Friday, December 31, 2010

Ringing in the New Year!

New Years was Brazilian this year.  Brazil narrowly beat out Russia, for those who are curious! LOL  We did some research, and our meal was pretty delicious.  We did Brazilian bean croquettes which were so good we will definately make them again--Brazilian rice which was only so-so, and Brazilian sweet muffins for dessert. That recipe is a keeper too!  We finished reading our memories of the year.  We did our trivia game and had a blast.  (I tend to do a lot of true false type questions and do the how many think true vs false which evens out the odds of getting something correct for the littles.

The bottom picture is the paper boats with white flowers that we "set sail" with our wishes for the new year.  Brazilian legend has it that if the boats sink our wishes will come true.  Small people keep anxiously checking the boats to see if they need to be helped along to the watery deep.

No New Years celebration is complete without fireworks, right?  So we save up our bubble wrap and the kids jump on it wildly (heavy emphasis on WILDLY) making lots of fire work type noises.

Happy New  Year everyone!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Preparing for New Years Eve

I was unexpectedly lucky and got out of work early today. This meant that the kids and I could go to the library mid afternoon instead of after supper which was a huge boon.  They are less able to handle such  things in the evenings. Or maybe I am. LOL  Playing Wii Fit in the evenings lately has been what we do for an hour or so after supper.  It gives them enough energy burn and we can swap around between the games easily enough that there is something everyone is good at.  Well, except me.

But I didn't really plan to write about my lack of prowess with the Wii.  Rather it was my lack of prowess with paper.  As in the folding of paper.  See we are "travelling" to Brazil this year for New Years Eve. We will be feasting on Bean Croquettes served on buns, Brazilian style rice, and having Brazilian spiced muffins for dessert.  We will play Brazilian music on the computer. I am counting on pandora or slacker to help me out there.  I have a lot of latin music of my own but really nothing Brazilian.

We will play a trivia game that will hopefully teach the kids some fun facts about Brazil.  I will leave 3 easy to read books in the living room during the day and if they avail themselves of them, they will have an edge. LOL 

But there is a custom in Brazil of placing  white flowers in a boat and setting it out to sea. If the boat sinks your wishes will come true.  I have a truly gigantic punch bowl that was my grandmothers.  My thought is to fill it with water, tint it pale blue green with food coloring and float small paper boats in it. I can get some white daisies at the grocery store tomorrow to put in the boats. 

So in my mind, I see this little paper boat.  I google how to make a paper boat.  And I get a 31 step instruction from a university in TX.  Yup, a university had info on this.  Except that this is one area where I have always been weak.  Well, inept is probably a more honest assessment. So I have thus far a bunch of smushed papers and no boats.

I am going to ask Robbie tomorrow morning!  Somehow or other, there WILL be a paper boat.  Hopefully one for all of us but I'll settle for one communal boat to sink with our dreams for the new year.

The Santa Key

This Christmas Eve Santa rather zealously threw the magic key that opens our front door on the front porch during his leave taking.  LOL  Well very cold temps and ceramic hitting the porch had their inevitable result.  Santa left a note explaining he had used all the magic up in the key (we don't have a chimney) and would send a new key.

Said key is on the way.  I found an Etsy shop who makes keys that are, incidently NOT ceramic!  When I ordered it I wrote the saga of why we needed the key and explained that it would really help if instead of her return address she would put that it was from the North Pole.  Not only did she amazingly agree to do that but she went and bought Christmas stamps for the mailing instead of the usual metered mailing that her Etsy store does.  I love Etsy shops anyway, there are so many creative people out there!  And I especially love Lori of MellowMermaid!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Kids Say the Oddest Things!

This was KC and Lissa's conversation while I made dinner tonight:

KC:  I'll be the puppy and you be the kitty.

Lissa:  (moany sound)  KC. . .

KC  C'mon Lissa

Lissa:  (suddenly happy voiced)  Oh, cuz your nose looks like a puppy's right? 

KC  Yup, and yours looks like a kitty.

Except they didn't have masks on while they had this little discourse.  Hours later I am still chuckling. But we have all determined that I am very easily amused!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Remembering 2010

Saying goodbye to 2010.  Doesn't seem possible really that the year has flown by as rapidly as it has.  But here we are, planning our New Years Eve festivities and looking back nightly on the "events" of 2010.  All during the year we have a pocket hanging on the wall where we write notes of things we want to remember.  Some are simple. The fact that our hydrangea had a spectacular season for the first time ever. Some mark kid milestones, like the kids starting an activity or taking initiative in something in a new way.  Some are football scores of Rob's favorite teams. (giggle)  Tonight I took out the slips of paper and there were 63 of them.  So we have decided to read some each night through New Years Eve.  K is at work tonight and Lissa can't read, but everyone else took a few and we read them.  Suddenly the Whale Watch was fresh in our mind, our evenings at the local tot park were warming us despite winters chill.  We remembered KC's home made summer carnival, and Rob's week at away camp.  The cold sub zero winds faded for awhile and by the light of our candles, we remembered.

Finding Family

I read a fairly diverse group of bloggers.  There are foster care and foster to adopt blogs that I read, because I have adopted through the foster care system. And because I think the system is broken I kind of "keep tabs" as I wonder how and what I could do to be an agent of change at some point in my life when the wee ones are less wee.  I read blogs that deal with kids with issues--disabilities, mental health issues--things that may not exactly mirror my situations with some of my kids, but have enough similarities to have a resonance in my spirit. I read blogs of adult adoptees, knowing that I need their wisdom as my children grow.  I read first mother blogs, knowing that I need to never forget all of my kid's family. I read several blogs of people who aged out of foster care--if you really want to know how broken that system is, I recommend reading a few of those.  We should be so ashamed as a country at what we allow to happen to kids in foster care.

 I read cooking blogs because I enjoy both the preparation and the consumption of good, healthy (vegetarian) food.  I read decorating blogs because I am all about decorating on the cheap.  I read about black hair care.  I read my artist friend's blog and my writer friend's blog and other friends blog.  I am nosy I guess.  LOL

Tonight I read that one of the adult adoptees whose blog I enjoy is now in dialogue with her natural father.  I am excited for her.  And it made me rather wistful and selfishly weepy at the same time. 

I have no relationship other than biology with my father. But it isn't one of those situations where he walked out of my life early.  He stayed there through age 18, making virtually every holiday and special moment memorable only in the ways he could find to mar it.  Then he divorced my mom and moved on to wife number two and her two children by her first husband. 

He kept in relationship with my sister  though.  In fact when wife number three passed away  recently and the memorial service took place in a far away state, he paid to have sis fly out and speak at the funeral.   If I had moved to some far flung part of the world, or wasn't on the internet, I could understand his lack of communication.  His lack of presence in my life.  But I live in the house I grew up in.  I am on the net.  My sister is my FB friend as well as our father.  So he could contact me if he wanted to. 

But he won't.  Because I was never quite good enough.   I think maybe the reason I read some of those adoption blogs is because I do feel some of the same issues of abandonment--though then I feel guilty because I wasn't in foster care.  I didn't ever have to worry about my physical safety or where my next meal was coming from.  But feeling loved?  Feeling connected?  That lack can happen even in a birth family and it is still so painful. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Blog Tinkering

I have actually had time to tinker a bit with the layout of my blog. This is something I almost never do.  Partly as I am such a dunce with computer stuff I worry I'll accidently screw it up so badly that I can't fix it.  Partly cause i don't usually have unprogrammed time.  Today, having a bit of free time and an excess of technology courage, I changed things up a bit.  I listed a blog roll of the blogs i customarily read.  I hope no one minds being listed.  After I did this, I wondered if I am supposed to get permission from the blog authors?  Some parts of the new internet etiquette I am still unsure. So if you read my blog and I read your blog and you don't want to be on the blog roll, let me know and I'll take you off. 

Then I deleted my A to Z book list for 2010.  Because in all reality, 2010 is drawing to a close really fast and since I only managed 15 books and no where close to one for each letter of the alphabet, it was just too sad to leave it up! LOL  Though despite the fact I did not meet the challenge fully, I think I read more for pleasure this year as a result of taking on the challenge.  I worked really hard at taking 30 minutes for myself most nights to just read. Not always a book, sometimes just Down East magazine or Natural Geographic magazine, both of which I love.  And I think that this habit will go forward with me into 2011.  My goal will be to improve on it.  I wonder what else the new year will bring?

Family Time

It has been a good day.  We got the snow but accumulations were not anywhere near what was predicted.  Which probably means that some day when they tell us we are going to get a dusting that we will get buried.  Meteorology is still more art than science, if you want my opinon. 

The older boys shovelled out our driveway and our elderly neighbors.  I was impressed as they just went next door and did his drive without asking me and without asking him.  E. is a sweet fellow and his wife needs constant care so although he has some power equipment it is extremely hard for him to do his snow removal.

While the boys did their work, the littles and I worked inside in our living room.  Last  year after Christmas I was overwhelmed with the MESS. The aftermath of toys and games hither and yon.  It was awful.  Not that I spend beaucoup bucks on Christmas.  It was more about the fact that there just wasn't a decent storage system in place.  I spent a whole day last  year post Yule helping the kids sort their toys so that like went with like and things were stored in a way that made sense. Then when we finished last  year, we took pics with the digital camera so that there was a visual cue on each cubby or bin as to what belonged there.

 Over the course of the year, things have degraded a bit and it wasn't as pristine as it was at the start of the year.  But it still wasn't bad.  It took only about an hour or so to review the old toys and see what was broken, or outgrown, and incorporate the new toys in.  We had to change up a few bins.  Legos now needed more bins than before for instance.  Games took a bigger section as well,but all in all it was done quickly.  Even more impressive, KC suggested doing this.  Last year you would have thought I was killing them. This year, the lack of order was bothering him.  Huge folks!

After we finished the littles and I went outside to play in the snow for awhile.  I have today and tomorrow off from work so we are maximizing our family time together.  We spent time playing Wii fit together this afternoon and KC and I listened to his ipod together while we waited our turns.  It has been so much fun.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The joy of FB and teens

Facebook is a funny thing.  I really only started it to connect with far flung family.  Initially, truthfully it kind of creeped me out.  And then there was the "this is so stupid" stage when I would read that someone bought planters for their new back deck, or little Johnny so and so just learned toilet training and I would think--um, TMI??  But I sort of hung in there because this really was the only way I came up with for staying in touch with Robbie's first family. They do not live near us and a number of them move frequently enough that other manners of communication often fall through. Phone numbers and addresses change and they forget to let us know.  Through FB I was able to reconnect Rob with a number of cousins and two siblings, some aunts etc.  But I am also a worry wort parent so when I set Rob up with his FB page I asked that he friend me so that I could see what was said.  Obviously I don't see any instant message stuff, but I somehow manage to be in the room often enough to make sure that conversations are safe. Emotionally and physically safe is all I care about. 

But what I have found is that FB also gives Rob this venue for sharing a very dry, droll sense of humor.  For instance, when I told him that I noticed he listed Mandarin Chinese as one of his languages on his profile, he flashed a grin and said "Ni Hao Kao-Lin"  (kids PBS show that KC and Lissa occasionally watch.)  It cracked me up. 

Yesterday I put up a status about how wii fit thinks I am 72 years old.  Needless to say being only physically 51 and maturity wise being about 26 I was maximally offended.  So offended that I mis-spelled a simple word in the status.  Something Rob does all the time and as his homeschool teacher I am always extolling him to check his work before he turns it in to me.  His response on my FB page was one word:  "proof read."  I laughed for about 5 minutes over that.  I admit I am easily amused, but this quiet boy has such a wit and FB gives him a venue to show it without nervousness.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Rob was in charge of choosing the best pet gifts for dog, cat, fish and my mom's cat.  Rob is kind of an "animal whisperer."  I have honestly never seen an animal that didn't seem to gravitate to him.  There is a quietness to him and a gentleness that animals really appreciate.  As you can tell from the first picture, he scored a home run with Maui's new scratching post.  The second post was Blake stretching and relaxing after playing with his new Kong toy--a Wubba which is essentially a kong covered in a rough fabric with tails so the dog can shake it and render any people in the vicinity unconcious!  LOL

It has been a beautiful day. The kids all enjoyed their gifts greatly.  Lissa woke up at 4 but did go back to sleep when I told her it was still  night.  KC woke up at 5:30 and he and I and Lissa were awake since then. We listened to holiday music on a classical station on my bedroom radio till about 6 when I said they could wake up K.  We opened stockings and the cinnamon buns that I made the dough for yesterday cooked while we did that. Then we ate a bit and then started in on the gifts under the tree.

Merry Christmas everyone.  I am off to spend time with my greatest gift, my family

Friday, December 24, 2010

Stockings hung. . . drama done

The kids are almost all abed (Rob will be on his way in awhile) and we have made it through the anticipatory day without too much drama.  Chet accidently broke KC's favorite glass this morning.  It is just an older juice glass but it was the first "real" glass he was ever allowed to use.  Chet was being wild with his hands and "the glass just exploded."  Um, probaly not but that was his sincere take on the situation.

The kids helped me bring groceries to D. who had just finished up a medical treatment.  I am feeling my way along figuring out what he likes to eat.  I think it has been awhile since he felt well enough to buy decent groceries.  He says he eats anything, which is likely true but it helps if you like it. Also his groceries entail buying meat and since I don't know much about meat having not bought any in so many years, I wind up corralling people at the grocery store for hints and tips. I need to keep this frugal for him but healthy and interesting.  Today I brought him sliced turkey breast in broth which was pre-cooked in case he was feeling weak and chicken tenders that look like enough for several meals but will need cooking.  Also a rice side dish in with some of the other staples, causing him to exclaim as to how much he enjoys rice.  That will be easy for me to remember, rice is a big staple in my house. 

We also went to the pet store and bought gifts for the fish (LOL) the cat and the dog.  I helped the littles make their gift for Robbie and this all took up most of the day.  Oh and I had them help me make the cinnamon bun dough.  This is now cold rising over night in my pantry.  However our house is so cold I may just leave it on the counter before I go to bed.

I have a lot of negative memories surrounding holidays from my child hood.  I have good ones too but typically my father always caused some type of heartache. It was always the time he chose to nit-pick, to point out that no matter what you didn't meet his expectations.    I work hard to avoid those type of thing.  It is probably an area where my wife and I differ.  She came down on Rob tonite because he keeps forgetting the dog's water needs to be refilled.  I felt tonight wasn't the night.  So it was the adults with the drama.  Sigh.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fiona's party

Joy.  I have about 50 really decent pictures but there is such unabashed joy in this picture that it perhaps best sums up our visit. (also in some of them you can see her real name on the cake so I wouldn't put those up anyhow!)  We had a great visit.  She had two friends who came to the party and who also had lunch with us.  I always worry over if she will like what I choose for her. In some ways her divergent interests and abilities are even more wide than with Chet. For instance she desperately wanted a robot dog.  A stuffed dog that was battery operated.  KC and Lissa got her that and she was absolutely just as thrilled over that as the Usher CD she is holding in this picture.

But my joy is first in her happiness.  My daughter has not had a lot of happiness.  Today she had a day of it. I don't know that she won't decompensate all over the place tomorrow, or even Christmas day,but I have learned to just enjoy the beautiful moments and not worry so much about the inevitable problem ones.  They will come and we will deal.  We were not allowed to take the off campus walk so I suspect stuff has all ready happened but I didn't ask.  Jane is on vacation and she can fill me in if needed when she returns. 

My second joy is in the gifts my daughter gave.  She has not been one to give.  And I have understood. When she was close I would take her shopping for the kids and she would buy but never do anything for K or I.  This has been since she was 10.  She is 19 on Christmas Day.  Today she gave us both mother daughter necklaces.  I am wearing mine as I write this and I can't stop grinning.  It is the best Christmas gift ever.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Birthday Fiona!

Tomorrow my mini vaca begins and we start with a visit to Fiona.  Her birthday is Christmas Day. We are bringing a small party to her, birthday gifts and her Christmas gifts. I am thrilled that emotionally she is well enough for there to BE any of this.  Even when she was living close, we only managed it successfully 50 per cent of the time.  I encouraged her to invite a couple friends at school to the party.  The cake is home made and cute but simple.  She has diet restrictions so the fact that we make a home made one actually is healthier for her and will mean that with all of us there, there won't be leftovers to worry about.  There is a short supervised off site walk planned (her second off site of the 3 required before they will let her come to our house) There is a lunch planned.  There may be time in the art therapy studio.  Stuff is pretty much planned down to the minute by the staff and i understand that.  Fiona needs the highest amount of structure of any of my kids--though all of them are careening off to Crazy Land in some way, shape or form at the moment! LOL

The kids are excited about the visit, though ironically they are annoyed that we are driving in because they are used to doing the train thing with me.  But because this is a weekday visit, K is free too and is coming with us.  Lissa got a felt stocking kit from Rob for her birthday.  It was kind of her first 'big girl' craft kit as you lace the stocking up with yarn and then glue felt decorations on the front.  I thought she would want to hang the finished work on her door or something.  She did an awesome job on it too.  I was amazed at how facile she was with the lacing.  But the thing that touched my heart was that she wanted to bring it to the Great School in the Big City tomorrow because she is sad that her sister has to have Christmas in a place that isn't home.  I am too.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Blessed Solstice Night

We had a wonderful Solstice supper tonight.  The kids and I had bought three packs of glow sticks on one of our many visits to the big box party store. We got deep blue, yellow and red.  While I was at work they arranged them in vases and clear dishes down the center of the dining room table. The table is long so you have a lot of room to play with.  Our tree was on the table too, as well as regular candles and some battery operated tea lights. 

Our glow stick colors had meanings.  Blue to represent the deep quiet peace of winter, yellow for the return of the light and red for the light of love we carry within us. 

Supper is always in near dark, lit only by the lights we dress the table with.  There are two important jobs before we sit down. There is the person who brings the darkness by turning off the chandelier. And post meal, there is the light bringer, who turns them up gradually (we have a dimmer) till they are full strength.  This year, KC brought the dark and Lissa brought the light.

Afterwards the kids took all the glow sticks into the living room and placed them in containers they made from toys as "lanterns" and pretended they were camping.  Well the light will return bit by bit; camping can't be too far away!


My job site has been for sale for 8 years at least and maybe longer.  I remember when I first found out about this. I was so scared, so nervous. As time went by and nothing happened, other than periodic updating of information for the still interested prospective buyers, I began to relax.  I can't live hyper vigilent all the time.  That is asking for a migraine to move in and just unpack its suitcases and stay forever.  So I worked on not stressing about it. The non profit agency that holds my workplaces mortgage was hostile to the idea of the sale and that was the big hold up. Then the crash in 01 held it up.  Then the recession. 

Except that it now looks by the end of the year I will hopefully still be working here but working for a new company.  I am looking at this when I am all rational and calm, like a great new opportunity. there will be new things to learn.  New skills to acquire as my job will be the same in some ways and different in others.  Also this will mean that I am once again working for a company who is actively expanding, as opposed to my present situation where the owners are looking at divesting and retiring.

And in the moments when I am NOT calm and rational I am spinning in my head.  I am sort of an anomaly in some ways.  Although I have worked multiple part time jobs in my life, this job was my first full time job. I started here when I was 19.  I am 51.  Do the math!  Nowadays most people have changed jobs 2 or 3 times minimum in that period of time.  And change, even good change, even potentially great change, is scary.  My entire benefits package will change. I have had the same health insurance since 1979.  That too will change.  We have a meeting today to explain benefits.  I have my retirement investments to figure out about.  I worry that I won't learn fast enough or that I will be readily replaced by someone who can be paid at an entry level rate.

So I am working on breathing deeply, working out in the mornings before work, and focussing on the season and my family.  It's all I can do really.  But if I feel this was as a relatively stable adult, it sure gives perspective to why Fiona who has had so many placements and so little control in her life, feels and acts the way she does.  How could she not?

Monday, December 20, 2010

A tree Lissa won't knock over!

Actually, she will eat it instead! LOL  This was one of our craft things that I came up with tonight to help the kids pass time.  This is easy peasy, so in case any of you are looking for a quick craft or centerpiece for a kid table, here you go!  Best of all for me, this stuff was all lying around our house.

The tree structure is one of those foam cones.  I covered it with old wrinkled tissue paper that was too wrinkly to wrap a present in and too yucky for a gift bag. (which would beg the question why I still HAVE it! But you see, wrinkles are fine for crafts and mosaics and making stuff for our windows!)  Then I took a bunch of left over Halloween candy (our neighbor gave our kids an entire bag of Charms lollipops)  There was about 1/2 a bag still left.  The kids and i just jammed those in randomly.  I didn't really have enough lollipops to make them fill the entire tree so I just left spaces, like they were ornaments.  Then we stuck little foam shapes for the rest and voila, instant centerpiece for our solstice table tomorrow! (well that and something yet to be determined that will use 3 bags of glowsticks!) LOL

Crash. . . OH Christmas tree!

In days gone by we have gated our Christmas tree, keeping it safe from dog, from cat, from, well, the children.  This year, with our youngest being a newly minted 4, we figured we were good to go.  Well folks, it went all right.  Rob and I had just cracked open his algebra book this morning when there was a ginormous crash in the living room.  Lissa had apparently squirmed behind the tree and in the course of her "tree explorations" aka tree-mauling, she had torqued the base snapping off one of the supports.  Needless to say this caused the whole kit and kaboodle to crash down.  No ornaments were irreparably broken, Lissa was fine, and likely the base had a hairline crack as I think even my daughters prodigious strength should not have done that.

She was upset, and Lissa's default when she is upset is extreme anger.  She stomped upstairs and when Kirsty went by her room to get our old tree (the small one pictured above) Lissa got up and slammed her door with enough force to rock the house.  Truly.  The force of her rage concerns me.  That is something we are working a lot on.  I know that the cause was really that she was frightened and angry at herself, but I don't want her hurthing herself or anyone else because she goes off in a tear.

So we skipped algebra today (gasp) And I spent some time cuddling her and talking about how we all make mistakes and what we did was tried to make it better when we mess up.  She came downstairs and we got all the ornaments off the tree (which Rob was stuck holding up to prevent more damage!) before I left for work.

So this is the famous Yule tree, take 2 as they say in the movie biz!  We will look for a bigger tree in the after holiday sales as this one really is tiny. But it is filled with an abundance of decorating joy and zeal!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

O Christmas Tree!

 Yule tree 2010 has been decorated and adorned.  It is amazing that it can stand for the weight of the 5,289 ornaments that adorn it! LOl  Above, K took this picture of us under the tree post decorating.
And then KC took this picture of us.  He is quite the photographer.  And in an interesting side note, this Sunday Chet got up in church at joys and sorrows.  He first commented on a close friend who was in church after a lengthy absence due to illness. It was very sweet.  Then, the man who never really helps set up the tree, announced to the church that we had brought our tree down from the attic and that he was excited because there would be "a bit of decorating" going on at our house this afternoon.  He really doesn't help with decorating. He puts on a couple ornaments but it seems to overwhelm him and he always voluntarily retreats and then comes back for the picture.  But truly, I guess the moral of the story is, we really don't know what memories we are making and we need to trust that even in the hardest of times, there are some good ones being made.

Sensory Overload Sunday

Like other families with non NT kids, the holidays are not just a source of joy but also of stress.  I know that the week before Christmas is always especially so in our house.  I have had 23 years to get used to that.  Chet is on his way to ramped up now.  I start to see the little signs.  He starts being a lot less aware of his body and I have to watch out to make sure people and belongings are not bowled over when he comes through a room.  He begins to repeat quotes from books or movies more frequently, always a sign that he is getting overwhelmed.  And yesterday he came down for lunch telling me that people should see a doctor for a checkup 20 to 30 times a year because of all the toxins in the world.  Fixating on medical issues is a recurrent perserveration for him. I think in party this is also why it is important to him to do his shopping very early.  At some level he knows that he doesn't hold together all that well as we get closer to the holiday.

Fiona has issues at this time of year.  I always worry that hers will result in more  holds, or worse yet, harm to herself or someone else.  She has said that the reason she often bolts when angry is because she is afraid of hurting someone.  When a feeling is so big that you have to run away from it, I am not sure what you can safely substitute to help her stay safe and others around her.  I know they are trying to teach her to run to a safe space but it isn't working well or consistantly. 

Lissa is bouncing off the walls so much that her gymnastics coach asked her if she had too much sugar on Thursday. (um, the answer was she had consumed none!)  I am not sure that any of her behaviors individually would be considered unusual for a child at the holidays but combined together they are all over the top in intensity.  However, it is also hard to have your birthday close to the holidays, it is a double excitement whammy.

Rob's issues around the holidays come more from the loss that is also present.  He becomes a lot quieter and I have to work extra hard to draw him out.  Projects and arts and crafts are very cathartic for him though and work well.

Yet, despite that laundry list, there is joy.  The kids have made gifts, done art projects, looked at holiday lights, decorated cookies and today the tree gets decorated.  One of the things that I learned parenting Chet was that you can't stop having fun and making memories.  You have to do it differently sometimes.  And sometimes you have to give breaks (to them or to us parents) but listening to them talk I know that we make the holidays fun and that they will carry that forward through their own lives.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Nearing Solstice Night

I probably talk less about my faith practice than anything else.  I am not sure quite why that is, except that I know paganism is so highly misunderstood.  I don't want trolls slamming my blog so I rarely speak of it.  But my belief system is central to my life which makes it also sort of stupid that I don't speak more about it.

In our household paganism folds nicely into the Unitarian Universalist faith that I was raised in.  And our church has a large group of active, practicing pagans.  Tomorrow will be a solstice service at 9 a.m. and I am looking forward to it.  Solstice night on the 21st is also a special night at our house.  We embrace the darkness of the longest night of the year, and enjoy "calling back" the sun.  We eat in near darkness, with only candles (and since I have recently found the joy of battery operated tea lights I'll be doing I think bigger masses of candles this year!) I am by nature a creature of sun, light and heat.  They are just part of what makes me, me.  But I take this night to stop and appreciate all that the darkness does.  The rest, the restoring, the enfolding of seeds deep below the earth that will spring forth in the right time.  Blessed be!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

And Then she was 4!!!! Part 2

Lissa's snow princess birthday was an unqualified success.  KC woke me at 4:30 this morning.  "Ooma, it is Lissa's special day. It is finally here."  Mind you LISSA was asleep. LOL  I told him to go back to sleep and mercifully he did.  But in all seriousness I am glad that all the kids enjoy the experience of giving one another good memories and good times.

The princess adored the treasure box KC made her, the craft kit Rob got her and the Tinkerbelle stuff that Chet got her (and that KC covets LOL)  She also got the sweetest pink holiday dress from Nana.  She is going to wear that a lot. I don't believe in saving pretty things for special occasions. Kids tend to grow out of them before they get a chance to really enjoy them.  So she will wear it on regular days and some special ones too.

The cake came out amazingly well.  It had the 3 princesses on the top and the spun sugar snow flakes and the jewels all along the sides.  The fact that you could eat the snowflakes and the gems was a source of great marvel and amazement.

There were only a small amount of tears after the party.  We have a rule that the first day someone has a new toy they can use it just themselves for as long as they want.  After that, sharing is required if it is an age appropriate toy for the other party.  Thus when Lissa was not asked to share Tinkerbelle and her fairy cottage with KC he was very sad.  It was one of those sort of funny moments but I felt bad for him as well because he felt he had done so much to make Lissa's day special and she would not let him near Tink (and he had really been amazing from making her bed for her, to decorating he was all about it being her day--till Tinkerbelle came on the scene!).  He cuddled a bit, and I had him choose a music CD to play in the kitchen boom box and then he got to add some decorations to the Yule tree in the mural. That was so much fun for him that good humor was restored for all.

I still can't wrap my mind around the fact that Lissa is 4 though!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

And Then She was 4!

Tomorrow my baby is 4!  Well she has not been a "baby" for a while, especially in her own eyes.  In fact, it is about the worst insult her brothers can say to her, and boy does she let them know it!  This has been a transformative year for Lissa.  I have seen so much growth and change it is hard to organize my thoughts and make it a cohesive read.

This year she made that big shift from parallel playing to playing with other children.  Her play became more imaginative. She has recently decided that she wants to be a pet doctor (she can't say veternarian so that is what she calls it) and she wears a Dr outfit and uses the toy doctor kit on her dolls and stuffed animals with great care.  A year ago she was beheading Barbie to my constrenation and KC's great distress LOL  Now she combs her babies hair and wants them to have pony tails like she does.

Her gross motor skills have always been excellent and gymnastics is helping her to develop more control. She has such strength but also that fearless abandon to experiences that both thrills and terrifies me as a parent. She has the best smile and we see it more and more.  I think this is because Lissa is truly an independent sprite. She wants to do for herself, companionably with someone else perhaps, but doing for herself.  All that waiting till she actually could was not fun for her.  Now she can do a lot of her own dressing, take care of most of her own toilet needs, wash herself in the shower etc.  She is just happy to do this. 

Being a lover of literature and believing ardently that books hold the key to all that is right and good (smile) you can imagine my worries when she seemed slow to learn her letters.  We spent this year figuring out the learning style that would help her accomplish this.  She has with 95 per cent accuracy--there are 3 letters that are always still on the iffy side.  But I am happy with the major improvement and with the fact that she simultaneously began to notice that certain words started with specific letters.  And today, the last day of her third year, she wrote her name.  Just decided to write it on the white board while I was getting ready for work and then called me in to see.

She is a very active, very physical girl.  Sitting still is not her style, so I was worried when she started her church school class this year.  But she does really well and is so proud of finally being in the class, that I think she is really working on making sure that she is doing things in the style of the classroom.

I remember holding her for the first time and staring into those enormous dark brown eyes. Such a tiny wee mite, and tomorrow a confident 4 year old ready to have her Snow Princess party.  Pictures will surely be posted!

Fiona and Birthday Prep

Last night was unexpectedly hectic.  Kirsty had agreed to go back to the place we work and hem a dress for one of the teen girls who will sing today in her school's holiday chorus.  Lots of people (me included!) can't sew nowadays so her seamstress abilities are often utilized.

Fiona was not supposed to call till today so I had planned to take the troops to the local party store after supper and get the paper supplies for Lissa's birthday party which is tomorrow.  We took the store by storm as usual.  My kids adore going there.  We found princess themed plates and napkins, a pink tablecloth, lavender treat bags, a unicorn pinata and stuff to fill it.  Pastel colored balloons and giant shiny silver doilies to use as placemats rounded out the purchases.  Oh, but I forgot we also got a tiara for the princess and party hats for the rest of us. 

Came home and as I walked in the door the phone was ringing and it was Fiona.  Although Jane was not there and we had rescheduled the call, staff were confused and had been trying to call us while we were out.  It was a good call with Fi, but I felt terrible. I am always here when she calls.  I am diligent about this because to Fiona anything that looks like you didn't follow through is a huge breach of her trust.  So I hope there is no fall out later.  Sometimes it happens after and not during, so I have my fingers crossed here.

On the plus side, her last gift arrived yesterday too.  I have been stressing because she wanted a Hannah Montana lamp and they are hard to find.  They were sold out locally and even at the usual sites I go to on line.  Additionally I needed to make sure that the shade and body of the lamp were not glass as that is a school requirement.  It came yesterday and looks cute and meets all the criteria.  I wrapped that last night and except for helping the kids get their gifts wrapped, we are all set for next weeks visit.

Today Kirsty is going to make Lissa's cake.  It has to be sculpted to look (hopefully) like a snowy hill so we thought we would start a day ahead. Clearly my kids watch too much Cake Boss and Food network. I never thought of stuff like this when I was 4  LOL

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Helping Out

I have a resident where I work who is suddenly quite seriously ill.  He has lived at the apartment complex for a long time.  With no family close by and active in his life, somehow the office staff, and more specifically, me, became more than a landlord.  He would stop up daily with a joke, to tell me some odd fact, or to just comment on the weather.  He always made sure that others were not around. I suspect he is either rather shy or has a form of social anxiety. He confided to another staff that he thinks of me like his mother.  Which is sweet and at the same time funny in a way as there are not too many years difference in our ages.  But I do sort of treat him the way I treat my eldest as behaviorally he and Chet have much in common.

I didn't know that he had become ill.  Our building had suddenly become used by people who he did not know and I thought that he was just avoiding a visit because of the presence of strangers.  Instead he was hospitalized and I didn't know. 

He is out of the hospital  now and I have been searching for a way to let him know that I am willing to help with some "daily living" tasks that I know he is not up to.  Shopping for instance.  When you don't have a car, the options are the bus or the feet.  He always chose feet, but now his strength is not what it was and it is medically unwise to be out and walking in the cold wintry weather.  But like many people who live in the margins, his phone number changes or is disconnected frequently.  So I had no way to get ahold of him.  I didn't want to just show up at his door and offer.  Despite the fact that he would come to see me, there is a difference to people when you show up in their space.  I kept hoping he would make contact.  Today he did.

He was on his way to treatment but stopped in when he saw the office was quiet to say hello.  So I told him that I shop every single Saturday morning and that I would be happy to pick up anything he needs at the market.  The store I go to is the lowest priced one in town. It would save him a significant amount of money.  To my great relief, he accepted the offer and I was able to get him to tell me a few things he needed. He has been shopping at a local convenience store (a 7-11 type place) because that was as far as he could walk.Aside from having dubious nutritional options he probably is paying 3x what the cost of the same item is in the regular store.

I don't know that he will recover from this illness, but at least there will be healthy food in his cupboards.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wrap-A-Thon 2010 begins tonite

I do most of my holiday shopping in July.  I have a little more money then and since I shop for 5 kids and my wife and a few extended family members, I need to plan ahead. I am the anal type. I have a spread sheet detailing who gets what.  Not because I am OCD but because if you buy something in July it is pretty darn hard to remember who it is for come December.  My biggest problem is hiding the stuff.  It always looks like a gargantuan amount of gifts. In reality it is 5 gifts per kid which isn't really extravagent, it is just there is a lot of us. 

Tonight Kirsty took the kids out to look at holiday lights and I unearthed their various gifts from the nooks and crannies of my bedroom while they were gone.  Brought them downstairs to the new hiding place/holding station and tonight I will begin to wrap.

Lissa still can't read so I think I will still go for the color coded system that I have used the past few years.  Santa leaves a note that says what color each child's wrapping paper is and they then don't accidently open someone elses.  Any family gifts are specially designated and placed to the back of the tree.

I got my check from my consignment store sales today so I will buy stocking stuffers this weekend and I will take care of those later.  Those are easy as I twist the things into colored tissue paper and rarely even use tape.

Let the wrapping begin!!  LOL

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Plea for Help and Ideas

The internet makes the world simultaneously larger and smaller.  I have "met" more people than I ever thought I would, thanks to the net.  Folks whose blogs I read. Folks who for some strange reason read mine. LOL  It makes the world bigger too, because daily my "knowledge" is enhanced, challenged and expanded on by the shared wisdom of so many whose lives might never touch mine without high tech.

Thus, 3 yrs ago I would not have known of this blog or have begun to grow a friendship with its author.  But I have.  I have consistantly read her blog because I am worried about foster care, and most specifically, the lives of kids after they age out of foster care.  I see in my real life day to day work, that "family" and "parenting" doesn't end at the age of majority.  It is that silvery thin safety net where we can call home when we are scared.  When we want to bounce an idea off someone we trust.  When we need a place to go.

Past/future's author is a wonderful, creative woman who is a former foster kid. She is also a lesbian.  She has been living in a relationship in TX.  Her lover has issued an ultimatum that she must leave immediately if not sooner.  That would be bad enough, but Past/Future does not drive due to a medical condition and has a large beloved dog that must travel with her to her new home.  She has a friend in Pennsylvania who is willing to let her stay there for a while and regroup.  The journey from TX to PA is the biggest hurdle.

Because one of the things I do know is that I don't know everything (LOL) I have secured her permission to share this information on my blog.  We hope that someone out there will have some good safe ideas on how to get her and Tank from TX to PA and a safe new beginning. She has been trying to find rides on her own and it is appalling that people want some really creepy "payment" for helping her with transport. (yes, I am talking about sexual favors)

I am Pollyanna of the blog world.  I believe that somehow we can find a way to help her get there safely, without jeopardizing her health, physical or mental.  Maybe I believe that because the alternative is so scary I can't wrap my mind around it and I don't know how she does.  So the floor is open---ideas?  Suggestions?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What I want to be when I grow up.

For a long time now--probably 2 yrs or more--KC will periodically ask me what I want to be when I grow up.  Usually this is a springboard for reflecting his ever growing, ever changing interests. (for the record, right now, Lissa wants to be a vet, KC wants to be a chef a la buddy of Cake Boss and Rob wants to play pro ball for the Patriots)  But anyway, I always thought it was cute that he asked ME the question.  I figure I look pretty grown up.  But maybe I don't act it.  LOL

I have answered with a litany of different things that interest me that I have never had time or funds to explore over the first 50 years of life.  Things like having a really big organic market garden, helping others learn how to read throug the literacy program, travelling, and hiking the Appalachian Trail end to end.

But recently I had been thinking more seriously about the question and tonight when he happened to ask, I had a different answer.  I would like to initiate a large scale program that would pair empty nesters and elders with foster kids who have aged out of the system with out a family support system.  Family can be defined in lots of different ways but I am thinking here of adults in that capacity.  So a former foster child who had re-established ties with siblings or cousins would still be my target population. 

The adults signing onto this program would be expected to act like the parents of young adult kids.  Offer the advice they don't want to hear on money management.  On relationships. On keeping a job, or how to look for a job.  I see trainings so that appropriate parenting and mentoring modellings are used so that even if the young adults don't take the advice, they don't feel denigrated and the relationship can still grow.  Because as long as we are in relationship there is always an open door for learning together.  I see the parent/mentors making sure birthdays don't go un-celebrated, that the invite is there for holidays, that if someone is sick there is a call to say hope you are feeling better.  I envision invites for movie nights that may be so corny the young adults snicker but will probably feel good about at the same time.  And stuff like that. LOL

So I had to try and explain my idea when KC asked at supper tonight.  He likes the idea.  He is horrified that some people don't have families.  So am I.

And the picture at the top has nothing to do with the post, but it is pretty.  Kirsty made a slew of these and they line our driveway!

Beary Christmas!

I think I remember reading in November that Blogher had a challenge to blog a post every day for a month.  I remember thinking that was funny.  The challenge would likely have to be in reverse for me for it to truly be a challenge.  I thought I would start posting some pics of our holiday decorations.  Our tree doesn't go up till next Sunday. But the house is highly decorated.  Waiting on the tree lets the kids have maximum play space in the living room as
long as possible.

This is "Beary Christmas Bear" all decked out on
our front porch.  The little sled he is in was a doll

sled my sister and I played with growing up.  He is wearing the ever popular candy cane headband sold in the finest stores and a scarf so that he doesn't chill when goes delivering his present. LOL

Today was busy and I have a migraine which is a less than wonderful combo.  I suspect part of this is my own stupidity. I have been taking an herb that seems to really be helping with the migraines.  Helped so well I got a wee bit slap happy and stopped taking it cause i was feeling so good.  I guess that shows me how easy it is for people with certain types of mental illness to feel the same way--that they feel so good they don't need the meds. Except in their case of course the result is far more serious usually than the migraine I have today.

We have done a ton of errands and our Saturday dance class and library run. Now after days of really frigid weather it is practically balmy out and the kids are outside playing.  Actually they play outside when it is frigid too.  Unless there are windchill warnings we have outdoor play every day. But it will be longer and more fun today with the temps higher.  The weird thing is that we woke to a bit of snow on the ground this a.m. and then the temps climbed and now it is all gone.  Super exciting for the kids though.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Ethnic Hair

I had a conversation yesterday with one of the residents where I work.  She is  a stylist and she was talking about how she might move from our large suburban city to a really big metro city. Her reason was that she specializes in ethnic hair and she does not feel it is easy to get a large clientele here. 

I was surprised as demographically we are pretty diverse.  But I also have lots of black friends who either do each others hair or do trek into a big city a few times each year to get something special done.  I said something about the fact that I didn't know she was trained in black hair and that I had met very few stylists who were so it seemed like she'd have a good potential market if she got the word out.  I was just ready to suggest that she consider tapping into adoptive family groups and foster care groups for potential clients, when she happily chirped. . .

"oh yeah, I know all about extensions, and relaxers."

Can you hear the brakes screeching in my mind???  LOL I am all about natural hair for my daughters.  Fiona's hair has been relaxed so much it will never recover and I have no control over that, but Lissa is another story.  I said something about really liking to keep their hair natural.

"oh," she answered, "well we could just do a texturizer then."

OK now the brakes have stopped screeching  in my mind and the train is chugging like h##l in the opposite direction.  I smiled and said I just wanted to learn how to do corn rows.  (I have learned so many things from you tube videos but this one thing just doesn't translate into my brain via video.  I think I will have to actually see a person in front of me do it in order to learn.)

In all reality, my tenant is a very nice person and probably very gifted in those arenas that she mentioned.  And there is a significant segment of the black community that WANT those services and I hope they find her so she can provide them.  But it does sadden me to realize that the natural hair experience is still not front and center as a healthy and attractive option to celebrate with our black daughters.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Progress on the Mural

 Every year we make a holiday mural. Well, we actually do this a bunch of times during the year as we have birthday ones and other "days of note" that have made the kids suggest a mural was needed.  But Yule was what began the murals in our lives.  The driving mural force is my wife who is clearly rather talented  at this type of thing.  But the cool thing is that the kids have things they can do to help bring the mural to life.  This year the kids are all going to be elves bringing presents to a tree.  The elves are faceless at this point because what we are going to do is print of pics of the kids faces and glue them on the mural.  Then we will take sticky felt and make the elves hats. The tallest elf will be Chet, the kneeling elf is going to be Lissa.  The two elves on the far side are KC and Robbie.
The other side of the mural is this faux fireplace with "you know who" going up the chimney.  The kids painted the bricks (they are pieces of construction paper that they spatter painted with black and gray)  K cuts them into bricks and fastens them.  KC painted the boots and I think he helped with the fur at the top of the boots as well.  The knobs on the mantel will eventually hold 4 construction paper stockings.  This is a clever little thing.  The far left knob is real. It is the dimmer switch for our dining room light. Every year, Kirsty's personal mission is finding a way to disguise it in the mural.  In previous years it has become Rudolph's nose or a snowflake. This year, she disguised it by painting more and they will all look like they are holding up the stockings.  She is so clever, my wife!  The mantel painting is going to change a little. The fat candle is going to morph into Lissa's birthday cake.  The kids didn't like the 3 wick pillar candle effect Kirsty was going for--maybe cause we have never had one?  Someone said they thought it looked like a cake so I suggested changing it to Lissa's birthday cake.

Tomorrow the kids are supposed to put glitter on the ornaments on the tree and some other gew gaws.  Maybe also make the stockings.  I love watching this unfold as much as I love looking at the finished product!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cookies Anyone?

 The Keebler elves have nothing on us at holiday time!  My wife made just shy of 50 dozen cookies today.  Yes.  You read that correctly!  About 12 dozen were sugar cookies.  After supper (which was take out due to the baking focus) we assembled the troops and began Operation Decoration.  Above, the troops are ready to begin work.
 The amount of sprinkles to be chosen from in our house is staggering.  Here they are perused carefully so that just the right selection can be made.
 A few of the finished tasty edible art.
And a close up for your enjoyment.  It was so much fun.  No one got super hyped or ramped up.  I put on a CD of instrumental holiday music and I think it kept the mood festive but calm.  This is important for Lissa as she has a hard time getting calm again if she gets super excited.  An hour or two before bedtime is not the time I want out of control excitement.  Also, the kids were careful in their decorating. There was no racing. They really took time to choose their sprinkles.  And they used them in some unusual ways.  Tombstones meant for Halloween made awesome buttons on the snow people.  They really looked like rocks or lumps of coal. I would never have thought of that.  Halloween sprinkles are for halloween, right?  Rob figured out some beautiful ways to make red striped effects with sprinkles on the candy cane shaped cookies.  Lissa decided white sprinkles on the trees looked like snow.  And would you believe 40 minutes got 12 dozen cookies decorated?  I had put a bath towel across the side of the island where we were decorating and it made clean up a snap.  I could just wrap up the spilled sprinkles in the towel and shake them into the sink and throw the towel in the wash.  No scrubbing and virtually nothing on the floor!

The other cookies you ask?  Well there are some old standards. Chocolate chip, reverse chocolate chip and peanut butter.  The first two we had made the dough a few weeks ago and frozen in dough balls which also sped things up considerably today.  My wife also felt more adventurous this year and was willing to try some new recipes.  This gladdened my little heart as while I like to have some familiar things and respect that need for tradition, I just really love trying new recipes. To that end we  tried a recipe for Mexican Wedding Cookies, a short bread cookie and Pioneer Woman's cherry cookies. 

We give cookies to lots of people obviously.  Some people really look forward to us showing up with their annual tin of cookies.  Our florist even gave us tins they didn't use one year, saying that would help ensure that they would keep getting cookies! LOL  Our mechanic looks forward as well as the local printer.  We give cookies to our neighbors, and the mailman. We have to give extra to the dentist because he hides them from his staff for his personal enjoyment. So he gets his own tin and there is another tin for the rest of the crew!  This year KC wants to send cookies to his art teacher and Lissa wants to bring some to her gymnastics coach. 

The year we brought Lissa home was the only year cookies didn't get out to anyone. They were all made but the call came unexpectedly  telling us to get to Chicago and we literally just packed and went.  Cookies were sad stale memories of their former selves when we got home nearly a week later.  People begged us to give them cookies at Valentines Day that year because they didn't get them at Yule!

I love giving a food gift. Well anything homemade really. As it is truly from the heart and giving from the heart is the most important part to me.  Our kids always get a home made gift from us at Christmas each  year. This  year they will be microwavable bedwarmers that I read about on someone's blog. (I wish I remember who as then I would link and credit.)

I also love the fact that the cookies are all getting delivered tomorrow. Because if they were not, I would likely be 5000 pounds come Christmas!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Free Time Angst

I don't do down time real well.  I have worked multiple jobs since I was in high school.   When I was in college I had 3 part time jobs and was a full time student and lived on my own.  I was raised with the simple succint motto:  busy is good.  And my parents meant productive busy. Not goofy busy, if you know what I mean.  Stacking wood was good busy.  Painting the house was good busy. That kind of thing.  For the past 11 or so years I have worked fulltime from 8 to 4 and at night from the kids bedtimes to 10:30ish at night, I have done piece work for our home side job. It used to be folding paper and in more recent years became putting combs in bags for stores.  Some one has to do it and I have been lucky enough to be paid to do it.  It is not high paying unless you are fast and if you do something that long you do get fast.  And it has the huge benefit of being a job I can jump up from if something or someone really needs me here. But since the day before Thanksgiving we have not had piece work.  None.  The first few nights were fun.  It was like a vacation. Especially when I was also off from my day job for the Thanksgiving break.  I caught up scrapbooks. I cleaned. I decorated. I read. I played even more with the kids.  I baked. I blogged. I facebooked more than I ever have in my life.

But it is December 7th and this "vacation" from my side job is getting old.  I do pretty much count on this money in our budget.  It allows my wife to not have to work fulltime outside the home.  And I have found that I clearly must have some bizarre form of ADD myself.  For instance, I can't watch TV when I don't work.  Literally.  I get bored.  Or tired.  Last night I only made till half time with Rob when we watched the Pats game.  He and I  watch a movie together every Friday night.  I LIKE that and I like the time I spend with my son. But I like my hands to be busy. Without the combs to bag, I find my attention wandering, my mind drifting off to other areas.  (admittedly that might be due to the fact that the plot lines get thin on some of those teen movies! LOL) But aside from a few hours of wrapping ahead of me, my holiday prep is done.   So, hey goddess, I am really really ready to do more work.  Are you listening?

Shamelessly Entering Another Contest!

OK I am sure I am pushing my cosmic luck since I have this year all ready won more things than I ever won in my whole life.  (for the record, that means I won a Dunkin Donuts gift card from Corey at Watching the Waters and I won a Nudred hair system from Keep Me Curly)  I realize that two winnings in a life time may not seem excessive to some but it sure rocked my world!  LOL

Now I read about another cool give away.  Happy Girl Hair has a contest to win a satin lined winter hat from Curly Zebra.  These are awesome winter hats which are satin lined to be gentle on our AA kids hair. Regular hats suck away the moisture their hair needs in order to stay healthy and to prevent breakage. (not to mention the fact that regular hats tend to destroy the styles we put in Lissa's hair) 

I get an entry into the contest for talking about it on my blog, but in reality I have this site bookmarked and if I don't win I know I am buying one anyway.  I put an entry in as much to publicize that this great product is out there, as to hope for winning for myself.  I know when I started the journey as a parent of black children it was kind of hard to find the right products and the best ways to help them look good and feel good about themselves.  The internet widens our world so much and now there are so many sources for good hair products, learning styles, and also of course, stylish winter hats for their beautiful hair.  If you have children of color, check out Curly Zebra.  They really look awesome!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Planning for busy

This week has  a fair number of appointments which we adults find exhausting but at least it gets the majority of them done really compactly.  Tomorrow Rob has his ocular pressure check.  I am always nervous about these.  We have been blessed to be able to control the glaucoma with only drops for many years now and I always worry at the back of my mind that something more invasive will eventually have to happen.  After his eye appointment, K is taking the gang into the Big City to the aquarium.  We bought a membership when we went this summer as it would allow multiple visits for our large family for less than the price of a day pass.  This is also a great carrot to hold out to KC and Lissa who are stuck sitting in the doctors office watching their brothers eyes dilate!

Wednesday, we have 3 dental cleanings, back to back.  Oddly enough my children adore going to the dentist.  I am really dentist phobic due to some hideous experiences in my youth.  I go, but never with a happy smile on my face and joy in my heart! My kids make pictures for the dentist, cookies for the dentist, can't wait to pick out their new toothbrush from the dentist.   Clearly I am being a good parent and requiring that they develop their own phobias and not take the lazy way out and piggy back on mine!  LOL

Rob had a great time at the hockey game last night.  He told me there were several "good fights"  with a big grin on his face.  He knows that is my beef with hockey; that violence is not just condoned but almost expected.  I don't mind that he went, and I understand the teen boy mindset, I just look at it differently and figure its good that 2 people who are positive influences in his life express divergent opinions.  (his godfather and myself)  He is of an age where he has to start making some choices on his own and I know that doing that is really stepping out of his comfort zone.  I wasn't like that; I was making my own choices from a very early age.  But he needs baby steps and I am all right with that.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Holly-Daze Happiness

There is so much that I love about Yule.  I love the music of the season.  I love decorating. I love home made.  In our house many of our decorations are home made.  Each  year I take left over tissue paper from our days spent folding paper as a side income, and craft it into some type of window art for our picture window.  I have done sledding scenes, elves, and carolers that I remember off the top of my head.  Over the years it became de rigeour to incorporate the kids faces onto the characters that I made out of tissue paper.  This year I went for something simple that came out really cool.  i took three shades of green tissue paper and cut out tons of holly leaves.  Then I found pictures of all the kids faces and cut them into circles and mounted those on red paper.  Instant "holly berries."  The best thing was I was able to make berries both on the inside of the window that faces us and outside so people coming up to the front door see it. Then I took some red paper that had sparkles of glitter and made that into a big "bow" for the wreath.  I love it, it looks so great.  It is festive but lets the light into the room, so important as we quickly approach the shortest day of the year.

Kirsty has been working with the kids on our dining room holiday mural.  It is going to be a fireplace with Santa's feet visible where he is coming down the chimney. Then there is a painted Christmas tree that the kids are going to make decorations for. Lastly she is going to make our kids into little "elves" bringing presents to the tree.

And today the littles made a gingerbread house from a kit I found at the supermarket.  They had a blast and couldn't wait to show me the finished look when I returned home from all the stuff that I had to do today.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Celebrating Saturday

It has been a busy day and I am exhausted.  Fun exhausted though. There is  a difference between Saturday tired and workday tired.  Saturday started typically, with an early trip to el mercado (my kids are enthralled with the spanish word for market lately!) Then we went to the post office to mail my cards. Then it was over to the bank to do the allowances into savings accounts for the kids and my banking as well.  It was exciting that KC wanted to put his tooth fairy money in his bank account. I think the near weekly deposits are having their intended effect. (grin)  Then home to unload groceries and out again to go to the library and dance class.

When we came home I had to get lunch, make 10 dozen cookies for fellowship hour at church tomorrow and I threw together a fridge cleaning soup.  I abhor wasting food. There was a thankfully brief period in my life when I could not really afford food.  I was both proud and stupid and lost 20 pounds that  year living on a baked potato a day.  Seriously. So wasting food is an anathema to me.  Each week in the winter I take the bits and bobs of the week and meld it into some type of soup.  Deb at Smitten Kitchen would not swoon to be sure, but they are hearty and waste free and often provide if not a family meal, lunches for me for work. So, got that done.  Cleaned the bathroom and finished the wash.

The little boy next door and his dad came over and wanted to play outside with my kids.  I had been planning an early trip to the Holiday Stroll that our city does annually, but let them play first.  Then when they got home, we went to the stroll.  I wish I had gone earlier because I had the vague and slim but still real possiblity of meeting a blog friend IRL, but the fates conspired against us.  Her time at the stroll would have been early, and mine was very much late-ish.  Still it was fun and I (patting self on back) did a good job of finding ways to stroll and still keep the kids warm.  First we walked down to the UU church I used to go to.  The kids godfather still goes there and we said hi to him, looked at items for sale and bought a bracelet for Lissa.  One simply does not pass up bargains like a hello kitty bracelet for a buck! LOL

From there we wandered to a pizza place where they could decorate cinnamon cookies.  From there we strolled over to an insurance office where they could write letters to Santa and place them in the mailbag.  From there, we went to City Hall and admired the many trees that decorate the hall and voted for our favorites.  We found Santa and had our picture taken with him, Lissa went inside a big "gingerbread" house and we also were able to see our city's famous 100 yr old resident and wish him birthday greetings.  This person is amazing and his holiday decorations are hand made and well known.  He has met all my kids and taught Chet and Rob's classes how to carve when they were in public school.  It is amazing to be 100 and still be such a vital person, I was glad the city is celebrating his birthday in style and that we were able to offer our personal congratulations and good wishes.  Then it was home to warm up which meant we did not see the lighting of the tree down town but we still have some great holiday memories!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Planning for Sunday

Scheduling stuff with a larger family is always one of the interesting aspects of our life.  Sunday promises to be one of those days that make me think I really do need a phone with a calendar built in, instead of the emergency tracfone that I carry reluctantly.  I am loathe to buy such a thing, not evening having had a cell till this year.

Sunday we are going to the 9 a.m. service as usual. The littles have Sunday school, I have a commitment to work in a classroom.  Then K is going to take the littles home.  She was intending to also take Chet home but that may have changed.  Rob and the teen choir are singing at the 11 a.m. service and he needs to be ready to rehearse "the stupid spanish hannukah song" as he puts it, at 10 a.m. so he will stay at church with me. He also signed up to help with fellowship following the service at noon.  (which means I have to make about 8 dozen cookies on Saturday!) Then at noon I have a meeting for the religious ed that I am co-chairing.  Rob will stay and hang out with a friend.

Then Chet informed me last night that there is a workshop on gay,lesbiean, bisexual and transgendered issues being held at the same time as my meeting.  Chet has recently identified himself as bisexual and would like to attend.  I think it is important that he be able to, but such things fall into that tough "social skills" area where as an Aspie Chet is weak. Waiting quietly when someone else speaks is not a skill that he can reliably achieve without someone to cue him, for instance. 

I emailed the coordinator of the workshop. Thankfully, he is a dear friend and he wrote back that he wants to try and help Chet be able to attend.  If he can't find someone to buddy up and sit with Chet (there are a number of people within our church that I ran a training for a few years ago who are capable of doing this in a way that helps Chet and yet gives him a bit of independence), he will sit with him himself.  What a gift!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Troublesome Thursday

Today was one of those days when I looked at the calendar and said THURSDAY?  How is it THURSDAY all ready?  Things have been so super busy at work that literally a week vanished. There are times when I love my job, times when i hate my job and times that fall in between.  For the record, like most of us working folk I suspect the time "in between" is far greater than either of the extremes. One of the things I love is the people connection, feeling like I really know these people and am making a difference.  There are times too when the sadnesses of their circumstances also make it the thing I hate about my job and this week just seemed overly full of those things.  Situations like:

a resident with a degenerative eye condition who has no one to help him administer the medicated drops that he needs. (for the record I am working on visiting nursing services now for him)

a disabled resident who has found out that he has a life threatening illness and has no family in the area. (working on services and apt mods for him too)

a resident with many young children who messed up her life choices badly and is now a guest of our state. (things like this never end well and are something I really hate)

a coworker who lost a beloved family member

another coworker whose parent is hospitalized.

When I write it out, it doesn't seem like it should feel like so much.  And maybe if it wasn't also the week Fiona was hospitalized, it wouldn't.  Or if there wasn't all the stuff swirling about regarding the sale of my company, it might not feel like so much.

But it does, and I don't really mean for me.  For those people and those situations, I felt like I could offer so little to make any of these situations better for the people and families enduring them.  Probably, life is like that all the time, with  good things and bad things, but they usually seem more balanced.  The cosmos got a little slap happy in the negativity department this week!  So tomorrow, I think I will post a picture of our "Beary Christmas" bear and work on some cheer!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Annual December Photo Shoot

 What was that Mom said?  Time to smile for the holiday picture?  Oh, smile AT the camera?
 Some of us smile at the camera.  Some of us look like we lost our best friend.
 Some of us argue about space, some of us laugh at those arguing about space.
 More of some happy people, one staring off past the camera, and 2 less than cheerful
What about Blakie?  He needs to be in the picture.  Lissa proceeds to strangle Blake for a holiday picture to remember.  To avoid getting hate mail from animal welfare groups, I decided this was not the shot to share in our holiday cards!

In an odd cosmic blip, Blogger will not  upload the last picture that is the actual shot we sent out.  In it 3 of the 4 look relatively happy, and they are holding a Merry Christmas sign so hopefully that off-sets the somewhat grim look on Miss Lissa. Clearly she was not into picture day this year!  LOL  Tidings of the season, y'all!

About Fiona

Last night was Fiona's call night.  5:30 came and went and the kids asked when she was calling.  We have had her call late--she's been doing things that ran late sometimes and once, Jane had a staff meeting that made for a late call--so I wasn't concerned.  Shortly after that, the phone rang and it was Jane.

She said she forgot to email me that Fiona was hospitalized on Saturday.  It is a psych hospitalization and she will be there to at least this Friday and possibly through the next week.  It just rocked me back.  I know I sounded like an idiot.  And truthfully probably AM an idiot as my daughter has had multiple hospitalizations over the years.  But I am Pollyanna remember? I  live in hope that the healing that has been happening will prevent these sad results.  Will keep her safe and others safe around her.  Jane said we could call the hospital and have a 5 minute call but I was kind of an emotional wreck at that time after the news.  I actually don't think I was making a whole lot of sense when I talked to Jane.  Likely she thinks I need hospitalization at this point.

K was out at a meeting so I was alone with the kids.  Luckily they had gotten weary of waiting for the call and my simply saying their sister wouldn't call held them for a while and they went back to playing with the glow in the dark space shooters.  I needed to process, so I made scones and cleaned the kitchen.  The kids got a kicking breakfast this morning as a result and I was a lot calmer by the time I finished.

The rational part of me knows that it is very likely Fiona will require periodica hospitalizations throughout her life.  I have emailed Jane and asked for the number of the hospital so we can call her tonight.  Mental illness, trauma, substance exposure, man it all sucks.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A year in hair

The top picture was taken the end of last December when we were up doing Christmas at my mom's.  Lissa's hair was braided and although I had gathered the top few braids together with a ballie that she liked, you can see that the braid length was just above her shoulders.

The bottom pic was taken after K spent 6 hours doing her hair today!  Yup, 6 hours.   Our wee miss's hair is much longer and thicker nearly a year later.  It is healthy and shiny and I love to feel it as I work with it.  BUT, I am not good at parting.  Part of this is likely that i am just less adept.  Part of it is that I have a hard time making Lissa sit for any length of time.  K somehow accomplishes that.  (for the record there were breaks through out the day of hair, it wasn't 6 hours straight).  Also, I tend to have to do her hair at night (usually Saturday nights) and even if I give her an early bath, it is not a prime time to try to do anything with a 3 year old. So I have of late stuck with a lot of twists, bantu knots, partial twists with free hair pulled into a pony tail etc.  This style should last us, the goddess willing, through the holidays.  And it is parted so well that I can pull it into two side pig tails for gymnastics. It looks festive and I was so amazed at the proof of how much her hair has grown.  It can be hard to really notice how much black hair grows.  There is a lot of shrinkage when the hair dries and/or is loose.  But when it is braided and/or beaded, the length is very noticable.

Fiona is in the hospital and I need to write about that, but my heart is still coming to terms with that.

Farewell November

The last day of November.  November is usually a bleak month to me and I am always glad to see it go. Not that I don't like Thanksgiving because I do. But I have a hard time getting used to the lack of daylight, the loss of the color on trees, and such.  December eases me because the holidays bring with them the lights and decorations and push back the darkness.  Which is of course, what people have been doing since they learned how to make fire.  Clearly I am not all that evolved! LOL
But this year as November finishes and we head into the festivities of Yule, I am amazingly caught up. It is almost scary!  For the first time in nearly 4 years I had 3 days off from BOTH my jobs. Because those 3 days came bracketing Thanksgiving weekend, I actually had 5 days in a row with no employment obligations to anyone.  The last time that happened, we got a call to fly to Chicago the week before Christmas to bring Lissa  home!

I don't do idle very well.  My family was always the kind that was doing something.  Summer vacations always started with a big house project first and moved on from there.  We had fun, but it was fun doing. Not lying around watching TV or "hanging out."  It is a lifestyle I never shook and carried forward into my life even now, so many many years later.  So I used my free time well and wisely.  I wrote all my cards.  We only need to add a picture of the kids and then I can mail them on Saturday.  We have made lots of cookie dough and frozen it in balls ready for holiday gifts. We have decorated our house inside and out.  Over the past few months I did almost all the shopping for Christmas. I only have stocking stuffers left and 2 other gifts to purchase.  I don't have anything wrapped, however as they are all hidden all over the house.  But overall, I am really prepared and I like knowing that i can do things like take the kids to the city tree lighting festival this Saturday and not worry about how to sandwich in the other stuff.  The gift of time is always the greatest gift.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Back to work

Well it is back to the real world today!  I have not had any work--either my 8 to 4 fulltime office job or my 7-10pm piece work job that I do nights here at home since TUESDAY night!  You have no idea how rare it is for me to be off both jobs at the same time for an extended bit of time.  I think the last time I had that much time off from all of them, we were in Chicago to bring Lissa home.  Since she turns 4 in December, that is a while!

Though I was certainly busy, there is a real feeling of having rested.  All I really did was have fun.  For lots of days.  In a row!  We visited with family, we decorated, I caught up scrapbooks (hallelujah) I helped one of the kids with Yule shopping, I did my cards (except for the picture of the kids we need to take to put inside).  The littles helped me make wreathes for our shed.  I had computer time and it wasn't the dead of night.

Yup, lots of stuff, but I didn't once have to look at my watch and mentally figure how many more minutes I could do a thing before I would have to pull myself away and work.  What a gift to be thankful for!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

How I relax

Clearly, I am not a sit and sip tea and eat bon bons kind of gal! I have not had to do our piece work since Wednesday night.  We usually get one or two long breaks a year and this one fell at a really good time.   I got so much done and feel so good about it.  Not just the cooking of course.  But I also caught up 2 of the 3 scrapbooks.  I have pages made for Lissa but need to get sleeves to insert them. So they are almost all set. 

Then I did lots of holiday decorating. And last night, I began writing our cards.  I love the fact that my card list is on google docs now.  Made it quick and easy to print off and start writing. And although I do craft a "holiday" letter of sorts, I keep it up on the 'puter and tailor it to each friend I am writing to.  I used to feel like I was cheating, because long ago I would handwrite each card.  However, I don't mind anymore.  Other things in my life have changed as I have embraced--I do my check book on line for goodness sake.  So why stress over the letter? 

The kids and I are working on a wreath that will hang on our shed. We will be able to see it from the kitchen window.  Yesterday we painted a ton of acorns that we have collected to decorate it with. Then we will fasten them somehow, add some glittered milk weed pods, pine cones and berries.  They are having fun getting things ready  I think one of the things I love the best about the holidays is the stuff you do leading up to the day. In a lot of ways I love that almost more than the actual celebration.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sedate Saturday????

Today was supposed to be an "easy" day as KC has no dance class and the shopping at the market would be decidedly lighter.  Well first of all I decided that since there were some good sales on baking staples I would get those now.  So the shopping was not so light. Then we needed to bring the cemetary boxes down to the graves, do the banking and go to the library. Then we had to get birthday gifts for one of the kids friends to drop off later today, get Rob a new sleep shirt and shop for shoes for Lissa.

Have I mentioned I really hate shopping?  Well, we went to Sears and could not get service that was helpful.  Lissa tried on 3 pairs of shoes in the size they told me she was and swam in all of them.  Then there were 3 pairs of shoes we wanted to try and it turned out those were not in her size.  KC was starting to get hungry as we were approaching lunch time. Hungry children are not cooperative shoppers!  I made an executive decision to try another store in the mall.  We didn't even have to walk far to get there! LOL  I walked in, someone greeted me promptly, measured her up. Discovered the problem is she has a VERY narrow foot, so many of the trendy styles little girls like simply won't work for her.  But did walk out with 2 pairs of shoes, one dress, one sneaks that fit well.  And they had enough "bling" to meet her fashion requirements.  I'll pay for service every time guys.  Because I had left sears, I wound up buying Rob's sleep shirt which he needed at a different mall store and the birthday gifts at another different store.  They were more on our route at that  point than walking all the way back to the Sears.  I had thought we'd get it all done in that one store, but it was easier not to.

This afternoon I have promised the kids we will bake sugar cookies in holiday shapes.  They are ecstatic!