Friday, December 20, 2013

Not what I thought it would be....

     As Christmas approaches and I look at our new son, who is right now enjoying family Christmas movie night,  I am thinking about how lucky we really are. I was asked today at the bookstore if I wanted to donate a toy to a child in foster care, and I thought, "Lady if you only knew what was under that tree!"   It is no secret in my family that I have wanted to adopt forever - literally since I was a child.  I used to read books about families that adopted, and then when the blog "thing" started I quickly found adoptive families that I followed. I generally followed blogs about foreign adoption - except for fosterhood (because I love her humor), so when Brian wanted to start the process through foster care, I honestly expected the worst.
     I thought we would have huge emotional issues, and perhaps mess up what we have going with our daughters.  I thought people from DSS would be sort of invasive with their questions, and looking for reasons why we wouldn't work. I thought the child would resent us some because we aren't his first family and lash out with violence or willful misbehavior.
      I was wrong.
      YES, he leaves everything EVERYWHERE.... but cheerfully picks them up when reminded. He would rather play games and build with Lego than go to school, but he didn't have the successful start our daughters had. He doesn't hit anyone, but has asked if we do - and was visibly relieved that we don't. After school he runs to the house to drop his things on the floor, but then runs back to either help Blondie or me get the rest of the things out of the car.  He grudgingly put in time to learn multiplication (the first hole in education we plugged) and when he saw that it got easier, he was proud of himself. He came here playing mature video games that we don't generally allow anyone under 16 to play, and doesn't ask any more.  He raked the yard to earn money to buy his birth sisters Christmas presents, and then gave me a one-armed hug when I paid for them myself. The two times he has gotten really frustrated it was more about missing his first family than anything else. The homework struggle is going to continue for awhile, but I think it has to do with lacking skills, and testing boundaries.  He is learning that 100% of the time I won't let him slack on the work. He doesn't believe in Santa Claus, but is checking out where the Elf hides EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.
    The folks at DSS have been nothing but kind, and working like crazy with us to make everything work. They've seen the craft closet all over the floor, and didn't bat an eye.  I had the GAL show up with one hour notice and not worry that the backpacks were still in the entry way, and the beds were unmade that day. When they heard my grandfather passed away they pushed through paperwork so we can take The Boy with us over break - keeping in mind they are all about to start their own vacations with their families.  They have given up evenings and Saturdays to work around our schedule to visit with him, and delivered Christmas presents to his sisters for us, as well as work to keep the kids connected.
     The birth family is still a bit of a mystery for me as to how it will work out.  Right now it doesn't sound like a good idea to call them, and I think it would upset The Boy.  I really would prefer something where he could write letters, or email them, but I think that will be down the road when birth mom is healthier.  Right now when he tears up (has happened a couple times) I agree with him that, "it sucks" what happened to him, but when he is able to see first mom again she is going to be so proud of him. I am glad though that he is starting to process all that has happened in the last few years because apparently he didn't talk about it at all in foster care.  In the meantime we're going to call his older sister periodically,  and keep plugging away at school one goal at a time.  We'll work on what he wants to call us, and how to pick up toys when we want to do something else, and just keep taking it one day at a time with our son.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Photo Shoot part 2

The pictures on the last post were my husband Brian's.  While he was taking those, my Mom had these going.....

This is our American Bulldog/Boxer mix. She is honestly the best dog we have ever had in our house.  She thinks she is in charge of the kids and follows them everywhere.  If they get too rough she intervenes. If they swim out too far she goes after them and circles them until they come in.

Here is Blondie with Maggie. 

Mom got some great pics of Big Al and her friend "C."  I like the ones of them looking more natural...... although this picture was really of "C" being incredibly uncomfortable. 

Mom selected this place in the college owned gardens near our house.  I love the peeling paint. 

"L" had some gorgeous pictures too.  Hope she gets them for her mom for Christmas, or at least copies her on the email. 

I wish I could share the family picture she took of all of us, but I'm not allowed to share pics of "the boy" yet.  Soon we hope.   If you liked these photos let my mom know in the comment section below.  She isn't sure she is ready yet to turn this into a business. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Family Photo Shoot - probably part 1.

     I gave my Mom and Brian the task of getting fall pictures of all of the kids, and a family portrait.  I want them all put on canvas for my kitchen wall.  Mom had previously taken the other four out and taken pics, but Big Al was always busy.  Today didn't have any major plans, so we took all of them, plus Big Al's boyfriend "C" and her friend "L" out as well. The boy was with us today too, I just can't post his picture yet.

While Mom took Big Al, C, and L, Brian grabbed Blondie and T-Rex and photographed them.  Mom is going to send the pictures she took a little later.

Mom had taken the other kids to this path, and I wanted Big Al there too.  Big Al was more interested in pictures with her friends. 

Some were serious......

some involved hair flipping....

others were just hilarious. 

Some of us got bored waiting for our turn..... 

and took their sister's iphone (birthday present) and started shooting a bunch of selfies. 

We caught up with my sister and my nephew, Super S, and had a great time playing with him. 

Big Al has just celebrated her 17th birthday, so it was a great time to commemorate the occasion. 

While Big Al and C were snapping pics with my Mom, L and I tried to photobomb...... but SOMEONE WOULDN'T JUST TURN THE CAMERA AND INCLUDE US...... 

 So we were busted. 

T-Rex hates taking pictures, but was sort of game for today. She is enjoying high school, and finished up cross country with a lot of personal records. 

Little people who get bored want to do what their older cousins are doing, and try to jump the benches.

Then our crew headed home. When Mom sends some of the ones she took I'll post those too. 

Whirlwind 4 weeks

     In the last post I mentioned how Brian and I, and the girls had met the boy.  That Thursday he came over for Halloween. We dropped him back with foster mom, and then picked him up Friday for his first weekend. We knew it was the right match 100% when it felt good all weekend, and we didn't want to take him back.  It seemed rather pointless, and he thought so too.  The next weekend he mentioned it as we took him back too.  It's dark, and Brian, Big Al and I are in the car with him, and he says, "This is stupid, when am I moving in?" And that was it. We called the adoption worker, who then spoke to him, and since we were all on the same page he moved in on the following weekend.  
    The only bumps happened at school, but nothing major - probably typical for any boy changing schools...... and families. He seems to have settled right in.  He tests boundaries, especially homework, but so far he knows we mean everything, and we haven't had to do much.
     Thanksgiving was fantastic.  My mom, Aunt, Uncle, Cousin, Sister and Nephew joined us.  He has handled every meeting of family very well, but we know he can only handle a few people at once.  The "rules" say we can't post his picture or his name, so that left me in a mess with the blog.  The name is easy, all of my kids have pseudonyms, but the pics are tough.  I think we'll try the blurred out face, or sticker over his face until court his over with.  We are waiting on an adoption date.... sometime between now and Christmas. He asked me yesterday what was taking so long, and I told him it wouldn't change anything, and that seemed to reassure him. So, be patient with me as I either edit pics for shots without him, or the back of his head, or some smiley face pasted over his, but ultimately I don't want him to feel left out of the family blog.  He knows the rules, and he understands the reasons, and he knows we would put him in if we could.  We're content with starting his new scrapbook of pictures, and listening to him when he speaks of his first family, and how frustrated he is that some kids can go back and he couldn't.  He is very matter of fact about this whole process and his finding his way each day.  On our end we are trying to prioritize what we have to work on so as not to overwhelm him, and spend a lot of time with him so he knows he can come to us. It is definitely a worthy process.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

We've met the boy!

     Almost 2 weeks ago we received a phone call from dss about a boy.  He is 9 and they wanted to know if he was too old for us. We told them we were interested (he is slightly younger than Cheesie) and they set up an appointment to hear his story.  Last Tuesday we went in and they had his entire file there.  It included his history with dss, medical info, school records and a few pictures.  We listened to his history, saw his picture and then were sent home with the rest of the information to discuss it.  We were allowed to call 24 hours later and accept, so they set our first visit up for Saturday.
     Yesterday, Brian and I went without the girls to meet him at a local gym with a rock climbing section.  We gave the boy a choice between batting cages (he likes baseball), rock wall climbing, or the zoo. He chose the destination, and we were thrilled.  We ended up arriving 15 minutes early, and the social worker arrived 15 minutes late..... so Brian and I paced a LOT! The guy at the counter was getting nervous just watching us and asked us if we were okay.  Once we explained the situation he just sat back and giggled at our nervous energy.  As soon as the social worker drove up we ran down the steps, and tried not to mow the kid over.  He was also super nervous, so we introduced ourselves, and got him moving into the building to give him something to do.  Once he had his gear, we walked to the back and the belayer hooked him up. I realized pretty quickly that this boy was related to spiderman.  He ran right up those walls, and when he got stuck he would take a second and look at the wall to figure it out.  He did an excellent job.  At some point I explained to the belayer what we were doing (when the boy was up by the ceiling) and he just melted.  Apparently he has worked with all sorts of kids as well as just started working at our local children's home as a cabin manager. The Boy did a fabulous job, and chatted with us a lot. He spent time answering both of our questions.  At one point he watched a grown man struggle on a route that he just knew he could do, and whispered to me, "Watch this." Then he went to the belayer who hooked him up, and scampered right up that wall.  He felt so proud of himself.

     After the gym we took him to a cupcake place and sat and chatted.  He didn't know what to ask so we told him all about the girls and the dogs.  We talked about family and what we like to do for fun.  At one point his social worker asked if he wanted to see us again and his face lit up and he said, "Yes! They are nice." So we set a time to meet with him today.

     Today's visit involved the girls.  All of us were excited about our trip to the zoo to meet up with him.  My mom and sister decided to meet up with us as well.  His foster mom drove him half way (they live on the other side of town, and she is an absolute angel to drive him to meet us) and we picked him up in a parking lot.  Brian and I went to meet him, and I asked if he was nervous.  "Yes ma'am, I am VERY nervous," he said.  He got right in the big car with them, and just sort of sat quietly.  At the zoo he tended to stick by Brian or I, and we were pleased to discover one of his interests seems to be animals.  I finally have a naturalist kid to hang out with! He pointed out a mockingbird to my mom, and then would periodically give us random facts about animals.  Once he loosened up we saw the "typical boy" type behavior from him - jumping up on curbs and benches to walk on them, and then at one point telling me that Gorilla's eat their own vomit...... great...... and wouldn't you know just as he is telling me that the Gorilla barfs and ....... well you know..... he was right. 
     After the zoo we ran to find him a Halloween costume because his saint of a foster mom is willing to have him come here on Thursday (I"ll meet her half way) and trick or treat. Then it is back to her house for the night.  When our day was over and we drove back to the parking lot to meet up with her he looked a little down that the time was over. I think he was just getting the hang of things.  The plan --- from the social workers point of view----- is for him to spend weekends here and then move in over Winter Break - before Christmas. If the boy and Brian have anything to do with it, it will happen sooner.  
     We feel so lucky to have been matched with him, and despite all of the waiting over the last 7.5 months of finished paperwork, we are thrilled to be moving forward. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

My kids are One- Handed Design Engineers

     My younger two girls are deeply immersed in the rubber band bracelets craze.  A few weeks back, as we were moving bedrooms around, Blondie's loom went missing.

This has created problems because Cheesie uses her loom all the time, and Blondie can only borrow it when she is gone. 

As I understand it, a father made the above loom for his daughters and they used orthodontic type rubber bands for them.  It's something all of the 9-12 year olds are doing around here (even the boys). As a STEM teacher, I fully believe in kids making their own items and feeling productive, as well as designing new ways to work.  

Cheesie was on pinterest (she really is getting addicted) and found an example of the picture above (original at ) and made it for Blondie to use.  She thought Blondie could hold it in her left  hand but it kept sliding around.
Cheesie then added legs to it by adding 4 push pins to the bottom, thinking it would just sit on Blondie's leg.  That didn't work either.  Blondie thought about it, and added in the corn cob holder, so now her left hand can try to hold it, or be placed on top of it to keep it still while she works on her lap. 

VOILA! My kids are brilliant. 

Below is a video of Blondie explaining their design process. Sometimes it just takes a little while to figure out a new way to do something.  It shouldn't stop anyone from trying something new. 

Okay. I'm going to have to work on this later.  Youtube isn't cooperating.

Family Fair Winner (10/7)

     Brian entered the photography contest at the State Fair and received an email saying he won with one of his pictures. The other one (which I actually preferred) didn't make it in because so many had entered similar pictures of the popular landmark.  The merit award winning photo was taken of Congaree during a pretty high flood. The reflections in the photo are wonderful.

We were invited to a reception Sunday night for the  award ceremony.  Photography was located up on the balcony, and all of the merit winners were hung in the middle.  I don't know what criteria was used, it seems so subjective to judge art.  There were many pictures that I really loved that didn't earn a ribbon, and others I "didn't get" that did well.  I took plenty of college art classes and understand ideas of contrast and composition but some of them just didn't grab me.

We looked through all of the photography, and then moved down to the main floor with the art.  

The awards were handed out down there, and the artists were recognized.  

The coolest thing was to just step back and watch people look at his photo.  Several people took photos of it, and one man led a long discussion about where the water line was in the photo.  He couldn't really figure it out though because to find it you have to understand that the rails in the picture lead down a ramp, and it was shot higher. We stayed for quite awhile listening to others talk about it. 

 I am so proud of Brian for his creativity.

Busy, Busy, Busy (Saturday 10/6)

    Saturday started early for T-Rex.  She was on a bus at 6:30 headed to a cross country meet in Charlotte.... I showed up much later.  I did decide to go a little earlier than her race so I could do a little Christmas shopping (with 4 kids, I start early).

     I was looking forward to the Cross Country meet because we were going to have both the boys and girls team stay afterwards at the park and have a potluck.  It is a super group of teens, and I know a few of the parents.  Everyone seems to pitch in and help where they can.   The course was interesting because it wound through the woods, around a large pond, around the soccer fields, back around the pond and then to the finish.  So some of the front runners connected up with the end group.
T-Rex is on the left, having just passed a teammate.

As she continued on she could see the next competitor from another team...

and then caught and passed her. 

Here she is continuing on around to the finish line.  It was brutally hot (running at 12:30 that day and it had to be in the high 80's).  The girls looked exhausted.  There was definitely a lot of great food and friendship afterwards.  T-Rex did well and PR'd.  A few days later she was award runner of the week because of her improvement and her positive attitude - which is true - I've never heard her complain about going to a practice, or whining that it is too hot. 

After we got home I helped Cheesie finish a Halloween wreath she saw on pinterest.  I had to help tie the tulle because it was a bigger job than she thought.  It now looks cute on my door.  I am a little worried that she has discovered pinterest - I don't want it sucking up all of her free time (of course, I don't know where she gets it from, cough cough)

I must have had a lot more energy because after Brian went to bed (he wasn't feeling well today) I pulled out a ladder, a water bottle, and a scraper and went to town on the popcorn ceiling in the entryway.  It took about an hour and a half because I tried to clean as I went, but definitely feeling that one more ceiling is well on its way to looking great.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Grandma's Gala..... with Zombies

     Last fall, my mom was selected as one of ten photographers chosen to capture the extreme coolness of a building called 701 Whaley. It is near one of the old mill villages.  The front half (a former store front) had already been renovated into chic party venues, offices and loft apartments, but the back needed to be documented before the next phase of construction began.  So mom spent a bunch of hours photographing an indoor pool with trees now growing out of the tile, surrounded by a wall, and a former gymnasium turned machine shop.  Three of my kids were used as models (Big Al was cheering all the time so she wasn't available) and traipsed out to the enclosed pool to participate.  I'm glad Brian went with them instead of me because I might have stopped the whole thing once I saw the broken glass, debris and mice scurrying around. 

     Thursday night the photos were all posted and an opening night celebration was hosted by the swanky folks.  We dressed up (minus Big Al, who was again at cheer practice) and headed out.  We quickly found mom's photos and as we're walking along viewing all of the work we hear, "I KNOW YOU" and BAM a man we don't know is talking to Cheesie.  She was thrilled to be recognized (and her confidence built each time it happened). 

     Here, Cheesie is posing with her famous portrait.  She was wearing a swimsuit (in Dec.) and had gotten cold waiting for her turn when mom snapped it.  

Blondie and Cheesie also were in one together where they are decked out for swimming, but very disappointed in the condition of the pool.  I think you can click on the pic above to see the finished portrait. 

We told T-Rex that hers looked like an album cover.  At some point a lady was asking her "what were you thinking as you posed for that picture."  T-Rex came up with a deep answer, but the truth was she was "staring into space for Grandma." 

We went on a tour of both the pool and the machine shop.  The latter will be turned into a theater (the renderings are gorgeous). The pool will be another banquet type space with a glass floor over the old pool. We wandered back over to the party......

and saw these two walking toward us.  They (their company is called Unbound) had been leaning on the building outside and kind of lolling around on the ground, when somebody opened the door and let them in.  Eventually they ended up in the main performance space.  They wandered through the crowd and eventually settled against a wall. 

We finally talked Cheesie into standing close to them while we took a picture, but she wasn't sure that was allowed, so she sort of stood there...... like a zombie..... but smiling.  My sister and I jumped in to show her how to ham it up, but she wasn't buying it.

Blondie did a MUCH better job, but it is hard to look terrified when you're giggling.  The group must have some sort of rule about not touching small children (obviously kids might get a little freaked out), but they realized Blondie was game pretty quickly.  

We joke in our family that, in case of a zombie apocalypse, T-Rex would be our family MVP because of her archery, fencing, cooking and sewing skills.  Funny enough, she wasn't too sure about these people at all.  At one point she put ME between her and all of the zombies.  We finally convince her to move closer to them and HER WORST NIGHTMARE HAPPENS......
This one moved off the wall and TOUCHED HER.  Apparently teens and up are exempt from the "polite distance" rule.  Even once this happened we couldn't get her to act out being terrified.  She just laughed an "Oh my Lord did this just happen" kind of laugh. 

Look at the detail in these people though.  They were AWESOME.

Brian captured some great pictures of this troupe.

And then, OF COURSE the music started...

Sorry for the dark quality of the video - it wasn't lit for stage.  Once these guys were finished they just zombie walked out the door and down the street. 

After the Zombies, Brian asked the girls to pose against the same wall. I think T-Rex was still traumatized. 

We walked around and chatted with more people, met up with my other sister Christy, and ended the evening by watching the silk artist.  She is a friend of my sister Natalie and performs both silks and trapeze. 

Cheesie loved the act - it fits right in with her dance and tumbling. 

A fabulous night.  The pictures will be up for a few months if you happen by.  Look for the girls, they would be thrilled to know you saw the artwork.  My mom is an excellent photographer so if you need anything "done" I can put in touch with her.