Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Carnival Preparations

A couple of months ago KC announced to me that he wanted to have a carnival for his friends this summer. We talked about it off and on.  He is a child who is full of ideas, and oddly enough usually  has a grasp of what kind of things are practical and achievable.  I explained that it sounded like fun but we would have to do it as low cost as possible. (as in we are not renting a $150.00 bounce house etc)   He answered that we could make the games and have a crafts table.  He knew which of his friends have food allergies and had a list of snacks that everyone could absolutely eat.  How could I say no?

K says it is my fault because I am one for celebrating things all the time.  LOL  If it is my "fault" that I have a 6 year old who can plan a party, I'll take the blame.  We ramped up the preparations this week as I thought it would take his mind off Robbie not being home.  (despite that effort we have a very obvious countdown going on with both Lissa and KC to his return on Saturday). KC has decided on the games--a fishing game, a ball toss into a large tote, kids horseshoes, a clothes pin into a bottle, and knocking cans over with a ball. He has crafts, rock painting, sand art and making suns out of paper plates.He has snacks of pop corn, graham cracker sticks, freeze pops, lemonade, and pretzels  He picked out prizes today.  Boxes of crayons, bubble stuff, and stickers. 

Now I just hope that his friends are available to come.  The date is July 24th and I am sending out his invitations tomorrow hoping to get it on people's calendars early enough. 

Monday, June 28, 2010

"Family Tree"

This is the picture the kids painted for me when we had our Ooma's day celebration last week.  I love it, and I love looking at all the different sizes of hands and the different shades of green that were used.  I was interested in that Chet wanted to be sure I put a picture of it on the blog.  With Chet it is often hard to tell what is of importance to him, but I am glad this was one of those things.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Why People buy Eggos

I am one of those weirdos who likes to pronounce all the ingredients in something that I eat.  Or that I feed my kids.  I like to live as gently as possible on the planet, which also means that for a myriad of reasons I have chosen to be a vegetarian.  I am also cheap--I mean, frugal.  Which means that even if name brand waffles are delicious and all the ingredients could be pronounced, they are too pricey for our family.  Rob can eat something like 8 waffles himself, Chet another 6.  This is before KC and Lissa start eating. 

So we have a waffle maker that can cook 6 at a time.  I have only ever finished the waffle cooking marathons that exist in our house.  We use a double recipe and that will give 6 or8 to freeze for a quick lunch or snack.  But I have not cooked them start to finish in this particular waffle maker. (it is our second; the first having been worked to death a year or so ago)  K usually makes waffles for a Friday night supper or a night when I will be late and will be eating something different.  Oddly enough I personally don't eat waffles.

During the summer Kirsty works on Fridays and suppers fall in my jurisdiction.  The kids asked for waffles and I went to make them and discovered that the last of our flour had been used in bread making. It is unusual for us to run out of a staple item like that. But we did.  I was shopping on Saturday so it wasn't the end of the world. (except for the child who hated the ravioli that I served instead!)

So tonight when KC and Lissa asked for waffles, I was okay with it.  K was less so as she had a veggie stirfry planned.  I said I would happily cook the waffles if she did the stir fry for she and I.  I whipped the recipe together--only a single batch since Rob is away--and all was good. . .

Until I cooked the first batch.  I didn't know that K usually greases the iron with vegetable oil.  Heavily.  To prevent serious sticking.  Instead I lightly did the iron with butter.  And forgot to grease the top part.  Waffles stuck. Waffles refused to come out.  I peeled off enough to feed KC and Lissa.  Disguised with cinnamon and sugar for KC and strawberries and whipped cream for Lissa, they were well received.

But the mess?  It took an hour to clean out the waffle iron, and clean up all the detritus from scraping the stuff off the waffle thing.  My wife was not amused.  LOL  After supper I took the kids to the park.  I cooked the rest of the waffles when I got back. 

I left two cooling racks of them on the counter, preparatory to freezing.  I went into the front hall to find out what Lissa and KC were doing.  Upon my return, I saw  our dog.  He was licking his lips and eyeing me warily.  Let's just say, I didn't freeze many waffles!

Settling in to Sunday

The kids are starting to adjust to big brother being away at camp.  We have only had about 52 comments on the lines of "I miss Rob" and "I wonder what Rob is doing now."  But no tears and I have just focussed on the things we can share with him when he gets home. 

I took Lissa's braids out and re-did her hair.  She was good about sitting and i was done in maybe an hour or so.  Right now she has two pigtails that i then divided into two twists for each pony and then hitched together with a ponytail holder at the bottom.  Hard to explain but looks really cute.

We got Lissa new shoes today, which is always interesting.  We always get great service and I can't decide if that is because in this economic climate customers are more highly valued or whether my noisy little tribe so disturbs the ambience that they do all in their power to move us along.  Whatever the reason she is now the proud owner of a pair of very glittery pink and orange sneakers.

We weeded up at our garden.  It is looking great and we are very proud of the fact that all our plants were started from seed.  Well all plants start from seeds but most people buy seedlings.  We are the only folks who community garden who can proudly proclaim that our 36 tomato plants started as seeds in our house.  Likewise we direct planted our indian corn, KC's pumpkin, and our squash.  Our plants look every bit as big as the folks who bought seedlings at the big box stores. 

We bought fabric for the kids for their 4th of July ideas.  And at the same store, KC found some popcorn boxes that he wanted for his carnival next month.  I also rounded up the addresses of his friends so that we could send out invitations this week.

Lissa and I made lemonade as it is really hot today.  And KC and Lissa and I then made peanut butter cookies because--well life is just better with a freshly made peanut butter cookie!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Rob's at camp and Uncle Sam cried!

We got Rob all settled in right on schedule.  He did feel the need to try and bring some "contraband" to camp which we found and confiscated before we left.  It was nothing illegal, just electronics and the camp does not allow that as the philosophy is to interact and make friends and electronics has a way of encouraging isolation or hanging with just one or two other people.

KC cried about 1/3 of the trip home and clutched my hand tightly while the tears streamed down his face.  He finally fell asleep thankfully.  Sitting in the front seat with ones arm cranked into the back seat is um, not so very comfortable.  Lissa misses Rob too. She has commented  a couple of times this evening.  And they are both still awake, another sign that things are not as usual here.

By tomorrow they will be more used to this and  will have settled down.  We have been through this every time Rob goes to camp.  LOL  And tomorrow there will be a number of things going on which will take their mind off  his absence.

We have to go up to our garden plot and weed and see how the squash and tomatos and corn are coming along.  We have to go to a fabric store and get red and white striped fabric. Why?  Because KC decided he has to "be Uncle Sam" for the 4th of July.  ROFL  We always have a BBQ with the kids god parents. They are going to choke on their food trying not to laugh I am sure.  Where this child comes up with the ideas I will never know.  He all ready has a blue shirt with silvery stars all over it. And last week he conned me into buying a novelty red white and blue bow tie (now I know why!)  Now he wants striped  pants to complete the festive look.

And Lissa, not to be outdone has screamed  announced, that SHE wants to be Uncle Sam too.  KC gave her his most withering 6 year old look and said she couldn't be UNCLE Sam because she is a girl.  She would have to be. . . (drum roll please)  Auntie Sam.  So Auntie Sam is going to wear a star covered sun dress and red and white bloomers.  I think.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Fiona's Family Night at School

Fiona's Great School in the City had a family night event last night.  It was dinner and awards.  It is too far and too late to bring all the troops, but K offered to go in because usually she is working when we make our visits in and she has not seen Fiona in a really really long time.  So brave woman that she is, she set off in the car with the GPS (which does not fool proof you getting somewhere; I am living proof you can STILL get lost with GPS!) 

They changed the format so she was only there for dinner and not the awards, but it was plenty for Fiona.  We wanted to make sure that she too had family who love here present that evening, family to sit with at dinner and to introduce around to everyone.

It was also the first time that K has met Jane, so it was good that they know each other now.  After it was over, K went out to the car to get a picture that KC had sent to his sister.  Jane cornered K and said in all her 28 years of doing this work she has never met people like us.  I know that should make us feel really proud or something.  It makes me feel incredibly sad though.  Because there are a lot of Fiona's in the world.  And they deserve to be loved, and to have family --even if the context of how they are as a family is different--who love them and stand by them.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Shopping with teen boys

For a long time boys don't care what they wear.  Then suddenly, apparently they do.  See, this is virgin territory to me because Chet (probably due to his autism) has never made it out of the don't care phase. In his case, he doesn't care about style.  He cares if it itches. If it has a tag.  If it makes him feel like he can't bend his legs, etc.  Those things he has cared about since infancy and they and about a gazillion more restrictions, define his wardrobe to this day.

But Rob, well Rob was easy.  Till he became a teen.  We wash a lot at our house so our kids don't need a bazillion clothes.  Usually summer wardrobe is something like 3 pair of shorts, 2 pair of long pants about 5 t shirts and a couple bathing suits.  Except that when you go away to camp it isn't like that.   Because the nice camp people don't do wash every day. So by day 3 you either smell or  . . . well I don't know what the alternative is.  For me, it was taking Rob to the store to buy the number of shorts that equalled the number of days at camp.  And a pair of PJs and enough undies for 7 days.  (we usually have 3 of those as well.)  So I set off with Rob, KC and Lissa to the big store in the mall. 

Rob is at that hard place size wise--nearly out of the bigger sizes of the kids, not quite truly into the mens dept.  He  has also apparently decided that plaid is very, very cool.  His skateboard shoes are plaid.  The first 3 pairs of shorts he chose to try on are plaid.  I would have suggested we add bagpipes and a kilt except the plaid shorts did not fit.  We tried a bigger size and they were too big. The size below, too small.  Did Rob move to the next rack?  Nope.  Stood there staring at the plaid shorts like they were going to suddenly morph into the perfect size and fit his tall slender frame.  Meanwhile KC and Lissa have grown bored.  About 10 minutes has passed.  This is no longer amusing and they decide it is time to tap dance in the aisle.  Really.

With one eye on the tapping duo, I ask Rob if he plans on standing there indefinately or if we can try on another style.  He ambles over and I haul out a pair of black athletic style shorts.  Black is the default fashion color of choice for my lad.  Yup, I score.  He tries them on. They fit.  He likes them.  He needs 2 more pair.  I ask what other colors he would like.  Truly, you would think I had asked him if General Petraus was up to the job in Afganistan for the input I got.  He hemmed and hawed and finally said he'd like an ORANGE pair. Yup.  Orange.  OK they have orange.  In small and medium.  He needs a large.  I ask if we can sub in a yellow pair. Maybe it would look orange if he squinted or something?  Yellow attracts bees he announces to me.  I pause to check on the dancing wee ones and remind them that the mannequins do. not.dance.with. them.  I come back and Rob is still standing there.  I think I see moss growing on his sneakers he has stood still so long.  I suggest blue.  Nope.  He likes any color except blue.  (and yellow obviously, but I am mature and don't go there) 

I finally tell him that we can do his shopping now or we can not do his shopping, but the dancing siblings are reaching the end of their tether and quite frankly, probably so are the store's staff. This makes him laugh and he picks out 2 pairs quicker than you could imagine. For those desperate to know, he chose red and a pair that was black but had a white stripe.  And one pair turned out to be reversable which seems incredibly useful with boys!  ROFL

Then we had to go to the mens dept to get PJs.  He is just a bit past the Iron Man PJ's that KC suggested or the Spider man ones that Lissa suggested.  There was more dancing and entertainment in the mens area but we finished there comparatively quickly.  He is now packed for camp except for meds and hygiene items.  And I am so going to miss his twerpy little self!  {g}

Multiple Intelligences

First off, a big thank you to Gas Station Cap. who suggested I investigate 'multiple intelligences." I am happy to report that I have and found the concept fascinating.  I had previously decided that Lissa was most likely a kinesthetic learner (as is my eldest, Chet) and have approached our learning situations together with that in mind.  But I had never heard of the concept of multiple intelligences and it fascinates me.  It also very much speaks to my core belief that everyone has a niche, a gift, and "blooms" in their own time and space when properly nurtured.

Last night at the park, Lissa was "playing circus".  We have a narrow plastic border to the play area that we walk on and pretend we are tightrope walkers.  If we slip off we either fall into the lion pit or the safety nets; she tends to change up the result of error! LOL  At any rate, this border is actually a bit narrower than a balance beam and she can walk it for a long time without slipping off.  Last night she decided to add an occasional skip as she went along and STILL did not fall off. (she also has never done this type of thing in her gymnastics class so it was something she thought of on her own.)

  I am in awe of that balance ability at such a young age.  It has its downsides too, from a parenting perspective.  I feel like I am always watching to make sure she doesn't leap gleefully off something too high (say, a cliff!) because she obviously can't gauge such things and like myself, she appears to be a bit of an adrenaline junkie!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A,B, C

Lissa is finally starting to learn her letters!  I have been stressing over this.  As a homeschooling mom I know that usually everything is fine.  Kids learn at different paces.  KC was on the early end of the curve as he recognized the alphabet before he was 3 and was teaching himself to write letters at 3.  However, Lissa is 3 1/2 and didn't recognize any letter.  I read to all the kids nightly, I play games that involve letters, shapes numbers you name it.  The alphabet is a prominent home made "border" in our living room.  Kind of a  chair rail height so it is at eye level for young kids.  But Lissa is more about trucks and movement.  She even holds books upside down fairly frequently so I could tell that letters had no real defined shape for her.

There are things that Lissa does earlier than KC did too.  Movement areas where she excels with strength and balance, for instance.

But knowing what I know of her pre-natal  history, I worry.  So I have been on a mission the past few months.  Every single book we read from the library has been an alphabet oriented book.  Chika chicka boom boom, Usborne Alphabet Book, Alphabet at the Museum, you get the drift. LOL

It is working!  She now recognizes A, B, and sometimes C. M, N, O, and P  It is a start.  It is progress.  I am slightly less stressed!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Starting the day like Lady G*Ga!

OK, so I am known for walking really really fast.  I am a speedy person on most days.  This morning I was speedier than usual as I had to drop a script off for Rob's eyedrops (trying to get his meds set for camp which is coming up soon).  I had to drop stuff at goodwill on my way to work. And yup, had to get to work.  I was wearing a fave sundress that K made me many years ago.  Faithful blog readers are probably all ready aware of the fact that I wear my clothes till they fall apart.  However, this does not usually take place ON me!

I slid into the van seat to scoot over to the pharmacy.  I got there, scooted out real quick and started hurrying down the aisle to drop off area.  Suddenly I realize I am feeling a breeze.  A breeze where I should not feel a breeze.  Oh, did I mention this sundress has a full length zipper?  Said zipper had done something weird.  It was zipped at the top.  Everywhere else?  Um.  Not really.  Wonder what the sales people thought about the strange woman holding the back of her dress together and walking crablike out of the store?  K said it was an old fashioned coil zipper (whatever that is) that she got on sale a long time ago.  It's time has come. It. is. retired. Forever.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fathers Day, Oomas Day and chillin in the 'pool'

I decided not to go to church today.  It is closing Sunday for our UU congregation. Though there are services through the summer they are all lay led and we will not come together again with the full complement of staff (or parishioners) till after Labor Day.  I usually go, but I took the cowards way out.  I saw that the sermon topic was all about fathering.  Totally appropriate since today is Fathers Day.  But since my father and I have a really non-existant relationship, it is somewhat painful to sit there and listen to the poems and odes to good fathers. 

On a happier note I was surprised to find out that today was Ooma's day at our house. Remember that Ooma's Day is sort of a "floating holiday" at our house.  It happens whenever the rest of the family decide that there is sufficient time to properly fete the Ooma!  LOL  Rob leaves for camp next week and I think this also factored into choosing today to honor me as that means that the next 2 weekends we would be pretty busy dropping him off, picking him up and wading through a weeks worth of teen boy laundry.

 K has finished working Saturdays and since I had said I wasn't going to church, she knew the morning would be slower paced and she and the kids surprised me.  They had rehearsed a song, KC made me a story book, Rob gave me coupons for house work, Chet gave me a book light, Lissa made me a card, and my wife made the coolest t shirt with pictures of the kids all over it. I got muffins and tea in bed to nosh on while I admired my gifts--it was divine.

I have also taken Chet shopping at one of his favorite stores.  He shops fairly infrequently as there is not much he needs or wants and he is prone to hoarding flotsam and jetsam which leaves little room for actual belongings.  But he has tried hard and needed to have this so I took him.  Afterwards he gave me a big hug and thanked me in a totally appropriate and spontaneous manner.

KC and I went to a fabric store while Chet shopped.  I had to get supplies for a project I am making for KC's group in church school.  KC had been to the new store recently with K and couldn't wait to show me the "very bestest part of the whole store."  Now keeping in mind that the store holds untold bolts of fabric, umpteen thousand crafting things, and home decorating options, I was floored to find out what the "bestest" part was. . .   BUTTONS!  Novelty buttons galore and the absolute joy of his day!

Came home and it was sprinkling but really hot.  We filled the wading pool and the kids jumped in and out of the pool and shot around the water shooters for a good hour before lunch.  Doesn't get much better than that!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Family and Fiona

I have been mulling this post for a while and it still doesn't come together all that cohesively.  Or maybe it does and I just don't like facing the reality of it. For whatever reason, I keep writing it and hitting the delete button. Talk about stuck in a loop.  So today I have vowed to hit publish and just get this over with.  It is what it is, as my wife is so fond of saying.

Fiona was removed from our house 9 years ago.  She only lived with us a very brief time.  Although she caused total destruction of her room and some other belongings I have to say I was never afraid of her.  But the kids were.  Rob's reaction was severe and profound.  So was Chet's but it was different and complicated by his Aspergers.

Obviously, my intent has been to be a consistant, loving presence in Fiona's life in whatever capacity she felt comfortable with.  Over the years, she has decided it is okay to view me as a parent. She introduces me that way now.  And I love it.  I waited a long time to hear that.

I have been increasingly joyful about Fiona over the past six or so months.  The contact has been easier, thanks to the wonderful and amazing  Jane.  She has made strides in areas that I didn't think possible for her in many behaviors.  There are still miles to go.  There may be miles she can't walk.  But I figure my job as a parent is to be there. To help with the walk when and how I can.  To cheer her on. To love her.

Hearing she could come here again for a visit made me over the moon happy.  It is not as if she never came back here after her removal. She celebrated at least two Christmas afternoons here with us and had a couple other visits too, or times we stopped in after bowling, or a movie etc. But when my mom heard about the visit, all she had was fear.  Fear that I would need restraints that i didn't know how to use. Fear that the other kids and I would not be safe.  Fear . . . well the list was fairly legion.

And I realize that she speaks from a place of love for me and for my children who live here with me all the time.  And she has never met Fiona and seen her sweet sides, even though I have shared them via email or phone conversation.  The problem is that I also shared my concerns for and about Fiona over the years.  When treatments were not going well, when hospitalizations occured, etc.  I thought it was safe and appropriate to vent to my mom.

But doing so poisoned the well so to speak. And I didn't know that by sharing in this way with someone I trusted that I would do that. And that saddens me so much.

Last Solitary Saturday . . .

till September!  K switches to a Friday shift for the summer and though her paycheck will be a lot less I am looking forward to the increased time for us all together as a family. Next Saturday we take Rob up to a UU campground in my mom's state for a week of away camp.  I know he enjoys this greatly and I know too that he usually returns with a slightly increased appreciation for his family.

Today he got to spend his birthday money on the skateboarder sneaks he has been hoping for.  It takes him forever to choose so I actually went to the store next door and bought some sundries for the house, went back to the sports store and bought myself a bathing suit and he was just then finishing up.  (laughing)  I tried on 2 suits and liked them both so I let the kids choose which one to buy.  KC and Lissa predictably each chose the one the other did not, so Rob was the tie breaker vote.  It is  a two piece tankini kind of tie dyed looking. It is really pretty. Best of all, it cost $15.00  Pretty cool.

Now I am off to look for a lemonade recipe.  I used to use one from someone's blog but they don't have that blog any longer and I didn't print off her oh so divine lemonade recipe.  Off to google as there are lemons on the counter awaiting to be squeezed!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Will Fiona visit us?

Last night Fiona called. She asked me if I would "let" her visit us at home.  I have never ever said she couldn't so of course the answer is yes.  The weird part of the question was that after we were on our way home from the last visit, KC asked when Fiona would come and visit us at our house.  Truly those two have some kind of psychic connection thing going on.

There is stuff to work through before it happens and I suspect it is longer down the road than either kid thinks.   The plan is for 3 successful on site visits (we have had 2 thus far) and three successful off site visits in their area. These would be walks or jaunts to a park etc.  Fiona suggested a trip to a toy store and both Jane and I said no to that particular plan! LOL

Then after those had happened we would work on a visit to our house.  From my perspective the main logistical nightmare is transport and making sure that Fiona is willing to follow her diabetic eating plan at our home. there was a bit of a dustup when she made her food choice at our last visit.  Her choice was a giant plate of stuffing.  Clearly more than one starch worth.  Jane had to deal with it as it was on their turf and i just busied myself with everyone else's lunch options.  But if she is with us she needs to be amenable to eating in a way that is going to keep her safe and healthy during the visit.   It is exciting to be working toward this though.  It kindles--or rekindles that hope in me that someday she could spend  a weekend, be here on holidays etc.  And i know of course rationally that those are trigger times and not on the time line at all at this point, but I can't help myself!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Here are the littles as they got ready to march in their parade!  I am not sure why one wears left over party hats to march in a Flag Day parade but I was informed by both of them that this was a necessity. LOL  We hummed Souza type marches and marched around the house with each person taking turns being a leader.  KC would flourish his flag and bellow "to the kitchen" and off we would go. Then Lissa would take a turn and holler "to the dining room" and we would march there.  Finally we all wound up in our front hall where we marched in time and pretended we were playing musical instruments like a band in a parade.

Then we went to the park and ran around like crazy people because we are finally seeing sun again.  Once the wiggles were out, we played in the sand box and became paleontologists looking for dino bones.  KC is big into dinos and we just read about the discovery of the T Rex named Sue.  Some day we hope to go back to Chicago so we can visit the Field Museum and see her.  The 2 older boys actually saw her when she was on loan to a museum in the Big City near us years ago.  We will however make a trek in our state to see a  collection of dinosaur tracks and that will be exciting enough for now!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

. . . And No One Came to Tea!

OK, politics are murky and I try veeeeery hard to be politically correct. Or at least not to offend too many people.  But I'll never be all that welcome as a member of the Tea Party.  Let's face it, middle aged lesbians are not their target audience.  I am thankful to be married, thank you very much.  That said, despite our political differences I think the movement is interesting and its grassroots initiative has much to recommend it. We just don't see eye to eye on politics, but the methodology is kind of cool.

Anyway, one of the neat things the local Tea Party society did was to have a demonstration  today of the flags that our country has used throughout its history.  I think that is kind of neat.  Flag Day is Monday and while we have been busy making flag decorations and spinners and a red white and blue Jello poke cake--well the actual knowledge about the other variations of our flag would be cool for the kids to see first hand. 

They were on the common when I drove home from church.  We walked down shortly thereafter--basically hitched up our fat pooch in his harness and the kids and I set off.  It was yucky weather. Foggy, drizzly.  The drizzle rapidly becoming more wet and less merely dampish.  And when we arrived--the Tea Party folk had folded their flags and departed.  Sigh.

It was a nice walk though.  If you like pretending you live in Seattle.

Cloudburst Picnic

Yesterday our city was supposed to have its annual music and fireworks festival. We go every year.  The venue is about 3/4  a mile from our home and we typically walk down (In years past I have done this wearing children in slings, wearing children on my back and pushing children in double strollers.  I am clearly insane but trust me the traffic AFTER the event is much more insane if you are trying to drive!)

At any rate, yesterday the weather did not cooperate.  It rained, essentially all day long.  And since KC had all ready warned me that he was planning on crying if we could not go. (I am laughing here but he was serious) I needed something fun.

I don't usually let the kids eat meals in the living room.  So I suggested we have a picnic in the living room and watch a movie together.  It took about 30 minutes just to decide on a movie everyone liked.  LOL  Then we set out the quilt. KC and Lissa helped make popcorn and put cheese curls in bowls and carry them in.  I cooked veggie burgers and brought in the sweet tea.  (my new addiction incidently) And we ate and watched Cars.

I wrote to my mom and told her about our picnic because I thought it was fun and cute.  She wrote back a snarky comment that implied that I had no rules for my children.  Sigh.  I am glad at this moment we live 2 states away from each other.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Winning Again!

Back in April, I won a copy of a book written my my friend and awesome author Loree Griffen Burns.  I had been going to buy the book so when I won it I took the money allocated for the book and "paid it forward."  Loree had a link on her blog  to a book drive that brought books to kids and  schools on a reservation in NM.  I had so much fun choosing books from the kids wish lists.  Ultimately I decided on one fantasy novel to feed the artistic spirit and one scientific one to feed questing minds. 

It wasn't more than a few weeks later when I got my first letter.  Hand written by a child I have never met.  Thanking me for that sci fi book and saying how excited she was that she would have a book to read during the months when school was out.  OMG, my kids and i go to the library every. single. week.  We go to Barnes and Noble just to hang out.  I was humbled by that note.  But also so very touched that a child who had never met me would write a note.

This week, I got a second note.  It thanks me for sending the book Extreme Scientists  to the school and says how much it is appreciated.  In the grand scheme of things, I spent about $20.00.  And touched who knows how many lives.  But my life was touched too.  There is so much about life that sometimes just feels awful. 

The mess in the Gulf that may change our lives and our planet forever in grim ways we can not yet wrap our minds fully around.  Monetary worries and relationship issues.  But the notes?  Good stuff.  Right down to the core because despite the fact that I have never met these children or been to their school, we are connected.  By caring,and the written word.

Death of a dishwasher

Sigh.  Two nights ago I found our dishwasher flashing an odd light sequence when I went into the kitchen about 10:30 p.m.  Worried about an electrical fire I opened the door so it would definately not be running.  It had drained, the dishes were both hot and clean, so all seemed okay. 

Sadly, this was not true.  It was the final gasp of our nearly 10 year old dishwasher.  Last night, it refused to do anything except fill with water.  Not especially helpful.  Also not helpful is the fact that we always run the dishwasher late at night so it really was not the time to start washing dishes.

I can't complain. This dishwasher has been a real workhorse.  The catch on the door has been broken for nearly a year now, but we figured out that propping it with our mop kept the connection and it would still run just fine.  But this, this is not an easy fix like that.  And since it costs $95.00 an hour for a repairman, it is actually going to be cheaper given the age of the appliance, to buy a new one.

It is a task both K and I loathe.  The space for the dishwasher is an inch narrower than the industry standard (gotta love old houses) and it is always a challenge finding one that fits the spot.  Wish us luck!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lissa gets a trophy and KC does math!

Sunday was Lissa's first gymnastics "show" and she wasn't there.  We have only done gymnastics for 3 weeks and her class was going to march around the gym and then do an obstacle course.  I had a committment to chair a meeting at church and had no way to get her there without going insane.  I opted for sanity and skipped it as she at this point has no real clue what a show entails and wasn't upsetting. To her, gymnastics happens on Wednesday and it isn't even on her radar on  a Sunday afternoon.

So yesterday we trucked over to the gym.  She did awesome, her fearless drive to try the apparatus amazes me.  One of the skills they worked on was standing on the low bar of the unevens, reaching out to grab the high bar and then letting go, to practice sticking the landing.  She did great, falling the first two times, sticking the last two.  Then at the end of class they gave her a trophy, which would have been given at the show.  Thankfully there were 2 other classmates who also were not there and received their participation trophy in class as well. 

We came home and I discovered our home school curriculum had arrived.  I had just ordered this on Tuesday so the speed amazed me.  Rob's going to be in grade 9 and KC in first grade, the first year we have to "officially" home school him and file a letter of intent with the city.  I am pretty familiar with Rob's courses so I started looking at the first grade curriculum.  I have never homeschooled a first grader.  I discovered that in the math section, he is all ready beyond this curriculum.  They have the kids grouping manipulatives to add and nothing they add comes to a sum greater than 10. He stopped using manipulatives for addition at about 4.  KC counts to 100 by 1's, counts to 100 by 10's and is learning counting by 2's.  He does addition with use of a number line and adds numbers by ones and twos but the sums can total up to 30.  This is via a Kunan math workbook I found at a bookstore!  So we are going to skip the math component in Oak Meadow and keep working with the Kunan system.  I do love the way Oak Meadow does their science, social studies and english components though.  KC was ticked this morning though to find out he wasn't getting  a "new" math book!  Too funny!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Hopefully not offensive humor

I first need to write a disclaimer.  I have a warped sense of humor.  I also often read email late at night when I am tired.  So a few nights back I read an email from my mother.  She said that she was concerned about the frequency of our trips to the Big City.  She reads the Big City's major newspaper once a week and had seen comprehensive stories on the uptick in violence and drive by shootings.  (all of which is true but not really in the area where we are when we go into the Big City.) But the next sentence in her email was "You are have black children."  I will give you that the upsurge in violence has really impacted African Americans and not any other racial or ethnic group.  However there are also socio-economic reasons and the  behaviors that result from this which cause the situation.  The simple sentence "they are black" in no way accurately and fairly describes the situation. 

So did I write this down in a friendly and informative way?  Did I utilize this teachable moment to help mom see things in a new light?  I wrote back: " my kids are black?  I thought they were just dirty from playing outside!" 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Of Eyeballs and Eye drops

Rob has glaucoma.  We are lucky in that it was diagnosed very early by our most excellent family eye doctor.  His glaucoma  specialist is equally excellent and thus far, Rob has no perceptible loss of vision.  In fact he tests out at better than 20/20.  But he has to have drops twice daily to lower the ocular pressure.  This prevents too much pressure from damaging the optic nerve.

Today was a pressure check.  I always worry about them.  I don't want his glaucoma to worsen and i don't fully know--no one does--whether his will just maintain nicely with eye drops or whether someday it will become something much harder to manage. 

I took the day off from work as KC had a dentist appointment in the morning (where his first cavity was found. . . sigh) and then was home to care for the littles while K went with Rob for the pressure check.

His meds were changed again as his pressure while it has not changed radically over the past year, has crept into the low 20's and stayed there.  My reading shows the teens are really where we want this so I am glad there was a med change.  Now we need to go back in late July to see if the numbers are better.  I sure hope they are.

A picture is worth a thousand words!

When we went to the big city to visit Fiona, we spent the last 30 minutes or so of the visit in the school's expressive art room. This was a really amazing room with musical instrument, small figures you could play with, and virtually every art medium imaginable.  Including paint.  Lissa adores painting right now. What kid doesn't?  (well, Chet always hated it, but I digress)  She wanted desparately to paint and with only about half an hour of fun available to us, that wasn't a real option.  She clutched a large oversized paint brush and briefly howled her frustration and disappointment.  I told her I knew how sad she was, explained that we could paint another day, and hugged her really tightly.  She can readily go from sad to full tantrum mode, but I have found that a really tight hug helps as opposed to the gentle cuddle that I usually give.

She got it back together and we all started working on our collaborative family tree.  About 15 minutes in to the project, Lissa started getting restive. I knew she was massively overtired so I suggested she take some pictures with the camera.  Usually she takes about 40 pictures of her shoes. She has a shoe fetish my wee Lissa.  But I discovered when I downloaded the pics to our computer that she had a different focus for most of her digital art . . . the picture of the paint containers above and about 15 others remarkably similar! I actually thought it was pretty cool that this action helped her through her sadness and she was able to joke about all the pictures of the paint bottles at supper a few nights later. Pretty cool!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sharing Fiona's art

This is the painting that Fiona made for Rob for his birthday.  I love the way she did the sunset oer the mountains.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

We visit Fiona

Today we took an earlier train into the Big City so that we would have more time to spend with Fiona.  We left our house at a bit before 9 and arrived in the Big City about 11. We got to her school really quickly so we basically had from 11:15 to 2:30 to spend with her.  The only train we can get to leave the Big City is either a 3:30 or a 5:30.  I so can't do a 5:30 train with 2 kids as young as KC and Lissa in tow.  They woke up at 5:30 this morning because they were so excited to go see Fi.

It was a really good visit.  We spent time playing basketball, she painted Lissa's fingernails for her and we had a most excellent lunch in their dining hall.  The other kids and staff had eaten earlier so we had the place to ourselves.  I could not believe all the vegetarian options the chef had left for us.  Grilled portobello mushrooms topped with sauteed spinach and roasted red and yellow pepper.  Big leafy green salads. Fruits galore.  Plus bagels and waffles which were more kid friendly.  It was divine. We frosted the mini cupcakes I brought to celebrate Rob's birthday and Fiona gave him an acrylic painting she had made for him.  It is really beautiful, mountains at a sunset. I'll try and take a picture to post up sometime.  We also spent time seeing her room again and meeting lots of the other students and a fair number of staff folks.  One of the things that Fiona showed me was a scrapbook I have never seen before.  In it, she has kept every single card and letter and picture I have ever sent her.  I can tell because I have a really good memory and the pictures that I made the cards out of made it easy to see the chronology. It touched me so deeply to see that.  I have always believed that you  often don't usually get to know when you do something that is really good for someone.  This was one of those times when I got the gift of seeing how that effort has helped and has been appreciated.  Since Fiona never wrote back more than 3 times and for many years we had no phone contact, it really blew me away.

We also spent time playing with a host of wonderful musical instruments and making a "family tree" (this was the kids collaborative idea).  We drew  a giant tree on paper and Fiona photocopied some of the pictures of all of us that she has saved.  Then we cut them out and glued them on the tree. We spent the last part of the visit coloring the tree and adding flowers and butterflies and garlands of flowers.  We didn't have time to finish all of it, but we finished enough that they all felt good about it.

Jane came in on her day off to help this visit happen.  I continue to be amazed at her generosity of time and spirit and her dedication to Fiona's healing.

Friday, June 4, 2010

It isn't easy!

Thorn at Mother Issues commented on my recent post, saying  how widening our familial circles isn't easy.  So, so true.  I have continued my email conversations with Rob's cousin.  She needs a blog name (and I hate doing this as I pathetically enough always have a hard time remembering what alias i decided on!)  OK let's name her Kendra.  I wrote Kendra a long email in response to her phone call.  In short, I said how happy I was that we were communicating with each other but there was a lot of other stuff too.  She wrote back an equally long email.  She was very open and painfully honest.  Some of the pain pre-dates me coming into the picture, but as she rightfully pointed out, we as the adoptive family bore the brunt of the first family's anger at a system that at best failed them and at worst perhaps misled them.  Some of the pain dealt with her prejudices against our family.  Our race, our same sex marriage and our lifestyle  were not something that are part of her world and she was not comfortable with us.  Also, the adoption agency had not let the family know any of those particulars so when we began visiting it was  a huge shock.  I never knew that they didn't know anything about us, since the agency we were working with pretty much mandated the visits in the early days.  I would have thought they would or should have done something to pave the way a bit.  Instead it was more like 2 white gay women showing up in the projects with their newly adopted little black son.  Yup, those were fun times!

Her email revealed that I hurt her long ago by allegedly refusing to have her take Rob to the barbers.  Truthfully I do not ever remember this conversation.  But the fact that I remember things very differently does not mitigate the fact that she at least perceived a rejection of help that was never, ever intended on my part. It just goes to show how much care we need to give our words. They are so powerful and can have such long lasting impact.

There are some rough patches to navigate.  There is a lot of family anger over the fact that they have been denied access to Fiona.  I am trying to step nimbly through those murky places.  I figure that is what clinicians and social workers are paid to deal with.  I know the fact that we continue to have relationship with Fiona though we could not finalize the adoption has to rankle.  I know too that I don't have the ability to help Kendra see that the inability of first family to be consistantly and reliably present for Fiona is detrimental.  Rob has enough grounding that I think it is less an issue.  Fiona does not.  But I fear that anything I might try to say by way of explanation (and this convo came up in the first place because I mentioned we were seeing Fiona again on Saturday to celebrate Rob's birthday with her) is likely going to sound like I am judging Kendra and her family.  I am not.  But I do want Fiona to continue to progress and know from past history that the on again off again thing leads to serious decompensation.

And yet, Kendra has grown so much though from the angry young women I first met when Rob was 5 She said that she can see we give him a good life and that he is happy and that is all she wants for all kids.  She ended her email with "i respect u now."  I respect her too and it is a good place to start.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Widening the circle

Adoption is always about loss.  I know I didn't get that back in my 20's when I started this journey for the first time.  I got it an an intellectual level but not at a gut level.  That comes with travelling the road.  And it comes differently with every adoption, every child, every family.

Last night Rob's cousin called.  Years ago when he was newly our son we tried to have a relationship with her. She had adopted Krystal, the bio sib that Rob was most closest to and we wanted to keep that connection.  It did not go well. That is pretty much an understatement.  Cousin was hostile and defensive and clearly exhibited anger at us. I think the fact that we were white and gay didn't help things either.We were way outside the comfort zone.  And we were not family.  And we had taken her cousin.  And thrown her other cousin in an RTC because we didn't want her.  Obviously these are not true statements but they were her perceptions and probably mirrored that of all the other first family members we have never met.  Talking didn't help.  My Pollyanna niceness didn't help.  There was a big fight.  Mostly K took the brunt of that as I was not there when it happened.  Cousin broke off contact.  I still sent regular letters and gifts for Krystal and kept reiterating that we would love to hear from  them.  Nada.  Eventually they moved and I had no forward and contact ended for a bunch of years.

Cousin began calling infrequently a couple years ago.  Because it isn't in me to hold a grudge, we had long talks when she called.  Time passed and we became facebook friends and she has spoken with Rob a few times. It has still been strained but different.  I could tell she was trying.  I could tell she was trying to accept that we were part of the reality of his life now.

Last night he was asleep when she called.  I don't waken him for phone calls.  He has sleep issues still and that doesn't go well.  I was apologetic and explained.  She was really nice about it.  In years past she would have said something about how he would want to be wakened if he knew it was family.  This time she said she knew it was late and explained her reason for why it was late.  I told her I would have Rob call her today and that the first thing I would tell him in the morning was about her call.

She said that she knew we were family and she wanted us all  to be part of each other's lives.  She acknowleged that the reason Rob and his siblings went into care due to a bad situation in their home. (previously it has only been looked at as an evil  unfounded removal) and that the reason they were not placed with family was because no one but her could pass a CORI.  As a young mom herself she could not take them all.  Her pain was palpable.

But the circle of our family and more importantly of Rob's family, widened last night.  I am grateful for her courage to call.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Birthday thoughts

Tomorrow Rob is 14.  Hard to believe really.  When we first met, he was younger than KC is now--but oh so much more worldly.  Chet was flabbergasted when Robbie asked him if K and I drank "40's" or had weed in the house.  Chet said weeds were in our garden and had no concept of what a "40" was.  Questions that won't come up for my two younger kids.

And tomorrow, he is 14. Now taller than me, with a deepening voice and feet that just don't stop growing! LOL   It used to be that the weeks leading up to his birthday were pretty tough.  Not tough like what i read on some other blogs, but tough for us.  Upticks in crazy lying, sleep pattern changes, less talking.  Nothing so severe we had to change things up like celebrating on a different day, just stuff to get through.  For Rob, I have actually found that ignoring most of it seems to cure it.  It is event specific behavior.  The event passes and the behavior does too.

I don't really know the why of the acting out.  I suspect some grief of course.  But I also think that at some level he feels unworthy of a focus just on him.  Or nervous about it.  He is my quietest child who prefers helping to starring.  If our family were a play he would be stage crew, not on stage.  But my personal strategy is to ignore that for this one time each year.  For this one day you ARE center stage in the best way possible.  And despite the fact that he rarely asks for a gift, we manage to find something cool and truly wanted (younger sibs are really great source of parent intel!).

At any rate, this year the weird birthday blues haven't been as intense.  They started later, and were so minimal that I am astounded by his progress.  He has been a bit quieter.  He has had some "forgetting" of some basic family rules.  But really, nothing huge.  No crazy lying at all, which is a really big achievement.

We have his party tomorrow.  All our birthday parties are family parties.  The one thing I did change was from having "kid" parties.  That was a layer of stress that didn't help him.  And it didn't help him feel closer to us.  But tomorrow while he unwraps gifts, he will be wrapped in our love.  And on Saturday when we train in to the Big City to see Fiona I will bring cupcakes so that we can fete him again with her present.