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Friday, November 30, 2012

Simple pleasures

Our old tea kettle was dented (dropped and banged around a few too many times), had chipped enamel (ditto); even worse, the (also dented) whistle had slowly morphed into a melted, crumbling mass. It wasn't pretty, folks...and it wasn't very functional, either. We were all at risk for steam burns every time we made tea...so a change seemed like a good idea. My DH, mensch that he is, ordered us a new tea kettle. Sometimes it's the little things that can brighten my day....and here's my latest simple pleasure. It's a lovely Kitchen Aid kettle.*

It's a cheery pear green and it looks great in our kitchen. I love the silicone grips that keep us from burning ourselves constantly; even our youngest is safer using this kettle. Even better, it's pristine: shiny, dent free, and fully functional. Since our kitchen gets hard use with the 7 of us banging around in it, the pristine part isn't likely to last too long...but I'm enjoying it while I can.

As for the cherubs, are they happy with the new kettle? No, siree. They hate it. It's different. It's not the old, familiar red one. It doesn't feel right. It's too hard to use. The cherubs don't adapt to new things easily...but Old Red went out with the recycling as soon as our Pretty Pear arrived. How can I say this gently? Suck it up and deal, kiddos. Mama has a new kettle and she's not afraid to use it. After a while, you won't be either. Think of it as a life lesson in change.

*No, I'm not being paid by Kitchen Aid to say nice things about them; I just like their products. Wouldn't complain if they wanted to pay me for an endorsement, though. Hello, Kitchen Aid folks??? Are you listening??

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Trauma tales

Last week, one of my kids said to me, "Hey, Mom, did I ever tell you about the time my little brother drowned?" Umm....well, I guess that sounds like a lead-in to a joke to most folks but in our family, it probably isn't.

By now, it's no secret that our family is comprised of Mom, Dad, and 5 kids, 4 of whom were adopted long after infancy. In addition to being older at the time of their adoption, our 4 also were with their birth families long enough to have memories of them....and many of those memories are rooted in trauma. Some memories are still surfacing as the kids grow up and begin to make sense of their past. Even though our kids have been with us for several years, they still have stories that are new to me. When my kids start to talk about their memories, I often find myself holding my breath, bracing myself for what may come next.

Deep calming breath. "Well, I figure your brother didn't actually drown because he's home playing video games right now...but do you want to tell me about it?"

"OK, yes, it was kind of funny."

"Um, really?"

"Yeah, my dad built us these little cars out of pipe and wood. They had wheels and seats and we were racing them down the hill. The cars were fast and a lot of fun. My brother's car went off the road and into the lake. I remember him getting all wet and my dad was scared."

"So did your brother almost drown?"

"I don't remember for sure.  It was before we went in the orphanage, so  I was probably about 5 or 6 and he was only around 3. I remember that our dad was scared and my brother was crying. Mostly I remember the cars."

Hmm. How to respond? Think, think. "Well, sweetie, here's what I like about your story. I don't know much about your birth father but this tells me that he loved you boys and wanted you to be safe. He wanted to build you those cars, and he was afraid when he thought one of you might be hurt. That's a happy memory, the first one you've mentioned from your past. I'm so glad you shared it with me...I like imagining you and your brother as little boys, flying down the road in those cars, having fun."

After that, we moved on to other topics...homework, holiday shopping lists, the latest news from high school. It was a short conversation embedded in our everyday life...and yet, it's a huge step.

After years of trauma tales, a happy tale. I don't delude myself; the very real trauma and abuse that my kids suffered will never go away. It's a part of their history and it's etched onto their souls...but if they can reach past the pain and find something positive, then just maybe they are healing themselves. Processing trauma is hard work and most of it falls to my kids. All I have to do is listen...and remember to breath.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Giving thanks...

In the past week, I've had many opportunities to count my blessings. Here are just a few of the things I'm thankful for:
  • Four years ago, I spent Thanksgiving weekend in a state of panic, redoing our adoption dossier and wondering if we would be allowed to adopt our last 2 boys...so thankful that turned out well and I never have to go through it again!
  •  This time last year, we began to struggle with mental health challenges with one of our boys. The experience rocked us all and made us wonder if we'd ever see a "normal" family anything again. So thankful our boy is stabilized and we're all in a much better place now.
  • This year, we had no earth-shaking crises, trials or tribulations...yay, us!
  • We spent Thanksgiving Day cooking, watching the Macy's parade, and enjoying all 5 of our kids.
  • It was a "normal" family holiday, maybe even a little boring by evening.
  • Given our past years of drama and angst, I really love normal and boring these days.
  • I had flashbacks all day of other Thanksgivings, some good, some bad, some ugly.
  • Did I mention I'm grateful for normal and boring? Because I am...I really, really am.

Aniyar entertained us by showing us how to make a hand turkey!

Madiyar uncapped some sparkling apple cider for our celebration.
Thanksgiving dinner 2012...and all of us were at the table!

Monday, November 19, 2012

We ran away...

I can count on one hand the number of times my husband and I have gone away from home together without the kids. With 5 kids with special needs, abandonment issues, and complex schedules, it really is easy to feel somewhat irreplaceable...but that means Mom and Dad don't get much time to themselves and that's not too healthy for a relationship. In keeping with my new "self-care" goal, I've been reminding myself that my DH and I could do with some alone time that was a bit more exciting than our weekly trip to Costco for groceries...but until this weekend, we hadn't managed to pull it off.

One of our best friends was celebrating a milestone birthday and we were invited to join in the celebration. It was a 2 day affair in Mystic, Connecticut which is about a 2 hour drive away from us. When we first found out about it, I was sure we couldn't possibly participate...after all, who would watch/feed the kids? Drive them to appointments? Supervise in-home therapy? Administer their meds? Prevent sibling bloodshed? Impossible...just too many details in our fairly complex family dynamic to ask someone else to take over...forget about it. Then my DH looked me in the eye and said..."Dee, it's one night. In a hotel. Without kids or dogs. And a meal in a restaurant. With adults." Well, when he put it that way, it did sound appealing...so we decided to go for it.

We are blessed to have several very good friends of the "It takes a village to raise a child" variety. Two of our friends volunteered to stay with our kids. This meant basically taking over our whole routine for about 30 hours so we could go away...awesomely brave souls, these friends! I did what I could to streamline our routine, provide easy meals to serve the cherubs, and prep the kids for our absence. (Remember those abandonment issues? You would have thought we were going off to war instead of Connecticut.) 

On Saturday late morning, we hit the road, secure in the knowledge that our kids would be well supported in our absence. We also said a little prayer that our friends would still be our friends by the time we returned...teenagers can be tough and filling in for us had all the potential of turning into the familial equivalent of "Let's give the substitute teacher a hard time." We left our worries behind us and reveled in the 2 hour drive...the longest uninterrupted conversation we've had for a very long time...and arrived at our hotel in great spirits. It was all party time from there. Here are the highlights from Mystic:

  • We greeted our friends, surprising the birthday fellow 
    • His first question was "Who's watching the kids?"
  • We checked into our hotel room; it was pristene, an oasis of calm. 
    • There was no clutter
    • There were no dogs on the bed
    • There were no children in our bed watching our TV
      • In fact, we never even turned on the TV
  • Before dinner, we went for a walk, strolling in and out of shops our kids would have hated
    • We spent a long time in a couple of kitchen stores
    • We sampled fancy vinegars and oils
    • We didn't set foot in a single video game store
  • I actually soaked in a bathtub for at least 15 minutes (gasp)
    • No one was pounding on the bathroom door, asking for help settling a dispute
    • The towels were fluffy, white, and DRY! 
      • No one else had previously used every blessed one of them 
      • They were neatly folded, not in a soggy mess on the floor
    • So was the bathmat...amazing.
  • I took my time getting ready for dinner
    • I was able to use a curling iron and put on makeup for the first time in...well, never mind.
  • We spent the evening doing grown-up things
    • Before dinner, we joined our friends for a glass of wine and appetizers in the lobby
    • We ate things our kids wouldn't touch for dinner
    • After dinner, we joined our friends for drinks and birthday wishes
    • There were no screens, video games, or arguments over the aforementioned electronics
    • There was actual adult conversation
  • The night was passed in peaceful slumber
    • No dogs asked to be let out
    • No children came to us with illness or night terrors
  • The next day was perfect
    • It started off with Starbucks eggnog lattes
    • Breakfast at the Mystic Diner was a To-Die-For Greek omelette
      • The only person who begged to share with me was my DH
      • At least he shared his omelette in return!
    • We spent a few relaxing hours at the Mystic Aquarium
    • We took our time driving home, even stopped at Costco and BJ's...so romantic!
We got back home around 4pm on Sunday, found the house still standing and the friends still friends. See? I told you they were awesome. They claim our house is "a well-oiled machine" and claimed all went just fine. (I wonder who those Stepford kids were that they were watching??) Any way, we are beyond grateful. Without the Marvelous Mackeys, we never could have pulled off our little get away. Thanks, you guys!!!!

As for the cherubs...they were ready and waiting for us. We waded right back into the chaos that's pretty much our family life. Some had complaints about siblings. Some had homework that they needed help with. One was sick and in need of Dr. Mom's ministrations. One wanted to know what was for dinner. They offered and received hugs, told us they missed us and declared that we can never leave them again. And guess what? We missed them, too. It was a nice little break...but it was even better to come back home, refreshed and ready for Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Halloween in Witch City

 I have the dubious honor of living in a place that many consider to be one of the coolest spots on the planet around Halloween. I'm not just talking about on October 31st. either...the frenzy ensues around the end of September and continues into early November. Tour buses line the roadways, parking spaces are non-existent, and costumed tourists throw themselves like suicidal lemmings into the street directly in front of on-coming traffic. For the entire month of October, there are (even more than usual) ghost tours, haunted houses, psychic readings, and witchy everything going on. There are parades, too...some for school kids, some for motorcycles, even one for zombies a few years back. It's pretty much a non-stop carnival that ramps up a bit more each day as the month progresses. By late October, we are literally cheek to jowl with vampires, werewolves, witches, and wizards. There are also enough porta-potties set up around the downtown area to accommodate a small army of vampire slayers...or undead, take your pick. Now it's true that this can all be great fun...but it does make daily life a bit bizarre for the residents. Case in point...in the last month, I have:

  • waited in line at the grocery store behind a bloody zombie prom queen, 
  • braked for a coven of witches who threw themselves in front of my minivan, 
  • been late picking up my son from soccer due to a zombie apocalypse
  • witnessed Big Bird walking down the street carrying an Obama-Biden campaign sign. 

Frankly, I've had enough fun for this year. I'm glad to be able to move freely around town again...and since tomorrow is election day, Big Bird can go back to his day job, too. Looking forward to Thanksgiving!