Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011

OK blogger is fighting with me tonight and won't let me insert text between the pics.  Sorry guys!  I am coming off a migraine and don't feel like fiddling.  We had a great New Years Eve celebration here.  The first picture is Happy New Year in German, at least according to Google Translate!  We made a big poster and used a fancy font and hung it in our dining room.  We also took confetti and covered big numbers that I cut out of paper that allegedly had adhesive on it.  We stuck all the confetti on and I tacked them to the wall, and came back 20 minutes later to find them looking like a sad chia pet who needed rograine or something.  Huge bald spots and lots of confetti on the floor. Blech.  Took them off the wall, brought them outside and sprayed them with adhesive. Then reattached the confetti and to be darn sure it didn't go anywhere covered it with contact paper.  It actually wound up looking funky and fun. 

We had our German meal, while German music streamed through my computer.  The internet is so cool.  We listened to German rock, a German "soft hits" station and a German childrens station. It was pretty neat.  Usually finding music is the hardest part of pulling this together and now it is easy.  We always have a little Jeopardy quiz type game with some facts that I find about how a country celebrates.  The kids are geeks--they all love this!  Then we threw confetti and read our remembrances of the past year.  After all of that, the little kids danced on bubble wrap to German music and it sounded amazingly like fireworks.  In 34 minutes it is actually midnight in Germany and they love the fact that they can honestly say Happy New Year for the country we celebrated.

Happy New Year all!  I wish for all of us, opportunities and memories, hugs and smiles, sunrises and birdsong and joys to carry in our hearts to give us strength when times are hard.  Blessed be!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Playhouse Progress!

Working on KC and Lissa's new indoor playhouse with them has been a lot of fun. It is heavy duty cardboard that you can decorate any way you want. They have spent a little bit of every day this week working on it with me.  I tend to do the second coats, and KC had me draw the hearts and vines and flowers but the majority of the paint work is theirs.  I love the way he put texture into the green stripe of the rainbow!

Planning New Years Eve

Rob chose Germany this year as our country to focus on for celebrating New Years Eve.  I have spent a little time researching Germany to plan our food buffet.  There is a little adapting due to the fact that we are vegetarian.  That is often the case though in many of the countries we have chosen have very meat based diets.  We will have vegetarian meat balls, saurkraut, onion pie, pretzels, cheese ball and some buttery crackers, rye bread and some pickled veggies.  For dessert there will be jelly doughnuts.  Apparently in Germany there is a tradition of a trickster filling one doughnut with mustard---I can't bring myself to do that! LOL  We will have a trivia game, and play some other games.  We have bubble wrap to jump on for fire works and we also will fill some balloons with bird seed and pop them o utside.  If I get my act together I'll post pictures but lately, I've been slacking in the photo department!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Errand Day

Today I have a number of odd errands to do with the kids.  I have promised Chet we will pierce his other ear.  This was his gift from us and he is very excited.  I have to go to a couple of stores, which is not fun but must be done. (hey, how poetic! LOL) The other errands don't involve children but I am bringing them as it gives K a break from the kids.  It was still nice and warm when we got up this morning, albeit unseasonably warm.  I have been loving that. Unfortunately for me, that lovely odd occurance is coming to an end. We had a ton of rain and wind last night and they brought with them a cold front.  Brrrrrr! It really feels like winter out there now.  Time for me to go make tea to warm up and to clean up the kitchen from the muffins I made for breakfast.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day

Today was a pretty good post Yule sort of day.  The kids slept in a bit which was good as Lissa was hugely overtired.  We went to a store and got them some notepaper for thank you notes.  I was impressed in the fact that they spontaneously wrote thank yous to each other Christmas day.  However they were on teeny bits of notepaper which is fine for us, but for the seniors who sent them a card or gift, not so much! LOL  We tried to buy jazz shoes for KC but the dance store was closed today. 

The kids ASKED me to help them clean the living room and organize their new toys.  I am all about order, probably a bit more so than I should be.  I try constantly to take a mental breath and remind myself that there is only a certain period of a child's life when they utilize 4million lego pieces and leave them around to cripple their loving parents. LOL  We worked together and it really did not take long at all to get things so much tidier. 

K and I took down the Christmas decorations in our dining room and above our kitchen cabinets and put up our snow man collection in its place.  It looks sweet and cheerful and festive but takes the hype down just a notch.  We will travel to my mom tomorrow to Christmas with her and then we will Christmas again with K's family in January so the festivities roll on for a while longer.

I actually kind of love that (said in whisper, as my wife is less a lover of celebrating than I am)  It feels like the season doesn't end abruptly this way, which was what happened when I was little and I always had this sort of post holiday blues thing.  No blues here, just the joy of hanging with my kids.  And happy Boxing Day to anyone across the pond!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Like the Who's down in "who-ville" Christmas is a big deal at our house.  But not for the size of the gifts. For the joy of the season. For the fun of decorations and surprises planned. For songs and lights.  Posters, slippers, bracelets and a toy dino can elicit as big a smile as a big bucks gift.  Which is good as with a trip to Florida in May there were not big bucks for this Yule time.  Probably the priciest gift was Rob's gift of 3 snowboard lessons from us and my promise to Chet to have another ear piercing done for him this week w hile I am on vacation.  But even those, really are so much lower cost than many of our friends spend on the holidays.

KC got the best present of all and it was totally free! His picture in the holiday picture contest was published in the local newspaper on Christmas Eve.  We didn't know till long after he had gone to bed so we told him first thing this morning. 

We have called family and friends and wished them seasons greetings. Many are playing with some wonderful high tech toys and big screen TVs.  I am glad for those who have that and want that, and equally glad that we can have genuine fun with less. We are now hanging out and playing games, watching snow flurries dance in the air outside.  Merry Christmas all!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Fiona's Happy Birthday

I took not ONE picture today.  A spectacular failing that I blame on the fact that I have a nifty new to me purse that hid the camera in its depths.  My usual purse has things spilling out the top so I see them and rarely forget.  But I will have to etch the happy memories in my mind to keep for always.

Fiona was so happy to see us and so loved her gifts.  She had invited one of her friends to the party and J had a good time with us as well.  We had brunch with the school, then the party and cake, and then just sort of hung out and played a variety of games that the kids knew or created.  The really good thing is that my kids are really not super competitive in the arena of games. It is really about playing together as opposed to winning, which made a very good dynamic for both Fiona and her friend.  Part of our visit was also allowed to be unsupervised for the first time which was also pretty cool.

On the not so cool front, the cousin who was supposed to join us was a no show and a no call.  I try not to judge.  I know people have crazy things happen in their lives. But people seem to be so cavalier about letting Fiona down.  I know she loved that we were there, but she asked me if her cousin was coming.  I said to the best of  my knowledge. So I know that the pain of the absence will register and be with her, even though she greatly enjoyed her time with us.  Much is often said, and very justifiably, about adoptive families who are disrespectful of the importance and the ties of first families.  I continually find myself in a rather different scenario where the first family members seem very comfortable popping in and out with no real commitment to their kin.  This would be okay perhaps if Fiona did not have significant cognitive and mental health issues, but given that, and given the fact that this has been explained to them, it drives me round the bend.

After we left, the school population was going to go to a performance of  The Nutcracker. I was glad at a couple of levels. First, it will delay the time before Fiona really has time to think about the fact that the cousin really didn't show.  Secondly, and this is going to sound really mean--but it is something Fiona has that one of my kids here at home hasn't had.  KC desperately wants to see the Nutcracker.  And I could not afford tickets to the venue because we are saving for Florida.  I explained to him that we would do this another year but it would not be  this year.  Then Fi called last week and said she was going and KC was kind of green with envy, though very polite about it on the phone.  Fi has had to deal with the complex emotions about our trip to Florida and the fact that she is not yet at a place where she is safe enough to make such a trip with us.  So for her, having that moment to shine is really wonderful, and i have to say, KC is great about handling it.  He loves her so much that once that initial shock was over, he was great.  And he once more today was the shining star of the visit, dancing with her, thinking of games to play, cracking jokes. 

And now, it is time to think about Christmas Eve and find the stockings and check NORAD to see where Santa is so far!  :-)

Friday, December 23, 2011

I believe in miracles!

Why?  Because I am officially DONE!  Somehow, the presents have been purchased, the gift certificates made, the stocking stuffers wrapped, Fiona's birthday and Yule gifts all set, cake for her party made and it isn't even 10 p.m.!  LOL  I also believe in miracles because my wife helped me wrap stocking stuffers this year making a rather large job for one person a speedy one for 2.  She has not done much Yule prep in many a year so that was a huge and most unexpected gift. 

Tomorrow the kids and I will shop early as usual but it should be hopefully quick as we don't need a lot. Then we will get coffees for Rob and I and come home till it is time to leave for our ride the Great School in the City to be with my eldest daughter.  I love the holidays.  I always trust that somehow it will all get done.  And somehow, even the year we drove back from Chicago with Lissa, it always does.

Gift Cards are an endangered species!

Tomorrow we go see Fiona and celebrate her birthday.  My expense check from my job finally came so now I have the money that I budgeted for her laptop.  I had told the school that I would kick in $125.00 towards the laptop and they could use it to defray the cost or to help her buy software, or down load songs on it, whatever she would like that was sanctioned.  In a comedy of holiday madness my bank ran out of gift cards, the bank next door doesn't do gift cards and my wife is now out getting it at a local grocery store.  How a cash gift card became a hard thing to get makes me shake my head in amazement.

There are times when I see differences in the way K and I look at parenting Fiona.  When I explained my dilemma to K, who was leaving to do errands, she was surprised I was spending that much on her gift card.  I said it was comparable to what the other kids get and that none of her other gifts from us were expensive. K feels there is a difference in her mind, because we have legally adopted the 4 who are at home with us and that our relationship with Fi is different.  I said it is different legally, but not in my heart.  She is my daughter, and whenever possible, she gets what they get. That means I bring a home made cake on her birthday and she is getting the gift cards.  Don't get me wrong, K doesn't begrudge what we are giving Fiona, but I am sad that there is that weird perceived difference in her mind.  Pieces of paper are not about being a parent and love binds more than any document from any court.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chugging along towards the holidays

Fiona's gifts are all wrapped. Rob helped me out with that so that I didn't have to do it alone.  We have a set of birthday gifts that she will open with us and the Christmas gifts that we will give to staff so she has gifts from us for Christmas morning.  The kids stocking stuff is all purchased, although it is still in my car. Rob and I watch X Factor together so there is no way tonight that I can wrap those.  I will have to do that tomorrow night after I make Fiona's birthday cake which we are bringing to the Big City on Saturday. Kirsty was able to shrink a pic of us to put in the locket that KC picked out for her.  He has a gentle spirit.  Tonight when I put him to bed, he said he didn't really care what Santa brought, he just wanted to see Fiona.  I think the open unreserved love that he has for her is a greater gift than the locket.
December is always a blur in my life.  I am glad that we have a tradition of writing memories on 3 x 5 cards to share the last week of the month as I would definately forget important things otherwise.  Much of the busy-ness is truly wonderful.  I am a person who adores celebrating.

Last night was Solstice night and that is a big deal in our house.  We eat in near darkness with only glowsticks and candles and some lights around our dining room window to remind us of cold starry nights. We honor the changing of the season and the fact that the wheel of the year will begin to turn again and light is slowly going to return to our world.  When I came home, KC and Lissa were busy with last minute preparations and "finding something festive" to wear.  (their actual word choice)  KC settled on his star covered shirt and a pair of jeans, and Lissa chose the sparkly dress Fiona gave her for Christmas last year.

The night before was the first night of Hannukah.  We are not Jewish but my kids have Jewish friends and love to play the driedel game.  Also our religion honors Judaism as one of our great sources and the story of Hannukah and Passover are things that our religion explains.  At any rate, every year, we have to play a game of driedel after supper on the first night of Hannukah. 

In a day and a half I will be on vacation  until after the first of the year. This too is cause for celebration as although I have always loved my work, my restructured duties are boring in the extreme and I no longer look at the work before me with enthusiasm as I feel I have become a data entry clerk.  No slams at data entry clerks, it is just that  my duties were more far ranging and interesting to me previously. But my new employers like to compartmentalize and I drew the data box I guess! LOL

But in the midst of the December crazies, I read a post last night from a friend far off in TX. They have recently moved there and his wife just had a very serious heart attack and is in a coma.  I can't imagine being in a new location, without even a permanent address yet, and having my soul mate so ill. It makes complaining about data entry petty, and the gift of my  December bustle even greater.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

On Dasher On Dancer!

The above reindeer "danced" to the holiday party that the littles had at dance class on Saturday.  I saw this idea in a magazine last year and KC really wanted to do it.  Of course it was a December magazine that I read in February or something, so we had to wait awhile!  The timing for us was not so great.  Lissa's birthday on the 16th adds a layer of excitement and busy-ness to an all ready frenetic holiday season.  And the kids really wanted to help. Which is a GOOD thing and I did not want to say, "oh I am going to do it" just to get it done quickly.  So I sucked it up and over 2 nights, these dear deer's (sorry I could not resist) were created.

The first night KC and Lissa rolled out the dough and I cut the shapes o ut of a paper template that I drew.  KC also took heart shaped pretzels and broke them to make the antlers.  After Lissa's party, KC and Rob helped me dab on frosting and secure the eyes, nose and antlers.  Truly they were the hit of the dance parties and watching KC pass them around carefully on a holiday tray was another sweet moment.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Out Takes

 I reminded my wife that we really needed to get our cards out and could she pleeez pretty pleez do the holiday pic of the tribe?  She really does better than I do, partly as she can take lots of shots quickly.  I am not so speedy and I either miss the great shots or the kids understandably wander off to do something a lot  more interesting than watch me mumble about why is the flash not working.  LOL  These shots are all the out takes--there are about 25 out takes and with rare exceptions I thought they were almost better than the final shot that we wound up using.  The personalities of our kids came through in all of them and I love that. Love Miss Lissa here, stylin' for the camera, for instance.
 And this one is cute too.  See that bear?  That bear is A*von's Hip Hop Randy and if his battery runs down before Dec. 25th, it will not be replaced until next December!  LOL Blake, our pooch looks fairly long suffering in this shot.  I don't think he is rocking the bow Rob put on him!
 I love KC in this shot and Lissa too, but I wanted more of her face if I was sending the shot to people who we rarely see.  And Rob's smile is great but he is looking at his brother and not the camera. And Blake had disappeared.  But you can see a bit more of Lissa's sparkly red dress.  It was her gift from Fiona last year and she wanted to wear it for the picture.  Fi was really excited to hear that.
What I love about this and most of the other shots also is that Chet really looked relaxed.  I don't know if it was the time of day, the fact it was by the tree or the red cowboy hat I bought him at the party store. But he really took great shots. Oh and in this shot it looks like Lissa is trying to squeeze hip hop Randy's brains out!  LOL  And I suppose some days as I try to get everything done leading up to the holidays I feel a bit like someone is trying to squeeze my brains out too!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Holly Jolly Hectic!

I am so behind where I usually am at this point in the holiday season that it is staggering!  I have all the gifts, that part is good.  But I don't have stocking stuffers.  Nor have I written a single Yule card.  I know some people hate cards, but I love them. I usually have mine ready to mail for the first week in December. This year we have not even managed the kids holiday picture.  I took a great shot but it was too blurry, then a rash of sickness made taking pictures not possible.  Hopefully we can try and do that today.

We also have a lot of piece work to do at night right now.  We never want to say no to that as money is always needed and if you say no, then some other worker looks like they care a lot more than we do.  We consistantly say "yes" so are usually one of the first workers called. But that means that I have also not had time to wrap anything because I have been doing the piecework at night.

K is trying to find time to make the cookies that we give to friends and vendors. . . And Lissa's birthday is this Friday!  Hard to believe that she is going to be 5.  We went and got her party decorations last night.  December is also a hard month for her having the hype of both Yule and her birthday in the same month.  I think hope she will handle it better as she gets older but right now, the fever pitch that inevitably results, leads to lots of meltdowns.

I know it will get done somehow.  Things always do. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

2011 Family Mural

 It is that time of year!  Time for the annual Yule mural to go up in our dining room.  KC came up with the idea this year of creating a gingerbread themed picture. This may partly have been because he was a gingerbread  boy in his dance recital this past spring. He had kept the head piece and we all had to have our pictures taken wearing it to adorn the painted gingerbread bodies that K created!  We used a lot of foam stickers to decorate the gingerbread house and the trees. They are quick and easy and add cool dimension. Plus kids of all ages can do it.  Above is the house with K in the door way.
 Here is Fiona riding a sled full of presents down a hill.  I had to get a bit creative with Fi's pic as she was not here to have her picture taken with the required head gear.  Thank goodness for computers that make such magic possible! LOL
Chet and Rob gingerbread people decorating a big tree.  You can't see Rob's gingerbread person quite as clearly as I would like but he has plaid pants painted on his gingerbread body. Plaid pants are his new "cool" fashion statement so we made sure to incorporate them. Chet is tangled in silver garland and wearing a candy cane as an earring.  Chet is famous for using unusual things as earrings, so this also, sort of celebrates his personality.

Next Friday is Lissa's birthday and we are going to put a temporary flag on the back of Fiona's sled (or possibly a fake balloon) that says Happy Birthday Lissa.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Long Ramble about Adoption

Sometimes the stars align or something and a thing in my life that I had planned to write about sort of winds up the topic on a blog I read and I start to hear music from the Twilight Zone! LOL  Tonight I was thinking a lot about adoption.  Partly because December is the month Chet came home to me.  December is the month Elisabeth was born and came home to me.  December is the month I met Rob for the first time. It is Fiona's birth month and the month I met her for the first time.  KC is the lone spring guy in my tribe.  But recently, most of my adoption thoughts have centered on Rob.

I know how hard adoption is during the teen years.  Being a teen is hard enough.  Being an adopted, transracial teen of lesbian white women???  And yet, (and understand that I am knocking wood here) Rob seems to be growing into a comfortable place as a teen that he didn't have as a young child. 

I am not crediting this to some fantastic thing I have done as a parent.  I suspect it has a lot to do with Rob and how he approaches things slowly and deliberately and when he reaches a decision it has really.been.made.

But I do know that I have done all I could to try and make the space for making those decisions as comfortable as they can be, and for him to always know that he is deeply loved, always, no matter what. There have been a lot of times when I have felt that I cared far more about first family connections than he did.  He would be unresponsive during phone calls or visits. He would not write to first family members.  Once I managed to convince a variety of aunts, cousins and siblings that I was not holding him apart from them intentionally, we wound up working things out.  They let a relationship develop between me and them, so that at least they knew what was going on in Rob's life.  And I passed on what was going on in theirs in a casual, off hand manner that he seemed most able to accept.

Eventually, as a younger teen, I was able to tap into his love of the electronic age and through social media was able to re-connect him with some family in that manner.It was pretty stilted at first, and i am not a saint.  I worried that something would be said that would hurt him.  But just like I can't wrap him in bubble wrap when he skateboards, I can't wrap his heart in bubble wrap either.  I just need to be there for him when it happens.

And the point of the ramble, is that the evolution continues.  Tonight, Rob shared with me a picture of a hair style that one of his cousin's did on her daughter.  When I said i wished Lissa would sit for something like was was shown, he quickly typed it to his cousin and then showed me her response.  There was a naturalness to it all that spoke of the way we have smoothed out  jagged edges and worked to heal.  I mentioned to Rob that one of his cousins might be at our next visit with Fiona and he said he knew.  I said I have never met this cousin before and I was looking forward to it.  I asked if he remembered her.  He said not really, but he thought she loved to wear a lot of red, like I do.  We are all more connected than we give ourselves credit for.  Adoption really requires that we honor those connections--those blood connections of our children, connections of culture, the whole gamut. I'd like to believe that when we do, we can truly facilitate a healing  from the trauma that adoption also is for all our children.  I don't want a scab over an infected sore.  I am shooting for a healthy healing, and yes, I know there will be a scar.  We all have them and I can't get rid of those either.

And the Twilight Zone connection?  Tonight I read one of my favorite blogs written by an adult adoptee and she had posted a letter written by another adult adoptee.  Read it, if you are an adoptive parent.  Actually, I think you should just read it. Because none of us know where our lives will take us and whose hearts we will touch in the course of living.  You'll find it here

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A sweet tradition continues!

K and the kids have been working on our annual Yule mural.  This year, they decided to make a gingerbread house and all of us as gingerbread people.  It isn't quite done yet but it is going to be sooooooo cute!  This weekend when the kids and I were whirling through the local craft store like a tornado, we found some cute stick on accents--pretend candy, felt presents, that kind of thing.  It will really look nice and the other cool thing is that it will not be hard to decorate around that for Miss Lissa's birthday on the 16th.  I love this particular holiday tradition of ours because everyone gets involved, and everyone is represented in the mural somehow. 

I have also been doing some research for our New Years tradition as the concensus seems to be to celebrate German style.  Which is funny as I actually have German heritage in me and other than loving a good beer, I have no idea how Germans celebrate anything! (well I know there is a lot of brautwurst and such also but as a vegetarian I'll be working around those parts of my heritage!)  Rob came back with this idea after visiting a cultural fair with his girlfriend and the rest of the gang seem to have bought in.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

All I want for Christmas is . . .

KC and Lissa wrote letters to Santa when we went to the Holiday Stroll. This was not a surprise, they wrote letters here at home.  Letters to mail to him detailing their holiday dreams.  Letters to leave with the cookies on Christmas Eve.  letters because they thought he might be lonely--Santa gets a lot of mail from our home. 
Thus I have been pretty sure I knew what was in their hearts and minds for holiday gifting. 

Imagine my surprise when KC wrote on his letter to Santa "a new waffle iron!"  LOL

Yup.  About 4 months ago our waffle iron died.  We used to use it almost weekly but it is hard (and pricey) to find a waffle maker that does 6 waffles at a shot. There are a LOT that make 4, but for 6, not really. So I put it off.  We sort of switched to pancakes and texas french toast or eggs and  home fries for the breakfast for supper meals.  I guess KC was really missing those waffles.  Thanks to the magic of the internet, Santa will come through!

Monday, December 5, 2011

You have to laugh!

Chet and Kirsty had a rather large disagreement the other day.  Both were still annoyed when I got home from work and I tried to negotiate the minefield of the evening; supporting both of them in their respective positions without setting anyone off again.

K's perception is laudable but the reality of it is not the most emotionally supportive for Chet.  She believes that she needs to keep pushing him to try his best, to do better than he presently is and the most recent disagreement concerned handwriting.  She made him rewrite a blog post that he had written for me to input for him on his book and movie reviews.  Chet was angry and the second effort didn't look any better.  For me personally, I don't see fighting over this. He had OT in school for 6 years with no discernable improvement and I have never been able to easily read his handwriting. When I do the blog entry he reads his notes to me and I type what he dictates.

At any rate, I started cleaning up from supper and Chet announced that " I was much the kinder parent, though far more simplistic."

From my autistic son, this is a compliment.  Because I know he uses the english language a bit differently from the rest of us, I asked what he meant. (OK I will confess; I laughed and asked if that meant I was nice but simple minded.) He said no, he meant that I was kind and I didn't nit-pick.

It takes being willing and able to look beyond what is said and done sometimes when communicating with my Chet.  He truly has a heart of gold, but such a hard time sharing his thoughts in a way that makes sense to the rest of the world.  I tried to explain that Mom was just trying to help him work a little harder on some life skills because it would make things easier for him later on. But I do know that I see the situation differently; that there are things he probably has maxed out in ability wise and that is why I don't push. I figure if 25 years of skill building and intensive work on a behavior hasn't worked beyond a certain point, we have likely reached the limit of his ability to adapt and learn to that specific situation.

Maybe I am letting too much slide; I guess there will be no way to know until a lot further down the road. In the mean time, I'll go on being my simplistic self!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A shoebox full of joy

It takes a special brand of insanity fortitude to take my whole tribe shopping at once!  But I pretty much have it down to a science and though I am sure the various retailers are thrilled to see us leave, we do get through the stores for holiday shopping with minimal issues.

It is hardest of course, for Chet, who is over stimulated by the flashing lights, the music, the crowds, essentially ALL of Yuletide.  Lissa is kind of up there too in the easily stimulated arena, but Rob and KC are thankfully not.  Todays shopping trip focussed on birthday and Yule gifts for Fiona, Christmas gifts for K from the older boys, gifts for the "Shoebox Project" at church and the supplies KC needed for a gift he wanted to make for K for Yule.  I like to take it in small chunks when I do this holiday thing, don't I?  LOL

We tackled Fiona's gifts first and found pretty sweaters, a fancy hoodie with faux fur around the hood, a sparkly scarf and some cute jewelry.  Those were all fine, but KC was determined to get her a locket because he felt she should have a picture of us from one of our visits that she could always wear close to her heart.  The only locket we could find that fit his vision (it HAD to be heart shaped and it HAD to be silver) was more than I would ever normally have a sibling spend.  But the sincerity of his desire to do this and the maturity of seeing what she would need outweighed the fact that his piggy bank sure did not have this much cash in it.  He can pay me in chores and I know he will.  We got the locket and now we have to figure out how to shrink one of our pictures down and print it for inside of it.

We did K next and that went pretty easily. Oh and I also was (you can laugh here) helping Chet buy his gift for me.  Chet and K have been oil and water these days and with his aforementioned over-stim situation, it seemed better for me to do this.  He doesn't stress me out the way he does K.  I set some guidelines by showing him 3 things I liked and then told him to make his decision from those things and pay for it while I was elsewhere so that I would not know his final decision.  My goal in this was to try and make sure I did not get another 3X hoodie since I am a size 5! LOL  I asked Rob to circle back and check on things when I was not in the aisle and he did and reported that all went well.

Once we got back together it was time to buy gifts for an 8 to 12 year old boy who is in a shelter in Maine.  Rob spent Columbus Day weekend there with our church youth group and bonded with an 8 year old boy there.  In Rob's mind, we were buying for that particular boy. I  have not a clue that he will actually receive our specific box, but didn't honestly feel that I needed to burst that bubble for Rob.  I think he thinks a lot about that boy and that he weighs on his heart a bit.  If it helps Rob to believe he gets this box, so be it.  And who knows, maybe he will.  We all picked out things for the box.  It is fun to see how much we can fit in a shoebox.  We fit, craft scissors, glue sticks, glitter sticks, crayons, markers, 2 pair of gloves, a card game of pictionary, a game called Toss Up, Silly Putty, clay, a Transformer, and an action figure. I figured out last year that you fit the most things by taking everything out of its cardboard and shrink wrap and packing in that way.  I loved watching the kids all take part in deciding what to get and knowing that someone will have a brighter Christmas because of what we did.

From there we went to get printer ink because we need to take the kids holiday picture so I can mail out my cards. I tried to take their picture when we got home and either I was VERY jittery after taking them all shopping or the anti wiggle feature got turned off by a gremlin again.  (I suspect the latter as the kids all use the camera as well.)  I could have screamed as it was a cute shot, but it is way too unfocussed.

Then we went to the craft store and  I scored a couple of craft kits for Fiona and KC got the suppies to make his gift for K.  He literally has drawn out diagrams of what he wants to make for people and he sat down and did hers the minute we got home.  The kid amazes me.

Actually, they all amaze me.  They give freely of their hearts and their talents and that is all any mom could ask for.

Strollin' in the Holiday

Yesterday was our community's annual Holiday Stroll.  This is such a fun event. For the afternoon, there is almost a small town feel to our mid sized city as businesses throw open their doors and invite the public in for cookies, hot cocoa, crafts etc.  Because we live only a half mile from town, I always walk the kids down. Traffic gets blocked off and pedestrians wander at will through the various shops, displays and events. 

Usually the weather is not too cooperative.  Last year it was frigidly cold and i remember explaining to Lissa that I would not stand in line in the cold for 45 minutes so she could ride a pony. LOL  The year before that we had slushy snow and rain.  This year, the goddess graced us with blue skies and mild temps. Also, having done the stroll for a bunch of years now, I have a feel for how the events generally will run (there is some variation year to year but also some standbys).  This helps me hit the things that seem to matter most to the kids.

The first thing we did was head to the bakery that gives out free cookies.  Except KC remembers that they make a cookie he adores that is of course, not free. So we bought that, and a cupcake and some kind of chocolate confection. Then we got in line for face painting and watched the Christmas parade go by while we were in line. From there, we wrote holiday messages to soldiers, letters to Santa, visited with Santa, played an indoor snowball fight, We watched chestnuts being roasted, heard carols being sung, and bought some hand made jewelry for gifting.

Nearly three hours went by in the blink of an eye and suddenly the sun was low in the sky and it was time to walk home.  I baked frozen pizzas in the oven and we had a 'dinner theater" in our living room watching a children's holiday movie.  Doesn't get better than that!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Saturday doings

Well Rob is officially hired on at the local wildlife museum and starts next Sunday afternoon. He seems excited and I am glad that there was an interview process to help him get used to how that feels.  In another bit of good news, one of his youth group friends also volunteers there and we will be able to share transportation chores which is a huge benefit to us.

KC officially has 3 dance classes on Saturday as the new jazz class was a go and this was the first Saturday for that. He loves it and loves the music they use in the class.  He doesn't know that he will have a second number in the recital and I have neglected on purpose to share that with him.  LOL

We leave in a few minutes to go to our town's Holiday Stroll.  Vendors, and crafts, food and music. It is a fun way to spend the afternoon, though it leaves me racing through  my chores tomorrow after church.  But this is a kind of busy that I enjoy.  It is a wealth of experiences that build memories and knit us ever more closely together.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Feeling Blue

I am blue today.  That is fairly unusual for me; I usually brim with optimisim.  I don't know what the deal is. Work seems overwhelming.  Being away from my office for a whole week was a classic good thing/bad thing.  I know it is healthy to relax and decompress, but then I literally have to spend a whole week revving myself up to the go-go-go pitch that is my work speed these days.  Don't get me wrong, I am glad I have a job.  I enjoy the industry I work in.  But the work load has probably easily tripled and it is very hard to figure out what is the "hot" action item in a sea of seemingly all "get it done now" projects.

It is also December 1st and it was on December 1st 14 years ago that we found out my MIL had terminal cancer.  I will never forget the hysterical sobs as my wife called me at work and choked out the news.  I will never forget how helpless I felt in the whole situation.  Helpless is another one of those things I don't do well. I like to fix. I like to be orderly and  yes, in charge.  Don't ask for much in life do I?

So whatever the cause of the blahs tonight I am determined to think of the positives. Because there are a lot of them.  Like Rob, who is pictured above.  Rob who is out on his second date with a really nice young woman he met at our church youth group. She is his first real girl friend and he has fallen hard.  He is growing up so much these days.  Saturday he interviews for a volunteer position at a local natural history museum.  He is stepping out and testing his wings and I love that!

And there are KC and Lissa who dance and sing and perform their little hearts out every evening after supper.  Who can remain blue when someone is tap dancing in the front hall of their home with a large fake candy cane as a prop?

And Chet.  Sometimes it is hard to know when you have made an impact with Chet.  Autism blunts many of his responses so it is hard to know what he is doing because he memorized that "this" was the appropriate response to "that" situation.  But yesterday he spoke with me about things we did at Yule when he was little. It was just neat to me that he remembered.

My wife.  Who cheerfully drove my teen to a city 30 minutes away for his date tonight. 

I have a lot to smile about.  And tomorrow is Friday. . . see me grin!


Death has brushed past me in my life the past two days.  Not in a personal way, but taking people I knew, and I hate that.  In both cases, the people involved are individuals I knew from my work.  The first one, made choices regarding substance abuse that ultimately took her young life.  It is sad.  She is not the first of her family to do this and it is chilling to me to leave children behind because of that choice. I knew her before her demons ran her life and she was sweet and cheerful and caring. 

Then just yesterday, another individual passed away from an unexpected medical problem that required immediate surgery.  Talking with her shattered adult daughter was one of the hardest things I have done.  I remember her mom as one of the nicest people I have dealt with, cheerful in the face of adversity, hopeful and always always careful to make every appointment that we had.

It is never easy to lose someone, but losing them around the holidays is always the hardest.  My heart goes out to their families.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fiona Wants a Laptop

I think Jane and the staff at the Great School in the City really wanted Fiona to forget about her dreams about a laptop.  Apparently the dreams were originally inspired by a conversation with her social worker and have somehow morphed in her mind into us getting her a laptop for her birthday.  In all reality I am not against helping her get a laptop.  The stickler is that the school does not allow students on the school's internet network on their own computer. Therefore, there is no way that Fiona could surf the net on her own computer which was allegedly what she originally wanted to do. 

When she called last night she brought it up again.  I really feel that it is important to try and deal with what my kids want without pretending it doesn't exist.  So I said "gee I bet if you had your own laptop you could use a cool art program like Kid Pix Deluxe and make some neat art for your room."  Thankfully the suggestion inspired Jane who then asked Fi to help write a proposal of how she would care for a laptop if she got one, and also a list of what she wanted the laptop to do.  Surf the net was NOT mentioned by my daughter.  She totally glommed onto the art idea, and also added that she would like to be able to play and record music on it. 

I was impressed by her ability to talk about what she really wants, to take some ideas that were different from her original idea and not freak out about it, and to really clearly articulate her vision.  She has come so far.

We also have tentative plans to visit on Christmas Eve day and celebrate her birthday, possibly with a couple of her school chums joining us. I'll also bring her Christmas gifts and leave them with staff.  As I told Jane later in an email, the conversation just felt good to me.  Not just for what my daughter could say, but for the fact that both she and Jane wanted me to be part of hte conversation.  It was a "mom" moment and I was one proud mom!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Walking and Singing a Holiday Tune

I don't expect this is what was meant in the carol "The Little Drummer Boy!"   I love watching my kids make music though.  It lifts my spirits even when it is discordant, loud, or when I have a migraine.  And it isn't always loud or discordant, just sometimes! LOL

Tonight was amazingly warm for November in our region.  After supper we walked through the darkened neighborhood looking at some of the houses that have all ready got holiday light displays up.  (ours is one of them)  It isn't normally pleasant walking in the dark in November around here.  Usually there are chill winds and sometimes icy patches underfoot that worry my wife. But tonight was a bit of a gift from the goddess.  The clouds danced away and we saw Luna, a lovely crescent moon shining down on us. We sang carols as we went up and down the streets (Rob laughing at the antics of the littles--I refuse to believe he was laughing at the singing of his parents!)  It was only about 10 or 15 minutes, but it was a magical moment at the end of a day that was less than stellar.

Reality Check

It is a good thing we made a pre-cooked gingerbread house this year.  The kids and I decorated this on one of the days I had a migraine. They had a blast and I had very little to do other than open containers of decorations.  A good thing as that same day I  made a raspberry cheese cake.  Last night I went to cut the same and serve for dessert, only to find that I left out the sugar!  Seriously, I always pride myself on living life regardless of the darn migraines, but clearly i have to cross making cheesecake off the list of things I can accomplish when in the throes of one!  LOL

It is back to the work world today.  It is going to be a readjustment for the kids.  Back to school work and back to only K at home.  The littles were all ready mourning this last night.  I did point out that at the end of December I have some more time off so that helped a lot.

Rob is starting to think of his future beyond our home.  This is a big step for all teens, more so for kids who come from traumatic pasts.  For many years he has steadfastly refused to think of anything he liked or showed aptitude for that was plausible.  His life goals were things like "win a million dollars"  "play for the Patriots" and I forget what else.  This year he began talking about moving to Italy as an adult.  I asked him jokingly yesterday if that was so he didn't have to help schlep 19 boxes of holiday decorationis from the attic.  He replied that great chefs live in Italy.  (I am sure they live elsewhere too but I am not voicing that!)

So for the moment, he is interested in a culinary career and we can research that further if he feels interested and not threatened by it.  And I told him I loved the idea of him moving to Italy as I would have the opportunity to have kicking European vacations.  We both laughed.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Holiday Decorating

The holiday elves have been busy at our home and it glistens in a most festive way! I'll try to post pics of various decorations and displays in the next few days so that one post doesn't get billions of pics and get hard to load.   This is one of our new holiday decorations. She is an angel that I got from A*on and she is really lovely.  The reason she does not top our tree is because her fiber optics are battery operated with the button concealed in a most un-angelic place and this would be hard to turn on and off at the top of a 7 foot tree! LOL

Ever since adopting black children I have been really conscious of making sure that my decorations reflect ethnic diversity. We have a really nice collection of black Santas, some AA angels (including the one above which KC has named Alarissa) etc.  Well, last year when Lissa was, in her words, just a baby, she beheaded my tall, talking AA Santa.  Decimated the poor guy.  This year while looking through the A*on catalog the kids spied a new talking Santa and wanted it.  But he is your classic white bread Santa.  I said that I really wanted to replace our dearly departed Santa with another black Santa.  Rob asked me why I was prejudiced against white Santas.  ROFL  Which of course I am not, but I am glad that clearly he is comfortable in his skin so to speak, and comfortable with the way race is addressed in our house that he could joke in that manner.  And  yes, we ordered White Bread Santa!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Over the Highway and thru the woods!

As is often the way, a migraine descends when I have the least amount of time for it. Yesterday I had promised my mom that I would drive the kids and I up to see her.  I woke about 2:30 a.m. with the early signs.  I got up and took some aspirin and hoped.  Woke up at 6:30 and it was still there. Crap.  The only good thing is it wasn't a blinding migraine.  I could see. I just felt crappy.  But my mom is not feeling well, needing a CT scan on 12/5 so unless it was unsafe I was not going to bail.  It was not dangerous to drive.

Migraines are such sneaky devils.  They come often from the release of stress, or a change in eating or sleeping schedules.  All 3 happened this past week so I sure was due.

The kids were so awesome. They helped navigate me up to Nana's.  My direction sense is non-existant.   And my wife is one who can drive anywhere and get you there 50 different ways. Thus it is hard for me to memorize directions as she rarely goes the same way twice.  Over the years, I have given up the trying and just chat and relax if she is driving. LOL

My mom was so glad to see us.  She has some type of thickening of her bowel wall and the CT scan is to allow the medical dudes to get a clearer idea of the scope of this and the cause.  She has been in considerable discomfort from this for a long time, while they tried to determine the cause of the pain. Unfortunately at the same time that this all happened, her middle aged cat became ill and that has really added to her stress and anxiety.

At least for a few hours yesterday, both cat and Nana were entertained by silly knock knock jokes, art work, poems and games.  We had lunch together and then eventually hit the road to get back home.  My mom emailed me how very much it all meant to her.  I know it meant a lot to all of us too.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving reminiscence

Thanksgiving.  While I understand my wife's position that every day should be a thankful day and one day devoted to thanks, eating and football is not necesssary, I respectfully disagree.  I adore thanksgiving.  I love the coming together of family.  The jokes, the noise the hubbub.  I love polishing the flatware that my mother in law got in Thailand many years ago when they were stationed there.   I love polishing my mom's silver candlesticks and tenderly washing my grandmothers serving bowl.  I love decorating a pretty holiday table and adding our things--pretty napkin rings and the dinnerware to those things that have come down through the generations. 

It's not so much about the food for me, honestly.  Lots of the food is stuff I would not eat.  Yams that have been tortured in syrup in a can don't rock my world.  But for  my brother in law, who I love dearly, they ARE thanksgiving and must be present! Turkey is something I have not eaten in about 25 years.  But I'll walk a mile for my own home made parker house rolls and I am guessing the rest of those gathered would too as there were only 2 left at the end of the meal!

I love watching the kids hanging out with aunts and uncles and their Pop Pop .  Rob sharing his music, KC cracking jokes, Chet chiming in and Miss Lissa being the diva princess as only a 4 year old girl can be.  I feel very blessed.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Preparing for Thanksgiving

At the moment, my various holiday preparations are under control and I can sort of kick back a little.  It has been (for me at least) a fairly relaxing couple of days.  I have slept in--till 6:30 two days running. That is an unheard of event as a general rule. And this morning because it was dark and rainy out the kids did not want to get up right away. Instead we snuggled in my bed and told silly knock knock jokes till after 7!

I have polished all the flatware and the candlesticks, located the tablecloths for ironing, gotten my recipes together,made place cards with KC, cleaned and spiffed our spare room, done all the ironing and several loads of wash.  Like I said, laid back, Lee style!  Tonight I'll make the rolls and set them to cool rise in the pantry.

In a couple hours my SIL will arrive. She usually comes the day before Thanksgiving and we hang out together.  She feels overwhelmed by all the talking and noise on Thanksgiving day so this is kind of her special time with us.  K is all ready feeling overwhelmed by the hubub that will ensue and will go to yoga tonight to rest and recharge. She also will stay home when we journey on Friday to visit my mom.

Sometimes the differences in our parenting are wildly apparent and sometimes we are so in synch we could be one person.  I personally feel that teens are supposed to give a little back talk. It is how they start to separate and how they figure out when it is okay to do that and when it is not.  K, um, not so much.  Last night she got into it with the older boys because she called our kitchen island a square and Rob pointed out to her (quite correctly) that it was a rectangle.  Truly I have a hard time not laughing at that.  He wasn't rude or swearing and dang it, he was correct!  Maybe because I teach the math portions of homeschooling that matters to me. Geometry is so much easier to grasp when one knows ones shapes!  LOL

But at any rate, between her sinus infection and not loving Thanksgiving in general, I think K needs a break. So Friday the troops and I will set off to visit my mom (who is not feeling well and also has an ill pet that is causing her immense worry) and we will cheer her up. Because silly knock knock jokes, crazy kids and pizza just kind of do that!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fiona post visit

Jane called tonight as Fiona opted out of her phone call.  I am noticing (bit slow on the uptake but I did notice!) that this seems to be a pattern after we visit.  I wonder if it is so painful saying goodbye that she can't face talking on the phone right afterwards?  Jane said she did pretty well after we left.  She had a therapy session scheduled and spent the first part of it doing lots of loud, chaotic drumming in the expressive arts studio, but was able to gradually move from that to playing the marimbas and then to playing the maraccas with the therapist.  She didn't try to harm herself or others, she didn't destroy property, so it was all good to both Jane and I.

Jane is frustrated that Cousin N has floated out of the picture again with no explanation or contact. She is not returning calls and no one knows if something horrible is going on in her life.  Fiona is always impacted negatively by this, and it is so hard to decide if the positives of first family contact outweigh the fall out when this seems to inevitably happen.  I realize that I am a bit over the top about consistancy but I know too that my daughter needs constant proof that we are not going anywhere.

Jane seems to feel that it is reasonable for us to work toward unsupervised visits which is HUGE to me.  I explained to Jane that I have felt terrified of angering a social worker and losing the contact we did have.  Jane said I was not to worry and that she felt that the powers that be would be more than supportive.  I explained that when Fiona was moved far from us and I was begging for her to be closer for visiting to continue that I was told by the social worker then that this was a dollars and cents move and I had no legal rights and had to basically put up and shut up.  Jane did not know that part of the story, it was years before Fi wound up at the Great School in the City. 

But hopefully after the holidays (which historically are trauma trigger days for Fiona) we can get some concrete plans to work on this.  And now. . . back to the regularly scheduled Thanksgiving preparations.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Even More Thankful!

I think I wrote a few weeks ago that Rob's sister Krystal had disappeared from the Internet.  We used FB as our primary contact and suddenly she wasn't active there.  In fact she didn't show up on his friend list or mine so we figured she had deleted her account.   It was especially upsetting as we were trying to send her birthday greetings and I could tell that Rob was really upset that she was MIA. 

I had an email addy that I sent a note off to but heard nothing back.  Today when I went on line I saw her up on the friend list again so I fired off a quick greeting right away.  Told her we really hoped her birthday was as special as she was and that we were thinking of her and wishing her a happy thanksgiving.  She all ready wrote a short post back so I am feeling doubly blessed tonight!

Giving Thanks in the Big City

Today we went to the Big City to spend Thanksgiving a couple days early with my daughter Fiona.  She was so surprised to see us.  Even with a mouthful of food, doesn't she look lovely?  (please excuse doting mom comment!)  She was so surprised to see us and so, so happy!  In the past, being surprised would have meant that she couldn't hold her behavior together.  Much like my Chet, the more she wants a situation, the less able she has been to handle it.  Today, she shone.  We had dinner together--though us vegetarians had to stock up on the sides.  We were introduced around to her friends and peers.  I met her new social worker, Ms. S.  Always good to know the players.  She seems pleasant and hopefully saw how much we love each other and will be supportive should I need her assistance.

After dinner, Fiona really wanted us to play basketball. She wanted Rob to have a shoot out contest with another student.  While I am sure Rob would have enjoyed that, the gym did not have basketball hoops up at the moment. We would have to play that outdoors. Which was not on my list of things to do as it was chilly and with the littles getting over the various cruds that have beseiged our home it was not a plan.  Again, deferring something she had in her mind would never have flown in the past.  This time, though she was clearly disappointed, she was able to accept that we couldn't do it now, but we could do it at some point in the future.  Huge huge progress.  Instead, we played our version of volley ball in the gym. They had a net up and we used a light playground ball. The only rule was you could not kick the ball, anything else pretty much was okay. LOL  We started playing and it was a blast.  Gradually, her peers and classmates came in and began to join in until by the time we were done there were probably 12 kids plus us playing.  Kids swapped sides periodically, but there was no fighting or problem of any kind.  Ms. S. the social worker just stood in the background taking it in.  I gave everyone a 10 minute warning and a 5 minute warning and then at 1:30 I called a time out so that we could say goodbye to Fiona. Lots of hugs and smiles and we left her continuing the game with her friends.  For me, it doesn't get better than that!

Hair Time

I suspect there was a time when I would have never put these pictures on my blog.  Hair with a capital H is a big deal.  Not just to me but within the black community and I feel a huge responsibility for my daughter to have healthy hair, in attractive styles and to embrace her hair in its natural state.  Don't set small goals for myself do I?  Add to this mix the fact that I can't do diddley with my own hair, and you have a recipe for angst!

I spent untold hours on YouTube, reading blogs, and  researching natural hair products that would help Lissa's hair to be as healthy as possible.  And initially it was not all that hard. For some reason as a baby and toddler, she was easier about having hair done.  Sitting for an hour or so while I braided, twisted or styled was fine.  Lulled me into a false sense of security the wee wench did, because once she turned about 3.5 she started resisting hair time.  It wasn't that it hurt.  It was that it was time she had to SIT. And my daughter is not a "sitter."  She is a perpetual motion machine and asking the machine to remain in stasis for an hour or so--doesn't go over well.  Styles of necessity became simpler, because I really do not want hair time to be tears time.  And Lissa's hair is wonderfully thick and tightly kinky and coiled, so I likely will never be super fast at any style.  It is long too, when it is wet it stretches midway down her back.

I also learned that it was OK to embrace a little fuzzies with her hair.  Thank goodness for blogs like "Cherish my Daughter" who talks eloquently about not overworking her daughter's hair.  Which is why I was brave enough to post a picture of my daughter's hair style after she spent the afternoon frolicing in the back yard and rolling around on the living room floor.  Before church, this was  a cute little mix of side twists in the front, and a french braid in the back that went to a low puff.  After an active day?  Not so much.  But it was easy to smooth, finger detangle and band for sleep and will be easy to touch up for our trip into the big city today to spend the day with Fiona.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Catching My Breath!

The past few weeks have been full.  Full in both positive and negative ways.  Watching my kids perform at a coffee house, watching my teen stretch and grow, watching my littles try new things.  All good.  But we have also battled some nasty health things lately--KC's sudden bout of pneumonia, Lissa's bronchial infection, K's cold. My mom has some health issues, as had K's dad.  Work has been intense and the holidays approach bringing stress and joy in equal measures. Actually if I remember back to my sociology days, it is technically called "eustress and distress" but science has pretty well shown that regardless of whether we may enjoy the stressor, the result on our bodies is pretty much the same. 

So that makes me thankful that I have vacation this week.  A week to take things down a notch or two. Today after church I spent over an hour playing Wii fit with the gang and not thinking about work prep at all.If you knew me IRL, you would know that is very unusual.

I wish for all of us to have a bit of time to breathe, to find a moment of inner peace in whatever way works best for you!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Craving Simple

With the holidays coming, things get complicated.  Schedules.  Plans.  Even foods.  They are fancier.  Richer.  To be sure I look forward to them, but I also love simple foods.  Tonight was beans and rice.  Doesn't get much more simple than that, but I had seconds of the goodness; the beans having simmered in sauce for hours while we made Thanksgiving decorations for our big picture window.

And I think, that is sort of the answer to the holiday crazies. Finding the balance that allows me to not lose sight of the simplicity that I love and that keeps me sane, and enjoying some of the "fancy" things that feel special and exciting.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Conversation with a teen

(scene:  teen on a computer looking at a social network site)

Teen:  My friend said he broke his labia and can't go to the gym.  What's a labia?

Me:    (laughing inside)  Why don't you google it.

(teen typing furiously.  Reads definition on Wikipedia.  Slowly a grin slips across his face.)

Teen:  I guess he was joking.

You think?  ROFLMAO

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Holidays are important times together

Someone I love and respect recently told me that they did not fully understand why I felt as I do about Fiona and the need to be with her at the holidays.  To me, it comes down to a promise.  I have always felt that when I signed on as a parent, that meant that I would be there, emotionally and physically when my kids need me.  I'll agree that Fiona's case is complex.  Legally, she is not my daughter.  She gets better care and treatment maintaining her status as a ward of the state, much as I hate it.  And numerous evaluations have indicated beyond a shadow of a doubt that her issues are far to complex for her to live safely and happily in a home environment.  Even ours. (I am not being arrogant here. One eval listed us as her best possible option and even at that, the evaluater felt it was not safe or attainable.)

But people are more than the sum of their evaluations.  They are more than the symptoms of their mental illness, and congition deficits.  The fact that she is my daughter means I want her with  her family on special days. I don't like thinking that she has a holiday dinner with whatever staff drew the short straw for a holiday shift, hanging out in the community room with the few other kids who don't have a home to go to. Fiona is always worried that she will drive us away with her behavioral outbursts.  I keep assuring her that I have been here for 10 years and I am not going anywhere.  But I think it takes doing things like being there for a holiday dinner to make that real in a child's mind.  And my heart is painfully oblivious to the legalities of my ties to Fiona.  It beats a drumbeat that all mothers hear; a song of worry,hope love and dreams for their child.  When we are able to be together, there are harmonies and descants, joys and sorrows weaving through the song.  Alone, it is a plaintive tune.  I'm looking forward to descants and harmonies next week.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

KC's really sick

I try to be pretty laid back about childhoo illness.  Kids get sick. It is just what happens.  The wee elf came down sick Sunday and had a hacky little cough.  Said cough quickly developed into this strangly sounding thing that was always bad at night, not so much in the day time.  He has no fever and until today his energy was not impacted.  Mine was (LOL) as I have been up an hour or two every night with him when the cough thing wakens him.  He is very good about it but it was clearly frightening to him and he would clutch my  hand or rub his foot up and down my leg as he lay in bed beside me.

Today we took him to the doctor to be sure it was just a heavy cold.  And my poor little guy walked out with a dx of pneumonia.  Sheesh!  He has an antibiotic he despises but hopefully in a few days he will feel much better.

On the plus side, we talked with Fiona last night and we are very likely going to get to go to a Thanksgiving celebration that her school does.  It is next Monday and I am taking some vacation time next week so this is totally doable  I am so thrilled. It bothers me more than there are words in my vocabulary, that my daughter is not with us at holidays.  The rational part of me can totally get that the hubbub of our home on Thanksgiving would not be therepeutic in any way shape or form, but the reality is, i worry always that she feels left out and unloved. 

When I asked and found out that the school does this, was I ever eager to be there! I suspect 90 per cent of the food will not be food I can eat but I don't care. I'll be the most thankful mom there!

Monday, November 14, 2011

And sometimes, it's all good!

Accidently or otherwise, we all have to have that ah-ha moment once in a while! Otherwise, we would not have the courage to keep  parenting, to keep journeying into the uncharted forests of our children's lives and minds and  walk with on the trek.

One of the things I work unceasingly on is being there for each other.  This is a concept that is harder for some of my children than others.  Some, by nature of their disability have trouble just understanding what that means.  Feelings are mysterious, frightening and sometimes even irrelevant to that child. He does try to be present, but it is sort of "by habit."  He learns that it is not acceptable to say "well you should not have done that" when a sibling falls down, but in a memorized data sort of way.  Empathy is hard for him.

Others of my children experienced such early trauma that they are afraid that there will not be someone looking out for them.  Even when years of constancy have shown otherwise, there is a kernel of doubt and fear.  When will I show that I too can not be trusted to keep them safe.

But tonight, while I did the dishes, I set the youngest ones  to making a turkey craft. Truthfully this was "Save My Sanity 101" as they both have colds and cranky is a bit of an understatement for their personalities at the moment!  But they really got into their craft and they became cards.  I suggested grandparents or godparents as the recipients.  Lissa chose to send hers to her nana, but KC said his was for Fiona.  He often makes a picture for her so that in itself is not surprising. But the message was:

Dear Fiona,
I made this card for you but we all love you and hope you and Jane and your whole school have a great Thanksgiving.  Love. . . .(all our family names were then written) PS  xxoo  Without conversation, he knew that we should have all our names on that card so that his sister will remember that we love her even when we are apart.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Planning Yule Gifts

I started shopping the other night.  Fingers tapping across the keyboard; totally my way to shop.  I have to finish the littles tonight and then Fiona is up next.  Two calls ago she asked me if I would buy her a laptop.  I always have a tough time with the logic and intelligent part of my brain vs the parental love connection in these instances. 

I am not sure I can write this sensibly.  If you have not lived this dynamic it may seem pretty cut and dried, and truly it is not.  I know that my daughter has serious behavioral issues that likely mean that she would trash a lap top in a rage in short order.  I know that without adequate supervision she probably can not even navigate a laptop successfully and get it to do what she wants it to do. I have bought her untold numbers of personal stereos, boom boxes, ipods and mp3 players over the year. I don't think any of them have lasted more than a couple of months.

If it was one of my kids who live here at home, it would be a no brainer.  I would say they were not ready for the thing they were asking for and that would be that.  But Fi is different.  She is not with me day in and day out.  The way she feels loved is through looking at her possessions.  Through being able to say to a peer or a staff member: "My family gave me this." she feels loved and feels important.  She looks to tangible possessions as proof of love and of  the constancy of our presence in her life.  And I get that.  If I had the kind of life that my daughter has had, I think I would feel exactly the same way.  There is also a level of parental guilt that I feel over Fiona.  Part of me will always feel that I did not do enough, try hard enough or whatever with her.  All the professional evals detailing the scope of my daughter's challenges are not enough to diminish that kernel of inadequacy that I always feel about her.

So the next thing I knew, the kids were in bed and I was cruising the internet looking for refurbished laptops.  Which i found pretty reasonably.  It would still be an expensive gift, but I could juggle things and make it happen.  I did, in a moment of clarity, email Amazing Jane and tell her what I had found and ask her opinion and this week she called me.

She said that the situation is more complex and laid it out for me. The social worker is a good one and has not dropped the ball. Fiona has a chance to have a laptop. The problem is that the school has safety rules that preclude any student tapping into their internet network. Students are also prohibited from using social network sites because of a myriad of issues that make sense to me at one level and none at another. But it is what it is. So in reality, if Fiona wanted to download music or print a picture, she could not do it on her laptop. She would have to put it on a flash drive, go to staff and they would have to do this on the school server.  Jane said the school has been reluctant to have this conversation with Fi because it will be hard. She will be angry and have behavioral issues and this time of year is notoriously difficult for her anyway.  They are sort of being ostriches and putting their heads in the sand and hoping that she will forget about it.

And she might.  This week when she called, she had her clothing sizes and wants clothes for Yule.  Clothes I can do. And we share a love of fashion and a strong addiction passion for shoes and boots so this will be a lot of fun.  I hope that when she looks at them she can feel how much I love her.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Saturday re-cap

A dear friend and former coming of age mentor for Rob captured this picture of him at the coffee house last evening.  I am so glad as my teeny little digital camera doesn't do well in low light situations and you can tell from the strings of white lights behind him that the light was less than ideal for a lower level camera.

Today was a busy day and predictably filled with spats from littles who were up way later than usual last evening.  That they slept till nearly 7 a.m. didn't negate being out till after 10 p.m. LOL  But I am willing to deal with whiny kid fall out because not only did both KC and Rob perform, but I have a really strong belief that families are whenever possible all there to cheer each other on.  I want my kids to always have each others backs, and if they are not there to share the joys, how will they have the strength and courage to share the lows?

We did our shopping, our banking, made a trip to the laundramat to wash Rob's comforter and visited the library. Then we came home and I cleaned the kitchen and made an apple pie.  We had a last minute invite for a play date for the littles but I begged off.  I know I can handle them whiny, but I don't necessarily think others should have to! LOL

It was Observation Day at dance class.  Once every 6 weeks or so the parents get to see what the kids have been working on.  KC has freaked about this over the past 2 years. Today, didn't faze him in the least.  He is so happy dancing. I love to see it.   Miss Lissa on the other hand, has become "KC Number 2" as the dance teacher put it. Actually not as bad as KC though by a long shot.  She cried for the first part of the Observation time but was able to cuddle with me for a bit and then go back for tap.

Tomorrow is church, and then Rob is volunteering at an ecology center with a friend until choir and youth group.  I love that the kids are busy in such positive ways. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

My heart sings!

I can barely carry a tune but tonight was a delightful musical melange!  Our teen youth group hosted a coffee house and there was the most amazing talent shared. From 6 year olds to senior citizens, there were all kinds of music shared.  (and also a recitation of the poem "The Highwayman" which I remember making my mother read over and over to me when I was about 9 or 10 years old!)

I loved all the music, but I was mighty partial to two of the acts.  KC and Rob both performed.  The fact that KC performed willingly was enough of a gift, the fact that he was happy both before and after doing it, priceless.  He played "The Bells of Michelmas" on his recorder and aquitted himself very well.

But Rob.  Rob played a piece that he has written at his piano lessons with some assistance from his teacher.  It is powerful and so beautiful.  I have heard it once before on our keyboard here at home.  I have got to get my son a piano.  He has talent and the difference in sound and tone on the piano tonight vs our keyboard--well there is no contest.  I can tell that all his teen passion and feelings go into his music and I am so grateful that he has this outlet to express himself in a way that is creative and positive.

At the intermission the teen choir director came up and shared with K and I how much the folks who work with the teen choir love him.  She said he is the kind of student that music teachers dream of having. They are amazed that he has only studied piano about a year.  He has an ability to accompany with percussion instruments and they have utilized him with a large drum (which he did tonight) and apparently also with shaker type instruments.  Frankly I can't play music so much of what Rebecca was saying about his talent, I only dimly understand.  That's okay!  I can and am so proud of him and that's all I need to understand.  And all Rob has to know too.

The night was further brightened by sharing the evening with our dear friends and the kids godparents, G and W.  Special night. Special people. Special music.

Sleigh Bells Ring . .

I started Yule shopping last night after the kids were in bed. Well most of the kids were in bed; Rob was still up watching the Bruins game. LOL  I am so glad that most of my shopping can be done via the internet these days.  It is so hard with our schedules and the ages of the kids to find time to sneak out to stores.  So by my bedtime, Chet and Rob were done and Lissa  and KC begun.  I have to do KC and Lissa fully this weekend and I probably will hit stores for Fiona because I have all her clothing sizes and for that I can bring the kids with me. 

I imagine that some super sale will happen the day after Thanksgiving and I would save big time had I waited. But we hope to take the tribe into the big city for a visit to an art museum that day and I have no intention of standing in lines at the crack of dawn on that day.  There is no monetary value for having time together as a family!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Candy Art!

Because I know everyone wonders what to do with the wrappers from all that Halloween candy. . . Because simply throwing them in the trash is so ordinary. . . I present an alternative.  This is art made primarily from candy wrappers by KC.  It is "Candy Land" in its most literal sense. He envisioned a factory that made the tootsie rolls and used bits of other wrappers to make the cars, the sun etc.
And this is  mine  (because I am so mature, right?  LOL)  Tootsie roll skyscrapers, a skittles garden, a farmer with fruit on his head a la Carmen Miranda and my especial fave--the starburst tree!  Silly but fun!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Eyes Have It

Rob's eyes, that is.  He has glaucoma, and was diagnosed very early in life.  His pressure test was today and I am always a little crazy inside waiting to hear the results.  Glaucoma is not curable, it is something you "manage." And management can have varying rates of success.  Part of the success depends on early identification of the disease. We have that.  Part of it depends on consistantly taking the meds.  We have that covered too.

But there are variables we can't control that will impact his ocular pressure.  Growth spurts, for instance can have an impact.  There are other things too I suspect that doctors will find out in years to come.  All I know is that I want my beautiful son with soulful brown eyes to be able to see the world. 

Today, the pressure was slightly higher in one eye, though still within the parameters for normal.  However for the first time ever, he could not see a light in one of the vision tests that they do.  It is not anything dramatic as yet, but it is that little jab from the disease letting it know we need to stay vigilient and it is not giving up.

It is also a reminder to me how frustrating it is that we have so little medical info for our children.  I know through conversation with Rob's extended family, that it is likely that his father has glaucoma.  I don't know when it was diagnosed. I don't know how well it responded to treatment, or if any issues related to it have occured. I tried to get that information and was not able to.   I wish I had those facts for my son.  It might help the doctors.  It might make Rob feel better about things.  I have read on numerous adoption blogs how much it bothers many adult adoptees to write down that they have no medical history when they see a doctor.  And I get that.  But if you are the worry wort adoptive mom it isn't a whole lot of chuckles either.

Voices and Faces

It really had nothing to do with November being the highly touted "Adoption Month."  My kids have scrapbooks that I started from the day I met them. I have always tried to include as much information about their first family as I know.  Rob is the luckiest in that regard, I have pretty comprehensive stories pictures and contact with extended family.  KC has only one picture of his first mother Y. It was taken at the hospital and sadly, she is not even holding him in the picture.  Maybe she did not want to. Maybe it would have hurt too much to.

She is wearing a sports team shirt for a team that both KC and I root for each baseball season.  And I wrote what I knew below the picture. That she said she loved to write poetry, that she wanted to finish school. . . .

KC had asked to look at his first scrapbook--the kids have upwards of 3 or 4 now each depending on their ages.  We opened it and looked a Y's picture and talked about his story.  He looked up at me wistfully and said "I wish I knew what her voice sounds like."

I do too.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Changing before my eyes

KC is an artist at heart but also has significant stage fright issues.  He had to decide by this weekend if he would be in the recital this year.  He put off the decision  all week  and woke yesterday all in a dither over it. "Oh this is the worst day of my life," he declared dramatically.  "Heart Attack!  Horror!"  Seriously, this was a quote. Ate least I know his vocabulary is good.  LOL

I said that he did not have to be in the recital. But that he had to understand that Lissa WANTS to be and he could not ruin the experience for her.  Also he would not be able to hang out back stage with me, but he could absolutely enjoy watching the show with the family members who would be in the audience.  He went away, deep in thought and an hour later told Miss Heidi at dance class that he would be performing.

Today at church I was purchasing tickets to the youth group coffee house this coming Friday.  The sign up sheet for the acts was on the poster next to me.  I saw KC writing something but truly did not know what he was doing as I was more focussed on writing my check.  When I asked what he was up to I got a withering look and a "duh, signing up for the coffee house of course!"  He apparently plans to play the recorder on Friday and allegedly will practice in front of all of us during the week so that he won't be feeling anxious!  Go figure.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

This and That

KC decided he wants a blog and he has posted a few times.  I do the scribing for him as his thoughts vastly outpace his abilty to keyboard at that speed.  What impresses me though are the depth of his thoughts and the way he organizes them.  Tonight when he came to me, he informed me that he wanted to do a series of posts about his family.  First the girls, then the boys, and I would have to wait to see what the next part is! LOL  Sometimes that kid cracks me up.

Lissa is on a high right now. Her class at church has fellowship duties and she gets to help in the kitchen.  KC's class did this last month and her nose was oh so out of joint that big brother got to the kitchen before she did.

The older boys will spend tomorrow morning helping K with the leaves that have deigned to fall from the trees. Truly this is the weirdest fall I have ever seen.  November and there are lots of trees still leaved?  Really?  In New England?  More than passing strange I will tell you!

It felt good to center and have family time today. The work week is so high paced.  I consciously take three deep breaths in my car before I drive off the site, endeavoring to leave any lingering angst or tensions there and not bring them home.  But the blackberry keeps me in constant contact and I tend to work on it off and on throughout the evening.  Mostly this is when everyone else is abed so at one level it is not a problem, at another level it does mean I never really put my job to bed.  Which I suppose I should.

On the plus side, my tax refund finally arrived in my bank account today.  So I will order Yule gifts asap. I also will be able to order our pellets and I splurged and got Lissa a new mattress and box spring to get her out of the toddler bed that she is way too big for, and a new sofa for our living room. It will arrive on Thursday.  It is not fancy.  I have 4 kids who think furniture is gym equipment. LOL  But it will be new and it also has a sleeper thing inside for company.  And it is not 20 years old and falling apart like what we have now! 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pity Party is Over

Well truthfully it was over after about 2 hours yesterday.  I can't really spend hours being morose over something like a promotion.  I wanted it a lot.  I felt qualified and excited about the challenge and changes I could envision.  But it isn't happening.  I had a shower, cried, and then wrote an email to the 3 people who met with me. I thanked them for taking the time to speak with me. Said that clearly I saw things differently but I respected their position and looked forward to continuing my professional growth.   I almost immediately got a very nice email back from one of them.  He said that he was very sorry  about the delay (and he stressed delay, not denial) of the promotion. He has promised to support my professional growth and pointed to the fact that 3 other people under him have been promoted up. He said he believes in promoting from within and feels confident it will be in my future, just not right now.  I don't know if it was salve or truth. I am operating on the latter because I really believe in trying always for the best and though I know humanity means I will miss the mark, I will always be better for having tried my hardest.