Monday, December 31, 2012

Ringing in the New Year

It is New Years Eve and in our family tradition, we have celebrated and learned about a new country all at the same time.  The kids chose Belgium this year which was solely because they were craving waffles.  We make home made waffles a lot though and by today, meh, waffles.  Luckily Belgium is also the true home of the french fry!  The menu changed but the celebration continued.

I was impressed that the kids went upstairs while I was decorating the dining room and setting the table and emerged dressed to impress.  We had played outside in the snow earlier in the day so everyone was in various states of disarray.  I hadn't asked anyone to change for dinner, but I was pleased that they did.  It showed that our celebration mattered to them and also that they understand that some events should not be attended in pajama pants! :-)

I had a couple of books from the library on Belgium and made them available to them this week.  From these  books I drew a variety of trivia questions. I mix the silly and odd with the more typical.  So yes, there were questions about Peter Paul Rubens, but there was also a question about what the most famous fountain in Belgium called Pis looked like.  (they scored on both questions!)  We played boys against girls as they seem to be doing that these days and the boys beat the girls by 15 points.  However in the interest of fairness, the girls should have been handicapped and spotted some points--it was really only Lissa and K on that team as I had created the game.  But it was close enough that all had fun.

A friend of mine has a family tradition where they put together a 1000 piece puzzle every new years eve.  The deal is that they all work together and it must be done by midnight.  I am horrid at puzzles and the littles are too little for that, but it was still a cool idea.  I used the banner program on my computer and took a montage of pictures of family over the year and put them on a banner made of 12 pieces of letter sized paper.  The way I set up the pictures a tiny bit of each pic overlapped onto the next one to give a clue to the watchful of the order the pictures should be laid out in.  It probably took a good 12 minutes to get the pictures in order and taped down. Then we each wrote a wish for the new year on the back.  From there, we adjourned outside to set off confetti cannons into the snow.  Those were loud enough to impress the kids, not loud enough to bother neighbors and tissue paper is biodegradable.  Back inside the toasty warmth of the  house, we jumped on plastic poppers that  you use for packing breakables. This too sounds fairly impressively like fireworks and is  a great energy burn.  It was rounded out with glowsticks spelling out 2013 in the dark, another collaborative venture as it took a while to figure out how to best use the glow sticks to achieve our goal.

The littles go to bed at their regular time.  Neither is physically capable of handling such a late night and I don't see the point in starting the new year cranky.  K will likely go to bed early as well. Rob and I typically stay up and see the New Year in, either watching some of the music programs, or with a movie marathon.

After our celebration, I was checking my email and saw that one of my friends from church had  just passed away due to complications from a heart attack she suffered 3 weeks ago.  She leaves her wife and  a daughter my Rob's age.  And suddenly, in the midst of celebration, sadness.  Life is like that.  It is the celebrations that sustain us when the sorrows inevitably come.  I wish you all small celebrations and moments of joy to store for darker times of the spirit.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Xtreme Winter Sports--Our way!

More snow.  The boys shovelled our elderly neighbor, then us, and I played outside with them all.  We have a little hill into our back yard and it is nice for sled runs and snowboarding.  I really would LOVE to know how to snowboard but I feel like I would look like a fool out there on the slopes.  It is just not a 50+ momma type of hobby.  My kids are prone to saying to me "Ooma are you EVER going to grow up?"  LOL  Um, probably no.  I still love Candyland, sitting on the floor with blankets for a movie, playing tag in the water at the beach.  I figure at this rate I can keep doing what I love and people are going to either think I am young at heart or senile. But seriously, snowboarding would mean taking lessons from a 12 year old I don't know at a ski area, paying a whole heap of money, so that bit of immaturity isn't going to happen.  Instead, KC and Rob got to try and give me pointers while I repeatedly fell.  We considered it a success when I fell gracefully!  LOL  It was a blast, even with the fact that I had a migraine factored in.  My goal is to make it to the bottom of our hill erect by winters end.

When Lissa got cold, I came inside with her. KC and Rob stayed out to play longer.  KC came in suddenly to change mittens as his were soaked through.  He had a funny look on his face and I asked what was up.  Seems he and Rob were doing some "X Games Training" JE Team style and jumped off our back railing.  In the course of said acrobatics, Rob's cell phone went missing in the snow.  First I tried calling his number to see if that would help locate it.  No dice. Rob usually keeps his phone on vibrate as no teen wants their parent to notice how much they are texting.  :-)

I put my gear back on and went to help with the search, leaving Lissa to have a snack and play with her Leapster while I hunted with them.  I swear we looked like those people who go to an avalanche site trying to find the victims. We dug up 1/2 our yard, sifting snow, banging ice chunks, looking hither and yon.  No phone.

The phone never cost me anything.  A resident gave it to me a bunch of years ago.  When I no longer needed it because I was issued a smart phone by my company, I gave this one to Rob. He has used it for over two years and been very responsible with it.  So I now have a phone on order with BJ's  Nothing fancy but it will allow the texting that is the lifeblood of teen socialization.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Movie Night with Friends

The littles are good friends with a young girl who lives up the street from us. This is the same family we camp with once a year.  They called late this afternoon and wanted to know if we were free to come up for a movie night.  I said sure.  When I hung up the phone, KC let me know in no uncertain terms that he was unhappy with my decision.

KC has this thing where he is easily frightened by visual mediums.  Specific triggers are strong black/white imagery but I have also noticed that the size of the screen a movie is shown on has a lot to do with things as well.  Our friends have a small TV and I knew that we would NOT be watching anything scary.  There is a fine line between letting him come to something when he is ready and initiating opportunities that will facilitate that growth.  I choose to believe that the pushy parent saying he was coming to the movie night was giving him that opportunity.  :-)

Humor aside, I did make a plan with him.  He could sit on the couch which afforded him distance from the screen. He could sit next to big brother Rob who is so cool that one could not possibly be afraid sitting next to him, and he could bring a sketch pad and just doodle if he felt that he was getting overwhelmed. If all else failed, I could come sit with him if he wanted me to and I would rub his head for him. (that has always helped him relax.)  KC didn't think much of the plan, especially when K wound up coming home early from work and he theoretically could have stayed here with her.  But I said no, we would

We went and watched Tangled, which only Rob and Lissa had ever seen.  KC and I had not.  It is so cute and I realize probably everyone else in blog world knows that all ready. But I am always shamefully behind the times when it comes to movies.  I sat on the floor with Lissa and our friends little girl so that KC could be on the couch.  I don't mind as I sit on the floor tons at our house. . . . and I listened for sounds behind me.

And I heard the first one.  A giggle.  Then a snort. Then a chuckle.  KC loved the movie!  He was proud afterwards that he had faced things and found out that it worked out okay.  I praised him and  we talked while he washed up for bed about how things sometimes might not always work out like we hoped but if we never try, we miss all kinds of opportunities for amazing experiences.  I think that at least this gives us something to build off of, and I'll take that as success!

Surly Saturday

Well most of the "surly" is the weather as we have another snowstorm brewing. The skies are milky and threatening and there is that bite in the air that lets New Englanders know that weather is coming in.  It did not stop us from our tasks of the day--shopping for Rob's Youth Group party tomorrow, grocery shopping and our weekly library visit. I even got good news at the library.  I had received an email that I had a book 14 days overdue.  I was shocked as we are very careful of this.  I checked the house and the book was not here. I asked the librarian to check and somehow it was re-shelved by their staff without being removed from my card.  Presto! Fine gone, good library name restored. :-)  KC worked outside on a snowfort he is constructing this year and the older boys played a long game of the card game called Magic.  Miss Lissa and I used her shrink art kit that was in her stocking and made a chain of teeny hello kitties as a result!

Tonight we are going up the street to have a movie night with friends.  We have not seen each other since fall. Despite our close physical proximity L is in nursing school with high demands on her free time and I have not wanted to intrude. It will be great for the kids and also it will allow my wife a bit of quiet when she returns home from work.

The above picture is Fiona with her Nike high heels. She is wearing the red and white and holding the gold and white ones.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Cleaning as meditation

Wish I could take credit for this shot, but my wife took it.  It is very Ansel Adams to me and i love the play of black and white.  This is the brook area beside our yard. It makes our space look more rural than it is, but that's okay too.  I wish often that we had more acreage and lived more rurally but this place and space is best for raising my diverse family.

I have spent the day cleaning and will return to that soon.  I am not hurrying about it, I am trying to take time to be more present and in the moment as I do these simple tasks.  I know that so often my life is so busy that I am thinking little about what I am doing--my mind all ready racing ahead to the next thing to check off on the mental "to do" list.  I am not a meditative sort, but for this moment in time, I can slow, pause, and breathe.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Let it snow!

It started snowing last night and continued through the day today.  I would normally have to sally forth to work but as I am on vacation I was much more laissez faire about the whole weather thing.  The roads were atrocious and I had no intention of driving in them.  KC played outside early in the day while big brothers did shovelling duty.  I can reliably say that the big boys do a bang up job in the shovelling department. They did our driveway, my parking space next door and our elderly neighbor across the street.  When they came in and had dried off and had snacks, KC and I set off for down town via foot.

I had a VERY pressing reason for doing this. The long awaited Nike high heels for Fiona had arrived yesterday afternoon.  I wound up with not one but two pairs.  One is red and white and one is gold and white.  I wanted either or but frankly a bonus pair for her is fine with me.  I wanted to get them to her as soon as possible so I wanted to priority mail them today.  That way I was confident she will get them tomorrow.  I packed the box in a tote bag and also the Christmas cards I had finally written out on Christmas eve.

It was a leisurely walk, filled with chatting and looking about at the way our world was changed by the blanket of white.  We enjoyed ourselves completely despite the biting wind and made it quickly to the post office.  The post office was nearly deserted and the fellow who waited on us was happy to take as much time as we needed for our task.  He even set KC the job of taping the box which totally thrilled my manly little 8 year old.

After setting things to mail we popped next door to Dunkin Donuts for a bite to eat.   KC got a gift card for there as well and was eager to reprise the experience of purchasing his own food.  He ordered a blueberry bagel and an orange coolata.  We hung out inside while he ate, warming up and just enjoying a chance to have conversation together.  8 year olds have interesting conversations that veer wildly from the serious and complex to the inane and the silly.  I love that about this age!

Once he was full and warm we set off back home which was  a bit harder trek as we were going both up hill and into the wind.  But it was soon accomplished and we arrived home, having had some nice exercise and time together.

The rest of the day we spent working together as a family putting away a large portion of our Christmas decor.  I have a huge snowman collection and this helps the kids not to mind so much that we are putting things away.  Also, I still have some areas of seasonal lighting, just with a snowman theme to it.  I need that to push the darkness back a bit at this time of year.

I want to go to Friendlys!

One of the gifts KC asked for from his Nana was a gift card to his favorite restaurant.  Friendlys is his place of choice for brunch as he loves their breakfasts.  He will eat like a stsevedore there and this is a good thing as he goes through spells where I swear he lives on air.  It makes K and I crazy as while he probably is fine, his build is lighter than that of the other kids and we are always afraid he isn't getting enough food for healthy growth.  Yesterday, he wanted to cash in the gift card he got the day before--he is  not into delayed gratification at this point in life!--and we set off.  I have to say it was a lot of fun.  I don't usually get to go with them as it is typically a weekday thing for the kids and K.  There was not a table big enough for our brood so they gave us two booths which were across from each other. Copious quantities of pancakes, french toast, home fries and eggs in various cooking styles were consumed.  (I had juevos rancheros for those who are wondering!)

It was really cute because KC got to pay for the meal himself.  He very carefully carried the little sleeve that has the bill in it up to the register and gave her his gift card.  He was so grown up; it was a portent of the future as he will be 9 this spring!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

And so it was Christmas. . .

The adrenaline excitement of the past two or three days has begun to fade and I am realizing that golly am I tired!  LOL  It was another really fun day here though.  The littles woke at 5 a.m. which I expected.  K however had said that she was too tired to arise so early and that we would not go down to open presents till 6:30 a.m.  We played any silly word games I could think of for 90 minutes but they were really good.

When we came down, the whole gang opened stockings and our cinnamon buns cooked while they did that. One of our traditions is 2 big pans of home made cinnamon buns. They are faves of several of the kids and they nosh on them throughout the day.  After stockings, we ate a bit and then moved on to the presents.
This would be KC with the challenging present he asked Santa for.  Look closely.  Yes, those ARE elf shoes.  He wore them almost all day.  They are festooned with small bells so I always knew where he was as he jingled about his day.  LOL  Thankfully the other kids asked for things that were not so challenging for busy elves! :-)

My mom and her gentleman companion arrived at 10:30 for a second round of gifting and stayed to dinner.  I planned an easy meal and it came together well, looking and tasting nice but not requiring lots of work on this day. The desserts I made yesterday, home made pies which were happily devoured for dessert.  They headed back to their home several states away in mid afternoon. I was able to quickly clean the kitchen up, play with the kids, go for a walk with the dog, my spouse and one kid and do 2 loads of wash in what was left of the day.  Nothing was rushed, it all just sort of flowed together.

Early this evening I called Fiona's school. She was there and was eager to chat briefly with me.  This is the first time in  years that she has wanted to talk to us on Christmas Day.  She sounded happy.  I thanked her for the beautiful gift she gave K and I and told her how special her message on the note was to me. A kind reader recently wrote a lovely comment on Fiona's progress.  I do think that the fact that we have been so constant in her life has made an impact.  I think also the love that the littles have brought to the relationship and the fact that there is only a postive history for them with her has been a part of her healing.  Most of the credit goes to Fiona herself who has struggled mightily and worked very hard with the staff of the Great School.  Many adoption bloggers talk about how love can not cure children who have been severely traumatized. This is true. That would be like putting a bandaid on a wound that needs stitches and wondering why it didn't work.  I think what love can do though, is build a bridge and build strength to want to do the work of healing.  I am immensely proud of Fiona and beyond grateful to the Great School in the City. It is my fervent hope that for her the cycle of dysfunction and addiction will be broken and she will really have an opportunity at a healthful life with people who love her actively present.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The best gift of all

Fiona was out today for her party and it was a huge success.  The shoes drat it, were not here yet, but I was able to use the tracking system and print it off showing where they came from and how far they are on their journey to us. (they are in the New York receiving center)  I had a picture of the style I chose for her and all that info and a note of apology and love.  She was so good about it. Thankfully the Playstation was here and she was thrilled with that and with the gifts that her brothers and sister had chosen for her.

I had planned a semi fancy luncheon for her as she likes vegetarian food and it was her birthday and I wanted it to be special.  But she said  she really really wanted my mac and cheese.  So she helped me make that, chopping hte cheese into chunks for me and stirring the sauce as I prepped the other parts of the meal. It was fun to be working in the kitchen together, just she and I.

She had a joint gift for K and I that she asked that we open tonight together as K was not home yet.  We just did a little while ago. It was three darling snowmen ornaments (I collect snowmen) and a note that said "thank you for being the mom I never had."  I still get weepy when I look at it, or write about it.

I hope tomorrow is a good day for her at her cousin's house and that we will be able to talk in the evening on the phone.

The magic of tuna!

Yesterday morning my wife had to leave for work at 6:00 a.m.  I decided not to arise with her as I have been the past few days and cuddled under my blankets and snoozed.  The kids and i got up at 7:15 (which is wildly late for me and the tribe!) and went downstairs to start breakfast.  I saw there was a note on the table but was busy hauling eggs and such from the fridge.  KC read it:  "Valkyrie got out at 6:05" the note read.  Val is our young black cat.  While I had been snoozing, she was outdoors.  The kids were horrified.  I looked outside.  No Val.  Rob looked outside and eventually spied her but she would not come to us. Val was a stray that he gentled and brought in over a year ago.  She likes all of us, but loves Rob.

We had to get ready to leave for church and it was a very angst filled morning as we drove away leaving her still on the loose.  We placed her crate with a warm blanket and some food where she could get in, hoping she might curl up there while we were gone.  I stressed inwardly over the fact that we live on a very busy street and wondered what we would find when we drove home.

Which was exactly nothing.  When my wife got home at 5:30 she was still missing.  KC was so upset he had asked to go to bed at 5. He and Lissa had made prayer beads at church that spelled Val's name and he held those and stared at the little tree by his bed.

Enter the fabulous world of Internet friends!  I posted our sad status on Facebook and someone wrote that if we had really smelly tuna they thought that she would come. No cat, it was alleged, could resist such a treat. We had no tuna.  I am vegetarian and in an odd twist of fate, both K and myself have mothers who are allergic to fish. So we did not grow up eating fish or having it around.  And I have no sense of smell; I did not even know it was smelly!  :-)  Our cats eat the dried cat food, I have never done wet food except for a brief time when we weaned Val's kittens.

K went out to get said tuna and it worked! She came right over to her and ate some off her finger.  Eventually after some patient feedings, she was able to grab her and put her in the crate and bring her back in the house.  KC was still awake, despite having asked to go to bed so crazy early.  I will never forget the absolute glow on his face as Val ran into the bedroom he shares with Rob. What a blessing!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Solstice Night

If I had remembered to shut off the flash when I took this shot it would have been so much more spectacular. For that matter, if I had moved the parm cheese out of the photo it would have done rather a lot for shot composition!  LOL  Oh well, I am lucky I remembered to take the photo so I shan't complain.  I have had a rotten cold and feel sort of cloggy and brainless.  Rob's girlfriend said I should make tea and curl up in a snuggie.  I drink tea and we own snuggies, but I never curl up like that unless I am dying.  And never on Solstice Night which is special at our house.

The shortest day of the year.  From here on out the wheel will slowly turn giving us more and more daylight.  In our home we welcome that by first embracing the darkness. We eat without any overhead lights on.  I use a lot of battery tea lights these days as I feel safer with the kids, but I also do have a big Yankee candle jar that has a shade that goes over it. That too is lit.  Our table was decorated with a couple of home made crafts that looked much nicer than they do in the picture. The ornament balls are a cool 15 minute craft that I found somewhere on line.  You take a glass ornament and pour a little floor way (yes you read that correctly) into it. Coat the inside thoroughly, then pour out the excess.  Then pour in a little glitter, shake it up, and voila! You are done and they look amazing.  We did blue and white, the color of snow and the deep winter that is ahead of us.  They captured and reflected the lights of our candles and were stunning.

The other craft is a little tissue paper luminaria.  I saw this on someone elses blog too and again, I forget whose which is really horrid.  But I did mine differently so maybe it doesn't matter.  I took a tiny lampshade, covered it with plastic wrap and sprayed it with non stick spray. Then I painted the whole thing with Mod Podge and covered it with the patterned tissue paper.  The original crafter used white tissue paper and then cut gorgeous tiny snowflakes that she layered on.  Remember the 15 minute craft thing?  That is my time frame.  It is how much time I have before something else requires my attention so most everything gets pared down to that magic number.  Using snowflake patterned paper (which we had on hand as we used to count tissue paper for our piece work job) made it easy and quick. It was stiffened with another coat of the mod podge and let to dry.  Then I carefully sliced it on one side, and took it off the shade.  It set beautifully on the table with a battery tea light inside flickering softly.

So blessed Solstice everyone!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Nearly There!

We are nearly there!  Tonight I have to "work late" and will be going directly to a local store to get the stocking stuffers for the kids and my wife.  It is daunting as I try to keep track of who  has what in a family this size.  I am looking forward to the celebration itself, but for me a lot of the joy of the season is in the days that lead up. The lights that we drive around and see at night. The kids bringing me into our library to see what their Advent calendar window is each day.  The music that floods our house. The art.  The crafts.  The surprises being planned.

To be sure, I feel a bit frantic.  I have wrapped NOTHING!  Yup, nothing.  That starts tomorrow.  But it will get done.  I know it will. Somehow it always does. I also have cards to get out but that too, will happen. Just like in the Grinch, somehow Christmas will come just the same!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sing Hallelujah

I should be writing Christmas cards.  I should be wrapping gifts.  Sigh.  I am doing none of those things.  In part, I feel kind of lousy.  I had a sneaky sore throat come to visit me last night. I think I have almost kicked it to the curb, thanks to lots of herbals and zinc.  But I feel tired and was feeling subpar all day.

I started watching The Voice as I love listening to music.  The opening reduced me to a blubbery blob of raw emotions.  The judges and contestants sang Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah holding signs with the names of those killed in CT.  I absolutely adore that song.  It was a really fitting and beautiful song to sing to honor those spirits lost too soon.   But I am feeling very raw and emotionally vulnerable and not at all able to write anything really intelligent and cogent about it.

I found myself scrolling through my copious files of pictures, smiling at pictures of the kids and family activities that have filled our years.  My family is not immune to mental health issues.  I think they are well handled but I am not sure. You never can be. And mental health services--good ones especially--are very hard to reliably access.  I pray that the decisions I have made in regard to those with mental health disabilities are correct and that there will never be a horrific reason to second guess my choices.

Lissa Turns 6

Yesterday was party central at our house!  Miss Lissa is officially a big girl and turned 6.  She chose a mixed theme of princess and fairy.  Which is essentially the same 2 themes she has alternated between since she was old enough to choose!  LOL  She had originally said she would go for Hello Kitty but went back to her favorites.  It is all good!

K had to work till 2 and we had no church yesterday as the only service was the evening one with the kids pageant.  That would not work with the time we had to do Lissa's party.  I mention this only as it meant a loooong day for the littles waiting for the party to finally happen.  Painting the birthday mural thankfully took up a large chunk of the waiting time.  I sketched it out the night before and K went over my sketch with marker so it was kind of like a coloring book only way bigger.  Our faces are in the flowers, Lissa is a fairy and of course, Tinkerbelle is there center stage.

Rob took charge of decorating the cake that K and I had made.  It was a 2 layer cake with one layer vanilla and one red velvet with cream cheese frosting.  He did a border of "grass" with flowers sticking out of them. There are flowers on the sides and a pink finishing border at the base. You can't see well from the picture but  in the center there is a wax Tinkerbelle who is sitting in flowers and holds a candle.  He really rocked the cake; I am impressed.  I love how my kids get into helping people celebrate. It doesn't have to be about them to be fun.

The little princess had a great day and I am still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that she is 6.  That she is officially not a little kid any longer.  That she is the same age as children who were killed in CT a few days ago.  I enjoyed every second of yesterday, but a bit of me was also thinking about how lucky I am.  That there are families who won't do this again with a child they sent to school on Friday.  A bit of me was preoccupied with the fact that mental illness is not well addressed in our country and as our society becomes increasingly high paced and specialized, these people wind up drawing attention to themselves in horrific ways.  I worry because both Chet and Fiona have mental health issues and I know how accessing services is not easy, not even always helpful.

But then I would mentally shake myself and be back looking at Lissa's shining face. She has grown so much in this year. From the physical of losing teeth to an increased assurance as the year has progressed.  She understands thinking of others more this year, she has many friends. She is a fashionista who can most days successfully pick out clothes that really don't look like a little kid took them out to wear. LOL  She started learning to read this year and has an amazing abilities to see patterns and work with shapes. Wasn't it just yesterday she was cuddled against me in her sling?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Happy Hannukah?

Ok for those of you who are not utterly sick of reading about my holiday shopping woes, I might have scored the shoes for Fiona. They are not the color she had as first choice but they are the style she chose and Mr. Zheng in China assures me I will have them for the big day.  I did all ready talk w/ Fi about how hard the hunt was and she did say a color substitution was all right.  I actually may wind up with 2 pairs of the things in two different colors as I had written the gentleman an email asking if either of the styles were in her size.  The response was yes, they are and we will ship right away to be there in time.  I was petrified that if I said NO HALT I ONLY WANT ONE PAIR I would mess things up and wind up with none.  I would rather she had 2 pair, or that I sold one pair on ebay or anything than for my daughter not to have them.

And now. . . on to dreidls. (bet that made people's heads spin!)  We are not Jewish, obviously.  But our Unitarian Universalist faith teaches kids and adults about other major faith traditions.  A couple years ago my kids were exposed to Hannukah and the dreidl game.  They adore it.  We have to read the miracle story of Hannukah every year and play the dreidl game.  Usually we do this on the first night of Hannukah but that fell on a night that all ready had a plethora of activities going on here, so I told the kids it would be later in the week.  Tonight, KC met me at the door, tapping his toe looking annoyed. "WHEN" are we playing dreidl he wanted to know.   I guess tonight will be dreidl night.  We will sing the dreidl song, remember a story about a miracle of oil.  And I will look at the miracles that are my children.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dear Santa. . .

This has to be the year that Santa goes nuts trying to fulfill holiday dreams.  First Fiona wants Nike High Heels.  I actually almost mistyped that into Nike High He*lls which would be more what I am going through trying to make this dream a reality. I have been emailing Mr. Zheng in China and he does not have the style she wants in the size she needs.  Ugh.  I have emailed him asking what styles he DOES have but have not yet heard back. It is all further complicated by the fact that our time zones are opposite each other.

Then we went to the Holiday Stroll this weekend. The kids wrote letters to Santa.  They are always very generous and ask Santa for one gift for themselves and other gifts for various family members or pets.  KC asked for a number of things for others and then asked Santa for his dream gift. . . elf shoes.  My 8 year old seriously wants to be an elf.  Santas little helper (aka me) spent lunch looking for elf shoes on line.  I found them, and now just hope they get here.

I suppose I should be grateful.  One year he asked Santa for a robot that would make him any kind of pie he wanted.  Gotta love creativity!

"It's Nothing Serious"

Yesterday at church I was speaking with the mother of Rob's girlfriend T.  Midway through the conversation, a newcomer came over and asked me who my children were.  "I keep seeing you with children," he said bemusedly "I can't figure out which are yours and how many you have!"  No surprise since he saw me getting to church this morning and I had two extras beyond my usual tribe.  In the course of the explanation, Rob's relationship with T came up.  Actually her mom brought it up. She said they were going out and hastened to complete the sentence with "but it's nothing serious."

Hmmmm.  If she means that they are not going to get married, then no, I agree it is not serious.  LOL  But I think it is unfair to diminish our kids relationships in such a cavalier manner as I know that to them this is serious.  They have been a couple for over a year now and neither have dated anyone else in that time frame.   I think it is important to treat our kids with respect in all aspects of their lives.  So I piped up and said "Well it is serious to them.," and excused myself for a coffee refill.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Weekend Recap

This has been a whirlwind weekend but it has been amazing and lots of fun.  Fiona left mid day on Saturday. She got to watch KC and Lissa's dance classes and enjoyed cuddling with them between sessions and chatting with me the rest of the time.  What I like the best was how normal things felt.  I will treasure that for a long time and hope that she will be able to come for more overnights very soon.

That afternoon our city had the annual Holiday Stroll and despite the weather not being too conducive to strolling, we went down.  It is one of my favorite activities in the city.  It is a weird thing but for the stroll, somehow we don't feel like a big city.  You literally can walk in the streets. The local businesses have festive activities for kids.  There are free samples of yummy foods available, free "reindeer" rides for the kids and more. And unlike the fall festival, it is not overwhelmingly noisy or filled with vendors trying to sell highly priced toys that will fall apart as soon as you get home. We spent nearly two hours there and then scooted home as Rob's guy friends were coming for a sleepover.  They showed up about 5ish and had a fun night together.

One thing I like about Rob's friends is that they are all kind to the little kids.  I have friends whose experience is not like that, so I feel truly blessed to see 3 teen guys showing my 2 littles the tricks of a video game, or talking sports with KC.  Said teens did not sleep and were rather slow to get moving this morning.  LOL  However the smell of home made muffins roused them and by 9:15 I had everyone out the door so we could stop at Dunkins and then head to church.

Rob will be a very tired camper because he volunteers at a children's museum today and then has youth group tonight, but he is young and will survive.  Meanwhile I face Monday with a very happy heart.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

She's Here!

Fiona arrived  yesterday mid afternoon.  It was great timing as I had just gotten home from work about 10 minutes earlier.  We had a lovely afternoon and evening together.  Nothing too high powered or dramatic; I was trying to keep things low key for this, her first overnight home in more years than I can say.  Actually I could say, but that part hurts too much so we will leave it at "a long time."

She liked watching movies with the kids, seeing our Christmas decorations, and just hanging out.  She always notices how many pictures there are of her in our home.  Fi is very present in our thoughts even when she is not physically with us and I think the family galleries (yup, plural!) show that.

Lissa went up to bed and she got to play for a while with KC and Rob.  Then it was KC's turn to say goodnight and it was just she and Rob.  They wound up watching a show on Disney that she enjoys.  I know Rob would not choose it but he was great about it and I loved working in the other room and hearing the two of them laughing.

Long ago I was expressing my fears about keeping Rob safe and away from further trauma. Fi was raging a lot in our home and it was very scary to both Rob and to Chet.  The social worker I spoke with blithely told me that the kids just had to "write new stories" of their relationship together.  The problem was, if Fiona stayed in our home it wasn't a new story. It was the same old story of bullying raging and abuse.  Over and over.  There seemed to be no alternative but the residential placement.  To this day I don't know if there WAS another option had I been more informed or had I had more support.  There are regrets of how everything played out that I will live with every day of my life.

But what I don't regret is that in the end, I think those stories are being written.  Long years later, but written none the less.  Rob has had the years to come into himself, to mature and to feel both safe and physically strong.  He and Fi still have the bond of biological family but the dynamic of their relationship has shifted and Rob is more the protector and his easy going demeanor helps keep her on a more even keel.  Chet has had a harder time with a "new story."  His autism means that he tends to fixate on things and this is true of Fiona's rage in the past.  He was very fearful that she was going to "tear up the house, " on this visit even though she has been home many times and there have been no problems.  I am hopeful that this visit will help him to supplant some of the negative images he takes so to heart.

KC and Lissa know nothing of those early days and so they bring to the story of our lives a fresh and unfettered perspective. They see only a beautiful, artistic big sister who loves to play with them and who they admire and cherish.

It is our story.  All of it.  And  I am so lucky to be part of it.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Work Party

Last night I took the little kids to an indoor play arena where a fundraiser was being held to help small businesses and residents displaced by a large fire in our town.  We had a blast.  Rob wound up seeing a girl from our church Youth Group.  She greeted him immediately and he responded back with an ease that filled my heart with joy.  I remember how he used to look like a frozen figure when anyone greeted him.  For years.  It was not confined to just girls, it was anyone.  He is still quiet, but there is just a sense that he is comfortable in himself and in this time and place.  It is good.

We have also reached the time when I apparently am invisible to young women if my handsome teen son is with me.  This is the second occasion recently when we have bumped into a  young lady who knows both of us and the only one greeted (and rather um effusively!) is Rob.  LOL  Also good to see.

Today I have to bring fancy duds to work for a company holiday party that begins mid day.  I am not a party gal.  This is work in every sense of the word.  I am social, my wife will tell you I am a chatterbox.  But I like to socialize on my terms where and with whom I choose.  However, duty calls.  And off I will go with glittery nails (another thing I typically do not do!) and a party smile on my face.  New glittery shoes (that I might do anyway!!) and hope for the best.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What are teen boys reading these days?

Clearly I was so excited and overwhelmed last night that I made my weekend sound  less busy than it is!  We also have our city annual Holiday stroll and Rob is having a sleepover on Saturday night with 2 or 3 of his teen guy friends.  Testosterone will rule the downstairs. LOL  Actually the funny part about this sleep over is that one of his friends actually started the ball rolling.  He facebooked me and asked if they could have a sleepover here because his sister was having a bunch of girlfriends over that day and he wanted some place else to be.  I feel kind of honored that a teen who is not mine was comfortable asking me about all this.  The texts back and forth were very funny about it as D is sort of short on the details of things and I have to keep digging to try and get schedules.  (actually am still digging on that part!)

Yesterday was also the day that my lack of techie savvy came back to bite me.  I was at work and checked my home email on lunch.  I saw a notice from Amazon thanking me for my order.  I checked to see what the order was as I did not recall anything. . .  .  and found that "I" had ordered a pictoral book about very VERY well endowed women.   Here is the kicker--this is a KINDLE book.  This was going to my Kindle.  OK, you can stop laughing now.  The time stamp on the Amazon notice was just about 15 minutes prior.

I called my wife and sure enough, the teen in our house was on the computer.  I asked her to tell him he was locked off the computer until he and I had a discussion and explained why.  She also checked my kindle and there were several such books in an archive.  I didn't know about archives on the Kindle.  (that is the part about the tech stuff coming back to bite me.)  All the kids know more about technology than I do.  Heck turning on the the TV for me is a major achievement.  So it isn't quite as in your face as it sounds, for him to download these to my Kindle.  I have been sharing the Kindle with him because I download books for our English class.  We just finished The Scarlet Letter and he had chosen the book about Lincoln that the new movie is based on for his next reading assignment.

When I talked w/ him about it, Rob said it was an accident.  I said no, it was a choice, what it was was bad judgement and there is a world of difference between the two!  The conversation went on from there but for now, his computer time will only be when K or I are in the room.  Which probably means that I have to learn my next techie thing and learn how to create a password to start UP the computer and shut it down each night.  Parenting. . . it is a journey!! :-)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fiona is coming for an overnight!!!!

I got an email at work this afternoon that said Fiona had done it! She had earned an overnight at home.  I am super excited and so is she. So are the kids. So is the cat.  And the dog.  Well, you get the picture!  I want to be clear that the Great School has in no way with held this from Fi or from us.  It really took knowing that Fiona could stay safe in our home for this to happen.  So the agreement for this was that she would have 4 weeks of safe behavior. Safe behavior being defined as no acts of violence toward staff or self, no running away and no destruction of others properties. It took her a year to make this dream a reality. But it is on the horizon.

When I got the email from Jane she wanted to know when Fiona could come. I fired back an email but in the meantime she had called my wife.  K looked at our calendar which looks like everyone elses December calendar--in other words you can't see the days for the writing of things--and said how about next Friday.   I was afraid that this was too long for Fiona to wait.  She literally has almost zero concept of time.  I think when you work that hard and that long to make some deep seated behavior changes, you need a pretty fast reward.

So because I believe that and because I am a crazy person, this is what the tail end of my week looks like:
Wednesday  Take kids to fundraiser at indoor play area in our city.  There was a bad fire downtown last week and the proceeds benefit the 7 small business owners and the families displaced when a historic blg was destroyed.
Thursday:  mandatory company holiday party.  Tis the season to spread enforced joy!  LOL
Friday:  Leave work 1 1/2 hrs early.  Fi is due to arrive at 3 PM  Planning on some arts and crafts, some wii games and a movie.  She will sleep in my bed, I am relegating myself to an air mattress.
Saturday Staff will pick Fi up in the morning (time TBD)  Then I take the tribe to dance class.
Sunday-Church and then shopping.  I despise shopping on Sundays but it can not be helped this week.  I will now go take a vitamin!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Singing and Dancing and Shopping

Last night my wife decided that we should go out and get decorations for my office.  I am in a new and larger space this year and the company has no decorations for it.  The decorations the site had all went to the two offices out front, one of which was mine this time last year.

It was late to be taking out the little kids, quarter to 6 and Lissa is usually showering by 6:00 p.m. but it went amazingly well. We looked at holiday lights both on the way over to the discount store and on the way back. The store had recently had a huge sale on artificial trees and there was a large open space in the middle between the two aisles.  My two immediately began developing holiday dance routines to the music playing in the store.  I think the store clerks were so charmed by them that they did not mind the great hunt for a blue artificial tree for Lissa.  They could not find one and wound up selling us the small floor model for $12.00

I did get the decorations for my office as well, so this week things will look more festive back there, but the greatest memory that i will take away from the experience is the "elf dance" in the store.  Priceless!

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Last night was the first formal dance that Rob escorted his girlfriend to.  They spent about 10 days coordinating their outfits.  The photo is predictably low quality but he looked very sharp.  For all that he is all about skinny jeans most of the time (with the accompanying annoying amount of boxers hanging out above them) he knows how to dress up when an occasion warrants and doesn't balk at it.  This gives me hope that someday I won't be looking at his boxers on a regular basis. LOL

I realize that among other parents that I interact with I am in the minority. My wife thinks I should "do something" about the boxer/skinny jeans thing.  I have friends who clearly feel the same, judging from Facebook posts and such.

My take is that if  a kid has the capacity to understand that different dress is required for different situations, then fighting about clothes is a waste of time.  And potentially damaging to our relationship.  If I am going to put my foot down, it has to be about something that I deem important.  Not harming yourself or others, not engaging in lawbreaking activities, truth telling, those are my "line in the sand" type of issues. Clothes?  Not so much, since I remember hiding a whole different outfit in my purse to change into when I got to school.

It is a bit odd in our house as I have one child who can not understand appropriate dress due to his disability.  Additionally he has the further advantage of being color deficient. So for Chet, the dress code is different. I have had to clearly delineate "home clothes" and "go out to church/dinner/visit relatives clothing.  This way I can refer him to the type of clothing and he is more likely to choose something acceptable to the situation.

At any rate, for last night at least, I had no glimpse of boxers and rumor has it that the well dressed chap even danced!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Holiday Dreams

I love listening to my kids chatter.  Last night while I was doing up the dishes I heard KC say to Lissa, "Sissy do you know what Friday is?"  She either shook her head or he rushed on in his excitement.  "Friday is the last day in the month of November and that means on Saturday we get to open the first box in our Advent calendars."  The excitement and potentiality that surrounds the holidays has always been special to me and my kids.  The decorations, the giving of gifts, the music, and the seasonal special things that punctuate what would otherwise be a dark and dreary time.

Like all kids, they have special things they want under the tree.  They are not over the top witht heir wishes and neither are the older boys.  In fact Chet wants some cards for a game that he and Rob play and some post-it notes. (He loves to make notes about things)  He is getting more than those things but it was cute how he shared his wants with me.

Likewise  Fiona shared her dream with me when we had our last phone call.  She wants something called Nike high heels.  Since I am such a shoe lover I can not believe I had never heard of these but there you go. Probably I didn't because of the sky high price tag!  Anyway, she wants a pair that are a sort of deep reddish pink with red accents. Sounds ugly but isn't, as I have seen the picture and am not able to figure out how to import it from google images to here. Additionally Fiona is a size 9 which is a harder size to find in womens shoes.

Evenings have found me trolling the internet trying to get a lead on a reasonably priced pair of these shoes for her.  I have tried all my usual stores, ebay, you name it.  There was a store name on the image she sent me and when I researched that it was a man in China looking for a business parner.   I think I will skip that income opportunity!  LOL

But all humor aside, I am seriously stressed over this.  The reason goes back to the year that Fiona first came into our lives. She was 9.  We met about a week before Christmas at her foster home.  All the meetings were set up by her social worker.  We played together and she told me that she wanted only one thing for Christmas--an EZ Bake oven.  We were not allowed to get her a gift as we literally met days before the holiday but we were encouraged to visit her right after Christmas.  We went to her foster home the day after and found that another child in the household had gotten that gift.  Fiona had gotten a coloring book.

I can't imagine doing that to a kid.  And though it was years ago, it remains in my mind.  Dreams should not be lightly disregarded.  So if anyone can think of someplace else to try, shout out.  Otherwise, I am back to google and maybe even my little friend in China! :-)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Rob has a glaucoma appointment today. They will measure his ocular pressure, check for any signs of vision loss and make sure that his eyes are still responsive to the meds we put in his eyes twice daily.  I am very vigilent about the drops and in fact insist that an adult put them in his eyes. This is because I read in a medical journal that one of the prime reasons for glaucoma not being well managed after diagnosis is that it is hard to administer the drops properly to yourself.

But aside from being careful that the meds go in on time and properly, most of the year, glaucoma fades to the background in my mind.  We have been lucky that thus far there is only a tiny bit of pereperal vision loss and overall he is still 20/20

Yet every time a check up comes due, I fret.  Glaucoma is silent and insidious and the thought of my son losing his vision becomes real  and huge to me again.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

On the Catwalk

I wish I knew why this picture is sideways. It is vertical when I look at it in my picture file but this is what Blogger apparently does to it when I select it.  I suppose that in a weird way it is appropriate for the pic to be slightly off.  This is my Chet, modeling an African dashiki that a friend sent to us.  To say he loves it would be the understatement of the century.  He had absolutely the best time having his picture taken for this post.  Usually photos are so hard for him.  The very mention of it makes him grimace in what he thinks is a smile and you watch his body become more progressively rigid and tense.

The symbol of autism awareness is a puzzle piece.  It is a perfect symbol as it is truly a puzzle.  Not just the "what" of autism, or dealing with the behaviors, but sometimes just trying to understand the thought process, or figuring out what a trigger was, so that a situation can be more manageable the next time. It is baffling often, exhausting many times, and I worry for Chet's future frequently.

For some reason, wearing the dashiki was magical.  He was mugging for the camera and posing in ways I have never seen him do.
Here is another!  I love this.  I love how happy he is and that for this  moment in time, his essence and spirit could shine unfettered.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Visit to see the Nutcracker

Today was our trek into the Big City to see the Nutcracker.  We trained in and made a full day of it.  Actually when you travel by train on the weekend it sort of has to be a full day event. But I'll take that over the stress of the drive and the worry that I might trigger a migraine while driving with my kids in the car.

We cleaned up real well for the event! :-)  Lissa is wearing her new dress that is really an early birthday gift from her Aunt and grandfather.  She had a bun in her hair with a pink ballerina snood thing over it and small dangly earrings.  She was totally sure she was the cat's meoux.  KC and Rob wore nice jeans (Rob) and pants (KC) and sweaters for both.  I am really not a person who says a lot about clothing for day to day wear.  I think kids need to express themselves and clothing is a fairly harmless way of that happening. But it is also important to know what type of dress is appropriate for certain occasions and a trip to a very fancy opera house to see a ballet has a certain dress code to it.  Luckily not only did they get that, but they looked on a par with others there and could see that for themselves.

We had lunch after arriving in the Big City and then took a taxi to the Opera House.  It is a beautiful building with amazing architectural details.  It was really easy to pass the time waiting (we were instructed to arrive 45 to 60 minutes early to insure we were seated for the curtains rise.  Late comers are forced to wait till intermission for seating which means they would miss more than 1/2 of the ballet.)  Our seats were extraordinarily good.  We were close enough to really see the dancers feet and costumes well. (dance afficionados want to see the feet!)  Also being pretty close draws children into a performance.

KC was leaning forward in his seat.  He is the one with the deepest love of dance and when he also heard that his Nana studied with the founder of this ballet company, he was over the moon with excitement.  Lissa was captivated as well, though more by the story of the Nutcracker and the spectacle of it-the glitter and scene changes could enthrall anyone, even a non dancer.  .   .  except maybe my Rob who wrote on his FB a  post about grown men in tights.  LOL  I told him it was still a good experience and not one he has to repeat but good nonetheless.  And he was every bit the gentleman while we were there; sullen really isn't in his nature.

We were home well after 7 which is late for my two youngest as then it was showers and bed--thankfully we had eaten supper at the station while we waited for a 5:30 train to take us home.  My wife is baffled as to why anyone would hang around a train station for an hour or so instead of driving but truly, the time passes quickly and we have fun while we are there.

Tomorrow is Sunday, the last day of this Thanksgiving break.  I have so enjoyed every second of this time away from work and fully with my family.  We have some of our Saturday chores to do tomorrow and then want to make our annual holiday gingerbread house and attend the tree lighting in the center of our city.  It will be a nice wrap up to a really great few days!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Yipes, it's . . . Yule?

 Thanksgiving is barely digested and we found ourselves decking the house today!  We are not normally so flat out full tilt in our decorating.  Usually we do it over a couple of weeks.  This is nice because our house is big and it is not so exhausting.  Or maybe it is and we are just used to it.   But this year, we had to change things up. My wife works several part time jobs and today was the one and only day that we would all be together.  Between her jobs, my jobs and Rob's volunteer schedule, after today, it is never a full complement at the same time.

One or the other of us could surely have helped the kids decorate but we both like it to be a full family experience.  I in particular am strongly in favor of this.  Probably because the first few years after my mother in law passed away, my wife was still grieving and could not be emotionally present (or sometimes even physically present) when we were decking the house.

 So today, it was a Yule tide explosion. The tree at the top looks amazing.  I say this with no lack of pride as I have had trees who had 42 ornaments on one branch and none on any others.  I have had trees felled by children and pets.  But this tree looks great and the kids all helped in one way or another.

My next favorite thing was a new decoration area. That is the top of our new closets in the front hall.  It gave a safe place to show off some treasures I have not been able to put out for a few years.  These are villages made by my MIL. She was so amazingly talented, and taken far too soon. . .

This is a couple of our Santas, one of my many black Santas, and a shiny iridescent fellow my kids adore and a painting by a dear friend and amazing artist, Jane Houghton.

Tomorrow, we train into the Big City to see the Nutcracker!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Feeling Thankful

It is quiet here today, at least as quiet as my house ever gets.  :-)  Others might think it bedlam but tomorrow--tomorrow will be bedlam and though I am dealing with a migraine I am lookng forward to it.
The kids and I have made cranberry sauce, and a birthday cake for my BIL's girl friend.  Someday he needs to just marry her all ready! Three pies are baked and waiting in cold storage. We had to go out an buy a one cup liquid measure as my wife took our measuring cup with her to work.  I have two others but they are large quantity measuring cups and didn't do the dinky 3/4 cup of liquid that I needed for these  recipes.  Later I will put dough on for my parker house rolls and that can cold rise in the pantry over night.

The bedroom is cleaned and ready for my mom who will stay Thanksgiving night.  The kids have tidied their toys and cleaned their art areas, and soon I will vacuum the living room and the entry way.  Right now they are all outside burning off some steam.

We have been to the cemetary and cleaned the graves there and placed our winter arrangements on the graves.  I think both my mom will want to go as will K's dad.  It always feels right to me to do this around Thanksgiving.  It is part of the circle of our lives, and though I personally only wish my ashes left somewhere we have enjoyed together (and there are so many I don't care what anyone chooses) I know that those whose graves I tend, wanted to be remembered in this way.

And so, in the season of love and thanksgiving, I share with you a song from one of our favorite artists, most especially beloved by my 8 year old.  May gratitude grace and love be with you all this Thanksgiving!

Love is the reason, by Joe Jencks

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


No, not Black Friday shopping.  I don't do that typically--though I may do some online things this year as I am way behind in that regard.  Rather, this is for Rob who has been invited to a semi-formal event the first of next month.  His girlfriends best friend is having a quinceneria, which is always a fancy schmancy event.  It is not something one wears colorful skinny jeans too.  LOL

Tongya enlisted my help in handling this as she knows Rob is very stylish in a fresh sort of way.  He always looks cool but this is not a "cool" look place.  He has a suit and was fine with wearing one.  I told him later that he might want to check in with her and see what color her dress will be so he does not choose a dress shirt that will clash with her dress.

Tongya instructed him to get a cream colored shirt and a gold tie.  Oh my stars, you told my boy GOLD?  What a brave young woman to tell a lover of bling to get something gold.  But we worked it out and he finally settled on a cream shirt and a gold toned paisley tie.  Enough of a modern fresh look to make him feel his cool quotient has not been diminished, stylish enough to look like he knows how to dress for an event like this.  Now if I can make sure he leaves the house without the leopard print fedora. . .

Monday, November 19, 2012

Getting ready for Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving!  Ironically, I did not love it as a child.  I remember being expected to watch the Macys Parade on TV and being b.o.r.e.d to tears.  Ironically in a supreme twist of cosmic humor, my kids adore watching this parade and it is a part of the holiday tradition that they look forward to each year.  KC researches what the floats will be and can't wait to have Aunt Lynne arrive so she can cuddle with him while they watch for Santa at the end of the parade!

There are other traditions too.  The cornucopia above is on the side board throughout November.  KC and Lissa are responsible for arranging the display as they see fit.  They always do a really good job and even if they didn't, it would still be theirs to do because that is how they will learn color and balance and make memories.

I did not take pics of the turkey place cards they made out of foam either.  It is another family tradition for them to do this each year.  It isn't always turkeys, it is whatever seasonal thing sparks our fancy each year. We have stamped gold acorns and oak leaves on cardstock, made indian corn out of cardboard etc.  Nothing hard or elaborate as they have to make about 12 of them and for kids, that is a lot!

And then there are things that become tradition in their yearly use.  There is my grandmothers silver candlesticks that we use as part of the centerpiece each year.  The while plates with the white on white pattern that my wife and I bought years ago dress the table.  And the flatware above is polished by yours truly each year and used for the meal. This flatware was my mother in laws and comes from Thailand where my FIL was stationed many years ago.  K and her family lived there for several years when she was very young.  

As I was polishing the forks and such tonight it occured to me that I never talked about Thailand with my mother in law.  I "knew" their years there from K and never thought to seek out her perspective and her story.  I am sure it was a different story--that of a young wife and mother living in a foreign country. And now, I can't hear that story as she died far too young, when we all thought we all had much more time and many more chances.

I am reminded that my children also have stories.  Stories we have made together.  They also have stories of their lives before me.  Some I have been lucky enough to become the keeper of.  I have every scrap of info that i could ever find for each of my kids carefully recorded in scrapbooks.  They have access to them any time they want and we often look at them together.  But they also have stories that are as lost as the stories of my inlaws years in Thailand.  Things that happened or people who may have touched their lives in some way that I know nothing about. Despite my best efforts some of these things, are gone and unless we make a connection with first family members, are not likely to become shiny polished parts of their lives.  There will be empty places where they know something should be, but don't know what it is or where to find it.

That is why I am passionate about keeping connection with all the people who care about my kids--first family members, friends etc.  There can never be too many people who care about your children.  Just keep drawing the circle wider to enfold them all.  And tell the stories, and make the memories.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What healing looks like for us

Emotional healing is in my experience, sometimes trickier than healing from an obvious injury.  When you break a leg for instance, people see the cast. They watch you use the crutches. They know you are going through PT when the cast comes off , celebrate the fact that the limp disappears a bit each day as the limb regains strength.

It isn't so visible with our psyches.  And especially when it is our children.  It is hard to pick up what is a normal stage of development and what is something that is a result of a traumatic past.  One overlays the other oftentimes, confusing the heck out of well meaning adults and concerned parents. (read that: me!)

But I have learned over the journey of the past 11 years that for us, healing looks like:

Fiona calling me Mom in front of her biological cousins and aunts

Fiona being able to share her pain in both words and tears instead of rages and destruction.

Fiona being able to call home to us after visiting with us.

Fiona wanting to give gifts to us instead of only receiving them.

Rob talking on the phone at night with friends so long the phone needs to re-charge.

Rob sharing a movie with me or debating the merits of a music artist that we both listen to.

Rob putting down his coffee on Sunday to go do the weird jump and chest bump thing that guys do with one of the guys from church.

Rob making a reservation on the phone for he and his girlfriend at a popular local restaurant.

Fiona making plans to share Christmas Eve day with us at home.

Fiona wanting both her adoptive family and her biological family to be in relationship with each other.

Fiona starting to make plans for her future as an adult and wanting to share those dreams with me.

Rob teasing me in front of his friends, respectfully, but teasing.

People who have not parented children who have suffered trauma may not see how huge each of these things are to me. For us, they are true causes of gratitude and celebration.  I remember vividly wondering if Rob would ever be at ease. Anywhere.  He always could make friends easily.  I think that is a combination of his personality and a survival mechanism. But he was not at ease.  He was guarded always. Waiting for an angry adult.  Waiting for me to say there was no food.  Waiting for the disappointment of a broken promise.  And more.

Fiona was also guarded but our relationship was (and to some extent still is) complicated by her disabilities and the fact that her loss and trauma history is even greater than her brothers.

There are always bumps in the road.  Unlike a broken leg, progress is often uneven.
 Yet they are healing.  They grow, they shine and that is all anyone ever wants for their kids.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

How do you define family?

My wife and I are usually on the same page.  .  .  except when we most spectacularly are not!  A few days ago she explained to me that she was not comfortable with sending out a holiday picture including Fiona. That Fiona was "not our daughter" and although she was family, because she is Rob's bio sister, I was not facing up to the facts.  Well that is sort of the cliff notes version.  It was a pretty long and extended discussion.  I responded that for me, Fiona is my daughter and I am committed to her and in relationship with her in that manner.  I could not dictate how my wife saw their relationship but neither could she dictate mine. I feel strongly--all right more than strongly--that you hang in there with kids for the long haul.  I also see family as defined in a wider array of situations these days.  It is absolutely true that Fi is not legally my daughter and it is true I have not raised her in the traditional sense of the word.  But it is also true that she looks to me as a mom, asks counsel of me that is typical of kids from parents and craves the support and acceptance of me as a parent. The fact that she lives at school in the Big City is very superfluous and does not make me not a parent. There are other kids at the school who also don't live at home.  There are other kids that are day students.  Again, that does not define the role of parents in the lives of the children. I also pointed out that ALL the kids view Fiona as a sister, not just Robbie.  The littles are as excited as anyone that she is coming on Christmas Eve.

I was pretty hurt by the conversation but we ended it all civilly and she went up to bed.  I was too restless to continue work so I went up as well and lost myself in a good book for a few hours.  The next morning she said she owed me an apology.  She had chatted on line with several friends who are also foster or adoptive parents and overwhelmingly, the concensus supported my view that Fiona is our daughter and that there is nothing amiss about a holiday snapshot with her in the photo. K said that further reflection on her part made her decide that her feelings stem from unresolved guilt on her part that Fiona had to be removed from our house.  In her mind, saying she could not parent Fiona in our home made her not a parent, and she had not really spent time thinking on this or thinking how to redefine their relationship.  In her defense she is typically working when we visit or call so her opportunities to deepen a connection are more limited than mine have been.

It all wound up so much more positively than I could ever have expected a mere 24 hours before.  I am sorry that K is still feeling pain over the disruption in ways that I have come to terms with over the years.  But I am glad that we had a chance to talk things through.  And I am still glad that Fiona is in our family photo and coming on Christmas Eve!

Anniversary Day

It doesn't seem possible and I don't think I  am ready for it, but today is Rob and T's one year anniversary.  Rob has planned a nice day for the two of them.  I will pick her up after we finish our morning stuff and they will come back to our house. They are making cookies together (pumpkin penuche!) for fellowship at church. They are both in youth group and the youth group is responsible for food this week.  Then T wants to "walk around" our city.  There is not much to see but she lives about 15 minutes from us so Rob is going to show her such sights as exist.  Rob has made a reservation for them at a nice restaurant.  A local family owned business, not a chain of sameness like going to a place like Applebees or TGIFridays.  Nothing wrong with any of those in some circumstances but this place has been owned by the same local family for many years and the service and food can not be beat.  Plus in the evening there are little candles and a nice ambience for an occasion such as this.

Two years ago , maybe even at the start of this year, it is not likely Rob would have planned all this--even with help.  Yes, I did offer suggestions, and i did explain about how to make a reservation and why you did that. But he followed through on everything. I am so glad that T is a really sweet and lovely girl with a good head on her shoulders and lots of plans for her future. She is someone that I feel comfortable with being so important to my Rob.

Happy Anniversary guys!

Friday, November 16, 2012

American Girl

Two ways to bring home the Bitty Twins. Bitty Twins + Book (two dolls, two outfits, and a book), $105. Bitty Twins Starter Collection (includes 18 pieces!), $185 - Save $20. Choose your Twins.

The flood of catalogs has begun.  I try to get them into the recycling before the kids see most of them. But inevitably, some squeak by me.  The kids pore over them and wishes and dreams are voiced.  Yesterday, the American Girl catalog came.

Lissa could care less.  KC kept trying to show them to her.  She kept on ignoring him. Finally when she was in bed, he sat down and pored over it for himself.  He wants an American Girl doll in the worst way.  He read the stories of each doll aloud to me.

And you know what rots?  I don't care one whit that he wants an American Girl doll. But the only way to get a boy American Girl doll (OK I fully realize how weird that part of the sentence looks) is to buy the Bitty Twins shown above.  I can't have the only kid who wants a boy doll.  Can't we have American Boys?  Sigh. I see Itty Bitty Twins in our future.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Improving Spaces

The big reveal!  Or at least an attempt at it!  The work room we just renovated is pretty large and oddly sized so it is hard to figure out how to best take pictures.  The room is sort of in 'zones.'  Above is the craft zone. This is an old particle board armoire that K and I used to use for clothing about 15 years back.  With wire shelving and painted the same cheery red as our front hall, it is a great way to store the craft supplies. There are bins that were repurposed from a toy storage set up that the kids no longer use and two bulletin boards were added to the side.
 In the second shot you can see "my" zone.  I finally have a really functional computer center.  I have two lovely shelves (also in the same cheery red to carry the color punch through the room.  These are mounted on a door we do not ever open.  In a les cost concious world we would remove the door and dry wall it but this is the save a penny version not "This old house!" LOL  Everything I need for correspondence and bill paying and filing is at my fingertips and it is so so easy to keep neat.  Behind my area starts the homeschool area with the big bulleten board for kid art.
 This shot gives a good view of the color we painted the paneling.  I call it barely yellow, but the color on the can says "full moon."  It is such a wonderful change from the totally dark floor to ceiling paneling we had before.It is scrubbable paint and it also covered the paneling beautifully with just two coats and a coat of primer. We did not fill in the grooves of the paneling and the result is somewhat reminiscent of bead board.  In the corner is a bookcase we got surprisingly inexpensively and it stores all the homeschool curriculums for the kids. On top of it are 3 red knick knacks that we grouped there (things we all ready owned just relocated) to carry the accent color through the room.
KC's "new" homeschool desk.  This was my desk growing up so truly the only new thing here is that it is new to him and the light on it.  Lighting is still wonky in this room, so table lamps are important. The cool thing about this light (aside from the fact that it was not expensive) is that it also has a built in pencil holder.

I did not take a picture of the piece work area, which is also newly organized and takes up a smaller portion of the room.  I think that it probably always could have but we did not realize it.  Originally when we started doing piece work in this room, we had to have baby gates up to keep the littles safe. The gates came down a few years ago but it did not occur to us to look at the space in any way other than the way we had been using it before.  At some point (tax return time?)  I am looking to purchase a small laptop table for my wife. They are very inexpensive and I would also like a small but comfy chair for when we are teaching or reading to the kids.  I also have plans to repaint a few wooden tv tables that we have (have not exactly decided how yet) and use them as end tables. They would be helpful but easily folded up if the room needed more space for the piece work at a given time.

Fiona Calls

Fiona called last night.  Actually Jane called to say that Fiona had walked out of the room and was not likely to call because she had been highly agitated for the past several hours.   At which point Fi surprised all of us and walked back in and asked to talk only to me.

I am not sure what was bothering her--sometimes it is hard to tell.  She has another off campus visit on Monday night with her cousin and cousin's young daughter.  Cousin wants Fi to be able to come to her house for a few hours on Christmas so they are working diligently to make sure that this happens.  I think Fiona is excited about this but she also may be equal parts anxious.

It wasn't the greatest call but at least we were able to connect and on a hugely positive note, there were no outbursts or behavior issues when she came back to school after our visit.  That is the second time in a row for that now and that I think is a huge success.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Tis not quite the season. . .

This is going to be our holiday picture to send out with our cards this Yule.  Fiona was out to visit today and we got the picture.  I am not the photographer my wife is and K was not home, so I snapped 6 or 8 shots and this was the best.  I am more about the memory and everyone looks happy so I am good to go!  It means so much to me that Fi is int he picture with us. That is more important to me than any elaborate setting for the shot or even Lissa standing up properly. LOL (you may have deduced that she was not intending to do that today!

It was a great visit today.  We did some stuff here at home, and we also got to a store and got Fiona a really cute shirt and a neat knitted vest with a faux fur collar. We stopped at the Harvest event at my job also.  I am so lucky.  This may be our Christmas photo but my thanksgiving in my heart is that Fiona is able to be so connected with us.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fiona Visits Tomorrow!

Fiona is coming tomorrow. She will in an ideal world, be here shortly after we return from dance classes and stay about 4 or 5 hours.  I am so excited.  This will hopefully be our longest visit yet and puts us a step closer to overngihts.

I have the holiday hats purchased so that we can take our family Yule picture while she is here and I hope to take all the kids to my job. The residents and one of my coworkers are putting on a harvest social.  We used to do a lot of programming for kids when we were owned by a different company.  The focus of my present company is different.  I don't really share the vision but the good thing is that despite their refusal to do this type of programming, there is enough interest in filling the need that people have stepped up to do it.  It is low budget but it is something and I think that is fantastic. I also feel as part of management that it is important to show up, even briefly, and show support for the resident efforts.  I am also going to try and take some pictures.  I have never been able to bring Fi to my work and am looking forward to a chance to do that with her.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The election is over!

The rhetoric will be (mostly) done.  I love politics and thinking through issues but even I am exhausted by the amount of advertising and blitzing that has occured with this election.  What I am pleased about though is the increasing involvement in a very open manner in politics by movie stars.  For my kids, listening to JayZ do a PSA is cool to them.  Frankly for me, listening to Matt Damon do one is kind of cool too! ::-)  For the kids and I these announcements were a springboard for talking about how important voting is.  It is more than a right, it is a privilege. One that many people die for in countries around the world.  Knowing that people who  they admire or think are "cool" feel that voting is important is helpful.

We  have also always brought our whole family to the polls when we vote.  We want our kids to see the process, to see our commitment to it. We talk in age appropriate terms with each of them about who and what we support and why.  I am also vigilent that we do not speak disparagingly about a candidate or issue even if I feel strongly against them.  I want them to understand that there will always be differences of opinions but we don't have to be hateful about it.  Some of the things I read on social media that so-called adults say to one another when they disagree make my hair curl!

Something else that makes my hair curl. . . in our next presidential election, my son Rob will be old enough to vote and Fiona was old enough to vote in this one.  Where does the time go?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Supporting Families to avoid adoption

In general, this is laudable and sensible to me. Even as an adoptive parent who loves my children passionately, I know that they are mine because of a deep loss. A wound that all my love will not heal.  However, I am deeply conflicted as to what constitutes supporting a marginal family so that the family can be a safe home for a child.

In a largely unbloggable work situation about a week ago, a child was in a dangerous situation.  It is pretty apparent that the parent was utterly unaware of the danger her young child was in and equally clear that this situation was not the kind of thing most parents would ever be unaware of.  Thankfully, nothing horrible happened to the child.  I called the authorities however because of the danger the child had been in and the lack of awareness that mom expressed over the situation.

My call was "screened out."  I got a form letter saying that the agency is all ready working with the family.  Yippee.  The mother and the case worker subsequently showed up at the office to explain to my boss how diligently the mom is working her plan.

This is the biggest load of you know what I have ever seen.  This was not the first incident I had ever witnessed with the family, only the most dangerous and egregious.  I know we are all human and can be fooled by someone who can spin a good story.  I know too that to work in human services one must have an optimistic nature that believes that a situation can change for the better.  And most times, I actually believe that too.

I don't in this particular case and it angers me to the point of incoherence that a child's safely and well being are treated in such a cavalier manner. That said, I don't know what the answer is, so it is probably unfair of me to be so scathing.  I also know of cases where I believe  DCF has acted precipitiously and unfairly, removing children from homes and situations that could have been worked with.  Like so much in our society these days, there doesn't seem to be a middle ground.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Politics and kids

We were driving yesterday and KC asked if I was voting for Scott Brown or Elizabeth Warren.  I told him that i was leaning toward Elizabeth Warren.  He said if he was voting he would vote for Scott Brown.
****Disclaimer**** I don't think Brown has done a bad job in the Senate. Most particularly I have admired the fact that despite looking like a tea party poster boy in the last election, he has been remarkably moderate and centrist.   However there are a couple of key issues that make me lean toward Warren.

Anyway, back to my conversation with my 8 year old.  When I asked why he would vote for Scott Brown if he was voting he enumerated his answers.

1.  He looks friendly and like he could be a neighbor.
2.  He was calm.
3.  He was strong looking.

I found it interesting as sometimes I think we have become so polarized in this election that it is literally statements like these that people are using for the decision making process.  This election has been rife with demonization of candidates by their opponents at almost every level. I find this very sad as it takes our minds off the real issues.  Whoever is elected, I hope that they will work with fellow senators.  The needs of our nation require that we learn to (or perhaps re-learn) the art of cooperation and leaving behind partisan politics.  Or, in the words of my young son, we need calmness.  And we need to remember that our nation as a whole are "neighbors,' and learn to think for the greater good.

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Post a Day for 30 days????

There was a time when that would not seem daunting.  I love to write. It helps me process my feelings, my place in my corner of the world, and wrestle with issues much larger than myself.  It is just that life keeps getting in the way of that active mediation called writing!  I am going to try and carve out time diligently this November though.

I was reminded on another blog that November is Adoption month.  You might assume that I am thoroughly behind this celebratory view of adoption since this is the institution that has allowed me to have a family.  And I am grateful.  I love my children with every fiber of my being.

However, the very fact that they are my children now, means that they have experienced huge loss.  For all of them, this is experienced and shared with me, very differently.  KC at 8 wants to actively search for his first mother Y.  I have gotten no help at all from our adoption agency.  And here, I find myself angry and concerned.  It seems to me that an agency should have resources to help first mothers and adoptees find each other.  But apparently they don't.  If a mother comes knocking, they contact the adoptive family but that is the extent of it.  Inadequate is an understatement.

I am lucky that I have a lot of personal information that will hopefully aid us in the search for Y.  I am searching the internet in a variety of ways, but if anyone who happens upon my blog knows of a really good way, shout out!

I am glad that KC is comfortable sharing his feelings so honestly with me.  He is also happier for seeing that I am committed to helping him in his search.  What I hope he does not see, is how much it hurts me when he says "the search for my real mother."  I know this is a hot button in adoption circles.  There are a lot of people who may well feel that I am not his "real" mother.  I rather subscribe to the Velveteen Rabbit philosophy of "real."  My motherhood is made real by my love and continued non judgemental presence in my children's lives.

I know in my heart that what he is speaking to is the biological connection when he says this.  KC is an artist.  He notes the smallest details in the world around him.  Facial similarities and even similar likes and gestures are not lost on him.  I don't know what the search for Y will ultimately reveal.  My hope is that it widens the circle of our family, that we build a relationship she is comfortable with.  Maybe. . . it will happen this November.  That would be an adoption month to celebrate!