tea cups.
Friday, February 27, 2009
It is good to have the internet handy to keep my brain engaged at a slightly different level than my day to day reading. I have almost no time for personal reading right now. I am busy with work and our part time job. KC has decided that although he is only 4 he wants a more active homeschool experience so he has been working on math and "AR" words and "AT" words. Rob has been delving deeper into algebra and the mysteries of negative integers (heavy on the mystery! LOL) And I need to develop a study guide for the book Goodbye Vietnam. I was fairly appalled to see that his English curriculum wanted him to read the book but sort of dropped it there. No followup. Rob needs followup. So that is on my plate as well.
The blog about the Italy trip also made me realize how much more that particular trip offered its participants as opposed to the trip to Mexico that I took with my junior year Spanish class. I was very excited to go. We were originally supposed to be in Mexico City and see ancient ruins, a museum and a lot of cultural things. Then the trip got really expensive and they changed it to a week in Acapulco. OK being 16 and in Acapulco did not lend itself to much in the way of intentional culture. Food, pool and drink it lent itself to. Lots of the latter. After all, we were not supposed to drink the water. (chuckle) There was no really concerted effort to have us do things as a group. We just went off for a week and did our own thing. Mine consisted of walking the beach until i learned that this was where the sewer pipes from the hotel were emptying. Seriously. I remember loving the plants and taking lots and lots and lots of pictures of the foliage.
But I also discovered true inequality in a society on that trip. Our hotel seemed truly palatial to me at 16. I remember there were multiple bars, even ones in the pools which seemed especially decadent. Our rooms were pretty nice and we had a balcony which i adored. But one day when I walked literally just around the corner from the hotel I discovered a dump. Well it looked like a dump. Probably it was in part. But it was also a sort of shanty town. People living among the refuse, taking discarded bits of cardboard, metal if they were lucky, and making a shelter for their families. Cooking mostly happened on little braziers in front of the shelters that they created. I was shocked to my core and distressed even further to find out that some of these people worked in the very hotel that I was staying in. We were also visiting in the rainy season. Every afternoon there were deluges of rain from about 4 p.m. to early evening. I wondered what people did in those hovels in the rain.
I remember feeling very helpless to do anything that would truly help. I decided I could tip a bit more generously when I ordered something at the hotel and I stopped bargaining with any of the vendors who sold the brightly colored pottery that I was collecting. Whatever they said, I paid. I knew it wasn't much and wasn't enough to really make a difference. And oddly enough, because our teacher and chaperone wasn't really a chatty type, I never felt comfortable trying to talk with him about how suddenly sad the whole experience was making me.
However, although I never got to see the ancient ruins, or any museums or the capital city, I guess in a round about way I did get culture shock if nothing else. I got a wake up call on being a "rich" American. (a truly funny label since I know how much we scrimped and saved for that trip) I thought I didn't have a lot of money and compared to my classmates that was true. But I saw the faces of real poverty for the first time and that did change me. To this day, my favorite gifts (other than something handmade for me) are if someone will donate money to heifer project or a relief fund in my honor.
And I have always involved my kids in helping others. When Chet was a middleschooler we helped serve a Thanksgiving dinners to homeless in our city. He and I also worked on the SHARE New England program which helps families to buy food at a reasonable fee. Our present church is now opening a food bank and we will find a way to work there sometimes as a family. We have a change jar in our kitchen. It is one of those that tells you how much money is in it when you put another donation in. The deal is we all add our spare change to it and at the end of the year we decide how the money will best help. One year the kids picked UNICEF, one year they picked the ASPCA. I am not a do-gooder, but I think the best hope for our country's future is to teach compassion, and to realize that even small bits of help and justice work are worthwhile.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Yesterday I wrote on the joys of music class. Then I told Kirsty about it and she cracked up. Yes, they played with ribbons. Yes they did all that I said, and more. So much more!
Because yesterday at music class, the divine Miss Patty (that would be new agey Miss Patty with the sparkly breath imagery etc) sang a song about kids and asked what other funny sights or sounds could happen to the kids in the song (thinking her little adorable band of preschoolers would have cute things for the kids in the song to do ) KC, always eager to please Miss Patty promptly raises his hand. "something fartish?" he suggests with a grin. Kirsty who is at class looks around for a trap door to fall through. None are visible. "Fartish?" falters Miss Patty (no doubt her breath decidedly unsparkly now). "Ummmm" she trails off.
"You know fartish" KC says more insistantly. "That's a funny noise!"
Miss Patty decides that maybe they should just say "stinky smell" and devises an appropriate gesture to illustrate this with in the song.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
The thing is albatross are sort of ungainly and awkward birds to me--until they fly. To me, Chet is like that. Physically and socially he is awkward. He takes over long strides when he walks, sticks his head sort of forward on his neck and swings his arms way out. Socially, he still has tremendous difficulties handling social cues.
But then he flies! On the way home from church Sunday he was talking with me about the stimulus check that Social Security recipients are supposed to receive. $250.00 which to Chet is a fortune. I had brought up the subject because I wanted him to start thinking about anything he might want to use the money for. Making decisions is usually very challenging for him. He thought a while and decided he needed a new personal CD player. What about a flat screen TV? No, his old TV worked, was the response. I tried to point out that the CD player was not a real expensive item and he all ready had money available for that but no, that was what he felt he should use the stimulus funds for. Then he was quiet a minute. Then in a rush he said that the rest of the money should go to church so our minister could use it to help people who are having a hard time in this economy. (there was a small digression here where he tried to rant about the former president but I managed to redirect so he could stay on topic!) He couldn't remember the name of what he was referring to, but what he meant was a ministerial discretionary fund. And he is right. Many people have been hit so hard economically. It is "found money" and it is an opportunity for him to do something tangible to help others. He was so happy that he had a solution--I think in his mind now he didn't need to worry about the money any more. And I was so proud that despite his many challenges, in that one moment, he soared.
Monday, February 23, 2009
I have read about this till the cows come home. Rob does what is called on an adoption list that i am on "crazy lying." In other words even when it is clear that he did something, his first response will be to lie. For instance, one could see Rob take a cookie before supper. If you said to Rob, "did you take a cookie before supper?" He would say no, even if he was holding it in his hand or had cookie crumbs plastered across his face.
I have learned to not ask a question like that. I calmly say that I guess he ate supper backwards and opted to have dessert first. Or in another situation, I will just address the action. I will ask him to simply put back the item that was taken, clean the mess that was made, whatever. I don't ask if or why he did it. If I ask the if, I will get told he didn't. If I ask the why I will get I don't know. Then he will stare at me. For hours if I was willing to stand there that long. I think he probably knows that I am 50 and don't have so many years left that I can waste them staring at him so he will get let off the hook with "The Stare." (smiling and sighing) I wish I had the fortitude to just stare back but I don't. And i have 3 other kids who would need me in about 15 minutes max so it doesn't work any way you look at it.
We have talked about honesty in the general ways that parents do. Talked about values. Talked about situations when I have had to be honest in my work or my life, even if it meant getting in trouble. And on the 1 or 2 times a year when he has been truthful I make sure I don't have any negative consequences for whatever the issue was. Because I want him to see that he can trust us and be honest with us. But always always always, he returns to the pattern of lying.
Today it was about playing with Kirsty's makeup. She keeps it in our spare bedroom and puts it on there because the lighting is better for her. Rob keeps his Nintendo DS in the room and brought that to church for he and KC to play with while I had a meeting yesterday. so I know he was in the room. Today she found said make up broken and the cases damaged. Not intentionally, looks like he didn't know how to open them. He of course said he didn't do it and then when reminded that KC can't reach that high and Chet wasn't in there and Elisabeth wasn't in there he moved on to the aforementioned stare. I could have him replace the make up with his own money and probably will. But I know that won't make him think about telling the truth the next time, because we have done that before as well.
What bothers me the most is that I worry that this pattern will impact his whole life. He has so many wonderful facets to his personality. He has so many abilities and gifts to share with the world. But he could trash all that in a New York minute by lying someday. I know that people think that sometimes that is what it takes for a kid to learn. I wish I believed he would learn if that happened.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
For instance for some bizarre reason my children hate the nursery at church. I have no idea why. The woman who works there is really nice and unless she grows horns and fangs when the adults leave she seems like someone children would be comfortable with. And most kids are. Just not mine. KC would cry when I left him there as a child. "Oh he'll stop as soon as you leave," I was assured. Yeah right. 10 minutes later there was the caregiver standing in the sanctuary with my desparately sobbing son. He would burrow his face into my chest and heave these wracking sighs. It was not pretty. I felt like I had abandoned him somehow. Yet stupidly I tried it again 6 months later and had the same result. After that, he just sat in church with me. Now KC is a child who has a great ability to be quiet. As an infant, he just slept or sucked his pacifier. As a toddler, a small notepad and a few crayons and he is good to go. The fact that there is a lot of music in our services helps greatly; he loves all kinds of music. So basically from newborn to age 4 he sat in the sanctuary. People used to ask me why I was "making him" stay there. Wasn't he bored? Why didn'tI just let him cry it out? I don't have words (polite ones) anyway to answer stupid questions like that. Because to me, I have worked so hard to have the privilege of being a parent that I can't imagine making my child be where they don't feel safe and happy. And to say that to someone comes off, um really badly to put it mildly.
This year I decided I needed to help KC get comfortable with a religious education class room. He is so bright and he had now reached the age where making friends with peers was more important. And he would be able to learn and do things, it wasn't just child care. Of course, he didn't want me out of the room. Again I was counselled to leave him there to tough it out. Again I ignored my well meaning friends. I helped in the classroom from September to December. Then in January I started staying for the first half and leaving when the story part was over and they were starting their craft time. Today I could leave before the story was quite done so I still even heard the sermon in the sanctuary.
Lissa like her big brother also hates the nursery. Unlike him, she is not a quiet placid little soul and could be disruptive in the sanctuary, but I can also think of a few ways to make it work. However I could not bring her to KC's classroom, so she has been staying home with Kirsty while i take the other 3 to church. She now has noticed and cries when we leave. KC wants her to come with us. I would love that but explained that while he needs me in his class room I need to have Mama stay with sissy. When he is ready for me to just walk him to his room, then I can bring Lissa and we will work on teaching her about church too. He looked quite interested in that, so we will see if that is the carrot needed for ultimately walking into class on his own!
Our city gave him a heroes welcome home and the papers were full of stories about how many people attended the wake, how the large church where the funeral was held was jammed to overflowing. . . and as a mom that wouldn't have helped me a heck of a lot.
When Chet was 18 he really wanted to enlist. I didn't say anything as i was reasonably sure that no branch of the military would accept him and thankfully I was right. At the time I felt so badly for him. I told him today how grateful I was. It took him a bit of time to get what I meant, but he finally did and he gave me a wry grin.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
However the goddess has a way of equalizing things out and by the time my eldest was in 6th grade we were launching a new journey as homeschoolers. Homeschooling Chet was fascinating. It was also occasionally frustrating as his lack of understanding of emotions and motivations made for special challenges when we started doing serious english lit work. I remember to this day being so proud of a paper he wrote on Cold Mountain because it really showed insight into character motivation and I knew how hard that was for him to achieve. He excelled in math and most science classes. Things that could be categorized, quantified and labelled made sense to him. Because we homeschooled we could focus more of his class time on these areas and adapt the other areas. He is the most tone deaf person I have ever met so music class morphed into music appreciation and a music history class that I cobbled together for him. We quickly learned that he is genuinely incapable of absorbing a second language and did not pursue that. Helping him adequately use and understand English was much more of a priority. Perhaps because of his Aspergers, perhaps because of his 5 years of previous public school experience, Chet had a deep need for order and a class schedule, testing, and grading that closely imitated public school.
Along came Rob. He too started in public school but increased class sizes and his reticent nature allowed him to fly below the radar of the teachers. His lack of knowledge became only fully known when we began homeschooling in grade 4 but through most of grade 3 I had a feeling that he was somehow just not learning. Rob has more of a challenge processing things and has had to be taught how to break things down into parts. Part of his issues also relate to the fact that he doesn't love learning for learnings sake. He'd much rather play baseball or mess around outside or (sigh) veg in front of the television or a video game. Homeschooling allowed me to sort of bring his interests into the classrooom in ways that public school couldn't. I have "edutainment cd's" that subtley teach while seeming fun. When he wasn't getting how to calculate per cents I wrote a series of word problems that used football and people from the New England Patriots. He got them all correct, simply because i had found something he cared about. He is a voracious reader though his written skills need work. But reading books together, either aloud or silently has given a vehicle to explore feelings in a way that feels safe to him. I feel that I have opportunities to understand how he thinks and that this enhances my parenting and our time together.
Then there is KC. I have never been an unschooler but with KC I probably could. I have never seen a kid so driven to learn. At 3 he was having his own "math class" because he saw me teaching Robbie. He could count to 20, count backwards from 10, recognize all his shapes and do simple adding and subtracting. We continue to build on that. He likes to copy words from books. I think he is starting to read. Twice this past week he has brought me things and told me what they say. Both times he has been right. He loves being read to and is highly musical. It is too early to say what his learning style is, but I think his homeschool journey will be drastically different from his brothers.
And there is Elisabeth. Still young, she shows a love of music, a great sense of rhythm and a love for tactile things. It is exciting to watch this all unfold. . . and to be a teacher after all!
Monday, February 16, 2009
Meanwhile back at the ranch, the kids and i have had a blast. We removed most of the valentine decorations and began welcoming those mysterious little folk called leprecauns into our house. I made a big picture of a leprecaun for our dining room, now that the heart poster is down. KC changed out all the gew gaws on our napkin rings to rainbows, and the hearts and snowmen are all put away for another year. (We use cloth napkins and on our napkin rings we have a bit of velcro so that we can change the little wooden thing on the napkin ring seasonally. The kids love it)
KC and I made pictures of shamrocks, some with crayon rubbing, some with tracing, just sort of exploring mediums of art. Rob got to read about his favorite band (The Fray) on line. There were clips from the UK tour that we got to see snippets of.
Lissa is finally getting into art and did some work with markers. I was thrilled; she has not really enjoyed expressing herself with anything other than her voice till now! However the bright colors that markers give seem to intrigue her more than the toddler crayons etc that we have been offering.
We were supposed to go to Unos for lunch but the muffler system on my car seems to be hanging by the proverbial thread. I suspect more rust has drifted earthward, leaving some bolt free of its mooring. At any rate, it appears that I would not want to drive it with children in it so we made cookies and iced tea and had a "tea party " as KC calls it here at home.
And because I had time to just noodle around on the computer a bit I went to Youtube and found that one of our favorite musicians Joe Jencks has some videos up of his performances. I love his music but KC adores the music. If you happen to look at the sites you can see Joe has a broken foot in one of the clips. We are on his email list and found out via that that he had broken his foot. KC made him a get well card covered in music notes and sent it out to Chicago! So needless to say, KC was thrilled with my Youtube discovery as well.
I love big families. I would have more children if we could and we may in fact adopt older children when our younger 2 are school aged. But as an experienced parent I see the amount of time children need from their parent(s) and I can not for the life of me figure out how this mom is going to do it. Looking at this as an outsider it would seem that there just aren't enough hours in the day for all that must/should be done. I hope there are systems in place to help her. Should the situation have happened as it did? I think most of us would agree no. But I wish that we would focus more on supports and making sure that these children have the best life possible than raining down abuse on the mom. Won't this make her afraid to ask for help if it is needed?
I understand that the health costs are being born by the state of California. And I am very cognizant of the fact that in these tough economic times that is not a great thing. But I get the sense that if this woman had been married and had the octuplets that there would have been less hue and cry over lack of health care and the subsequent costs to the state. The costs are there and maybe indeed safe guards should be put in place so that this type of situation does not arise again. I don't know. I am no expert on the in vitro fertilization industry.
What I do know is that in worrying about dollars and cents we are losing sight of the fact that there are 14 lives here, not just these sweet little babies, but their 6 siblings at home. And we should focus on that and how to help this be a home that is healthy and happy for them.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
I love Valentines Day. Mostly because I think any day that gives us societal permission to honor and embrace love, is a good thing. We can each one of us decide how we will do that. It can be the way the marketing gurus wish, or we can craft something of our own that will show the love we feel. Option B as it were, which is what we do.
I love Valentines Day because although there is a myth that love cures all the ills of our adoptive children, it doesn't. But what it does do in my humble opinion is to give us strength and the courage to go on when the hard times are being faced. Love gives me the strength to believe that healing is possible, trust can be earned and built on. Love helps me believe that my eldest who has such a profoundly hard time understanding and expressing feelings, can feel our love, and can learn with time and practice to articulate his own feelings and not be overwhelmed by them. And tonight, I really believe that. He made all his Valentines on his own, without anyone suggesting or reminding him about tonight.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Blake had a rough start with us. We had him only a week and he became very very ill. Turns out he had giardia which he had to have gotten from his previous owner as he had not been around any contaminated water in the 7 days we had him. We got a huge vet bill, the breeder refused to help with it, and we had a really sick little puppy. He dehydrated so badly that he needed hospitalization. Sigh. When he came home again almost a week later, he had to get used to our home all over again. Much like some of the children who come to our lives, he had been bounced a lot in his short life. Starting his life with sibs at the breeder, he was sold to a friend of said breeder and taken around the show circuit while she showed other dogs. The new owner was a college girl whose family subsequently experienced a marital breakup. With mom and dad divorcing, no one wanted to take Blake while the daughter went to school. Blake was returned to his breeder where he lived for a few weeks again sharing a crate with a sibling. The breeder tried to find someone else who wanted a "show" dog. With no takers she then turned to us, people who had registered with her as wanting a dog for a pet. We bring him home, begin bonding, he goes to the vets. Returns home to us but it is almost like starting over. Sort of like going from foster home to foster home and it showed in his behavior.
First off, he had no idea of our family expectations. He worked very hard to learn them. I have to say, he is a very VERY smart dog. Secondly, he was "anxiously attached." He hated being left alone. He would chew anything in sight, when left alone. His bedding, his wire crate, you name it. He would bark so much that he required a no bark collar for the times when we could not be in the same room as him. Because he was not reliably house broken and we had 2 small children, we didn't allow him anywhere but the kitchen for the first few months. We have a large rambly house and the kitchen has a door right outside for quick potty runs.
At the time we were going through all this it totally seemed like the wrong thing to do. Elizabeth was still an infant, and a fretful one at that. KC was only 3 and training a dog was just one more thing. We also had gotten a kitten (I know, I know, where are our brains anyhow!) just a few weeks prior.
But you know, it worked out. Blake house trained very quickly, in large part because this time around we really knew what we were doing. With Feargus we were feeling our way more and it took him way longer to be reliable in the house.
We also did a lot more obedience classes with Blake. It helped teach him he was not the boss, something Fearg always had a hard time remembering. It was a big investment of time (and money) but it helped not just with obedience, it helped with creating that solid bond you want between pet and family. It also helped us feel secure having Blake around the younger kids (though I really have a hard and fast rule that they can never be with our pets alone. It may be anal but I don't trust any animal or any child to be safe with one another when they are both younglings)
And over time, I have seen Blake become a very secure (um and slightly overweight) Brittany Spaniel. His even temperment has blended well in the family and while he doesn't have the perkiness of our former dog, he has a beautiful little personality of his own and I have grown to love that. He has decided that our cat Maui is a great playmate (Maui rides him occasionally!) and they wrestle often. Like our kids, he has built himself another family and enjoys it. OK I know it isn't an exact parallel to the traumas of kids who have been through foster care and multiple placements, but it did strike me that there really are similarities! Tomorrow I'll try to remember to post a pic of Maui and tell his story. There are some striking parallels for him as well.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
This has been helpful this week as KC has had a cold and basically been icky sicky since Saturday. He has felt just well enough to be a nudge, not well enough to do much of anything. So having something new to pique his interest, well that was a very good thing. We worked on making Valentine placemats last night. The kids have only 2 left to do and they really are pretty. Foam with hearts stuck all over them in surprisingly well thought out patterns. I tend to stay out of the creative end; just sort of get the stuff out and see what they do, where they go with it. Sometimes they want input, sometimes they have an artistic vision. I have noticed that Robbie seems to learn a lot from KC's creativity. KC isn't always able to physically do what he can envision, but he can begin it and almost always articulate it which means Rob can then help if needed. It is a great thing for both of them as Rob never really had the kind of opportunities to foster creativity at the young age when it is most needed.
Tonite they put up a bunch of our paper Valentine decorations in our dining room. Fat Cupids are on the china cabinet doors and shiny hearts adorn the windows. I can tell who put up what based on the height of the decoration relative to the floor. :-)
They have been making Valentines for about 2 weeks now and have enough for the family all made. I need to get going on mine soon or they are going to show me up! One of our other family traditions is that all Valentines that we give one another are hand made.
I haven't decided what we will do for our Valentine party. But it will be fun. Hallmark won't make a penny off us but it will give us a chance to celebrate that which is best and brightest in our lives--the love we have for one another.
With my eldest I have the same issue. As an example, last week his boss called and said due to budget cuts he could no longer afford to pay Chet to work there. If he wanted to continue as a volunteer, he was welcome to do this as the issues were budget only and not (thankfully ) related to job performance. I explained this to Chet and told him to contact the elderly woman he carpools with and explain the changes. I told him she would likely hear that he had lost his job and not think to pick him up unless he heard from her. He didn't call.
Yesterday he got ready for work and stood in our front hall for 40 minutes waiting for a ride that did not come. He looked so forlorn it killed me. I asked if he had contacted his car pool lady and he said no. I told him we would go over again what he was supposed to say on the phone when I got home from work. I then left for work. I came home and we went over what to say to her. We role played it. Chet is um, weak in phone skills. Did you sort of figure that out from the tone of the post? LOL Ok so then he gets her number calls the elderly lady and says:
" Hi Ms. X, this is Chet WHY DIDN'T YOU PICK ME UP?" Sigh. Trust me, no where in the role playing and conversation was this one of the options we went over! So there I am wondering if I should grab the phone so the poor lady doesn't have a coronary or think Chet is mad at her. He wasn't, he just gets loud when he is feeling intense about something. She did say something to the effect that she heard he lost his job and that is why she didn't pick him up. She didn't know about the volunteering (which thankfully Chet did a better job explaining) and said she would confirm that with the boss.
We talked more after the conversation and he could see that what he said didn't come close to matching his practice runs, but he had a harder time seeing that his choice of verbal expression could alarm someone. Hmmmm, definately our telephone skills are a work in progress!
Monday, February 9, 2009
. . . but it is that "getting the beans spilled" as it were that is the crux of my dilemma. The reality of my job is that people talk to me a lot. And not really about things that just pertain to my role as a landlord. They talk to me sometimes because they don't know the area and don't have a friend and I am a reasonably approachable person. Sometimes they talk to me because they are afraid and they have no one to share their fear with. Or their joy. I like when people share their joys. Sometimes it is because I can speak their mother tongue and many other people can't and they are lonely. I have had people speak to me in portugese because they know i speak spanish. If I try really hard and they try really hard, we can usually make it work. I once had someone from Haiti speak to me in French. I hadn't used french in 25 yrs. I told him I didn't remember my french. He smiled and said "yes you do" and continued speaking in french. Somehow we managed to understand each other.
But being that open to people means they share a lot of stuff. The details of their operation. (don't even ask how many incisions I've seen!) Their marital woes, their pregnancies, their child rearing questions. People know i have 4 kids and if they don't have a happy relationship with their parents, or are adults who aged out of foster care, they look to me for parenting tips. Ideas for family friendly cheap times out. Shopping and cooking tips. You name it. And in there too are the "big" things. The people who share their issues of abuse. Their addictions. Or residency. Their stories of why they left their country of origin and risked things in a particular way.
I don't imagine really good bean counters hear those stories. Because they are too busy counting the dang beans.
I also know that if I wanted to, I could probably do something else with my life that would allow the skills that are such a double edged sword at my present job, to be an asset in a new career. I also know that many of the careers that this could translate to would never pay what a decent bean counter gets. Sigh.
So Friday I had to notify my boss, meet with the coworker, and explain that he has to move. He is a good worker and his employment will not change because he works through an agency for us and isn't direct payroll. He is a good tenant too. Keeps a clean apartment, pays his rent, in all respects except the way he entered our country, he is the kind of person you would want to have working for you and renting from you. And now he and his 6 year old son will need to move. Because if one of the many agencies that review my files saw what I found in his background it wouldn't be just him losing housing, it would be me losing my job and others possibly as well.
Things are so awkward now. He doesn't speak much to me anymore, won't meet me eyes when I talk to him. I don't know if he is angry at me, ashamed of the situation or some combination of both. Sigh. Did I say I hate this?
Sunday, February 8, 2009
We have duly partied for Kirsty's 50th birthday! KC and Lissa and I did the decorations this a.m. while everyone else was at church. Actually it was truthfully mostly KC and I but Lissa put in her 2 cents worth from her queen bee place of sitting in her high chair and watching. KC really feels punky with his cold or whatever it is and stayed in his PJ's all day, but despite that wanted to "party" with all his little heart and soul. His only real heartbreak was that I would not let him help decorate the cake. In fact, I wouldn't even let him be in the kitchen with his streaming nose and yucky cough while I was doing the decorating. But he eventually decided he could make his card for Mom while I did that and this compromise worked well. The cake in question is a from scratch chocolate two layer cake with raspberry filling and home made frosting. I am told it is to die for. I am allergic to chocolate and have never in my life eaten this cake though I have made it millions of times. Sadly I am deficient in 2 keys cooking areas. Pie crust and frosting. This means Kirsty made the frosting for me before she went to church but I did the decorating!
The dining room always looks festive when we decorate and Kirsty said what she loved was that we made her feel like she had a spring birthday when she has always felt a bit down about the fact that she didn't. I was going to try and post some more pictures of the way things looked, but I am not particularly facile with technology. See that nifty blank space between the paragraphs? Well that was where I WANTED to put the pic of the butterfly and flower mobiles that hung from the light fixture. Picture them, a promise of spring, twirling in the breezes (our house is drafty folks!) Next to that picture was going to be the full out picture of the dining room table with all the place settings. You can at least see the pic at the top with the napkin rings Robbie made.
Ah that empty spot? That was for the picture of the giant balloon we put over her chair. We filled it up with a helium tank and the coolest thing was that you could record something in the balloon. From my kid's perspective the fact that then you have to bash the balloon to make it say "happy birthday" was a double bonus. Lots of balloon bashing going on.
Lots of party horns. Yummy Chinese food for Kirsty and I. She is a traditionalist and always orders the same thing. General Tso's chicken. Chicken or pork fried rice. Me, I order something different everytime. Today I tried a dish called vegetable chow ho foon. Wide rice noodles with lots of yummy veggies. I had a spring roll with it and ordered some tofu veggie soup so I would have something for lunch later in the week. Not that we can't make soup but I have never been able to really replicate good chinese tofu vegetable soup.
There are invisible pictures here of happy children who are not eating chinese food. Wise parents do not destroy the party mode when their kiddos totally loathe a particular style of food. (laugh) I did vegetarian chicken for them, rolls and carrot sticks. Periodically they would take a break from eating and blow their horns out at each other. Even Chet adores party horns. He did so well too holding it together.
Kirsty loved her gifts, mostly jewelry from the kids and I. She also got a gift certificate for make up from her favorite store from Chet and light up knitting needles from me. I saw these at a craft store and though I don't knit, they just seem so incredibly cool. When we go camping she likes to knit and it is sometimes hard to have enough light for her and not disturb sleeping children. Now she should be set even in a power failure! :-) Someday no doubt I will figure out how to add pictures throughout a post. For now, words are sooooo much easier!
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Friday, February 6, 2009
However. . . yesterday pellet stove tech arrived to assess the damage to the stove. To say it was severe is an understatement. The back burn essentially melted the interior of the stove and it is not repairable. It is an 8 or 9 year old stove at this point. The cost of all the parts would outweigh the benefits of simply replacing the stove. Except that I don't have a hefty chunk of change sitting around the house just waiting for me to stimulate the economy with a big purchase.
Our house is a very old Victorian. It actually wasn't even insulated till we sided it about 20 yrs ago. It is still very hard to heat. New windows would help but I refer loyal readers to the last sentence of the previous paragraph! :-) Additionally the configuration of our home regarding windows and air flow patterns makes it very difficult to find a place where a pellet stove can be located so that it can adequately provide heat the to the 3 rooms that need it the most. These rooms are our living room, front hall and our work room. Our work room is farthest from the stove and gets only a bit of heat but it is enough to get by. The front hall and the living room benefit the most. Pre pellet stove days we could never get our living room above 55 degrees on a cold and windy winter day. (5 to 10 degrees outside with breeze) We essentially don't heat the bedrooms on the second floor. The gas furnace does the other downstairs rooms.
The narrow footprint for where we can place a pellet stove is the thing that makes it pricey for us. We basically have 2 options that will fit there safely and meet code. The first is a product by Thelin Co. This is the stove that just died on us. It looks like an old fashioned parlor stove which is nice as far as the style of the house goes. And it is skinny where most pellet stoves are wider so it accomodates that dinky area well. Another option would be a pellet stove put out by a company called Harmon. They look cool, very high tech--which sometimes scares me though as in my experience the more high tech the more there is to go wrong . . . They can hold a whole bag of pellets which the Thelin can't. That would be cool. But they load from the bottom and a review I read on line said this could make them more prone to a fire. Nearly been there done that, so that is pretty much enough for me. Also the back up system to provide enough juice for the stove to run in a power failure is fairly expensive and complicated. Would cost almost as much as a generator. On top of the cost of a new stove, that is fairly significant to me as well.
I actually wish we could just have a woodstove. K and I had one back when I lived in a small town when I first left home. Woodstoves run in power failures quite nicely! However the downside is that they are also quite messy and there is the whole hot stove issue with young children. The plus side of a pellet stove is that there are only 2 places on the entire pellet stove that are hot on the exterior and I can safe guard the kids by gateing the whole hearth area, which I do. But with a pellet stove, I don't have to worry if a toy landed on the top of the stove etc. With a wood stove, I would. So I guess i have to hope for a kicking tax return and not too cold weather from now on!
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Much of it is I think that our winter pass times are somewhat old hat now. We have done copious quantities of arts and crafts. Pretty much you name the medium, and we have done it. And done it more than once; partly for the fun factor, partly to subtly give opportunities for further creative mastery and exploration. And sometimes, just because I didn't know what else to fill the hours with till bedtime! LOL We've done glitter glue, painting, relief painting, stencils, foam art, markers, crayons, cutting, glue. . . I assure you the list is endless and the messes have been mostly happy and fun. But now, they are less fun. The attention spans shorten as the little bodies yearn to be leaping and running about. Sigh. So we play football in the front hall, have basketball contests into buckets and boxes and race matchbox motorcycles. But I know it will be better with the change of the season. It always is.
Added to the mix is the fact that KC has not been sleeping well lately. A few nights of bad dreams (usually involving monkeys; don't ask me why monkeys are scary as I have no idea!) I think in his mind his solution was to make himself stay awake longer. Of course in my experience, when one has bad dreams, they are typically worsened if one is over tired. Which is pretty much what happened to him.
But all week he has made himself stay awake until 9 pm at which point I would take him upstairs to bed with me and sing him to sleep. I can't honestly go up sooner than that as I have to do my piece work stuff. Usually he falls asleep on the couch about 8 p.m. or so and I just carry him up when I am done, but all week he has come into the work room with his crayons and done art on the floor by my work area, assuring me he has "just one more picture to make." In the morning when I get up at 5:45 a.m. he has been popping up like a little spring ready to start the day. Now i need to explain that all my alarm does is literally make a soft click. It is set to play classical music but I am afraid of wakening the kids so I have the volume all the way off. So really there is no noise to wake KC or Lissa. And that means the only thing wakening KC is his fear of bad dreams if he is in the room alone. Sigh.
Tonite we talked about the bad dreams and the monkeys--do you know how hard it is to talk about monkeys being scary with a straight face???? And I assured him over and over that I would keep him safe always, even from monkeys. He fell asleep on the couch at 7 p.m. I hope it worked and his sleep is sweet and happy. I hate it when my kids don't sleep happy.
Rob had a lot of sleep issues for a really long time. His I understood as really scary things did happen to him in the dark and/or when he was sleeping. And he saw creepy R rated movies when he was 4 and 5 years old. He would waken in the night screaming literally. Or worse, be screaming and yet not awake. Later, he would sleep walk when stressed or over tired, which petrified me as our bedrooms are on the second floor. I had a door chime on his bedroom door for years. It would not waken him, but I would hear it and be out of my bed before he would get to the stairs. Thankfully, over the years this seems to have gotten a lot better. So I know KC's will also, especially as his fears are more developmentally appropriate and not the result of trauma. No R rated movies with killer monkeys have been on Channel 2's PBS playlist! :-)
Meanwhile, I am like a kid in a candy store with the house being quiet and the kids all abed at the same time. I saw a movie; a WHOLE movie. I finished watching the tv show I taped and saw in 10 minute increments all week. (I won't watch anything adult when the kids are up; I either have totally G stuff on or I just play music) And I had time to write a blog entry. Talk about living large! :-)
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
I am also celebrating because I don't have a headache today! Yippee for me! :-)
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
I started getting migraines when I was about 19. Didn't really know why and they became a familiar and unpleasant part of my life. To be sure, there are multiple triggers. Stress, illness, interupted sleep, missing a meal can all contribute. But the sneaky one that does me in the most is the dairy. I found out in my 20's that many adults who had a dairy allergy as a child manifest this allergy in the form of migraines as an adult.
I actually eliminated all dairy from my diet for a few months and saw amazing results. One would think that this would make an intelligent human being keep it that way. But no, one forgets the pain. One has a scoop of ice cream and nothing happens. So one gets careless. Or foolhardy. Or something. And then there I am. With a pattern of having a scoop of ice cream nightly and a pattern of having a migraine every 4 to 6 weeks. Usually they only last a day or two . Two being average. lately they have been more of the 3 and 4 day variety which leads me to decide that I really have to kick the ice cream habit. Today the headache is a little better, but after a bad one it sort of has residual pain. Not really the migraine, just the after shocks as it were.
I suppose too, that if I would take heavy duty drugs like Imitrex and similar ones that I could perhaps get medical relief more quickly and easily. But they also have really substantial warnings about the potential for cardiac issues and heart disease runs strongly on both sides of my family. Hmmm, risk a heart attack to get rid of pain? Nope. So I take aspirin and tough it out. When it gets real bad I bump up to the big leagues and pop an excedrin. It doesn't stop the pain but I can usually continue to function with it. With 4 kids and a job and a half, I need to function. Most importantly my kids need to see me function. They tend to freak if they think I am not. Freaking is not good. :-)
I will say that when I reflect on the whole pathetic icy mess I have gotten myself into it makes me more sensitive to people with other food issues or substance issues. In most regards I am the very soul of moderation. When I decided to quit smoking there was no back sliding. I just quit. From a pack a day to zero in one smooth step. Now admittedly I could not afford both food AND cigarettes (being a struggling college student at the time) but I still did it. I don't drink to excess. I am a vegetarian and really LIKE vegetables! By and large overeating has never been an issue for me. I have worn the same pair of shorts for 21 years. Really. There is a pic of me in the shorts at my niece's first birthday and she is going to be 23 this summer. I still have the shorts; they still fit and I still love them. But like many people I am flawed enough that i keep going back to something that clearly has a negative impact on my overall well being. The temporary enjoyment of that scoop of icecream can make me feel ill for days. Kind of stupid really.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
When we got home Kirsty met us at the door looking quite shaken. Apparently all with the stove was not as it had seemed at first glance to her. The smoky smell had persisted and she had investigated further. Apparently the impeller gizmo had jammed and pellets were burning inside the hopper of the stove as opposed to in the fire box where they are supposed to. She had unloaded the pellets (which was wise as you are removing the flamable material, but also risky as there is a chance of quick combustion if air hits it just right in the offloading process) Luckily for us she got the pellets out and all extinguished and there was no combustion. There is a nasty ash smell to the house; I have vinegar around to try and sop up that smell. It has to be pretty strong if I can smell it because I am not known for having a good sense of smell.
We will call the company that services the pellet stove tomorrow and hope for a quick and easy fix. Our house is very hard to heat without the assistance of the pellet stove and it looks like more cold weather headed our way. But I am very grateful that I arrived home to my family safe and well and my house standing. It could have been a lot worse.