Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Back to reno land

We have been doing a lot of renovating in our house the past 3 months.  It began this summer with the living room.  It had not been redecorated since the year my MIL passed which was a long time ago.  Stenciling and sponge painting was in vogue back then, if you want a clue to how tired and out of date it was.  LOL

As we put new color on the wall and new curtains in the windows we also reorgainzed how we used the space.  When it was done, we looked at our achievement, and smiled.  Then we turned around, walked out in our front hall, and groaned.

Our large 12 x 12 front hall had not been renovated since before my oldest was home with us.  That is even BEFORE sponge painting was in fashion.  It had tired old wall paper on the walls, poor lighting and only one small armoire to hold coats.  For a family of 6, it was totally inadequate.  Its inability to meet our needs had sort of crept up on us.  Babies don't hang coats, so there were years there when only 4 of us were jamming stuff into the armoire. But those days are gone and now coats, hats and gloves, would spill from the closet in abandon.  It was gross.

Lots of noodling on line brought me to a cool website, called contempo closets.  Though my house is not contemporary, and the closets are very sleek and modern looking, they meet our storage needs ideally.  We now have a wall of closets, magically fastened together and everyone has a place for everything. There is also a low custom built cabinet to hold back packs and library books. Several weeks in, there are no signs of  clothing or belongings on the floor.  Success!  We smiled,and turned around (see a theme here?) and looked at our work room.

The pit of hell!  The repository of junk. The cavern of. . . okay you get the idea.  This room, even larger than our front hall has dark brown floor to ceiling panelling.  My grandfather put it up when the room was his office/study after my grandmother died.  In the time line of decorating chronology that is even further back than the front hall.  This room serves many purposes but primarily has been where we do piece work at night.  That means that by necesity, boxes of product both raw and batched have to be stored in the room.  But my computer is also in here, my bill paying center, KC's schooling center, and crafting supplies are stored here as well.

We are doing less  piece work now that my wife has a night time part time cleaning position, but there is still some going on.  The type of crafting we are doing with the kids has changed according to their ages and interests, and supplies needed thinning out.  KC is a pack rat extraordinaire.  I think he needs a smaller desk so that by necessity he keeps  his space more under control.  My bill paying and bookkeeping area has been cobbled together and is workable but not easily functional.  I need shelves for instance so I don't have to tuck things here and there.  In a word, we needed to re-do the space.

We have decided to paint the panelling.  After much discussion and research on line and no small bit of trepidation, the primer has gone up and color on one section of the walls.  It is a soft buttery yellow, bringing light into the room even in these days of dismal weather.  It is softer somehow, if that makes sense. We have the crafts orderly and stored in a different system. We have ordered a book case and a different TV system for one section of the room.  Nothing fancy or expensive as I suspect this room may be in transition over the next several years.  We are looking at inexpensive easy chairs so that we can tuck one in the corner, and add a lap top table for my wife.  In our minds, when we are done, we will have a brighter more functional space that is welcoming as well.

It amazes me that we revisit our "systems" of parenting all the time. We check in to see what works, what doesn't and who has progressed to needing different experiences, teaching styles, and parenting.  Yet we never put that same thoughtful eye on our actual living spaces.  I think we were so busy in those early years of family life that most of the space issues just got a "band aid" approach.  We are probably no less busy now, but we are busy in different ways as the kids get older, and suddenly the time was there to see what we had been overlooking.  I'll post pictures when we are done, and hopefully we won't smile, turn around. . . and see another project.  This house has 11 rooms.  Eek!

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Halloween is fast approaching and it appears that Mother Nature may have another trick up her sleeve!  Last year we had the freaky snowstorm that took out power lines and postponed trick or treating till the first Friday in November.  It was sort of surreal to say the least.  This year, we may have a hurricane, or snow, or wind and rain. It is unclear what we will have and what the severity will be, but I am pretty sure something will happen.  I have done some storm prep outside, getting in things that could blow etc and will finish that up tomorrow.  I am fairly philosophical about all this.  It will be as it will be.  This house has withstood many a blow, at least 3 hurricanes in my lifetime, the hurricane of 38 and 59 in  my moms.  Things were made to last in those days and we have worked hard to keep things up.  So I will trust to the goddess that my preparations are adequate and we will hope for the best.

We also spent time at a friend's birthday party today.  E always has a costume party and all 3 of my kids who attended opted to dress in costume.  KC is Bumblebee the transformer, Lissa is Super Girl and Rob is Lil Wayne.  He looks cool in dreads!

Regardless of weather we will have a spooky supper on Halloween night, more on that later!

Friday, October 19, 2012

And there was light!

It feels like we have been renovating our front hall forever.  It started in the summer with painting, continued into the fall with more painting and also with restoration of the front doors side lights and the french doors.  Curtains were purchased and hung.  Closets were ordered.  Lighting was purchased in the summer and we asked our neighbor who is an electrician to wire in the lights for us.  He was doing a big job, could we wait a few weeks?  Sure.  Weeks stretched into months.  We would ask gently but didn't want to nag.  After all he is a neighbor! LOL

This week my wife left a note at his house begging and letting him know the closets are due to arrive today.  He showed up yesterday and after about 5 hours of work, we have stunning lights in our front hall for the first time ever.  Before, the majority of illumination came from a small table lamp. There were two wall mounted sconces but they did not do much. Also the location of those lights was not helpful given the new closets we have coming.

Our new lights are much brighter but are also on a dimmer switch so we can have them very dim if we wish.  And, there is now a switch near the front door.  In the past, the only light switch for the sconces was way on the other side of the room.  It looks amazing!  He did have to run the wiring outside the walls and cover it with that paintable plastic stuff whose name escapes me, but I have that at work also and it paints up well and is readily concealed.

And today. . . closets!!!  I can hardly wait to hang up my coat.  LOL

Thursday, October 18, 2012

KC's First mom search

I heard back from the agency that did our homestudy really quickly.  They said given all the information that I had gathered on KC's first mom, that they felt it was okay to use internet search engines and look for her.  I hope to do this next week.  I planned to do it this week but I need to use my work computer as mine here at home is so slow and arthritic.  I have not even had a lunch hour  minute this week as things have been so crazy.  If I find Y, and I deeply hope that I do, I can go back to our home study agency for asisstance in the first contact.  I think I would want to do it that way as I don't want to hurt her and I really trust the two ladies from our home studying agency.  I know that they  look out for first mothers as well as adoptive ones. (there is an unbloggable but deeply personal family reason that I know this). So I trust their sensitivitiy and I also think that should Y have questions and things to say it might be easier to say them first to a more neutral person.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


For me, adoption has always meant that I am embracing and welcoming into my family circle not just the child, but the extended family.  This does not always mean literally, but in whatever ways are safe and comfortable for all parties.  When it is possible for it to be actual, physical visiting I think that is the all time flat out best.

In some cases it has been harder for my kids first family members to buy into this. Many were very angry over the adoptions.  Many were struggling with personal demons.  Others have cultural objections to transracial adoptions, particularly by two married white women. But over time, they have mostly come around.I am somewhat notorious for just acting really nice and happy and ignoring snarking. It works for kids and it works for adults!   Also, they can see that Rob is flourishing and above all, happy.  They can see that although Fiona does not live here, that our commitment and love is real and strong.  Relations in general the past few years have been very friendly on all sides.

However, this has all been pretty murky for Fiona.  From her perspective we failed her, the system failed her and her first family failed her.  Amazing Jane has really helped her to see that we do love her and that families that love each other do not always live together.  Jane has also helped restore some first family contacts, though this remains sporadic at best but not due to Jane.  Right now, a cousin and her daughter have been visiting Fi.  I have met them and they are very sweet. We sat together when we watched Fiona sing at the schools big arts night.   Her daughter is around Lissa's age and the littles all got on famously as well.

Fiona will be coming out for a visit in November--I am waiting on a date from the school.  But actually also on a date from the cousin as Fiona would like N and her daughter to come as well.  I think that is fantastic. It is a concrete melding for Fiona, a united front of family who love her.  Last night during the call, Fiona said that she wanted to go to the mall and have a family Christmas picture done when the visit happens.  I explained that Chet can't do that because of his autism.  It freaks him out to have someone adjust him and fiddle with his person and the resulting pictures are only memorable in a negative way.  However I do a Christmas picture each year of the kids here at home and I have always sent Fiona one.  Turned out she just thought I did that at the mall. So we will create some sort of back drop and she and hopefully N and her daughter will be in a Christmas picture.  Family. Together.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Thinking of New Years???

I know the year is racing by at  faster than light speeds, but my kids have truly surprised me.  Every year we choose a new country for our New Years Eve festivities. Our food, games and decorations will all revolve around the customs of that country.

Usually this is a source of much evening debating and copious suggestions.  Some of the more unusual typically come from Chet. Since we are vegetarian  I have ruled out cultures that eat odd animal parts for several years now as I can't figure out how to make the dishes something we could or would eat. Nor could any of us wrap our mind around trying fermented goats milk.  LOL

This  year KC hit a home run.  He suggested Belgium because they all adore home made waffles.  And just like that, it was decided!  They are ALL on board with it and let me tell you that is mighty unusual in our family.  I am envisioning a waffle bar with a myriad of syrups and other toppings as our main meal.  And I am findiing out some interesting things about Belgium too as we start our research.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Money Management

I do not save as much as I would like, but I don't spend crazily either.  My biggest ticket items tend to be things the kids are learning--dance and piano classes, field trips, mission trips at church for the youth group etc.  They are not inexpensive, but I feel that they are also an investment in each child.  They are experiences which nurture their own unique talents and build self esteem and also many are also situations where they experience working with folks from different walks of life and helping others.

I also try really hard to teach my kids to save money.  Everyone has a straight up old fashioned pass book savings account.  There is something tangible for them about holding a passbook and seeing the interest get printed.  They each get a very modest amount each week to put in the bank. They can earn more by finding chores on their own or graciously pitching in without pitching a fit. LOL

About 2 months ago, KC decided that being "nearly a tween" (his vision of life as an 8  year old!) he needed his own CD/radio player.  Sharing the family one in the kitchen just was not doing it for him.  He sort of sounded like he thought I was going to trundle right out and buy him one.  I said it sounded like a great gift to ask for at Yule.  He stared at me like I had 3 heads.  He suggested he just take the money out of his bank account.

This is a mentality I wanted to nip in the bud.  I had let the kids take money out when we went on vacation to Florida but I don't think savings accounts should be tapped unless truly necessary.  Otherwise they are quickly dwindled away to nothing.  So I said no, that wasn't the purpose of savings and we had a bit of discussion on that, and control of the funds and how I didn't understand how deeply important this all was to him.

I said I thought it was probably very important and that likely it was so important he was willing to do some extra chores for it.  He agreed. For two months he worked in a very self motivated fashion doing chores.  He swept the deck, he picked up toys, he dusted and swept.  And he was fairly rewarded for the efforts, but not extravagently so.  Realistically, we all have to work for what we want and it is better to learn that sooner than later.

He checked on line and found the model he wanted, had me check the reviews and verify that there would be a return policy if he felt it was not working well.  And last week he finally had earned enough money to place the order.  The excitement just about turned him inside out.   Last night it arrived at the store for us to pick up.

When we arrived at the counter it turned out that the same counter also handled layaways.  The fellow working saw that we were only doing a pick up.  He spoke to the older couple in front of us in line. They had a gigantically laden cart full of items to layaway. He said that he would really like to take us first because it would be quick, whereas layaways took a lot longer.  The other customer kind of grumped but agreed.

When the young man went to get KC's CD player, I turned to the other customer and smiled and said how kind he was and that he did not know it but that this was a very special pick up that we were doing. I briefly told him how my son had earned the money for this item and had been waiting for it to arrive.

The atmosphere changed instantly.  He asked KC what he did to earn the money and KC promptly told him "lots of chores" and what some of them were.  The fellow said how KC would likely take better care of the thing because he earned it himself and how good it was to see a young person learning the value of money.

It is good. It is hugely important as we live in a society that perpetuates a myth of instant gratification. And it was nice to have the concept validated to my son through the conversation in the store line.  Kids need to hear life truths from more than one source, even when it may be a chance encounter such as we had.

Monday, October 8, 2012

More Searching

I finally heard back from our out of state adoption agency last night. They said that they had no information about KC's first mom and no real idea how to contact her. BUT that Lissa's first mom had contacted them and would like some pictures and a letter. So last night I wrote T. a letter and enclosed 3 pages of pictures. I am also going to enclose a 5 x7  copy of the dance school pic as that is a "real" photographer taken shot. It is not the best shot of Lissa as she looks very serious and KC is in the shot too.  But it is photographer quality and I think that makes it worth sending.   The 3 pages I took are candids but I thought she would like them as they encompass pretty much a 12 month period of Lissa's life.  Those go out tomorrow in the mail as today is a holiday for much of the world, though not for me. LOL

I wrote to the agency that did our homestudy for the adoption today and explained about KC's situation.  I am hoping that they will have some insights as to how to most sensitively progress with this.  I have gone through my data which is pretty comprehensive as the hospital did not redact her personal info when they gave us the paperwork. So I have her address as of 2004, her full name, her DOB and SSN  I have the name and address and phone number of an emergency contact. This person does not appear to be one of her parents.  While I wait to hear back from our homestudy agency, who I think are very sharp and will hopefully have some good ideas, I have registered with the Illinois adoption registry.  If she should search, our info will pop up.  I am also thinking of asking Amazing Jane what tools the Great School uses for search as I know they have helped Fiona try to find family.  However there is DCF involvement there which may make it happen differently.  And I keep reading his first mothers writing saying "no contact" and the story of the conception and hoping that if she does ever connect that the wonder that is my joyful little son will outshine any of the hurt and shame surrounding the rest of the situation.

I looked on Facebook again and there are literally thousands of people with KC's mom's first and last name.  There is no way that I can see to filter by age or ethnicity or region, any of which would make things quicker for me.  Hey Mark Zuckerberg, if you are reading my blog those would be cool things to do to help people connect more easily. LOL 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Lissa gets her library card!

One of the things I have learned as a parent is that each of my kids is motivated by totally different things. Chet got a library card because he loved to read from an early age.  Rob struggled a bit to master reading but was enthralled with the very atmosphere of a library.  It was a quiet place where he loved to spend time and he got his library card early on.  KC learned how to write his name by his 6th birthday so that he could join the illustrious ranks of being a "card holder". He is very much the guy who is always trying to keep up with the "big bros."  Lissa is coming up on age 6 (her birthday is in December). Suggestions that she learn to write our last name so that she could get her own card were viewed with, um apathy is a word that springs to mind. Zero interest.  Yawnsville.  Why bother when she could take out books and movies on my card or her brothers?  Our last name is relatively long and though she can write her first name, she was completely uninspired to challenge herself.

Till inspiration struck.  Like most libraries, ours has computers.  Lissa always wants to use the computer in the children's room.  I have always said that they are for kids who don't have a computer at home.  Till I realized that hey, she needs a children's library card to access said computer.  Total light bulb moment for the mom!  I explained this rule to her--which is true.  Adults can't use their card on the children's room computers.  She spent this week feverishly practicing our last name.  And wrote it flawlessly on her new library card this morning.  Whereupon she then had 30 minutes on the library computer playing exactly the same game on line there that she plays at home.  LOL

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Generous Spirit

This will be a different sort of weekend for our family. This morning, Rob leaves at 8 am on a social justice trip with our UU church youth group. They will be travelling to another state where they will live and work with people who are struggling with poverty and housing permanence. They will do maintenance on the property during the daytime and play with the kids who are sheltered there in the evenings.  A similar trip took them to Maine last year. This year they are farther afield in Maryland. I think it is really important that at an early age we teach our kids to give compassionately to others.  I don't look at these trips as a way to remind them "see what you have."  For the most part I think they all ready get that.  I am pretty up front about how hard I have to save to make things happen, though I have always imparted this in a way that does not sound like we are going to be hungry and homeless, as those are not likely outcomes.  But generosity is I think a learned behavior.  If you think about it, we have to teach our kids how to share their toys at the playground.  This is the playground of real life and for me the lesson is that you can share of your resources (time, money whatever) with people you do not even know.  That it is not only okay to step out of the neighborhood, it is necessary.

Rob has a clear grasp of this and and though I know the fun is a big part of these trips, he also has a generous spirit and gives willingly of himself in all situations.  The other good thing is that the younger kids are growing up seeing him model this,which makes things easier for me. LOL  I always think the house is overly quiet and empty when Rob is gone.  It reminds me that he is all ready 16 and stretching his wings, readying himself for a future that I will watch and visit, but not be an active participant in.

Monday, October 1, 2012

I have been trying to write this post for awhile now with very little success.  Lots of interuptions, from kids, from life and I find that the words I manage to put down are not accurately reflecting how I feel.  But the house is quiet tonight. Rob is off to Youth Choir and Youth Group, the littles are abed, Chet is watching a movie.  We are all tired after a day seeing the musical version of Mary Poppins, but a few stolen writing moments can not be wasted!

What I have been pondering about lately is how long it can take children of trauma to feel safe. Deep down safe.  Rob has been my son for 11 years now.  I think we are just about there.  This is the first  year that he has not wanted to come with me on every single errand, no matter how boring or mundane.  How many 16 year olds typically want to go get gas?  Go to Walgreens, etc?  Not that I ever mind the company or companionship. But by the time I was 9, I was staying home alone while my parents drove the 30 minutes from our house to the grocery store, did the shopping and came home.

But I grew up safe.  I grew up knowing that my parents were not going to let me down. They might disappoint me, but I always knew I was safe. That I had a roof over my head. That i had food in my belly, even if it wasn't food I loved etc. I was not afraid that I would hear wild arguments at night, the police never visited, life was predictable.

What I have seen is that when that predictable is missing in those key years, it takes a loooooong time to overcome it.  To show that no, no matter how long you wait, you are not going to come in from playing and find me sucking back a "40."  (incidently I never knew what those were until my then 5 year old son asked me where they were in the house.)

I once had a social worker tell me it would take at  as many years in our home as he had in his first home before he would begin to trust us.  Maybe.  Personally I think it was a lot longer.  I think he wanted to trust us, but was always holding back some little part of himself. Waiting for me to show that I could not be trusted. That I would forget him at the ballfield. That there would be no breakfast when he came downstairs in the morning.

And then when those things didn't happen, I think the next step was something like love tinged with desperation, because there was still not trust.  Thus, he wanted to come everywhere, all the time.  Which truly was fine by me. I tend to haul everyone with me most times unless you convince me you would rather do something else and have a safe plan for it. But he had no interest in staying home alone, or even with Chet here.
   ********* editing time!************

Apparently blogger ate the last of my post and I hadn't checked back till now due to having the migraine from h*ll this past week.  Now I look and geez Louise, 1/2 of the post has gone missing.  I have attempted to sum up what I was driving at as hanging posts that go no-where bug me.  However I really am an off the cuff writer and I know I had a lot more to say than that! LOL  Now I return you to the regularly scheduled closing paragraph. . .

Yet now, I am seeing that patience and predictability are bearing fruit.  He is willing to stay home alone on occasion.  He is beginning to positively envision a life beyond this home and actually making plans for how to make the dream a reality.  He helps with cooking these days, not just for himself, but also for his siblings.  There is just more of an assurance about him these days that fills me with hope for the young man that he is becoming.