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.  

On the Job

 We have a tradition in our family, that we celebrate the first day of school with ice cream. Big Al couldn't join us because SHE WAS AT WORK.

For some reason she didn't want her picture taken......

She has only been at it for a couple weeks, but they have been wonderful with working around school and sports.  

While she looks forward to the paycheck, I look forward to all of the things this will teach her.