Saturday, June 28, 2014

Strolling in the Summer time

Today was our city's annual "Summer Stroll."  This event is one I look forward to every year.  The downtown is closed to everything but foot traffic.  The local vendors have free or low cost crafts for kids. There is lots of music and demonstrations of things.  There is food to buy or to just admire.Some of the food is even free.  My wife had a job in the morning so she met us down there. We arrived right on time because we did not want to miss the parade.  Actually K doesn't really love crowds or heat--both of which were very much in evidence today, so she wound up staying only an hour or so.  In true J-E Team fashion, the littles and i stayed till about 4 pm

We just take our time.  Lissa got a glitter tattoo.  KC bought himself a cookie from his favorite bakery.  We watched someone doing sand sculpture.  We listened to music while we noshed on pizza and drank free lemonade.  The kids played a number of free games.  Eventually, long after my wife had departed, the kids began to wilt a bit in the heat.

KC suggested that we look at a bead store that we have never been in before.  We went in and it turned out that you could make a necklace or bracelet right there on the premises.  We were the only people in the shop and the kids took their time, picking their beads (after I made sure they were not the really super duper pricey ones!)

KC wanted a beachy, ocean feel to his and spent a long time making sure that just the right shades of blue were found. I thought this was a bit odd as he is all about green. And there were hues of green aplenty in the store.  I found out afterwards that the bracelet was for me!  Good thing that my wrist is as skinny as his.  He let the shop owner measure his wrist for sizing for the bracelet!

Lissa chose some really pretty beads as well, more of an odd pinky brown color but really pretty.  And the total cost for over 20 minutes of contemplative fun for 2 kids?  $2.02!  I'll take that!

In praise of all things summer!

I love summer so.  It is chock a block full of fun stuff.  I will grant you that small things are really cool and fun to me (and usually my kids as well.)  I look forward to this time of year all through the cold long winter.  The longer day light hours have meant time for bike rides to the park to play.  They have meant later bed hours and more stories.  Blowing bubbles on the porch in the twilight. Fireworks. The start of summer book club at the library.  Walking downtown for a slushy. Being able to bike to the library instead of having to always drive. In warm weather my energy is always at its highest.  Not that I am a slug in the cold weather but I am usually pushing myself as physically, it drains me.

Next week is the fourth of July and we are having our usual BBQ  The kids god parents, our dear friends always come over.  So do the folks who live next door.  This year more friends are coming as well--the family who we camped with over Memorial Day weekend.  Fiona will be here as well.  It will be fun.  It will be rowdy.  It will be a bit messy.  And I will love every minute of it.

My wife is being a very good sport about this.  In a classic case of opposites attracting, I am an extrovert.  I am that person who hates to be totally silent.  Who loves to meet new people.  Who thinks that a gathering of 10 or 12  additional folks is a small thing and that making decorations is a blast. I love planning out the food and all the little details that go into making sure people have fun when they gather.  My wife?  2 is a crowd and more than that makes her want a nap!  In fact she has been known to leave a gathering for a nap!  LOL

So I have that on the front burner at the moment, and today I hauled out our 4th of July decorations and the kids and I bought paper goods when we went shopping.  We got plain white table cloths and the kids are going to take some silver sticky paper that I have and make silver stars to fasten all over it. Then KC sees himself completing the effect by drawing fireworks.  We will see. . .

Friday, June 20, 2014

Graduates and Collegiates

It has been a whirlwind of milestones and memories here!  These 2 shots are from Fiona's graduation from the Great School in the Big City.   We were all there Wednesday to watch her walk and receive awards and give a speech.  Her composure was impressive. She looked lovely. She was happy.  She got to connect with so many school chums.  I confess I never thought I would see her walk down an aisle and graduate.  I am still amazed, and proud and glowing.  Her tassle for the hat (which she despised) is hanging by my computer, vivid proof that I am a soppy sentimental mom.  Fiona laughed when she saw it, as she is here for an overnight tonight.

Today was another excursion to the Big City for most of the family.  Rob had orientation at his college and K and the littles rode in on the train with him.  The littles love visiting museums in the city, exploring small eateries and finding green spaces.  They are pretty expert at public transportation and helped out the mom who is far less familiar with those aspects of transportation.  I sadly, had to work and was not part of the visit to the science museum or the swan boat rides etc.

Rob came back excited by his schedule (with perhaps the exception of a 7 a.m. English class which will necessitate a very early train!).  He is also enthusiastic about exploring some of hte sports teams that the college has.  I am so glad. This is what I want for him out of his college experience.  I am glad that he has the kind of personality that will be willing to dabble in new things.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Well Seasoned

There are many wonderful things about being what I call a "seasoned" parent.  One is that I think there is a huge shift in my personal perspective from when I was the young parent of a child with special needs.  Also, Chet was our only child and I think perhaps that factors in as well.    I had not adopted again because his needs consumed so much of our attention that I felt it would be unfair to any other child at that point; the world through his lens of disability was my only view for many years.

I watched friends with neurotypical kids cheer at soccer games.  I watched them plan family gatherings and attend things like fireworks or parades or theme parks.  These things, when we tried them, usually ended in disaster as the event would become so overwhelming to my son that he would behave in ways that were harmful to himself or to me, or disruptive to others.

In some ways, my world shrunk.  Play dates were virtually non existant. He was not invited to parties and did not want to join clubs.  We carved out a new path.  He took swim classes and volunteered at a wildlife sanctuary. We camped and hiked.
 Family gatherings were small and made manageable to him by routine and brevity.  I had tried support groups and found they didn't meet my need.  I found they were filled with weary frustrated people who just wanted to complain.  I didn't want to complain.  I wanted companionship because I am intensely social by nature. I was told often that I should lead a workshop. I didn't want to do that either--at that point I was still trying to make public school life viable for him and I was doing enough advocating and educating there.  My well was nigh onto empty.

But years passed. And either I have shifted, or society has.  I am still a parent of a disabled child who is now a young adult.  Actually, that has changed to being a parent of 2 disabled young adults. But I am also a parent to 3 typical kids.  They have play dates and parties. They love fireworks--like what we went to last night, dance classes and more.

For KC, last nights city fireworks event was a "date" with his girl friend.  She and her family of 5 met us at the venue, a large local park.  We spread our blankets out together and her mom and I began chatting.  We have much in common, from our large families to our sociability.  She told me that she had invited her sister who has an autistic son to join us all.  Her sister was neat, her son was fun, though they had to leave before the fireworks because he was afraid the noise would bother him.  Rob's friend J met us there. He too is developmentally different.  

My point is that we all meshed together and had fun.  We all talked together, blew bubbles, played with light sticks, and played a very whacky game of Hot Potato.  Differences faded.  I suspect society is a bit different now. More is known about spectrum disorders and that helps a lot.  But I suspect a lot of it is that I view things differently as well.  I don't feel that I need to apologize.  I rarely feel embarrassed. This is just the family that we are. And we love each other.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Rob's last RE Sunday

Sunday was a hectic and emotional day here.  Lots of wrapping up of activities and teen experiences.  It was Rob's last RE Sunday at our church.  He received recognition for his help in some of the classrooms this year.  He has been a special helper to a young fellow with some behavioral challenges, greatly improving the classroom environment.  The younger kids had parts in the service.  KC read a haiku that he had written, Lissa and he both helped their classes with a musical selection.

Part of what our church does for the graduating seniors is to give them all the pictures and art that have been saved by the program director.  In Rob's case, he was there since he was 5.  It was a LOT of pictures. And I was struck by so many things looking through them.  Once more, seeing the haunted empty look when he was so young and watching that change in the pictures over the years.  I watched the smile become genuine and reach his eyes. I watched his body posture change. I was also struck by adults who spoke about how Rob is not a talker, but a do-er.  As a member of the Coming of Age, his silent demeanor had been a bit of a challenge.  However, during that year, his mentor ost his father and Rob took it upon himself to write a letter to his mentor. Which so moved the man that he still has the letter and tears up when he mentions it.  "What Rob does, comes from his heart, " was the statement that struck me.

Then we had a picnic at church and from there, came home to get ready for Rob's final piano recital. It was only 3 years ago that Rob asked to take piano lessons and he is a really good pianist.  Not in the classical sense, but he is a great jazz pianist. He feels music and has a creative  musicality.  Reading music isn't his strong suit and neither is being an accompanist--but listening to him play music by John Coltrane accompanied by a jazz ensemble was really pretty awesome. I felt badly as we had to leave right after his pieces because we had to get back to our church.  I made sure I facebooked the music school and thanked his teacher and explained publicly.  I would have been annoyed if I had a child yet to play and saw a whole row of people marching out. LOL  He wrote back about how much he has enjoyed Rob as a student and how intuitively musical he is.

Then it was back to church for a vespers service featuring one of our favorite folk singers--Joe Jencks.  Long time readers will perhaps remember that Joe is from Chicago as are both KC and Lissa.  Once he performed at our church on KC's birthday and sang happy birthday to him. KC has never forgotten that and would not miss a performance of Joe's ever if he had a choice.  After vespers I brought the littles home, but K hung out in the city as it was Rob's last youth group and it was the Bridging ceremony, leading the way to young adulthood.  He brought home several lovely momentos and will be attending General Assembly in RI later this month with the youth group contingency.

The day was so jammed that it was really the ensuing few days that I felt the emotional aftershocks of it all.  In many respects Rob is our first for a lot of these experiences.  Chet was never able to handle the Youth Group environment.  The lack of rigid structure made him unable to hold things together.  He was never able to take part in any type of musical recital as he would get overwhelmed with the sights sounds and sensations. (however he did take guitar lessons for many years and enjoyed that)  Likewise, Chet has never left home and some day, Rob will fully spread his wings and fly. We are in the midst of all the paperwork and hoopla that accompanies the college experience--another thing that Chet did not do.  And I stand on the narrow parental ledge equal parts proud and a bit melancholy as I truly can't imagine what the house will be like when he is not here all the time!

Starburst Saturday

Today is definately not sunny out but at least (knock wood) it is not raining. This is important because today is Starburst, the big music and fireworks festival in our city.  The kids and I look forward to this every year.  It launches summer for us.  The gates open about 4:30 and we are there usually by 5.  My wife stays home and has some well deserved quiet time as she does not enjoy noise and crowds. Rob usually meets the kids he skateboards with down there. The littles and I play frisbee and blow bubbles and such.  This year, KC is meeting his girlfriend there and her family and ours are going to hang out together to enjoy the festivities.

I have been cooking and getting ready for the event. We bring a lot of snacks and drinks, games and glow in the dark toys.  Hoping the weather cooperates!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Saturday revision

Well the weekend was full of excitement though the visit with Dee and Krystal did not come off as hoped for.  Dee called me Saturday and was at the train station in the Big City.  However Krystal had not shown up and was not returning his calls or texts.  Anger with his sister was evident in his voice. as was his worry that the mix up was going to seriously upset Fiona. He was going to come out on his own, which would have been fine with me, but in a cascade of family crisis, his fiancee called in on his phone and was ill at work.  She is expecting their first child and at that point I thought perhaps Dee ought not to come that particular day.  I explained that training to us put him about 90 minutes from her and that it would not be fast, if he should need to get back to her.  I said that Saturday was not like the only chance we had to come together. Fional is here twice a month, more if we can swing it with our schedules. We can do this and work it around Dee's work schedule.

I could hear his voice relax, and he asked if I would mind if he brought his fiancee out with him.  After all, he pointed out, Rob and Fiona would be aunts and uncles and he thought it might be appropriate.  I said it was absolutely appropriate and we would love to have them come out. He is going to let me know his work schedule, which he only gets a week at a time and we will set it up.  Before he and I hung up, he spoke again with Fiona to make sure she was not upset. The level of caring this young man has is impressive to me. He and Rob seem very similar in that regard.

Once the phone call was over, I was talking with all the kids about Dee and his fiancee and the coming of the baby.  Fiona is very excited to be an "auntie" and the little kids decided that of course they were going to be aunts and uncles too.  Then as one, all 4 kids looked at me and said "and YOU are gonna be a gramma!"  Which I guess in a roundabout way, I am.  I am not quite ready to be a gramma, but I am pleased that we are a well quilted enough family that there is never a "whose family is that?" kind of question here. It is a given that we are all family.

Thankfully I also had a back up plan in case the visit went awry and I took Rob and Fiona to see the movie Malificent.  She has been dying to see it and really enjoyed it.  I actually did too--I loved the concept of the good and the bad inside of each of us.  It is definately too intense for KC--those walking trees would just wig him right out--but still we all had fun.

I think that for Krystle the idea of coming here may be hard.  We keep in touch electronically and by phone and have for years.  But she was very nearly ours, and opted out.  I know because she told me--that she regretted that at one point.  I have tried to make it clear by my actions that I don't feel anger toward her and that I still love her and we are still family.  But I think it may just feel hard to her and thus the 11th hour bail.  I hope that after Dee and his fiancee have visited that maybe she will feel better about coming out. Or we can meet in the Big City and picnic on the common or something.  I am pretty persistant--somehow I will find a way for her to feel good about being around us.  It would be good for her and it would be wonderful for Fiona.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Exciting News!

It was just another Friday evening. I was cooking waffles on our giant waffle iron. Fridays are always breakfast for supper here and rotate between french toast, quiche or other egg dishes, pancakes and waffles.  Waffles are the most beloved of the options and of course the most labor intensive.  Probably explains why I did not hear the phone ring or notice Rob go out to take the call on his cell.  Next thing I knew he was standing there asking if Dee and Krystal, his bio sibs could come out tomorrow for a visit.  OMG! Of course, I answered and now we are trying to coordinate train schedules and pickups. Fiona is here for the day tomorrow and this is so fantastic for all of them.

I have always been the one pushing the first family connections and i know at times, people have wondered why.  Rob seems real settled.  Yup, he is.  Rob seems really happy. Yup, that too. Those two facts don't negate the fact that he has family beyond us, that he had a whole life  before us. He doesn't seem to ask about them, maybe he doesn't care.  Really???? Don't think so.  I agree, that my quiet guy has never been the initiator. But I always felt that I had to be. So that he could see that he could have contact whenever he wanted, on whatever terms he wanted. So that he would know I am not threatened, angry or disappointed when he gets together with them.

I suppose it helps that I genuinely love both these young people. But even if I didn't, I would want this contact.  They are part of the family, mine by the adoption of Fi and Rob, theirs by birth.  We are stronger for the connections we make in life, and I am excited that we will all get to deepen these tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

10 year olds and privacy

KC and his girlfriend D have talked on the phone almost every night. They are a hoot to listen to.  There was a bit of trauma a few days ago when she invited him to see the movie "Malificent."  He has zero interest in that and is petrified of the idea of seeing that movie.  He is very easily frightened to put it mildly.  I said he'd have to be up front and tell her he didn't want to see it.  He was afraid to do that too but he did and she was fine with it.

Our town has a big fireworks event next Saturday.  I suggested to him that we arrange to meet up there with her family and see the display together.  So tonight, my sweet KC was sharing this on the phone with D.  Apparently things got confusing to the kids about where we would meet, when we would get together etc.  Meanwhile, I had adjourned to the bathroom.  Next thing I know, the door opens and KC is standing there with the phone.  He announces while holding the phone that D's mom wants to talk to me.  I ask if I can do that in just a minute. Sure, he answers and says into the phone "she will talk to you as soon as she is done in the bathroom."  I think I had a crimson face just talking to this woman on the phone afterwards.  

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Where they want to be

My Rob invited his friend J to supper at our house tonight.  I don't mind--Rob does most of the cooking, I am more his sous chef and clean up crew.  I was surprised as Rob has a date with his girl friend tonight and was leaving at 5. I know they are planning on eating out as though it was Taco Tuesday (practically a religious holiday at our house at present) Rob only had one soft taco and went easy on his spicy salsa. LOL

After supper all the kids goofed around and then Rob went to get ready for his date.  Then he left for his date.  His friend J is still here. We have had games of frisbee, he has played whiffle ball with the younger kids. Seems to be having a grand time.  He and I chatted and he studied at the same martial arts studio where I earned my black belts so we have a bit of commonality there.  I find it a little odd he would just hang here after his friend left, but on the other hand, he seems happy.  I get the sense that there are some sad places in his life.  He definately was not used to everyone sitting down to dinner together the first time he came.  And there is an ease to the crazy antics at our house.  So he is welcome to hang for a while longer.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Happy Birthday Rob

 2006.  Rob was so little.  That picture there was on Maple Sugar Sunday years ago.  KC was tiny, but I am struck by how little Rob was back then.  He wore those camo pants everywhere that year.
 Rob a few years later celebrating St. Paddy's day.  Still young.
 On the left, one of the first shots of Rob and his girl friend. They have been together 2 1/2  years now.  Above, a picture of the kids from this Christmas.  The increased maturity in his face is so clear.  My baby's growing up.  June 2nd he will be 18.   It is hard to put into words how much I love this young man, and how special he is.  I don't know too many teens who are as genuinely good to their siblings as he is.  To kids in general. He has a personality that people gravitate to. A kind of friendly quiet steadiness that reassures.  Not a talker, Rob is a do-er.  I'll come home to find supper started more nights than not.  When we went camping one particularly chilly morning he got up and made the coffee for the two of us. A couple days ago, he offered to take Lissa to see a movie she has been dying to see.  He has a keen sense of humor that sometimes comes out of no-where. I think the quiet demeanor sometimes makes it more startling when he pops out with a zinger.

I am excited for him as he stands on the cusp of manhood--18 is so near on our horizon now!  But he will always be my boy. Tonight, we celebrate!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Proms and Parties

Busy weekend here for my gang!  Yesterday we made a flying visit to Maine to see my mom and celebrate her birthday.  I am all about celebrating, and hey, when someone is over 80 you don't miss opportunities to celebrate with them!  The kids had a blast--she was thrilled--it was 5 hours of driving for a short visit but so worth it.

Then home to have the teen start getting ready for senior prom.  He was taking his girlfriend of 2.5 yrs.  That is him, all duded up in a fancy schmancy suit just before he headed to her house.   He even made sure he got a hair cut without being nagged by his moms so I would say he's growing up!

After K left to take him to TongYa's house, the littles and I went to work on his birthday mural.  Tomorrow he is 18 but he still wanted a birthday mural and a family party. Hey, I'm glad our home grown and fairly simple traditions mean so much--I'll do that for you any day.  We painted and used clip art and stickers to create a giant mural that pretty much encompased the interests that Rob has.  Skateboarding, biking, music, cooking, camping and sports are all represented, as are of course, all of us (including pets)

Today we shopped for his gifts from the littles and got the other party decorations.  Part of me can't believe he is turning 18, but we are going to have a blast celebrating that milestone!