Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Helping Jar

I think I wrote a long time ago about our family change jar.  It is a "helping jar" and the change that is accrued is donated to a charity that we vote on as a family annually.  I'd love to have people think that teaching altruism to my children was my first goal. The sad reality is that this came about to stop the pouncing on pennies in parking lots and screaming "It's mine!  All mine!"  Which of course was answered by someone else saying that it was really theirs, they saw it first etc, etc.  Suffice it to say some very not pretty moments birthed the helping jar.

But from that evil primordial ooze, a great tradition evolved.  I have loved the fact that we enjoy watching the change mount up.  It is one of those jars that counts what you put in so that is helpful as it inspires  us all to see how much we can add.  I enjoy the debates that occur about who or what to help each year.  Everyone is pretty passionate about their ideas and there is a lot of good discussion/debate, despite the wide range of ages.

This year we ammassed $63.00 which is pretty impressive.  Actually it was probably enhanced because I hadn't had time to get the jar to the bank for counting until this past Saturday.  And while the charitable organizations names were going up on our dry erase board for consideration, a new and different idea floated by.

A friend of ours was looking for a micro-loan to replace an engine in his truck.  This young man is a smoke jumper out west, and the seasonal nature of his work makes it hard for him to get traditional financing. The micro-loan concept is something I have personally supported on www.kiva.com  I explained the idea to the kids, and we left the 4 choices on the dry erase board.  Several hours later I came into the kitchen for tea and found 4 different colored circles drawn next to William's name.

I liked that the kids were thoughtful about their choice and that they were willing to share their reasoning.  Several felt the fact that our money could do "double duty" going out to help someone else when this loan is repaid was a deciding factor.  (that person may also think that means if they find money it does not need to go in the helping jar but I am going to ignore that possibility for now!) Someone else voted for him because they decided that doing something as dangerous as smoke jumping should be supported.  Someone else voted because they think everyone should have a way to get to work.

I don't have a lot of spare money--even less with a young man going off to college in the fall. But I also believe that I can share a little, and that I can teach my kids to do this.  And I hope that William gets an engine for his truck and comes home safely from the fires he will fight.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Catching Up.

Things have been humming along at a slightly crazed pace here!  Easter was great--Fiona was home for the weekend and came to church with us. She and I helped with the church school Easter egg hunt midway through the service.  It was a lot of fun.  Our kids had their annual Easter bunny scavenger hunt when we got back from church.  Somehow despite having a birthday party to take them to the day before, we managed to check the boxes off on the things that make the holiday special to them.  Easter egg dying with our neighbor, bringing Easter flowers to another neighbor, the hunt, cinnamon buns for breakfast, and a big Easter dinner with everyone.

Rob has begun his GED testing so that he can apply at a local college.  He passed the first two with no issue and took 2 more last night. We will know in about a week what the results are for those.  Assuming he passes there is one more test left. He also worked two days this week for the place where he had a summer internship last year.

Our van began to remind us that we were on borrowed time. It was a 2003 and had very high miles. I happened upon a great deal on Craigslist from a small local dealer. 2010 van with only 32K miles on it.  Previously owned by an elderly gentleman who lost his license due to his advanced years.  It took me about a week to arrange financing through a loan against my 401k but we now have a van that will be safe, reliable and hopefully see us through our remaining years of needing a van.  I opted to borrow against my 401k because the interest rate is substantially lower than anything I can get locally for purchase of a used car.    We are discussing selling our camper as K only comes with us once a year and it seems like a lot of money to tie up for one annual campout.  The other camp outs the kids and I always tent.

I thought it was spring here in New England but it was so cold yesterday we had to run the pellet stove again.  I really hope bashful spring comes soon to stay!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Open Doors

When Rob was very little--2 or under--his first mother forgot he was outside playing, locked the door and left the house to go get his siblings at school.  He didn't notice her leaving and while she was gone, tried to get in the house and could not.  He screamed and kicked the door in terror.  I have always been appalled by this bit of my son's history, hurting for that little boy that he was.  For many many years, if he thought a door was locked he would revert to that frightened toddler, kicking and pounding on the door with glazed eyes, afraid that he had been once more locked out. We have an old house and the doors routinely stick in the humidity of summer, so there were a number of these incidents.

Over time, they stopped, though I will admit I have always been super careful to make sure doors were unlocked when he was out.  Also I can't ever go to sleep when my kids are due home so I am always up when he comes in from where ever he has been, regardless of the time.

A couple of nights ago he was out with his girlfriend. My wife and I were in our work room doing piece work when he came in the front door about 10.  He had a really funny look on his face.  I asked if he was all right, and if he'd had a good time.  "the back door was locked," was his reply. It turned out that K had absent mindedly locked it behind her when she brought the dog in from his final tour of the yard that night. I said "honey there will always be a door open for you here at home."  He gave me a huge hug, I think perhaps because he was the one needing it.

There was no kicking or pounding on the door, so one certainly can say that progress has been made.  But there was a look in his eyes that I can't describe. That look let me know that there is still that abandonment fear buried down there underneath the tall handsome strapping young man that he is now.

So for his birthday, he is getting a key to both doors.  I have not been one to give out keys to the house.  My kids lose things like you will not believe.  But it would not be safe to do a Hide A Key in our neighborhood at present.  So I am going to trust that on the brink of man hood, he can handle a couple of keys.  And in reality, for him to feel that he can always come home trumps the cost of a lock change if he loses them.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Filling Holes

Foster families, residential placements, failed living situations, they all leave holes in the fabric of lives.  Friendships cut short, routines changed, belongings lost or taken.  One such casualty was Fiona's bike.  It happened when she was much younger but it was a huge emotional loss to her.  I could not do anything about it though because the next placement did not have any safe biking options and did not allow her to have one.

She asked me if I"d buy her a bike for Christmas. I told her I would do it in the spring as it is hard to ride far in New England in the winter.  Boy did I call that one right, as this was a cold and very snowy winter.  She checked in with me nearly every week since then, asking if it was time yet to get the bike.  I told her today was the day.

We went to a local big box store --.  I wish I had taken the picture above  farther away.  You sure can't see much of the bike!  On the other hand, you CAN see the glow of happiness on her face.  She wanted a cruiser style, sort of retro looking with the wider tires and handle bars. It is a brilliant sunny orange and has the most beautiful paisley design painted on it.

Fiona also handled the whole shopping excursion very maturely. The first bike she chose was too tall for her. On the 26 inch frame she felt tippy and insecure. She is barely 5 foot 1 and it just wasn't a good fit.  It was such a pretty bike though, sunshine yellow with pink flowers painted all over it.  I thought perhaps she might not be able to direct her thinking to other options, but she did.

Our efforts were further hampered by another shopper who thought she would "help" us by having Fiona try the 24 inch bike she was looking at.  It was not Fiona's style and she politely refused..The woman offered again, explaining that she should "just see" if it was the right height.  Fiona I could tell thought the bike was ugly and was not ever going to go anywhere near it. She shook her head no, but her body language looked more tense. I said that she had a particular style in mind and was a stylish young lady who wanted an equally stylish looking bike.  "Well that's just stupid" the woman responded.  At this point I wondered if Fiona was going to explode but she was silent.  I said "excuse me, but you are speaking of my daughter and that is just not polite."  To her credit the woman apologized and left the bike area!  Why anyone would think it was okay to tell someone else their idea is stupid is beyond me, but I am beyond grateful that the callous comment did not mar the day for her.

The afternoon was spent riding with KC Lissa and Rob, getting the feel of wheels underneath her again. Then we rode up to my friends house up the street where all the kids played on the trampoline there.  It was magical. I had not anticipated the new house taking the bike back when they came to pick her up, but they did. I am fine with that as I will totally hold their feet to the fire as far as taking care that nothing happens to her bike.  In this smaller setting, it should be very manageable.  And it seems to me that it is important for her to be able to see that in her new home she can and will have things that are of importance to her. In some small way, today we darned one of those holes that her past has left her with.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Spring has sprung and I'm hopping busy!

The past week or so has been continuing in our busy mode.  Partly my life has been more busy than usual because my wife has been very ill.  She has been sick in various degrees since before her birthday in early February. She has had 3 rounds of a variety of antibiotics and is still not fully well.  It is one of those things that seems to almost but not quite leave her and then comes back again.  Horrid cough and chest congestion. It is not pneumonia but it is a near thing, a very severe bronchial infection that the Dr indicated was but steps away from pneumonia.  So there has been that.

There has also been a flurry of activity around getting things together for Rob to be considered at his college of choice.  Actually his second college of choice.  He opted not to go to the first one; I think rather suddenly deciding he did not want to spread his wings quite as far as going across the country to school. I am okay with that. However choice number 2 needs for him to have a GED where he is a homeschooler so we have been setting up the test dates for that. Our state was in the midst of re-tuning the GED test so this took a lot of calls and call backs to make sure we would be able to do this in the correct time line for the college.

Fiona has had some issues at the home and I have been busy dealing with that. Most of the issues surround the staffing and the way things are handled or not handled at the home. Very little of it, is really Fi at this point.  Also with trying to find the SSI payment that would have gone to DCF the month before I became her payee.  DCF says they returned it to the SS office. SS says they don't have it.  Fun.

I have been teaching in our church school and that has been fun.  These are little kids and i don't have anyone in this class for the first time ever.  Feels kind of funny, but it is such a great group of kids.  I love spending the morning there.

There has been shopping for Easter clothes, there is on going planning for KC's birthday party which happens Easter weekend, and the great fun of getting our taxes done.  LOL  Actually it was not as horrible to do as in prior years.  For the first time I could file as married for both federal and state which made a long tedious job less long and less tedious.

At long last we seem to have broken the back of winter but the days are still far chillier than is usual for April and there are as yet no pansies to be found at the local greenhouses.  I am devastated as I adore pansies. They are for me, one of the vanguards of spring and this year, they may not appear in my garden. It may well be one of those odd seasons where we go from really chilly to really warm (a condition pansies don't particularly love).  However, I will content myself with some garden bed clean up and the longer daylight hours.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Agent P nears double digits

KC turns 10 this month.  Utterly unbelievable to me that the wee 4 pound peanut I held in 2004 is now this confident, artistic, and amazing young man!  We are in the midst of painting the birthday mural.  He chose a Phineas and Ferb theme and sketched out his entire mural design on his own.  We have yet to add in the bobble head family members and the finer details but today saw much of the painting done. You actually can't see about 1/2 of the mural from my shot. He has a big silver machine called the "salad-inator" upon which Chet is supposed to stand.

The picture below is a selfie he took of himself in his favorite Agent P fedora.  10??? Really?????  I stare at that number with the same sense of wonder and disbelief that I do the college apps that festoon my computer desk. Rob is nearly 18 and charting his course for young adulthood, albeit with a certain laconic vibe.  He definately does envision life as an adult and life outside the confines of our home and this is good.  Frankly I am okay with kids taking their time.  Leo the Late Bloomer was always one of my favorite books and I think it always helps me remember that each flower blooms beautifully, at just the right time.