November is Nat’l Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month and tomorrow is Thanksgiving. They work together for me, so I’ll tell you a story.

Mikey was brought to our house (the week of Thanksgiving) by an emergency unit of DYFS. We signed up for that. We agreed to take children at odd hours, with no items of their own, for very short term stays :)

Mikey arrived at our house in a soggy diaper, a football jersey with his puffy dark hair in little, stringy braids. He was brought with a black trash bag filled with 14 prescription medications that we needed to figure out how and why to administer to him. He tried to get into the bath tub with his tiny Air Jordan’s. He ate his weight in pancakes. He didn’t say a word. He just smiled.

000_0020In one way, it was such a strange experience having a child suddenly show up for us to care for and to parent. In another way, it was mundane and normal – we just needed to do the next thing that needed done. It was a surreal experience for me. I wish I could have had insight into his little 16 month-old brain. Mikey was flexible and resilient and he settled into the new sights and sounds and experiences – including his two older brothers – without trouble.

Because Mikey was in foster care, it was unclear how long he would stay with us or if he would permanently join our family. Some people think that we must have spent lots of time pondering and considering foster care and adoption. We really just put one foot in front of the other and kept trekking through the process as it opened up organically. When Mikey had been a part of our family for about 9 months, Dennis said ‘if he can’t go back to his biological family, we are adopting him, right?’ Yes. Of course. That was easy.

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I tell Mikey that our family situation and his adoption into our family are not chance or some ‘second-best’ option. I tell him that families formed by adoption are special and blessed. I tell him that this is exactly what was supposed to happen – because it did. I tell him that this plan was written in the stars, from the beginning of time, by the hand of God. I believe it with all my heart.

I am so THANKFUL.

“Somehow destiny comes into play. These children end up with you and you end up with them. It’s something quite magical.
~ Nicole Kidman

What’s Up?

‘Let me ‘splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.’ ~ Inigo Montoya, Princess Bride

So, what’s up?

~ Hockey Season is over at Greenbrook Hockey Club. That frees up weekend time to find some weekend fun in the coming weeks. Museums, NYC and state park events are just calling us. I can make a nice, long ‘honey-do’ list for Dennis. Despite my complaining about the sheer amount of time Dennis devotes to the league, it is a fantastic place that has provided the boys with a great sport and awesome friends.

~ Homeschooling in November, for me, is always a strange place to be. Things that are not working become clear and we ditch them. Seriously – what’s better than that? Switching my brain to searching for ‘indoor’ type of field trips is a hard one – but I’m working on it now. I dream of filling these crappy, cold months with good books, great documentaries and brain-changing games. A quick trip to the basement has revealed that we have many, unopened ‘science’-types kits that are begging to be tinkered with.

~ This is the beginning of when I need to grasp tightly to a self-enforced set of routines that keep me putting one foot in front of the other. I have struggled with SAD for the last several years, with last year being particularly bad. I use multiple modalities to deal with it. My little lamp, super good vitamins, lists that keep me honest and the dreams about this place :) Maybe there is an encore in store for us?

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I obsess over this scene. I don’t think it’s normal – at all.

~ I am working hard on getting some serious, ‘life-planning’ issues in order. I don’t know what is prompting this strong feeling, but when I feel like this, I need to take action. I would like for us to review our long-term, financial goals and revamp or life insurance policies. It is extra important for us having a child with special needs. Every one in a while, we question whether moving is an option for our family. We are in a spot where we need to do some serious fact-finding. Bring it on.

~ We are experimenting with having some help with house cleaning every few weeks. If you would have ever told me that someday we could squeeze that into the budget and that it would freak me out and cause me stress, I would have seriously protested. But it’s true. I am uncomfortable and as nice as she is, I hide from the cleaning lady at all costs – I just pack everyone up and leave. Is this totally weird? I am not ungrateful, though.

Strange, anxious, cold (as in chilly), and busy – but not ungrateful.

(Sunday Scenes was preempted by this because I forgot to take pictures on Sunday – because I’m like that.)

Sunday Scenes – Slacker Edition

Two times a year, I manage to make it through a whole day in my pajamas. I did it yesterday. I have a terrible cold and it seemed like the right thing to do. They might be a little boring – but here are my scenes from Sunday. I did crochet a potholder, though.

Good Monday to you. If there is such a thing.

Ethan, The (Non)Foodie

069He watches every episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. He comments and is intrigued by every ingredient.

“Bacon and eggs?!”
“Yeah, soup!”
“Big, big, big sandwich!”

He watches intently as someone renders duck fat, creates a roux, smokes the perfect brisket and mashes potatoes. He likes to eat and watch. He loves Guy Fieri. He wants him to come over for dinner.

But, Ethan would NEVER eat anything they cook on that show.

He has an EXTREMELY limited diet. 4 foods are in constant rotation. Like 1-2-3-4.

Quessadillas
Pizza
Popcorn Chicken
Bacon

For honesty’s sake, there is a very rare occasion when he eats something ‘new’. It is very rare and has never added that food to his rotation. Sometimes he eats 3/4 of something and then insists that it was ‘yucky’. Sometimes he requests something and once it is cooked or ordered – decides it is ‘yucky’. Frustrating does not do justice to this behavior. There are chips and salsa, and he will eat other things battered and fried – as long as it looks like popcorn chicken. 2 times a year, he eats a bowl of Cheerios.

Between the ages of 18 months and 3 years, the term ‘pediatric anorexia’ was used to describe him. Getting him to ingest anything was a daily struggle and a full-time job. It continued for many years. We have sought the help of many speech and feeding specialists – at one time he was in ‘feeding therapy’ 3 times a week for several years. We have worked with behaviorists and nutritionists. We have tried all manner of approaches. He is one tough nut to crack. Many kids on the autistic spectrum have ‘food issues’.

There is a lot involved in his eating disorder. Sometimes it makes life hard – and sometimes it makes it easy. Either way, we are stuck with it. And while Guy is profiling someone who makes the best blackened catfish with mango salsa, Ethan will be eating two slices of pizza – one plain, one pepperoni. Always.

Sunday Scenes – The Ethan & Sean Edition

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He’s so good-looking when he’s fixing things

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Fury, weekend visitor

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His office

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Total Toy Takeover

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Warring Factions

Playground Rebels

When I arrived at the park with Gavin and Mikey and their friend, it was brimming with children who were giving wide berth to the beloved, metal merry-go-round that was decorated with a plethora of yellow ‘Caution’ tape and a sign. I watched carefully as the boys approached it.

“Why is there tape on it?”
“What does the sign say?” – ‘Closed – speed mechanism broken’
“Do you really think it’s broken?” “It doesn’t look broken”
“Let’s check it out.”

The boys turned the ride. They kicked it. One spun it, while one looked underneath. They shook it. One of them took a trial ride. Two of them slowly rode it. They decided that it was safe enough to try it. I remained very silent and very observant.

They quickly gained confidence in the integrity of the merry-go-round. Gavin ran over and informed me of their decision to give it a try. He asked if because of the sign, would it be ‘illegal’ or would there be any serious consequences to ‘trying it out’. I said that I thought if someone with vested interested saw them – they could come and ask/tell them to get off. They were willing to accept the risk of an angry adult.

As they spun and played, the boys and the ride were mobbed by kids. ‘It does work!’ was the shriek of several of the kids. ‘The sign lied’ I heard one kid say. I wondered. Even after the kids were playing, Gavin stood back to watch it – ‘it’s level and it’s riding perfectly fine’, he said. I was completely engrossed in watching the process. Mikey continued to defer to Gavin and his friend for confirmation it was safe – the trust was super-sweet.

mgr“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
Pablo Picasso

The mothers at the park reacted in a variety of ways (there were no dads involved – but it would have been interesting to see if there was a difference). One mom had to repeatedly, physically pull her kid from it explaining to him that the sign said “Closed” and that was the end of the story. She stated that it said it for a reason and he needed to abide by that. I think she had to get up and get him a half a dozen times. I don’t think she liked me.

There was another mom who told her kids that since other kids were already doing it, she guessed it would be fine. Some moms never noticed the tape or their kids playing on it. I remained fascinated and Gavin and I had a chance to discuss how interesting the whole situation was. I also had a chance to explain that I am not attempting to teach them anarchy – really. We talked about risks.

I was not offended by their attempt to figure out if the forbidden toy was safe. Mikey & Gavin are entering their teen years, and as I see it, their jobs for the next 10 years or so is mastering the management of risk and I liked what I saw.

Observation
Caution
Testing
Asking my advice (I especially liked that part)

The experiment, as Dennis pointed out, could have gone very differently. But it went this way. Raising kids who don’t always ‘follow’ might come with pros and cons. Learning to wisely take risks is better than never taking any in my book. Wait, I don’t have book.

Anyhow, someone has to buck the system, right?

(I am totally comfortable with disagreement and would love to hear from you if you would have handled this completely different.)

Our Little Space

Right this minute, I am at the dining room table writing, Gavin is in the kitchen disassembling a Nerf gun, Mikey, Sean & Ethan are all in Ethan’s room playing a game that requires a lot of yelling and banging on walls and Dennis is in his basement office. We are all, seriously, about 15 steps from each other.

080We live in a small house. I hesitate to say ‘tiny’ because I recently watched ‘Tiny‘. It profiled several people who own/have built ‘Tiny’ homes (usually considered under 200 s.f. in total) and it was very interesting. I think we each have about that here.

I feel like we were totally ahead of the ‘downsizing curve’. 6 of us live pretty comfortably in a 3 bedroom cape – about 1300 square feet. We do enjoy two bathrooms – but the one Dennis and I share (and often with the kids) can barely be turned around in. We share a closet that is 3 ft. by 3ft. Our living room and ‘entryway’ are the same room :) The kitchen/dining room is also our ‘reading-writing-tv watching-chemistry lab-craft studio-game playing-laptop-my office’ space.

079EVERYTHING in our house is multifunctional – and it has to be.

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Stool or tray-table? Couch in the kitchen?

Thank God for the open floor plan of the first floor. Do you remember our kitchen remodel? A life-saver, for sure. How about that move to ‘family closet’. Worked like a charm.

I used to yearn for space. Once, Dennis and I looked at a half-finished, mega-fixer-upper that would have been 9 bedrooms on 6 acres. Years later, I can barely keep what we currently have clean and organized – and quite frankly the postage stamp lot does not always get cared for the way we would like. We don’t heat 11 foot ceilings, can’t keep tons of ‘stuff’ and no one sits alone in a room – ever :) Our little house leaves cash in our hands and time to do lots of other things. Someone very wise once told me that anything you own – owns you.

I believe it.

(Before Dennis and I bought our house, we lived in a 3-room, railroad track apartment and Ethan slept in pantry. I also did not own a washer & dryer until this house. I am grateful.)