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!