Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Looking out with bright eyes

 Fall is always jam packed for us.  Life is a busy whirl for us always but it rachets up amazingly in the fall.  There are so many opportunities for experiences.  Maybe I should be more selective--but I want my family to sample as much as they can in as wide a variety as they can.  That way all can find their interests, niches and passions.  Last weekend was the Life is Good festival.  The eyes are my Lissa's peering out the crack of the SWAT vehicle the local authorities had there for the kids to explore!

 I probably should have left this shot larger as it cracks me up.  At the concert there were lots of silly signs. One read "free air guitars, take one!"  This one pointed to all different directions with signs that said "optimism, laughter, humor" etc.  Appropriately, the humor direction is pointing right at Chet who has really zany humor.

This weekend is a local harvest festival after we spend the morning at the first dance classes of the season.  Then on Sunday we are all going to see Mary Poppins the musical.  Rob and K have had the joy of seeing Broadway musicals but for Chet, the littles and I this will be as close as we could get to that.
And while we have been reaching out and exploring opportunities there have been changes here at home as well.  This shot is our front hall.  We took off the 20 year old paper, mudded the walls, painted trim and walls.  That in itself is stunning. But. . . see the sidelights next to our front door?  For more than 30 years those were covered by wood.  Before Chet came home to us, there was a December break in at our home. K and I were out of the house for a mere 20 minutes and someone punched through one of the side lights to reach in and unlock the door.  As part of the repair, we covered the glass with wood, painted it and felt safer for it.  The thing was, you could still see the windows on the inside of the house. But they were windows to no where.  I had suggested covering them with fabric, but we found that our local window repair person had wonderful news for us.  He said that he could replace the glass with laminated glass.  Much like the glass in our cars, it will not shatter but will crumble into safe bits if it is broken. Even better, it is very very hard to break.  Not impossible, but really hard.  He hit it soundly with a wrench to prove it. So we took a leap of faith and the beauty of the light through the side windows once more.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Football Season!

This is a very silly post where I fully intend to brag.  That's right; I may dislocate my shoulder patting myself on the back!  Rob and i have a football challenge.  For the past 3 or 4 years (I have lost count) we play fantasy football. We are never in the same league but there is a very healthy competition between us for the best stats.  I typically crash and burn at this.  One year I picked almost all the Patriots for my team. Then when they had a bye week, the team against me racked up a zillion points to my team having nearly none.  Talk about a lesson in diversifying your interests!  Another year I didn't watch the injury reports carefully enough.  I got killed again.

This year I accidently got myself in a league where you actually had to bid for players.  (they give you a set amount of cash and you manage that budget to obtain your best possible team.) I was shocked and let me tell you that draft was challenging!  Can I also say my competitor did not choose the financial draft and got to pick the easy way!  LOL

However in spite of that, my team (drum roll please)  is 3 and 0 thus far!!!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Festival Fun!

Yesterday we went to the Life is Good festival in a fairly far away location.  The festival is the charitable side arm of the Tshirt company of the same name.  I went for a few reasons.  First off, one of the many musical acts was The Fresh Beat Band who are beloved by 3 of my 4 kids at home.  Secondly, I had the opportunity to hear the young owner of Life is Good speak at an event I attended for work and I found him to be enthusiastic and inspiring.  I want my kids to believe they can make a difference and when you see a young person doing that and having fun doing that, it is a really beautiful thing. 100 per cent of the festival profits go to help children whose lives have been touched by trauma, whether that is through illness or violence.

There were reasons I could have opted out.  The tickets were pretty expensive.  I did not know how to get there and hate to drive long distances because of my headaches. I knew managing Chet's autistic issues in a venue of that size would be um, challenging.  But we went. and it was amazing and worth it.

Because we arrived early in the day, the kids actually got to see the Life Is Good owner Jacob and his brother who were making the rounds of the vendor tents.  I thought Rob's jaw was going to scrape the ground when he saw a guy dressed uber casually in cargo shorts, t shirt and cool hat and learned who he was.  Jacob always dresses like that, that is the same way he looked when he spoke to thousands of housing industry folks too. LOL

The festival has a tremendous green effort too with recycling, composting and trash bins all located everywhere around the venue. Volunteers were stationed there to make sure that the correct receptacle was used.  My Chet was ecstatic to see this as environmental awareness is his passion.

The music was great and we saw the band the kids love so much.  This part was hard for Chet as the music, which is really a cacophany of noise to him as he can not filter out crowds, music and other background noise began to overwhelm him.  First his head goes from side to side.  (When he was little he would stand in a doorway and do that and bang it on either side of the door casings till we intervened.) Next his whole body would begin to kind of jerk back and forth.  We were way in the back which was not optimal viewing but what I knew was the only way he could handle this.  The set was only an hour which was just about his outer limits for holding it together and then we began to walk the grounds. We could enjoy other musical acts as we walked around.  Mellow jazz strains filtered through the afternoon at one point and Rob recognized the artist as someone his piano teacher really enjoys.

There were games to play, face painting, an obstacle course and much much more.We had to leave by 3 because the littles were really tired and we had a long drive home and had to get back and let our poor pooch out.  (K was at work all day)  Truly, Life is Good!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Quandary

KC is 8 and in my experience this is about the age when my kids adoption stories stop being a beautiful story of how we came to be a family.  When kids are little it seems almost fairy tale like to them.  They know they had a first mother, but the whole part of us coming together is the part they focus on.  Which is good. It shows we love each other and are securely bonded.  But it is like seeing "to be continued" after your TV episode finishes.  It is not complete because they are not ready, and they will let you know when they are.

KC and Lissa both have closed adoptions.  I need to be clear that this was not something either K or I required.  I am under the impression from the adoption agency that we used that this was the request of the first mom in both cases. In KC's case, I do have a snapshot of his first mom and this is the very first page in his scrapbook because to me, that is where his story begins.

The other night during his shower he told me he was really feeling sad.  I asked why and he said because he did not know his birth mom.  He agreed that looking at her picture and reading what I wrote about her (I wrote down any little positive nugget the agency ever shared with me) would help.  But what he said he really wants the most is to hear her voice.

First off, I am glad that he could share his pain.  I know a lot of adoptive kids are afraid to share this with their adoptive parents.  He isn't and that is huge to me.  Here is my dilemma.  As I said, I was informed that this was a closed adoption.  I am really supposed to know nothing of where his mom lived etc.  However, the hospital gave me a ton of intake paperwork when he was discharged and they forgot to redact all her personal info from the papers.  That means her address as of 2004 and her phone number as of that date are on those papers.

I tried to find her on Facebook but her name is a common one and I have only ever seen one picture of her so there are quite a few possibilities out there.  I want to try and make some kind of contact.  At the very least I owe that to KC.  I also don't want to hurt his first mom and there are some really unbloggable but really sad and frightening circumstances surrounding KC's conception.  Here are my choices as I see it:

1.  Do nothing--Can't and won't do that.
2.  Contact the agency and see if they will try to contact her.  I might do this first with a letter to N. who worked with us on why we are doing this.  My worry is that reunification of first moms and their children may not (likely isn't) their priority).
3.  Write a letter to the address on the hospital paperwork and see if I get a response. I could do this but it feels like I am taking advantage of information I was not legally entitled to and I am having a hard time with that.

Those who read who are either adoptive parents or first mothers, could you weigh in with what you would do, or what you would want done if it was your child searching.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Jane and I talk

So last week there was a bit of an email flurry surrounding Fiona.  The emails were really between Jane and her social workers but they were relating to me and Fiona's future which in a best case scenario is closer to us for long term stability.

Truthfully I am feeling no love from DCF.  This is a new case worker and I abhor being talked about.  I mean seriously you can see that I am being sent the same email by Jane, can you not actually address me?  But instead the caseworker wrote to Jane saying that we did not want guardianship of Fiona and therefore we had essentially little to no say in the matter of her future although she absolutely recognized what a FABULOUS resource we were for Fi.  Apparently Jane wrote back to that one and said something to the effect of could we recognize that they are family and stop the resource talk.  Bless her.  She didn't copy me on that one; she probably knew I was gnashing my teeth.

I did jump in myself on that one and as I wrote earlier indicated we never ever said we were not interested in guardianship. What I am mindful of is that Fiona will need expensive long term mental health supports and I know that my insurance does not adequately address her needs. I want to plan for her future in all areas and this is one of them and I asked how guardianship impacted her receipt of services.

Then I went away on a camping jaunt which I must write about at some point as it was very cool.  When I came back there was an email from the social workers supervisor that was written in such gobbledy good D#F speak that I truly did not know what she was saying. It didn't sound particularly warm or friendly or supportive.  There was something about our city not wanting to accept Fiona's case and some other data that I truly did not understand.

Tonight, Jane called. Fiona was off campus and she wanted to let me know that she was okay.  Sometimes a missed call signals an emotional crisis so I appreciated that.  Jane also explained a bit. She said she thought that we should still push for guardianship.  At 22 Fiona is no longer in DCF care anyway.  This is how old she will be upon graduating from the great school. So my city not accepting her case becomes moot because the overseeing agency will change and be overseen by the agency that takes care of developmental disabilities.  I suspect that formerly this was called DMR and has a new acronym that I don't know yet.

In Jane and the director of the school's opinion, this agency is more likely to factor in "best interest" for Fiona in her placement.  So this is a long winded way of saying that there is still hope and I will continue the email battle tomorrow!

Monday, September 17, 2012

I won an award while I went camping!  LOL  Actually, I am pretty excited because Scott from World In Motion nominated me.  I love Scott's blog because he has some insightful, stimulating political and world views.  He also has some great travel posts from time to time and seeing Italy and Germany through his blog has been exciting. Someday, when the kiddos are grown, maybe I'll see some of those things for myself. . . right after I hike the AT end to end! LOL I have to confess, travel excites me but the AT thing has been a life long goal, it tops everything on the proverbial bucket list!

This award says I need to answer a few questions about myself, so here  goes:

Favorite color:  You'd think this would be easy, wouldn't you?  It is usually red, but I am really drawn also to teal  and yellow.  If it is sort of  tropical, I probably love it!

Favorite animal:  Horses  I used to want to be a jockey; specifically my 9 year old career path was to be the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Derby!  Darn the fact that I got very tall. On the plus side, I got Final Jeopardy right the other night because I knew the oldest sporting event in the U.S. that takes place in May.

Favorite number:  I guess it would be 5.  I have 5 kids, I was married in the 5th month, Kirsty moved in with me before our marriage was legal but when our commitment was originally made to each other also in the 5th month.  I don't love numbers enough to really think of them that way.

Favorite drink:  I suspect that this refers to alcohol.  I love vodka collins but rarely drink alcohol these days. If there is a chance it could cause a migraine, I try to avoid it.   Truly I adore iced coffee and that is my most favorite drink at the moment.

Facebook or Twitter:  I never Tweet.  I am not a bird.  Birds tweet.  Sorry!  I do love Facebook. I originally started FB to reach out to my kid's first families. It has morphed into more than that.

My passion: Kids, family,adoption, foster care--sort of a tangled spahetti like mix of the strands of our family members lives.  As I have grown and as my kids have grown, I have learned so much.  There is much we need to remember as adoptive parents, particularly that our children all have stories that started somewhere else, with someone else and we need to honor, accept and embrace those stories (and if at all possible the people involved.)

Giving or Receiving gifts:  Giving gifts is a gift, if you know what I mean.  This does not mean I don't love getting a present, but I really love the planning out  what special thing to do or make or buy for someone I love.

My favorite day:  Saturday, hands down! It launches the weekend and the time that I can be most fully present with and for my family.

Favorite flower:  Oh gosh, I have so many.  But nothing beats brown eyed susans.  Or maybe gladiola.  Or beach roses . . .   you see the problem! It is actually anything except gardenias.  I associate them with the tragic and unexpected death of a colleague and can not abide them.

Favorite food:   Anything spicy.  I have no sense of smell so that means that strongly spiced foods are the ones I taste the best. I adore foods from Ethiopia, Puerto Rican cuisine that I learned to cook when we visited friends there, and Schetchuan asian recipes.  I am also vegetarian and eating as locally as possible and as low on the food chain as possible is important to me.

And now--blogs that inspire me!  There are many but in all honesty my blog writing and reading time is limited these days. That may change a bit as the wheel of the year spins and we are indoors more.  And Scott and I read a couple of the same blogs so I am being careful not to mention any of the cool people and blogs he listed.  So, in no particular order. . .

Mother Issues:  A great blog for those interested in fostering and/or adoption.  Thorn writes with a clarity and sensitivity about the topic and the work of maintaining a healthy relationship with her partner.

Big Mama Hollers:  Think my family is big?  Check out Cindy's!  LOL  But seriously she is an amazing parent, a fountain of gardening info and more.

To Tell the Truth:  Sunday's blog is honest and makes you think about what our present foster care system does to the children it is supposed to protect.  It challenges us adoptive parents to continually be mindful of what messages we are sending to our children.

Crockpot cooking:  Yummy recipes!  I can't or won't use all of them as Stephanie is not vegetarian but there are frequently gems that I tuck away to try.

Natural Hair Care for African American hair:  I want my daughter to love her hair.  I don't want her to think that her gorgeous curly locks should even TRY to look like my pin straight hair.  So learning to care for her hair in ways she enjoys and keeping it healthy is a passion of mine.  This is one of my favorite blogs for ideas.

Feeling Crafty:  Cool craft ideas for those of us who dabble in such things.  My   favorite thing though is to check this blog on Sundays when she has links to lots of amazing ideas that others are doing on their blogs. There are these cute little thumbnail pictures that let you know what the tutorial will be about.

A great parenting/trauma blog:  I will be honest. It is hard to mention just a few foster/adoption blogs.  There are great ones out there that I read regularly and whose writers feel like good friends to me. People I would love to someday meet IRL if our paths crossed.  But I chose Lisa's Grateful House blog because of her great explanations and resources on tapping.

Great art:  Check out  This blog writer really is a real life friend.  She was also my son KC's art teacher.  I love looking at her art and reading this blog and I bet you will too.

Great Food: Sarah is Cindy of Big Mama Hollers daughter.  She has some really delicious recipes but I confess that I am still screwing up my courage to try starting my day with that really REALLY green smoothie in her most recent post. LOL


Thursday, September 13, 2012

The joy of D*F

Back in July, Jane said that DCF wanted a letter from me explaining why we would like to have Fiona's case moved closer to us when she graduates from the Great School in the City.  I wrote a looooong letter.  I heard nothing.

Tuesday night after our family call with Fiona, Jane called me back. She wanted to let me know that there had been ZERO incidents of behavior or self harm after the visit. You can't see me, but I am still cheering wildly and grinning from ear to ear over this.  She also said that there was a foster care review meeting coming up this Friday and she can not attend.  The school case load has doubled for the clinicians and they are also working less hours.  Sure that makes sense.  But at any rate, Jane could not attend the meeting and also said that Fiona's new social worker (her previous one just had a baby) is much harder to deal with than the other one.  Jane asked if I had heard anything from my letter of July.  I said no.  Jane said that although Fiona is still at the Great School for 16 months this is a blink of an eye in the terms of DCF and we need to keep on them. She volunteered to write the social worker an email finding out if they had received my letter and if the proposal to place Fiona closer to us was going to be an agenda item at this or a future review meeting.

Ms. Social Worker emailed Jane back after that, saying that since we were not interested in being Fiona's guardians there was really nothing they could do.  Now is the time for a big ole "SAY WHAT??" I never ever said that.  I was not even asked by DCF.about that!  So I promptly wrote an email to Ms. Social Worker and copied Jane saying that I would be more than open to discussing guardianship and that my primary concern was that Fiona retain the abilty to access the appropriate mental health services (including inpatient when needed) because my insurance does not adequately meet the kind of needs that she has.  I also copied the social workers supervisor on the email and so now, we wait.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Birthday Magic!

 Sunday we went to the Big City to spend the day with Fiona!  We had a great time and it was the first time I have ever been able to spend my birthday with her.  I brought vegetarian chikn patties (her idea) rolls and mini cupcakes that we could frost and decorate.  It was all yummy but stayed within Fi's healthy eating goals as well.  The picture up top is she and Lissa.  I love this shot.  Note the plaids.  You will see in one of the shots that Rob also had on a red plaid shirt, and Lissa has the pink plaid tunic.  Clearly it was Forever Plaid day and KC and I did not get the memo. LOL
 Lissa took this shot of her big sister.  She is getting good photography skills.
 And Lissa also took this one of KC.  Can you tell how happy he always is to be with Fiona?  They have had a special bond since he was born.
My other shots that had Rob in them indoors came out dark and I haven't got time these days to mess around with the photo edit function. But I took this while we waited for the taxi that brings us to the Great School in the City.

We had a party at home too when we got back from the day in the City.  I truly felt loved a cherished.  I got beach rocks painted by K and the kids, KC gave me a piece of art that he made that he spent ages working on. It is a mixed media oil and tissue paper painting of a cardinal. I will try to remember to post a pic.  I also got (drum roll) my own kindle!  So now I don't have to read the free books I down load on my computer, I can cuddle up in bed and do it on my Kindle!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Keeping up and keeping on

Life is crazy lately.  My mom had a blocked artery in her neck.  They have been watching it for about 6 months and things were not improving so surgical intervention was recommended.  She had the procedure yesterday and came through very well.  But she was very worried and stressed leading up to it.  If I am Pollyanna, my mom is Ms. Worrywort.  There were very slim chances of something really awful happening but that was the thing that was stuck in her mind.  I was at a loss as to how to best support her emotionally. To me, 97 per cent odds are really good; but if I tried to point that out, I think she thought I was not thinking about what she was worried about.  She is all ready home (the operation was yesterday) and none of the things she was really worried about with the surgery came to pass.

Added to that mix, is the ramping up of kid activities that naturally happens at this time of year.  Dance starts next week which meant a trip to the dance store to get the shoes.  Oy, the shoes.  This is a really good store that does a great job of fitting well and carefully.  But it is soooo expensive.  However, I have friends who live 40 minutes away who drive to this store because of the fitting they do. And I know the owner and her daughter, so I shop there too.  I had to buy 4 pair of shoes for KC as he had outgrown his ballet, tap and jazz shoes and now also needed hip hop sneakers.  He adores getting his new dance shoes, and his obvious delight just thrills the staff there.  An additional bonus to him--in dance shoes, he is in adult shoes!  LOL  Lissa needed new tap and ballet shoes as she had grown a full shoe size this summer.  I think the dance store owners are going on vacation courtesy of my family. LOL

Rob is busy with his girl friend, his piano lessons and volunteering at the children's museum. They like him so much there they called and want him to come in an extra evening to help due to an event they are having this weekend. He was pretty excited to be chosen from the cadre of volunteers that work there.

Our garden is producing in abundance and we really need time to can our tomatos.I am trying to figure out the logistics of that as Kirsty has a new job which takes her out of the house 3 hours a night.  She is cleaning the administration blg of a local private school. She loves the job and is home at a great time. The kids are in bed (except for Rob) and we have a bit of time for tea and chat before she heads up to bed.

And this weekend we get together with Rob's brother D (hopefully--he has not answered my FB queries) and with Fiona on Sunday. We are training into the big city to see her at school.  Oh and Sunday will be my birthday celebration. Yup, fall crazies in full force!

Monday, September 3, 2012

A-Camping we have gone!

We are back from our mini vacation.  Our annual "farewell to summer" camping trip at our favorite campground near the ocean in Maine.  We came back a day early due to uncooperative weather but still had a blast.  We got there early Thursday afternoon and set up our camp in jig time.  Visited the playground, swam at the pool, went out for our pizza supper at our favorite pizza joint. (a chain that does not exist in our state).  Then we walked down to the ocean to watch the moon rise.  It was nearly full and gloriously beautiful over the low tide.  The kids romped on the wet sand and danced for the moon.  As darkness deepened, I piled the littles into the wagon we had brought with us and hauled them back to camp.  1/2 mile is nothing to them when they are still fueled by the adrenaline surge of anticipation.  When we are all ready past bedtime, it is as far away as China. LOL  Back at the campsite we opted to not have a camp fire and instead to play with glowsticks.  Because we were up a day before the official launch of the holiday weekend there were still lots of open sites around us.  That made it perfect for glowstick ring toss and other crazy camp games we adore.

The next day we spent a huge chunk of it playing at the ocean.  KC took most of his spending money and bought himself a skim board. To the uninitiated these are thin wood boards that you slide across the wet sand and literally skim surf.  It is very cool.  However it is also not an easy skill to learn and KC found it quite hard to master. None of us know how to do it, but one of the great things about my Chet is that he has no qualms about finding help when he deems it necessary.  Sure enough he found a kid using a board and got him to agree to show KC.

KC was at first mortified--he is one who does not like to do something imperfectly in front of others.  But thankfully Chet had found by the luck of the draw, a really nice, patient kid.  KC warmed up quickly, the lesson turned into several hours of the 2 boys working on the skill together.  KC learned more than skim boarding as it was also a time to see that you don't need to be perfect and that reaching out for help is in itself an important skill.  We had time for pickup basketball games at the park.  I loved watching how Rob was careful to incorporate KC into the game of mostly older boys.  KC was sort of subltely stationed in a specific spot and Rob would periodically feed him the ball for a basket attempt.  It was sweet and I love seeing the bond that is between them.  Later as darkness settled,we made a campfire and toasted marshmallows and made s'mores.  That night was a huge thunderstorm which drenched our campsite but the kids slept through it, exhausted from the day of fun.

Saturday we went to Portland Head  Light and spent the day with my mom.  She is facing surgery for a blocked artery in the next few days and it was important to all of us to have time together. Our visit to the Head Light is another annual event.  One that we sometimes think the kids will get tired of but they don't seem to. And in some ways I understand. The vista of the changing sea the variety of sea craft that passes, even the color of the ocean, it is different every time.  Even our dog loves it there!

Lissa spent the lions share of her camping funds there buying herself a small kite.  She and KC spent a long time running on the high grassy field getting it airborne.  Lissa has an innate knack for keeping the kite aloft--KC is more likely to crash it as he tends to run in ever tighter circles and it seems to lose its loft quickly.  Rob, the master of cool, can fly a kite  barely moving and definately not breaking a sweat!  The sun was warm and my wife got a sunburn, but the cool breeze had me keeping my sweatshirt on.

The littles also loved riding their scooters through the campsite and with the 5 MPH speed limit I was comfortable with more freedom than they ever get in our busy city.  They felt so grown up, scootering around the campsite. It was sweet to watch, and somewhat amazing to me as well.  My first pictures of Lissa camping are at the same campground in a pack and play.  Now she is an independent wee miss able to do so much for herself!  I love the transient friendships that kids develop at this campground.  There was always someone to shoot hoops with. Someone to scooter with. Someone to play on the climbing apparatus with.  Many of the kids come from Canada and don't speak English but fun and play is a language that is universal.

That night we had another campfire and the littles got to pop corn over the campfire.  It was hugely thrilling to them as I am someone who is really a fire safety nut.  You have to seriously earn the privilege to being close to the fire with me.  Lissa has finally been able to do that this year, showing an impressive improvement in her ability to follow directions and stay safe.  I am glad we did that campfire too as over night, the weather turned.  Our forecast had been for good weather straight through Monday but the goddess changed her mind.  As we slept, thick clouds came in and rain followed quickly.  Rain that meant to stay and suddenly my weatherbug on my phone was showing only raindrops where the day before had been a forecast full of sun!

My wife is not a wet weather camper. I don't love rain but I am sort of the kind who does not like to call off something either. So I would have stayed but she really wanted to get home.  It was a better choice. I talked to my mom last night and it was still raining and cold there.  This way, we got all 7 loads of wash done yesterday (I always take camp wash to a commercial washer at a laundromat to finish it quickly) our tent is up to dry as is our canopy and we had a day to come to terms with the fact that vacation is over and fall is on our door step.

Tomorrow I'll try to write about celebrating Chet's birthday, which happened this weekend also, but for now I'll leave you with this very cool picture of Rob and our dog Blake!