10.31.2011

Winterizing

It has taken us a year to complete our attic. We turned this



  Into kiddie land (and an office for Hubs.) But we had to go a step further: we are winterizing. First swings and hanging bars.









Clouds, not finished. Don't know when they will be...


Next we will bring up the slide, an 8ft trampoline and are installing a 6 ft climbing ladder that will have a pad under it in case a child wants to drop or jump from the top.  And I know they will. Because they are busy. And one of them is a sensory seeking maniac really busy. And because in our neck of the woods, winter lasts forever.  In fact, it apparently starts in October.












Heaven help me.

10.28.2011

Rock(ing) and a Hard Place

Tonight Brady woke up crying. This almost never happens anymore. For over four months he didn't live in our home. He lived at various hospitals and once he finally came home sleep was, like with many newborns, crummy for a long time. At some point things smoothed out and Brady has been a lovely sleeper for awhile now. But tonight, for some unknowable reason he woke. I made him a bottle, took him from his Daddy's arms, and went in his room to rock him and feed him.

I stroked his cheek and whispered to him the wonderful ridiculousness that is a mother's mantra to all her children:

Who's the best boy in the world?
Who's the smartest boy in the world?
Who's the most handsome boy in the world?
Who's the best baby the world has ever seen?
You are. You are my good boy. 

As his soft hands reached to touch my cheeks, nose, hair, I realized it had been awhile since we did this. This isn't the first time I've recently had revelations about my individual attention being sparse and this time my reflections felt worse. See, it's not that I don't want to snuggle and rock with Brady before bed. It's because he can't relax. He doesn't really like it.

He would prefer to just be put in bed, rub the blankie, suck the thumb and turn over to sleep. It has been months since he let anyone hold him while he drinks a bottle, and so he gets them in his car seat, or in bed, where he can be focused, distraction free. Anything to let the kid with the feeding tube actually hydrate orally.

This realization about how long it had been since I'd sat with him in that rocker was unwelcome though because this is not the way I mothered my other children. In fact, this is against my instincts as a mother. Life has a way of chipping away at how we want to do things as a parent, and many little children has turned me into a bit of a militant task master at bedtime. *If you aren't in the trenches every night with this many little kids, pause before judging. I count baths and brushing teeth every-other-night a success. That is where I coming from on this.

Speaking of those instincts and "what once was" I would never, ever ever have given the first two kiddos bottles in bed. Heck, the first two didn't ever have a bottle. I didn't have them in the house until Tsega passed court and we were legally his parents.

I believe in touch, I believe in attachmenty kind of parenting. I believe every child deserves the warmth and comfort and ritual of closeness at some point each day, if not before bed. And while rocking a half-asleep Brady in the dark I was upset at myself for not working harder for this with him. I've been in this survival mode where I do what works, and what works is putting him into his crib after a story, a brief hug and kiss, a song, and closing the door, and moving on to the next offspring.

What is the right thing do for a kid? Will we as parents ever know unless they ask us to go to therapy with them so they can, with the support of a professional, work through the ways we failed them? When it comes to comfort and affection, does one follow a child's lead and give what they ask for? Or should we show them  in ways that they don't ask for, and maybe aren't always comfortable for them because we want to teach them the safety, the comfort of touch?

This answer to the latter question  is obvious to parents of kids were were adopted from traumatic pasts: the answer is by and large, yes. At least I think it is.

If I believe this general statement and have specifically worked on this teaching-to-be-close thing with his older brother T, Why has it taken me until tonight to realize I was not doing this for Brady?
 
Maybe I should teach Brady, the way we had to with Tsega when he came home, how good it feels to be close. Can I do that? I don't know. Brady is a wiggly boy, and tenses up, tries to sit up and see, trying to look all around. I don't know if he is capable of being close, rocking, cuddling. I plan on asking his OT about this next week when she comes.

If I am honest with myself, I think because of his developmental delays I have a habit of following his lead on lots of things. But this, this lack of doing what I love to do just because it speeds up bed time and he "likes it this way" feels somehow not right. I feel like I've been lazy. A tidge negligent, in that I have been doing by rote instead of being intentional with the way I am handling Brady at bedtime.

I am humbled. I need to do better.

For Brady, and for all four of my little people. Oh Internets. I raised my voice at my kids a lot this week. They were hard. Someone who's name rhymes with "Mega" was so at odds with the world and himself every time he walked into a room my shoulders went up to my ears with tense anticipation of the screams and whining that were inevitably to come flying at me in a constant barrage on my sanity. Every hour this child was awake was an onslaught. Sometimes I handled it gently and kindly, other times my brain was disconnected from my body.

My actions were imperfect, but at least they weren't as bad as my thoughts.

Please please shut up Don't whine or scream anymore I can't take that sound I think my brain is bleeding from that screech I swear if you dump out another bowl of cereal are you too young for a straight jacket? Stop monoplizing me there are other people in this family please please please just shut your mouth is it time for naps yet?

If someone could die from being irritated I might have gone into cardiac arrest this week.

And as for the rest of the crew, I know I expressed impatience, disappointment, annoyance and frustration with them way more than I should have. I did a lot of great things as a mom too, and had some really good moments particularly with my most attachment-challenged kiddo. But in other ways I really was pathetic.

If someone asked me what my primary goal as a mother is; if I could only choose one thing I want to give my children, I would have to answer that I want them to feel unconditionally loved 100% of the time.

Gulp.

I didn't do this this week. I spent way too much time on fixing tone of voice, respect, behavior, obedience and responsibility. It is clear in hindsight I needed to focus more on expressing love. I do owe it to my children and society to teach them to be self-controlled, empathetic, polite, industrious people. But I believe that little of what I try to impart could have a lasting impact on my children if it isn't accompanied by unconditional love.

And then, I read this. Oh please, please go read that piece. It took me about three lines in to be snot-nosed bawling.

It strengthened my resolve that I need to just show love more to my children. Period. I need to react to every crazy thing they do with less, well, reaction and more kindness. The last thing they need is to fear my mood, or how I might fly off the handle.

Tonight as I held a Brady, relaxed enough to let me hold him, I prayed I could start again tomorrow.

Tomorrow is a new day. More back rubs. More smiles. More tickles. One more story. Less care about the spills, both accidental and intentional. More patience when breaking up fights or picking up pieces of a broken favorite lamp. More examples of patience. More examples of the sweet tone of voice I want them to model.

More love.

10.26.2011

Halloween Odds Ends and Still Survival Mode?

I was thinking the other day Why after 18 months of this craziness does it still feel like survival mode?

Yeah, I know, I get it. I have three boys three and under, and they all have somewhat intense needs (at least, compared to their sister) But then I realized I was asking myself this question while walking through Russos, a very small, jam packed specialty grocery store with mini aisles, mini-sized carts, and shoppers with anti-social personality disorder and a healthy does of cart road rage.

This is no place for four young children, but somehow I expect them to be brilliant, quiet, attentive, well behaved, and not get in the way of the crazy people out for blood.

And ya know what, for the most part they were. Yes, I had to bribe them with cookies, but they all held it together. I had Brady on my back, Tsega in the front part of the basket, Cookie Monster in the actual basket with produce piled all around him, and Sissy staying relatively close and focused.  And yes, there was pinching, screaming and pulling over on the way home, but to the public eye, we were a cute little army.

Then today I had to go to purgatory Joann Schmabric. Beforehand I was wishing that I could give them all a sedative. Or take one myself. Instead, again, I handed out cookies upon arrival and said they had the opportunity of earning another for good behavior. And it was not bad. Tsega had an utter raging meltdown in the check out line, but one out of four isn't bad odds when it comes to this family. And we actually managed to purchase everything I needed for two costumes in a timely manner.

But still, we have horrible food incidents, messes, dangerous incidents, crazy moments, times when I can't meet needs. We are late almost everywhere we go, despite massive preparation and intentions. Is it because it really is that crazy; that they are emotional, whiny, violent, young, pooping, tantrum-throwing, food throwing, bead-swallowing, shoe-losing, bickering messer-uppers? Or is that I keep raising the stakes and my expectations?

A month ago I started a small business, which involves a lot of sewing, shopping, internet time, post office time, phone time. I continue to do photography work and violin lessons, and I have less help than I did a few months ago.

Maybe it's not all them. Maybe part of the problem is me and everything else I do that makes it hard.

Maybe it's because I can't just buy a wreath to decorate for Halloween. No, no I have to make it. I have to create it, take time, take two different trips to the fabric store and do it in the evenings instead of folding laundry. I need someone to shrink me and tell me why I spend my time the way I do.

But psychoses aside, isn't it wicked cool what a little tulle and hot glue can do?







These creepy little crow silhouettes are keeping the big guy in the wreath company.


On tap for this week, making Samantha's kitty tail and mask, Tsega's lion hood and mane, and it all has to be done before Friday's Halloween party at Hubs' work. Thank goodness for the internet giving me gems like this:


So I can use some of this tonight for those costumes:


Have I introduced you to my little friend the rotary cutter? We've had a rocky start but he's growing on me. Talk about cutting fast and straight through several layers at once. Yeah baby.

Finally, it bears mentioning that I have re-purposed the changing table into a sewing supplies station in the dining area. (One of the bins actually stores home school books and supplies as well). Sadly, until last week, all this fabric was on the floor in a massive anxiety attack pile.


On to nap time (Please, God, please let Tsega nap and not wake Brady up) and some costumes. Happy Halloween everyone!

10.22.2011

Decordova Sculpture Park

Did you local yocals know that the Decordova Museum has an amazing, wonderful, fantastic outdoor sculpture park?

Maybe you did. But did you know that it is free to enter and walk around on Mondays? This was our most successful and exciting home school field trip so far this year. I worried it would be beyond my children to appreciate modern sculpture art; and I had no idea what to except when we drove in the entrance. The park blew me away and my children completely schooled me.


First exhibit Samantha thought were grapes. Cookie suggested balloons. I think it's somehow feminine.


Mama, it's the letter D!




This piece was called the Listening Ear. When I asked them why it might be called that, they noted the head was on it's side, ear facing up. They took turns telling him a secret.


We couldn't fathom what this piece might be, and I cheated and looked at the name plate. It said "Chinese Horse"


I thought, Well that didn't help any. But Samantha turned her head to the right and said, Oh, I see it now. It really does look like a horse. She's a genius. I never would have noticed that turned on it's side, the horse head is unmistakable.



I loved this pine cone army.



Cookie and Samantha particularly enjoyed this musical sculpture.




Cookie thought this looked like a group of fossils, and Samantha concurred that it looked like bones. The title was Jacob's Dream. Cookie said "Maybe he dream of bones."



Samantha's favorite piece by far was the heart sculpture, which is amazing both from a distance and close up.


In the bronze are all manner of tools and household artifacts, it was the fun to examine and walk around finding new things to see in the hearts.







This one was supposed to represent male and female forms. The kids could see it once we walked around a bit.





These pieces simultaneously depict balance and discombobulation.



Brady and Mama reflected in a bizarre solid glass sculpture

I asked the children what they saw when they looked at this next piece. Samantha piped up"A fork stuck into the ground!" Cookie replied "It's a man with no legs!" I don't know why but I almost wept at their different view points and brilliance. This moment is one I will never forget.

Love

Oh how I wish Grandma could stay forever.


When we came home we created our own works of art. Samantha made an abstract airplane, and Cookie created a dinosaur.



Thank you to Grandma Jane who sat in the car with Tsega for a twenty minute nap... We will be headed back to Decordova soon. Come join us!

10.20.2011

What I want you to know about a Mormon Christian


You may or may not know, friends, that I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. 

Wait! 

Before you click to get the heck out of here, I know many who come to this blog are not religious at all.  And I am all kinds of OK with that. But I hope in the spirit of knowing more about your fellow woman, you will stick around for the "spiritual stuff" today. See, there has been some talk in the media lately about the church I attend ranging from untrue to blatantly ugly, and I felt I wanted to respond to it in my tiny corner of the Internet. I wanted to tell you who I am, because a friend recently told me that the more truth and goodness we put out in the world the better. Here is some truth about me, and what I believe.

I do not profess to speak for my church, or other people in my church. I am not here to talk politics. Rather I wanted to answer the words by a well-intentioned (or not) person who effectively announced to thousands of other Christians that I am not to be counted one of them. 

I should be. Because I am a Christian. I believe in God, an eternal loving Father, in his son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. What I think hangs up some folks is that I believe they are three separate beings. Not a single being, or rather, a Trinity. A much wiser leader in our church, an apostle of Jesus Christ (I will get to the word apostle later) directly addresses this specific doctrine here  so I don't have to.

I'd rather share with you what being a Christian means to me. I believe each of us is a treasured, cherished child of God and that Jesus Christ --the word Christ comes from the Greek "Christos" which means "anointed one" -- is the one person capable of helping me reach my potential as a child of a perfect God.

I believe I will be held accountable -to God and Jesus- for the way I live my life. I am responsible for the way I spend my mortal gift; for the way I deal with my difficulties and the way I treat other people. I believe that I  make horrible and plentiful mistakes and am in desperate need of Divine help to break my personal cycles of guilt, regret, pain, habits, addictions, pride, etc.

I believe Jesus is the one person capable of truly healing my hurts, helping me to forgive perfectly, overcome my grave weakness of character, bridging the gap between what is required of me and what I actually do every day. In other words, I believe Jesus is my personal Savior.

Do I know exactly how to apply this belief or faith in my life? Yes. But then again, not always.

Do I feel like I have a personal relationship with this being whom I claim to revere, worship and depend on?
I am working on it. I want to. I feel my church - through doctrine, practices and community- help me draw closer to the spiritual feelings and desires I have to know Jesus, even when I am feeling distant from it.

I believe He wants to have a relationship with me and guide me in my life, and that if I let that happen, my life will be better and happier than what I could make of it on my own. 

I believe God wants me to be happy and joyful. I believe that God does not want His children to be guided by fear of life or, frankly, of Him. He even says so: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). 

I believe that wanting to be like Jesus means serving, forgiving and loving others. It means striving to avoid contention.  It means building up others, and with God's help shaking off impulsiveness and selfishness. I know I fail in these often, but they are my goals nonetheless.

If I am honest, I have to admit that I see God's hand working in my life, slowly and sometimes painfully shaping me into something, someone better through my difficulties and my weaknesses. I don't believe it's chance. I cannot claim it's my own doing.

I have felt my burdens lightened even when they were not taken away. I have felt times of peace when storms rage around me. I have seen my children protected in moments when they should have been badly hurt. I have felt forgiven and loved and strengthened by a higher power. I have seen people I love change their lives and very natures through the help of God and surrendering to this higher power.

I have felt strength flow into my body and heart to deal with things I didn't think I could handle. I am immeasurably blessed. I can't deny those feelings and observations  in my life. I believe they are blessings from God and mercies from Jesus.

I am a Mormon, and I am a Christian.


If there is a next time: Answers to Why the word Mormon? What does that word even mean? What did you mean by 'apostle?' Did that dude really say you belong to a cult? (Yes. he did.)

10.16.2011

Rock Bottom and a Visit from Grandma

Observing my mom, mother of six, with tears starting to well up in her eyes in the car:  

Me: What. Wait. Are you crying? 

Mom: I mean, (sniff) you know we've hit rock bottom when between the two of us it's all we can do to get to Target by 3pm and two of the kids have on different shoes and two of them are in jammies and it's raining outside and not one of them is wearing a jacket.

Me: It's not that cold out, and I don't care if they are in jammies- besides, that is a very loose definition of rock bottom. This is not rock bottom. Things have totally been worse. Mom, don't cry,it's OK. It's not forever. We will survive. 


Mom: But neither of us have showered in days, you are wearing the clothes you wore yesterday and slept in last night. I keep thinking you just have to make it until next year but what if one of them doesn't survive that long?


Me:  We've only had one ER visit in all this time! 

Mom:  Yes but one of the danger events wasn't documented by a health care professional. (Name withheld to protect the not-so-innocent) running across a busy street to a construction zone and trying to climb on a moving excavator while you were being a negligent mother by going to the bathroom?

Me: Yeah, good point, that was really bad. But I don't want you to feel sorry for me. I did this (gesturing to the screaming children in the back of the van) to myself.


Mom: Yes you did, (starting to giggle through the tears) but why should they suffer because of your bad choices?

Both: eruption of laughter, wiping of tears to a chorus of children pinching, and screaming and whining.

***

Is awesome to have my mom here to save me visit for a few weeks. Some little moments from the past week for your entertainment.

I took some control issues out on my hair and impulsively chopped bangs. It was a complete out of body experience. After two days of panic, they are growing on me. As is apparently my butt, darn you Mirror of Truth. Mirror of Truth also displays my laundry problem.


Tsega's first s'mores



Not surprisingly, someone hates when the attention is not on him


Punky Brewster Incarnate picks out the best outfits these days. I am really loving Five Years Old.


100% independently written letter to Shakira

"Shakira, I love you. We love your singing. You are the best."


Please God, never let her see any other Shakira music video besides the Waka Waka one. Please let her always assume her idol is a one-hit-wonder. Thank you.


Grandma is terrified -rightly so- of Brady yanking out his g-tube on her watch. She um, got creative at bath time. Poor poor Brady. Just you remember son, I didn't do this to you. She did. 



Christopher the Lion at the Franklin Park Zoo has the most amazingly chilling roar. It echos through the park, and is especially intense close up.



Poking around an old cemetery for a friend doing family history. The headstones were from the 1600s-1800s, and it was great fun.



"Mama, Brady sad. Sad!"


Someone got his Grandma's eyes!


Shelburne Farm is my favorite place to go apple picking.








I think Cookie has a crush on friend B, here. And also has entered the cheese smile phase.


I foolishly thought Hey, my mom is here, maybe we can get a family picture that is usable for a Christmas card! This was by far the best of about twelve shots.

Samantha cried tears when it was time to leave.


We might have to go back for round two next week, while Grandma is still here...