Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Best Time of Year

This was one of the rides we went on during our recent camping trip.  It is a water ride and as you bump and spin your way down the "river" you get soaked by geysers and hoses and all manner of water sprayers.  I was busy taking everyone's picture on the ride and almost fell out of the darn thing when we spun around at the same moment we slammed against the side of the water run.  Guess that is why they make us wear seat belts!  LOL

I heard geese honking this morning.  There is still summer fun ahead but it was a reminder that the wheel is turning and we are on the shorter side of summer now.  I do a lot to always remind the kids that every season has opportunities for fun and is to be looked forward to. But the reality?  I could totally live with perpetual summer.  So mature, I know.

I love the long days and hot nights. I love camping and farm stands.  Fresh corn and home made tomato bruschetta on italian bread.  (This Thursday nights supper for those who are wondering!)  So I plan on soaking up every minute of joy for the remaining weeks.  I will have pictures, memories and stories to look back on when I am shivering in 3 layers of woolies this winter!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Back to Reality!

We are back from our second camping jaunt, this one to Moose Hillock Campground in NH.  We love this campground and wanted to return after discovering it with friends last year.  It has a phenomenal pool, truly the largest I have ever seen but the pool is no more than 4 foot deep anywhere.  For KC this was ideal as he wanted to practice his swimming skills.

With Kirsty's changed work schedule and how busy our summer has been, there was not a way to fit in swim classes this year.  KC has been extremely annoyed that he was still required by me to wear a swim vest but most places that we swim, it is necessary.  Drop offs surprise weak swimmers and I watch a lot of kids at once, usually on my own.

Here he could and did, practice without the vest.  He just kept at it and by the end of day two was swimming 12 solid crawl strokes with out touching the bottom.  He was elated!!

Lissa's excitement was losing a tooth while we were camping--poolside to be exact!  But thankfully we had our little fishing tackle box and left the tooth in that on our picnic table and she visited while we slept. Fishing was another thing the littles got to try at the campground.  They keep a stocked pond especially for young fisher folk and while they caught nothing, they had a blast trying.

My wife came up Saturday after work and spent Saturday night at the campground with us. We broke camp early Sunday morning but then drove to Santas Village to spend a few hours together as a family.  While the kids and I have been a number of times, K has not been with us due to her work.  The last time she was there with us, KC was a babe in arms of 4 months old and Miss Lissa had not been born yet!  So it was extremely special to be there together.  Rob is growing up so fast (young female  clerks at theme parks were totally smitten by him and trying to get his attention this summer) It is unlikely that we will all be together again  at that park in another year.

It has been hard to get used to how noisy it is here in the city since we returned.  I don't usually notice it except after spending time in the woods.  But last night you would have thought I would sleep blissfully in my own bed.  Instead, car horns and voices kept disturbing my slumber.  By tonight I will be used to things again, or too exhausted to hear the cacophony!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Locs for Lissa?

I have spent the week putting smallish two strand twists in Lissa's hair.  I thought it would hold up well for camping jaunts--we leave again after I get out of work today.  I did not finish her whole head, sadly. There is a small bun on the top of her head with the conditioned but untwisted section that I just did not have time to get to.

However, Lissa loves all that I have done so far.  She asked me yesterday morning if she could have locs. (actually she called them dreads because she knows them as that from my Bob Marley poster)  I have no problem with her having locs but I would want them even a bit smaller than the twists I did for camping.  I want to be able to do other styles with them for special occasions and pull them into a bun for dance recital etc.

I was surprised she asked as I have always wondered if locs would be a good fit for my very energetic on the go daughter. But I thought it would be something that would come up when she was older. Which then led to my typical overthinking of situations that involve the fact that my daughter is black and I am white.

* Would letting her have locs be perceived as trying to reduce hair time or hair responsibilities for myself?
* Would people think this is a decision that should happen when she is older?

And on. And on.  Meanwhile I watched her dance to kidzbop in front of a mirror very much shaking her head so that her hair could fly around.  So I wrote to Rob's cousin N who is a cosmetology graduate and asked her opinion. She wrote right back and said not only did she think it was fine  and very age appropriate these days but she would be willing to get together with me and do it for us. She was super nice about it.  We are going to talk more when I get back from camping.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Racial Issues and T. Martin

I usually pride myself on being a pretty decent writer.  However I have found that I can not write with any degree of eloquence about the Zimmerman case. I can not write about the killing of Trayvon Martin.  Partly because I am a mom and I am a mom of children of color.  I grieve with and for the Martin family.

I also grieve over the fact that many of my friends don't get it.  They think my position is over reacting.  That stand your ground may  be wrong but they don't see that it disproportionately impacts people of color.  They don't see that our justice system in general is far from color blind. Disparate impact is a phrase that gets me blank stares.

 Some have told me that the protests are "taking things too far."  I wonder if they would have felt that way if it was their son. Their cousin.  Their nephew.  I have been told  that the black community "always makes things about color."

Really?  Have your children been followed in a store by a suspicious clerk?  Have you watched the look on the clerks face when this white mama went up one side of them and down the other for tailing the kids?  Have your kids been accused of shop lifting just because they were the only kids of color in the store that day and mom had stepped away from them?  (incidently they had nothing in their hands, I had their purchases.)

I have white friends who think Trayvon's death  only happened because of the state he  was in.  Hmmm, may I introduce you to DWB which is very much alive and well in our state?

We have miles to go before we achieve racial equality and true justice in our courts.  But first, we have to educate a white majority that these things do not presently exist.  That, I think, is the hardest job.

Splish Splash!

Yesterday we met up with friends and went to a local splash park in the next town over.  It is small but really cute (and close, as well as FREE!)  Next to it is a skateboard/bike ramp set up. Rob and my friend's oldest rode their bikes there while the little kids hung out here.  KC adored it. He danced and played like a water sprite.  He loved trying to time which jet was going to go on next.  Also there are two benches beside the park that are rigged to be part of the spray set up and they loved going and sitting on those and getting drenched.

Lissa enjoyed it but not as much as a "real" water park.  She is an adrenaline junkie and missed water slides and such. However there was also a regular playground that had some neat equipment for climbing and hanging on and she did a lot of that.

The next three days will be crazy as I have to work, get Rob to and from work and get ready to leave for our next camping trip Wednesday after I get out of work.  Whew!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Fiona's Weekend

Fiona woke this morning recovered from whatever ailed her last evening.  We had a leisurely and simple breakfast--partly in deference to her healing tummy, partly as I am handicapped by not having a functional fridge at the moment.  Then we went shopping and to the library.  We came home and unloaded and changed into swim garb and got a picnic lunch together.

Water is a sort of charged environment for Fiona. She remembers nearly drowning when a relative held her under water. It was allegedly in play but clearly went too far and whether she was in danger or not, her feeling of the water being a fun place was deeply and traumatically compromised.  I suspect that she really did have a serious safety issue and that this may also be why the water is not Rob's favorite place. He likes to be at the beach but although he can swim, it is not something he loves. Yet water is inextricably woven into our summers and many good family memories are of beach picnics, shell hunting, and water games.

So why go to the beach?  Partly because our heat index is 105. LOL  Partly because we were going to a lake which I know well. The water is warm, the drop off virtually non existant.  An adult Fiona's size can walk all the way to the buoy line that marks the end of the swim zone.  There is no  rapid current, no water clarity issue and the lake bottom is a soft sand.  I could tell she was wary but she was game to try.  I lent her some swim bottoms and she used a tank top.

We drove up and the beach was also not crowded.  She was nervous getting in but within minutes was having a BLAST! I think a number of things helped.  All the good stuff I mentioned above. The fact that Rob and i held her hand walking in. The fact that she could see that KC and Lissa wore swim vests and that I am vigilent about water safety.  We stayed in the water for 2 solid hours!  Then we got out to warm up and the ice cream truck came.  We got cold treats.  Then it was starting to cloud up so we went home.

I unpacked and cleaned up and Fiona came out in the kitchen part way through.  She said what a great time she had and how she never thought the water could be so much fun.  She said "even last night when I was sick was kind of fun because you were here to take care of me,"

Moments to treasure.

Fiona gets sick

So yesterday afternoon Fiona arrived.  Despite my best efforts she was still not dressed for the near 3 digit temps we have been experiencing.  I know looking fashionable is really important to her so I did not say anything.  Rob and I got supper going and she eventually changed into something marginally more weather appropriate and we all had a light supper.

All the kids, even Chet, were excited to watch Teen Beach Movie so we cleaned up the kitchen and they hung outside a bit and then I had everyone have showers to cool down before the movie.  At 8 I gave Fiona her nightly meds.  15 minutes later she was violently ill in the bathroom.  This freaked her out as she is blessed with really good health, only very rarely has she been ill and it is usually of the sniffles variety.

I cleaned the bathroom and Fiona.  And cleaned the bathroom and Fiona.  Numerous times as she continued to be sick.  I found a really old pair of shorts that had a drawstring waist, and was able to adapt them so she could wear those instead of her sleep pants which were long and made of jersey.  Gave her cool clothes and sips of water, and a cool pack to  place under a towel on her pillow.

We called the school so that they could check with the nurse on the ramifications of her missing her meds--some of hers are substances that are stronger than what I am used to.  I did not know if her being unable to hold down a dose posed any type of risk to her well being.  The nurse said to give her  a med that she can take as needed to hold her through the night.  I did not try this till about 10:15 when her stomach seemed to finally settle.

I felt badly as she so wanted to watch the movie with the kids and they had planned this together.  On the plus side, she reached out to me for comfort that I was able to provide in some measure.  She was on my bed so I lay on the other side and just talked with her quietly to help her not feel alone and frightened.  We talked about the silly story of how my room got to be the shade of blue that it is, where the art came from, all about my martial arts display etc. She said she was glad I was there so she did not feel lonely and scared.

Periodically I would get up and check on the rest of the troops as my wife was working.  But once I checked on them, I could get back to Fi.  She eventually was able to sleep and still is as I write this.  I had thought today we would visit a lake for some swimming but will leave that up to how she feels this morning.

At any rate, we got through it all and it was a chance to show her with actions that I am Mom even when things are yucky scary and hard.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Baby it's hot outside!

97 or so last night when my wife drove in to get Rob from work.  Also humid so I know it effectively feels hotter.  I am okay but it is really bothering KC.  Lissa and Rob and Chet seem okay but it is a challenge keeping KC hydrated enough.  You think he is and then all of a sudden he just becomes a dishrag.  I have been periodically putting cool clothes on the back of his neck as well and that seems to help.

Tuesday night when K was driving in to get Rob from a date she said the van was making a clicking sound when she was idling.  Not all the time but sometimes.  We called our trusty mechanic right away the next morning and brought it over.  We thought maybe a belt or a timing chain.  Nope. The oil pan was bad and it had almost no oil left!  Also needs front brakes as they were a whisper away from getting ready to grind, and had a few other issues as well.  It will be a pricey repair (sigh) but it is ready for 7:00 a.m. today (yay!) and it is safe.  The kids and I leave next Wed at 3:30 for another camping jaunt with friends so I am extra glad to know that it is ready for another extended drive.

And Fiona is coming Friday evening to spend the night and Saturday. KC and Lissa have an annual summer party coming up in August. I got the invites out and now need to figure out goodie bags and games etc.  Wow, summer is always so busy and so much fun.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sick Vans and crazy schedules

This is our tent that we use when the kids and I go camping. It is easy to set up and very spacious. The spacious part is important because my Chet has anxiety if things are too close around him and he starts flailing around. Tents don't respond well to that! LOL

But I am not camping right now. I am in the real world.  The world of crazy schedules.  Said schedules just got crazier as last night our van started making an odd noise when idling.  If the van goes to the shop we are a family of one car and 3 people who have jobs to get to.  Ugh. Somehow we will work it out. X  your fingers and toes it is not an expensive repair though.

On Friday, Fiona is coming out for an overnight visit.  She and KC want to see a new Disney movie that is on TV Friday night and are very excited to be able to watch it together.  We had a good call last night. We talked about the double overnights that I know she wants. I explained that our schedules are very crazy and that when she is here we want to spend time with her, not just drag her around while the kids get to all the places they need to go.  I can rearrange successfully for one night, but two is much harder. We were able to approach it successfully from this angle and not have to talk about what Jane calls "the elephant in the room." (her past destructive and dangerous behavior at our home)

I was glad about that. I know that Fiona still can behave in that manner and likely will not ever be able to fully control it  because of her mental health issues.  But that also makes it important to me to not make it something that I focus on so that she feels there is something wrong or a lack of some kind in her.  Because if you can't change it, it is part of who you are and you need to know that you are loved and you are family always.

The other interesting thing was that Fiona is writing a letter to her birth mom J.  They have sporadic correspondence.  She wanted to send a photocopy of the family picture we had done at church to J with the letter.  I thought that was pretty amazing and a sign that in her heart, Fiona is really feeling that we are family.  I said that was fine with me.

Now off to the crazy day!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Camping and the Real World

We are home from camping and had a wonderful time!  Three familiies went together so there were 10 kids just from our camping there!  Add them to the other few kids around us and there was a large tribe of kids where someone always had a playmate all weekend long.

It was stepping out of the real world for a few days.  I don't "plug in" much when we camp.  We are tent campers and we all live pretty rustically when the kids and I go out. When K comes with us, we use the pop up and the amenities are more modern.

There were campfires and s'mores, sparklers and late bedtimes. Silly stories and pool swimming in the evening dusk.  Two visits to Santas Village as KC is so enarmored of the place (well actually of Santa) that we bought a season pass and when we go in August that visit will actually be free! Sometimes I had just my kids in my tent, sometimes I had my friends kids in my tent too.  It was all very free flowing.

The weather was great.  Cool in the morning and evening, hot during the day.  No humidity like here at home where the heat index is going off the charts right now. I didn't hear the news. I didn't read a paper. I didn't even check Facebook once we got settled as my phone would not connect well.  I freely admit it could have been operator error--I am technologically challenged.  But I can make a mean fire! LOL  Mine got going each night before the guy who used charcoal lighter got his going!  And my kids and i can set camp in 30 minutes, meaning maximum time for the fun things of camping and as little time as possible on chores.

It also meant that I did not know about the Zimmerman verdict till I arrived back home.  I am sick at heart.  While I respect those who understand our laws and say that this was the only verdict the jury could reach, I am still sick.  If that is true, then somehow laws need to change so that everyone is safe, and young men of color can walk home.  I work in housing and there is a lot of work being done to make sure that policies that appear equal do not have disparate impact on applicants in affordable housing. For instance, an easy example would be to say I only intend to rent to people who can provide landlord references for the past five years.  But lets say that hypothetically, this effectively screened out people of color who had lower paying jobs and were less likely to have been able to live independently on the open market.  This would be considered disparate impact if I did not have some other way for a candidate who had not yet lived on their own to provide some alternative references and be considered for a home.

The Zimmerman case feels wrong to me at a deep level.  I could write for pages and won't, but if he was in such fear of Martin, why he got out of his car and engaged him baffles me.  He had called the police. Why not wait till they arrived?  My understanding of neighborhood watch groups is that the focus is on the word "watch"   They are not intended to be a group who physically involve themselves in situations.

And lest a casual reader who does not have children of color thinks I am over reacting. . . When we camped this weekend, Lissa came up to me one night. She said that her new friends A and S could come to our campsite but she could not go to theirs.  I asked why (naively thinking that their site must be out of my line of sight and my daughter knows how far she may travel on her own in the campground.  "Ooma, they said their daddy hates black people.  Isn't that COLD?" my daughter answered.  I hugged Lissa tight and agreed and said no one should judge by skin color.

We have a long road yet to walk before we truly are all walking in racial equality. Hello again, real world.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Camping chaos

We leave for our first camping trip of the summer tomorrow!  I am so not ready.  Ready emotionally? Sure! Packed?  Um, not so much!  I have the little kids clothes together and will get mine ready before I leave for work today.  A lot of the supplies are gathered in kind of a central staging area but the actual packing will not be able to be done until late tonite or early tomorrow morning.  My wife needs our van when she goes to work and she will not be home till after 8 p.m. Such is life, we will make it work.

I am extra glad to be going camping as there was an unbloggable incident at work yesterday that was really tragic.  I need to be away for a bit and decompress or the sadness will be too much. So I am focussing on the joy our kids always have for any camping adventure and trying to plan the packing in my mind so that when the vehicle is actually in the yard I can load it in the quickest and most efficient manner possible.

I had another exciting bit of news this morning! I opened up Facebook and saw that i had a message from Rob's sister Crystal! She said she had not been in touch with us in so long and was sorry and gave me her phone number.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Rob's first day at work

The above picture was taken Sunday when Fiona was out for a visit.  For some reason, zany shots work well for my tribe.  They all look more themselves, which is probably a polite way of saying my house is kind of crazy most of the time! LOL

Today was Rob's first day of work.  I am so proud of him for getting the application right in when the opportunity came up.  It is not as convenient for the parents as if he had found a job in our community.  But it is a job.  And I was able to negotiate a slight adjustment to my hours for the 6 weeks of his employ.  (it is only 3 days a week, so it is really only 18 days but I am grateful to my company for their kindness.)  As it is, he does have to wait about 15 minutes for me to arrive as i have to stop home first, trade cars with my wife so she has the van for work, and load the littles into our Scion to make the run to get him.  But it is summer. It is not like he is standing in arctic winds waiting for me. We will all survive.

We were also pleasantly surprised to find that he is being paid $9.00 per hour.  That makes the inconvenience a little nicer as well as most kids only get minimum wage in our city.  Rob just seemed very proud when I picked him up tonight.  I am glad that he has this opportunity to stretch his wings, to learn some new skills and to work in a place that helps troubled kids.  The agency where he is doing his internship focusses on teens in crisis.  Rob's calm demeanor and innate friendliness make him a good candidate for being a person who can help knock down some barriers that tough experiences sometimes cause in others.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Rob is home

Rob is back from camp and we are all so happy.  He arrived home exhausted as the camp tradition is to stay up all the last night and then watch the sun rise on the beach.  The house feels normal again, that odd bit of emptiness filled by his presences.

His return meant that he and I had to have a conversation about his phone though.  I had asked him to leave said phone home when he went to camp. I was worried it would be damaged as he was doing a lot of outdoor activities and I also wanted him to be fully present with what he was doing, not texting his gf madly. He agreed.

The day we left I asked if he had remembered to remove the phone from his pocket.  He said the phone was  by his keyboard where his extra charger is.  I thought nothing of it.  Except that as it turned out, the old non functioning phone was carefully left by the charger, and he brought his working phone.

He admitted it to me right away, which is huge progress.  I told him we were gonig to wait a day to talk this through because he was really tired and as upset as I was over the deception I was too happy to have him back home to color it with a conversation about that the first day.

So we just enjoyed him being home on Saturday and he went to bed really early.  Sunday morning when he got up the first thing he said was that he was sorry he had only been partially truthful.  Somehow he had convinced himeself that his answer to my phone question in the car was not quite a lie and was cleverly walking around the truth.

I thanked him for the apology and said that he was not at all truthful in that statement. I wasn't asking about a non working cell and that he knew that.  Frankly I did not even know he still had the broken one, I thought the store had kept it when they transferred his data over.

Our conversation mostly centered on the fact that I speak from a place of honesty and that the kids do not have to di-sect my words, wondering if what I said is really what I meant.  He agreed that this was so.  I explained that I expect that from all of them too. And that if he truly felt he was going to be horribly unhappy without the phone for a week, he could have at least talked with me about it.   He could have emailed me, texted me or facebooked me, or written a note  if it felt too hard to do it face to face.  But instead, he chose to deceive.

His phone is now on very limited use (for work only) for this week and next.  It will live with me so that there are no further misunderstandings about what that means.  I am not sure throwing the consequence in there will do anything.  Rob is not always one who gets consequences. But I felt the breach of honesty was severe enough that he needed to see that.

I will say, later after talking I found him on his bed looking pensive.  Not angry, deeply thoughtful.  That is progress.

Saturday, July 6, 2013


I am up at my accustomed early morning hour, recovered from the events of the 4th!  We had a wonderful 4th during the day; Visiting with dear friends, chatting with the neighbors that joined us, it was all good.  However other neighbors apparently fell out of the stupid tree and when darkness fell they lit a huge bonfire and began setting off fireworks. Not little fireworks.  Big fireworks of the kid we typically see when we go to the town celebration.  Big fireworks that are unsafe in a densely populated area, particularly when the method of setting them off involved throwing them into their bonfire. Yup, isn't that how the pros do it?

Needless to say, it woke the littles.  Over and over again.  Several of us eventually called the police.  We were all reluctant to do so.  These folks are fairly new to the neighborhood and it doesn't seem that calling our city's finest on them is a great way to build neighborly relations.  But at midnight we called.  So did several other abutters.  Unfortunately our city's finest could see the fireworks from our street but could not figure out where they were setting them off.  Said neighbor has a back yard that is much lower than his street level home and they had all the lights off in their home so the police did not get their speedily due to the confuson.  By 1:30 a.m. it was fairly quiet.  And we could finally sleep, knowing some errant firecracker was not going to land on our roof and burn us down.

So yesterday we were tired. The kids were tired.  It was hot.  It was a plethora of cranky here!  But last night, all was quiet, and though it was hot, the majority of us slept well.  So today, we woke full of energy and our usual cheer, with the extra excitement of knowing the kids and i set off soon to bring Rob home from camp!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

4th of July

Happy Birthday America!  We will be celebrating with a BBQ in our back yard and our friends (and the kids god parents) will be coming over.  This is the first year we have ever done this when Rob was was not here. The one other time he was at camp over the 4th we waited till he got home to have the BBQ  This year, due to camping trips, his new job, and K's weekend jobs, we can't do that.  It feels a little bit weird to me--OK a lot weird to me--but I know that he is getting to the stage in his life when more of his life is less about us.  So it is maybe a good first step for all of us. He did not seem upset that it was happening.

Our neighbors may also be coming over, though that is less certain. The littles apparently invited them.  Last night the adults checked with me and I said it was fine, but if they like meat, our BBQ's are always BYOM. LOL  Their son B spends a lot of time here and has helped make the decorations for the BBQ and wants to help get ready today so I hope that he at least gets to come.   He has been eating supper here a lot too, which I don't care about either, but last night I found out why.

His little brother is temporarily back on a feeding tube but prior to this illness had been able to eat solid food.  He is missing the real food and so the family does not eat in front of him. Supper waits till P has gone to bed and for B that has a lot of nights meant a bowl of cereal.  So he comes to our house and has supper with my two littles.  Sometimes they have been eating in the kitchen but a lot of times they are having a picnic on the front porch.

Tomorrow I need to make a birthday cake for my mom's new gentleman companion and we have to get the shopping done and visit the library. The kids have been working on the summer reading program like crazy and can not wait to get their prizes.

Saturday I drive to Maine to get Rob and then over to my Mom's to bring cake and presents to Griff.  Sunday Fiona comes for a day visit.  I think we might go see a puppet show as she was intrigued by the explanation of it that the littles shared with her.