Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Derby Hats and dirt!

For about 3 weeks now my computer and my camera have been feuding, totally refusing to talk to one another.  Thankfully, my laborious efforts have somehow gotten them to recommit to their on again off again relationship as I had 167 pictures on the camera!  These were two of them--the hats we made to wear while we watched the Kentucky Derby. You will note that like most things we do, we have our own spin on what constitutes a Derby chapeaux!  The top photo has KC's (he took a lime bandanna and covered the bill of his ball cap) Lissa and Chet with his lucky horse shoes.  The second picture is Rob's "Rasta Lion" hat, Kirsty's "flower" cap  and mine which has gold stars and lucky horse shoes.

It isn't just that I wanted to post these pictures, but late last night my wife arrived home from her trip to KY to visit a dear friend.  She brought me  A racing horseshoe with real dirt from Churchill Downs!  Yes, really.  The little girl in me who dreamed of being a jockey literally squealed with delight.  I have yet to decide where to put it.  It is so special and so very , very cool.

It is a mark of how well she knows me.  Today is also our anniversary.  On this day in 1979 we pledged our commitment to each other privately.  On this day, in 2004, we pledged it publicly and were declared married. I never thought that would happen.  Then I never thought it would happen anywhere but here in my New England state.  Now there are 18 states that recognize my marriage legally.  That blows me away almost as much as the length of time we have been together.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

First campout of the season!

This picture, taken in a rare moment of sun this weekend shows my fearless little 7 year old daughter rock climbing.  She went all the way to the top and rang the bell.  KC went about 6 feet and said, "take my picture quick, I'm coming down!"  LOL  Different abilities, different moments to shine.

KC's big achievement was successfully solo kayaking.  I was nervous, watching and pacing from the shore, but proud nonetheless as he paddled around under his own steam.  They are growing up for sure!

We spent the weekend camping in the lakes region of the White Mountains at a place that offered many different opportunities for the kids to have fun.  We were with friends too so they also were sharing the experience with a good friend which is always a plus.

In addition to the rock climbing wall, there was a bungee jumper where they could jump really high into the air and/or do flips.  Lissa did 25 flips in a row on one of her session. She learned how to do double flips too.  There was  a spider climb that led to a giant inflatable slide.  There was a skate park for BMX biking and skatboarding.  Rob was in his glory there, skating all day and then heading back with newfound skater compadres to skate by flashlights in the evening.  There was mini golf, kayaking and paddleboats.  And I am sure I am forgetting something. Oh! the rain!  LOL

It poured Friday night and a trip that should have been 2 hours max was about 3 1/2 with the holiday traffic and the horrible weather.  When we stopped for supper our waitress was hard pressed not to guffaw when she heard we were tent camping.  "that will be fun!" she snorted, heading really quickly to the kitchen where she probably fell down laughing.

We had lots of water in the tent, so much coming from above our fly could not keep us dry, but we still had fun.  We had tall air mattresses so that helped a bit.  Saturday was okay till about 3 and then it started raining again.  We headed back to our tent, ate a quick supper and invited our friends to squish into our tent for card games. I brought a slew of them, and they brought a few as well.  Again, it was fun, though wet.  Sunday the weather was nice all day and most of the night.  But by 6:30 on Monday morning, our friend the rain had returned.  Made for a soggy breakdown of camp but we were nonetheless on the road by 9 and back home by a bit after 11.

I think fun is what you make of it.  Certainly rainy camping trips are not my preference.  The clean up takes longer, and keeping the kids happy is certainly more work. But by and large, my group have learned that we are there to have fun and fun will be had regardless. It may get changed up from our plan, but it will still be fun.

Now I am ready to head back to work tomorrow, with great memories of our campout to sustain me. I am sure my desk is buried!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A new Chapter

KC has many friends, many of whom are girls.  One girl in particular has been calling the house and they chat animatedly several times a week. She was in his hip hop class this year.  She was the only new girl in the class and felt nervous and out of place those first week.  KC and Lissa both went out of their way to welcome her in and the friendship has blossomed all year.

Last night KC came into the kitchen as I was cleaning up.  He said he had something really REALLY important to tell me and he hoped "I would be cool with it."  He then assured me that Devin's mom "was all ready cool with things."

"The thing is" he said, "Well, Devin and I are a couple now."  Whaaaaaat? I wanted to screech!  You are 10!  10 stinking years old.  I am so not ready for this.

But that sweet face was tipped up to me so earnestly.  I gave him a big hug and said that I loved him and I thought Devin was a sweet girl (this is true) and I was happy for him.  He then asked if he should get Devin a gift or something "because he wasn't really sure how this worked."  I said no gift was really needed,  that making the step from good friend to boyfriend and girl friend was big, but that the most important thing was to enjoy the things about each other that made them like each other in the first place.  "OK cool, Ooma, can I have a popsicle now?"  was his response.

Recital Recap

Yesterday was day 1 of the 2 day recital for KC and Lissa.  It has been a busy week, with dress rehearsal on Thursday night, and costume adjustments, leading up to the big performance weekend.  Happily, both kids are very excited. They are seasoned performers now, enjoying the dancing, the fooling around with their chums back at the cafeteria, the glitz, etc.

Lissa totally has found her wheel house in hip hop.  She is one of the younger kids in the class but was totally on the beat all the time.  KC was great but he has had a couple years of classes and this was Lissa's first. I was just amazed at the transformation in her from last year, to this.  She did well in her ballet number too, but I think this is largely because they were clowns and she could also do handstands and cartwheels. Hip hop appeals to her inner sense of movement and her physicality in ways that other dance styles don't.

KC rocked all three of his numbers.  He is a natural and I have people stop me and say that they are drawn to watching him because his delight in what he is doing shines on the stage.   For him, my greatest joy is that he is no longer be-set by nerves before performances.  This is huge for the guy who used to literally shake with fear till the music started.

For the first day of recital I worked backstage as it helps the kids get used to the costume changes.  I have a lot of friends and helped their kids too, knowing that they would reciprocate today when it was my turn to sit and watch the performance.

Today Fiona came to watch and was really excited to be part of the family entourage cheering the littles on.  The god parents came and also, my SIL, beloved Aunt Lynne.  It would have all gone really swimmingly if the home had sent Fiona's noon med instead of an empty sealed envelope.  Sigh.  I had left early because I had to get KC and Lissa backstage an hour before the performance.  I had signed for the meds when Fi arrived but who would think one of the envelopes would be empty??  My wife called the house right away at noon when their error was discovered, but it was not resolved quickly or efficiently.

For Fiona's sake this is an issue.  The med was an anxiety medication.  There is an hour window for such meds, before they are "late" and may cause behavioral or physical symptoms.  So basically if we got the med by 1 p.m. we were golden.

Selfishly, this impacted me at another level as I could not sit in the nearly front row seat that I had purchased and watch my kids.  I had to make repeated calls to the house staff trying to get them to bring the pill and it would be grossly unfair to impact others experience by sitting there yakking.  So I left the hall to take the call and was told that someone would be there in 30 minutes.  I gave our address and precise location no less than three times.  They still went to the wrong city and the wrong school.  I got to glimpse the hip hop number from the back of the hall and the same for KC's tap number.  I am grateful I could see it but I sure would have enjoyed being in my seat.

****Clearly I started this post long ago.  Life has been crazy busy as we are now getting ready for our first campout of the season. There has been fallout over this, the second medication issue for Fiona.  It worries me that this group seem to be so  unorganized about a facet of her life that has to be fairly rigidly controlled.  Supposedly a pharmacy will now prepare her meds and I have to consequently schedule her home visits very far  in advance.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Best Weekend Ever!

Fiona was here this weekend and it was such a great weekend. All week long she had been calling home, chatting with Rob and there was a great level of excitement and secrecy surrounding some Mothers Day plans.  I was excited that she wanted to do something for us for Mothers Day. But it is a emotionally charged holiday and I had a certain level of concern as well.  During the week she had a couple incidents at the group home and I worried that she was going to crash and burn emotionally before the holiday even arrived.  What if she could not come home after all the planning she was doing?  Like my Chet, it is hardest for her to manage her behaviors when she is stressed.  Even when it is something she is looking forward to, it can be too much and put her over the edge.

She arrived on Saturday  in good form though.  The director of the house dropped her off, as there are some staffing issues at present.  He and I chatted while the kids got her things inside.  I like Jim very much and i think he "gets" my daughter more than other people at the program do.  He had found two exciting resources for her --volunteer opportunities that sound like very good fits for her personality.

We spent Saturday in a fairly typical way. We went to the library, made scones for Kirsty's mothers day breakfast (huge shout out to the Pioneer Woman's vanilla bean scones.  Try them, they will not dissapoint!) The kids played outside--we played kick ball and messed around with sidewalk chalk. They played with a young boy who was visiting my neighbor.  Ironically it turned out the child's mom knows my Fiona and works at her program.  Small world!    I made a big stir fry for supper.

Rob's friend from skateboarding came by and wound up stayiing to watch a movie with Rob and Fiona after the littles were put to bed.  Fiona had no night terrors this visit which was great.  We got up early this morning to give Kirsty breakfast in bed and her presents.  She got gift cards and wind chimes, postit notes and hand made cards and flowers .  And scones.  We must not forget her favorite scones!  While she relaxed I got the rest of the tribe fed and ready for church and the kitchen tidy.  Fiona came to church with us and she and I worked in the children's program.

Back at home it was time for Rob to help K at the factory.  They left to do that and the rest of us went to a local park to hike.  Mostly you hike in, as they limit vehicle traffic there.  It was a quiet, easy walk though.  Fiona who is not used to hiking held up quite well. My youngest gremlins of course are strong hikers but instictively held back a bit for their sister.  Once we were at the park itself we fed ducks and fish, messed around on the play equipment and then hiked back.

By this time Kirsty and Rob were home and Fiona announced that K and I had to stay in our work room.  There was much scuttling about and hushed whispers.  Finally we were summoned to the dining room.  I wish my computer was downloading pictures because it was so pretty.  They had found a nice table cloth and dressed the table.  There were decorations. There was a balloon bouquet and sweet gifts from Fi for both of us.  There was strawberry shortcake and ice cream. Somehow, Fiona and the kids had smuggled most of these things in and hidden them while I was talking with Jim on Saturday!  Laughter, hugs and smiles.

It was a day so filled with magic that I can't really write how amazing this all is.  One would have to know how hurt and how truamatized my eldest was, to comprehend the enormity of this journey. I still can't stop smiling.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Your dance guy

Tonight will be the last hip hop dance class for this season.  Next Thursday is dress rehearsal for the 2 day recital.  I am always ready for the break when it comes.  We are at the school 3 days or evenings a week because of the  kids varied dance interests.   Lissa has really come along this year and has enjoyed dance itself, not just being with her friends.  KC has always loved dancing and also has tons of friends there.  He is the guy who always welcomes the new kid into class, who reminds everyone to pay attention, who has ideas for the next 5 recital themes.  LOL He wrote a thank you note to a dance pal who gave him a birthday gift and signed it "your dance guy" which cracked me up.

 Recital will be hectic as KC has 3 costume changes and Lissa has 2.   But it will be fun and lots of family and friends are coming over those 2 days to see the little gremlins do their thing.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Fiona's swim

It is only Wednesday but it has been busy.  Fiona had a scare at the local YMCA. The house took the ladies swimming.  Fiona had a very traumatic near drowning as a child.   It scarred her deeply. She is not a proficienit swimmer.  A housemate pulled her into the deep end and let go of her hand. She floundered to the wall and used it to get herself back to the shallow end.  Fi's impression is that she nearly drowned.  I am sure she did not--the lifeguard never had to assist. But I have learned that perceived reality is as important as the real deal.

What I am sure about is that this massively triggered her trauma and PTSD and all the other things.  She was nearly hysterical when she called me hours later.  I wrote an email to the house director.  NO response.  I wrote another. NO response.  I wrote a third and copied DDS and got an answer.  The most frustrating part for me in all this was that I shared that water history with the entire team so that there would be no issues surrounding water.  I told them how I had to hold her hand when we went to the lake last summer. And how she took 30 minutes to work up the courage to really be in the water and was shaking when she stepped in.

Missteps like this definately break trust with Fiona, which makes it harder for her to handle other stresses in her life. It caused her behaviors to rachet up during the week and last night there was an incident where she came to blows with another housemate.  It wasn't really serious--no one was hurt, but it is an indicator of a level of decompensation that she has not had in a long time.

On a positive note, Rob got the results on all his tests and he passed, so he has officially graduated from high school.  We have scanned the paper work to the college of his choice and await the next step.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Hello Autism!

It has been a wild day.  Rob was needing to be at church early as the Youth Group were doing the service. So we had to leave our city by 8:30 to be there for 9:00 a.m.  No worries, I got the tribe up, breakfasted and out the door.  I did notice that Chet declined his customary donut from Dunkins but I figured it was because we left significantly earlier than usual.

We got to church and I engaged the youngers in a game of Yahtzee to pass the time.  Chet began opening windows in the sanctuary, saying it was stuffy in there.  I checked with someone else (because I am pretty much always cold) and they agreed, so we left the fresh breezes coming in.

Service began. I sit up front with KC and Lissa. Rob sat with the youth group. Chet always sits in the back in a specific chair that is most comfortable for him.  Part way through the service I am suddenly summoned out of the sanctuary.  Chet had felt dizzy, gone to the bathroom, been ill and then wound up on the floor. When I arrived he was in the lounge, seated. He admitted to me that he had a headache.

The challenge of Chet's autism is that he is perpetually out of touch with his body.  Most of the time he does not notice pain till it reaches a level of crisis and has rendered him nauseous.  There are also other times when a paper cut will cause him to be in paroxyisms of pain but for the most part, it is the former scenario that plays out here.  The down side of this is that if the headache has reached that state there is nothing that I can do. I can't give him any med as he can not hold it down.

So there I am at church, with Rob scheduled to play on the piano and the littles in their classes and Chet, on the couch in the lounge.  I reassured the folks at church that this scenario is not frequent, but not uncommon either.  Chet is a man of extremes. Feeling slightly dizzy will cause him to lay down on the ground spread eagled.  This is not a sign we need to call 911. (smile)

I sat with him till service was over and then walked him to our car, rounded up everyone else and beat feat home.  As expected, he fell asleep in his bed and woke 1 1/2 hours later refreshed and ready to eat.  I hate that his autism blocks his ability to reach out for help when it could solve something.  I am grateful for friends at church who handled this all with considerable kindness and grace.

Friday, May 2, 2014

A post about healing

Fiona called me last night all excited.  She wanted to talk to Rob because she had some "big plans" for Mothers Day and wanted to be sure she was going to be home for it.  Rob was out skateboarding so he'll call her tonight but I could assure her that she would be home. And that, more than whatever she is planning, made me smile.

The fact that she could be home--heck the fact that she WANTED to be home, is so huge that there are not really words to describe it.

Sure, she has called me Mom since she was nine.  But for a looooooong time, that was just a word she put in front of my name; I think because she thought she was expected to. I wasn't her mom in her heart. That spot belonged to a woman who due to her own problems and demons had let Fiona down, and had left "the system" to handle it.

Mothers Day has always been a day we didn't do much with Fiona. Because in the weeks leading up to it she was understandably filled with a cauldron of  painful emotions.  Over the years she shared--anger at her first mom.  Grief for her first mom. Longing for her first mom. Despair. Hating me for being white and gay. Hating me for existing.  Wishing she could be my biological child so she didn't have to feel any of these things. Wishing that her anger and fear didn't block her from healing.

There have been countless hours of therapy. Countless times of hugs and cuddles and just reminding her that I loved her for who she is and that she didn't have to stop loving her first mom, nor should she.  There has been reaching out to her first mom to try and facilitate contact. There has been knitting as many aspects as possible of her first family and our family together into one big raucous, loving family. . . and there has been healing. At last. At least a little bit.

Fiona is 22 now, so I am not minimizing how very much as a parent of a traumatized child you need to be there for the long haul.  If you have a Dr. Spock book that says what will happen at what age?  Throw it out.  Things happen so much more differently with kids coming to us from abuse and other forms of trauma and loss.  There are deep deep wounds that supplant all the milestones, that jumble up the development.

Usually Mothers Day has traditionally only been for Kirsty and there is an "Oomas day" for me (usually on the first day of summer, my favorite season.)  This year we will likely be changing that up because that whole concept would be too hard for Fiona to grasp. And her wanting to celebrate this with me is honestly, the greatest gift of all.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Celebrations small and large

Celebrations are the markers in life. The puncuation points that make us smile when we look back and remember. . .

May baskets are like that for me, because I remember watching in awe as my grandmother made zillions of these when I was a child.  I was 8 or less when I watched her do this as she passed away when I was 9, but it is such a vivid memory.  Hers were much fancier than mine and there were lots more of them.  That's okay.
What makes it okay is that I passed on the tradition to my kids, who love the secrecy around delivering May baskets and trot around to friends and neighbors dropping them off.

Another celebration in our house is Derby Day.  This is truly a "holiday" in our house and we make silly hats and pretend we are all stylish like the spectators at Churchill Downs.  Then we picnic in the living room and watch the first leg of the Triple Crown together.  If anyone dares visit, they too must agree to wear a hat and watch and join the picnic  LOL  (and they have!)

What I love is that my kids remember these things without me.  They came to me this week with the list of folks to get May baskets and KC reminded me we needed to get hat supplies for this weekend.  I love that even small things matter to them and that maybe they will choose to bring these traditions to their own families as adults.  Or, if they don't, that they will know the importance of joyful moments together and craft their own celebrations.