Saturday, December 28, 2013

Cleaning and Contacting

I always get the urge to clean after the holidays.  Deep clean after decorations come down, for sure--that will happen later.  But in the pause between the old year and the new, I like to tidy.  I cleaned lots of picky places today.  Places like my computer area for instance.  It is almost always cluttered--in large part because it is not exclusively my space.  I share this computer with everyone except my wife (who has her own computer.)  So the area winds up with the detritus of every project or activity that we all bring to it.  It is now clean and sparkling.  I like to get my bill center ready for the new year and I did that today as well.

I cleaned our pantry .  This really needed tidying but there is no heat in there and I had been waiting for a warmer day to do it. Today it got over 50 degrees (what a gift from the goddess!) and I organized it all and swept the floor.  Things had been pushed around to accommodate the trays of Christmas cookies that were made and stored there and other holiday things. Some things were stored oddly because Chet has a rather unique way of putting away groceries.  He will usually try to follow a system but if he does not know where something goes he stuffs it any old place.    Likewise, our spice cabinet needed an overhaul . . . I just putttered through the house, tidying away.  The kids helped as well and seemed to like the feeling of peacefully restoring order in our wake.

We took time for our usual shopping and other errands. But with no dance this week, we also were able to redeem a couple of coupons that the littles had earned in the library winter reading program. They each got a free slice of pizza for lunch and were so excited.  Lissa also had gotten a coupon for a free cookie from Barnes and Noble because it is her birthday month.  She redeemed that and of course, a bit of book shopping took place as well. Actually, KC decided that he would rather buy himself a calendar this time around and to his great delight he found one themed to Diary of a a Wimpy Kid.  He is in heaven.

In the course of all the cleaning, KC found some Christmas cards he had made and forgotten about.  He brought me one and said he would like to send this to his first mother, Y.  I said that was fine.  He wanted me to write the message and I did. I suggested that we print some pictures off and we found a bunch of great ones, from the summer through the fall and enclosed those as well.  I wrote a small message as well, explaining the shots and inviting her to text or write if she would like to.  Lissa also came to me today and said she would like to find her mother as well.  I will contact our adoption agency in January.  I know that her mom did stop by and pick up pictures that I send there yearly--perhaps they have a contact or can facilitate something.

 Interestingly enough one of the pictures that I picked of KC was at the beach this past summer. It is a truly great shot of him, but I was in the background.  I had every intention of cropping me out of the picture.  But KC did not know that.  When I dropped the picture into the scrapbook program, he said, "Oh no, no offense Ooma, but you're in the picture."  I explained that I knew and I was cropping myself out and showed him how that worked.  He sighed and said, "I hope you don't mind.'  I said of course i didn't mind, that I had every intention of doing just that. The pictures were about him, and not about me.  He gave me this huge hug.There are no words for how important it is to keep reassuring that this is not just okay, but totally fine.  I think kids just naturally assume that they have to choose, or that they will be viewed as disloyal or something.  I think without a doubt that KC is securely attached and knows how much he is loved and yet I can see that despite that, he needs repeated assurances that this is really okay.  And it is.

Planning New Years Eve

For many years we have had a tradition where the kids pick a country for us to "travel" to on New Years Eve.  The idea was that we would ring in the New Year earlier because we were in a different time zone. LOL  This worked well while they were much younger and we had some great dinners with new foods from our various countries.  We would make decorations, and play trivia games to learn stuff about the country and its inhabitants, play the music from the region etc. It was a big deal--probably because I seem genetically unable to do things small.  We have been to Poland, Italy, Australia, England and more.

This year KC suggested that we do a Worlds Fair theme.  We all kicked that around for a while and I printed out some information on various Worlds Fairs to help them think things over.  The ultimate end to the great debate was the littles convincing K and I that they could stay up to see the new year in.  And that we should have a buffet with foods from different parts of the United States. So they have decided our New Years Eve buffet will feature :  Corn Chowder for the Northeast. Rob chose this and will make it.
Mini tortilla bites for the SouthWest. Chosen by me and I will make them.  French Bread pizza to honor Chicagos deep dish pizza and so that KC can use his marinara sauce that he got from Santa.  He will help make those.  That covers the heartland!  Then we will have a nice composed green salad to feature California.  We will all help with that one.  I want to make a black eyed pea dip and we will have munchies as well as the night wears on.

I love that the kids could help plan and that we will all be together.  I know that in a few years, maybe even sooner, that this will not be the case.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas celebrations

Christmas was amazing!  The littles and I slept on a giant air mattress in Lissa's room.  They feel that they have to have a slumber party with me on Christmas Eve.  I started this when they were teeny tiny as it gave me a way of making sure they could not hear "the elves" putting packages under the tree.  My bedroom is farther from that general area.  However, with Fiona spending the night, she was in my room. So we did this in Lissa's room and had just as much fun.  All the kids have tiny trees in their room and hers is blue and awfully pretty.

The littles woke at 4:45 on Christmas morning, but I kept them in bed whispering with me till 6:10 a.m.  (another reason we have the "slumber party."  My wife would be singularly unamused by a 4:45 a.m. wake up!  Then at 6:10 we all got up and did the stockings.  Stockings are very fun in our house.  There is very little edible and very little that is pricey but things are sort of quirky and unique.  For instance, tiny little telescopes for playing pirate.  Wooden tops. small collectable figurines.  My wife found many of these items at a cool toy store on sale when she was doing holiday fairs with my Mom in November.

After stockings, we adjourned for breakfast.  Long ago, in a smaller family dynamic, I just put yogurt on the table and oj and tea.  Nowadays, it is more like a breakfast feast.  There is yogurt, fresh fruit, oj and coffee and tea. There were eggs, veggie bacon, sauteed mushrooms and grits.  And cinnamon buns.  It is mandatory that I make cinnamon buns.  I made two pans of them from scratch.  By 11:00 a.m. when the grandparents arrived, there were enough for them to have with coffee and tea and that was it.  They were all gone!

After fueling up, and starting the dishwasher, we went in and opened presents.  My wife and I do our stockings and gifts Christmas night so it was just the kids. That way we could take pictures and just enjoy it.  Most especially I enjoyed the fact that Fiona was with us and having such a good time.  She really really enjoyed everything.  She also had really been very thoughtful in the gifts she got people.  KC got one of those fuzzy hats that have long scarfy things hanging down with built in mittens.  He had wanted one when we were together at a fair this fall and I said no because the vendor was pricing them crazy high.  Fi remembered and made sure he had one at Christmas.  She got K and I a beautiful candle holder.  Really stunning and destined to be the centerpiece at solstice dinner next year.  She got Lissa a darling sweater vest with a leopard collar.  Lissa is wearing it today and you can tell she knows she looks fine!   Likewise, the kids had been equally thoughtful in choosing Fiona's gifts and she was sincerely excited about them.

By 8:30 we were cleaning up the detritus of opening and there was time to get dressed and relax and try out some toys.  At 11 the grandparents arrived and another round of gifting ensued.  I was proud of the kids as some of their gifts from them were not tangible--gifts that help others via heifer project.  They were just as excited about having rabbits bought in their honor as if they got a toy.  Cool!

More cleanup, visiting and eventually a big dinner.  Not a fancy dinner, but a filling one.  Big trays of pasta, a huge green salad, sparkling cider for kids, wine for grown folks, and cheese cake, Fiona's birthday cake, cookies,pie  or poached pears for dessert.

Fiona could not believe she was having a birthday party as well.  She was gracious and calm throughout and seemed again to like all our choices.  At the 11th hour I found out that her new residence will not allow her to have her cell phone. Chet had bought her a cover for that and I thought the gift now rendered inappropriate and potentially painful. So we swapped it out for an extra gift that I had really bought for an aunt.  Easy enough to replace that one later and Fiona was none the wiser.

By 2:30 my mom and G were back on the road and the kids and i hung out and played the rest of the day.  Sometimes they used KC's new microphone and either did stand up comedy (which was dubiously funny but mostly funny in that they THOUGHT it was funny) or Fiona would sing along to some of her new CD's.  They played new wii games and tried out KC's marker maker.

We also got to talk with Krystal and wish her merry Christmas.  She was en route to a movie so she did not talk too long but Christmas night she asked Rob to call her back and they talked much longer.  I am glad that connection is strengthening. Rob and Krystal were very close as young kids and when she moved down south it was a huge blow to him.

At 5, staff came to take Fiona back to her new home.  I hope she settled in well. I will call tomorrow to see. I think maybe calling tonight might be too much too soon. Not for Fiona, but for the staff who are not the easiest folks in the world to deal with.  I don't want to do anything that rocks the boat while I await the final guardianship stuff going through.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve

It's Christmas at our house, the door is open wide. (well not in the picture or you'd miss the pretty wreath!)

We've pig piles on the sofa and laughter has filled the house.

The cinnamon buns are on their cold rise for tomorrow's breakfast buffet. There will be the aforementioned buns, but also eggs, vegetarian sausage, vegetarian canadian bacon, grits oj and coffee.

                                                                                     Pies have been baked. Fiona's birthday cake hasI
 been made.  Pears have been poached.  We had a lovely festive Christmas eve supper.  Then we piled into the living room to watch "The Santa Clause"

After the movie, we read The Night Before Christmas, and the littles showered.  They have now hung their stockings and are abed.  However, Fi and Rob are still up, watching The Grinch.

This is so great, having everyone here. That in itself makes this the best holiday I can remember.  

Monday, December 23, 2013

Dog Sitting

I have today through the 25th off from work.  We had planned to take the littles to an indoor play gym that is running a gym carnival this week. Alas, the roads are a bit slick with icy fog and rainy drizzle, so K will take them on another day. I had hoped to see them doing their thing, but safety is much more important.  Instead, we kept things local, bringing Rob to the girl friends and taking the littles to brunch which they adored.

We are also dog sitting and when we went to feed and walk Jersey we found she had not eaten and was acting depressed. We have cared for her several times over the past few months but this is the longest stretch of time that her people have been gone and we think she is lonely.  With her family's permission via text, we brought her home with us for a few hours of play. That is she and our dog Blake in the picture above.  Blake is a very non-aggressive dog so he has been very good about this, and even pretty much enjoyed it.

The cats and I?  Not so much.  There is a lot of settling that dogs need to do when they come together and it takes--forever!  Jersey is way more hyper than Blake also which is part of it.  I have oodles of patience for a passle of kids.  A passle of pooches?  Probably not so much.  Jersey is set to go home from her play date shortly and I am one happy camper!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

My Solstice Gift

Last night, I had a solstice gift. To understand how cool this way, you have to understand that life for Chet is very "orderly."  Regimented and not likely to change would be more accurate, but orderly sounds better. For instance, he has to eat at the same time.  He literally can not tolerate a deviation of more than 15 minutes.  Offering snacks is not a solution.  Last night my wife and Rob were late coming home from a cleaning gig and supper could not be served till 5:00.  I fed Chet at his usual time and he was content to eat with just my puttering in the kitchen for company.  Every night when he comes down to supper he brings his PJ's and towel. He takes his shower right after supper.  It does not matter if the Pope stopped in to visit.  Chet will have his shower at his designated time and walk past and happily wave good night.

His emotions are prone to spinning out of control and so the things in his life that he can control, he has always done with a fierce intensity.  By acceding to this need, he ihas become slightly  less frantic about it. But it means that by 5:30 or so, he is in his room for the night and not seen again till morning.  I get that he needs this.  Nights have always been harder for him. For some reason he has always been prone to ramping up  then and is dramatically more sensitive to stimuli of any form.

But last night, out of the blue, he came downstairs about 5:30 with a deck of cards.  He wanted to know if the rest of the kids wanted to play Uno.  They were thrilled and in moments, while I did the dishes, there were 4 kids by the Yule tree playiing Uno.  It was truly a solstice miracle for me. I listened to the laughter and my heart was light.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Saturday for the sickie

Ugh!  I came home from work ill yesterday.  This rarely happens.  I am pretty healthy (knock wood) by nature. Even sick children routinely gravitating to my bed during their punk times does not usually infect me.  Alas, the dreaded stomach bug found me yesterday.  KC had this over a week ago so I am pretty sure I didn't get it from him.  More likely from one of my coworkers as we were all sharing holiday goodies in the office together the past several days.

By noon I was home, tucked in bed and most of the day and the evening are a blur.  Rob did a first rate job stepping up and helping with the littles. Cooked them supper right on schedule, got Lissa her shower.  Truly it was amazing.  In the midst of it all, feeling dizzy and fuzzyheaded, the phone rang and it was the program director for Fiona's new home.  She is working together a plan for Fiona and needed my input.

Despite the fact that it was hard to focus, this was a good conversation.  It appears that due to Fi's level of chronic instability she is recommending a risk meeting which I will be able to attend as part of the team.  Robin is concerned that contact with extended family members would best be done with thereputic supports and I am fine with that.  (cousin N who has been a regular in Fiona's life is excepted from this, as are myself and my family)  But Mom J and her Krystal  and Dee  who have had very limited contacts are whom she is speaking of.

I stressed that it is important to make sure the contacts happen and that it not be a somewhere in the distant  future kind of deal.  Nor tied to behaviors and such as Fiona has no sense of time but does feel a very intense need (and rightly so) to be in contact with her family members and her friends that she has built up over the years at the great school.  Robin seemed to get that and assured me the risk meeting would happen soon after her moving in.

A potential fly in the ointment seems to be a general unwillingness to let former staff and Jane have contact with Fiona.  Robin cited Hippa and I am having a hard time understanding how making a friendly phone call as a friend violates that. I'll do some research when I am clearer minded and be prepared.  To me, it smacks more of the general rule that agencies seem to have had for Fi which was when she moved from a foster home or a facility it was "fresh start." Which sounds good in theory but what is the purpose of making connections and emotional supports if one can not take them forward through your life. Seems to me that a fresh start does not need to negate the good that has happened in one's past.

Meanwhile I am at least ambulatory today.  I have had a couple cups of tea, and about half a rice cake.  I brought the kids to the library and though that was not a lot, it was a good step forward in getting my strength back for the hustle and bustle of the holidays. And today is winter solstice, which is a special night at our house.  The shortest night of the year, but the night that holds the promise of returning light and warmth.  We eat by candle light.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Happy and Thankful

The holidays are hectic but I guess at heart, I really LOVE hectic!  Today was the first dance class party.  My kids take multiple classes so there will be another party on Saturday.  It is so much fun to see how excited the kids are, to share in goodies together and just kick back and chat a little with kids and parents alike.

I also had a huge gift from my boss who let me take a shorter lunch and leave work earlier as a result. This meant that the traffic which is always horrible at this time of year did not make us late for picking up KC and Lissa's friend and heading to dance class.

Another joy is that my wife got offered another cleaning contract through word of mouth.  This would be for an office in our city and she is very happy. She thrives on being her own boss and her good work and reputation are all ready getting out there in a short period of time.

I am happy that the weather is allowing my teen and his gf to go to the movies tonight.  Their prior date was postponed due to a heavy snow storm.

I am happy that tomorrow is my last day of work until December 26th.  I could not get a lot of time off this year but I am going to make every second of it count.

I also got a really nice email from the folks at the group home where Fiona is moving. Things have been a little tense with them lately and this email definately represented a change on their part and a real reaching out.  I am thrilled.  I am also lucky in that Amazing Jane wants to keep in touch with us, even when Fi moves out of the Great School.  She and staff are also eager and willing to keep in touch with Fi.  She said that on the one hand it is not what is recommended for therapists, but that she will no longer be Fiona's therapist and she feels that above all, Fiona needs to see that people do not just disappear from her life when she moves. There has been too much of that.

I talked with Rob last night about the fact that I am going to try and help his sister be in contact with their first mom.  I want him to know that he can be part of that or not, as he chooses.  I am not upset or threatened by contact and want him to do what is comfortable for him.  Although he was not talkative about this, his body posture and expression was one of ease--a marked difference from the time a year or so ago that I had to explain to him that his first mother had another child and was raising her. Rob is very much the "still waters run deep" kind of guy.  His body and expressions speak volumes though.

I still have presents to wrap, I may send my cards on Valentines Day, and the house will not be tidy on Christmas Eve. But I am still brimming over with happiness!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lissa, a retrospective of seven years

 December 16, 2006. . . KC was 3 and was trying to email Nana on the computer.  We did not know till a day later that we had a new baby daughter, Elisabeth Ann!

 December 16, 2007.  The first birthday of our littlest princess.

Age 2.  She wasn't loving this party!

 But by age 3, it was lots of fun.  KC was there to help show her the ropes and help her get her party on.
 By age 4, she is in full princess mode!
 Age 5 is still a princess. . .
 And so is age 6!
But by age 7 she decided to have a Minnie Mouse theme.  I should have posted a picture of the decorations to prove it.  I love this picture of her opening a gift though.  She looks so happy.  Happy Happy Birthday my sweet Lissa!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Suddently almost 7

Tomorrow, Elisabeth will be 7.  She is ecstatic and excited beyond belief.  She has been literally counting the hours to becoming 7 which kind of cracks me up.  But a big part of me is having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that she will be 7!  Wasn't it just a day or so ago that she was a wee babe in my arms, or the tempestuous toddler? She has grown and changed so much in this past year.

She has matured a great deal.  She has a strong will and a very fierce temper but in this past year she has developed a lot more control over it.  I need to enjoy those years of control before puberty sets in, in a few more years!

She has an amazing sense of fashion, notice the scarf she fashioned for herself in the above outfit. It is the silk scarf I wrap her hair in so she can wear a warm hat when she plays outside.   When she was done, this is what she did. She chooses her own clothes and has a very cute quirky sense of style.  I love seeing what she is going to wear each day.

She is amazingly gifted in math.  She grasps math concepts faster than I would think possible. By November she was 60 per cent through with her grade one math program.  She'll be working at second grade level before this school year ends. Her mind is rooted in the logical and the proveable.  Right now she wants to be a vetrenarian or a hair dresser but I would not be surprised to see her eventually move toward a career that utilizes her abilites to use logic.

She is persistant.  As facile as she is with numbers, language work and reading is much more of a challenge.  But she is not put off by a challenge and she has worked really hard to learn to read.  Dick and Jane readers and Dr. Seuss, have helped her make sense of words and it has been so great to see her confidence grow.

She is physically strong.  She can take out her brothers, .  Nuff said.

She is friendly.  None of my kids have trouble making friends, totally debunking the idea that homeschooled kids are introverted weird freaks who can't get along with "real" kids.

Tomorrow she will go with my wife and Rob to see the Enchanted Village and to go ice skating for the first time. I will stay home with KC and Chet. Chet does not want to go but KC is staying home because he is not well.  He is sad but he and I will work on her birthday mural, do the decorating and I will make her vanilla cake. She is also having an ice cream cake and has chosen Chinese food for supper.  Happy Birthday my strong, bright beautiful daughter!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Sickness and Snow

This was sunrise the other morning.  I treasure sights such as this because this is a hard time of year for me physically. The cold and the dark tax my body and my spirit.We are approaching Solstice and the shortest day of the year.  Soon the wheel will move again towards light.   I will celebrate each second of light that comes back to us.

I am also very tired today as KC was sick last night. There has been a stomach bug making the rounds and apparently he fell victim to it.  After being sick to his stomach he felt he could only sleep in my bed so we moved him in there. It was actually easier for me to tend him during the night when he had episodes of illness.  However as the night wore on, and he began to feel a bit better he became chatty.  Son, I love you but I don't feel like chatting at 2:00 a.m. LOL

So today I am very sleepy and am powering through the day by drinking my son Rob's ultra strong coffee with a caramel machiatto added to it.  Normally I am all about straight black hot coffee but today I confess I need the sugar boost to amp the caffeine.

Lissa and I have gotten the shopping done for our church Shoe Box Project.  The idea is you buy gifts for a specific gender and approximate aged child and fill a shoe box with the gifts.  We got a teen girl and so we got nail polish, body and hand lotion, lip balm,home made fingerless gloves,a small glitzy purse, a home made hat, a small zip drive thingy for computer use,pens and cool markers, a small notebook for school or journaling  and a WalM*rt gift card.  The location that will receive the boxes has a WalM*rt near it.
It is fun filling the box and important to me that the kids help choose the things that will go in it.

Later Rob and I went to the library and did a small bit of grocery shopping.  It was weird to not be following our usual plan of early shop and dance class.  We have all been a bit off with our schedule being askew today.

There is snow just starting now; and it is forecast to be a big storm. I hope it does not cancel church tomorrow. The teen wants to see his girl, the littles miss their friends, and Chet is supposed to have a meeting with the lady who helps him at service.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Fiona's guardianship just took a jump forward

This week I got a citation in the mail regarding my petition to become Fiona's guardianship.  The citation gives anyone who wants to object to the petition until the 31st of December to notify the court of their feelings.  Fiona's mom and Fiona have also received a citation. I have worried a lot about that.  How receiving that citation would feel to Mom J.  How it would hurt and what she would feel that she should do regarding it.

Late last night, Amazing Jane forwarded me an email she had received from Fiona's mom.  It made me cry.  She wrote to Fi that she heard she was doing well and she was glad. She said she wanted to apologize for all the mistakes that she had made and all the bad choices many years ago. That she had been suffering from depression and didn't know where to turn for help, but that now she did, and was doing better.

She went on to say that she had heard that I was a very good person and would be a good guardian for Fiona.  Fi wants to call her mom with me when she moves out here and I am fine with that.  One of the things I was told by a different therapist years ago, was that if Fiona's mom could give her permission to love others, that her healing could really move forward.  For a variety of unbloggable reasons, we were not able to connect with Mom J and try to initiate this.  Jane has helped facilitate this and I am forever and ever grateful to her.  She also has supported me as I have worked to help Fi and Rob's first families see that I want them in all our lives.  There was a real rift caused by the agency that removed the children from the birth family. While the removal most definately was in their best interest at the time, the way the family was treated afterwards was punitive, belittling and flat out made a lot of them hate me.  Though I did not do those things, I was sort of an emblem of what had happened. I was white. I was, by their terms affluent.  Surely I saw them through the same lens.  It took a lot of work to help them see that I am my own person, and most importantly, that I love these kids.  And I love their families. Fiona and i both share a very similar vision of knitting together her "two families."  I see it as a big circle around the kids, Fi I think has a different mental image but the end result is very similar.

In many ways, this is the best present all of us could receive this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Mural time!

 Our annual Yuletide mural is taking shape!  The kids and neighbor B began working on it this weekend.  Understandably, B was mystified by the idea that we make a mural every year  for Yule. (I didn't even mention the birthday ones!  LOL  KC's idea was to draw "Christmas town" and he sketched the plan out for us.  It is a mixed media type of thing.  Lots of painting, but also markers, crayons and  stencils as well.

The top picture is a snowbank with a pile of oversized presents and a few elves around them.  The presents are made with leftover wrapping paper.  The elves the kids made at our city's holiday stroll last weekend. There is a bobble head elf on top of a ladder by the presents--that's Chet!
 We are all featured in the mural, but not all of us have been added in yet.  Here's Rob, snowboarding down a glittering snowcovered hill.
 And Lissa, skating on an icy lake.
Santa's castle, with neighbor B looking out the window.  Notice his very large elf ears!  He drew those himself.

There is more to the mural and more yet to do.  K and I, and Fiona are not  yet on it. K and I are snowpeople, Fiona is the star on the tree.  It is a lot of fun to do this.  I can never photograph it decently though because it takes one whole wall in our dining room and I can't get far enough away to grab the whole impact of the mural at one shot.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Ho Ho Ho!

Today my wife had a well deserved "run away" day and the kids and I had an unaccustomed day when we did not go to church.  We slept in till the unusually late hour of (wait for it. . . 7:00 a.m.!) and then eventually got up, and went shopping for groceries.  Came home and unloaded and then I took Chet out to do his holiday shopping.  This is the kind of experience that prepares one for being interrogated by the FBI    This is exhausting and emotionally draining. He means well and  he starts off well but by the time you are part way through the first store it is all.down.hill.  Chet becomes overstimulated very quickly, very loud, lots of uncontrolled body gestures etc.  The plus was it was early in the day.  The stores were not crowded as a result.  Generally, people can also tell from our interactions that he is differently abled and are pretty forgiving. Which is a blessing as his odd questions might otherwise be construed as prying or worse.  We had a list and we got through most of it. Then I came home and had a large glass of chardonay.   

Allright, so i just wished for the Chard.  I did make a giant mug of tea, take many deep breaths and sent him upstairs to wrap his gifts, after reassuring him for the 5th time that we did not need to worry about KC's birthday gift purchase today.  (KC's birthday is in April.)  LOL

Then the little boy from next door came over to play. The kids were outside with him for about 30 minutes but it was really cold and they were not going to be out there much longer.  I invited them all in to create our annual gingerbread house.  Neighbor boy has never had a chance to do this before and was enchanted with the whole experience.  KC and Lissa loved including him and it got Rob off the hook so he could start watching some football. Totally a win/win.  While they decorated the house, I baked a small batch of sugar cookies shaped like cookies so they could frost and decorate a snack for themselves.

After that, we went into the dining room and they all started working on the annual Christmas mural. This year it is Christmas town (like in Rudolph, I think).  KC came up with the idea and drew the rough sketch for us to follow.  My wife and I put his idea onto big mural paper and then turn the kids loose.  They can paint, color, use markers, stickers and other embellishments. Pretty much anything goes.  Neighbor boy was again enthralled.  Understandably he had never seen anything like that.  Our family are always featured in the mural, our heads put on various things in the mural. This year we are elves and snowmen.  Ben wanted to be in it too, so I took his picture and he made himself an elf looking out Santa's castle window. It is very cute.  The mural is not done, it probably as a good 3 more days of work in it to get the details in and the rest of the family. But it was begun and gave a good solid hour of creative fun to all three of the kids.  I love this tradition and know it is one of the things I will miss the most when suddenly the littles are too old and too cool for such things!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Holiday Pops

KC's plan for this year was to have us see the Boston Pops Holiday concert.  Live, not on TV.  So I got tickets because, hey it sounded like a great idea.  Rob has always disliked holiday music though so I was wondering how this would be for him.  To make the trip more appealing, I suggested that he invite T, his girlfriend, to come along.  So last night, seven of us went to a nearby city (not Boston, thankfully they were playing somewhat closer to home) for an amazing evening.

It was so much fun, and the thing that shocked me was that it turned out my wife has always wanted to do this.  With the reserve that comes from adulthood, she had never voiced that dream, feeling it was too expensive and that our  money should go to other things.  There are some benefits to the fact that kids just say what is in their minds and hearts without thinking of those things! LOL So she was as excited as KC and Elisabeth. For Miss Lissa, the chance to wear dangly snowmen earrings and stay up late, was reason enough to be pumped.

But the music. The music just was beyond description.  It entranced all of us and even Rob pronounced the night a 9 out of a possible 10.  The weather was not particularly cooperative, as it rained on the way in and sleeted and snowed on the way home.  It was nearly 11:30 when we got back to our home, so it was a looooong night for the youngest. Today was dance for KC but we deferred grocery shopping till tomorrow so that we could sleep till at least 7.  Yes, oddly enough for my family that is late!

Today is also our city's Holiday Stroll.  There are lots of fun, free things for the kids to do in the different businesses downtown. There are cookies and hot cocoa, a chance to write letters to the military deployed away from home at this time of year. There is a place to see Santa and write him letters, crafts, story time, games galore. It is a great event. It was even better this year because for the first time ever my wife was able to join us.  Previously she has always been at work and I have taken the kids alone.  We walk down from our house and spend nearly 4 hours there.  4 freezing hours but 4 hours of absolute fun nonetheless.  Plus we see lots of friends and neighbors and that is a neat component as well.

Now it is time to tuck tired children into beds and hope they awaken rested and refreshed. Tomorrow we will skip church, and do the grocery shopping and then decorate our gingerbread house.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sunday Service

I really love our church.  Today's lay led service was on "dis" abilities.  My Chet was asked if he would usher and he was so proud to take the collection.  He also takes charge of the collections for the food pantry each week. He has a giving heart though it is sometimes hard to tell because of his manner of expressing himself.  Someone posted an article recently about how autistic people don't not  feel, if anything they feel too much. I have often thought that very sentiment about Chet. It is easier for him to show compasssion to a cause, or a wider group than to interact individually because the latter is so much more intense and overwhelms him.

The stories shared by folks who have a variety of challenges in their lives were compelling.  One person in particular shared a mental health diagnosis, that I would wager many of us did not have a clue about.  I thanked her afterwards.  Sure takes guts to get up there and say those things.   It is also a testament to our faith community that people feel safe enough to do that.

I also have a passionate concern for folks whose dx is not obvious.  Folks who are blind, folks with other physical impairments have a tough road to hoe and I am not saying at all that it is easy. But it is more obvious and so I think that to some extent there are more helps offered.  To have a 'hidden" disability--mental illness for instance, or my Chet's aspergers, does not always engender supportive comments.  Because from a distance it all looks like something else.  Maybe bad parenting, maybe teen rudeness (though he is 28 he is often mistaken for a teen).  I have found myself in public having to explain that my son   is autistic, and it breaks my heart.  I feel like I should not have to advertise his disability.  I don't want him to ever think that I see him as "Aspergers" instead of as Chet, the babe I held at JFK airport, my eldest, my smart, exasperating, funny, challenging man-child.   He is those things and more to me.  Aspergers is waaaaaay down the list.  Yet to get services, to get supports, I have to make it the top of the list.  It is a weird place to be sometimes. But to be in that place in a company of supportive others, that makes it easier.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Looking toward Yule

The kids woke early today despite later bed hours last night.  Today was the day we would remove all traces of Harvest and fall celebrations and begin to ready our home and hearts for Yule.  Except I sort of woke feeling like death.  My cold which has up to now been light, had decided to become this icky resident of my chest and has also pretty much robbed me of vocalization.  Seriously, not being able to talk is up there with prime torture methods for me.  Sheesh!

But by 7 I was up and they were breakfasted and we were all ready on the way to undecorating from fall.  My Mom and G were also due to come down at some unspecified time.  Mom always expects something nice to eat when she arrives. Not a problem if you know "when" that arrival will be.  I sort of had to wing it and started apple scones about 9:30.  They only had 4 more minutes left to bake when the grandparents pulled in, so I did pretty well.  They polished off scones, coffee and tea, chatted. (yup that was great for my larygitis. . . especially since G is hard of hearing and one must really project for him to hear you )  The kids were thrilled to see them.  My mom gets the kids special ornaments each year to put on the tree.  It was important to her that they be there today as she knew we put our tree up early.  I love her commitment to our kids and to making traditions and memories with them.

KC is especially enarmoured of all things Christmas.  He absolutely adores all aspects of the holiday.  The gift making. The giving. The singing. The dancing. The decorations.  He can not get enough of it.  Today while we were decorating our dining room, he said he was thinking of his birth mom Y.  I said that made sense to me and that maybe it was time for him to think about writing her a letter or card and deciding on some pictures that we would send.  I said that usually when I find myself thinking about someone, I find that it is when I need to reach out and let them know that they have been on my mind and in my heart. He seemed at ease from that.  I can literally see the tension in his body relax as the conversation progresses. So I will follow up with him this weekend to make sure he has what he needs to do this and see if he needs or wants any help from me.  However though the conversation went well, he was edgy and prone to arguing and crying over other things most of the day.  This wasn't solely due to thinking about Y. I know he was also exhausted. It has been a busy few days and he puts his heart and soul into entertaining.  Lissa sort of goes with the flow and just pulls back when she starts feeling tired.  KC doesn't do that and depletes his energies more.

 Things basically were okay till late in the day. Mom and G had gone, the majority of the decorating had happened, and he just became a pill.  The first squabble I said I thought he seemed very tired as we don't do thus and so. So I would help him by changing his bedtime to 7:15.  A few more tears were shed for effect and he stopped.  K and I were too tired to cook and decided to order Chinese food. Another fit ensued.  How could we pick such a horrid supper?  Drama.  Apparently at this point I again pointed out how tired he was and offered to help by changing his bedtime to 7 p.m.  The thing is, I don't really remember that.  But by evening I could barely talk and wasn't all there myself. So after supper when he socked Robbie, I went in, guns blazing.  He told me it was an accident.  I disagreed.  He apologized to his brother. I acknowledged that this was a great way to start mending things. . . and said that he must be very tired and needed to go to bed at 7.  At which point he turned to me with big teary eyes and said "you ALLREADY said 7, I have to go to bed at 6:45!!!"  And we both started laughing and talked about how I am tired and a little sick as well and gee, lets just get to bed and do tomorrow better. Because really, we are about caring for each other.  And we hugged and he went to bed. And I think, went right to sleep.  It is 9:30. I am probably not far from bed either!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Thanksgiving Wrap up

 Little Sis and Big Sis.  Lissa even wanted me to do her hair as close to Fi's as possible.  As I showered the wee miss tonight she told me today was the best day ever!
 KC adores watching the Macys parade with his Auntie Lynne.
 Rob worked hard in the kitchen peeling spuds and carrots, helping with myriad cooking duties.  However note in picture that follows that he looks spiffy in a suit coat! This guy has a natural sense of style.
 Part of the family.  Chet had a good time and held together pretty well, all things considered.  A bonus is that Lynne always brings him a bunch of magazines that he likes to read (People magazine and such that she subscribes to)  After the meal, he retires to his room to decompress but has the magazines so he never minds going up.
 Our table, pre-feast.  You can not tell in the picture, but KC made place cards for everyone this year.  He also decided to write the blessing.
 Side table gussied up with a cornucopia and fall themed things.
More of the family horsing around during the meal.

This was perhaps the least stressful Thanksgiving we have ever had.  This is largely in part because my wife liked the holiday for the first time this year.  She was fully present today and had a lot of fun.  It was a delicous meal and she was open to suggestions on ways to keep things warm etc.  Fiona loved everything and the warmth of family is a memory I'll hold long into winter's chill.


The meal has not happened.  The relatives have not yet arrived. But I am very thankful.

I am grateful for quiet moments like this, watching the two sisters quietly doing things together.  Lissa so looks up to Fiona and Fi is a great big sister to her.

I am thankful that my family has grown and widened. I am a part of my children's extended family and they are part of mine.  "Blurred Lines" to quote the title of a song are good things when your children are not of your blood and bone.  That we can all laugh together and enfold our children is important to me.  Our kids don't have to choose, there is hopefully never shame attached to their family of origin.  I respect them and enjoy their company.  They have not always made the choices I would make, but they were their choices and they did the best they could at the time.

I am thankful that we have built family tradtions and that many of them are simple--like helping sort the cranberries before I make the sauce.
I am thankful for home made pies--home made everything really. The taste of fresh produce, the savory dishes and the sweet finales, it is all good!

And I am thankful for my wife, who walks this journey with me.  

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Feeling Thankful

I am thankful, just brimming over thankful.  My daughter Fiona is in the living room watching TV and has been home since 1:30.  I went up to her new home to pick her up. She had her second visit there and it is so great to shoot 15 minutes up the highway, get her and bring her back home.  Lissa came with me too, wanting to see where big sis was going to be living in the near future.

Fiona has a new cell phone and Rob has been helping her program it.  We made pecan pie together, played games.  One of her friends called her.  It just felt . . . normal.  She sat in the kitchen and kept me company as I put supper together, chatting while I sauteed up the squash mushrooms and onions.  Talking about spices and a dish she created on her own that she wants to share some time when she comes out.

It has been a busy day.  Hosting our large family is definately a big job.  It means reconfiguring our house to fit everyone in.  I am not wedded to a "perfect" looking Thanksgiving gathering, but I do feel that some sort of specialness has to be there.  It is the natural foil to the joy of family coming together.  And it is a time for sharing family stories.  How our flatware came from Thailand and why.  Where K and I bought our china set.  The depression era glassware that we use for beverages is a legacy from my grandparents. . . All are part of the threads of connection, the warp and weft of our family weavings.

My only regret is that my mom and her companion can not be with us for health reasons. Her companion G had his pacemaker battery replaced and has now caught a cold that Mom had.  She had thrown hers off, G is needing a bit more rest to do so.  A bevy of people and the chaos of the day are not going to be restful so they are staying in Maine.  However Mom is driving down on Friday for a short visit. We plan to send her back with a "portable Thanksgiving basket" as I want them to enjoy the food in the tranquility of their apartment.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Smells like teen scam!

Yesterday at church my son's girlfriend came up to chat.  T is a sweet  girl and I truly love her.  I also feel for her as the family has a lot of stress right now and I think this is impacting her greatly.  However, that does not mean I will be a party to irresponsible choices so she is a sad young woman right now.  Her plan was that she and Rob would attend First Night in the city where we go to church. This is 30 minutes from our house.  When I pointed out that this meant someone would be on the road to bring Rob home at midnight and that I felt that was unsafe, she assured me that the First Night celebrations went till (wait for it.. ...) 6 a.m. when her father could conveniently run Rob home.

I could smell the teen scam a mile off but I also try to preserve teen dignity.  For all the bluster and know it all stuff that is often projected, I remember how insecure I really felt as a teen. And trust me, I was the most sarcastic know it all teen on the planet back in the day.  So instead of saying how insane that sounded, I said that the city usually had a website on the First Night and I would be happy to go look it up and check the events and the price of buttons.  Imagine my lack of surprise at finding that the city ends the event at midnight.  Who'd have thunk it?  So I facebooked her and told her what I had found and explained that it just did not look like they were running the event quite the way she thought they were. I said that I was really sorry but there was no way I would want her on the roads or that I myself wanted to be on the roads.  Getting nailed by a drunk driver is not the best way to ring in the new year.

I truly think that she knew the event went till midnight and thought that she could smuggle Rob into her house for the night.  And probably her parents would not notice right now, given what they are dealing with.  I don't think Rob is as upset about this as she is. I have tried to handle it all with kindness and respect but also with firmness.  Safety on the roads and ahem, with ones bodies, is of high import to me. I will try and make sure they get together either New Years Day or perhaps during the day on New Years Eve.  We will see how it shakes out.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thankful for. . .

I've been writing a thankful note on Facebook each day during November.  I like seeing others put forth their thanks as well.  It is easy to forget that we can be thankful for small things and that they can make a big difference.  Like say, successfully moving our couch out of our living room.

We are putting tables for dining in our living room for Thanksgiving.  It will allow us to seat 13 comfortablely and in the same room.  Our old Victorian is large but the rooms were never engineered for large gatherings.  So our dining room can mash about 10 people in with a shoe horn but more than that is not possible.

Today we had to move out the couch and all the other things so that my wife can steam clean the rugs and so we could try the table set up and make sure what looked perfect on paper could work in real life.  Things went pretty well till the couch got stuck in the doorway. . .  We figured out that we could take off the legs which helped.  Then we figured out that if we canted it on its side it helped even more.  It is a sleeper sofa so it is fairly heavy but Rob is a great mover.  Meanwhile, ever watchful for the cat who thought this was  a good time to twine between our legs, the dog who was having a breakdown over the removal of his sleeping spot, the kids who were running a remote control car on the floor in front of us. . . it got moved.  It is now in our work room till Friday.  Like I said, small things are worth gratitudes, aren't they?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sleepover Saturday!

Today was a lovely day!  Busy--flat out sometimes, but so much fun.  We got our shopping done in record time. This is pretty amazing. I figured the weekend before Thanksgiving that the store might be crowded even at 7 a.m. when we typically arrive.  Not so and we conquered our gigantic list in jig time.  It took two buggies to get things all out to the car but the bill was not as high as I expected.  I suspect that we are scratch cooks and not box cooks contributed to the blessedly lower bill.

Then it was home to unload and take the kids to the bank to deposit allowances.  We don't live in a small town but our bank is very friendly. They know our kids on a first name basis and are always so welcoming when we are there.  I love that, it sure helps the efforts to teach the importance of saving and planning.

From there it was off to dance where KC found out that he is the leader in one of the recital dances he is in this year. To say the boy is excited is a wee bit of an understatement.  That is a tap number and they are a marching band.  He is also a dalmation in a jazz number, and I have forgotten what the hip hop number is.

A visit to the library found that a winter book challenge is ready to start in a week or so.  More excitement as the more books one reads, the more chances you have to win a raffle prize.  We have a lot of holiday themed books that KC likes to read so he has plans to take this challenge by storm.

After that, it was time to come home and wrap a birthday gift for a friend and go to her party.  K is a sweet girl, turning 11.  Nowadays 11 seems so much more grown up than when I was a kid. . .

Late this afternoon, KC's friend W came to spend the night.  There has been pizza, and there are a plethora of snacks that KC shopped for himself this a.m.  There have been wii games and laughter, food and laughter, and most of all, laughter.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Disabled People and racial slurs

I have a really bad headache and I know that sometimes makes me more emotionally sensitive. Still, I think even sans migraine, I would be feeling a little bruised today.  I walked into work today to hear my boss and my co-workers talking about "those people".  The people who get SSI and could-should be working.  The people who of course have nothing wrong with them.  Why doesn't the government re-evaluate, they said to each other.

I stood there, stunned.  I had not even had time for a sip of coffee.  They do  re-evaluate I said.  Every 5 years.  And it is not automatic and easy to get SSI. Or to pass the re-evaluation for that matter.  And most people need it. The vast majority of them.  People don't always show their disabilities.  Just like my Chet does not seem disabled if you saw him on the street.  Talk to him for more than 10 minutes, and you know.  For a quick hello or checking out at a store, probably not.

Later today one of my co-workers bemoaned the fact that a local team has forfeited the rest of its football season due to allegations of racial bullying.  The fact that the seniors won't play on Thanksgiving day was of supreme importance.  Um, what about the "n word" written on the players house????  I am sorry for the teens who were not involved. But racism is evil and needs to stop. In my opinion this did not happen in a vacuum. Someone knew how this young man was being treated.  Maybe if people had stepped up and spoken out sooner, they would be playing ball on Thanksgiving Day.

To say I feel a bit disconnected from my work team at the moment is a bit of an understatment. I think the big picture is that we need to take care of each other. And not always assume the worst about people.  The vast majority of people are not scammers--that is why it is newsworthy when someone is caught.  Sigh.  Time for Advil!

Monday, November 18, 2013

KC, Fiona and looking for my therapists hat!

KC has been busy at night working on his sister Lissa's Christmas present. He has decided to make her her own calendar.  My kids love calendars.  I find this funny as I never liked them when I was a kid.  But they love crossing off days and keeping track of the pace of our lives.

He has used my scrapbook program, importing pictures we took over the year, and adding graphics from the program. Then he draws and embellishes with stickers, stamping etc.  As he put it, it is a mixed media gift.  His art teacher and dear friend J is a very gifted mixed media artist.  She was just featured in some craft mag recently and if I could remember the name I would give a shout out!  Some pitch woman I am!  At any rate, the point is that he has worked on this dilegently night after night when his sister goes to bed.  It is about 3/4 done and it is really cute.

He also has a story he has written that I have to help him import into the scrapbook program so he can illustrate. Then we are going to print a color copy bring it to the copy center and have it bound for gifts for relatives.  He and Lissa have also been working on something for me at night.  Periodically I am told that i can't go in the living room or the kitchen, whereever they have set up shop.  I love the creativity!

Fiona was supposed to call tonight but was busy and did not.  Jane called me though.and we had a long talk.  I told her how excited I am about Fi's placement and my hopes that it will go well.  She shared with me that Krystle who has long lived in the south is back up north and living with their first mother.  Krystle is a lovely young lady but she has stopped calling her sister because she is afraid if Fiona finds out she is living with Mom J that things will not go well with her and for her.

Jane is concerned because she has done so much to reunite family and now things have stalled out, with very few family members keeping contact with Fiona.  Jane thinks it likely is because they are all concerned about what do they say if Fi asks a question that led to answering about her birth mom.  The reality is, Fiona wants to see her first mother and we all know this.  At some point,l I think it has to happen. For her. And probably for her first mom.  They need a chance to try and get to know each other as adults, and hopefully work beyond the pain and trauma of the early years.  Sadly, Jane will not be allowed to facilitate this and so she is forwarding Mom J's contact info to me.  I am not a therapist and I worry greatly that i will botch things hideously but once Fiona is placed and settled I am reaching out to Mom J.  I also have to deal w/ having a talk with Rob about all this but these hard conversations are part of being an adoptive family. It is my hope that my constant secure presence and my love will help give both of them strength to deal with this. I don't know if Rob wants to meet mom J. I am fine if he does.  I know for Fi this is a deep visceral need.  It is beyond a want. It is a hole that has been left in her spirit since she was 7.

Friday, November 15, 2013

A visit to Fiona's new home

Today I left work early to meet Fiona for lunch at the new home where she will be living . The date of the move is still up in the air but it is close enough that the transition has to start, so that Fi is as prepared as possible for the change.

The home is about 20 minutes tops from our house.  It is hard for me to know exactly how far as I got lost the first time!  But once I know where I am going, i greatly suspect it will be a quick little commute.   It is a lovely home, with 5 spacious bedrooms. Each resident has their own room.  The rooms are big enough for double beds, so when I say spacious, they are probably 2 1/2 times the size of her room now.  This may be great and may not be.  She has a hard time keeping her space ordered, but she loved the double bed (which really did look inviting and comfy.

The plusses that I see are:  all the occupants are female. Fiona has some issues around men and although she wants a boyfriend at some point, she is also frightened by anything she deems inappropriate from a male.  Fright for her leads to disregulation and PTSD so it is something I am looking to avoid.

There is lots of space in this house. The program intentionally planned this way so that the residents could get away from each other and take space when the need arose.

The program agrees that Fiona does best with a high level of structure and their plan is to have her enrolled in a structured day program that focuses on lots of crafts as well as job skill stuff Monday through Fridays. The other plus to this is then she is around an even wider circle of people and may make additional friends among the other people there.

Family are welcome to visit almost anytime. Fiona is welcome to come  here to visit almost any time.

There is a focus on teaching Fiona that she is an adult now and as such, has a responsibility and privilege of making some decisions on her own.  This is good.  Fi truly is very unable to handle unstructured time at all at present.  It would be good to work toward a level of comfort for her around that.  Also for feeling comfortable advocating for what she likes to do.

There is a gorgeous deck for cookouts.

There is not much around if she managed to get past the locked door in a raging episode.

The residents can decorate their rooms as they wish.

One of the 5 residents is black as is the program director.

Fiona seemed to make positive  early friendship connections with two of the residents in the home.  One was H, the young black girl. They started talking about ways to do hair and seem to want to do each others hair.

Some things that concern me:

There is no time out space.  Typically Fiona does best in a space that has no stimulation where she can roll around, punch bean bags and pillows and scream out her anger.  They apparently used to have one and want to make it into a craft room.

The reward system they have in place is a bit complex and I suspect I may find myself advocating for modifications as Fiona has a very limited ability for retention of such things and really no ability at all to think into the future.

There does not seem to be a nurse in residence.  I am not sure whether that is something I should worry about or not. Fi takes some powerful meds. However obviously I administer them when she is here. I guess if staff are trained to make sure that the timing is not messed with, it is fine.

 That's it for concerns--the plusses thus far totally outweigh my worries.  And what mom doesn't always find a few things to worry about?

For now, she seems happy at the idea of the move. That changes daily as change itself is a huge de-stabilizer for  her.  But she will visit again the day before thanksgiving and then I will pick her up and bring her back home for the holiday.  I am hoping that also when she sees that she is so physically close to us that this too will help her.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What are you grateful for?

KC decided that this Thanksgiving he would ask everyone in the family what they are grateful for. Then he would draw a little picture on an index card that reflected that, put on the person's name and voila! Our place cards!  I typically do these but I am touched by his creativity and the fact that he thought of taking this on himself.  I can stow away my craft supplies for another gathering.  In a family our size it won't be long!  LOL

We emailed my mom and her companion, Grandpa G.  They wrote back with what they were thankful for and KC decided to do Grampa G's first. He is thankful for 2 families, his and becoming part of ours, and for living in a free country.  KC drew a flag and two little hearts with legs and arms and labelled them Grampa G and Nana!  I can't wait to see how they all come out.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Party like a rock star!

Fiona was out for the day yesterday.  KC was not around too much for this visit as he had two special events on his calendar.  A published author was visiting his writing club and he was invited to his first "boys only" birthday party for a friend.  He was excited but very sad he was missing most of Fi's visit. She felt likewise.

Although his absence gave us an opportunity to go to the movies and see "Free Birds" I am glad they missed each other so much.  I think it shows that even when Rob is not geographically near us, she is connected enough to the rest of rhe family that she will still feel loved and want to be here.

When KC and K got home (bringing Chinese food, which is a rare treat at our house) we all had supper and shared our days.  Rob, Lissa, Fi and I had made some seasonal crafts in addition to going to the movies. Chet had come with us to the movies and had a lot of fun there.  He adores animated films and thankfully there look to be a small rush of them in the pipeline right now.

While I cleaned up after supper the two littles and Fiona went in the living room and pretended they were rock stars. Hence the above picture.  Rob could not be convinced that he should join the band!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Teen Times

Sunday night was not really pretty at our house.  Rob had permission to spend the afternoon with his girlfriend.  The agreement was that they were supposed to go our our church's Soulful Sundown Vesper service at 6 as they both had parts in the service and then Rob was staying for Youth Group.

Girl friend is feeling disconnected from youth group this year. I think it is partly due to her spotty attendance there--friendships can only deepen when you are present to work on them-- and partly due to the fact that she has a lot on her plate in other areas of her life.  But whatever the reason, she has had dramatic emotional incidents a couple times at youth group and only been consoled by Rob standing outside holding her and talking to her.

We have made it clear to Rob that this is not a dynamic that we feel comfortable with.  He loves youth group and has lots of friends there. This is also his last year as part of that group and there is a certain amount of "senior year" stuff  that goes with being the oldest members of this large and active group. I also feel if T is that upset, that others need to be involved in allaying her concerns.(and the concerns change weekly).  However, it is very hard for a young man in love to get that or to ignore that powerful feeling that one is protecting and aiding your one true love.

Hence, T convinced him to bag youth group Sunday night and return to her house.  She dropped him back at church a few minutes before youth group was over and before my wife arrived to pick him  up. The initial conversation when K and Rob returned home was not ever going to win us Parents of the Year.  My wife had her Viking temper going in full force, which was understandable, but a bit counter productive to trying to talk with a teen.  A teen who was sure that we were being unfair to the love of his life, that she desperately needed him, etc etc. Eventually, I convinced K to go make a cup of tea and when she came back things were calmer.

I explained to Rob that despite how much T may or may not have needed him, they had a responsibility to a) be where we had agreed people would be, and b) communicate with us if there was an emergency.  I pointed out that if we  had a family emergency we would have raced to church to get him--only to find he was not there.

That was the point when I saw the anger go out of his eyes and remorse instead.  Teens, especially teens in the throes of first love, are so self absorbed. And much of this age is about breaking away and asserting oneself. But it had never occured to him that family could need him and not be able to find him.

Over the past couple days he has been very attentive to the littles and extra helpful around the house.  I can tell that this is his way of showing he is sorry for the incident.  

Dancinig around the world

Yesterday there was a program of Balinese dancers at the school where my wife works at night. She was told she could watch the program and bring the kids if she wanted to.  I could not go as it fell during working hours, but I had glowing reports from all who attended.  I love kids getting exposed to other cultures and this was a fantastic way to do that.  Also found out later that this same dance troupe will be performing in the Big City tomorrow night to standing room only crowds at a very prestigious venue.  And my family saw them for free!  What a gift that is!

It is also observation week at the kids dance school.  Most weeks the curtains are firmly shut, preventing students from mugging for parents and parents from interfering with class.  But once every 6 to 8 weeks the curtains open and we parents glimpse what  our kids have been working on.  Well, sometimes.  Sometimes there is so much goofing around going on in there I just say a prayer for Miss Heidi the teacher! Last night I watched Lissa's ballet and tap class.  Lissa has gorgeous posture and a lithe lean frame.  She is not an innate ballet or tap dancer the way her brother is. But she has definately improved and absolutely loves it.  The absolutely loves it is the key thing for me anyway. She has a lot of friends there and it is a great energy burn to boot. She eats and enormous supper when we get home and trots off to bed willingly.  Another win!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Serenity on Saturday

It's been a real peaceful--and for us--real quiet day here today. We slept late, both KC and I waking up at 6:40, sitting bolt upright in our respective beds, shocked that we had overslept.  I never use an alarm clock--maybe I should start?  Probably not, though.  I hate waking up to those things.  Maybe because when I was in college I was also working 3 part time gigs.  I was so sleep deprived I had 3 alarm clocks set around the house so that I would not fall back asleep and miss a work duty or class.

But back to our day. . . Somehow we all were in a peppy enough mood to get our shopping done before dance class. Usually we are out the door for shopping by 7 so leaving at 7:15 was pretty good when you consider when we all woke.  I had written my list the night before after Rob and I inventoried the pantries and cleaned the fridge. That helped too.  Came home and unloaded, setting aside the donations for our church food pantry.  I read on the news that food stamps are being cut.  I have a hard time with our food bill and we are not pricey eaters--I just have a boatload of hungry kids.  How can our country take away something as basic as food for families?  I know our food pantry at our church serves 60 to 100 families every month.  I greatly suspect this number will rise.  I will attempt to stop this particular rant now and will save my vitriol for another blog post. LOL

After dance class we headed to the library and then came home.  Made lunches and got laundry out on the line to dry.  It was a glorious day here weather wise, and we took full advantage of it.  The littles played outside most of the day. They asked about watching a movie at one point and I just gave them "the look."  We don't waste good weather days.  No discussion!  The older boys did leaf blowing and bagging.  I made banana bread for fellowship at church tomorrow as Lissa's class is in charge of that.  Also made pumpkin cinnamon breakfast rolls for tomorrow morning. Those are cold rising in the pantry.

Cleaned the house, took down the rest of the Halloween decorations, made cookies to have with tonites supper.   While I cleaned up the littles and my wife planted tulips and daffodils in our front garden. I'll dream about those all winter long.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Giver

Last night  I went in the dining room to say the candy trade had to end and bedtime had to commence. There was a sweet (pardon the pun) encounter with KC.  All the kids had these great stacks of candy that they were putting back into their loot buckets.  But he had also set aside these 3 separate smaller piles.  One was a pile of 3 Musketeers bars and whopper candies.  He told me those are for K because he knows she loves those so much.  The second pile was of all the Butterfingers he collected.  Those are going to church so he can give them to his former art teacher on Sunday.  Those are apparently her fave.  The last pile was for my co-worker who loves a certain kind of m and ms.  "I'm such a giver" he announced happily as he trotted off to brush his teeth.

It made me laugh, but it is true.  He is the most giving child I have ever met. There are frequently little notes or poems left for me on my computer table or my nightstand from him.  He has two events to go to the next time Fiona comes out so he won't be here with her much.  Although he loves his writing club and is excited about being invited to his friends birthday at a lazer tag place, he was very concerned that he would not have much time with Fiona. He thought about Fi before agreeing to the party invite.

I think all my kids are giving and compassionate.  KC just demonstrates it a bit more often, and seems to feel emotional things a bit more keenly than the others.  But I am grateful for all my little "givers."  We need a lot of compassion and giving if we  are to offer the best of ourselves to the world.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Wrap Up

 Chet the pirate gave out candy!  Chet is a pirate every year.  He is very in touch with his inner pirate.  Arrrrgh!
KC the stylin' werewolf showing off his tail and cute little werewolf ears!  He had fake fangs to wear but Lissa accidently kicked him in the face doing an illcit cartwheel in the bedroom today so he didn't want anything pushiing on his sore face!
 Lissa the glamourous were wolf, showing off bedazzled fur and fangs. That is a white tail hanging down with her.
 The whole tribe ready to hit the streets!
Rob my street musician.  He put his phone underneath the keyboard he created as he walked around in the dark music came out of his "piano."

Now the great candy trade is taking place in our dining room.  "I'll give you a Twix for a 3 musketeers" and other offerings.  It rained and we kept stepping in puddles up to our ankles but nothing could dampen the fun. It was spooky magical and a night to remember.

Happy Halloween!

It is very early morning as I write this and the kids are all ready awake and chattering in their rooms.  It is Halloween, you see, and that is a pretty big deal in our house.  There are pumpkins to carve, seeds to roast, costumes to wear in the dark of the night.  It is also a night that is very important within our pagan tradition.

Until last night, I did not have a costume.  I had precious little time to devote to such an endeavor and just was coming up short in the creativity department.  However KC said "why don't you go as Mother Earth?" This also embraces my theology somewhat, and was easy to do from things around the house.  Last night, while the Red Sox cruised to a win I tacked faux leaves and flowers on a green cloak of polar fleece that we all ready had.

This is also an exciting Halloween as for the first time since before Lissa was born, K is able to walk with us.In the past, her work schedule has not permitted it.

So have a spooktacular Halloween everyone.  The veils between the worlds are thin tonight.  I'll be holding the memories of loved ones who have passed in my thoughts and hoping they can feel the love and the joy that is their legacy.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Much is going on with  Fiona lately.  Some is good--it looks like my guardianship will be done and finalized in November. This is a relief.  I think it will help me to advocate for Fiona and have a position of relative authority to do so.  As opposed to the dance I have done for all these years, explaining the rather convoluted yet emotionally binding ties that we have.

I was told that the new agency wanted to meet me and my family 11/4 and that they wanted me to tour the group home w ith Fiona on 11/11  I requested the time off and was approved. Then the new agency said, gee no, they didn't need to meet with me on 11/4 and I could just come to the group home on 11/11 when Fiona visits and have lunch with her.  Um, OK.  It bothers me though not to have met these new folks.  Not to have a single email from them--any communications I have received have been through Jane, despite the fact that they have been given two contact numbers for me and my email.  In my longish experience in dealing with agencies, this worries me.

Then there are first family issues for Fiona that are complicating all of this. Fiona, like most of us, has trouble with change.  Her problems are manifested more profoundly than perhaps most of us though and there has been an uptick in incidents of unsafe behaviors, raging and such.  Into all of this, has been added renewed contact with D and a request from the birth family that her sister Krystal be allowed to visit.  Krystal has been living down south with an aunt. She has now apparently come back to the Northeast and is presently only about 10 miles away from the Great School.  She has been in phone contact with Fiona.

However the Great School director feels that there is enough on their (the schools plate) and Fiona's at this point. Despite my advocating for supervised visits at the school, despite Jane advocating for the same, our request was denied. Krystal will not be allowed physical visiting at this time. It will be up to the new group home staff and myself to facilitate this once Fiona has moved.  My feeling was that the staff at the school is well versed in how Fiona responds.  The new group home will not be.  While I will give this my absolute best effort in coordinating physical visitations, Krystal will be much further away from us.  I am not a licensed therapist and don't really feel that this should be something that I should be in charge of, given Fionia's level of mental illness.  Yet I also feel that to not work on this is a huge dis-service to her and abdicates my responsibilities as well.  So I am fretting about this a bit.

I am also fretting about the fact that the present time line for her move to the new group home is two days before Christmas. She is scheduled to spend Christmas Eve with us.  The first time ever.  Holidays are hard for her and it seems like the system sometimes sets up those least able to deal with it when big changes are planned at times that are all ready hard.  Can you hear my heavy sigh?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

It's almost official

I received a call from Jane last night and the finalization of my guardianship of Fiona will likely happen in November.  This is a relief to us all.  Presently, because someone administratively in DCF dropped the ball years ago she has not had a legal guardian since she turned 18.  So someone with very limited cognitive abilities, with a number of significant mental health diagnosis technically has been able to make their own decisions.  This has been tiptoed around since it was discovered and Fiona has very willingly empowered the Great School to make decisions on her behalf. But she leaves the school in December and I most definately want my daughter to have the safest and happiest future possible.

Fi is struggling a lot right now.  She is deeply afraid of moving to the new group home and leaving the Great School.  It has been a solid anchor in her life and though there have been typical issues between her and other students, it is familiar.  It is home.  And the unknown is scary for everyone, probably amplify that a thousandfold for Fiona.  The unknown has in her life brought some really scary negative things.  Hopefully between us, the staff at school and her other family supports, we can show her that she is not alone and we are all in this together.

She had a visit with D, who is Rob and Fiona's bio brother.  He is a year or so older than Rob but younger than Fiona.  Jane said he reminded her so much of Rob as like Rob, he  was very quiet at the outset of the visit. I am hoping that we get to have a visit between he and Rob and in an ideal world, Fiona as well.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Harvest fun

Saturday was a day filled with fun.  Fiona arrived on Friday and we were all up early Saturday morning to begin our day. We got our shopping and banking done before the 9:00 a.m. dance class. After dance, we shot over to the library and then were home for lunch.  My wife got back home and we all went to the school where she cleans to visit their Harvest Fair. I forgot to take a single picture there, but it was a cute fair and the kids had fun.  Fiona enjoyed the fishing game, winning tickets that could be turned in for prizes.  KC and Lissa enjoyed the bounce house. Rob tried to win some prize baskets that had tickets to our favorite football team.

After we spent about an hour there, we headed  home for a bathroom break and some snacks before heading to another city for Pumpkin Fest. This is held at a large science museum and features about 1000 pumpkins that are eventually all lit once it gets dark.  During the daylight hours, there were lots of cool science activities to do, a large playground to fool around at, a nature trail to explore, and wildlife exhibits. We watched someone juggle fiery torches (totally amazing) and then the juggler balanced a tall peacock feather on one finger.  After accomplishing this she held it out for the audience to try.  The first child who tried failed.  KC stepped up and totally rocked it. I actually think he got so into it that he forgot that there were lots of people watching him; it was pretty amazing!

Rob's friend D from church met us there and hung out with us the whole evening.  D is feeling a little lost right now and loves to spend time with us.  It is fine with me.  One more kid, two more kids, it is all relative. As long as everyone  understands the ground rules, we seem to do just fine.

As it got dark the pumpkin displays began to glow.

There were amazing carvings on some of them. But I think I love the happy glow on my daughters face most of all!