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.