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.