Monday, December 18, 2017

The evolution of Olive

There's not much need for explanation about this series of pictures, except to say that Olive is 6 months old, and has a least another year of growing to do.

8 weeks

3 months

 4 months
5 months

6 months

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Side by side

Every so often I like to do a little reality check here on the blog. Recently I have come across multiple instances in a variety of setting where a mom expresses how the disconnect between what is posted by someone online either makes that mom feel exceedingly depressed because she doesn't measure up, or exceedingly irate because she knows the reality is not matching the persona. Fakebooking was a term used more than once. There is also an adoption disruption that is causing some concern in the adoption world, and once again, adoptive parents are wondering how to prepare prospective adoptive parents for the reality of adoption. If people really understood what they were getting into, would it make a difference?

As an adoptive mom who shares about her family, I find it a tricky tightrope to walk sometimes, this need for honesty while at the same time protecting my children and seeing life from different angles. I may not write about the hard all the time. Does that mean it is not there or that we have not experienced it? Hardly. Because of their hard past, our adopted children face challenges that are sometimes unimaginable. Trying to navigate life while healing from past hurts is hard. It is hard for the family; it is hard for the child. It is just the way it is.

I will sometimes be more specific about some of those challenges, mainly if I feel the information will help other parents. But there is so much more that I do not share or write about. Those stories, while they certainly impact my life, are not my stories to share. Just because I do not share them, does not mean they don't exist. If I focus on the lovelier aspects of our family's life, it is not because of wanting to hide the hard, but because I don't want to focus on it to the exclusion of all else.

What I really want to share is possibly one of the biggest lessons I've learned from parenting a lot of children: Things can be both hard and good all at the same time. When I was a younger mother, I had it in my head that for things to be good, fun, wonderful, that every aspect of them had to be just as I imagined it to be. There could be nothing to mar the moment, or that moment ceased to be good. I put untold stress on myself trying to make things perfect, or as close as I could get them. There was always a lingering fear, though, that something would come along and ruin it.

I have come a long, long way from there. It was a difficult path, filled with a lot of imperfection, not the least of which was my own. There has been a lot of hurt, a lot of fear, a lot of anger, and in some seasons not a whole lot of joy. When you have the perspective that everything needs to be just right in order for it to have any value, then in extremely difficult seasons, you will not see the good.

Yet is was there all along. Things in this world we live in are neither all bad or all good. People are just too complicated for that. It's actually how the entire world is. A world created by a loving God and called good, yet fallen and sinful. Everything is there all at once, all the time while we are on this earth.

This is what I come back to time and again in this season of my life. There is hard, some of it very, very hard. Hard to a degree which you will never be able to read about because it is not something that I can share. Yet at the same time, there has been great joy. Amazing joy and hope to the degree that I hardly dared to dream possible. It has all existed all at the same time, side by side, so obviously that even I couldn't miss it. And as I look back, this has been true all along. Joy and sorrow are not two different emotions to be experienced separately, at the exclusion of one another, but they exist concurrently. In hurt and pain, somewhere there is also something good to be enjoyed, and at the same time, there is also a tinge of sorrow and pain even at the most joyful moments of life.

Life is bittersweet.

No one ends up with anything more. No one ends ups with anything less. Assume that what people choose to show you is just a fraction of their existence. They do not have a perfect life, even if that is all they are willing to show you. Outside the frame of the camera lens are piles of laundry, cranky children, bad days, and great fear and sorrow. Just like you. Just like me.

The more children you add, the more people in your life whom you care about, the messier life is. The less you are able to control.  They each bring their own pain and fear and complications. They might be difficult to love sometimes. By accepting them into your life, you open yourself up to the possibilities of more pain, but you also open yourself up for the possibilities of greater joy.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Friday bullets, December 15, 2017

I'll jump right in.

  • With some significant time spent with my best friend Amazon on Wednesday night, combined with some power shopping yesterday morning, I do believe that I will be able to pull off Christmas this year. There are still, of course, some odds and ends, but for the most part I am done.
  • How did anyone ever manage to be ready for Christmas without 2-day shipping? I know I did, I just don't know how.
  • As I've mentioned before, D. has become enamored of physics. Quantum physics to be exact. And like his mother, when D. is interested in something, he reads and researches voraciously on his chosen subject. All this to say, he has been reading a lot of books about quantum physics recently. And like his mother, when he has read something really interesting (to him), he wants to talk about it. Which is why I found myself a captive audience while I was doing laundry earlier this week (no fool, that D.) as he expounded on the various theories of multiple and infinite universes. I believe I had become a plumber in one of his examples. After all of this, he turns to me and asks, "Did you get any of that?" I think I have yet to convince him that ability and interest are really not equivalent.
  • Along the same lines, when I asked D. if there was anything on his Christmas wish list I should know about, he shows me a picture of Nuclear Element Soap bars, but then mutters that he's not sure he really wants them.
  • The hand sewing continues apace. The very large stack of felt has been nearly used up, with five people making animals, blankets, shirts, pillows, etc. My DMC floss collection will never be quite the same. L. has even ventured into repair work, having sewed up every small hole which the stuffed animal collection happened to have. I will admit to being more than a little thrilled at this particular turn of event. The disaster in the play loft of scraps of felt and thread, thrills me a little less.
  • TM won the cool big brother award yesterday. L. was a little less than thrilled when I had to leave to take P. to her riding lesson and D. to the library. I offered to let her ride along, but she was a wee bit past the point of reason and didn't want to. As I was running out the door, I suggested to TM that he might want to get some chocolate chips or something out for distraction purposes. Instead, when I got home, he had rounded up the troops and let them help him bake some M&M cookies (from his own M&M stash) with him, and things we were well.
  • P. has finished her first semester of her first college level class, and thinks she did pretty darn well.
  • I don't think I can use my tamale pot again until we replace the sink in the kitchen. The pot is so huge and the sink is so small that it is very difficult to wash. J. has measured and believes that the sink I bought last spring will actually fit in the space, but being cast iron, he will first have to figure out how to support the thing so it doesn't come crashing down. I cannot tell you how excited I will be to finally have a sink my large pots and cookware will fit in.
  • A friend sent a picture of one of the stained glass windows in our old church. I do miss them.
  • It would seem I need new hiking boots, or some type of shoe good for cold and light snow. I took Kenzie on a walk in the forest preserve earlier this week, and because it seemed damp and wet and cold, put on my 20+ year old hiking boots. My feet were pretty soaked by the time I even reached the preserve. The seams have all opened up and definitely let water in. I guess in boots so old that is to be expected. I have heavy winter boots, good for feet of snow, but don't really want to lug those around on my feet if I don't really need them. It's too bad things don't last forever.
  • You know that scene in the movie, It's a Wonderful Life, where George Bailey comes home, and among other things, one of his children is practicing Christmas carols on the piano over and over over? I feel as though I live in that scene for hours every day. I'm not really complaining, because I'm thrilled my children are enjoying playing the piano. It's just so constant. One child will stop and move on, and another child will sit down. I can usually tell who is playing by what and how they are playing. H. has even gotten in on it. The lure of Christmas carols has pushed her farther than anything I could have done on purpose. She is also farther than I thought she would be at this point. Her rhythm still needs some work, but she is getting the notes. It truly is a wonderful life... if loud.
  • TM has completed several art classes this fall, and just finished another this past week. I love this painting that he made this time.

And with that, I will wish you a happy Friday. Everyone take a deep breath, and remember the reason we do all the stuff we do at Christmas time, is because it is supposed to fun and enjoyable. If it's not, take a look at it, and figure out if it really needs to be done. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Very small victories

Life with R. remains challenging. When I write that, I realize that challenging can encompass many ideas and degrees of difficulty. It feels a little disingenuous to even say she is challenging, because really for many hours of the day she is no trouble at all. (Of course there are some periods of time where her anxiety is totally ramped up, usually at 2 am, and then yes, it is challenging in all aspects of the word.) But it is this no trouble at all-thing which is so very difficult. You see, the reason she is no trouble is because she is perfectly content to sit on the couch and stare. Or sit at the table and do the same activity, over and over and over and over, for hours without a peep or comment. She can stand and watch me do things for hours without any desire to do something on her own. (This last is far more annoying than troublesome.) I think you get what I'm saying. It is not normal for a child to spend hours doing absolutely nothing and not complaining about it.

It is sort of the parental fantasy, isn't it? The child who never asks for anything or causes any fuss and just sits quietly. I would give you a couple of days with a child like that, and I guarantee by the end of the week you would be clamoring for the loud, engaged, messy, and yes, sometimes bored children you are used to. Actually, if I am honest, the three or four hours she will do this in the afternoon is a step forward from when she first came home and would do this all day, every day. I have to take the forward progress where I can find it.

I think, though, we have solved a little, tiny bit of this ongoing problem. At least it worked today for a bit, and I'm willing to give it another shot tomorrow. We have this large exercise ball, the kind you can sit on, that somehow made the move, and has been causing me to issue vague threats ever since. Sometimes it comes sailing down the stairs, no one seems to know how, with the last time breaking a bowl on the coffee table. It very nearly became garbage right then and there. I'm glad I was too tired to do something about after cleaning up all the glass, because it has come in useful. One of R.'s many challenges is her lack of proprioception (where her body is in space) combined with extremely low core muscles. While both are slowly improving, I'm always on the lookout for more ways to challenge her.

It occurred to J. and I, that perhaps sitting on the ball while doing some of her favorite table activities would be the key to stopping her disassociation in its tracks. (And that's what she is doing as she sits staring or doing the same activity over and over, just sheer disassociation. She's not there.) I noticed that when I make her sit on the floor and play, she cannot disassociate. R. hates sitting on the floor because it is not overly comfortable for her (I won't let her 'W' sit), and because it is not comfortable she cannot disassociate. I think it is because she cannot space out that makes her dislike it so. I do make sure she gets as much floor play as I can get out of her throughout the day. What if sitting on the exercise ball at the table had the same effect?

Well, today R. wanted to play with her beads. Now, normally this would be an activity that I would heartily endorse at all times, because she likes to use a small spoon to scoop beads back and forth into different containers. It has a lot going for it. But, she will use it to lull her brain into nothingness, which ends up being the opposite of helpful. I have to limit her bead play very carefully, and to stop it before she begins using it as a crutch. She was more than happy to sit on the ball today if it meant that she got to play with beads. She can actually balance on the ball better than I expected, and didn't fall off, which I was a little fearful of. What was most interesting to me though, was after about 15 to 20 minutes of playing with beads, she packed them up and announced she was done. She has never done that before. I have always been the one to decide the bead play was finished. Even better, she had an idea of what she wanted to play with next. It was a wooden puzzle she enjoys, and I agreed, but once again she had to sit on the ball. Happy with her puzzle, she did just that. Once again, after about 10 to 15 minutes, when she had done the puzzle, she brought it to me and announced she was done.

I know it seems a little crazy that I want to limit her engagement with toys, but a 15 - 20 minute attention span seems far more appropriate for her current intellectual age. It means that she engages with more things throughout the day, and she spends less time disassociating. To me this is huge. I have always felt that until we can keep R. present and engaged with her surroundings for the whole day, we cannot hope to make any sort of progress. The appeal of not having to feel anything is always greater than engaging and learning new things, which we all know can be difficult at times.

We'll see what tomorrow brings, but anything that stops the disassociation which she is happy to comply with is a win in my book.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Tamales 2017

Yesterday was tamale day. Well, it was actually tamale day #2, but my sister-in-law and I put them together. (I promise, this is the last post about tamales, at least for a year.) My new tamale steamer was a huge success, though I had to get out my canner as well because we made a few bit more than I thought we would. Quite a few more it turns out. I had thought we might get ~120 and fill up my new steamer. We actually ended up with 263 tamales. D. and I ended up finishing putting together the last few at the end of the afternoon. Satisfyingly, we managed to make the masa and the fillings come out even.

After I had saved enough to give to my sister-in-law (who had to go home before they were all cooked), and after every person had eaten as much as they possibly could for dinner, I still filled a huge container for eating throughout the week for lunch as well as two a half gallon freezer bags which are now in the freezer.

I love tamales. I love getting to visit with family and friends while they are being made. I love being able to offer my family something they enjoy and that I don't have to limit how many they can have. And I love that it is only once a year.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Winter wonderland

Enjoy these pictures of our house in our first genuine snow of the season while I make endless tamales.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Tamales and barking dogs

Today was tamale preparation day. Tomorrow my sister-in-law is joining me and we will spend a good chunk of the day making tamales... I'm hoping to get at least 120. But in order to spend the day making tamales, I had to spend today getting ready to make tamales. (There's a reason this only happens once a year!)

So far today I've poached two chickens, so I could make broth for the masa and to make the green chili chicken filling. I've also boiled and soaked so many chiles that my sinuses may never be the same. I'm all done except for the red chili and pork combination that is currently slow cooking in my oven.

So many chiles. There were also fresh jalepeno and Anaheim chiles.

It's not a great picture, but this is the finished chicken and green chili filling.

Broth for masa.

Pork and red chili sauce. That sauce is thick and is made from 18+ chiles.

But really what I want to tell you about are the terribly fierce guard dogs which live in our house. Kenzie has always been a bit territorial, which I really appreciate when I'm home alone at night. He can sound incredibly fierce. Olive likes to copy whatever Kenzie does. She also is extremely protective of A. No one should ever try to get between Olive and her person in a threatening manner, because I cannot guarantee what would happen. Both dogs have big barks that sound a little scary if you don't know them.

It's nice the dogs love their people. It's nice to be protected. (I think.) It's certainly loud sometimes. It's also nice to be alerted to someone in the drive or in the yard. When the dogs do start in on their crazy barking, I will always check on what's going on. Sometimes it's just a dog from next door, but other times it is someone who has come up the drive. It's good to be aware of these things.

Well, today, in the middle of the cooking, both dogs start going berserk. Their hackles are up and they are not sounding at all friendly. The barking just does not stop, and I think they both would have gone through the glass of the doors if they could have figured out how. People start heading towards the windows thinking it must be something terribly serious out there. To hear the dogs, you would not have been out of line to think that indeed the zombie apocalypse had begun right in our very own yard. I like to have some warning before the zombies arrive, so I start to look out the window at what is causing the dogs such major distress. 

I look. And I look. And finally I spot what is so very dangerous and distressing. What is this thing that is causing the dogs to act like wild slathering beasts, as they bark and bark and bark next to their friend the quail? 

It's a chicken. 

One lonely chicken out for a stroll.

The dogs may never be the same.
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