Sunday, July 31, 2011

Farewell July!

Today we said farewell to July in style with a day at the beach.  I adore the beach.  Not in a contemplative way.  That is way more my wife.  She also spends time contemplating how to keep sand out of certain areas of her body--I am way less fussy about such matters. LOL  When I was younger I loved running on the beach.  Eventually my wrecked knee put an end to that.  I still love brisk walks on the beach but love playing with the kids best of all.

This is us playing as the tide was coming in.  I could not believe K even managed a shot that got Chet in it too as he was pretty over stimulated by the beach scene today and was flitting around a lot.  The waves were perfect for jumping.  The breeze was a land breeze so you could warm up when you came out, it was just gorgeous.

It also seemed like such a laid back day to me because I didn't have to watch all 4 kids by myself for the trip.  I have not shared beach duties in over 4 years so this was a treat! I do have the 2 littles held in my patented "ninja death grip" in this shot but most of the day I only had one or the other with me at a time.

Lunch was a picnic on the beach--bruschetta on crackers which I adore, with tiny carrots to munch.  Chips and punch or iced water.  I don't know how a day--or a weekend for that matter--could be any better!

Beach Baby!

So yesterday's party was a huge success. The kids and all their friends and the 8 or so adults (truthfully I lost track of who and how many) all had fun. It was from 1 to 3 and people finally left at 4:30 so I guess they were enjoying themselves.  My goal was to have things cleaned up before my wife got home from work at 6 and inside and out that was accomplished. The kids helped amazingly!  I took not one single picture while the party was going on cause I was so busy but truly they all just had a blast. Slip and slides rock and kids would gather there, and another group would gather on the tarp and play with the moon sand, which was this other huge hit. LOL   A third group would do the crafts and they just sort of naturally rotated between the stations. We all became multi colored doing tie dying.  Just for the record, the fact that this is now very upscale and done with squeeze bottles instead of Rit dye in buckets makes it absolutely no less messy.  Just saying.

Anyway, I must have done such a good job cleaning that my wife surprised me by suggesting that we go to the beach today.  I about fell over.  My wife usually boycotts the beach.  This is typically my thing with the kids.  She also has this rule (that I am known to break often) all the time  that there can only be one fun thing per weekend.

But I love to go to the beach and we have not been all of us together there in years.  So I jumped at the chance and we did some of the packing last night and I am off to do the cold stuff  now!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

And we are ready to "par-tay!"

The littles woke up at 6 this morning asking if it was time for the luau yet! LOL  Luckily there was a fair piece of stuff needing to be done to get ready for it.  I don't like to rush so we got up and did breakfast and then started schlepping all the stuff out to the back yard.  We have a "tie dye station" which involved one table and all the gear needed to tie dye the pillowcases.  We had a 6 ft table to move out that holds the other crafts.  We had to wash out the wading pool. (this is going to be the hand washing zone when people get messy from crafts.  I am hanging a bar of soap in a nylon on the bush next to it and putting a few beach towels there.  Then I had them wipe down a bright blue tarp that usually covers our pellets in the winter.  That is the moon sand zone and they helped open all the different colors of moon sand and get little stuff from play do sets to make impressions and such in the sand.  They helped put a tropical garland around the canopy that covers the food table and fastend the table cloths down. We corralled my dear wife to help set up the slip and slide (I am sort of a dunce when it comes to connecting water things.) The kids have as much fun prepping sometimes as they do at an event.  KC made a sign that says ALOHA, KC welcomes you to the luau, fun for all or something like that and drew a Hawaiian dancer on it.  I laminated it and stuck it on the garland.  All the prep took about 2 hours, and then it was time to go to the library and the bank and the store for the snacks.  The kids were equally excited about that as they had summer reading prizes waiting for them.

We got to the grocery store and it was really funny.  I was not at my usual store becuase one of KC's friends has a lot of food allergies. He can't eat gluten, casien, wheat, dairy or soy.  I know the store his mom shops at and wanted to have plenty of things he could eat so that is where we went.  But it meant that I was a bit clueless when I went looking for iced tea for grown ups.  I finally found it and I called up the aisle to Rob who was checking to see if it was up there.  "Rob honey, I found the ice tea, it's right here!"  Some guy, shopping with his girl looked up and said "What did you say?"  I fsaid, the OTHER Rob, my son who is standing behind you!"  We all laughed and it was just one of those silly funny moments. Laden with fruit, veggies, chips, salsa, crackers and cookies that meet our friends dietary requirements and 3 seedless watermelons we left, ready for more luau prep.

Now I have to make popcorn, slice watermelon and get the food in bowls. Truly not hard.  The kids are watching a movie which helps pass the time till an hour from now when friends begin to arrive.  Everyone ready to hula?  LOL

Friday, July 29, 2011

Tales of a stomach bug

On Thursday at 2:00 a.m. I woke suddenly knowing something was amiss.  Sigh.  Turned out that the dreaded stomach bug had decided to visit me.  Because KC had chosen that particular night to come into my bed, I crept to the downstairs bathroom and then curled up in our spare room, wrapped in comforters as though it was 20 degrees and snowing out.  I did make it to work--for one whole hour. Then I came home and basically slept through Thursday.  I'd waken every few hours, look at the time that had escaped--lost forever-and fall back asleep. 

I even slept through the picture above--Valkyrie had her kittens Thursday afternoon.  4 wee ones, 3 black and 1 smoky grey.  All in good health and mama is calm and fine.  I thought she might be edgy or upset--she is really a babe herself at 6 months old, but she was and is, the picture of contentment. (and I am too, both for knowing that they are all fine and for knowing that there are homes lined up for those sweet little ones 8 wks from now!)

Today I woke up still feeling like death, but not as badly. My co worker begins her vacation today so there was no escaping work.  I slogged in, with my mega large bottle of Diet Gingerale under my arm and waded into the day.  Amazingly at almost exactly 2:00 p.m. I suddenly felt GREAT! And I have felt great ever since.  I am exceedingly lucky since the many residents I spoke with today told horror stories of this lingering on for 4 days. 

But I still begrudge losing that entire Thursday. Sleeping till 6 a.m. is late for me.  Going to bed before 10:30 or 11 is early for me.  Sleeping all day is pretty much unheard of.   I missed my X Games date with Rob.  I didn't find out who the Patriots signed till today.  I didn't do showers and stories with the littles.  In fact I didn't really SEE my kids till today.  So there's lots of loving on to make up for, X Games to watch, and a luau to get ready for!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jane Calls

Jane called tonight to let me know that Fiona was back at school and declined to call.  That makes sense to me.  She is angry and hurt and feeling that we lied to her. I told Jane that I feel horrible and that I spent last night in tears, knowing how Fiona feels, worrying about her safety and her emotional pain.  I said if there was any way to safely bring Fi with us I would do it in a minute.

There was a pause and then Jane said, "If Fiona got to a place where she was safe and healthy enough to do a trip to Disney would you do it?"  I said I would do it in a minute, even if I had to take out a loan to make it happen.  Jane said in that case, I should not worry because she would then cross every conceivable boundary and we could all just go stay with Jane's mom who lives in Florida if it ever came to pass.

I realize that it may not happen. But I am Pollyanna who thinks that if you play the Glad Game enough, good things do happen.  And a profoundly good thing is that Jane is in my life and my daughters life.  And somehow we will help Fiona to see that we love her and we will take this step by step. That not going now does not mean not going ever.

My mother tried hard to be supportive of this quandry that I found myself in.  Her perception though is that I should have drilled the littles to say nothing and that I should have been far more upfront with them about the depth's of Fiona's issues.  I don't really feel like I can do the latter. They know she goes to a special school and lives at school. They know that the Great School is helping her to learn safe ways of dealing with big feelings and helping her to get ready to live on her own as an adult.  I can't give them the back story. That is Fiona's. And also Rob's. And I feel strongly that the pain of their past is not something to be bandied about to the siblings.  To my mother this is not operating from a platform of honesty and I do see her point. But given their ages, I think it is the best I can do for now without causing more harm in the name of honesty. I didn't point out to mom that not saying anything is not 100 per cent honest either.  I know she was trying to be kind and that there are times when my family and the tangles of our interwoven lives are truly beyond her understanding.

So for now, I am hoping that by next week Fiona will be able to talk w/ us a bit about this.  It will at least be a very big step forward for her to be able to voice her anger and her disappointment to the source of it--and to see that no matter what she says, we still love her. And thank you so much to readers who offered me kind words when I was in "basket case mode" last night! It was really appreciated.

Monday, July 25, 2011


I got an email from Jane tonight that Fiona might not call tomrrow and that she might not be able to visit us next weekend.  She has been hospitalized again.  I am not crying so much about that.  I am crying because unwittingly, KC was the catalyst for this round of pain and decompensation. 

Last week he told Fi that we would be going to Disney.  I had not told the kids not to say anything about it. And it isn't something we talk about constantly. I figured if I said "don't talk about Disney" the clandestine nature of that would make it the first things out of their mouths.

 What happened was that Fiona told KC she would like to take a trip to a stadium in the Big City with us and see a professional basketball game.  KC responded with  "that would be fun, maybe we could go after we go to Disney."  To my kids a trip to Disney--a trip to the beach--a trip to see a ball game. They are all fun. I am sure Rob and Chet see the differences, but the littles?  It's all good.  There is the added layer that it had not occured to KC till after the conversation that Fiona was not able to come with us.  His aunt and grandmother are coming.  He just figured in his mind that Fiona was too.

KC admires Fiona immensely. He has no negative history with her. There are no past bad memories like there are between she and Rob.  She is just his beloved elder sister, someone who loves art as much as he does and is fun to be with. I confess that I don't want to do anything that would tarnish that. Fiona needs people who admire her for who she is. So when KC asked me why she couldn't come I wiggled around the question and said that she would still be in school. As homeschoolers we could go in early May but she is in regular school and would have classes.  Kind of lame but acceptable to a seven year old.

Fiona was amazing during the call, and Jane said they had good conversations about it last Wednesday and Thursday.  But by today things had processed differently.  Fiona remembers us telling her we would never go to Disney because K gets airsick. Therefore in her mind we lied to her and her family is moving on without her.  She had 6 incidents of unsafe behaviors in 45 minutes this afternoon and has been hospitalized.

The fact that K and I don't ever remember saying anything remotely like that to Fiona is not really relevent.  It could have been an offhand comment said years ago.  It could have been something someone else said to her and is now being attributed to us.  It could be something she made up.  It doesn't matter.  What does matter is that my daughter feels hurt and betrayed and is in the hospital tonght.

I have told Jane that if Fiona can't come to visit next week that we can go to the Big City to see her if she is out of the hospital.  Jane said I should not feel badly about this as it is always a risk to allow close family contact as there will always be bumps along the way.  This feels more like slamming into a mountain than a bump.

Why I'll never be one of the top 50 mom bloggers!

I scan a lot of blogs. Today I was reading Katie Granju's post on "monkey brain."  Monkey brain was such a cool name that I think it is why I took the time to read her post.  It was all about how to use social media to build a strong blog readership, get a lot of blog traffic and eventually be able to pitch ones blog to paid sponsors.

I'll give you that the advice was sound.  But some of the advice was just so not me.  One should have a strong message and not go haring about on a variety of topics. Well, the thing is my life goes haring about all kinds of places and that tends to be what I write about.  I am just way too easily excited/influenced/moved by all the things that are a facet of my life.  Write just about homeschooling?  Just about adoption?  Just about foster care or the trauma of disruption?  Just.Can't. Do. It.

So don't look for me on the top 50 Mom blogs. But I still love blogging! LOL

Black Princesses

I was blog reading the other day and someone highlighted an etsy store called "Erin Go Paint."  If I had time I'd figure out how to do the link thing but that always takes me forever--sorry!  Anyway, she has the most amazing princess and fairy tale art that she has painted using her 4 year old AA daughter as the model. She says at the site that she did this because she didn't want "The Big D" to be the only definition of princess for her daughter.

We have black art around the house--a fishing scene, a gorgeous African princess drumming that hangs in our dining room, kente cloth pillows in the living room, and of course 50 million pics of the kids themselves.  But none of that is the same as Disney inspired kiddie art.

I know we have to re-do Lissa's room next year so I showed her the art. (my personal favorite was an amazing Rapunzel.)  The kids all looked at it and admired them. They thought it was so neat that her daughter was the model.  Then they turned to me and informed me that Rapunzel, Snow White and Thumbelina "just don't really look like that though.

Sigh.  Can you say "we've been Disneyed."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Creative play for Cloudy Sundays

Today my wife has "run away" for the day. She is off to a botanical garden not terribly far from where we live. It is beautiful there, with lovely paths for walking and fascinating gorgeous plants.  I remember there are fountains there too.  Somewhere I have a picture of KC trying to climb into one when he was about 2! LOL

I am watching the littles make scenes using some empty packing boxes from our job. They are coloring scenes on the inside, adding paper creations and standing them up. Then they use legos tinkertoys and little people etc to flesh out the scene. It is really really cute.

Rob is listening to an audio book and Chet is just vegging.  The house is so quiet it is almost surreal. I had sort of half planned a beach trip today but am glad I said nothing to the kids.  We woke to rain and clouds. What they don't know about, they won't miss.  It is one of those rare moments when all is peaceful and no one is yelling or needing some re-direction.  Truly it is a thing of beauty. Actually they have all been very happy and agreeable today--I think we all slept well in the more temperate 95 degree temps instead of the scorching 102 of the day before. LOL

Yesterday when I was on Facebook, I saw a post that Amy Winehouse had died.  I would imagine that substances of some kind are involved. Her difficulties in recent years were pretty much plastered everywhere.   It is so sad. 27 years old and full of pretty amazing talent.  I feel badly for how often I found myself humming the song "Rehab" when it was popular.  It was a catchy tune and I am one of those people who gets a tune in their head and hums it forever.  (at least that is what my family says when I start in on Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah) 

Winehouse's passing makes me think of internet friends and real life friends and my own  extended family who have struggles with addiction.  Life is such a gift. So fleeting and so frail.  When addiction becomes part of life, it is hard sometimes to see past it to the person.  I know this from personal experience.  But the person you know and love is still there.   I sometimes fret for my children--children born exposed to substances, the need , the taste for certain substances strong within their little bodies.  Will they be drawn to drugs as they grow older, will their bodies remember and yearn?   Will the love, nurturing and guidance help them choose a safer path?

Watching them all play this morning it seems so unlikely.  But I bet 20 years ago or so, Amy Winehouse was playing in ways that made the events of yesterday seem impossible.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

disabilities, trauma and love

There seem to have been a lot of postings on the net lately about people who have seriously trauamatized kids and the need to sort of let go and realize that they can't fix them and what the parents and family need to do to preserve their own mental health.  Some parents write in ways that I can tell they have poured themselves and all the treatments and help they could think of into their children with no obvious benefit or improvement.  Some parents write in ways that literally make me cringe.  Saying things that I can not imagine writing or saying or even venting.  That is harder for me to understand.

Probably what this made me reflect on the most was my eldest son and the toll that his disability and issues took on my relationship with my wife.  Raising him was probably the most challenging thing I have ever done.  We did not know what was wrong. We sought many many types of help.  Nothing worked.  School was horrible.He was physical with us, hitting, biting till he was long past 8 years old. Sports were so overly stimulating that at 5 when he did pee wee soccer he hung literally in the goalie net like Spiderman.  Trust me the coach wasn't thrilled.  We were isolated as a family because of his behaviors and his lack of ability to handle stimuli.  There was no respite.  We honestly went away as a couple  twice in his child hood.  Once was when my mom watched him while we went Christmas shopping.  He threw his shoes at her and freaked her out.  Once was when he was 15 and a friend said she was giving us a weekend away.  We had a great time but he convinced her he could use a tradtional razor to shave (he has to use an electric one because he presses down to hard) and he almost cut himself to pieces.)  Suffice it to say there were no date nights out of the house.  There were a few times we had friends over but not too often.  It was too hard.  His ability to at least go to his room and decompress didn't really develop till late teens so he would just escalate despite our best efforts.

Anyway, the purpose of this post isn't to say "wow look what we went through."  I don't want awards or accollades.  My point is more basic.

At some point in all of this, and I don't really remember when, things were really horrible.  My wife made a statement to me that sounded an awful lot like I needed to make a choice between our son or her.  She is a highly emotional woman and giving her the benefit of the doubt she may have said things in her anger and pain that she didn't mean the way they came out.  But my answer was that she had to understand that she didn't want to ask me to make that choice.  Because as much as I loved her then and as much as I love her now, I would choose my son.  Because we made that choice to be his  parents.  And I don't see how I could then (or now) throw my hands up in the air and say "gee I can't do this any more." 

Maybe I do get through the tough times by deluding myself that things will get better or that progress is being made.  But it is what gives me hope and I do need to live in hope. My eldest son will never be "like other kids."  But I do love him for who and what he is.  Smart, kind of funny sometimes, able to remain young at heart, passionate about the environment and fair treatment of all. 

And I guess the last point of this long winded post is that parents who hug their kid when they don't want to need to know that the child knows that feeling is not authentic.  I know from what my eldest has shared with me years later that he knew exactly how my wife was feeling during many of the turbulent times of his growing up.  Not because he heard us discussing anything.  Because he could tell at some more basic level.  Since my eldest is on the autism spectrum this is pretty amazing as his ability to grasp emotions is uneven at best. Candidly, he and I have a closer relationship than he and my wife do.    So I am not trying to be Pollyanna when I say that I think when we are not loving and parenting from a place of authenticity that our children know it.  My son told me.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Florida Heat

It has been about 100 degrees here today.  Actually more than that when you add in the heat index stuff.  But I am loving it.  Sure is weird to feel the tile floors in our house HOT though!  LOL  And sleeping is a little tough. But it is fun!  I am weird. We have this dinky 6 inch deep wading pool.  We fill it up and have jumping contests.  We run at it and jump in hollering "cannon ball!"  I am sure our neighbors think that I have lost my mind. LOL 

A tamer variation involves using our water squirters in the center of said dinky wading pool and making a "fountain" that sprays down on us.  We are down right silly.  But after doing this, surprisingly cool!

On another note, I need to email Jane about our recent call with Fiona.  It was a really good call, except that KC mentioned that we are going to Florida next May.  Sigh.  I have not told any of the kids not to talk about this with Fiona. I figured saying that would make them do it automatically. Not to be malicious, just that this seems to happen whenever  you tell a kid not to do something. 

We haven't talked much about the Florida trip so I am not real sure why it came into KC's mind except maybe the heat we have recently been experiencing?  To her immense credit, Fiona was tremendously excited for her siblings and very positive.  But it kills me because this is the second Florida trip that my daughter has not been part of. 

The first was a 3 day junket that K won, not too long after Fiona had been placed in her first residential program.  It was not so hard to leave her behind that time. We were still emotionally reeling from the disruption from our house, she was still doing lots of unsafe things, she was having a med eval. 

Now it is 10 years later.  Because she is considered to be in state care, I know I will not be allowed to take her out of the state.  And I am not sure that an entire week in a different state, living intimately with us and my mom and my sister in law, is a realistic option for her.  But  it hurts to leave her behind. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ni Hao!

My son Rob's Facebook account says that he speaks Chinese.  I cracked up the day I read this and asked him what Chinese he knew.  He knew three phrases from a kids cartoon. LOL  I laughed, he laughed, and I forgot about it.  But apparently a nugget of interest in a language was growing.

Recently he requested "Chinese for Dummies" an audio CD set, from our local library.  He has been listening to them, making his own Chinese to English dictionary. . . and teaching the words to KC.  I could hear them practicing last night while I was sitting in the bathroom doing Elisabeth's hair.  For me it was such a magical moment. 

One of the reasons I homeschool is that i want my kids to know not just the basics but to love learning. To be inquisitive and to take the time to explore the things that interest them.  I have always felt unsure about Rob.  He has not really evidenced a great desire to learn anything other than sports stats (which have become a big part of mathmatical learning) so I was just gleeful to hear this.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Feverish Excitement!

Fiona called tonight and we finally have a date for her to visit at home. She is coming for a visit the first Saturday in August.  Woo hoo!  She is over the moon excited as are we.  She is also nervous, I can tell.  It's been a whole heap of years since she was here.  She knows things have changed but all the pictures descriptions and chatter in the world don't really change your mental memory shots.  I think Jane thinks her anxiety stems around the disruption and removal but I don't really think it is.  She was here a number of times after that.  I really think it is about finding a way to feel like you have a home base when you don't live there and reconciling dreams and memories with the fact that we are not any of us the same people. She is a young adult now, not a 9 year old girl.  Then again, I am not an amazing therapist like Jane so maybe I should not second guess her.

Fiona had wanted to have us go to a restaurant the last time we visited at the Great School in the City and had our 3rd off site visit.  It didn't work time wise and truthfully to ask my kids to go sit in a restaurant after a long train ride and a taxi ride to the school seemed excessive.  But I also know that eating out is special and fun and she probably doesn't get to do it  a lot.  (neither do we so she fits right in! LOL)

When we were discussing the visit tonight I suggested that we go to the restaurant she had been pining for; they have one here in our city too.  She thought that was great and wanted us to meet them there as opposed to coming here to the house first.  So I think it is going  to give her a good way to handle the jitters she is feeling.  After we lunch, we'll come back here to the house.  I also told her about our pregnant kitty and that there may be kittens for her to meet then as well. The kittens were a very huge interest!

All the kids are as excited as I am.  Watching them plan and share on the phone tonight was just magical.  Then I realized after the phone call that KC wasn't just antsy with excitement; he was ill.  A hand on his forehead revealed that he had a temp. He has complained of a headache off and on for a couple days now and I just lay it to the temps and the poor air quality.  Now though I think he may have picked up a bit of a bug.  We showered him to bring down the temp a bit and gave him some tylenol.  He is sleeping in my bed tonight as he has informed me it is the "most comfortable."  There are obviously different sorts of comfort when one is under the weather since my mattress is at least 20 years old and his is 2 years old and made of that memory foam stuff! LOL  But when I checked him just a bit ago the temp seemed lower and some sweat was beading his little brow. Sweat is good, gets the toxins out.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summer joy!

Introducing "Gone Fishing Bear!"  Today would have been a good day to go fishing if I was so inclined.  And if I didn't have to go to work.  And if I owned a fishing rod.  etc.  We are having what I call "high summer" weather right now.  Lots of hot, hazy humid weather.  I actually really love it.  I store up memories of days like these for the other 6 or 7 months of the year when I wear fingerless gloves and walk around my house with a polar fleece cloak that makes me look like a cross between a demented wizard from Harry Potter and an overly tall Rangers Apprentice.  LOL

Others however are not so comfortable.   KC is noticably wilted in the heat and prone to headaches.  My wife tends to crankiness.  But for me, bring it on!  It is supposed to be like this most of the week.  It is good for our garden too.  At long last our community garden plot is beginning to burst with potential food.  Tons of blossom laden tomato plants and two small pumpkins all ready.  The  corn is growing tall as well.

 Ah summer--my favorite time of the year

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

No I didn't lose my mind!  LOL  We had our bbq today with our dear friends (also our kid's godparents). We always have had a 4th of July BBQ with them, but this year had to change the date to accomodate a glitch in their plans.  It felt so good to be together.  It felt good to hear my son say "I can't WAIT till Greg and Wendy get here.  I just love my godparents."  

I have worried for Wendy this late winter and spring.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer.  It was found early on and a lumpectomy happened. She was given a choice of having only radiation or chemo and radiation.  She decided to go for the chemo before the radiation because it significantly improved her chances of beating this.  Since her sister has also had a run in with cancer, she felt she needed the edge.

Last week she had her last chemo treatment and it felt good to celebrate that.  She looks so frail and tired.  But buoyed up by the love and joy my family showered on her, the silliness that only kids can bring to a situation (or at least my kids can!) and the security of feeling enfolded by love.

I did succumb to my inner Martha and decorated our deck for the day.  Nothing fancy, took all of 15 minutes but it looked pretty and welcoming.  Some day I may be content to just throw that food on the table but I haven't reached that point in life yet! LOL 

After everything was done, and the kids and I had cooled off by shooting water squirters at each other, I took down all the decorations and got our white bear decorated for the rest of summer.  He has been transformed from Patriotic Bear to "Gone Fishing Bear."  I'll try to remember to post a pic tomorrow.  It is silly I know but that stupid bear has given me a solid year of fun!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

My Mother in Law

I was doing yard work today, trimming the hedge, tidying things up in preparation for a BBQ we are having tomorrow, and hanging laundry.  The beauty of our hydrangea plant stopped me in my tracks.  It is one of those bittersweet things to me, this plant. 

It was given to my wife 13 yrs ago by our then neighbor Marcia when K's mom passed away. Actually she gave us two hydrangeas but we managed to kill one accidently!  They were teeny tiny when she gave them to us.  I knew nothing about hydrangeas before then.  They had never been in any gardens I had been part of,though I had noticed them in others, they had never really commanded my attention.  They are sort of an old fashioned looking flower though and they really suit our old victorian house.

It didn't bloom for years though.  There was just this lump of greenery next to the house. Every year we would cover it in the fall with a nice blanket of leaves and put chicken wire around it so that the boys would not demolish it when they shovelled snow.  We'd awaken it each spring and it would get bigger and greener. But it took years for the blossoms to come.  Now they come yearly, deep blue beauties that look like we'd played in paint they are so intense.

And I love them. But I think of my mother in law every time I look at this plant.  It was so appropriate that K was gifted a plant at her passing.  Mom could make anything grow.  Give her a plant on its last legs and it would be lush and ready for dividing into two plants when you next saw it.  She died so young, just 58.  She never knew  most of my kids--only Chet.  She was an amazing grandmother to him. Accepting of his uniqueness, seeing his gifts, all without judgement or question.  She would have loved the rest of the brood too, and they would have so benefited from knowing her.  Truly, she was gone to soon.  I really love this plant, but I'd rather my mother in law was still here with us.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

This and That

Gratuitous cute kid pic has nothing to do with my post really!  I crack up when I look at this shot.  I have the same picture of Rob at age 8 (1 yr older than KC in this shot)  Except Rob is wearing a Red Sox hat.  KC is wearing the hat of his beloved Yankees!  Cracks me up everytime I look at it.

Things have been hectic at work lately.  The long weekend in the mountains sometimes seems a year ago instead of a few days.  Much of the drain is emotional.  My boss seems to be shooting himself in the foot left and right, despite all our best efforts to prevent it.  I almost wonder if it is sort of like how some people push a violent situation to a point where police intervene and you have a situation commonly called "suicide by cop."  It is almost like he can't just walk away and has to force the situation to be done for him.  It is sad. 

On the positive side, we have had a good response to the luau invites.  There are 11 attendees thus far not counting my kids.  Kirsty is infinitely grateful that she works on Saturdays still!  She can't get that I don't mind this and that it will be fun.  The limbo came this week and the various party gear.  I have to get the tie dye supplies  (pillow cases and the dye) and of course the food when the big day arrives but things are essentially done.  KC very sweetly looks at this as his gift to his friends.

The extremely hot and humid weather left us recently and we have had two evenings of fun at the parks.  The full moon is gorgeous and riding beautifully in the sky outside my window as I write this.  And the skunk that lives under our shed was out in the yard parading around with her three younglings.  (as I reflect on this, perhaps that should not be in the "good things" column, but despite the challenge with the dog, I think they are kind of neat.  I tried to get a picture but they retreated before I could.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Theme Park Transformations

I'm really sure that even the most devoted of blog readers don't want a blow by blow description of our camping weekend.  But while the digs were primitive, our days were spent in two theme parks.   I was more nervous about the theme parks than the bears to be truthful.  First off, I can't do rides that spin around.  Not unless I take dramamine and then I am asleep when I ride them which sort of defeats the purpose! LOL 

But secondly,I wondered how KC would do.  I knew Lissa would have the time of her life, and she absolutely did.  My daughter is a fearless spirit, the kind of person who launches herself into experiences first and worries about the effects or consequences afterwards.

My KC is the total opposite.  Thoughtful even to the point of timid, he has never liked things that move quickly or spin. He usually gets upset if he feels like a car goes down a steep hill too quickly and complains that it makes his tummy "tickle."   I knew he would like meeting Cinderella, and seeing the fairy tale stuff and the nursery rhymes, but the rides???

Geez was I in for a surprise.  KC went on TONS of rides and loved them!  I don't know if it was because he was also doing it with a friend (and often either me or my friends C and L)  But he went on rides that spun, rides that twirled, rides that went up and down (this is a kid who has never even really loved a merry go round!) and laughed and laughed.  That is he and Lissa in the "flying fish" in the pic above.  The fish are on chains and swing out when the ride starts going around.

Kirsty and I have often privately worried together that KC was so tender and the world--well, not really an easy place for tender souls.   He is still my tender sensitive little artist, but there is also a burgeoning confidence within him and that is a gift beyond measure.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Weary Campers are home!

We are back from our camping weekend!  It was exhausting but a lot of fun.  I can't believe I am headed back to work today but I suppose if I stayed home I wouldn't get rest anyway!  LOL  The kids made me take this pic at our camp site to prove that we got our big honking tent up on our own--except my dear friend L who saved us from swimming in the late night Tstorm that hit--by helping me w/ the fly.  This is a big 6 person tent and not meant to be put up by less than 2 adults so it truly was an achievement.

The campsite was beautiful and quiet. . .  in bear country.  In a campground where there was a bear that had been active.  The registrar gave me and the kids lots of info on this and how to handle ourselves if we saw the "young bear."  Thankfully we did not and trust me my kids and I were close together any time we were at camp.  We tend to move as a tribe anyway but there was a subtle added layer to that this weekend.

Then the registrar said "you know you need to portage in to the site, right?"  Gulp.  No I sure as heck did not know that.  I didn't pick the site really for this gig.  My friends did.  The funny thing is that they didn't know that either.  It was not a long portage, and the camp graciously provided wagons for bringing your gear.  But it did take 3 or more trips to get the stuff there and a real significant learning curve on how to get said wagon down the creek bed, up the hill and onto the path to our site without tipping it over.

There was a bathhouse a long way (1/2 mile) from our site with flush toilets.  Chemical toilets somewhat closer.  And the wash stations  you had to pump your own water.  For my kids it was a fascinating experience as we typically camp at the ocean where there are hot and cold showers not far from our site, running water in the bathroom near by, etc.

It was rustic but beautiful.  And because I pull my kids around in a wagon a lot, on Friday night I borrowed one of the portage wagons and we used that for them to ride in while we got the lay of the land at the campsite. 

I had been hoping for some amazing star gazing as we were far from the street lights that are our norm.  Sadly it was cloudy both nights.  We had a campfire the first night and our friends came over and sat at it with me and our kids romped at the site.  C. and L. loved watching the performances that they would come up with together.  They danced and sang and did lots of silly things that one would only giggle at probably if one was a parent of one of the kids. 

The next morning my kids woke early and A. did as well.  Her parents are not folks who race off anywhere though so after an hour of chatting at the camp site and the kids playing, they gave me the green light to head to the theme park ahead of them and we made plans to meet up at noon.  I'm glad they did as my kids were about to expire with excitement. They were not whining about when we were leaving (to their great credit) but they were positively vibrating with suppressed excitement.

I'll do another post about the 2 parks we went to and post a few pictures.  It was a lot of fun.  Tiring but a lot of fun and I consider it good training for going to Disney next spring! LOL

Friday, July 8, 2011

Thunder Rolls

It is 6:20 a.m.  We leave for our camping trip today.  Guess what I am listening to as I write this?  THUNDER!  Yup, the goddess has a weird sense of humor.  Off to check the radar and pray for clearing!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mountain Bound!

Today I compressed two days of work into one. . . almost.  I need to run over to the office early tomorrow and scan some docs to my regional mgr.  And I composed a letter for corporate review here at home after watching the results on "so you think you can dance."  (LOVE that show!)  But all in all I did pretty well clearing the deck for the day off.

When I got home we had supper and the littles and i then went to buy food supplies and the birthday gifts for their friend.  Came home, and they wrapped the presents pretty much on their own while I started loading the car.  I had packed clothes this morning and most of our gear was gathered in the front hall but there was lots of loading to do.  And I needed a tutorial in how to use our camp stove.  See for 7 years now my role in camping has been to keep the littles away from the campsite while my wife cooks.  Yup, and tomorrow I 'll be camping solo with them.  I am a crazy woman!

They are so excited. When they finished wrapping the gifts, I was still loading the car.  They wanted to help.  I knew I would never finish if they "helped" so I had them pack toys in a tote bag.  When they finished that, I was still loading and so I had them pack books. Truly I wasn't packing all that much, it is more that my kids move at warp speed! LOL  By the time they finished the books the car was loaded, except for the things that will go in the cooler tomorrow a.m.

I'll get up at my usual time and then scoot to work for that quick task, come home and we will go to the bank and the library. Then we will head north.  My friends Craig and Laura have promised to help me get the fly on the tent so we will be fine. 

Oh and I all ready have received confirmation of 7 little persons interested in attending the luau later this month!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

By George the Germs!

I've been doing this weird thing lately where I forget to name my posts and just race off to the next part of my life. So I am trying to do better in that regard!

Germs.  Yes, germs.  The throat plague that visited our house via my wife initially is now visiting Rob.  My Rob is rarely ill.  I knew something was up when he was in bed at 6:30 this morning, lying down.  At breakfast he finally divulged that his throat was very sore.  It is horrible timing as we are camping this weekend, but it is a huge step for Rob to admit something like that without me prying it out of him. I think it is about feeling safe enough to admit a weakness.  I gave him some Adv*l and tucked him back into bed.  He slept for 4 hours.  Also highly un-Rob like.

He did come down for supper and he is up now listening to a book on tape. But it is very likely that he may not be well enough to come camping this weekend and will stay back at the ranch with Chet and K. Camping when you feel subpar is way less than fun.  I have done it. I speak from experience!

However this means I have to scramble and adapt my weekend plans. Rob is a HUGE help.  He just quietly pitches in.  My first problem is pitching the tent with essentially just myself.  The littles did a very credible job on the back yard test run tonight putting the shock cord poles together. but they have not the strength to help with the other tent raising duties.  There is also the small matter that I have not ever erected this particular tent.  Ever.  Hmmmm. Oh and the directions clearly point to the need for two people.  Needless to say the goings on in the back yard tonight would not be evidence of my years of Girl Scouting.  I did get the thing up but I can't get the fly over the top alone.  Or with the "help" of littles.  So I will "rely on the kindess of strangers."  (said in my best Blanche DuBois voice!)  Actually I'll rely on my friends Craig and Laura who are camping as well. LOL

At the moment our front hall is awash with camping gear.  Tomorrow I need to pack clothing and the food stuffs and  help the littles buy their birthday gifts for their friend A.  K thought I should just not go but that is not an option to me. The kids have been crossing off the days leading up to this birthday camping adventure for literally months (A.'s parents sent out invites in May!) In the words of Tim Gunn of  Project Runway, we will "make it work."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fiona finally called tonight!  She sounded great. There is a tendency lately to get a little manic, but I have to say I prefer a bit of manic to the flatness that she has had for so long.  She did really well on the call. She and KC were hysterical exchanging jokes together, and she was very proud of the fact that she made Lissa laugh. 

Fiona shared a memory of a former RTC friend from back when she was at the school near us.  I remember the girl.  The truly odd thing was that both girls knew each other before they were at the school near our home.  Since they both come from a significantly distant community from my city, I thought it was really odd. But they had a placement together years before our lives came together, back in the community they are both from. Then out of the blue, they had been living separately and wound up in another RTC together.  The girls were very close.  Fiona's friend shared the name of her sister, Krystal, and in some ways I think stood in for Krystal as the age difference between the girls was similar to her birth family.

It always helps Fi when I too remember the story she is sharing, but tonight went even one better.  Amazing Jane said that it was possible to talk with Fiona's sw and see if they could work on locating Krystal the friend.  That Jane believes (as do I) that families are formed in many different ways in our lives.  People can be important and special to us and not be related by birth to us.  She spoke to how hard it is to make a connection and then have it ripped apart by a move.  Fi spoke to the fact that she knew at one point she had contact info on Krystal but she had lost it and felt really badly about that. (Given that she has had 3 placements since their last shared time together this is not surprising!)

The other thing that was cool was Jane asked Fiona if she would be willing to include me in the "phone plan."  I hear about these a lot but have never really heard what it is.  And I probably should have asked. Because I have had a bit of underlying annoyance over "phone plans."  From my parent perspective, I rarely have a phone call that can't be handled.  I have been Fiona's mom since she was 9 and it seems like having a 10 year history should make me relatively competant to talk with her. That is what we parents do, right?

And of course, like most of life, this is not about me.  Duh, Lee!  :-)  It is about a concrete way to help Fiona process emotions that surface from talking with us, from remembering things as a result of the conversations, and helping her have a strategy in place to make sure that things are handled in as positive way as possible.  They are also a way to help my daughter learn that you can feel more than one emotion for a situation. (for instance, she can be excited that she might be in contact with Krystal and nervous that Krystal won't remember her or be the same, or even feel anger over the system that split the friendship.)

I got to hear some impressive insights into my daughter's thoughts and feelings tonight, and I officially "heart" phone plans! LOL  And not only do I like phone plans now, but I am wondering if an adapted strategy of this could be of benefit to Chet in helping him enhance his understanding of emotions and his overall social skills.  Hmmmm

Monday, July 4, 2011

Luau Plans

At our house, we don't do outside venue birthday parties. This makes us very outside the norm where people seem to think nothing of paying $250.00 for a place to HAVE the party!  My kids would never get a gift from me if I was doing that!  Birthdays are family events  for us, and although Rob had a number of "kiddie" parties when he first came home, it quickly became clear that this was very very pricey.  So when we decided to enlarge our family one of the decisions we made was that there would not be kiddie parties. Because it would be kiddie parties times three and there was no way our budget could swing that. 

Amazingly my kids have all been totally okay with that.  Perhaps because KC creatively came up with the idea last year of having a summer party with friends.  Not a birthday party, just a themed party for friends.  Which meant Lissa's friends could come too.  And Rob is now old enough to help and enjoy that. And to maybe invite a friend to help at the event and hang out with him afterwards.

 Last year, KC created a "carnival."  And i do mean create. The whole experience was very kid driven.  I think I am raising a party planner! LOL 

It was a success and about 2 weeks afterwards he came to me and said that the next summer party was going to be a luau.  The good thing is that he chews on the concept all year and comes to me periodically with "must haves."  The list of necessities were:  leis, a limbo, something with water and sand, and tie dying.

We have the guest list together and did the invites today. Between neighbors, friends from dance, the gym and the park we have the potential for 16 guests.  Gulp.  We planned the events. 

We will have a slip and slide so people can cool off in a silly and hopefully safe way.
We will have a limbo contest.
We will have the "aloha hop" potato sack race
We will have a hula hooping contest.

In the crafts area we will have tie dying headed up by Rob who did an awesome tie dye at camp.  We will have  surfboard shaped scratch art book marks, a necklace making center and some kind of foam art we can stick self stick jewels on.  I have tons of that lying around and am envisioning cutting out big flower blossoms?

In a quieter area we will have a moon sand station for those who want to just veg and play in the sand.

I have to figure out the snacks and food table yet as one of our friends is GFCF as well as having a severe dairy allergy  and I always check with them to make sure that everything I am planning he can have.  I think it is tacky in the extreme to have to bring your own food to an event.  So far, the things I am kicking around are some GFCF cupcakes, some pretzels that I know are GFCF safe, fresh fruit kebobs, and lemonade.  I KNOW I need more food than that though.  So I will be researching the next couple of weeks.

We have decorations set and just need to get tie dye supplies and paper goods, so really we are in pretty good shape.  I thought I would have everyone  tie dye a pillow case.  I can find those inexpensively at a local discount store and I won't have to worry about having the right size shirt for people.  Or asking people to bring one and having someone forget.

We keep costs down by making a lot of things ourselves and by ordering from a very inexpensive place on line for some of the supplies.  But it is also affordable because it is one party that everyone can share in.  If it goes like last year, the parents will hang and nosh on nibblies and have fun while the kids play.  The last Saturday in July, we will be luau central!  :-)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Best BBQ Ever!

Today we spent the afternoon and early evening with my sister, her husband, and their assorted friendly neighbors at a BBQ.   They live a fair distance from us so though we email and FB each other often, we don't actually get together as often as any of us would like. 

There was an unbelievable amount of delicious food.  I seriously have to get her neighbor to send us his recipe for "lazy pierogies."  It looks easily adapted to vegetarian and my wife who will on occasion eat meat, said it was delicious.  Rob hung out with a few teen boys who were there, shooting an air powered pellet gun at targets.  K is more "anti gun" than I am.  My father was a hunter and much of our family diet when I was growing up came from the woods.  (I don't think there is a connection between that and my later conversion to vegetarianism either.)  But I was raised around guns and taught to use them responsibly. Though I choose to refrain from having them in my home, I think taking the mystique off such things is wise.  Rob and the boys were in our line of sight the entire time, so nothing dangerous could or did evolve.

Meanwhile,  KC and Lissa made friends with the younger kids who were there.  None of the kids were people we had met before, and I was proud to see my kids handle making new friends with ease and aplomb.  Not that they typically have trouble in this regard, but as a homeschooler, one always hears so much "advice" on socializing one's children. LOL  They played and ate, and had two times in the inflatable pool. Which meant I did too, as my kids don't go in water without me being there.  I love playing in the water with the kids, but I am also hyper cautious too.  Stuff can and does happen in an instant.  I don't want a fun family day to be instead marked by tragedy.

While on kid patrol, I enjoyed chatting with many of the adults there. I am a chatter by nature. It doesn't matter a whit to me that I have never met someone. There is always something to natter about. LOL  Consequently, my voice is very tired tonight.  But when KC saw that I was writing on my blog about our day, he said that I should call it Best BBQ Ever.  And I think he was right!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Rob's Home!

Today the littles and I set out at 7:20 to drive a few states away to get Rob from camp.  Traffic was
C-R-A-Z-Y on the way up.  Made me nervous as all get out.  I am a driver who doesn't like lots of traffic, especially of the big truck trying to push you off the road variety.  But we got there safely and hung around for an hour or so till Rob's camp finally dispersed. They were supposed to do this between 9 and 10 but it would up being more like 10:30 before they departed.  Lots of bonding and hugging and sharing of emails and memories.  Good stuff. Stuff worth waiting for.

I loved watching Rob's faee light up when he saw us.  I loved watching him smile and wave at the million zillion kids and adults who were hollering goodbye as we drove off. I loved looking at the art work he spent the week making.  And I love the fact that he is now sitting in the kitchen playing those weird Mumford guys music.  My boy is back. Dirty laundry and all.

P.S. this is a picture Rob took of the new dining hall that was recently built at the camp.  It is truly spectacular.  Lots of room inside and to eat outside on the covered spacious porches with beautiful ocean views!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Green and Growing

I've been wanting to post pics of our community garden plot for a while now. But we kept forgetting the camera when we were up there.  This has not been the greatest growing season on record for us--though the apples in the apple orchard are loving this type of weather and that crop should be amazing.  Still the garden looks good and I think ultimately we will get a decent if not spectacular harvest. 

We have a plethora of tomato plants.  Most are roma "paste" types as we can a LOT.  Mostly sauce and salsa.  We also have one mortgage lifter for general eating.  They are my all time favorite heirloom tomato.  Sliced and put on a sandwich of homemade toasted bread, with a wee bit of Russian dressing and lettuce. Mmmmm, I have died and gone to heaven on a hot summer day eating the like of that!

We have squash, pumpkins and corn as well.  And one lone serrano pepper plant because we were at the garden store tonight that is up the street from us and they were $1.99 each.  I adore hot peppers and  was powerless before those shiny glossy leaves and the promise of fire on my tongue! So that is a late addition to our garden.  The rest has been in for ages now.

I love the garden center that is near our home.  It is a small family owned business. No big box store plants for me.  While we grow most of our plants from seed there are times when I like ones that someone else has done all that leg work on.  Tonight we were actually there because I wanted a hanging plant for my mother in laws plot at the cemetary.  Her plot is small and narrow and it is hard to plant it up with as much color as I would like.  I have found that a shepherds crook and a nice hanging plant give that extra punch of color.  Neil had enormous hanging plants on sale for $14.00 each and we got a spectacular one. The garden center  owners also homeschool their kids and the whole area is very kid friendly. There are animals, chickens, ducks a goat and a burro that wander the environs. My kids adore going there because they hang with the critters when they get tired of looking at plants.  And their kids make friendship bracelets and sell them for .50 a piece The kids picked out one for each of them and one for Rob as a welcome home gift.

This is one of those rambly, not really going anywhere kind of posts.  I typically hit delete when I write as badly as this but tonight I can't because I smile everytime  I look at the picture of the tomato plant!  LOL  Sorry guys!

Maturity is not a function of age

Work has been hard lately. Not the skills per se involved in my job.  The dynamics of the personalities at my job.  My immediate boss, who I have worked with since 1980 is having adjustment problems to our new corporate structure. He has become beligerant, defiant and petty. Additionally our former employers turned a blind eye to some things that he should never have been allowed to do--smoke in his office for instance. The new owners enforce the law.  It is in short, pretty darn ugly!

The larger problem is that I need to make  sure that it is clear that his actions and his choices are not viewed as representative of our entire team.  The rest of us may  not love all the changes, but change is part of life and we sure as heck want our jobs. LOL

So in addition to my regular duties I find myself a "mom" or nursemaid, trying to teach my boss that he needs to adapt his behavior to new standards or there will be consequences.  Much as I try to model for  my children.  Except, they get it!