Friday, December 26, 2014

And so it was Christmas. . .

And bam! Christmas is done!  Well, except for visiting with my inlaws sometime in January.  Other than that, we are done. This is one of the best holiday seasons over all that I can remember.  My wife has been a more present and happy participant. The kids did great overall.  We had a lot of stuff,and like any family a fair amount of the crazy-busys, but at the end of the day, I would not trade it.  There are only so many times to carol for an elderly neighbor, or bring cookies to someone who has been shut in.  Holiday parties are the fabric of the youngers memories, a way to connect with friends and celebrate all through the month.

My poor wife has been ill pretty much since before Thanksgiving. She is on another round of antibiotics and still far from well.  Yet together we wrapped all the tribe's gifts in one night (and only a few left for the next night)  We don't do extravagent Christmas.  Everyone gets 4 or 5 Santa gifts and one gift from parents. Then there are 5 family gifts--typically some kind of games.  This year it was Dance Revolution 2015, a super Farkle, a dice matching game called Nada, Mario for up to 4 players, and a card game called Slamwich.  We try to make sure all levels and abilities are represented in the family games and that at least 2 of the games can be played in 15 minutes or less.However since there are 7 in our immediate family and more in extended, it is still a lot of gifts to wrap!

Fiona had a wonderful Christmas and birthday.  I thought we were headed for disaster Christmas Eve  when she got sick to her stomach at about 7:30.  However I think maybe it was just stress of the season and the emotional baggage that definately surrounds this holiday for her.  She was only sick the once and I tucked her into bed and she was fine this morning.It did mean that she could not take her meds last night and it was amazing how much better she got up this morning and how clear she was when she woke.  I do know that her sleep is more restless without them,but I am going to mention this to the director of her program.  I know healthy rest is important but last year by contrast it took the dog licking her face I had not known he snuck upstairs) to wake her up after  7 a.m.  And the littles were NOT being quiet and she slept through it all.  This year, she heard the littles and I talking quietly in the next room and was up and eager to start the day.

My Mom and her companion came down from Maine and spent the better part of a day with us.  It was really nice.  KC had made a lot of his gifts this year. For mom he made a set of 16 notecards and drew a different design on each card.  Some were birthday, some get well, some general etc.  She was ecstatic and appreciative of them.  He made calendars for her companion and my wife.  All the kids did really well choosing gifts.  They were all gifts that showed they cared and knew the persons likes and needs.  This year Rob had taken Lissa to do her Christmas shopping, and did his own as well.  Fiona made a list with me but also did hers on her own with staff from the group home.  So in many ways, that part of the holiday prep was much easier.

Stockings are always KC's favorite part of Christmas.  I was surprised when he told me that on Christmas Eve.  He can't wait to check out all the little bits and bobs that Santa puts inside.  Gloves, pens, socks etc.  Funny kid.  So it is always stockings first in our house and then the gifts under the tree and then breakfast.  We just about had time for all that, cleaning up the living room and then my mom and G arrived. They needed a snack so they had some home made cinnamon buns and muffins and tea and then G took a nap.  When he got up it was more gifts and then dinner. Fiona's birthday is Christmas Day so I always do her party at dinner.  She LOVED the photo collage blanket that we gave her.  I am so happy it was such a hit.

After Mom and G left, I started making the phone calls to Rob and Fiona's first family. We had some great calls with lots of people, and I also called my inlaws to wish them Merry Christmas.  My wife has nearly no voice so she sort of whispered it and then turned the phone over to others who could be heard.

Today will be a quieter day.  I have to mail Fiona's gifts that she brought for some friends and distant family members.  I have to bring KC's scooter to a store for repair. And late this afternoon we are visiting the kid's godparents and meeting their new kitten. But mostly it is a wide open, kickin' back kind of day!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve Day

Christmas Eve day.  Fun, chaotic a bit, and inevitably the excitement ramps as the day progresses.  I have tried to keep people busy with lots of different things to keep the time moving for them.  I asked Rob this morning if he had been in touch with any of his first family so we knew how to contact tomorrow.  He said he hadn't but indicated an aunt that he would like to speak with.  I am thrilled as it is the first time he has vocalized that this is important to him.  However he was unable to make himself do the legwork to see how to contact Auntie S.  I wonder if part of him is afraid that he won't be able to reach them if he calls?  At any rate, when I could see he wasn't going to do it (finding lots of things that made him too busy to try) I called his sister Krystal and asked if we could reach her tomorrow..  She said yes, they are going to a number of family members and told me who she would be with.  I asked if she knew how to reach Auntie S and she didn't but is checking with another cousin who might.  Then I relayed all that to Rob who looked happy about it.It also helps Fiona when I can prep her as to who we are able to reach on a phone call.  At any rate, just as I would feel that transporting the kids to visits was my responsibility if I was a foster parent, as an adoptive parent it is my job to facilitate and strengthen first family relationships.  I firmly believe that every time my kids see me take that step for them, they feel safer,and happier.

And now, back to Santa tracker!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Eve Eve

Here we are--Christmas Eve Eve as we say in our house. We somehow have the true miracle of the season which is remembering where gifts were hidden and finding them to wrap.  Have you ever tried to hide Christmas gifts for a family with 5 kids.  One who also has a birthday on Christmas?  It is a trip, let me tell you.

The stocking shopping got done yesterday by yours truly.  Every year I say there has to be a better way and we have yet to find it. But it gets done and there is singing and laughter and memories.  It is all good in the end.  I'd love to have that life where the gifts were wrapped November 12th or something but that is so not going to happen here.  Ever.  I will never be sitting and sipping wine on December 20th just listening to quiet music.  Well, maybe when I am 80 or something but not for now.

For now, December had no less than 5 holiday parties for the littles.  It had Lissa's birthday party, it will have Fiona's on Christmas Day. The vespers service and pageant at church was great and both the youngers were in the play this year.  I could not believe that KC was even willing to take a speaking part.  (Only one line but still, for him this is huge!)

  I got my cards out this year and that was huge for me.  Last year was the first year that I messed up and did not get any out.  I hated that.  There are folks I connect with only at Yuletide and I really missed that.

The house is decorated and mostly clean, though I will  work on that more tomorrow. We did tons of baking to gift folks for the holidays.

And this is all the more amazing when you factor in that K has been sick off and on since before Thanksgiving.  She got the flu around then, then had a round of mersa, then apparently the infection from the flu never fully left and now has new antibiotics for a raging sinus infection.  She has struggled through it but I feel badly for her.

Yet to do is to make a pumpkin pie and cinnamon buns, a birthday cake for Fiona and parker house rolls.  Tonight I will wrap the last 5 or 6 things that I got off layway today and then find some time to wrap my wife's stocking stuff.  Her gifts are done but not those.

Sending prayers for peace, for love enough to sustain, for joy in the small as well as the large, to all?!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Happy Birthday Lissa!

The above shot was Lissa photo bombing her big brother at HIS birthday.  Her actual birthday is today and we had a small family party.  She had a party with friends at the roller rink this weekend so this was considerably more low key.  However I was impressed. She had decided that it was okay to have a venue party be our gift to her and just have a small gather at home.  She got to choose the menu (Chinese food from her favorite place) and she still had some gifts from the kids and other loving relatives.  (our gift was the roller rink party)  She got some legos, a craft kit, a necklace, earrings, a gift card, and a gorgeous dress.  And of course, she got gifts from friends just a few days ago.

Truly, I can't believe the princess is 8!  Sometimes it is 8 going on 18 and sometimes it is 8 going on 2 but it is always interesting. She is strong, emotionally and physically and I am so lucky she is our daughter.  Happy Birthday my sweet princess!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A shopping we will go!

Today was a busy day getting ready for Yule.  I took my Chet shopping.  I don't love to shop anyway, I love to shop with Chet even less!  LOL  However we soldiered through and I tried to find stores that were less stimulating for him so he could hold it together longer. This meant avoiding the big mall in our city and hitting outlying stores.  It was mentally exhausting keeping him focussed and calm but we did get through  it and his personal stress is also greatly alleviated by having his purchasing done.  He cares deeply that people get something they really want, it is just the process of getting that and understanding what people want that is hard.

Chet wants things like scotch tape.  A small personal sized bottle of maple syrup, and envelopes.  Oh and air filters for his air cleaner in his room.  (he has plenty but likes to ask for these yearly)  So due to the simplicity of that which gives him joy it is hard for him to grasp what gives OTHERS joy.  As in, "No Chet mom would not want a 12 pack of razors or coupons for her cereal."  Then there was the fact that Rob told Chet he'd like an argyle sweater.  However we could not find an argyle in the stores.  Well, we did but it was button down and I know that is not what Rob wanted.  Rob is flexible and i know his style choices.  I could find zillions of other sweaters that he would like.  Chet, being Chet was fixated on: It.Is.Not.Argyle.  6 stores later I convinced him to choose between two very nice non argyle sweaters.  We got home and I hissed to Rob "argyle?  REALLY?" which made him crack up.

Chet makes a lot of cards for family and friends each Christmas season. He brought a ton to deliver at church today.  I have yet to convince him that you don't write "Dear John Smith" inside the card when you are wishing a friend Merry Christmas.  Thankfully, people love the cards and see the caring behind his actions.  I am grateful beyond words for this.

My shopping has been going well.  Small peeps are done except for stockings.  I have found two really unusual handmade gifts for my wife that I hope she will love.  She is notoriously hard to buy for but these are unique and I think fit her personality to a T.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Always a parent

KC at 5 or 6 getting into the holiday spirit.  He is very much my "Mr. Christmas"  Today we had festively shaped pizza bites courtesy of my amazing chef son Rob, and all watched the movie Elf. I love that movie.  I remember taking Rob to the cinema to see it with is friend when it first came out.  And laughing. And laughing.  We still laugh like crazy watching it, but it is also sort of a sweet and tender movie.

Yet as we were all in our living room watching it, my heart is filled with worry for a teen in our area.  The young fellow lived where I work for most of his childhood.  When he was about 14 his family moved out of the property, but he often came back on his own to visit with our office staff.  He missed the site.  He missed us.

Yesterday he came in, I thought to visit. But instead it was because his mother has opted to move out of state and leave him here.  He is 17.  Who does that to their child? This is not even a kid who is especially troubled or challenging to parent.  Our state does not have a legal emancipation process (he all ready checked into it) so he is left in legal limbo. Unable to sign a contract, he is couch surfing between relatives homes.  He can't stay in any one home too long or risk that families housing assistance.  This bothers me at so many levels.  Families are forever and I can never imagine leaving ANYWHERE while my kids are growing up and leaving them behind.

I can't imagine missing seeing my kids senior prom outfit or graduation-assuming this boy can do any or all of these things with the chaos of his life right now.  I have reached out to a friend who runs a teen program in the city where we go to church to find out if she knows of any benefits that we can hook the kid up with.  Of course what I really feel like doing is bringing him home. . .

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Holly Jolly!

The decorating continued today!  We have done the outside lights, which involve stringing lights and giant ornaments out front and stars and globe lights along the back porch. Light up Rudolph and Frosty are in their places as well.  Inside there is always a lot of things that "have" to go up.  My MIL made beautiful needlepoint and ceramic Christmas villages.  I put these out on the tops of our closets in our front hall.  They are very visible but relatively safe from the play of children both 2 and 4 legged.

The tree goes without saying and has the bay window place of honor for the season.  My kids like to lay on pillows by the tree to have stories before bed during December.  (which reminds me that I have to get our holiday book collection out next!)

There are so many holiday scenes that I create on cabinet tops and in nooks and crannies.  I love the way the brightness of baubles and the reflection of lights on silver and pearl push back the dark as we enter the shortest days of the year.  Chet always has to have a specific Santa figurine outside his bedroom door.  Once many years ago, said Santa lit up and moved back and forth holding a candle.  Now, his candle is a memory and he can't move a bit, but he is Christmas to Chet.  So he remains and he has to be put in the same spot every single year.

The littles have trees in their bedrooms that they decorate as they please.  Sometimes they just put on traditional decorations. Sometimes they add little toys or things they make. I love seeing what they do each year.  Despite all the decorations, due to the size of our house, it doesn't really feel like a Yule tide explosion.  11 rooms can hold a lot of stuff.  It is just that every room has a bit of something.

I also went over to my work and decorated my office so that it will be all pretty and festive when I go back to work tomorrow.  I know that with tomorrow being the first of the month I will not have time to beautify my work space so I took a few minutes today to do that.  It makes returning to work a bit easier.  I have enjoyed these days and also still feel a bit run down from the cold thing I have been fighting.

I know I got a lot done this weekend, but I felt like I was pushing to do it instead of having all kinds of energies for it.  I loved the end result, but just know that I am not 100 per cent yet. However no one that i know who had this gets fully better quickly, so I will just keep slogging along.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Tree Time

Today we decorated our tree for Yule.  Rob always get the tree together. (2 have allergies to real trees so we are a family who always use artificials)  Kirsty always puts on the lights. Then the kids and I decorate.  Every year the kids get an ornament from my mom.  I love watching their faces when they open them.  I love listening to them chatter about their memories as they hang ones from previous years.  We do not have a designer tree.  I did, long long ago.  But as our family grew, the focus of the tree changed.  It was not a testimony to my holiday decorating prowess.  It was a repository of our collective experiences, memories and dreams.   I love this, but I was also thinking today that I wonder what our tree will be like in 10 years or so?  The kids will have fledged and likely will take their ornament collections with them, hopefully to start new traditions in their own households.  Our tree will be needing to be re-thought and re-imagined. It is hard to picture what that could be.  But for now, our star shines brightly and our house rings with laughter and all ready the thrum of anticipation that the holidays bring.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Decking the Halls!

Today was a very fun and special day for KC and Lissa.  Their godparents had passes that got us into play and swim at Great W*lf Lodge.  This isn't a place I can afford to take our family.  You have to stay overnight there and though extremely neat rooms, packages are veeeeery pricey.  Greg actually won the package and they were there for Thanksgiving day and Thanksgiving night.  They shared their access bracelets with us so that KC and Lissa could have some fun there.

It was a bit of a wrangle figuring things out as both my wife and I said that I needed to be there. When my kids are playing in the water I like to be on deck watching.  KC tends to over-estimate his abilities and under-estimate his fatigue factor.  This was hard for my friends to understand. They love my kids and they are great with them. But they are not and have never been parents so they don't always see from the same perspective.  Finally Greg decided that since he had to go to work, that I would use his bracelet for access and then I could watch the kids in the water park. This also turned out to be very important as Wendy's knee is giving her troubles and she was not physically able to be watching the kids in that way.

The water park is immense and extremely fun.  However, as predicted, KC did not notice when he was getting over taxed and cold and had to be hauled out of the water and made to eat. His favorite thing was the lazy river and the water basketball.  Lissa went down the slides but needed me to help her carry the raft up that they use.  Seriously the raft was taller than she is and she is not a short child.  And it had to go up 4 flights of wet stairs.  She could not safely carry that raft because then she could not see the steps.  Then she came down the slide but got caught in a current and could not get her raft to the side of the pool to get out.  I was not worried for her as I could tell she was safe, BUT the lifeguard did not notice that she was unable to get to the side.  I pointed it out and when he saw I was going to go get her, he pulled her out.  That was enough for my friends to understand what I meant.  The establishment is amazing and I can't say enough about what they offer and the way the staff treat the guests.  But you need to be on point for your kids at a certain level too.

In addition to swimming, we did the arcade--a huge bonus for the kids as I had said we were only doing things that did not cost $$  But loving godparents had put money on a card and the littles went to town.  While I am not an arcade person, I loved watching them. They worked together to maximize the tickets that they could earn so that they could claim prizes they both liked.  And there was not a speck of arguing or disagreement over it.

Then there was this high tech scavenger hunt thing with a magic wand and a "quest."  Which caused us to walk about 50 miles of hallways looking for the correct potion to heal pixies and such.  We did about 3 of the 6 quests but it was something they loved.  Plus they get to bring the wand home.

When we got home we put away the harvest decorations and got out the ahem, 12 boxes of Yule decorations.  Now that sounds like a lot, but it really isn't.  1 box is my work decorations.  3 boxes are the outside ones. So that leaves only 8 boxes.  OK so maybe it is a lot.  I am a bit decoration obcessed.  This is the house that changes their kitchen curtains to Christmas ones.  And their dishes.  Many of the boxes are now unpacked and the house is beginning to have that holiday feel.

Tomorrow is a relatively laid back day.  There is no dance because of the holiday weekend, so we can shop and do our errands a bit later in the morning.  My wife is taking a well deserved run away day to recoup after all the socializing of Thanksgiving.  I love crowds and chatter and for her it is exhausting and she needs to re-charge afterwards.

Sunday is church and the decorating of our living room tree (the kids have all ready done all their little bedroom trees!)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Truly Thankful

Not the best shot of us having what was really a wonderful Thanksgiving, but I didn't have a lot of time to spend behind the camera.  This year cousin N and her daughter C were supposed to come for Thanksgiving.  So were my inlaws but they had to bail due to weather concerns.  However cousin N drives a Jeep and said she could make it. Truly the roads were not that bad.  But imagine my surprise when her Jeep pulled in and she had Krystal with her as well as little cousin Z who I don't think I have ever met before.

The only slightly awkward moment was that I didn't have personalized name tags for those extras since I didn't know they were coming.  However we did have extras of the ornaments the kids had made and I placed those at their places.  I had polished extra silver and had plenty of the "best" china so in all other respects we were fine.

It was a big deal to have Krystal come.  I love for Rob and Fiona to have time together with their siblings.  The really odd thing was that KC had said yesterday that he thought Krystal was coming.  I had said no that I thought she was with another cousin but that we would try and call her. Then, bam, there she was.

Krystal noticed that there are pictures of her in our home and it obviously touched her as she took pictures of the pictures with her camera phone. The meal was easy and the conversation flowed readily.  There was laughter and my little kids had 2 other small folk their age to play with when the meal was done.  I am hoarse from talking and laughing so much.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

No time for sick!

I am rarely really ill.  Consequently when it happens, my kids all get nervous.  With my wife, who is sick more often, they are sort of accepting of it.  With me, they get bizarrely jittery. I actually called out of work 2 days this week which is very unusual for me.  When we were owned by the previous company, you could accrue sick days.  I had 90 when we were sold.  We can't accrue with this company so I usually lose a bunch each year as the ones I take are pretty much kid oriented.  Drs visits and such.

But the thing is:  I have NO time allocated for sick right  now and someone forgot to tell my body that!  We are hosting Thanksgiving and my wife is on board with it but will need a lot of help.  Right now, all I want is a nap! So I am going to try and do a lot of things a lot more slowly today and see if that will help.

We will have a house full and I want it to be fun and enjoyable for everyone.   The kids and my wife made really cute place markers earlier this week. I need to write the names on with paint pens so that will be my first project.

We also need to move almost everything out of our living room over the next few days, so I will do some prep work for that as well.

And somewhere in there I have to take KC to his writing workshop and get an estimate on my Scion as some turkey hit it in the parking lot of the post office today.  See what I mean? No.Time.For.Sick!

Friday, November 21, 2014

The "weird" picture!

This summer when we went to D's baby shower, we had were able to snap a family picture.  I love this and it is actually my screen saver at the moment on my home computer. Apparently one of the times that KC and Lissa were in the room where I keep our computer they had the following conversation overheard by my wife:

Lissa:  "KC, that is just the weirdest picture."
KC      "I know, right?"
LIssa:  "Everyone but Ooma is black in that picture--even YOU look black, KC!"
KC       cracks up laughing at this point

Ironically, there are a lot of things about this picture that strike me as a parent, other than color differences.  The fact that Lissa looks so much like R who is standing next to her.  R is J's last child and she is raising her and doing a great job.  I am struck by how much Fi looks like her birth Mom.  I remember the relief I felt once I got J comfortable and she wasn't crying any more and remember thinking that this kind of healing may be pretty rare in adoption circles.   For me the snapshot was symbolic of so many years of working on that healing.

I guess I was startled to hear Lissa tell KC that "even he" looked black. I have black friends in whose families the degree of darkness of skin tone is always a topic of discussion.  Kind of like the whole "good hair" thing.  We obviously are not like that, but I guess there is work yet to do.

I did have close friends imply that I must have felt awkward in this picture.  Um, nope. Do I look awkward?  While I'll give you that photos are not my strong point, what jumps at me here is that we are happy. Squished in together happy. And frankly, I think when you adopt transracially, as a parent you need to be willing to step into situations where your kids are the majority and you are not.  There are so many times when it is the reverse. And if it is your family--the family you wanted with every fiber of your being, it isn't a hard thing to do.  At least for me, it wasn't.  And I'll give you that i am a very gregarious, pretty optimistic person. But it still wasn't hard. :-)

Monday, November 17, 2014

It can snow now!

Today was a great day. We went shopping early, before church as yesterday the littles asked if they could sleep in. While that is relative at our house (meaning they didn't get up till 7 a.m.) that is usually the time we hit the grocery store.  Came home and unloaded and then went to church.  I am teaching this month so I do need to get there a bit earlier than usual.   KC's class had fellowship hour so we also stayed late as he was on kitchen duty helping to pour coffee and clean up.  He and the kids in his class have formed really nice friendships and I love that.  This group will likely go through coming of age together in a couple of years and they are really sweet kids.I especially like that the friendships cross gender boundaries with this class. That has not always been the case, but there are definately girls that KC is very good friends with in a "just friends" kind of way.

We got home from church and KC and Lissa had a play date with another of their friends--actually with KC's "girl friend."  D has been his "girlfriend" for a year now but she enjoys having Lissa hang with them too which is great.  While they were at D's house I went to get a couple of Yule gifts on layaway for them.  New scooters and a radio for KC.

Back home I made some tea and relaxed a bit while I roasted some chunks of squash.  I never really liked orange squash till I learned about roasting it.  Now, I can't get enough of it.  Maybe it is a texture thing, or that I don't like my food super sweet and lots of people sweeten up squash?

KC and Lissa came home to refuel and then headed back outside to play with the neighborhood kids.  They were all in and out for snacks and to warm up and finally at 4 pm I called it a day.  I needed to take KC and Lissa snowboot shopping as we might get the white stuff later this week and we are not prepared bootwise.

Taking Lissa shopping for this is always torturous.  Snowboots are not "fashionable."  Actually the ones we settled on are really cute but they don't have heels and sparkles as such things don't work well with sledding, so she had to voice her objections.  KC was far easier, first pair of snowboots that fit were fine with him.  My kids play out a lot so warm, sturdy boots really are a necessity.  By March, Lissa will get that! LOL

I can't believe we are 1/2 way through November and racing toward Thanksgiving and then rocketing into Yule.  Time to buckle up for the holiday ride!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

It's That month again!

The month of celebrating adoptions.  Of every other feed in my FB account mentioning adoption somehow.  It is a bit overwhelming to me as an adoptive parent. I feel like the out of step mom when I read some of the feeds.  I remember being a 20 something and loving "you didn't grow under my heart but in it," a phrase common in adoption circles.

Part of me does still relate to that.  There is a part that has grown in my heart for each of my beloved children.  Not physically obviously, but there would be a hole that nothing could ever fill if something happened to any one of my brood.

But way back in the early 80s and I started this journey to building our family, there was so much I didn't know.  I tried.  I really tried. I read books out the wazoo.  I went to conferences. I took classes. But something that I didn't realize then was that all of that? It was from the adoptive parent's perspective.  None of the panels then had adoptive adults on the Q and A times.There were lots of folks who had brought a child into their home talking about how they helped their child adjust--how they themselves adjusted. How they took a family vacation to country X and went to culture camps.

It wasn't all that different when I took classes to foster adopt. Again, panels of experiences foster parents, caseworkers and professionals. No kids who had been adopted from foster care.  No kids who had opted NOT to be adopted or who aged out.  It was a given in every situation that adoption was the best choice and that the kids would universally embrace their new family. And trust me, there was zero talk about unscrupulous adoption agencies working in developing nations.

I can say my kids and I are very bonded and connected.  But the scenarios I describe ignore the fact that I am not their only family.  It ignores the loss they experienced. The questions that they will have throughout their life.  It totally ignores what I consider my biggest parenting responsibility which is facilitating first family bonds and answering their questions if I can.

The holidays always bring things to the forefront for all my kids. This morning while we were shopping, KC mused that he wished he could have a conversation with Mom Y.  Lissa asked me a couple days ago if I knew what her Mom T had named her.  (thankfully I have saved the real birth certificates for my kids and could answer that) KC has decided he might like to make Mom Y a card and mail it out.

We love the holidays and don't get me wrong.  We celebrate HARD!  LOL But there are also reflective moments, pauses of  poignant pain and those are expected and those feelings have to be honored. Above all, I need my kids to know that their pain and their questions are not things they need to hide from me.  It also helps our family dynamic that I am estranged from my father.  He has not contacted me for over 25 years and the kids know that I too experience pain around that lost relationship.

What I wish adoption month talked more about were these kinds of things.  I have good friends who think I am a tad nuts for embracing first families.  People, they are part of my children! If I love my children, and they love my children and they are safe together, why would I be upset?  I wish adoption month talked about finding ways to make that happen.  I wish adoption month talked about flexibility.  When we adopted through the state there was a mantra drilled into our heads at trainings and from our social worker.  "start as you mean to go on."  Can we all say epic fail?

This denied the fact that my kids had experiences before me.  Things they were used to, things that rightly or wrongly, were part and parcel of who they were.  Even behaviors we want to change have to be approached gradually. My wife and I disagreed about this profoundly.  She really felt we should follow the words from all the professionals.  I just had a gut feeling that this wasn't working but no science or experience to back up my assertion.  Ultimately, she agreed to give it a go and our family I think, was the better for it.  People change, kids change and learn, but it is a life long and sometimes a very gradual process.  It doesn't have to all be worked on at once and the change doesn't have to be and shouldn't be, all the child.

I guess I wish that this month was a time for really thinking about how we can do this better and make sure that we are all putting the kids first.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Can we do disney?

 This picture was taken 11/6/2010.  It is amazing to me how much the kids have changed in a few short years.  Rob is a man now, KC is full blown tween, Lissa is a young lady and Fiona has blossomed as well.  The sweet pooch in the pic belongs to Amazing Jane who helped us so much in the healing journey for Fiona and our family.

K and I have been talking about trying to take the family to Disney in 2016.  I have spoken to a friend who works for an agency similar to the agency where Fiona lives.  She has given me lots of tips on how best to bring Fiona to Florida, what kind of supports the agency has to give her and more.  I had NO idea that they really are supposed to provide a staff if I request it for her to make the trip.  I thought I would have to figure out how to pay someone out of pocket.  There are lots of details and financials to figure out so only Rob knows that we are thinking about this.  It is way to far away for Fiona to hear about it and I want to confer with her home agency once I know that I can definately save what I need to for the trip.  We would rent a house again and we would not spend every day at Disney as that is too much for most of my kids and most definately too much for my wife.  I really want to do this though as it has been Fi's dream every since I have known her to go to Disney.  It might be the last time all the kids would be together as it would be as Rob was finishing up school, so it would be a good time to do it. Lots to think about and plan though in order for it to happen.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Giving Thanks on Voting Day!

I am a huge proponent of the democratic process.  It is not perfect but we do have a voice, unless we choose to give it away through apathy.  Yes, we are voting and I have always brought our kids to the polls each year as well.  We talk about the issues, even when they are too little to vote so that they understand that there is also a responsibility to make an informed choice.

And in other exciting news--I got a call from Rob and Fiona's cousin N last evening.  She does not work on Thanksgiving for the first time in 2 years and she was wondering about coming out to spend it with us.  I am soooooo excited.  I think my wife is petrified; probably because her side of the family is always here on Thanksgiving and they can be interesing. LOL  But it will work out.  I am a firm believer that good food, and smiles and mingling makes all work out.  The littles are excited because they love playing with N's daughter C.  Rob is happy, Fiona will be thrilled (though I will not tell her till plans are definate).    For me, it is further proof that the reaching out works.  Adoption requires us all to stretch beyond what might be our "comfort zones" to embrace all and everyone that are part of our children's lives.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Giving our children voice

I have always thought that my kids understood that they NEVER have to put up with someone making them feel uncomfortable. I am not the mom who requires hugs if they don't want to give a hug.  We have talked about physical boundaries ad nauseum--perhaps in part because it is hard for my oldest to understand that concept.

Yet several weeks ago, my most vocal of children sat silently while someone made her feel uncomfortable.  I took my kids to the library to see a mobile planetarium show.  We were all excited to get our tickets and squeezed into the room sized inflatable where the show would take place.  If you have never been in one picture a giant round bounce house that has no windows and floor and you have the ambiance to a T!

There were quite a few adults sans kids who wanted to see this show. I had deliberately picked the  more mature showing as opposed to the toddler one with singing and such.  I wanted the actual science experience for my kids as they are fairly savvy on this subject.

As more and more people began to squeeze in, the space began to become more crowded. The fellow running it used a laser pointer so we could see and asked that the front row slide as far forward as possible to allow the last people to enter and have room.  I obediently slid forward.  KC and Lissa and Rob were just behind me.  I looked back and saw that their row had sort of slid back against the far wall. I could still see everyone. It was literally less than 5 feet away.

The show was amazing and all I heard about all day were the constellations, the planets and the way they showed the different stars in different hemispheres.  Right up till bed time when I walked in to gather kids for bed and KC looked at me and said "why did you leave us at the Planetarium/'  I explained that I never left them and that I was right there the whole time. That he when he said that Lissa needed to tell me something that she had just told him.

Apparently the man who was sitting next to my daughter was physically closer to my daughter than she was comfortable with. (she said he kept putting his leg on her, though it is not clear if that means his leg bumped her or whether it was over her.  He also spoke to her several times and said things that she felt were weird and made her uncomfortable.  When she quoted what he said, it was "what did you do today." The words are 'harmless' but I believe strongly that when something makes you feel that something is not right there is a reason for it and one should heed that feeling.

It is pretty clear from lots of calm talking (well calm on the outside) that she was not molested. The 3 kids moved away from the guy as far as they could, though Lissa did not tell her brothers either why she wanted to move.  Because she did not say anything to me, I am left not knowing if this was simply a grown up who was not real comfortable sitting on the floor and accidently bumped her, or if in other circumstances, something darker could have resulted.

What IS clear was what shocked me the most.  My daughter was silent for this whole event.  My outspoken, strong opinionated princess lost her voice when an adult invaded her space. The upside of this is that we talked a lot about how I would totally have been fine, if she had stood up in the middle of the show and said "stay out of my space" or said "I need to change my seat," or just walked over people to get to my lap. We talked about when something just doesn't feel right, that it is important to get out of the situation,even if you don't know exactly why.

I read a great article this morning about how important it is to use the correct words for all body party, including "private" parts.  I have always done that.  But I always thought I had given  my kids, and most expecially my daughter the strength to leave a situation they felt was unsafe.  Clearly this is not so and I have more important work to do in this regard.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Spooktacular Success!

We have partied and fun was had by all!  There were about 37 kids all told. It was loud, busy, chaotic, messy and all around fun! I loved that the kids had friends from all their various walks of life.  I loved that their parents-my friends--all got along so well.  I also loved that my wife was part of this extravaganza.

This is unusual as my wife is profoundly introverted.  In the case of opposites attracting, I am not.  For me,planning a party--throwing a party--it's all fun.  Really. I am not joking.  I thought it was a BLAST!  My wife has always been away for any of the various summer parties I have thrown for the kids.  As a result, she has not really ever had a chance to get to know most of my friends. A few that we get together with one on one, yes. But there are a lot that she has never met till today.  Now she can put names to faces, and she said that they are all really nice.  (um, yeah otherwise we would not be friends! LOL) To see K mingling and really reaching out to connect with people though was a very special gift.

As with most parties, I find that you plan a bunch of games and they play half of them and create others on the fly.  The toilet paper mummy game was a HUGE success.  I think I have never seen that much toilet paper on the floor anywhere, ever!  The donut eating contest was also fun.  We had a couple races and then we wound up with unexpected games such as trying to see how far you could throw the ping pong ball "eyes" that we had used for a spoon race.

My kids had a blast and are thoroughly exhausted.  They may even sleep till 7 tomorrow.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Spooky Celebrating draws near

This weekend is fully packed with an insane level of fun for the kids!  Today there is dance, then a friends birthday party, then decorating at the clubhouse where I work for the kids halloween party tomorrow. I was so lucky to get to use that space for this.

Tomorrow is church and the annual UNICEF carnival and then back to do the final prep for the party and then it's party hearty from 3 to 5ish. The house has been abustle with preparations. Cookie baking, treat bags to stuff, decorations to make, games to build etc.  The kids have all in some way contributed to the efforts.  I want them to have fun but they also need to understand what putting on a party is The plan, the process, the fun end result. . Someday I fully plan to sit back and know that they are capable of throwing one themselves. They are surprisingly close to that.

KC pretty much gets it.  He was in bed last night worrying that his friends would not have fun.  LOL  I assured him that no one could come and not have fun.  Games crafts food and costumes are a pretty winning combination. But what he would need to do as the host was to make sure that everyone felt welcome as both he and Lissa have a large guest list that draws from a variety of their friends.  So there are neighborhood kids, kids from the big city where we go to church, kids from Girl Scouts and dance class and friends we met at the playground years ago and became besties with.  We talked about how you make people welcome and he visibly relaxed.  He so intensely wants people to be happy and have fun that guy.  

Rob went out with his former girl friend this week.  He is taking his new friend who is a woman to lunch later this week. There is a reasonably priced restaurant with awesome food near the college they both attend. I asked him if it felt weird hanging out just as friends with T who had been his one and only for so long.  He laughed and said not really. I wonder if he was more in love with the idea of being in love?  At any rate, he is happy and he is widening the boundaries of his world and that is what I hoped for.

I contrast this joy with the recent media coverage of the Ebola disease.  I am saddened to see people rail against a doctor who worked to ease the suffering of others. Really?  He volunteered for Doctors without Borders and you think he intentionally rode the subway in NY to infect others?   I am heartbroken to read of children orphaned by the disease who are not taken in by family or the community out of desparate fears of contagion.  Reading last night about how hard it is to get water in this part of the world, it became more easy to understand how the improper hygiene is fueling the epidemic.  It is a cruel disease and a scary one.  What is most scary to me though is the fact that in the face of crisis, our humanity to others and our capacity to act from a place of love is diminished.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

It's Almost Halloween!

I keep thinking things can't get busier and then of course, our family proves me wrong!  LOL  This weekend Fiona was home and we had a great time together.  Sunday was shopping, church and then the kids and I walked the CROP walk. (a walk which raises money for food pantries) It was a looooong day.

KC woke up with a fairly heavy cold on Monday.  Yay. Good timing there buddy, since Saturday he is invited to his girl friends birthday party and Sunday afternoon is KC and Lissa's Halloween party extravaganza.  Some 30 odd kids at the clubhouse where I work. Costumes Games. Food. Fun. Madness.

This week in addition to train pickups and drop offs, dance lessons, Scouts and runny noses, (oh yeah, and work!!)  I will be making and decorating cupcakes and cookies, making decorations, creating a bean bag toss game and finding my old portable coat rack in our attic.  (the plan is to set this just outside the function room and hang the doughnuts from it for the doughnut eating contest.)

My wife is even going to help with the event with is amazing! I have never had her around at any of the other kids parties I have done. This is extremely cool. And Rob, my seasoned party side kick, will be there as well.

It will be fun. Memories will be made.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The weekend was fun!

It has been a lovely holiday weekend here.  Weather wise it has been off and on, but just having the time as a family and a bit of time to slow down, or do things differently has been so appreciated.  For instance at 6 a.m. the two littles crawl into my bed and we all read our respective books till 7 on a holiday! Some people might think that a weird holiday weekend tradition but it works for us!  I am deep into the Game of Thrones series and trying to grab any free minute I have for reading.

We went to a corn maze yesterday and had a blast.  Capped off the jaunt with apple cider donuts so fresh they were literally made as we watched.  The kids inhaled them. (ahem, so did the adults!)

We ALL had dinner together last night.  Typically my wife is gone at the dinner hour so this is a huge treat.  We also tried a new vegetarian loaf recipe that was exceptionally delish!

The kids and  I researched games for the Halloween party they are having on the 26th. It is fast approaching and with the other demands on time and energies, I need to keep on top of this one.  They picked out some cute games ideas but some of them require some prep work and I will need to be on that.

Fiona will be back this weekend for an overnight and on Sunday the kids and I will walk in the CROP walk with our church.  This is a fundraiser for our Loaves and Fishes food pantry.  The moeny goes to a wider agency but most of the money that our food pantry receives comes via the funds raised through the CROP walk.  We are the only food pantry in that particular zip code and the need is great.  So we are walking.  The littles are very excited as they have never done it before.

Now it is time to don my work and chauffeur hats and get Rob to the train station for school and myself to work!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Saturday lunch

Today we had a family luncheon at Fiona's favorite restaurant.  I couldn't fit us all in the picture but here she is with KC (who is eating a mozzarella stick) and my wife.It took me 4 pictures to get us all in shots and I figure one will serve to remember the fun we had!  We all had a great time and the food options are great for a family with varied dietary needs.

I was thinking though about something I read on the net recently. It was about a couple who adopted 4 children through foster care. They had older bio kids who were nearly grown at the time that the 4 little girls came into their lives and hearts.  It was not a bad post.  The family looks from my cursury reading to be loving and their new children seem happy etc.

There was one component that struck me though.  The parent who wrote the article talked about what they lost in this process.  At first I thought she meant the children.  But no, she meant the adoptive parents. They lost free time, a tidy home, spontanaity when planning things etc.  I get that. It is all valid and real.  But at some level that also all seems rather superficial to me.

Because the people who came to this relationship from a real place of loss were the four children.And I saw nothing about that in the article.  No matter how happy they are now, no matter how well adjusted they are, or seem to be, they came from a place of loss.  And loss I would wager that is bigger than losing free time and a tidy home. And while it is important to recognize what we as parents of any children--biological or adopted--place on the back burner--it is just that, back burner.

I have every confidence that there will be a time in my life when my house stays clean for longer than 20 minutes. But I have to tell you, most days that isn't all that important to me.  I strive for a certain level of cleanliness but I place a much higher premium on memory making, shared experiences and consistantly showing my kids that I am there for them and how much I hold them in my heart. There will always be dishes, but only a finite period of time to walk this path with them all.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

First Family Friends

A couple of days ago I got a friend request on Facebo*k.  It was from my son and daughter's first mom.  We met her a few months ago at a baby shower.  At that time she did not have a FB account.  I was glad that she was brave enough to reach out.  I know that this is a hard journey for her--for all of us--to walk.  I friended her back right away.  I firmly believe in supporting first family contact as long as it is safe.  There is no danger here, only healing for all that needs to happen.  Without contact, healing can't really happen.

Then I realized that she had not friend requested Rob.  And might want to. Or Rob might see that we were friends and wonder why I hadn't mentioned this to him. And he might want to friend her but would worry how I felt.  And I found myself going to tell him about this  and stopping about half a dozen times.

I was afraid that he might feel angry. Or betrayed.  Or any number of things.  Eventually today I employed the same tactic my kids often do and I told him while we were driving in the car somewhere together.  And as my kids often find--what we worry about is often diminished by the telling and sharing.  He did not feel any of the things I feared he might.  He was fine with it.

But it was interesting to me as I know that many adoptees feel this way when they are searching and have to share that with their adoptive families.  How strikingly odd that I was the one feeling anxious in our family dynamic!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Still friends

A couple of weeks ago T, Rob's longtime girlfriend told him they needed to "take a break." There has been a lot of stress in her life and I understood.  So did Rob, but I did fret for my guy. T was his first love, and they were together over 2 1/2 years.  He gives his heart fully and he also is not the most communicative of my children. In some respects, "taking a break" coupled with the demands of college would either be a very good thing or a very bad thing.
So I watched for signs of depression, or some type of abnormal behavior.  Thankfully, Rob was just Rob. LOL  I know, you don't have to tell me that sometimes I over think things.

Last night the phone rang and it was T.  She and Rob talked for a long time.  When the phone was no longer in use, I went out to the kitchen and made myself a cup of tea. Then I walked back to our work room via the living room where Rob was.  He kind of laughed when he saw me.  If you saw the configuration of our home's floor plan you would understand this was far from a direct route to where I needed to go.

    "You know I'm nosy, " I said, grinning.  "So how's T doing?"
    "She's good, " he answered, still kind of laughing at me.
    "And you guys?" I asked.
    "We've decided to just be friends," he answered
    "And you're okay with things?"  Clearly, I can't stop myself from probing.
    "Yup,"  (I did say he is a man of few words)

By this time, we were both laughing.  I have given thought to this incident  because some people might say I should not have pried.  Part of ME even wasn't sure if I should.  But I think sometimes teens, or at least MY teens, need me to say hey, I care, and I want to know what you are willing to share with me.

They don't automatically remember.  And privacy in general seems to be less of an issue for a young population that post on facebook, instagram twitter and such.  So I am willing to take the risk of being labelled as nosy if the end result is that my kids always know that I care. And that they can tell me how they feel in as many or as few words as they feel they need.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

I'm kind of a grandma!

Dee texted Rob and I yesterday that he and his fiancee have a lovely baby girl.  She was born Tuesday and there was a picture attached.  Oh my gosh she is adorable.     I am so happy he let us know right off and that everyone is healthy.

KC is thrilled that he is an uncle.  Baby V has a huge head of hair and is really light.  When KC saw the picture he was amazed at the hair and wanted to know if it was all hers.  The idea of a baby wearing a wig or something still makes me giggle. But KC and Lissa were both pretty bald and so all his baby pic experience has been of fairly hairless children.  LOL

I explained that it was definately all Baby V and he wanted to know why she was so light when Dee and A are not.  This was something he didn't notice when Lissa was a baby as he was so little too.  We talked about how AA babies sometimes but not always darken and how even if she did, no one knew exactly how light or dark she would be.

Dee and I texted a little last night as they have moved and I needed his new address.  We can't wait to meet her but right now KC has a cold so no visits just yet!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

At One with Fall!

Fall has been hectic and sometimes challenging, but lots of fun.  I have this love/hate relationship with fall.  I absolutely adore hot weather.  I don't even mind humidity.  We joke in my family that I must have lived in the caribbean islands or something in a past life. Because the northeast is not exactly known for that type of weather.

This summer had even less heat and hardly any humidity.  So it is even more challenging for me to know that really cold weather is coming.   Yet fall, how can I dislike fall?  I adore bright colors and watching the leaves turn is always a joy to me.

Watching the kids harvest the horse chestnuts in the back yard from our old tree is a tradition that always makes me smile.

Decorating for Halloween and planning a Halloween party.  Fun!

So despite the hectic life we are leading, despite the cold dark days lurking around the corner, I am embracing fall!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ferry Beach

We are back from our final "camping" weekend. Actually it is a gathering of our church and another sister church that happens annually.  One can rent dorm rooms but that would be pricey for our family. Tent sites are MUCH more affordable and also allow Chet to have a place and space that he can decompress in.  This is important.  The sounds of dorm life are minimal to those of us who are neuro typical. To my eldest son, it is a cacophany and he can't tune it out or turn it off.

It was chilly, And yes, it rained, making all but one of our campouts have rain at some point.  Kind of a weird record but there you go!  Still, it was a lot of fun. It was very relaxing to me because there is not a lick of cooking or cleaning that one does while at this event. Zero.  I repeat, ZERO!

The kids have a zillion friends, as do I. And they were all off doing their things while I chatted with mine.  We had a family beach walk when we first got there, but other than that, mostly everyone did their own thing.

I love to talk with people.  What inspires people, what upsets people, what makes them tick--it is all interesting to me.  So I did a lot of talking and even more listening.  I also had a lot of time to read. I brought my kindle and had more uninterupted reading time than I have had in years.

I helped provide supplies for the Saturday night bonfire--that was fun.  The weather was not warm enough for swimming but it was great for kite flying, playing on the beach, finding ducks looking for their dinners and more.

Saturday night is also the talent show.  KC played a piece he wrote himself.  Lissa did a gymnastics routine she worked out with her BFF.  Rob was his usual easy going self, hanging out with teens and adults alike.

But the star of this weekend was my Chet.  And I am beyond thrilled.  Chet's actual presence there was in jeopardy a few weeks back as his behaviors were wildly out of control.  I don't know why.  Sometimes I know a trigger but not always.  However we had a long serious talk and made a specific action plan of what he needed to change in order to come to Ferry Beach.

I was worried.  Often when he wants something the most is when he shoots himself in the foot with poor behavior choices. But this time, he pulled it together and came with us.  He did well at the restaurant we had supper in on Friday night.  He was relatively calm during the set up of our campsite.

He loves to be "bell hop" for the church members and friends who arrive through out the evening.  He knows the room assignments and helps people unload and get to their room.  He has done this for years and folks really look forward to it.  This year he also took on a role in the dining hall, bussing dishes for people and helping to wipe down the tables.

His efforts were noticed and the weekend coordinators asked me if they should get him a gift card or something to thank him.  I said no, that for Chet being able to be there, and to contribute in a postive way was also a gift for him.  He gets great emotional value from the experience and did not need a gift card.  Instead, they asked him to stand after breakfast and gave him a formal thank you and a round of applause from the 100 or so people there.  He glowed, and I gave thanks.

So many times in Chet's life, I have to explain.  Explain that he didn't mean to be rude, or that he has challenges understanding personal space. Explain the unusual facial tics that sometimes happen when he is stressed. Explain the fact that he doesn't get social cues and know when to end a conversation or a topic.

But this weekend, I didn't have to do any of those things.  Most of the people there have known Chet for a long time.  This helps them to see beyond the quirks so to speak and see the giving nature that is very much a part of his personality. This is a gift I will remember for a long, long time.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Adapting to Fall schedules

Although fall has seen a real ramp up of our schedules I have counted myself lucky as things seemed to start in a staggered way.  Rob's first week of school was only 2 days and homeschooling that week was only 4 days due to the Labor Day.  The second week he had his regular 3 days of classes and we added Girl Scouts.  Next week, we will add 2 of the three dance nights and church school.The week after that will have everything full time.

It is sort of crazed--my google calendar and our home wall calendar are color coded so I don't forget who needs to go where and when. But it is  good.  We are adapting, week by week.

This weekend we have our last camp out. It is a gathering of our church friends and family at a conference center in Maine.  I tent there because it is less expensive than the dorms and because it allows Chet a quiet space to be if the excitement of so many people begins to spiral him out of control. It isn't really "camping" per se as we just sleep in the tent but it is a lot of fun and we all look forward to it.

It will be cold and it might rain, but we don't care. We will have fun and then regretfully will pack away our gear for the last time.  Fall is really truly here when the tent gets stored!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

More ranting about white privilege

I rarely discuss anything of substance on Facebook.  It really has not been my experience that this is a forum for anything other than sort of brief connections.  Sharing a favorite photo--yup, share a micro re-cap of a book or experience--yup.  Air out that one is a liberal who is heavily invested in a variety of social action issues?  Um, not so much!

But this week my brother in law posted something awful about the situation in Ferguson MO.  I rarely respond to his posts as he is so narrow minded  conservative that we see eye to eye on nothing except our mutual love of family.

I will be quiet about many things, But I can't be quiet when someone I love says that this is all blown out of proportion and that the person who was shot was a bad person, ergo they should die.  I wrote that my children have been followed in stores when they were separated from me. I wrote about a memorable incident when Rob was about 9 and Chet was about 19 when they were accused to stealing from a gift shop.  They left the store because I was holding the items they had wanted to buy.  Instead of cashing me out, she had run after them screaming that they needed to "pay for their things." It was my first racism in the open type of experience.  Up here in the Northeast I find people tend to be less open about it. It exists, it is just usually less blatent.

BIL responded that he was sorry that happened but that didn't mean my kids were going to be targeted as adults and killed.  No. It doesn't. but it is a symptom of a pattern of injustice and inequality.  The white kids who left the gift shop were not run after and hollered at.  Only the 2 kids of color. 

The thing is, if one has not experienced it, I guess it is easy to dismiss. To see it as an isolated instance, not a symptom of something that is wrong. Something we need to fix,because I very much believe that this is fixable. But we need to understand that cute little black boys who love to skateboard grow up into handsome black men. Who still like to skateboard incidently, but are now suddenly kicked out of the area you let them skate at when they were little and cute.   The area in question is not posted for no skateboarding. The kids were not making noise or destroying anything.  I truly believe it was that suddenly, they were not "little" and there is a cultural perception of threat when kids of color become young men. 

We need to understand that hoodies don't mean thugs. And just as my BIL would want me to believe that all drummers in heavy metal bands are not druggie losers (which he most definately is not) we need to see people not stereotypes.  When we do that, more mamas may worry less about their sons coming home at night.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Reindeer take the wheel!

KC and Lissa have a plethora of stuffed animals.  They call them "their kids" and they are very very real to them.  Certain kids like to go camping with them. Others are for sleeping with.  And then there are others that have the most amazing adentures.

Reindeer is a stuffed puppet that my mom got them two or three Christmasses ago. This was the conersation last night as I braided Lissa's hair.

"Ooma, you won't believe what happened!"

"What happened Lissa?" responds clueless Mom.

"Reindeer had a car accident . . . AGAIN!"

"Oh really?  That sounds bad.  I didn't know she was old enough to drive."

I am sure there was an eye roll here that the braiding hair mom could not see.
"Well yes, she is 20 you know. And it is her third accident, can you believe it?"

"Hmmm, but driving is a big responsibility. Maybe she is not quite ready for it yet?"

"Oh, she's ready all right.  It's just that she has these little hooves, you know.  And they slip off the wheel when she is driving because she can't really hold it.  I don't know what she's going to do know--I am NOT buying her another car!"

At this point it took all I had not to convulse in laughter.  And interested readers will be happy to know that a dangerous reindeer is no longer crashing along the highways and byways.  She has made a journey to the Arctic and enrolled in flying school!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The College Guy!

Thus far, it has been a pretty smooth entry into college life for our Rob.  He only had classes two days this week because of the Monday holiday.  That made it a bit easier for him (and the parents) to start adapting to the new schedules.  K and I bring him to the train station in our city as it is not in walking distance and pick him up at night.  Once in the Big City he uses the T to get around.

Yesterday when I picked him up he said he had met another student who enjoyed skateboarding and who said there was a skate park not far from the college.  Rob has a big lag between two classes one of the days so he is looking to bring his board and skate for a bit on that day with his new pal. He had all ready found out that the college has lockers if we give him a lock to bring so his laptop and school books would be safe while he does this.

The majority of the evening pickups and nne of the morning drop offs fall to me because of my wife's work schedule and the fact that the train is pretty consistantly late. My Mondays will be insane as I will be juggling KC's dance class, Lissa's Girl Scouts and getting Rob from the station.  But I think I have a carefully planned scenario that allows all of this to happen

I am just happy that he seems to be enjoying college and has, as I had hoped, jumped in with both feet. The house is much emptier when he is gone--it is a lucky thing for all of us that a couple days a week he has no classes this semester and is home!

Monday, September 1, 2014

My son, My young adult

I think it is hard for every parent to step back and let their teens and young adults make their own choices.  However, for me there is an added layer of concern.  My son is a strong handsome black man.  He loves to skateboard and wear Bob Marley T's.  He loves smooth jazz and hiking in the woods. He is helpful, especially to seniors and so easy going that young children and animals are nearly always drawn to him.

But that is not what it is likely to be seen if he is stopped by law enforcement, or if a stranger saw him walk down the street.  I have always thought about his safety, but somehow I was less aware of the fact that he is now  seen as a man and not a boy.  Probably it is that "mom" thing.  Our kids are always our kids.  The treasured memories I have of him as a young boy influence how I see him.

Yet on a recent camping trip to NH, this  was brought home to me.  Others from our city were also camping in the same place.  Most of those folks were related and were part of a family reunion. Apparently one of the reunion  families said that they knew there was another family from our city camping there. (meaning us of course.)  "I think they are in that tent in the back" she was told.  The woman answered-- "Oh do you mean the white lady and the black man and those two little kids?"

I know this because later the parties involved saw me en route to the washroom and decided to share this with me.  That was the first time that I thought of people seeing Rob as a man, not my son.  I am in a relatively progressive area of the country but "relatively" is the key word.  There are many studies done about how young black men are perceived as threatening.  There have been incidents in our community in the past, there have been horrific things that have happened in a myriad of locations around the country.  Ferguson is sadly not as isolated an incident as we would like to believe.

We speak often, he and I about the things he must do to stay safe.  But tomorrow he goes off to college and for the first time is making most of his decisions on his own.  I pray for a fulfilling and safe college experience for him in the big city.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The amazing Market Basket story

My kids and I shop at Market Basket. They are a family owned grocery store with stores in a number of cities and states along the east coast. They are known for reasonable prices and good quality foods--especially the produce.  Usually that is purchased from local farmers when possible which is awesome. 

They are a great place to shop for a cost concious family. They are a great place to work as well.  I have residents who have worked there and there is a great bonus structure for the employees.  Even part time cashiers receive sizable bonuses yearly.  (FYI larger bonuses than I receive in my  office position where I have worked for more years than I am willing to write!) LOL  They are also known for hiring the disabled and being proactive at helping them to succeed in their employment there.

So why do I bother writing about where I buy groceries?  Because for the past month I have not been buying groceries there.  The family that owns the chain is feuding.  Actually they have been feuding for about 25 years, but with one side of the family recently wresting control from the other, things reached a boiling point.

What is interesting to me is the fact that the workers sided with the ousted family members.  Though a number of senior level employees were terminated, there have been rallies, protests and an amazing amount of solidarity surrounding this.  For the first time in recent memory, workers have really helped to influence the outcome of a sitaution at their workplace.  We don't live in the time of powerful unions anymore--and in fact to the best of my knowledge, this situation has no union involvement at all.  Yet the workers have managed to keep alive a strong and united protesting presence.

For the record, I have *hated* shopping at the other store that was available to me.  My bill is $50.00 more a week and I don't buy convenience foods or meats.  I am absolutely hoping that the situation resolves itself soon.  But for now, I stand in solidarity with the workers of the Market Basket chain and hope that all their efforts result in a return to a great place to shop and a great working situation for them.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

And still more camping!

Last weekend me camped again, this time at a new to us campground in upper NH.  We were literally a stone's throw from VT.  It was a peaceful little mom and pop operation, yet in an ironic twist the owner is from the city we live in.  I did not know this at the time and there were as a result, 30 folks from our city up there for a family reunion!  Truly our world is smaller than we realize!

We spent Saturday at the kids favorite theme park (we have season passes) and then late Saturday afternoon headed to the pool.  There KC and Lissa made friends with two little girls and I started chatting with their dad.  We all got really friendly and have exchanged emails and phone numbers as they have family not far from us and visit down in our area often. (they were not part of the reunion crowd and actually live in NH)

After supper, we all played with the glow sticks that I brought, and the large grassy field lent itself to raucous games of chase.  When it was time to settle a bit, everyone, including the new friends came down to our tent site for a campfire.  The dad is new to camping and learned about  smores and mystical fire that night!

We also found a cafe where we had breakfast. A ymmy breakfast, too!  One of the fun things we do when we camp in a new locale is to try and find a small  place to eat a breakfast or a lunch. Nothing y pricey but something that is not a chain.  I have nothing against Subw*y and such, but truly there is nothing like finding a cool place that is owned and operated by a person with creativity and good cooking skills.  Rob is usually the guy I put this challenge to, as he aspires to a culinary career.  He has not steered us wrong yet and the Moon Beam Cafe was stellar.  (if you will pardon the celestial pun!)

As is our norm, the weather was rainy the night we arrived--we literally got our tent up seconds before a downpour.  Then it was cloudy on Saturday and gorgeous on Sunday when we had to depart.  But we are way past letting rain or clouds bother us.

I don't know whether it is knowing that this may well be the last year Rob will come with us--at least at this level of camping.  Or if it is needing a mental break from harsh realities of our world, but we have escaped to campsites around new england more this year than ever before.  WE have made wonderful memories, deepend old friendships and made new ones.  Under gleaming stars with fires warm glow, the hatred of Ferguson MO seems far away.  The threat of another war on the horizon can be pushed into the farther reaches of my mind.  We laugh. We sing and tell stories.  Because at the core of who I am I believe that these experiences are a foundation that will help my kids successfully face adversity and remember how to find peace when their spirits need it.  Which is why my spare bedroom is still filled with camping gear, as we leave again on Thursday for our traditional Labor Day weekend campout at the ocean!

Early August campout

We are back from another camping excursion.  This one was to a favorite campground with some friends of ours.  What I especially love about this location is that the tent camping folks (aka us) have sites that are no where near the RV camping folks.  I have nothing against RV campers.  I just like being separate because they bring all their "house" stuff with them.  Radios. TV's Other electrical and noisy things.  All I want is us and  the  natural world.  You get that in spades here as long as you don't mind a long hilly walk to and from the bathroom and the rubbish areas.  Given that there are also black bears in the area, I think being far awy from those things is good as well. LOL

Weather was far from ideal.  As seems to be our pattern this year, we had rain.  Almost every day in varying amounts.  But we still had fun.  It was so quiet at night that it was really hard for me to sleep the first night we were home in the city.  But after that I was used to it again.  Sure did love the peaceful quiet woods though!

In the day time, the kids played with our friends daughter and with other camping friends they met.  In an odd twist of events, we often bump into people we met in years past camping and that happened again for KC at this campground.  He and the little boy got on famously.

Despite its remote location  every Saturday there is a ton of kid friendly activities at this campground.  From 11 a.m through to the magic show that ended at 8 P.m. there were crafts games and more to keep the fun rolling along.

Despite that, I think the memory that the kids will carry away from this one was an hour of swimming in the rain

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Just Beachy!

Weather wise this has been an odd summer.  Not a lot of weather that was conducive to visiting the beach--at least on the weekends, when I am not working and can bring the family.  Fiona was supposed to visit this weekend but the house said they did not recieve either of my 2 emails so they could not accommodate.  I am going up to thehouse tomorrow to spend some time with Fi and to help her do some sorting and hopefully organizing of her room.  It is unacceptable to me that we don't have time to see each other.

This meant though that today was free for the beach--I would not have gone if Fiona was with us as the ocean frightens her.  We went shopping early and set off by 8:30 for the trek.  A bit under an hour later we were there.  The sky was that perfect cerulean blue that I associate with high summer.  The temperaturse were perfect so that you could warm up after being in the water but not burn your feet on the sands.  Truly it doesn't get better for the beach in New England.  I only took a couple of shots as K had to stay home.  If I am watching 4 kids at the ocean, I spend very little time looking through a lens and a LOT Of time in the water making sure all are safe and having fun.  I snapped these during our lunch break.

I have always said that everyone blooms when they are ready.  Today was Chet's day to bloom.  Chet loves the ocean but is over stimulated by it. The first part of the day was spent helping him acclimate.  When Chet gets wound up, even in siuations he likes.  When the sound of the waves, the feel of the water and sand, the birds, etc combine, it is hard for him to regulate his responses.  He begins to talk incessantly, to forget to swallow and start to drool, wave his arms around and lose a sense of personal space.  For the most part in a situation like the beach I can help him through it.  But it takes time.  That can be hard on the other kids--particularly KC who is profoundly upset when he never gets a turn to talk, or when Chet begins to drool.  But we got through it.

And then something amazing happened!  Chet was able to learn how to boogie board.  We have tried to help him with this for years to no avail.  He would wind up using the board to slap the waves, but never get the concept of lying on it and riding the waves in.  Yesterday--it connected and he successfully rode.  And then did so over and over for several hours. This also allowed him to "hang out" as he put it with the other boogie board folks and he did so with appropriate actions to boot.

We finished the day at our favorite ice cream stand on the way home, sandy tired, and full of joy.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Rob went out with his girlfriend last ngiht and came home a bit later than his curfew.  I went out to the kitchen prepared to remind him of his responsibilities but stopped short when I saw his face.  Something was wrong and he had a really heartbroken look on his face.

He literally fell into my arms sobbing. Rob's taller than me, so I suspect we were quite a picture!  Rob is not a fellow who cries often or easily.  As a young child he would scream in terror but I can count on one hand the number of times that there were tears of sadness or even of anger.  I think that early experiences in his life taught him not to do this.

He was beyond words for a few minutes but eventually was able to share that he was feeling emotionally overwhelmed after meeting J. Last night was not the itme to start delving deeper.  It was just a time for holding, and reminding that he is loved and he does not have to figure this out on his own.  I told him the same thing I told Fiona on Saturday.  That conflicting emotions are normal, and that we are family and here for him. But in the days and weeks to come, we need to work together on this. I hate watching my kids hurt.  I rarely have trouble sleeping but I did last night.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Celebrations and Reunions

So today I drove to a very big city to Rob's brother Dee's baby shower.  It was a great day. I was exceedingly proud of the fact that I navigated there without "side journeys" (aka getting lost) due to my abyssmal sense of direction!  Traffic was horrid and that made me feel stressed insdie but I think I did well getting through it and not conveying my terror of highway driving  LOL

We got there and met Dee's fiancee--that would be the young woman with the wide smile and the lovely melon dress in the picture. We hit it off instantly, she and I. She has a bubbly personality, is absolutely over the moon happy to be having a baby, and she and Dee are very deeply in love.  It is wonderful.  It was great to see Dee again.  It has been far too long since we got together.  He and I have also always hit it off.

There were cousins that Fiona and Rob have not seen in years.  There was their sister Krystal who they have not seen in years.  That is her on the far right in the picture. I had worked hard to prepare Fiona for the day. We had wrapped gifts together and talked about how baby showers work because she had never been to one before. I had filled her in on the folks I knew would be there.  What I did not know was that their birth mom was coming.  That is J on the far left.  J did not know we were coming either. I think Dee genuinely didn't think about it.  He and his fiancee did this shower themselves; I thought family were throwing it for them but that wasn't really the case.

Luckily I overheard that she was coming from the train station and had time to talk with Fi and Rob in advance.  So although to say they were prepared would be an over statement, they were not blindsided.  Poor J was though.   I felt badly for her as she sort of fell apart when she saw the 2 kids. (acutally she walked past Rob first, not knowing that the tiny fellow she once held was now a strapping young man) She and I went outside to a lovely courtyard and sat together.  I'd never met her, but we connected.  We both hugged and cried. I told her what good kids they are. She had not recognized Rob when she first came in and I think that was perhaps the most painful thing for her.  I spent time talking about hte fine young man that he has grown into.  How he is a quiet fellow but when he has something to say it will be deep and from his heart.  J said she is like that too.  It was good to share stories about the kids, to hug and cry together.  I am incredibly blessed and love my kids more than there are words for.  I also recognize though that our family is built on the fracturing of another family.  However I hold an image in my mind that I saw on the internet. It is of a Japanese art form where cracked bowls are mended with beautiful threads of gold.  I think at its best and most thoughtful, building families through adoption can be like that.

When J felt stronger we went back inside and the kids spent time with her.  She had also brought her youngest daughter who is 9 and whom she is parenting. She and Lissa played  together.  R is wearing the pink shirt in the picture.

On the way home I stopped at a nearby Dunkin Donuts and sent all but Fiona in to pick up some fuel for the ride home for us all.  This gave Fi and I a chance to talk together about how she was feeling.  It was her turn to cry and to share some of her conflicted feelings.  She was glad though that her big dream of all of her family-adoptive and biological--being together happily had come to be.  She also recognized that the day may have been hard on KC who has not been able to meet his birth mother although they do have intermittent contact by letter. We did not have more than maybe 10 minutes or so before the troops were back with some food but it was enough  (I think) for reassurance and for reminding her that J can love her and she can love J and I will still love her.  She can also feel happy AND sad about J.  It is okay to have more than one feeling about someone.

I think it went okay because although I had brought a prn in case she needed it, she did not and the homeward trek was pretty normal.  Singing to the radio, talking and acting like her typical self.  I have emailed a lengthy post to the group home so that they will be aware of all that transpired. Meanwhile, I am feeling incredibly blessed that this reunion was able to happen.

Yesterday, at least for that moment in time, the gold threads of healing were shining in the cracks of our large family.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Planning for a festive Saturday

I am dancing inside with excitement.  Fiona's group home has a new clinical director and I really like her!  I am totally totally over the moon with excitement to have her as part of my daughter's team.

For the first time since she went to the group home, I have felt like I am not tilting at windmills and justifying myself six ways from Sunday.  But let me back up, so poor confused readers can see my excitement.

Fiona and the rest of the kids and I are going to go to her bio brother Dee's baby shower tomorrow.  I know how very very much Fiona wants to attend this. I also know that it is not likely that she will get lots of opportunities to see Dee or other members of her extended family. With their work schedules and transportation issues, it is challenging to orchestrate.  So this is a great time to get together.  A gathering like this is typically less stressful for my daughter as she is a social butterfly and loves to flit and chat with lots of people. It is when things get more deeply personal that she struggles.

Dr. C, the new clinical director called me this week and we had a very long, very productive discussion about the event, Fiona's issues, my plans for addressing issues that could come up or that have shown up in the past etc.  At the end of the conversations she said that I had a really good plan in place and that she would meet with the team and recommend it be approved.

The next day I got an email from the house director, that copied Dr. C saying my daughter has a consult to have her wisdom teeth extracted that same day.  While the procedure whould not happen then, they wanted to take her to the appointment and then meet me somewhere on the highway and have me take her to the party after that.

This filled my little heart with dread.  Part of my "plan" involves Fi helping to wrap the gifts she helped to pick out and to use that time to talk with all the kids about what a baby shower is.  How people act there, how there is not lots of one on one time with the new parents etc.  The dental visit would make those prep steps impossible.  Perhaps a less directionally challenged person could have that discussion en route. I will need to be totally immersed in the drive to the city.

Dr. Collins called me again last night and amazingly  she shared my concern! She felt that my plan was a good one and a healthy one and that combining the two was far too much for my daughter.  She advised me to contact the house director and ask that he reschedule the consult and that I notify the DDS of my decision as well.  I have done so and hope that all this means that tomorrow will be a day my daughter enjoys, feeling the love of both her biological family and her adoptive family surrounding her and supporting her.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Checking in with Fiona

Fiona was here this weekend and it was all good--till it suddenly wasn't.  I had no inkling of trouble brewing, she was not showing any of the physical indicators that cue me that she feels stressed. She wasn't saying anything that would give me a hint.  However a very mnor thing (KC creating a new game to play with a ball while the rest of us walked a dog) set her off.  She announced she had planned to play soccer. She only wanted to play soccer. We were not fair. KC was mean. She made a mistake having me her guardian and finsihed off the tirade with tears and announncing she wanted to go home.

I know that she has told me when she is calm that she does not like losing control in front of her siblings so I figured that was the root of that request. However she refused to communicate with me and stormed into the house, leaving me to explain to the staff as best I could, all that had happened.

Then I came home and spent the rest of the night off and on consoling KC who was devastated by the outburst.  He and Fiona are very close and he felt blindsided and betrayed.  Fiona called that night and said she was sorry, but I could still hear the anger and agitation in her voice.  I told her I acceped her apology and that we would talk Monday.

I called her after work and she sounded much more herself.  She wanted to know if I was mad at her. I explained that I was not angry, but that I was a little disappointed that she felt she had to run home and that we could not work on taking some space and then talking.  I also said that I thought something else was bothering her because games had changed before and that had never been a problem.  I asked if she was nervous about going to Dee's party next Saturday. She said that yes she was.  She wanted everyone to get along.  I said that I was sure we would.  She wanted to know if I had ever been with all the people that would be there. I said no, but I had met a lot of them and that I was looking forward to meeting those I have ony Facebooked or emailed.  Fiona's deepest desire is for all of us bio and adopted sides of her family to "blend."

I genuinely am not thinking that anything other than a good time will happen.  I think she could finally see that I am sincere in that and seemed to sound more relaxed.  Hopefully she will do well at her program this week and Saturday, we will be off to Dee's baby shower.