Friday, December 30, 2016

A good cup of coffee

I am a woman with mostly simple wishes.  I am not big on having the fanciest thing, the gadget with the most bells and whistles, the newest and greatest of pretty much anything. But simple things are harder to find these days.

I love rolling the windows up and down in a car and not pressing a button.  Until my present car I could still find cars like that.  I"ll admit that it helps that I also drive small low budget  vehicles and drive standard to boot.  But those little buttons have motors. Motors that will need attention and replacement.  That never happened with my little crank windows.

About 15 years ago my wife and I got a small 5 cup coffee maker.  On Christmas Eve Rob accidently broke the carafe.  I discovered I could not find a replacement carafe and we began to look on line for a replacement.  Although I typed in 5 cup coffee maker I got all these fancy things through the feed first. Keurigs, french presses, latte thingies.  And 12 cup programmable coffee makers. It was like someone was saying "5 cups?  You think you only need 5 cups?  Wait!  Look at this!!"  Finally after scrolling, for $11.99 we found a small 5 cup replacement coffee maker.  It looks like the picture above.  It works perfectly and meets our needs.

But it made me think about how each day we are subliminally bombarded this way all.the.time.  Menu items are "super sized."  Phones have to be so fancy that you need a doctorate to use one.  Televisions are "smart."  For the record my "dumb" TV works fine and I am totally happy with it.  But I think a large segment of society try to buy their happiness. I would hypothesize that this leads to a state of chronic dissatisfaction because there will always be something bigger and better out there.

I see this in my kids.  I am often saying to them that there will always be someone who has more than you and someone who has less than you. The secret is to be happy with what you have, and to give what you can to help someone else.  Off my soap box now and off to enjoy a good cup of coffee!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Kwanzaa Night!

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In an odd way the goddess apparently felt the need to smack me up side the head and slow me down.  I came down with a stomach bug on Christmas Eve and was sick all that day and all Christmas Day.  I woke today, restored to my normal energetic self.  While I did get up to do the gift opening on Christmas morning, I spent the majority of the day cloistered in my bedroom to try and contain my germs and recover most quickly.  I hate being sick. I have no time or patience for it!  I am especially annoyed that this happened during Christmas!!! I adore the entire celebratory month of December.  While I know I am fully at fault for squishing in every bit of excited fun that I can, I just can't do it any other way.  Some day from the confines of my rocker I will scroll back through a legion of memories of concerts and ballets, parties and gift making, and so so much more.  

Fiona was supposed to be home for Christmas and on Christmas Eve day I got a call from the group home. There had been a very serious incident with Fi; one which may have some longer lasting repercussions due to the level of property damage she engaged in.  Her plan does not permit her to come home within 48 hours of that level of disregulation.  I am not adverse to this.  Fiona has such trouble self regulating and if an incident of this magnitude happened, I feel woefully ill equipped to prevent it or something worse in a simple family dynamic. Yet in an odd cosmic way, things were aligning. You see, I don't have a bedroom for Fi.  I always give her my bedroom and sleep on the floor in one of the kids rooms when she stays over.  This would have been less than enjoyable given how I felt physically.  (usually it does not bother me in the least)  

The family decided to wait the big holiday dinner a day so that I could enjoy it with everyone so tonight we feasted instead of yesterday.  We had a lovely Kwanzaa dinner instead of a Christmas one.  Kwanzaa is a holiday that Rob never really has embraced despite all my efforts to make it part of our family culture.  However the younger kids are really into it.  The picture above is our kwanzaa candle blazing.  The first night of Kwanzaa is Umoji which means unity.  It was a beautiful night to celebrate family unity.  We have fewer family meals these days.  Between my wife's work schedule and my son's work schedule it is rare for us to all sit at table together.  Tonight we were all together, laughing, eating and enjoying the gift that is the greatest of all-family.

Friday, December 16, 2016

December is celebration time

It is the holiday season.  Lights and decorations festoon the house.  A tree is a glow in the living room, overburdened as usual with a plethora of ornaments.  Many made by the kids over the years, treasured by us sentimental parents.  I remember my first "grown up" trees when I moved out on my own.  They were artfully decorated. Every bulb matched or coordinated.  The garland was placed just so.  Nowadays?  I look for the home made "elf" ornaments we did of each kid one year.  I look for the ornaments that our kids have made for us. The ones with a photo of us at a favorite place on summer vacation.  The first ornament my wife and I bought together. etc etc.  It is, as my KC wisely says, about the memories.  I can save the color coordinated tree for a fond memory in the past, or perhaps a hopefully long distant future when the last of my kids have set sail fully on their own life paths.

We are at that cross roads where schedules and interests are changing up what the holidays have been for us.  There are traditions that are still fairly sacrosanct.  The great house decorating day.  Cookie baking. Music. Travelling around looking at lights.  But some things, are changing.  There is less reading aloud of holiday stories. There was no mural this year.  The kids have more get togethers with friends these days. There were several nights of making some really cool gifts.

I try not to over program but admit to failing pretty epically at that this year. With Chet, when he was our only, it was pretty easy to avoid that trap. And honestly in his case it was imperative that I do so.  He can not handle too much hype.  As an adult, he knows he doesn't WANT the hype and just opts out.  But the youngers?  Well, it is fun and they are young for a second, or so it seems.

So we have had a lot of extra activities and there will be more this weekend.   More gifts made for friends. A free movie showing at a local juice bar with friends. Last night Lissa went to a gingerbread man decorating event while I was at the dance school with KC. (Thank goodness for a wide and caring group of friends who helped with transporting Lissa to the event as I have yet to master cloning myself)

Today I worked only a 1/2 day because most of the family will see the new Star Wars movie at 12:30 and I was on call to pick up Rob from the train.  And today, Lissa is 10.  Double digits for my youngest!  She woke up early this morning at 6:10, sooooo excited to finally be 10.  No more babies in my house!  She is such a sweet, yet sassy little minx.  With a wit beyond her years, she can hold her own with the older kids.  Yet the tender side of her is evident when she is working with the animals, most especially with her puppy Luna. She is smart and analytical in her thinking and an excellent problem solver.  She is a good friend and I am lucky to be her Ooma.

I still remember the December she came home--it was a December we were not sure we would be able to get back to MA in time for Christmas because of the interstate compact taking forever. Paperwork around the holiday time can get a little wonky!  But we did get home and I remember vividly her in her baby carrier by the tree on Christmas morning.  KC was barely 3 and lisped "Merry Christmas sissy".    I remember wondering what her personality would be like.  I remember feeling I was woefully underqualified to parent a girl, having had 3 boys--Fiona though my daughter has not lived in our home full time.  I worried that I wouldn't figure out the girly stuff.

Little did I know that I would not have to figure it out.  Lissa has a style sense that is all her own and she is independent in her thinking. Honestly it wouldn't matter if I WAS a stylish person because she wants to figure things out on her own.  Sometimes the strength of her will exhausts me, but at the end of the day, I am abudantly grateful for it.  The world can be a hard place and she will need that strength in the years to come. She will need to know that she is good, and smart and capable.  That she has the right to dream and the power to make dreams into realities.  Happy Birthday Lissa!  I love you so much.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Executive Director Response

I finally heard back from the executive director of the program that runs Fiona's group home.  He basically said sorry, no bunny and gee I am sorry that other staff misinformed you.  But hey on the positive side, don't worry because you should feel really good about the fact that we are putting steps into place so something like this won't happen again.

Oh yeah, color me ecstatic!  Not!!  I wrote back that I would like details on exactly what those wonderful step are going to be because I have absolutely no confidence in the program and no faith that when I get an answer from someone that I will be able to be confident it is a real answer and not just what they thought Fiona or I wanted to hear at the moment. I await additional response from him and also from the other agencies I have contacted about the way the program handled this.

What they don't seem to realize is that this is far and away about more than a bunny.  It is about the spiral they put my daughter into by breaking faith with her. She didn't just break her TV that she spent 3 months saving for, she also tried to self harm.  This is something that she only does when profoundly disturbed and it has not happened in over 2 years.  The fact that this level of despair was caused by and agency that is supposed to have her well being in the forefront of their decision making very much angers me.

I have no expectation that I can change the decision. However I can be a person who holds them accountable for the mishandling and that is what I intend to do.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fiona's Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving Fiona spent the holiday with her first mom J.  She wants to spend Christmas with us.  I am fine with this and had reassured her multiple times that I was more than okay with this.  We talked during the week and i wished her a happy thanksgiving early on Wednesday and asked her to give my love to J and the rest of the family when she saw them.  She said she would. She called me Thursday and we exchanged greetings.  All was well.

Friday morning we were bringing down our Christmas decor and putting away all the harvest decorations when Fiona video chatted me.  I was thrilled to hear from her but certainly not looking my best. I had gone out on Black Friday shopping and got home at 2 a.m. By 7 a.m. I was up and we were in the midst of the holiday home bustle.  I (ahem) had  not even gotten out of my jammies.  My hair looked like the wreck of the hesperus.  But I never refuse to talk.  Fi and I talked and then Rob and Fi, Then Rob and J.  Then J and I.  It was good conversation all round, my bad hair and pj ensemble not withstanding.  I was especially glad for Rob who later when we were talking said that his conversations with J are getting easier.

However, the bloom was off the rose so to speak by today.  I got a video call again from Fiona but this one said that she wanted to go back to her program.  Right then.  Immediately.  I explained that she was a long way away and that immediately was not an option but that I would reach out to the staff and make sure someone was on the way.  I was surprised she was still there as I had said that the visit should not be more than Wed. through Friday evening. (by evening back at her program)  My reasoning for this is that I believe Fi needs help in interpreting and charting her relationship with J as a young adult.  To stay too long would I feared lead to her magical thinking of staying there or trying to recreate fantasies that were not realized in her childhood.  It also is a lot to put on J for her to be there for more than the equivilent of a weekend. Fiona needs a lot of monitoring and doesn't typically do well amusing herself.  Left to her own devices she interprets a lack of constant attention as being ignored.

The latter is what happened.  I spoke with Fi tonight and she is still angry about the visit. She feels that extended family ignore her and don't include her.  My gut feeling on this is that they include her to the best of their abilities but that they are not disabled and some of her interests are not those of most regularly functioning adults.

We had a fairly good and very long talk about it all. She did admit that she thought she would just fit seamlessly into things going back for visits.  Once she had a chance to vent I tried to suggest to her that her cousins and even her sister have had years to develop other interests and just as she has shows and interests that are important to her, so do they.  She said she was angry that her sister Crystal does not want a relationship with J.  She feels that is unfair.  I said that part of being an adult was letting Crystal decide for herself what was right for her at this point in her life. It could change.  But it was not up to Fi to be the change agent. She had to focus on her own relationship with J and work on that being a healthy one.

I wish with all my heart that Fiona had a good therapist on board to help with this.  I feel vastly underqualified to sail these waters without professional support.  However she is on a waiting list for therapy due to her medical insurance and has all ready been on the list for a number of months.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Black Friday!

Last night after Thanksgiving was over and the house was clean, I went Black Friday shopping with some friends.  I have never done this before.  Mostly I don't like to go to stores to shop.  I tend to enjoy on line shopping.  However there were some black Friday deals at the dreaded Wall of Mart that I knew would be awesome if I could get them. I could get both Fiona and Chet blu ray DVD players at a totally affordable price.

However I was nervous.  I expected hordes of people pushing and shoving, yanking things out of one anothers hands.  Instead, I waited for two hours (yes 2!) in the drizzly rain chatting with Des and Eric and eventually also with the couple behind us in line. People weren't just orderly. They were friendly.  Maybe it was because they thought it was so funny that I was a "Black Friday Virgin!" But I think it is more that people are better than we sometimes give credit for.

Inside the store, it was extremely crowded, but it was well organized.  And in 30 minutes, I found all the items on my list and checked out.  Home in bed at 2:00 a.m. No one tried to steal a blu ray from me. No one assaulted me.  No one was anything but nice.   I need to remember this because the media does such a job convincing us that the reverse is the bench mark of our society.  There are things that are wrong. There are people who are hurtful and who don't value others.  But they are really, in the minority.  Maybe if we believe that good is truly out there it will have more notice taken of it and more weight in the decisions of our world.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

I love Thanksgiving.  I love the gathering of family and friends. Our house bulges with both, and the tables (yes, plural) groan with food options.  There is laughter, joking, and memories are made. I feel extremely blessed.  Also, extremely tired, but I digress.

What I thought on this year though were a couple of random things.  I thought about how we are sort of at a crossroads.  I don't know that next year Rob will be with us for Thanksgiving.  He might be,and he is always welcome. But I think that it is also possible that he may be elsewhere, spreading the wings he has been fledging these past few years of college.  I may be cutting the carrots and potatos myself next year--missing his smile, quiet helpful demeanor and oh goddess, his speedy knife skills.

My father in law and my mom are aging.  It was a huge relief this year to see that Dad seemed better than when we got together this summer.  His recent cataract surgery has had an amazing success on his vision and he barely needs glasses now.  His energy seems better and I hope for many many more Thanksgivings with him, but you never know.  My mom is the same age and she too is slowing a bit.  She has health issues that have begun to impact her abilities and this is troubling to her and frightening to me.

And at a wider level, as I sat in abundance, I was reminded that this is not a day of rejoicing for the native population of our country.  And today, right now, we are again perpetuating injustice against the native population. How can we even think about something as toxic as the Dakota Access PipeLine?  How can we allow water cannons to douse protestors in freezing temperatures?  How is it that we seem unable to learn from past mistakes and continue to perpetuate the same unfair treatment?

So today, yes I celebrated.  But I celebrated not that first Thanksgiving.  I celebrated family.  I celebrated friends, and the strength of love.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Hopping On

Mid day Friday I was reasonably sure that the meeting about Fiona's proposed bunny had gone well.  I brought with me to the meeting a paper print out of the email sent to me when the group home house manager first proposed working on this.  I had circled the date, which was just over a year ago. It was immediately evident until I produced the email that this was going to be a brush off meeting.  However the tenor changed immediately when I showed the email and they took copies. The present house manager and the clinician both agreed that to recant on the promise would be seriously detrimental to my daughter.  We brainstormed ways to meet the need of Fi to have a pet and walk around the apparent no pet policy of the home.  The present house manager has a farming background and suggested an outdoor hutch.  I was on board provided they helped defray the cost by making the hutch in a woodworking shop used by some of the male participants in the facility.  (different house, but same overseeing agency)  They were fine with that.  I asked for an explicit accounting of my daughter's personal funds and am promised that I will receive this by the end of this week and that it will detail what the expenditures were.  I am sure that they were FOR her. I am also sure that intentionally or inadvertantly, deposits into the bunny fund envelope were not being made as schedule dicatated.  Fiona always asks staff before spending anything "this isn't from my bunny fund, is it?" and both the clinician and the new house manager admitted freely to this.

I will somehow scrape together money to replace the funds that were misspent so that Fiona would not lose this opportunity due to lack of cash.  I made this clear to the team that met with me.  We parted on what I thought were good terms.

Late Friday night when there would be no way to contact anyone I received an email. It was actually a forwarded email from the CFO who said it was unfortunate that the previous house manager had misrepresented the facilities policies.  He sited a number of reasons why it might not be possible to have the bunny and said I would not have an answer till Monday by days end.  The entire tone of his email is one of shock and like he heard this proposal  for the first time.

I didn't bring EVERY email to the meeting.  I brought the initial email.  Here at home I have the one detailing the house manager's conversation with the CFO and exactly what this person contributed to the discussion by way of a question he had wanted answered by me. The email clearly names the CFO and details the conversation the house manager had with him as well as the resulting query the CFO had for me.   I have also sent an email out to DDS informing them of the situation and the detriment that this scenario could have on Fiona's mental health and emotional stability.

Please stop playing, people.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Strength in the hard times

It's been a hard week.  A hard week for our nation where results show how divided we truly are.  Results that gave hate talk and injustice a seeming legitimacy.  It has been a hard week as a parent, navigating this morass.  I believe in sharing reality with my children but I also believe that we can't lose hope.  We have to believe--I have to believe--that love can and will ultimately triumph.  This is not the final decision and there is much we can do to share and spread love. Much we can do to protect the vulnerable.  We must step up and do this work.  I believe that the best of people is usually revealed in the worst situations.

On a personal level I have had a migraine for 3 days which is wearing my body and patience rather thin.  At this time of year I do more driving in darkness and the headlights are a trigger for me.  It is exhausting and I was too yucky feeling last night to attend a party that I had been looking forward to for a month or more.  End of personal pity party.

Then there have been ongoing changes and concerns at my daughter's group home.  We meet today to discuss the pet issue that had been approved by the previously approved is apparently not approved now.  Last night at 10:30 I also received a call from Fiona and an employee of the home.  Fi has been saving money for the bunny needs and had a budget and now all but 60 of the money is missing.  The group home worker and I are furious because Fiona would always ask before she spent money if this was coming out of her "bunny fund."  Fi can't read a lot and can't do math well; her budgeting strategies are using envelopes to save for things she wants and needs. She has done this several times successfully in the past, most recently saving for a large screen TV for her room.  Part of today's meeting will involve my asking for a full accounting of her expenditures from her spending money for the past 3 months. I will expect receipts and a full explanation of why the plan was not followed.

I feel a huge breach of trust and I know that Fiona does too. There have been big goals that she has worked hard on for this.  She feels that she met these goals "for nothing".  I can't blame her.  I can't ask her to trust people that I no longer trust.

And then last night I learned that Leonard Cohen had passed away.  Hallelujah is my favorite song.  I listen to a zillion different versions of that, my most favorite being Leonard himself and artists who perform it acoustically or "stripped down."  Today I will listen to it and remember that we all have gifts to give.  Leonard gave the gift of music for over 50 years.  Today my gift must be that of advocacy and accountability.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Like many in this country, I am still mentally reeling after this election.  I speak cautiously in my work environment, unsure who may be quietly celebrating the win of their candidate.  Inside, I feel like wailing and screaming.

I worry for my children.  Strong beautiful children of color, in a country whose president elect seems to respect only those who are male white and powerful. I think of my Rob, coming of age in a world that suddenly seems more bigoted and narrow than I ever thought our country could be again.  I think of KC and Lissa whose optimism and belief in a wonderful future was rocked this morning at breakfast when we talked about election results.

  I worry for myself.  I worry that rights I have been able to enjoy as a married lesbian woman will somehow be curtailed,  or lost entirely.

I worry for the work I do.  I work in an industry that provides housing to the more vulnerable members of our society.  Those who are socio-economically deprived. I have worked in this industry long enough to know that our work is always under funded and harder during Republican administrations. I have never had the misfortune of working during a trifecta of Republican control.

I worry for the women of our society.  It is hard to feel that someone who espoused what was charitably called "locker room talk" will really champion equality, will embrace breaking the glass ceiling.  Will women even be continued to choose what happens to their own bodies?

The world is never a certain place but I have always idealistically believed that justice and right could and would prevail.  Today, I am not so very sure of that.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Bunny Blues

There has been another round of huge staffing changes at the home where Fiona lives.  It also goes higher up the food change with a clinician change and some new faces in upper management.  I can't speak to whether any of this is good or not. Frankly I liked our last direct care team very much and the 15 months or so that we worked together were some of the healthiest ever for Fiona.  I felt they got her, not just her needs, but who she is as a person, beyond and above all the cognitive and behavioral stuff.  The inside part that so often struggles to be seen and validated.

However I see huge storm clouds on the horizon.  This team contacted me last October about Fiona having a pet.  This was something she asked for and they went up the chain and got approval for.  I was not the driving force in this.  While I know that pets are therepeutic, while i know that Fi adores animals and is good with them, I have had deep concerns over the plan.

Loving pets does not translate into having the ability to provide regular and appropriate care.  However my opinon was not solicited and a plan was put into place.  Fiona has been working the plan which included a certain decreased level in holds, a certain level of cleanliness in her room and other goals.  It has been a long road but she has met these requirements and thought that this Christmas she would be able to buy her bunny.  (part of the goals were also financial and budgeting for the pet care and the supplies the pet would need.

A couple days ago Fiona called me and said she was worried that staff were backing away from the plan to get her the bunny.  I said I didn't think that was the case but that i would contact the team.  I did and my daughter is correct.  The new team point person said "gee it is not our practice to permit pets for a variety of reasons yada yada yada."  We are meeting next Friday as i have the day off to discuss this and develop a plan.  There will be no good resolution to this if they are recanting.

My daughter has had too many instances where people have broken faith with her.  This is going to be another and she will hate every single member of this team forever.  Or at least till they all ride off into the sunset and the next crew come on board.

To complicate things, we just let Lissa get a small dog.  If Fiona can't realize her dream of pet ownership it is also going to create a difficult dynamic here to negotiate.

What the new team does not know is that I have saved every single email to me and from me regarding the pet issue.  Actually I save every email with this agency period. And if I have a phone call, i send a follow up email saying "this is my understanding etc etc. and asking for their confirmation."  I don't know that this will help her get the pet but it will help me if I have to take this up a notch concerning the way they are handling my daughter's care.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Spooky Solutions

Fiona and I had a long phone conversation today. She is coming for a visit home next Saturday but the holidays are starting to be first and foremost in her mind.  I expected that.  Holidays are very much a mixed blessing for her.  On the one hand, she looks forward to them almost as much as KC and Lissa.  On the other hand, the double whammy of her birthday and Christmas remains hard for her to manage.  Though she is turning 24 this year she has no money concept and is prone to asking for gifts that are far beyond the price point of what I can provide for her.  I can expect several conversations this year with varying degrees of success about this.  Last year for instance, she wanted a 250 ipod touch as one of her gifts.  It was hard to explain to her that Christmas for 5 kids means everyone gets something that they want but that there are limits to what I can spend and how many gifts I can supply.

This year, Fi has had more visits home to her first mom, Mom J.  She told me today that Mom J wants her there for Halloween so she can go out when they take her sister R who is about Lissa's age, out trick or treating.  Fiona was feeling conflicted because she always comes with us and was afraid KC and Lissa would be upset. She thought she had come up with a solution which involved all of us going out together.  Which would be fine except that we live 2 1/2 hours apart!  

I explained that we would miss her but that in big families we have to take turns being together.  We had been lucky enough to have her with us for a bunch of Halloween celebrations.  It was J and R's turn and no one would be angry or upset if that was what she wanted to do.  I explained the logistics of why it was not possible for us to trick or treat together.  Distance, the week night etc all play a role.  Also I know J does not drive and I reminded her that I do very little night driving because of my migraines.

I suggested that she and I brain storm with the rest of the family about a place where next summer we could have a big potluck picnic type gathering.  Ideally we can find some place 1/2 way between us all with lots of space to gather, eat and play.  She was very excited by that possiblility and it is something I would genuinely like to do.  I am hoping her cousin N might have some ideas of possible places and I will start googling looking for ideas too.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Wandering and Wondering

 Last night the younger kids and I went on a walk.  We spent a bit of time at a park on our block.  It was a place we spent hours and hours at when they were small, basically from 6 months old to about age 7 for Lissa.  KC was about 9 when we pretty much stopped going.  The park is geared to the younger set and suddenly, the magically dinosaur themed  equipment was no longer massive.

The dinosaur that KC spent hours trying to climb was now an easy hop and a jump.  There are still large swings that Lissa enjoyed last night.  While she was swinging KC and I walked around the park.  He is a lover of memories, my child most likely to treasure a card or a "remember when" moment.  And sure enough, he was recounting all the things we did over the years there. When certain pieces of equipment arrived, who we met there.  Who we were still friends with despite having moved on from "dino days."  Funny anecdotes, like the splashing contests we sometimes had in puddles there.  It all came flooding back to him and we both really enjoyed revelling in the re-telling.

He got a bit weepy over the fact that he doesn't enjoy the park in the same way any more.  Moving on is hard for anyone and I suspect a bit more so for KC who clings to the magic of childhood with tenacious grip.  I reminded him that the greatest gift the dino park gave him was the fact that it was so magical that at nearly 13 he could remember how special it was and that nothing would take that away.  He smiled and said that he wanted to make sure that when he has kids that they go to the dino park just like he did.  I said that maybe they would, but that if life took him some place else, he would remember the fun we made there and would find something like that to give to his kids.  It was sort of an "ah ha" moment for him to realize that you could draw from the beauty of an experience and not necessarily have to replicate it exactly.  A huge growth moment among falling leaves and beautiful memories.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Chinese food Saturday

Today Fiona was due to come home for a visit and I wondered how things would go.  Not only did she have a stressful experience last evening, but her group home is again in transition.  The really good house manager that has been there just shy of 2 years has moved on and there are other staffing changes as well.  Whenever there is a transition it is tremendously hard for her.  Additionally, it means there is less support for her to access as she processes any feelings or concerns that come up as she reconnects with Mom J.

So I was not surprised when Fi called me mid morning, angry and confrontational.  She had been asked to not play her music loudly in the common room where others were watching TV.  She felt she had every right to do that no matter what.  Staff later told me that she was playing her music so loud the music could be heard clearly even though she was wearing her headphones.  Eeks!

While I agree that she was appropriately asked to move to another location or to lower the volume of the music the new staffer also told Fiona that if she didn't comply that she would "lose her visit."  Fiona quite rightly said that the only time her visit is jeopardized is if she has a hold.  I won't take her off site if she is that unstable but anything else, i am okay with.

However that comment from the staff was the tiny straw that broke the back of the tenuous grip that she has held on her emotions since the loss of the former house manager.  Much ranting ensued in thephone conversation and somehow she wound up telling me she didn't want a visit anyway, she didn't want me to bring spending money, and I could just leave her alone.  I explained that I would be coming with her months spending money but that she of course had a choice of seeing me or not.

By the time I got there, a more experienced staff had helped her find some calm, and gotten her to a place where she could more rationally discuss the other staff's mistake, and her own role in the incident.  I suggested that instead of coming home, that she and I go out for lunch and she agreed.

We ate at a Chinese restaurant not far from the group home.  A cute little family run place.  I had a yummy spicy tofu, and she had her favorite crab rangoons and chicken wings.  We were able to talk about her visit yesterday, happy anecdotes of her time there, concerns that she had over the transport issue, plans for future visits there with Mom J and plans for visits with us.

The best thing is that it ended well. A year ago, maybe even 6 months ago, she wouldn't have gotten things together enough to even go to lunch. Huge growth for my daughter and I am so proud.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Circling Fiona with love

I read often about adoption.  It is my duty to do so. To be vigilant and to remember that my joy--the children I love beyond measure--carry a pain that I can not heal.  I believe that adoption is something that means I welcomed more than my children to my home and heart.  I welcomed their first families, their extended families and they too should and did become people I love.

Some we see often. Some we text or communicate via social media.  Some I am closer to than others.  Most especially I have worked very hard to build ties of love and friendship with Mom J, my Rob and Fiona's natural mother.  I have never known for sure how she felt about me.  She always says how grateful she is for the life I have helped the kids to build.  But I don't want gratitude and I don't know if those are words that she thinks she needs to say to me. I hope not.  I have tried to show that she has much to give the kids and that relationships can be healed and recalibrated at any point in life.

And I think she took it to heart.  Today Fiona was at J's for a day visit.  The group home drive her to and from J's house which is a long way away from us.  While I was doing piece work tonight J called me. She said Fiona was trying to get a hold of me and that the worker who was driving her was ill and they didn't know what to do.   I called the group home and got ahold of assistance and when Fiona called me I explained to her what was going to happen and reassured her.  She had for the most part remained very calm, although the reason that she had not been able to contact me is that she was trying to video chat me via Facebook and I was not on line.

I was able to get back in touch with J after all this had happened and  reassure her as well.  I am grateful that tonight we were able to enfold Fiona in a circle of love and safety as she handled a stressful situation.  It is the very best of family building.

Monday, September 26, 2016

KC joins the big leagues!

KC is 12 and in full tween mode these days. But he just made a huge leap (pardon the pun) in his dancing.  He also began his Coming of Age year at church and had his first mentor/mentee event after services yesterday.

In the dance area, he has been promoted to the group 3 dance group for hip hop. He was previously in group 2.  Group 3 is made up of much older kids.  One 8th grader, but most are 9th and 10th graders. KC is 7th grade.  What prompted the boost was the fact that there were only 4 kids in his group 2 hip hop this year.  2 were bumped down a level and one other class mate was promoted with KC.

I worried that he would be nervous but he rocked it.  He could keep up with the class and the class members accepted him warmly.  Saturday our city has a big fall festival. The dance school has a booth there and dances periodically in the streets through out the day.  KC worked from 9 to after 1 and danced multiple times.  Most of the dancers and volunteers were the older girls from group 3 and when they were on break I would see KC walking around the fair with one or the other of the young ladies.

This was KC yesterday morning before church.  Last year at the end of the RE  program the kids made tie dyed shirts to get ready for COA  For each coming of age event they will wear this shirt. KC had a blast. He loves his mentor, with whom he shares a passion for the arts and was proud that during the question and answer period, there was very little about her that he did not know.  Like wise, she knew a lot about him.  For some kids, that might detract from the experience.  For him, it is a key foundation piece for him.

He enjoyed the canoe trip and came home happy and tired eager for the journeys and explorations that will happen this year.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Ties that did not bind

It never gets easy.  Social media is good for lots of things and for an over all feeling of connectedness.  But tonight when I popped on, I saw a post from my BIL.  He was posting about how thankful he was that his father in law was visiting from AZ.  Um, way to find out your father is in the state and not seeing you.  Again.

Most of the time his absence in my life is not something I think about.  It has been so long.  I have so much that is good and loving and right in my life.  In my head, I know that I am pining for something that never was.  Our relationship was not one where I felt loved, and I suspect he felt let down by me.  He must have, since he moved without warning, without farewell.

I'm glad for my sister.  She and my father are very close.  But I am glad I am camping this weekend.  We'll be by the ocean.  It will be cold but there is amazing restorative energies for me at the seaside.  And we are with about 150 friends from two churches.  The kids always have someone to hang with and I have time to chat with really great people.  I always treasure this time.  Today, I feel like more than anything, I need this time right now.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Life Guarding

Things have been going well for Fiona of late.  She has been less violent, and more able to talk through an issue.  Sadly I expect there will be some rough patches in the near future. The house manager is leaving for another position.  This seems to happen regularly with the house managers in this home and I find it frustrating.  I get a working relationship and just as things start to level out--communications are good, mail is properly sent to me, Fiona's needs are being met. . . bang they are on the way out.  There is always a hiatus while they try to find another house manager and this is the worst of all.  People covering the house rarely know the occupants well.  They are often over worked, over tired and uninformed.  For Fi this means there are going to be hurt feelings and outbursts.  Trust me, I have been to this rodeo far too many times.

Yet if I am frustrated, I know my daughter is frightened and angry.  Tonight she called me almost manically happy which is a sure sign that she is going to crash and burn behavior wise.  The house manager called me shortly thereafter and said he had told the ladies today of his impending departure and that Fi was very angry and upset.  I said I knew as she had all ready called and told me he was leaving.  (side note she was not happy he is leaving. She is deflecting this by mentioning his departure and talking about a bunny rabbit she has been trying to acquire for about 6 months.)

I know too that for Fiona  the change in preferred staff underscore the fact that their presence there is a "job."  She is work to them. And while she needs to be there, and while I know in my heart that there are days and times when being with her is so challenging that it is really HARD work, this has to all feel really ugly to her.

Even though I have been through this many times, I don't know anyway that makes this any easier for her.  I always feel like I am trying to help her tread water till the new manager is hired and then I can at least have a sit down and try and get a feel for their style and how to enlist the best assistance possible for Fiona. But for now, back to treading water.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Relationship Blooms!

It has been a long time since Rob had a girl friend.  His first girl friend was an intense 4 year relationship that at times I liked and at times petrified me.  The young woman was very bright but ery very intense and I worried privately that things would spiral to a place that would damage their futures.  She broke things off as they entered college and he was devastated.

He didn't date anyone seriously since then and we are entering year 3 of college.  He had an active social life and many "girls who were friends" but gatherings were groups and not dates.  Privately he told his younger sibs that he was not going to settle for just one girl.

Late this summer he met Moe.  Moe lives in the neighborhood, is a bit younger than he and they began hanging out after Rob got out of work. He would go to her house and they would sit at a picnic table and talk and she came to our house and they had a fire in the fire pit. I actually thought they were going to part ways a week or so ago though as Rob complained that she was texting him too much.

While the comment made me laugh (he is like so many 20 somethings with the phone constantly at the ready!) I was hoping that he would give the relationship a bit more of a chance. And apparently he did, as last night he announced that they were a couple.

I hope they are good to and for each other.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Chet is 31

Today is Chet's birthday.  My eldest is 31 today! We actually are not having his party till Sunday due to various family member work schedules.  However I wanted him to have something festive for supper tonight so here he is in the picture on the left with his home made waffle sundae.  Freshly made waffle, topped with chocolate chip ice cream ,whipped cream caramel sauce (just a drizzle) and fresh blueberries.  He was thrilled and very surprised.

The picture of Chet on the right is him at a party,though which one escapes me.  I love his zany joy and exuberance. But, his autism means he gets overwhelmed with sensory easily.  I think these two pictures show that the most clearly.  His face is so relaxed in todays shot.  Lots of tension and the grimacey smile in the second one.  The shot on the left is precious to me as I can count on one hand the number of pictures I have like that .

But regardless of the pictures, my love for this guy is unchanged.  He is zany, whacky and will sometimes drive me round the bend, but that is all beside the point. He also has a true deep caring for large issues of injustice a desire to help people in the wider world and definately believes in not wasting our planets resources.  Happy Birthday Chet!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Road Trip 2018?

This summer has been filled with memory making opportunities.  We have camped multiple times with a variety of friends.  I am so lucky to have so many people I genuinely enjoy spending time with. And who apparently reciprocate this feeling.

Our most recent camping adventure also found me bringing along the little boy who used to live next door to us and who was part of our kids lives for many years.  B had never been camping and he and KC and Lissa relished the 5 days together.  We were also camping with my friends Des and Eric and their four kids.  We have camped together for about 5 years now.  While we were sitting around the campfire, they said that in 2018 they want to travel cross country and they would love our family to come along.

It was high praise--the proposed trip is a month long journey.  They said that they could not envision doing this with any other friend than our family.  (sniff)  My knee jerk reaction was "heck that is so sweet but how can  I possibly do that?"  Thankfully I stuffed that thought back in my craw and said I"d ask my wife what she thought when I got home.

Kirsty was very excited by the idea.    My next step was to find out if I can get a month off from work.  I get 5 weeks of vacation annually.  Truthfully I have never used all my vacation days. Ever.  But the type of work I do has federal deadlines and there is a policy that one is not supposed to be gone more than 2 consecutive weeks.  (OK here is where I confess I have not done THAT either!) I use about 2 1/2 to 3 weeks yearly but in dribs and drabs throughout the year.  I typically maximize my time off by planning around existing holidays when our office is closed anyway.

I told my boss about the possible adventure.  She is very supportive and has submitted my request to HR.  I have my fingers crossed for a yes.  After all it is a 2 year notice and I am willing to do anything necessary to make sure someone is fully trained in what I do for the month that I would be gone.

Meanwhile, in a spirit of optimism we adults met at Des and Eric's new RV last night.  Partly to admire their new digs. Partly to talk about where we all want to go.  Mostly to State Parks which  an annual pass will make pretty affordable. Partly to talk logistics--how many driving hours would we shoot for daily?  What type of areas do we want to stop in at night?  My family will have to rent an RV as we do not own one.  I am a tent camper and am also petrified to drive an RV.  So I will be copilot and keep the kids happy and entertained while we travel.

Des shared their list of "must sees" and we have added a few. The kids are very excited about this. It will be the trip of a lifetime for us, I am sure. Lots of planning, lots of saving, but an adventure of epic proportions!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Adoption and the Olympics

I have been watching the Olympics and enjoying all my favorite events. (which is basically anything except water polo!)  I especially adore gymnastics and have loved watching the women's team this year. They are a dominating force and the routines leave me breathless with awe.  I am also pretty excited about the racial diversity on our team.  In a sport that was pretty much dominated caucasians, we have 2 blacks and a hispanic on our winning team. There are a two caucasians but the demographic of the team is startlingly different from previous years.

However what is not different is the media frenzy surrounding Simone Biles and her adoption story.  I have watched this unfold and it is painful at so very many levels.  First off, I am feeling very very badly for Simone herself.  Her personal life is out there for public dissection in every conceiveable way.  Adoptive parents are rallying around the "we are the real parents" banner.  First mothers are rallying around the "first families are forgotten" camp.  Foster parents and foster alums are weighing in.  All come with their own stories which color their perspectives.  And all i see is a young woman whose amazing gymnastic abilities and achievements are somehow incredibly being second fiddle to her very personal adoption/family story.

I want to be very clear that I wholeheartedly respect first families.  They are my kids family.  They have become my family, because we all love the same people.  And we all want what is best for the kids and we have learned from each other and we value each other.  I personally feel the portrayal of Simone's first mother in the press is cold and painful.  No one needs the labels that this woman has endured.  And if she is as she stated, sober for many years, it's even worse.  People make mistakes, sometimes horrible ones.  If we are lucky, and have a dose of common sense, we have an opportunity to learn from those mistakes.  I feel that the media is not giving Shannon Biles that chance. And the media circus could derail any opportunity in the future for Simone and Shannon to have a relationship should they wish to develop it.

Does this mean I don't support her adoptive parents?  No, of course not.  Her grandparents stepped up and they have clearly done a great job raising an amazing young woman.  The fact that Simone calls them mom and dad bothers me not a whit.  Kids choose what they want to call the people who love them. Also most kids have a nearly desperate need to fit in. I can see these factors playing into Simone's decision to call them that.  I have kids that call their first moms Mom.  I have kids that call their first mom's Mom followed by their first name)  I have kids that call their first mom by their first name.

It has never been my decision what to call their mom. It has been theirs.  I am happy being one of the moms. I am happy being lucky enough to be the mom that gets to kiss them goodnight, hear about their day and make memories on a daily basis with them.

Let's let amazing athletic achievements be the thing we watch and talk about.  Let's let these fine young people have a personal life this isn't dissected and the source of media sound bites.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

High Summer

It has been a hot summer, hotter than our area of the country has had in a number of years. And the driest summer since 2001 or something wild like that.  There are water restrictions and  even I, lover of perpetual sun, get the need for rain.

But when today dawned another hot bright sunny day, we decamped to a beach about 30 minutes from our home.  My wife was actually supposed to lead an event there for the church that she works for. No one showed, but we all had a fabulous time there.  The lake deepens very gradually and it is a quiet beach.  Even with the heat we have had it was far from crowded.  I could have stayed there all day--literally.  I think though that I am programmed this way.  When I was a child we spent almost every day at a lake beach and were there literally almost all day.  We would go after breakfast, go home for lunch and then go back in the afternoon.  If it was really super hot, we could almost always talk my mom into an evening swim as well.

My wife doesn't really love beaches though, and in particular despises sand, so I felt blessed to have the couple of hours there with her. Usually it is me there alone with the kids and while I don't mind that, it is definately special to me when she is there.

Summer is fleeing by far too quickly for me.  In a couple of weeks I will take the littles and their friend B camping for 4 days. We will be with other friends as well so it will be a passle of kids who will have a blast together.  But then, except for our church camping weekend in mid September, that will be it.  The season so eagerly awaited, so lovingly planned during cold dark winter nights, it will be over.  (cue sad music here)

I've seen a few red swamp maple leaves and while I tell myself it is water stress, it is likely that it is August.  The robins have decamped and the crickets now sing with the frenzy that I associate with late high summer nights.  They too, know time is finite for this season.

Though summer is busy, it is in many ways less structured than the rest of the year.  I have time to work out with my friends instead of having to rise early to do the train run with Rob.  Meals are relaxed.  We've had picnics and ice cream for supper nights.  Bed times are later.  Rob has had a lot of time to hang out with his friends after work, getting home after 2 on many nights.  That will sadly have to change during the school year and I expect that the realization of a 6 a.m. train has not come to the forefront of his mind yet!

So for now, I will enjoy the last vestiges of this most beautiful of seasons.   I will drink in every opportunity, admiring our gardens, parched though they may be, creating memories to warm me when the chilly winds and dark evenings come.

Monday, July 11, 2016


Last night on the internet I stumbled upon something new to me.  A live streaming of a BLM vigil in the Big City nearest to our home.  I watched for a bit to try and hear the speaker.  The sound quality was beyond bad and I could not hear almost anything she was saying. I was just about to click off in frustration when I noticed that comments also get posted in real time with the live streaming.

I watched in legit horror at the hatred that spewed from those comments, up the screen of my monitor.  Comments that the speaker had time to do this because she was on welfare. Comments that all lives matter.Derogatory comments about the charge to blacks to try to economically impact whites by going to black owned businesses. Comments that people should just do what police say and nothing will go wrong.  (news flash, you need to add if you are white to that last one folks--just ask the family of Phil Castile.) And there was more.  Much more. So much hatred I can not dignify it with reiterating it here. They flew so fast I could not even respond to a specific post, because it was gone in a flash, replaced by another equally as appalling.

How is it possible to hate so much?  How is it possible not to see people as people.   How can there be any hope for justice when so many people buy in to stereotypes and racist rhetoric.  These injustices and killings can not be stopped if whites are going to look the other way.  We have a disproportionate amount of power.  We need to, and we must, be agents for change and justice.  We need to listen to our black friends, neighbors, sisters and brothers, and support their efforts at change. Our children, our country, and our future need this.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

And Again. . .

48 hours and 2 more black men murdered.  I am probably the most positive person on the planet.  "Sail your ship with positivity" has been laughingly declared by my family to be my personal motto.  But I have no positivity tonight.  I have anger. I have fear.  I have an overwhelming sense of helplessness.

The repeated unwarranted killing of people of color keeps replaying like some bizarre twisted version of that old movie Ground Hog Day.  And I don't know what to do.  I don't know what to do to keep my children safe.  I literally don't go to sleep till I know Rob is home from work.  I have turned this into my reading time and I do enjoy that. But keeping things honest?  I am worried that something would happen and i would not know till there was a knock on the door.  I don't want to miss a call, a text, a chance to try and help if the need arose.

I worry that my kids, despite my oft repeated dictates of what to do if an officer stops, will push the envelope.  They are good kids. But they are kids.  At Rob's age, despite all my comments to the contrary, he is sure he is immortal.  I was his age.  I was once immortal too.  But I am white.  And while I have faced discrimination in regards to my gender or sexual identity, I have not been targeted the way people of color are.  I don't have to worry about DWB.

In a rather shocking wake up call I recently watched a video to share to my son's wall on how to make it home alive if a POC is pulled over by the police.  One of the tips?  Keep your license and registration on the dash or the visor or the cup holder.  Reaching for a wallet can be interpreted as reaching for a weapon.  In my white privilege world,I can keep those two items where ever I choose as long as I can reach them from the drivers seat of my vehicle.  My questions to police officers when I am pulled over are answered with courtesy as long as I ask with courtesy.  (disclaimer:  I received my first moving violation in 25 years because I got wildly confused at a round about over Memorial Day weekend.)  I honestly had to ask the officer what I did wrong as I knew speed was not a factor.

Will the video save his life?  I have no idea.  All I can do is try and that feels so much like tilting at windmills these days.

I am frightened by the fact that I can't come up with an action plan.   This is so systemic and so big, I can't figure out what to do to help change to come about. I am not a stick my head in the sand kind of gal.  But Facebook meme's are woefully inadequate.  Roll calls of the killed scroll through my feeds. I worry that someday one of my kids, or one of my extended family will be on the internet with a "Say their name, don't forget" tag.    But the pictures, the stories, most woefully the same,  somehow this is not scrolling through the minds and hearts of people who do have the power.

I was brought up to respect officers of the law.  And I know many officers in the city I live and work in.  I like them. I respect them.  But I look at them and wonder what they will see if my son walking home from work at midnight.  I am tired of dash cams going silent, body cams mysteriously loosening and not filming.  I am tired of  reading the dirt that gets thrown into the fray after every shooting.  Rap sheets from years past, as if prior mistakes justify death today.

I actually don't even know how to finish this post, that's how saddened and fearful my spirit is at this moment.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Long Weekend in Review

My cup overflows with happiness.  This was a GLORIOUS long weekend for us. It started with being able to leave work 2 hours early on Friday.  Typically when we get "early release" something happens and I can't leave.  By some weird miracle, this time, I was out the door at 2:05!  This gave me time to chat with my wife before she left for work.  Time together for us is treasured.  We work opposite hours from each other a lot of the time.  In large part, this serves our family well as one of us is always around to meet the needs of our brood.  But it also means carving out relationship time has to be thoughtful and to some extent, truly planned.  Those 2 magic hours when I was home early were a rare and unplanned bonus to us.  After she left for work, I was able to do a few errands that typically happen on Saturday.

Saturday morning we shopped for our BBQ 2 buggies worth of shopping. We also got the decorations for the canopies.  I am truly incapable of gathering people together without doing some kind of decorating.  I love to do it. It is welcoming. It is something the kids like to help with.  And I usually use supplies purchased at the dollar store.  So it is inexpensive and I don't feel compelled to make things I need to try and store and re-use.

At about 10 we left to head out to the western part of our state. The trip, which should have taken a bit over 2 hours took us over 3.  Holiday traffic and a large accident slowed us greatly.  Luckily we had sort of planned for that possibility and the extension of the trip did not make us late to our venue.  We headed to Jacobs Pillow to see a dance presentation.  We saw Che Malombo, an Argentine dance troupe.  The performace was amazing and we all loved it. Best of all, my wife was unexpectedly able to join us. She had not thought this would be the case and at the 11th hour I scrambled to get her a ticket to the nearly sold out show.  She could not sit with us--we had seats right near the front in the center.  But we were able to share the experience.  The kids adored the performance, especially my dance guy, KC.  Watching an all male dance company was very empowering to him. As you might imagine, guys are the minority in most local dance schools.  Our school has more than most, but the guys are still vastly outnumbered.

Sunday we spent getting ready for todays BBQ.  I had a flag cake to make and a "mexican pasta salad"  Both recipes were from The Pioneer Woman  Both were amazing and enjoyed by all.  We had a ton of food.  BBQ chicken, veggie burgers, hot dogs, potato salad,green salad, chips and dip, fresh strawberries for shortcake, the aforementioned cake and delicious thumb print cookies made by my friend Laura.  We had about 15 people all told and it always amazes me how people can gather from different walks of life and just enjoy each other and have fun.  If it can happen in my back yard, can't it happen elsewhere too?  If we bring our laughter and our recipes instead of our preconceptions, the world would be a happier, gentler place.

We had about 5 or 6 kids here and they all played together and had a blast.  One of them successfully negotiated themselves an invite to come camping with me when I take the kids in August for our next to the last campout.  I am fine with that, and his mom is as well.  One more kid is not ever an issue for me.

Now I am trying to prepare myself for "re entry"  The regular  world will come knocking on my door at 5:20 tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Summer Exercise Fun

You all know this is my most favorite time of the year.  I wish summer could last for oh-about 11 of the 12 months of the year!  I have so much energy at this time of year.  I have been walking 2 or 3 miles in the mornings. It is fun looking for rabbits, checking out people's gardens as I cruise by, and seeing the occasional hawk or turkey.  And because the kids don't have some of their regular commitments I have been able to fit in some Zumba classes a couple nights a week. I adore working out to good music and while I could use a video at home, a group is way more fun.

Doing such things for myself is a summer treat.  I don't walk when it is cold and dark out. My body says that smart people are in bed then.  Also with transport duties for Rob for college I would have to get up significantly earlier than 5:20 if I wanted to hit a gym.  No thanks, 5:20 is early enough. Likewise, I am on the road with the kids during the school year when the Zumba class takes place. So I am treasuring these opportunities for indulging myself.  Admittedly my wife thinks I am a tad touched in the head, that I consider this all fun, but I do!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Room changes and parental needs

It seems like every few years, we have to re-think things.  Sometimes it is the way we do things. Sometimes it is the way we use our spaces.  This year seems to be one for dealing with changes in how we use our space.  Rob and KC have shared a bedroom for a long time now.  And Rob has been incomparably gracious about this.  But it seems unfair to me for a 20 year old to share a room with a 12 year old space hog.  KC just has no compunctions about usurping space!  Right up to leaving things on his big brothers bed!

And then there is Rob's increased work schedule with many late nights and the occasional early morning.  It has been hard to make sure that the younger guy's sleep was not disturbed.  So the past few weeks have seen us decluttering so that Lissa could move into a small room previously used as storage.  KC moved into Lissa's old room and Rob has his own space. It has been a lot of work, but the end result has been worth it.  I think the shared space was good for a long time.  I don't really buy into the American concept that everyone needs to have their own private room. But given the age difference the schedule differences between the two, it seemed only right.

Now that the hard parts were done, we have done the "fun" stuff, which involved decorating.  I refused to pay for painting Lissa's room over for KC  It had been painted a pale blue several years ago and is in great shape.  Green is his favorite color though, but since the room DID need new curtains I ordered some nice ones that combine both blue and the green he loves.  We let him choose Star Wars wall clings to put on the room and are moving his knick knack shelf over which is also green.  He is very happy.

Lissa also was told no repainting to the space. Again, wall clings to the rescue. Here, she just blew me away with her sense of style. The walls had been sponge painted a variety of colors that give the small space a funky boho feel. She chose silvery filigree clings with faux gems to accent the swirls, black leafy branches with bright silvery flowers and black and white butterflies.  The effect is stunningly beautiful,and it will be a space that I think she will enjoy for years. It does not look like a little girls room, but definately reads a young lady lives here!

In the midst of all of this, my mom who lives two states away is beginning to feel less capable of living that far away.  In her mind, she thinks she might want to live with us.  I listen to her talk of her days--taking naps when she wants and needs to, orderly meals and I confess to feeling terror.  Sheer unabashed terror.  I love my mom.  And if she needs to live here, she can and she will. But I deeply worry that her need for order and quiet will be unable to be met here.  Long before kids, my mom lived with us and I know she is remembering back to long candlelit dinners where we sat and talked for hours.  A house that was sparkling clean, all.the.time.  Order reassures her.  My house is more along the line of a happy hurricane with occasional calm when one is in the proverbial eye of the hurricane.  It is normal for us and I am --we are--used to this. To try and adapt to this in mid 80's?  That could be really hard.  I also want her relationship with my kids to continue to be the positive experience that it has been.  My mom can be harsh. She sees my kids at their best, but if she lives here, it will be seeing them warts and all.  The things that I expect to deal with will shock her and anger her.

Sooooo..... I am also working on helping mom to apply for senior housing. This would be the best of all possible worlds. Though the apartments are very small she could still bring more belongings than she could if she moves in with us permanently.  Also the locations for the housing in our city are very close to our home and she could spend as much time with us as she wants, yet still leave when her need for quiet and order arise.  I know many people are dealing with aging parents.  Yet I haven't got friends doing that who are also balancing the needs of a younger family, so I am feeling my way along this new road without a lot of guidance and support.  Life's journey is always going to show something new to explore, I guess!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

KC and Fathers Day

On the way back from our city's downtown festival, KC and I had a chance to talk. I knew something was bothering him. I could tell this morning.  It's just that thing you sense as a parent. Nothing specific, Just a set to his shoulders, a quietness that is at odds with his personality.  I had asked him earlier if things were okay and he said he'd talk to me later.

Walking was a good way to talk. It was just us. But we were moving, yet walking meant staying sort of in synch and step with each other.  It was sort of a way of being connected without looking and touching much. So with his hair brilliantly pink--a breast cancer fundraiser thing he did at the festival--we walked and talked.

He wanted to tell me how hard this weekend is.  Fathers Day advertising has apparently been beating him over the head the past week and it has reached the point where it was very painful.  If I listened to ads, I would have noticed that.  As it was, I was late buying my card for my FIL so clearly I was off my game.

For KC we know nothing about his dad. We have been able to find Mom Y and make contact but there are painful circumstances surrounding his father.  I have not shared those with KC.  I know someday I will have to.  I know I have read that our kids are more resiliant that we think and that they would rather know even a bad thing (and in this case it is a REALLY) bad thing than what they imagine.  But I am absolutely positive that this is not a level of knowledge this guy is ready for.

What I am grateful for is that he was comfortable sharing. My kids all understand that I have no relationship with my father.  My FIL is 'Dad' to me. But KC wisely said that his pain was different.  "At least you know what your dad looked like" he said.  "And even though he was a jerk and doesn't love you, you know that."  "I don't even know if my dad is black."

And he is right.  There is pain in the lack of love that my father has for me.  But I have a sense of identity.  I know my father's family, at least vaguely.  I have a sense of my heritage. For him, there isn't that.  He has decided that he does not want to ask Mom Y if she can share anything about his father.  He is afraid that it might be painful for her and that it would in his words "ruin any chance of a relationship" with her.

It really was a time when all I could do was hug him and tell him I knew he hurt and that I loved him.  It's not the kind of hurt I can heal, but I can be with him while he struggles.  I hope that helps.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Just witness

I have a friend at church who is fighting breast cancer.  She is a young mom, making a serious situation that much more serious and emotional.  She has just had her final infusion of chemo, with some form of surgery and radiation up next.

She has had an on line blog about her fight through a site called Caring Bridge.  I have read her posts and commented,as our paths don't cross that much in real life. (I go to church in a city rather distant from my home and she also lives in a different city from our church.)  So if she wasn't in church, I was not likely to see her.

She has been often in my thoughts, and I have struggled with what to right in the comments area of her blog. What to say when I do see her.  I am a "fixer" by nature.  I always have been.  If there is a problem, I'll map out a solution or a work around, something that makes things better.

Except that of course, I can't with this.  And it has left me feeling awkward and useless.  At which point I get furious with myself because clearly this situation should  not  be about Lee.  Come on!  My friend has cancer.  This is about her. Really, it is, and I truly get that.  But I felt like I wasn't being a good enough friend.  That the occasional cards, the hugs at church and the blog comments were not enough. There should be something more I could do.

Till I read her most recent post.  And she thanked us all, for being with her, for being present and a "witness" as she put it to this journey. I have been thinking of her words ever since.  I will have to work at reframing my concept of "helping."  Clearly you don't always need to bring the perfect gift basket, or find the perfect card, or know the perfect thing to do.  You just need to be there.  It was enough. I was enough, as were her other friends.

I need to really take this lesson to heart because my sense is that it translates to many aspects of my life.  It is good to fix. It is good to plan. It is also good to be present and do neither of those things.  I hope I can remember that.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Party like a Chef Star?

Another fun and busy weekend at our house!  Friday night the littles spent play time with our former neighbor.  Their "KLB Club" was together once more and they had a blast.  Lissa spent the night.  KC is still fearful of sleeping away from home, so I just said that he was still getting over his cold. But at least he had a big chunk of time with his buds and that was a good thing.

The next morning after KC and I did our usual errands, we picked up Lissa from the sleepover.  She had a Girl Scout trip Saturday afternoon so we dropped her off at that.  While she was gone, KC and I made fondant creations to decorate Rob's family birthday cake.  We made a big fry pan, a couple of plates, a hamburger with buns and cheese, and eggs. Oh and some cooking utensils.  Painted them with food coloring and froze them. It was super hot here Saturday and I had visions of squishy fondant puddles instead of our little art project!  That night after I got everyone to bed I finally made the cake.

Sunday morning was church and when we got home, my wife made her delicious frosting and I frosted the cake and put the "bacon and eggs" on the plate and some "eggs" to cook in the fry pan and set up the faux burger plate.  If I do say so, it looked amazing.  Rob had to work till 3.  It was pouring so I picked him up and when we got home we had his party.

Lissa's contribution was helping me find decorations and helping to put them up in the dining room. Rob had said he did not want a theme this year so we went with birthday banners and  all manner of glitzy stuff.  She had a blast doing it and felt super important to be in charge of the decorating.

The party was filled with laughter and silliness. It was especially poingnent as we know that next year he is turning 21. I am really sure that party will be with friends and coworkers and that family will have a smaller role in the day. But I hope that he will know that we are always here. We are the safe place to launch from, the familiar place to return to when life is crazy, the place where you can puzzle out the next step.  And where you will always get a hug.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Rob is 20

Today Rob turns 20.  20!!!! Wasn't it just last year we were planning that birthday party with the dinosaur bounce house?  No, I know it wasn't.  But the years have flown by in a blur.  A blur of wonderful memories.

Today he has decided that he wants to have over two good friends.  One is a young man he works with. The other is a young man he has known since the dino bounce house years.  He wants to cook a BBQ for he and Chris and Drew and sleep out in the back yard in the tent.

I have had to do little to prepare for this other than give him some money so he could shop for what he wants to cook.

Sunday afternoon when he gets home from work we have a tiny window where we will celebrate him with our family birthday party.  He leaves again at 5:30 because he wants to go to church and be part of this years youth group bridging ceremony.  Youth group alumni go back to wish the new graduates well and he would like to be there for that.  I love that he wants to do that.  His connections to the folks at church remain strong and important to him.  I am grateful for that.

In many ways I can see that this birthday is a portent.  He is on the edge of stepping more fully away to live his life independently.  Not quite there yet, wanting a separate gathering with friends, yet knowing that loving family are near.

But soon, I know that my birthday greetings may only be by text or Facebook.  Gifts mailed.   Today though, I celebrate the young man he has become.  Thoughtful.  Still quiet, but helpful.  Kind.  Young kids gravitate to Rob because he will nearly always find time for them and help them.  He will stop his soccer practice and dribble the ball with a little fellow.  He will take his sister and brother to the park for a bit after he gets home from work, just because their faces light up when he says he will.

I am so lucky to be able to say I am his mom!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ups and Downs

This past weekend was a whirlwind of activity. It was recital weekend, two days of crazy busy as the youngers acted and danced their way through the school's production of Frozen.  This was the first year that KC had a real acting part, in addition to his 5 dances.  Lissa had a hip hop number.  It was a weekend filled with costumes and make  up, keeping kids fed and somewhat calm and rested.  It was a weekend where over the course of 2 days many friends and family kindly come out to watch and support my two dancers.

Fiona always comes home to go to the production with me on the last day. (the first day of production I was working back stage)  She has always been excited to do this and as the little kids always went into the Big City for all of her school events, she has enjoyed coming to see them.  After the last performance we also always go out for pizza.

Fi was happy and engaged during the performance and on the way to the pizza place.  However right after we placed our order it all went south. Really fast and quite badly.  She didn't want to get her beverage from the machine so I suggested she just hold onto the cup so she could get it later if she was thirsty.  She refused to sit in the booth with us and sat at an adjacent table, shaking salt all over the table and swishing it around with her fingers.

I tried giving her space.  In the grand scheme of things, I can clean up salt. LOL  I tried engaging her in private conversation after a few minutes--no luck.  Meanwhile I am also trying to keep things positive for the youngers who have looked forward to this and are shocked that big sis is acting this way.  We play some word games together and the food arrives.  I ask Fiona if she wants her pizza at her table or if she wants to come sit with us.  She bolts out of the restaurant.

I go outside to try and get her back inside.  She spewed angry words.  None of it made any sense.  Suddenly she was hating me. Hating the littles.  Wanting staff to get her immediately. (staff is 20 minutes away at best, so that can't happen.) Refusing to come in. Refusing to eat.  I was baffled because in all our years together the one thing Fiona has never done with me is bolt like that.

I felt really nervous because I had to leave the younger kids in the restaurant which was thankfully not crowded, alone while I tried to calm Fi and get her to come back in.  I did get her to walk inside so I could pack up pizza in a box for the kids to eat on the way to take her home.

Fiona cried a bit on the way but I know when she is that upset she can't talk, so I just played some music on the radio and got her back to the house.  Inside she screamed to staff that she wanted to be left alone and took off for her room.

It was a hard ending and not what any of us had expected or hoped for.  I think my calmness kept things from getting worse, but I do know that KC and Lissa were disappointed.  It also has made me table for the moment, going on vacation to NH with Fiona and the youngers.  I can't leave them home because of my wife's work schedule and now I don't trust that Fiona will not melt down 90 minutes from home, leaving me with a volatile young woman to try and stabalize with the two younger kids.  Logistically I am not sure I can keep everyone safe under those circumstances.

The hardest part of all this is that Fiona is still not really able to impart what triggered her anger and meltdown.  I can't fix something--or even plan to avert something--when I don't know what the trigger was.  There was nothing said that anyone argued about, so I have to guess it was something that somehow replayed an old memory that likely had nothing to do with any of us.  But it also marks the third consecutive visit with issues at some level.  Sigh.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Diversity on the hamster wheel

By and large I have always liked to get my exercise hiking in the woods.  I like the varied terrain, spotting cool plants and critters and, because I have a bit of excess competitiveness in my makeup, trying to beat whatever the guide book says is the average completion time for the trail.

Having kids changes things though.  First off, they (perhaps thankfully) are not blessed with the level of competitive spirit that I have regarding times of hikes.  Secondly, due to many family members going many different places on any given day, I can not drive to a distant peak for a day of hiking with any amount of regularity.

Solution?  I walk the track at our local park.  There is a great playground there which my younger kids love to play at.  They find friends there--kids they know from other aspects of our life often show up there as well.  But just as often it is new kids and they are fine with that as well.

So it solved the issue of how to exercise but for a very long time, it wasn't all that enjoyable to me.  It wasn't how I like to exercise and though I would do it,because fitness is important to me, I felt a little bit of 'oh poor me' inside.  I would half jokingly say to my wife that I felt like a hamster on a wheel.

Toward the end of last years walking season my competitive instincts helped out a bit. I would silently challenge myself to hold off a speed walker or a jogger for a certain length of time or track.  Obviously this involved a sort of home grown interval training and that was sort of fun.

This year I still do that but I have also come to realize something that I should have noticed last year.  First of all, I should be grateful that I live in a city with a really decent park system.  At this park on any given night you see the kiddos at the playground, walkers and joggers.  There are kids who are on a flag football team learning the rudiments of the game.  Some nights the high school baseball team is playing or practicing. Soccer is huge in our city and there are always people playing.  Sometimes it is pick up games, sometimes it is league practice. Sometimes it is just families having fun.  One night it was a group of soccer players who were all barefoot which kind of fascinated me.

But what i noticed more this year was that there isn't just a huge diversity in usage of the park, there is a huge diversity in the population.  There are women who walk the track in headscarves.  There are people from a number of South American countries, people from a variety of African countries, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and more.  This is what is good.  All these people were getting along.  The kids all play together. The occasional glitches in language are overcome.  I hear a melange of music as I walk, from salsa, to drum beats, to hip hop.

It is worth the hamster wheel effect to be part of the mix and for my kids to be part of it as well.

Sunday, May 8, 2016


Summer is my most favorite time of the year.  Lissa has been counting down  the days to our first campout which is Memorial Day weekend.  The weeks before that are busy--Dance recital approaches and KC is very involved again with 5 dances and several speaking parts.  There have been extra practices and busy-ness surrounding that.

But the campout is the following weekend, and it sort of glistens out there on the horizons of our consciousness.   Much as a water starved person in the desert sees an oasis in the distance, the plans for our campout are that balm to the spirit for us.  We have never been to this particular campground, which is also something that appeals to us.  We like to try new places and we will be there with good friends.

So that is the official launch to summer.  We have a lot of fun all ready on the books so to speak.  This year we are after a 2 or 3 year hiatus returning to the community gardens.  I can't WAIT to nosh home grown tomatos!

We always go to our citys starburst festival in June, our city's summer stroll (typically KC also dances with the studio at this.  It is fun to watch the kids dance in the streets and see bystanders joining in )  We are going to NH with Fiona in June for 2 nights and 3 days.  This will be her first vacation with us and it is exciting.  We are not camping with Fi.  She is not really a camping kind of gal and I think that the fact that sometimes it is hard for her to maintain control and her need for separate space when she is upset make tenting not the best option at this particular juncture.  We will be in a condo in the Lakes region of NH. We will hopefully take a boat cruise on one of the large lakes there, visit a wildlife refuge and visit her favorite place of all--the outlet mall.  Late in June we are doing Christmas (yes you read that right) with my inlaws. It is odd but we could not all get together at the appropriate time so it will be in June and it will be fun!

July 4th we are hosting an Independence Day BBQ.  Friends and family will join us.  Later in July we are  camping with another group of friends.  My wife and Chet and Rob will be with us as well.  July is also dance camp for the littles and a weekend quick camping get away for the littles, my wife and I.  This is the famous tipi camping place so it is an easy venue and also very close to KC's favorite Christmas themed amusement park.  In July our city is having its first ever comic con and it is supposedly family oriented and the kids and i plan on attending this. KC loves to draw comics and anime so I think he will really enjoy this.

August gives us a chance to camp again with another set of friends. This is in a different campground--another new one.  This campground places us near a place that will allow Lissa to try horseback riding. She has wanted to do this for so long and most places require you to be 10. I have no idea why; I rode way younger than that!  But anyway, this one allows you to ride if you are over 8.  The princess is 9 so she and I will go riding during that campout.

There will be more. There will be movies and berry picking, laying and watching meteor showers on blankets and hopefully a mountain or two to climb.  As always the docket looks full and rich, with opportunities for new experiences and old favorites alike.  I can't wait!

Derby Day and Fledging Chicks

Wasn't it only yesterday that I was helping the kids make egg carton tulips? I remember helping them parade into my wife's bedroom, the elders holding a cup of tea, another a tray with breakfast, the youngest with a platter of gifts and the home made flowers.  Now they are so much more grown up.  Gifts were gift cards and things they purchased on their own--though two of them still made hand made cards.

It wasn't that her celebration was any less heart felt or meaningful.  But it was suddenly so different.  They can help cook, and in some cases totally cook on their own.  We are still needed but in different ways.  Most of the chicks are in various stages of fledging.

We see this too in the way long time family traditions have been changed or tweaked a little in recent years.  For instance, the Kentucky Derby is huge for me and I have always celebrated it   We made hats for years and we always have a special Derby cake and eat in the living room watching the race.  We each choose our horse to root for and then cheer and yell like crazy people all through the race. My mom watches up in Maine and always calls us afterwards to see who we rooted for and share thoughts on the race and that years field of 3 year olds.

One year Rob's friend was at our house during the Derby and he got in the action, making a hat, choosing a horse etc.  This year I saw him at church and he said he thought of us yesterday, and still remembered how much fun that was and that he wished he was with us.

This year though, Rob had to work during the Derby.  The restaurant though was having a Derby event (odd for our New England community) and he got a glimpse of the line up of horses while he worked.  Just before the race went off, he texted me his pick! I texted him ours and at least through the magic of smart phones we were still connected at a moment that is special to us.

I can see more changes up ahead for us.  Rob likely graduates next year and at that point he hopes to sign on to work for a cruise ship.  KC is entering Coming of Age and stands at the threshold of the teen years.  Lissa is only 9 but is a 9 going on 19.  (smile)  Seriously older than her years, they are all increasingly independent and ready and eager to challenge the world.

I am glad for that.  It is what we want for our kids, for them to charge out into the world with enthusiasm for change and the skills to make a difference.  But it is poignent too as some Mothers Day will be a card in the mail, or maybe a text or a call.  Some Derby day in the not so very far off future will be me sitting there watching, enjoying and remembering these days. And I'll be missing egg carton tulips.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Fiona's New TV

I talked to Fiona last night and she has her TV set!  She has been through many TV sets since moving to her group home.  Previous ones have typically fallen victim to her anger, swept off a table or kicked when she was not able to control herself.  I bought the first two for her (off of Craiglist so they were not new but were really nice)  After that, I told her she was responsible for the replacements of any that were damaged due to rages.  If it just died, I would replace it.  A stream of TVs have followed, found by the side of the road, found on line.  Most met very untimely fates.

Part of it is the dynamic of group home life.  Her room is the space she is supposed to go to when she is out of control.  This makes her belongings at higher risk for destruction or damage. The Great School in the Big City had amazing "time out rooms" so this happened less.  Kids could go to their rooms, but there were also these rooms scattered through the school with gigantic bean bag chairs in them where they could also go to regain composure.

So back in the late fall, Fiona called and said she wanted to buy a TV set and wanted to save her spending money for it.  She subsequently showed me the TV set she wanted and it was gigantic.  Our living room TV is 42 inches and this was bigger than that. Crazy big, but to Fi, this was the TV of her dreams.  Staff and I worked out a budget so she could save for it, but I didn't really think she would follow through.  Long term planning is so very hard for Fiona because she has no time sense. So everything feels like forever to her,   Tomorrow, next Friday, a month from now?  It is all hugely far away to her.

I am excited though because she did it!  She now has the TV.  Best of all, staff came up with a plan to mount the TV on the wall (I think with a plexi glass shield over it) so it may even be protected when she is out of control physically.

This is such a positive experience for Fi.  She saved for something; she can literally see the fruits of her efforts.  I am beyond excited!