Thursday, December 31, 2015

The "All Lives Matter" debate

I am still amazed by how quickly the words "black lives matter" seem to make situations so charged so quickly.  Inevitably someone jumps in and says "ALL lives matter," like the phrase is saying that they don't.

Inevitably, they are white people who say this.  Inevitably, things get hot.  I am white, but I am outraged by the way white privilege is so entrenched that people are flat out unable and unwilling to see what we are trying to say.

We are not saying that other lives don't matter. We are saying that the circumstances and culture of our society  does not value black lives.  That our strong black men are at risk.  That our young black children playing in parks are not safe.  That our black daughters and sisters are dying when they are stopped for traffic violations.  Is that likely to happen to me?  A middle aged white woman?  Nope.  Because I have white privilege.  Whether I want it. Whether I acknowledge its existence.  It is there.  And I reap the benefits in my day to day life.

I wait up when my son is at work.  Sometimes he walks the quarter mile from the restaurant where he is employed.  It is late when the oyster bar closes.  He is a strong handsome black man walking through town in the dark, after midnight.  You bet I wait up.

I made sure every water pistol or air soft gun in our house is fluorescent yellow green or orange. In no way can they even remotely look real or I throw them out.  Would I do that if my kids were white like me?  I don't know for sure, but I doubt it.

I worry that my teen will do something silly with his friends--some of whom are white--and that they will run off and leave him in a situation where he is more at risk than they are. Teens sometimes do stupid things. I was a teen and I did too.  But I didn't die because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

2015 was filled with so many profound examples of how racism and white privilege are very alive and well in our country.  It is my hope and prayer that 2016 brings opportunities for change.  I hope it begins with my white friends accepting white privilege and using it for change.  Instead of railing that it doesn't exist, lets use our voices. Let us speak out with our black friends, neighbors and family and work together for safety, for equality, and for the sanctity of life.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas 2015

It has been a wonderful holiday thus far.  Filled with warmth and laughter, presents anticipated and those that surprise.  Yummy food, lovely music and memories to hold close. This year more than ever, I am aware that we stand poised to have very different Christmasses in the not so distant future.  
This year found us driving to Maine due to my mom's health.  In recent years she has driven down to spend Christmas with us.  Her cardiac issues made her feel unable to handle the not insignificant trek from Maine to Massachusetts.  We drove up yesterday and had a wonderful gathering. She and G were truly thrilled by the carefully chosen presents, by the love our tribe showered on them and these feelings were very much reciprocated.

Today found a day of fun here as well. Unseasonable warmth meant that mid day my wife and I took a walk and we were talking about the day.  In the next few years much will change.  Our Rob will likely move to another area, or be in a career where he can't be home for Christmas.  He hopes to work on a cruise ship so who knows how many more Christmasses we will be lucky to share with him.

My mom was more obviously "old" when we visited this time.  My mom has been sort of ageless. She worked for a loooong time as a teachers aide in the schools in Maine.  She is very active in her church and the Guild that they have. But I could see that her strength is not what it was 6 months ago.  She sometimes has to use the chair lift to get to her second floor apartment.  She is not doing badly; she is aging.  It was a reminder that I don't know how many Christmasses we have with her either.

The littles are not so little now, but thankfully there are still a lot of Yule tide celebrations with them.  Chet remains perpetually youthful,enjoying all that there is to do at this time of the year.  But I am not so ready to give up the crazy early a.m. wakeups on Christmas morning. Or the setting out of carrots and cookies on Christmas Eve.  Nor am I ready to give up my mother.  

Christmas is beautiful and wonderful but it is a time of the year that is so highly emotionally charged as well.  Fiona was not with us this year as she had a chance to spend Christmas with her Cousin N.  She arrives tomorrow and will celebrate with us a day later.  I missed her being here, but I am glad for her.  It is important that she be involved with all her family and that she always see that I support and encourage this.  N put extensions in her hair for her today and sent me pictures. They are beautiful and she did an awesome job.  The gift is a joint one from N and I.  I bought the hair and N did the installation for free as her part of the gift.  It is a perfect example of blending our families; the fact that we could work together to make something special happen for Fi is so important to me.

So now I will curl up with a book to the sound of Christmas revelry and games in our front hall and thank the goddess for a holiday of beautiful memories to carry forward.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Ready for Solstice

It is nearly Solstice.  That time when the day is shortest and the night is longest. . . that tipping point after which we know that incrementally, we are regaining bits of that precious light. Seconds to be sure, but we will regain light.

This season has been a busy one full of so many ways to celebrate.  And i have loved every bit of it.  I decided this year  that I was not going to try to pare back activities unless the kids seemed to need it. I was used to being rather minimalist in my choice of activities when Chet was young. But aside from making sure that we made sure they get adequate rest, the youngers (can't quite say littles any more) can handle a wider array of experiences than Chet can.

So we saw the Nutcracker--a local performance that a friend of ours was in. We listened to holiday music performed by local school kids.  There have been trips to see lights. There have been multiple Christmas parties at the dance school as well as Lissa's birthday celebrations. Special foods, special TV programs, and lots of special books have been shared.  We have made our family mural, made gingerbread houses and the house sparkles with an abundance of decorations. (that I most sincerely hope conceal the lack of deep cleaning during the month of December!) The tree lights twinkle and my favorite holiday plates are our regular every day plates during this month.  It is SO much fun!

But winter is also about stillness. It is about that pause, when the earth rests.  And Solstice reminds me to take that pause.  The picture above is our kitchen altar.  Our family altar is in the kitchen over the sink very intentionally.  I believe that the kitchen is the heart of our home. It is the place where we start each day and where we end it each evening. Over the month I have been gradually changing up the altar to reflect the coming of winter. Back right is a ceramic of a wolf that KC made several years ago at pottery camp.  In front of that is a spectacular speciman of mica that used to be my grandmothers.  There are rocks, that remind me that winter is hard and a tiny candle to remind me that the light returns.  A lovely long piece of birch bark rests across the back of the altar.  Birch is my favorite wood for starting a hot blaze quickly so it is symbolic of the fire of life for me on our altar. And there  snow people because they make me smile.

Sometimes the pause in my life is only the period of time that it takes to wash the dishes.  But the altar keeps me centered and more peaceful.  Blessed be.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Christmas Eve with my mom

Heart disease runs strongly on both sides of my family tree.    Both of my grandfathers died of massive coronaries.  My mom and my dad and my sister have all had high cholesterol since forever.  It is the primary reason I became a vegetarian over 25 years ago.

About a month ago, my mom had what was later found to be a heart attack.  There has been testing on going since then and the final decision is that there is a clot but the location of the clot is in a vein that is so small that a stint would likely do more damage than help. It is being treated with medication and she is very upbeat about this.

However, this  active woman has been experiencing shortness of breath, and has to occasionally use the chair lift to get up the stairs to her apartment.  For the first time in years, she felt unable to make the drive down to spend Christmas with us.

We will bring Christmas to her, and to her friend G on Christmas Eve day.  The kids are excited to be travelling up to see her ..  I am too.  I am mindful that this heart attack was a reminder that time is fast and fleeting and that someday there will be Christmasses when we are farther apart that a drive can solve.

However I am not dwelling on that.  Life is also for living and I am of the opinion that if I waste the time we have worrying about when I won't have her, it is like losing my mom now.  And since once of my kids is anxiety prone,I have always tried to teach him to live in the moment and that is what we will do.  We will laugh, and joke and admire gifts and make memories.  Because good memories are what can help us when there are darker times

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Holiday Mural 2015





So every Christmas season we cover a wall of our dining room with paper and make a giant holiday mural.  This year KC suggested Santa's work shop.  It is a tradition that we are all featured in the mural so you will notice that our faces have been added to "elf bodies".  The pictures don't really do the mural justice as it is so big and getting it all at once instead of in bits and bobs of smaller pictures has much more impact.

I love that this is still so much fun for all of us.  We draw and paint a lot but we also add objects to give dimension--bows on the packages for instance.  The packages are made from scrapbook papers and the "ribbon" is duck tape because our cat would ingest real ribbons.  The star on the tree was on top of the tree in Lissa's room last year but it broke and could not go on this year.  However it could be tacked above this "tree."

Something new to the mural this year was the incorporation of KC's advent doodles.  He started doing this last year with his friend the fantastic artist Jane Houghton.  Jane actually published her doodles this year into a little count down that goes on a teeny easel and is on our dining room table.  KC makes a doodle a day and we have found ways to incorporate his into the mural. If you look closely, Rob is holding skates that have laces with a #8 squiggled into them.  There are also doodles that act as ornaments on the mantel. ( a canle and a nutcracker)

Perfection is not the goal and everyone contributes ideas and art as the month goes on.  As the days shorten and we creep closer to the shortest day of the year, things like this brighten my spirit and help me wait for the return of the light.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Lissa at nearly 9




 Lissa turns 9 in a few days.  The 16th, to be exact.  I look back and she has grown so much in the past year and accomplished so much.  I am so proud of her.  She fascinates me, challenges me, and being her parent constantly makes me look for ways to meet her where she is.  And Lissa is always in a different place from any of my other kids!

She is fiercely independent, impetuous, tempestuous, intensely loyal, brave, silly and enchanting.  She is a vibrant package of contradictions that somehow blend into the amazing person she is.  The top picture was taken during our holiday decorating, in late November.  The middle two were taken today.

For all of Lissa's life and most of KC's Ben lived next door to us.  The kids grew up together and Ben spent a LOT of time with us at our house.  The kids formed a club that they call KLB (from the initials of their names) KLB grew with them and became a really organized little affair. They developed a comic book making side of KLB. They rotated being "captains" of the club.  They made the TShirts that you see them wearing in the pictures.  They pretty much created official KLB club everything.

Then, this summer Ben moved.  He is still in town and they still see each other often, but they don't see each other daily, the way they used to.  It has been hard on all the kids,even though my kids understand that in most every way possible this is a good move for Ben and his family.

When I asked Lissa what kind of party she wanted she immediately asked for a KLB party.  So Ben came to our house about noon today and is spending the night and will go home tomorrow about noon.

They have had a blast. They played outside.They made an indoor fort and played there. They did crafts. They decorated gingerbread houses and played games.  Lissa chose Chinese food for supper and they stuffed themselves on the really super delish food that the little place down on the corner churns out.  Then, I suggested that we go to a local botanical garden that has an amazing light display.  Only about half an hour away, it was a great way to spend time outdoors on an amazingly balmy night.

We all had a blast. The lights were amazing. And what kid doesn't like being up late in the dark?  All of mine love it at any rate. When we got home, we actually had Lissa's cake and ice cream.  The cake was at her request, a KLB themed cake in the official KLB colors of red, blue and green.It is the only cake I have ever seen that did not say Happy Birthday and instead had a wobbly KLB written on the top by the birthday girl herself.  It was perfect.

The bottom picture is of Lissa fooling around with friends at the recent Girl Scout holiday parade.  One of the things I admire about my youngest daughter is her determination.  She gave Scouts a try a year ago and it was a meh kind of experience for her.  But she did not give up, in large part because if the program was only adequate, the friendships were strong and compelling enough to keep her involved.

Lissa is virtually unstoppable when she sets her mind to something.  This will be a huge asset to her in later life.  She wanted to learn to swim this year and gave up one dance class to accomplish the goal. At the end of the 12 week session she could swim the length of the pool, do a very adequate kneeling dive, do back stroke and float.  Next, she would like to try basketball, so I am presently looking into that for her.  I love that she samples, experiments and tries things out.  She isn't sure where her niche is but she enjoys the journey.

Happy Birthday my princess!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Sunsets

Today was one of those days.  A day when everything was just a little off.  An overwhelming amount of paperwork that had to be deferred while I drove to a 3 hour training.  Racing back into my office after the training I neglected to notice that my car door did not close all the way.  This left the dome light on and subsequently the car did not start when I went to go do my taxi run for the kids.  I got a jump start and all was well as far as that but it did put me a bit behind schedule.

We arrived home briefly so that I could grab my supper smoothie and as we were returning to the car KC noticed the sunset (oh, the early sunsets of December) streaming red and pink behind us.

"Wait," he said. "please, I have to try and get a picture of this."

I almost said no.  We were behind schedule.  Dance class started in just a few minutes.  But there are only so many sunsets.  And when the goddess grants us the beauty of one, he is right.  We need to pause.  To be there. To enjoy.

Two days ago a dear friend passed away.  Her family had run the local flower shop for 75 years.  Jeri had seen us through christenings, weddings, funerals and memorial services, recitals and anniversaries.  She watched my children blossom.  Each year we brought cookies to the shop and she gave us a pointsettia.  She loved us and loved my kids-all kids.  Jeri won't see another sunset.  I need to remember to enjoy sunsets and all the other things that are a lot more important than always being on time.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Festive!

Things have been busy with holiday goings ons here.  Saturday was particularly stacked with busy and fun things.  Lissa had a birthday party to attend.  KC and Rob and I went to our city's holiday stroll.  They also sealed a new time capsule before the event and we watched this as well. And, in a 5 seconds of fame moment, the local paper interviewed me for my thoughts.

The holiday strolls is so much fun.  It was unusually warm and pleasant this year and we meandered around.  We noshed on the loads of free food that is available,oogled crafts, made some gifts at a local bead shop and chatted and hung out with friends.  About 20 to four I had to leave Rob and KC and walk back home so I could pick up the car and drive over to get Lissa at the party.  When I left, KC filled out a raffle ticket for a new bike. . . and when I came home I found out he was the lucky winner.  He gets his bike tomorrow and he is one happy little dude!

Later than night I had a holiday dinner party to go to at a coworkers house.  It was a lot of fun. Great food, laughter and general festiveness.  I was not out late and home in time to see the littles before they went off to bed.

Today we had church and after service there was a surprise birthday party for a wonderful fellow.  A good friend, Bart was also Rob's mentor in coming of age.  I know Rob would have wanted to be there but he did not get home from work till 2:00 a.m. and was just rousing when  I left for church at 9.  We stayed for a bit to wish Bart happy greetings and then came home.

Kirsty had made a beautiful evergreen swag for the front porch of our home and woven lights into it as well.  I got busy in the holiday department as well.  I made these really cute gifts for the kids dance teachers.  The school is doing their recital based on Frozen this year.  I turned tiny ballet slippers into Elsa and Anna holiday ornaments.  I got the slippers at the consignment store and the rest of the decorating stuff was mostly from the dollar store, so it was inexpensive and a lot of fun to make.

After that, I made the cemetary boxes for my grandparents grave and for my mother in laws and brought those down.  I always feel better getting those on. Why I need to visually mark that someone cares about those who are buried there makes no sense, but I do.


Tonight was the first night of Hannukah and as usual, my kids played the dreidel game.  We are not Jewish but our religion does honor Jewish roots.  And my kids have always loved dreidel nights.  I was the fly in the ointment as I would not stop watching the Patriots game to join in as I usually do.  I have promised that I will play on Tuesday night though in retrospect I would have had a lot more fun with the dreidel than I did watching my team lose!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Murals and Calendars

Even though the kids are bigger, much of what is important to us all at holiday time remains home made.  KC wanted a Star Wars advent calendar this year.  I checked them out.  Store bought cost $40.00 if you could find them.  Yes, they have some little Star Wars toy each day.  But aside from knowing I would be stepping on little toys for 24 fun filled days till the dog ate them or Eldest Son vacuumed them up. . . well, I could not justify the price.  I love the kids being able to open something and mark the time till the big day.  But I don't love it enough for the price it was sold at.

So I decided I would make him an advent calendar.  I used the magic of the internet to find 25 pictures and phrases from the movies.  I popped them into my scrap book program so that I could size them down to what I needed.  I printed them.  I used the same scrapbook program to then print a 4 page picture "banner" (as seen above.

Then I just worked on the back of the picture and cut out the doors with an exacto knife and taped the picture there. Wrote the numbers on the doors with silver glitter paint and voila! A calendar for cost of paper and ink.  And a very happy boy.

I know it might not fly for some kids. But this guy is artistic and creative so he was thrilled by the idea that it was made by hand.

We also started our annual Christmas mural today.  KC's idea was to have Santa's workshop and have us all be elves.  One elf making toys, another baking etc.  Kirsty put up the paper last night and the drawing and painting has commenced. This is an exceptionally enjoyable activity because it is something anyone can add to when they have a few minutes and just want to do something to de-stress.  Every year I wonder if this is going to be the year that they roll their eyes and say how "over" these traditions they are.  And I am so very grateful that year has not yet arrived!


My hippy chick

Yeah, but not hippie like a beatnik.  Hippy like in pain.  Back when she was really little just a bit over a year I believe, Miss Lissa jumped off the couch. She was copying her exuberant big brothers who were taller and stronger than she was. She landed wrong and I knew right off something was wrong.  After an ice pack didn't help and kiddie tylenol didn't help we trotted to the local ER. Where we got zero help.  I got the rent a radiologist who was less than useless.  I am being 100 per cent honest when I tell you that they had me prepare her for the x-ray.  I am not a radiologist and I did a poor job.  The xray showed nothing, and was blurry.  The weekend radiologist said all was well, gave my daughter a popsicle and sent us home. 

Except she could not walk. Except she screamed in pain when I changed her diaper and had to lift her little bum. My family primary care was on vacation and the hospital had automatically sent the films to his office.   We were stuck in limbo for 2 weeks.  Managing pain with tylenol, carrying her everywhere.  I was frantic as my youngest is a very energetic, on the go child and her behavior and  constant pain were highly atypical.  There are times as a mom you know something is wrong. This was such a time.  Eventually she began to crawl, hitching both legs together at the same time.  That was when I knew it was the hip. 

The Dr came back from vacation and saw us.  After telling me I was an overprotective parent they finally agreed to re-do the xray.  I got a call at work 20 minutes later where in hushed tones they said they were very sorry and she had indeed broken her hip.  However, the hip had all ready begun to heal and appeared to be in proper alignment so nothing else was needed.

And she healed and all was well.  Till about 3 weeks ago when she began to periodically complain of her hip hurting.  Most times she has not been doing anything outrageous and I tracked it  carefully to be sure.  I asked my wife to call our Dr for an appointment as Lissa is STILL a high energy girl with a very high pain level and for her to ask for pain meds is very out of the norm.

This time we got our Drs new nurse practitioner. She does not know our family and this was our first meeting. She told my wife there was no way anything from that long ago could cause a problem now and that we should give her tylenol.  Minus the popsicle it was that long ago ER visit all over again.

Yesterday Lissa almost could not get out of the car after they got home from doing errands.  When I got home from work she was better but in no shape for dance, though we let her go to Girl Scouts. It was obvious that climbing stairs hurt signifcantly.  I was worried to have her sleep in her bunk bed (top bunk) so she was in my bed last night.

Today we called the Dr again and he saw her and has authorized an xray.  He wants to rule out any spur or calcification that may have resulted from the original injury and depending on what the xray shows, an MRI may be the next step.  I am just thankful that we are at least getting some diagnostic assistance as it kills me to see her hurting.

Holiday blur!

I blinked and it was Thanksgiving!  I guess it just feels that way.  Life is so busy and I am always trying to soak up every minute of it.  It was a wonderful day.  A day filled with joy, laughter, family and friends.  As usual, there was lots to prepare.  Our gatherings are so large we don't fit in our dining room any more.  There is a large table there but squish 13 plus people around it and no one can move.  So we move all the furniture out of the living room, bring in banquet tables and rental chairs and find it accommodates all who come much better. 

I was sad that my older kids cousin N was not able to come this year due to transportation difficulties.  Even the younger kids missed seeing her--though I think in that case it was primarily because her daughter is around KC's age and they are very good friends. 

Food was delish, the table looked pretty and managed to combine things from all the various families whether it was in the food choices or the flatware, or the salt cellars that were my great grandparents.  KC got to watch the Macy's parade with his Aunt Lynne.  Their tradition was snowed out last year and they had to resort to watching in their separate locations and texting as they saw the floats go by.  He was happy that this year, it was "normal."

Friday morning found us decorating for Yule.  I had gathered all the harvest decor the night before so that we could jump into decorating right away. I knew it was something the kids would want to do first thing and I was not wrong.

Our house is a sprawly old victorian.  It can and does get a lot of decorating. We are still not quite done but things are looking festive and it does not look overblown.  One would think it might if you saw how many totes of decorations came from the attic, but really it gets spread over so many rooms that it is really pretty.  Rob still likes to put the tree together for us and helped the littles and I decorate it.  K focusses on the outside.  Chet pretty much stays in his room till we are done and then he likes to help ferry the boxes back to the attic and vacuum up the floors.  The littles flit here and there and bring me items for the displays and decorate the little trees in their bedrooms.  Christmas is still magical to them and it still is to me for that matter. I love the music, the sparkles, the memories.

Saturday we had our usual errands, went to our church craft fair,  and then spent the afternoon with friends at the local roller rink.  These friends used to live right next door to us and the kids so very much miss their best buds.  So for 4 hours we skated and chatted and had a blast.

Sunday we drove up to Maine to see my mom.  She has some health issues right now and will be having a cardiac test tomorrow at the hospital up there.  If things are not good they will likely do an immediate stint.  We brought her favorite soups and canned fruits so she will not have to worry about food as she rests from whatever is done, reading material and music. And of course just being there with our love and laughter helped her greatly. When we got home, Lissa marched in our town's holiday parade and tree lighting ceremony. 

Compared to the rest of December, this was a relaxing weekend!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

My little mermaid

Lissa is nearing conclusion of her swim lesson sessions and today the instructor did evaluations.  It is very possible that if Lissa was continuing to the next session that she would move up a level.  She started in September and can now swim the length of the pool doing the crawl.  The rhythmic breathing is not perfect but it is pretty darn good.  She can float. She can go the length of the pool with both backstrokes.  She has the arms and the kick for breast stroke but they have not combined them as yet.  Oh and she can do a lovely dive from a kneeling position.  I was really impressed as this is a child who could really only swim underwater and dog paddle above water when we started.  Her strokes are fluid and so pretty to watch.

All my kids swim but by far, she has a natural grace for it.  Chet always flailed about and only looks calm in the water when he has burned off sufficient energy to stop treating the water as his adversary.  Rob swims well but with a grim athleticism. He has never enjoyed water and did it only because I required it and it showed.  KC swims with a bit of timidity. He is graceful but he hasn't got the stamina and fears that.  Lissa though. She really drew everyone's attention in the pool today.

I know they would like her to go up a level but she gets so cold after class that we are skipping winter sessions and may return in the spring.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Slumber Party Weekend

Lissa has been gone all weekend!  At 8, she is the youngest of my kids to do this.  Rob had overnights at friends houses at that age, and went to away camp when he was a couple years older.  But at 8 he was still not doing a weekend away.  Lissa is in her second year of Scouting and this is a Brownie event.  I pick her up in about an hour and I can't wait to hear how things have gone for her.

Lissa is a fascinating mix of fashionista diva and nature girl.  She wanted to go on this campout because she would be with her friends.  She literally counted down the days to it. But she also spoke with great sarcasm about how it was not really a campout.  They are in a heated building with flush plumbing and a kitchen.  They have a mattress albeit on the floor.  It is like a giant slumber party really not a campout.  And my girl totally knows the difference.

I pointed out that some kids don't get to camp the way we do and for them it would be an introduction to that. Also it might be cold or bad weather.  At which point she reminded me that we camped in May with snow on the ground in a tent.  Yup, we did darling, but I doubt that your friends have the experience and equipment for that.We have camped in rain more times than I can count.  And in reality, Lissa can be a significant help setting up a tent, so she just gave me the look.  You know that look.  It says you are a silly parent who can't see that this is lame!

To add insult to injury they were not having a campfire because the Scout leader said this was her first campout with the kids and she wanted to introduce that when they camp again in May.  Lissa can help get a fire going too, so I am wondering what they will have done this weekend that will meet her standards of what camping is.  It should be enlightening!

Growing ,growing, strong!

This is one of my new favorite pictures. Back when the leaves were green and still on the trees, my wife managed to snap a shot with all the kids together.This one is my present screen saver and I adore it.  I love the glee that is in their eyes. As they have increasingly grown and stretched their wings, there are fewer times that we and they are all together. But when the team is together, it is joyful. I am grateful for that.  I am also grateful that most of them are well grounded enough to really stretch and experience new things.

Rob is loving his new job.  Between his restaurant job, and his school work, and his cleaning job with my wife, I feel like I need an appointment to see him.  In reality I DO have an appointment to see him as I pick him up from the train most nghts.  Then we race across town to his job!  But it is worth it to see him growing in confidence, and to see him making connections that will help him as he increasingly steps out into the wider world on his own.

KC also is blossoming.  He adores a monthly boys book group that our local library holds.  It started with only about 5 kids going and now has more than doubled in size.  KC has been in it from the start, thrilled that finally there was a group which focussed on the literature that boys specifically like in these pre teen years.  This week when I picked him up, the librarian took me aside and said she wanted me to know what a leader he was. That he was kind and inclusive and always had great ideas that the group benefited from  Thinking back to how timid my guy once was, I can only shake my head and smile. Blooming indeed.

Lissa has always been assertive.  I have few worries that she will make her desires and needs known! She is quick to access a situation and equally quick to participate in it.   But her growth has been in becoming more empathetic and also in improving her abilities with the written word.

Fiona too is growing. We have moments of clarity and times when she understands and appreciates parental concern, pretty evenly balanced against the times she does not understand it at all.  Overall a better ratio for her than in the past, so I'll take that.

Chet has been doing better at taking social cues of late.  I am hoping this is going to continue.  It has been hard to convince him that societal norms are not something we need to rail against.  It does not make us mindless drones etc.  He is very happy that church has started again and this is always a good vehicle for showing him a variety of social connections.

As the kids have gotten older, my wife and I are rediscovering time that is just for us.  We have had adult times this fall with glasses of wine sipped while sitting in front of the little portable fire pit.  We are able to take morning walks together sans the kids.  (even sans dog since he is such a lazy pooch!)  It has been good to rediscover that facet of our relationship as well.

Friday, October 9, 2015

FAMILY

Last week Rob and Fiona's cousin messaged me and said that she was starting a business and was looking for my help. She is becoming a travelling stylist and wants to specialize in doing hair for black  kids in group homes, or foster or adoptive placements.  She wanted to know if there were contacts I could point her towards to get some clients.  I was happy to be asked. I think this is a GREAT idea and I will help any way I can.

I know how many hours I spent on you tube learning how to do Lissa's hair. And there are still many things I am not facile with, but I make it my business to keep learning.  There are people who don't want, or perhaps can't invest that amount of time and effort into learning the hair care. This does not mean that those kids that they are caring for or parenting don't deserve to have hair they are proud of and feel well groomed.

I got right on it and N messaged me tonight that she all ready had her first client from a contact that I sent her.  OK so that made me pretty happy for her.  Here's what made me pretty happy for me. . . N posted on FB about her new business and how excited she was about her first new client.  Someone asked her how she got started and she said . . . "I reached out to a family member."

It is not a secret that I have worked hard on first family relationships.  I have written before that adoption means families grow by more than the child(ren) who are now mine.  They are also sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, cousins,and those family members have a place in their lives and in mine.  I love them. I care about them. We are in pretty frequent contact. It wasn't easy.  All of us reached and grew past places of comfort and made new paths and connections together.  We share holidays, celebrate milestones, and at the end of the day--we are family.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

It Takes a Village

That is a familiar phrase--we've all heard it. And for a long time I was sort of a quiet scoffer at it.  I felt like I had no village helping me raise my kids.  My mom lives so far away that she has never been a nana who did sleep overs or watched the kids while my wife and I had a dinner out.  As a matter of fact, I have no babysitter on tap as watching the littles would mean also knowing how to deal with my autistic 30 year old son.  Those are two radically different skill sets.  And after all, I chose to have this family--wasn't it on me to take care of them?

Yet I was thinking the other night that the concept that we are doing this alone is false.  Not only false but laughable.  Rob just started a new job last night in his chosen field.  He got the job in part because of his personality and qualifications but also because my friend and neighbor is good friends with the manager of the restaurant.  Getting him to work from the train will be my personal logistical nightmare, but getting the job lead?  That was someone from our village.

Monday night is a perfect storm of committments at our house.   KC and Lissa both have dance.  Lissa has Girl Scouts as well.  Rob needs a pick up at the train.  My friend needs a ride for her daughter to and from the dance school so she can take her young son to sensory therapy. I am able to help my friend. The Scout leader helps me by giving Lissa a ride to the Scout meeting after dance. (her grand daughter dances with Lissa.)  My wife gets Rob at the trains station, allowing me to run my friends daughter home after she and KC finish their classes.  A village, encirling me, encircling my friend.

At church, my oldest needs some special help to avoid being disruptive to the service.  He would vastly prefer not to sit with me--having the small independence of sitting elsewhere is very important to him.  A kind, autistically savvy woman in our congregation has made it her mission to be Chet's seat buddy, cuing him as needed and helping vastly with his feelings of self worth and independence.  Yes, a village.  And I will celebrate mine and not take if for granted any longer!




Friday, October 2, 2015

Black Lives Matter

I feel lucky when I know people who can say with far more eloquence than I  why the phrase "all lives matter" bothers me so much.  Yes. All lives matter. But we are talking about the lives that are minimized, jeopardized and flat out ended daily in ways that "all other" lives are not.  It is a worry for me as a mom of kids of color.  I send my strong handsome young teen off to the Big City for college with a smile on my face and worry in my heart.  I watch my phone for the text that he is ready for me to pick up at the train.  I worry that the natural "immortal" feeling that teens have (and yes, I remember feeling that way too) could translate into a situation far more dangerous to him than any of mine were to me.

I worry that I have not prepared him adequately enough for being black in a world that does not see him the same way it sees me.  I know that to some extent my presence over the years has lent him an inadvertent corner of the white privilege blanket.  He isn't likely to be accused of shoplifting if he is standing with his white mom.  The same is not necessarily true if he is hanging out with skater pals in the big city.  This is not to say we have not had some issues; there have been. But by and large, the world has been pretty kind to him.

I am lucky that I have friends of color because my white friends don't see what I worry about.  They think "black lives matter" is obvious and that "all lives matter" is more reverential to life and speaks to inclusiveness. My efforts to explain are dismissed. "But YOUR son is so friendly and polite; nothing would happen  to Rob"  I hope with every facet of my being they are right. Statistics say other things though.

But a 12 year old playing in a park is not exactly a huge threat. Yet he was shot and killed without a word.  My Rob is kind and smart and handsome. He also works out and hangs out with kids who skateboard and may look "sketchy" to a certain segment of the population.  They will not see his smile. They will see his strength, his blackness, an implication of a threat that does not exist.If a 12 year old at play can be gunned down, what about strong 19 year olds?

Family members who love my kids have told me my worries are meaningless. That because I brought my kids up "right" I don't have to worry.  They seriously think all the other instances are a result of bad parenting?  Rendered speechless, I grew silent about the subject on line. And I grew angry at myself because if I as my kids parent can be rendered voiceless and powerless, how must so many other parents feel.  Parents who have lost children and who have found their children vilified in the media, their home lives and values questioned.

So, yes people. BLACK lives matter.  And please. Go read Kevin Hoffman at www.mymindonpaper.wordpress.com  Because he says it all with much great clarity than I do.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

One tooth down, two to go!

KC has successfully made it through his dental  surgery.  I personally had no doubt but he was petrified.  The staff at the oral surgeon's office are amazing and really helped to put him at ease.  The anesthesia made him a very happy patient initially though after being home about 30 minutes the "weepies" set in.  I know that is a pretty typical reaction.

He is resting now and the hardest part of convalescence is likely finding things he will eat.  He prefers salty crunchy things and those are very much out for a bit!

Lissa has her 2 extractions at 2:00 so it will be a really busy night for the tooth fairy at our house!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Of Teeth and Eclipses

KC is my anxious guy.  And he is looking at some dental surgery tomorrow.  One of his adult teeth is growing sideways and if left unchecked it will apparently grow into his sinus cavity.  Frankly that is a revolting image to me.

The fact that my most anxiety prone child is looking at surgery is making life, well a bit more interesting than usual.  He typically ramps himself up in the late evening, just before bed.  I have yet to find a really good solution for helping him to find calm.

I have not minimized any of his concerns.  Ones that we could actually call and he could ask a question about to get answers we have done so.  (for instance "Can I accidently swallow the scalpel while I am asleep?!")

I have helped him with calming breathes.  I have helped him with visualizations.  I have gone over The Plan so that he has in his mind where I will be and such for the day.  (I can't go into the surgical room with him but can wait for him in recovery.)

We have sung. We have listened to quiet music. We have done art.We have done affirmations and visualizations.   Next up I am trying some aroma therapy and some pressure point massage that he can do to himself. At this point, I think I just so need this to be done as much as he does.  He is a bundle of nerves and the rawness of his fears is palpable to me.

At least this weekend was busy and full of fun and that helped take his mind off things a bit.  Saturday we went to our city's harvest festival. Which was a lot bigger than usual because our city is also celebrating their 100th birthday as a city.  The dance school performed and he danced in the street.  We looked at vendors, did some activities and then walked home.  Lissa had a birthday party to attend that afternoon so we dropped her off and then KC my wife and I went to a black smith festival in the next town. This is a laid back event that I used to take the kids to a lot when they were younger.  Think quiet folk music,way less vendors and interesting metal work all set along the banks of a river.  It was a fun place to spend a few hours and we also met up with our friend and the kids godmother who was vending there.  The night ended with a special fireworks display that our city had in honor of the birthday festivities.

Yesterday was the start of the new religious education year at church. The kids were chomping at the bit to do and to see their friends again.  We did go but we had to leave 15 minutes before the end of things in order to go home.  Lissa is a Brownie Scout and they were marching in our city's birthday parade yesterday.  I had to have her at the starting place at 12:15.  Our church is 30 minutes away from our home, so the logistics of getting home, getting her lunch and into her uniform and to the start were interesting.  Also, Fiona came down for the day so she could see the parade and hang out with us.

Lissa did so well marching.  She used to get scared and scowl in situations where she could see lots of people around her, but she was helping to hold the banner and smiling.  I took pictures like a crazy woman.  Lots of Liss but also lots of the parade itself which was enormous and very fun to watch.

By the time evening came the littles were exhausted so I did not keep them up to watch the eclipse.  My wife and i enjoyed it though.  I also loved the fact that so many people got out and watched it.  We are a society of screens.  Computer screens. Phone screens. TV screens. Tablet screens. But for a few hours last night we all looked skyward.  It was as if something primitive and deep within us called us all outside.  You could hear people talking softly on porches all around us.  This morning when I walked there were lots of houses where people had moved their lawn furniture to the sidewalks, obviously for better viewing.  The skies were clear. The view was amazing.  I kept wondering what early humans would have thought watching it. The next eclipse is in 17 years I think.  I was also wondering what my life will be like then.  My kids will be grown.  I will be retired most likely.  Where will I be in life and will I still be looking skyward in awe?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Walking towards fall

This is the weekend I say farewell to summer.  Our church (and another church from the same city) have a gathering in Maine on the coast.  There are dorm rooms for most folks but those who are frugal, and/or like it more peaceful can opt to camp at an appreciably lower overall cost.  I am all about both those things, so my family has always camped, regardless of the weather.

We have camped there when it is 40 degrees at night. When it has been raining. When it has been so foggy it was hard to see.  But this year, the goddess graced us with a weekend of amazing beauty.  Temps so warm I let the kids play in the ocean.  Cool nights that made sleeping easy but not so cold that anyone was needing extra fleece in their sleeping bags.

It is a weekend where my kids (and all the other kids there) get probably more freedom to wander and explore than they do in their day to day lives.  Rob opted to camp with a friend from youth group.  He checked in with me via text and at meals.  He always texted "Love you" at night as I did him.

KC and his group of pals from church made and sold jewelry and art. They created a skit for the talent show. They climbed trees and wandered around sharing the grandiose thoughts that 11 and 12 year old boys have.

Lissa had her group of friends.  Her "bestie" was there and they did a gymnastics routine together for the talent show.  She played in the water, danced in the sand, ran around like the crazy wild young girl she is.

Chet helps all the folks who arrive on Friday night. He knows the lay out of the conference center and helps bring belongings to the correct room, provides directions on parking cars and is generally very helpful. After meals he bussed dishes and before breakfast he swept the dining hall and got all the chairs out.

The kids and I also spent some time together.  We walked the beach and found a pooch that played soccer with my kids.  Actually she sort of ate the ball but they all had a blast together.  We found sea glass to bring home.  We ran races and toasted marshmallows, sang and told silly jokes.

And I had alone time.  Well, kid-free time.  Time when I walked the beach with friends and we talked and caught up on each others life.  I have lots of friends so there were multiple walks which incidently was very good for my fitbit numbers! LOL  I tried a new beer at the gathering before supper on Saturday night.  I had time to read, time to enjoy the sun. Time to star gaze.  Time to watch my bare feet make foot prints on Saturdays walk. Time to watch my sneaker shod shoes make prints on the last walk today before we left to drive home.

Walking with my shoes on was symbolic.  It was about me getting ready to embrace the seasons change.  Fall is nearly here and I am such a child of summer. But there is much to be gained by finding and enjoying the beauty of each season.  So I really work at this.  Today I literally made steps toward fall.

Once home, there was laundry and all the camping gear had to be cleaned and put away for next season.  This too, is a step towards fall.  I am ready now, I think. The laundry bin is empty, the gear cleaned and stored.  Corn shocks decorate our front post and tiny gourds are beside the door.  Blessed be.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Journey

Kids grow up.  I know that in my head.  None the less it was a shock to have my 11 year old ask me if I could "just drop him off" at the dance school, instead of waiting in the lobby while he has classes.

This weekend my youngest daughter was invited to a friends house and it was a "drop off" play date--not the moms chatting while the kiddos played.

This weekend my college guy was at the gym during the regular family meal and he fixed his own later, noshing on food that since he is a culimary major was undoubtedly fancier than what I prepared!

The kids are old enough now that I am comfortable leaving for an early morning walk and bringing my cell phone.  I know that they all know how to contact me should the need arise. (My wife is still home, it is just that she is a heavy sleeper)  I confess that we tested this before I began doing it, but regardless, it is still another step toward independence. 

For so long I have travelled with a "tribe".  Now, interests are becoming more child specific--Lissa opted out of one set of dance classes this year and instead has chosen to swim.  I think that once the swimming is mastered, she may move on to basketball or soccer.

Fiona is slowly and occasionally doing things on her own with staff from the group home.  Everyone is making strides towards levels of independence that are appropriate and which they are comfortable with.

It is fascinating. It is appropriate.  It is also a tad bittersweet as I navigate a new facet to my role as a parent. .  It is a new chapter in unfamiliar territory and I do not have a map for this journey!.  Some days they are all feeling totally capable.  Some days, not so much, and figuring out the logistics of that is confusing.  Regardless, it is a journey that I enjoy and I am proud of all of them.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Long Range Planning

A couple of weeks ago I was hanging out with my friends Des and Eric at the local roller rink.  Our kids all have free passes for skating so the parents were chatting, while the kiddos did their thing on the rink.  Actually the odd thing is that I was not skating with them as I love roller skating and usually do. And if I had, well the conversation might not have happened. . .

Des said that their family was going to Disney in October of 2016 and camping at the Disney campground.  They would love it if our family could come along too as we are one of the few families they love to do camping with.  We like to do things together, but I am not a "joined at the hip" kind of person.  If something doesn't fit my family, I just do something else and hook up later. They love that as sometimes other friends have been a bit clingy and needy.

But, my company did not give raises this year.  And I have a guy in college. So this required a lot of thought and looking at the budget.  It required talking with my wife, whom I know HATES Florida with a passion.  I did both though, and I think we might be able to pull it off. We don't have a camper but I can rent one down there for way less than the cost of renting a house and the campground looks fun and like a place all the kids would enjoy.

I have also begun discussions with Fiona's group home about working with me to make a plan for her to come down for part of the week so that she too gets a Disney experience. She has wanted this her whole life--what kid doesn't?  In typical form, the head basically said gee, go ahead and take her on a trip.  I said, whoa, wait a minute. It is more than that.  I have researched and she is entitled to a vacation whether or not our family was going.  Therefore, I expect there to be a plan for accompanying her and helping her to succeed.  She may become overwhelmed and need to take space.  She may want to do something at the park that the younger kids don't want to do. Those options need to be planned for.  There was a bit of stunned silence at the end of the phone but then the head of the program agreed and said that they would be happy to contact the rest of the team and begin working on this.  I so hope it plays out well.  I have also been clear to them that Fiona is to know NOTHING about this.  It is way too far away and the anticipation will not be anything she can begin to deal with.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Chet turns 30!

Today is Chet's birthday and my perpetual teen turns (gasp) 30.  Yes, the big 3-0!  It is hard to wrap the mind around, in part because he is always so young in his behaviors.  And I have come to a place where I am really okay with that.  The luck of having a large family has been that there have been for many years youngers coming along who reach that place where Chet is comfortable emotionally.  It is a place typically inhabited by pre-teen or early teen boys who enjoy fart jokes and belching and the game Magic.

Rob has sort of passed through that stage and moved on towards young adulthood.  But KC and Lissa are filling the void.  They have learned Magic this summer and enjoy playing it with their big brother. Chet for his part, enjoys the chance to impart something he knows to them.  Albeit somewhat pedantically, but they are used to that as well!

What will happen for him when these two grow past where he is comfortable being I am unsure.  I may have to put an ad out for pre teen boys who want to gather at my house for fart jokes, pizza and games of Magic!

But for today, we celebrated all that is Chet!  He got his favorite supper of arroz con gandules, home made cake and of course gifts.  He asked for rubber bands, a note book and pens, and a couple of movies. He got those and warm fleece pants for winter and hair dye so his mohawk can again be the pink of his shirt in the picture above.

My wife had to leave for work so we did the party backwards with cake and gifts first and then the meal.  This was perfect for her schedule but also consummately suited Chet!

Happy Birthday Son!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Camping Fun, nearly done

We are back from our ocean campout and had so much fun.  It was a day shorter than we had hoped, but that day allowed KC to recuperate from his strep throat.  Well worth it, as even the first day I found that he was more tired than is typical.  We had lots of beach and pool time, spent time with my mom and her significant other and went to an oceanside amusement park in the evening.  The kids love to do that as things look cool with the lights on and the dark skies. All told, since Memorial Day I have camped with them 5 times and our last time will be with our folds from church in mid September. .  Today I washed and got things organized and put away--much of our usual gear will not be needed for that final campout as we do not need to cook for that one. I love camping and the kids have definately been bitten by my camping bug.

I think my wife is less in love with it than i am.  She is a lover of creature comforts and like the Hermit Crab, tries to carry her house with her to the campsite so to speak.  I am all about sitting on a rock or a log and not packing chairs.  I want the least amount of stuff so I can spend the maximum amount of time doing things.  And then there is that phrase "doing things"  My wife likes to sit and knit at the campsite where the kids and I are always off hiking, swimming or looking for adventures of some sort.

Emotionally I was so not ready to come home today. The sea and salt air called to me.  The song of the pine trees overhead begged me to stay.   But grown up responsibilities call and home we came.   And as I was cleaning gear up I was all ready planning next years campouts in my head.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The bags are packed. . .

We were supposed to leave for an ocean camp out yesterday.  However, KC came down with strep throat this week and has had a hard time shaking it, despite the antibiotic.  He is somewhat better today, and I think is on the upswing now.  So tomorrow we will head out early, and I have told the kids that missing one day is not going to dampen the fun.

We had a lovely camp out in the mountains last weekend, staying at the tipi that we rented a couple years back.  But the ocean is calling to me.  I love both the ocean and the mountains.  I am not sure I could live well without either!  What a spoiled New Englander I am.  But I have had a few campouts in the mountains this year, it is time now for the sound of surf. For looking for shells, for sandy feet and boardwalk pizza.  Sea gulls calling, and the lonely sound of the boat whistles.

We also will meet up with my mom who lives not far from our campsite and spend the morning with her on Sunday.  Monday we need to return home, but I plan on making every second that we are there count!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

National Night Out

Last night was National Night Out at my job and we hold a big celebration for the residents.  I work the event and my wife works at night elsewhere, so by default the kids come with me.  This is not a hardship. They love NNO and hanging out with the kids here.  Actually they are all ready friends with a few of the residents because they have played with them at a local city park.  I love bringing the kids because of more reasons than I should probably try to list.

I love letting my kids see and be part of where I work.  I am passionate about affordable housing--about good housing that is.  I want them to see that what I do matters.  It isn't really glamorous and it sure doesn't pay what other jobs might, but people have a safe clean homes here. Some lived in shelters for two years before they moved in here.  To me, that is huge.

I love my residents meeting my family.  Yes, I have to maintain professional distance. But there is a middle ground where I think it is not only okay, but really healthy to share a bit of oneself. To show a human side that may not be part of our routine communications.

I love that my kids get to mingle in the very diverse cultures of our resident population.  My kids are extremely sociable and always find a gaggle of kids to play a basketball game or something with.  We need to give our kids opportunities to work,play and interact with people from many walks of life.  NNO is a great venue for that to happen.

So, while I ran a raffle table, delivered water bottles and checked on vendors, they played, ran, ate and had a blast.  We were all tired when we got home, but can't wait until next year!

Talking. . .

So there were lots more conversations via text and Facebook with D last night.  He wrote that above all he did not want me to feel badly and then the flood gates of commuication were unleashed by him.  He has been essentially homeless since the baby was born, couch surfing and his fiancee and their baby are presently living out of state with her family as a result. He has no credit and could not get an apartment, she has bad credit and could not get an apartment.  They could not find someone to cosign.

I said that I work in housing and maybe I was butting in but that I would do everything I could to help them find housing.  When I was lucky enough to become Rob's mom, my family grew by more than just Rob. He and K and many many more were now in my mind, family.  So to please reach out (and I promised to not have it on facebook, which made him laugh) and i would do all I could. I do not want him to be homeless. He is a bright, kind and intelligent young man.

He said that he was grateful for any and all help and was in a very humbling place right now.  He said he considers me family and has for a long time.  Now to get to work on finding this young man a home.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Why I am glad I didn't jump to conclusions

So last week Rob had to go into the Big City to get his transportation pass  for school. While he was there he planned on seeing his skateboard buddy that he met a college last year and also his brother D and sister K.  I was over the moon happy that the 3 sibs were getting together.  Sometimes  I have felt like I was maybe pushing Rob too hard in my efforts to maintain connections with his first family.  He didn't seem particularly to want this but he didn't come out and say he didn't want it either. So I kept on.  I have been Facebook friends with as many family as I could safely and reasonably connect with.  It has been a long, many years journey with lots of rough patches. But I think we navigated the journey pretty well.

Last year when D and A had their baby shower, we were all there.  More fences were mended, more bridges strengthened.  So it was totally in character for me to write a happy little post on Facebook saying how happy I was that Rob was in town spending time with D and K that day.

Today I got a private message from D saying that he and K did not appreciate being tagged in my happy little post and that although I considered Rob my son, they were siblings and were trying to rebuild that relationship in a way that was not over the top for Rob.

I wrote back right away that I absolutely respect their sibling ties and never intended my words to make that relationship difficult or undermining in any way. I promised not to write anything in the future and said that I would apologize to Rob as well if he was upset by my words--though I also said that he is pretty used to my bragging on him and all the other kids.  I am just a pretty open person.  What you see/read/here is what you get. Anyway, I wrote a careful and thoughtful post back and hoped for the best.

When I got home I had another post from D.  He said above all he did not want me to think I had anything to apologize over. He and K just wanted to be with their brother without all the rest of the first family asking why they had not been included and why they had not brought Rob by etc.  Which made total sense and was something that (obviously) had not occured to me at all.  So we have talked more on line and he and K are hoping to come out this way and visit as well.  I am excited. I am also mindful that if my response had been different, the outcome could have well been really sad.  Instead, I am filled with hope that the journey continues and that these kids solidify their relationships with each other.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Yup, that white majority thing again

A couple weekends ago we were camping in the North East.  We love to camp and this was a great little mini vacation, despite deluges of rain periodically. The kids and I are used to such things--my wife not so much, but I digress.

I had taken the younger kids on a day trip and we left the park about 5 p.m. due to storms rolling in.  I headed back the 90 minute drive toward our campground location, but we needed to stop for supper.  The kids are well trained to try and avoid chains as a general rule when we travel. We like to try out local places and they chose a small pizza place in the center of a small NH town.  We went in and were greeted. Placed our order and sat down in a booth to relax and wait.

About 20 minutes later while we were eating, a van parked outside.  Rob started grinning.  I asked him what was so funny.  He said 5 black people were getting out of the van to come inside and we would now be increasing the diversity of the entire restaurant population because it would now be almost 50/50

He was comfortable with it, but it brought me up short.  It made me remember that my kids live, work and socialize every day in situations where they are not the majority.  My city is diverse and the black community and the latino communities are very visible and present. But they are not the majority.

My kids  obviously notice.  And as part of the white majority, I obviously hadn't.  I consider that in general, I am pretty racially aware. I don't believe in "color blind."  I don't believe in not talking about racial issues.  I make sure we are active in the communities which are my children's heritage.  I have chosen participation in specific sports teams and clubs based on the racial diversity that my kids will find there.

But clearly, this is all still a work in progress--as is the work our country needs to do on racial equality.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

FitBit Fun!

My company has begun a new wellness program.  Sometime mid-May we were eligible to obtain a free FitBit. (one of the 3 lower end models)  The only caveat was that we agree to log to a company website that would allow them to see our steps.

I figured why not.  They all ready have a GPS locater in my company issued phone so they know where I go--what does it matter if they see how many steps I take?  LOL  Also, as part of the deal I could buy one for a family member at a greatly reduced price so I got K one like mine. She does not have to let my company know her steps.

And can I just say how much fun I have with this silly thing?  I love seeing how many steps I walk, how many stairs I climb and how many miles I have traversed by days end.  For a person whose job is mostly behind a desk, I am pretty active.  The only day I did not make my 10,000 steps was a day I had a migraine and I went to work, came home and that was pretty much my day.  But most times, I after work I am doing chores, taking the kids to the park etc.

Also my wife and I have been walking together a few mornings a week.  She has ankle issues so she can't do this daily, so I have more morning walks than she does.  I love the time together as it is just for us and now that she is used to it, K is enjoying the talking time as well.

Then there is the company leader board.  This shows how far everyone has walked.  Well, I am a wee bit on the competitive side.  My initial goal was to stay in the top ten.  Since more than 100 people are doing this, I figured it was a good goal.  I have gradually been working my way up a bit higher than that though and am presently rocking the number six slot.

I know that during the school year it will be much harder to find times to exercise.  My life is a taxi then.  Rob's train schedule, and the kids activities govern my life. But for now, I am enjoying my fitbit and the flexibility that summer gives.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

More Fiona problems

I opened my email this evening to discover that the agency which runs the home where Fiona lives, had a "brilliant" idea. (please understand that word is meant to be read with dripping sarcasm.  Due to the altercations that she had with another woman in the home, they were suggesting that Fi be moved to a new home that is being constructed in the western part of our state. This would happen sometime next month.

I am not amused. First off, I only found out about this through the DDS person who they contacted. They did not contact me, as the guardian which I find grossly inappropriate.

Secondly, moving my daughter does not preclude future physical altercations. I wish that were the case, but I know it is not.  And anyone with half a brain who has read her history should be able to figure that out.

Thirdly, we are her support network. I can not visit her often if she is over an hour away from us.  She is 15 minutes away now and home often.  Also her home visits can be shorter, of an afternoon for instance, or going out to dinner and then getting brought back to the group home. This is of benefit to her in a multiple of ways.  When the intimacy of family life feels too intense, it is easy to disengage and go back to the group home.  Also, at another level, I feel that it models the kind of visiting that you do as an adult.

Moving her out an hour or more away additionally puts her even further away from first family members who try to keep in touch with her and who on occasion gather at our home to be with her.

I have written a strong email stating that if this agency wants to move her an hour away that I am very opposed and that I would rather look to a new agency to provide housing and services for Fiona.  I think, but am not sure, that DDS is going to be supportive.  We shall see.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Fiona's altercation

Life is a whirlwind, practically all the time and my blogging has become far from consistant as a result. This annoys me as there is much I want to write about.  My wife craves a bit of solace in silence so writing is one step up from talking to myself when I process things! LOL  And I look a good deal less batty when I write than if I walk around talking to myself.

Fiona is struggling again. She had an altercation with a housemate and it escalated into a physical attack in which Fi did harm to the other woman.  She bit her and there is still a visible mark and bruise a number of days later. The director of the house attempted to diffuse things and to try to convince the woman who was assaulted not to file charges.  However despite having a cool off time to think about her options, she did file a police report last evening.

Mike called to tell me all this and said that truthfully, no one really knows what this means for Fiona.  The police in the community are aware of the situation at the residence and that the ladies unfortunately do have physical confrontations.  This may just wind up  a written report, or a warning or it could be something more.  Fiona did not know that the charges were filed. The plan is to have this explained to her during her counselling session and for her clinician to let her know that the team will be there to support her through this.

Although I am worried for Fiona, I do feel that accountability is important. There are some things that are not okay and biting people is on that list.  On the other hand, I worry that at some point, she will be in a jail due to the violence that is really symptomatic of her mental illness and cognitive disabilities.

She is coming for a visit for the day on Saturday and I hope that spending time with us will be reassuring to her. I know that when she has something like this happen that afterwards she is remorseful and that she worries that we will not love her.  So in that respect, the visit is timed perfectly.

I hate that life is so very hard for her.  There is so much that is good inside her.

My Young Man

June 2nd Rob turned 19.  I am still amazed by this.  He is a smart, funny, caring and clever young man.  He is light years away from the frightened 5 year old who became my son so many years ago.  All my kids are different and unique individuals.  Rob is the quietest, but there has developed an ease and comfort to our relationship over the years.  I think he just is always going to be the person who shows how he feels instead of talking about it.  For instance he doesn't write me mushy notes like some of the kids, but he is the guy who will make sure that my favorite kind of smoothie is waiting in the fridge.

He bridges young adulthood and being a beloved big brother and son with an ease and grace I didn't have at that age.  He takes time with the youngers who think he could walk on water if he tried.  With me, he is respectful and usually very helpful. He is gentle and patient with the limitations that Fiona has, watching twen shows without complaint that he would never EVER choose on his own.

This Sunday was the first week he has not gone to church with us as an adult, and he was working.  I am proud of that,not because I am profoundly religious in the Christian sense, but because it shows it is a place where he feels welcome, where he has maintained connections, even when he out grew the Religious Ed program.  I think that navigating the mysteries of becoming an adult is easier when there are a variety of trusted adults in your corner and he has that in spades at UUCW.

Rob has a summer job this year and has been a hard worker, accepting extra hours when they were offered to him. He is a hard worker and enjoys it and has not argued about putting 1/2 of each pay check in the bank for school.

He has accomplished his first year of college and is excited that this year he will actually get some time in the kitchen and it won't just be text book classes.

In many ways, Rob is my first child to really grow up.  Chet is forever a child in a mans body.  Able to navigate the neurotypical world well some days and not at all in others, perpetually enjoying experiences more frequently associated with a much younger teen.

Fiona too is in a similar situation. So for me,watching Rob begin to step beyond us, to find his own path is exciting, though bittersweet.   But above all, I am proud of him and so very blessed that he is our son.



Monday, June 8, 2015

Leave Takings and Remembrances

Today was a very emotional day.  It was remembrance day at church, where those who have passed in the prior church year are remembered.  I love how our minister does this because he does not focus on the "big" things about the people. Instead it is the little things, like how one woman was a shoe a holic and the other a Trivial Pursuit fanatic. Yes, they did amazing things as well but it is the little things that we humans (or at least this human) sort of enjoy remembering the most.  The little things bring them closer in our minds.  It has always been so for me.  I remember my mom's second husband saying "boy o boys" whenever the kids and I would arrive and how he would laugh because KC always brought him a small rock and put it in his walker basket.  Sure he was an amazing UU minister and did amazing things in his life, but it was that phrase that always calls him to mind for me.

This Sunday long time friends also got up and announced that they have relocated to another part of the state.  Stan has retired and Deb loves the ocean. They are not inaccessible by any means, but it FEELS so incredibly far away to me. I love them both, but Deb especially has been a friend, mentor, a touch stone in my life for many years.

When we came to the church way back when, Chet was in 8th grade. (he is 29 now for a reference point.)  Deb was the director of the church school.  She was amazing and helped give Chet experiences I am not sure he could have had otherwise.  Despite his autism, he participated fully in a Coming of Age program and grew under her kind and firm tutelage in ways I could not have dreamed possible.

She was still the Director when we began the adoption process and brought Robbie home.  When we tried to adopt Fiona and failed miserably.  When we adopted KC.  By the time we adopted Lissa she had passed the diretorship torch on to another wonderful person. But we remained friends.  She was a person I could confide deeply in, share joys, share sorrows and fears in equal measure. She celebrated with me when I became Fiona's guardian, knowing full well how deeply I felt about the fact that Fi had been unable to live with us.

And now she will be gone.  Or at least a lot farther away.  I won't see her smile on every Sunday morning as I have for low these many years. Or get that encouraging hug that she always magically knew when I needed it.  We will stay in contact via the net, but it will be different.  I knew we were supposed to be sad but also to celebrate this next chapter in Deb and Stan's life together. They have earned this retirement, in a place that they love and want to share together.  But my soul was too busy grieving to do more than have a really fake smile through my tears.

Which reminds me of how our kids felt coming to us.  Leaving the life they knew and joining a family where virtually everything was different.  Where a new family was so happy that they were there.  Where they lost their first families, in part or in whole. And how we had all smiled through lots of tears.  Loss always hurts, even when something "good" is coming out of it.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Memorial Day Camping Fun

The whirlwind of life continues at its typical crazy speed!  Over Memorial Day weekend the kids and I went camping with friends of ours.  It is at a ski area in NH where they have a variety of activities that all our kids enjoy.  Tree top aerial adventures were the big hit this year for KC, Lissa and their 7 year old friend A.  It was amazing to me to watch them learn how to use carabiners and a trolley to do a zip line.  They traversed obstacles, walked on swinging logs and cheered each other on with enthusiasm and had an amazing time.  KC who is usually my timid guy was in the lead both times through the course, his feet sure footed from his dance training.

Lissa was a rock star on the climbing wall.  She truly climbs like a mountain goat--this girl is born for extreme sports I think!  Both times she did the climbing wall she chose the route that had the over hang that you had to get up and over.  Naturally, this was the hardest route, but honestly, she made it look easy.

Poor Rob had come because last year there was a skate park where he could do bike and skateboard tricks.  He loved that and was there all day every day last year.  This year they abolished the skate park but forgot to delete it from their website so we did not know until we arrived.  I admire the way he handles disappointments though. He is gracious and never pouts or rants.  He helped the littles out and spent time shooting pictures of the little kids.  He did try the 20 foot stunt jump a few times and he took the kids up the mountain on the scenic chair lift ride. He did the water balloon fight game with the kids as well.   He is not into rock climbing or the aerial tree top type things though. I love that he never complained or moaned about the loss of his favorite activity; he just found ways to participate.

Our campsite was beautiful, large, quiet, not too terribly far from the bathrooms. (always a plus when Lissa wakens me at 2 a.m.!)  The first night was really really cold--32 degrees, but after that it got warmer each day. 

We totally forgot one tote of our camping supplies so we left home my fire starters, my coffee pot and our cups.  Of the 3 items, the only one I missed was the coffee pot.  LOL  I still made a campfire and did not need the fire starters--old Girl Scout training is still in effect! We used small bowls as our "cups" and looked a bit like pictures one sees of Mongols when we were sipping our OJ but it worked.  I don't let forgetting something color an experience.  We are there to have fun and there is always a work around if you think out of the box a bit.

On the last day we were there I bought myself a ticket and did the 20 foot stunt jump.  It was a blast! I sort of forgot the pledge I made to my wife years ago when we expanded our family about not doing anything extremely dangerous.  My friend videod the jump too so there was, as they say, incriminating evidence!

After  long cold winter though, it felt amazing to be able to be outside for hours on end and we all had a really wonderful time. It may be the only camp out that Rob is able to come on this year depending on his work schedule.

He has been newly hired to work in the produce department of a local grocery store.  I am proud that he has a summer job, and so is he.  And this chain is known for being extremely good to its employees with bonus opportunities even for part time workers. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around camping without him--Rob is that really good camping helper who just knows exactly what to do without my even saying anything.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Recital Weekend


Recital weekend is over and we have survived!  Not only survived but the kids had a blast and did really well with their numbers. These are their 2 favorite costumes--KC's is from his jazz number and Lissa's is from her jazz number.  They also had ballet, hip hop and KC had tap and a final production number that was only open to older students.  I am proud of how well they did but most happy that they enjoyed it.  Lissa does not enjoy it as much as KC but I think that she still had a lot of fun.  If nothing else she adores wearing makeup. This picture is mostly sans make up but I love it.  She looks so relaxed in the shot.  Typically she does not love having her picture taken but this one is a real keeper.  Any dance picture you get of KC is a keeper- the boy lives to dance. He is all ready counting the days till dance camp. Presently he sees himself someday owning his own dance/art studio combo.

This is also the weekend that their long time best friends moved from next door to us to their new home across town. We will still get together but it won't be the daily back and forth between the houses that has dominated most of the littles lives.  I think KC was about 4 when B and his family moved in and Lissa about 2.  The thought of losing the close proximity of their best friends have deeply saddened KC and Lissa.

Friday night when he was lying in bed KC told me he wondered who would move in.  I said I hoped it was someone with kids as maybe there would be new friends to make even though we would still be friends with B and his family.  He looked at me with concern and said "I don't know about that."  I was baffled and asked why.  He said that the family who lived there before B was "mean" and they wouldn't play with them because they were black.

Whoa!  Say whaaaaat?  Cue the clueless parent face as first off I can't honestly remember who lived there before B and his family.  Secondly, as my 11 year old tells me that this kid always  swore at Rob I am wondering why I never heard about this.  I am pretty darn sure I would remember that.  KC said he didn't tell me because  Rob told him not to.

Hmmmmm.  I have read about kids who are adopted transracially who are not comfortable telling their parents about issues of racism.  I have talked about that with my kids and made it (at least in my little brain) 100 per cent clear that I have their back. That I want to know if something is wrong, if they are treated unfairly.  I have visibly gone to the mat on racial issues that I have seen--most noticably ones that involved the kids and I in stores or gift shops.  I have never ever been the parent who didn't want to talk about race.

Granted, this would have been years ago, as KC is 11 now. So Rob would have been about KC's present age when this happened. I think he is much more open in his relationship with me now because I have worked every single day of our lives on it.  But for Rob 11 was a hard time. I do remember that.  I wish I had known about this.  I might have somehow made it a little easier for him. Discrimination is not ever easy, but I always want my kids to know that I am there with them in the fight.  Here's to working for open honest dialogues. . . and good neighbors.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mothers Day

Mothers Day is always the day we celebrate my wife and my partner in our life's journey. This morning the kids feted her with roses, a journal, gift card and breakfast in bed.  Chores were odne with out complaint and her day began in a very peaceful and loving way.

I love mothers day and taking that pause to show her and my mom how much we care.  It is also a time when I think of my kids first mom's.  Some we are able to keep in contact with and reach out to, others, I don't know.  But I love them.  I honor them.  And if I ever get the chance to, I would love to share that with them and let them get to know their amazing child(ren).

I know too, that for Fiona at least, that this is a hard day.  Though we have contact with Mom J her feelings remain conflicted about J and her past.  Loving me I think sometimes feels disloyal and it is hard for her to process all of this.  This year Fi has struggled a lot in the past 6 weeks and we opted not to have her home for Mothers Day weekend.  I don't want to look like I am waving the mother hood flag in her face or asking her for gifts or expressions of feelings she may not be sure she has.

Our conversations of the past few weeks have had lots of volatile conversations followed by tearful ones the next day.  I am trying to make sure she knows that I am always going to love her and always going to be there, while still imparting the fact that I have feelings and that her really big feelings don't give her the right to verbally abuse me. It is, as they say, a work in progress.

Today instead of having her home, I am driving up to see her.  I have bought her hair for extensions she would like to have put in and have her spending money for the month. We will go out to a coffee shop and get a coffee and something light and spend a bit of time together.  It will hopefully be the connections she needs without causing her pain.

Friday, May 1, 2015

For Baltimore

Fire lights night skies,
glass breaks and angry
voices shout--
my friend asks why?

Why torch a senior center
or loot the neighbor store;what
did they do.
They are not the oppressor.

I fumble my words. I am not black.
But I see.  I see with eyes wide open.  I see
promises unkept.  I see lives deemed worth less.
I see death.

And I think that we are watching the fires
of desperation hoping for a phoenix of hope
to rise from the ashes of  the flames.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Will Fiona's dental work get done??

At Amazing Jane's farewell party a couple weeks ago, I thought back on how long we had known each other.  She came into our lives in 2010 when Fiona first was placed in the Great School in the Big City.  At her retirement party it was revealed that she worked over 15 years at the Great School.

That is pretty amazing for most jobs nowadays, even more so for this type of job which has a high burn out rate.  I can see the difference in the revolving staff at the group home where my daughter now lives.  She has been there just over 2 years.  I have dealt with untold staff, 4 directors, and  2 clinicians,   It is sadly a not atypical situation for a field where people deal with a great deal of stress and are woefully underpaid.  The result is that people like my daughter, who need consistancy and stability, are all too often in the midst of change.

That is happening right now.  In fact, there is no house director at the moment and my contact is a gentleman who is a regional director and oversees a number of the group homes.  This is far from ideal.  I know they are in the process of hiring someone.  Meanwhile, Fiona has yet to have her final wisdom tooth out.  It is a bottom one and it is bothering her.

However she was extremely agitated the day of the appointment and refused to go.  The next day she went to the appointment but the dentist told her if she wanted she could be knocked out for the procedure. She wanted that but the consents I had signed were not for that so she had to come home without the work done again. I am unclear as to why she was even asked this as my daughter is not legally competent to make these decisions.

I was sent the scans last night.  I am calling the drs office today to clarify. I am worried about the anesthesia as the dentist we saw initially said she could not have this due to her airway being very small. He said that she would be difficult to intubate should there be a medical crisis.  Secondly the consent is for both the upper and lower tooth.  Fiona only wants the bottom tooth out and this is all it was supposed to be. The upper has not moved and is not causing discomfort.  I worry that she will be in too much pain if both come out on the same side. She had bad experiences with the previous two extractions and the worst one was the upper.  Her roots effected her sinuses. She is in allergy season at the moment. I don't want to borrow more discomfort and emotional disregulation here!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Struggles and Extractions

It was Patriots Day weekend, a long weekend for me with no work yesterday. This is a holiday that not all states celebrate, but ours does.  It was a low key weekend for me, though my wife says that is purely because I don't know how to relax.  She is right about that.  I hate sitting around.  I love to be doing.  I don't want to waste a minute of this precious life I have been given. Yet I know that actively appreciating can lead to frenetic racing, so I work constantly to try and balance my own high energy with "pauses" for the rest of the family.

I did a lot of swapping of closets this weekend.  Us folks in the Northeast have a deep abiding urge to shed the winter woolies. So since Saturday weather was warm, I did this. I knew it was going to get cold again later in the weekend, but I am sailing my ship with positivity and believing the warmer temps will be back sooner rather than later.

I got a lot of outgrown clothes either to the consignment shop or to the pod where one can donate usable goods for free.  I even sorted some of my shoes (my one real vanity) and consigned those that I have not worn and will not wear again. Once you are in the um, 50's , some styles just look down right silly on you!

Sunday was church and that is always a touch stone for my week.  Our minister spoke on genocide and there is much for me to mull over in the week to come.  I tried to write my piece to read tomorrow at Amazing Jane's retirement party. It is a work in progress.  There is so much I want to say, but I want to be respectful of Fiona's privacy as well at the gathering.

Fiona has been struggling and I have spent a lot of time on the phone with her. When she is disregulated she alternately pulls me close and pushes me away, blaming me for all the injustices both real and perceived in her life.  She refused to go to the new day program that I have been working months on because her hair was not done in extensions.  She did not ask for extensions until late the night before when it was not possible to even get clip ins to skate by on.  I am not sure if she is afraid and did this subconsiously to avoid going or if it is the fact that she has a total inability to plan ahead.  At any rate, that night she totally lost control attacking staff and another resident and requiring a hold and one on one presence for the next 24 hours. She would call me and rage at me, saying she didn't want me to be my guardian any more.  I tried to just let her vent and then we would hang up.  I would call back a few hours to say that I loved her and that I would always be there no matter what she felt she needed to say, she would cry and calm down, only to wash rinse repeat hours later.   Yesterday was the first day she sounded more herself and I am hoping the worst is over with as I want to bring her to Jane's farewell party tomorrow.

Yesterday morning I had a tooth extracted.  Apparently I am such a weirdo that I did not know I had an abcessed tooth.  There was no pain. It was found during my regular cleaning last week.  I had the tooth out in the morning and all is well.  They gave me a pain med which I did not need or even bother to fill. I took Ad*il yesterday, but today I don't think I will need anything.  The only annoying thing is that I won't be eating many salads this week. OK any salads this week!  I need to eat softer foods while I heal and salads are my favorite lunch.  I made them every morning and love throwing different add ins--egg, edamame, tiny bits of roasted veggies, salsa, you name it, into the regular base of greens.  My wife hates salads and thinks I am nuts.  So today it is pumpkin raviolis instead, but I really can't complain as all went so well.

All day long my wife kept telling me to go lie down and I kept saying "why?"  LOL  So we got the camping gear out of storage and organized instead as it is only 5 weeks till I take the kids for the first camp out. Now THAT makes me smile!