Sunday, November 10, 2013

Go Spicy, or Go Home

I grew up one block from Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers.

When I tell people who are from big cities this fact (especially big cities with football or baseball teams), they assume I am exaggerating. That by "one block," I probably mean within one zipcode, or one city, or one neighborhood or maaayyyybbbeee one mile.

But nope.  None of those things.  I truly lived one block from Lambeau, as it is surrounded by neighborhoods, and mine created the southern border of the property.   I didn't realize just how unusual having a stadium neighborhood was until I grew up and went to college.

I didn't realize how lucky I was-- and just how magical this aspect of my childhood was-- until I moved back to my hometown after I went away for college.

Growing up in the Shadow of Lambeau meant friends parking their cars on the yard, airplanes trailing banner advertisements (or marriage proposals! Oh how my sister and I dreamed of a marriage proposal flying over a Packer game for all to see), and in my house, my Dad's infamous chili parties.

The chili and the parties were each infamous in their own rights.  Each Fall, my sister and I would hang out on the porch, watching and waiting for my parent's friends to walk over after the game for these parties. Upon spying each guest, we would stick out head in the door and yell to our parents, "So and so are here!"  In Fall, it was an easy task.

Winter proved much more challenging.  Each Winter game, Stephanie and I would stand at the living room window, and watch as unknown souls decked head to toe in flame orange snowmobile suits, and green and gold baklavas, lumber through huge amounts of snow in approach to our house.  "Someone's here!" was all we could holler, as we simply could not ascertain any true identity until those layers of winter protection were shed in the foyer.

Well, we couldn't for anyone except my Dad's friend "Turkey."  We always knew who Turkey was because he would gobble upon entering our home, which honest to God sounded JUST like a real turkey.  We kids would shriek with laughter, and as such, Turkey was always the most anticipated arrival at each chili party.

If you have ever been to a cold weather Packer game, you know that "Fair Weather Fan" is a concept simply not comprehensible to children growing up in Green Bay.  The Packers completely stunk for the first two decades of my life, and we loooooovvvveeed them no matter the weather, selling out every seat in every game no matter the weather, and having a season tickets wait list two generations long. 

In fact, "fair weather fan" was not a phrase I heard of until I lived in Washington State, where every time the Seahawks sucked, the city discussed selling the team.  Once, when living out there, I went to a Packer-Seahawks game in Seattle, and there was more Green and Gold than Blue and Green.  Even my boyfriend, who grew up in Washington, wore a Cheesehead to the game.

That simply does not happen in Green Bay, people.  Never did, and likely never will.

Yet, I digress.  There was a lot I didn't learn until I went to college.

But back to the chili:

My Dad had obtained his chili recipe from a prominent restauranteur in the area, as partial payment for a divorce that my dad handled.

It was a brilliant trade, as the chili is perfection in a bowl.

Not a soup, this chili is a beef topping that you put on buttered spaghetti noodles. A deep, complex flavor, you feel the heat in your ears when you eat it. 

The dark red kidney beans are served, heated, on the side, or else that flavor would interfere with the intensity of the beef.  Pour a large glass of milk, top the chili with malt vingear, beans and shock absorbers, and enjoy the clearing of your sinuses.

Go Spicy, or Go Home. 

That is the chili of my childhood. The fact that many people in my region of the world consider ketchup to be a spice?  I didn't know that either, until I moved back after college.  I just thought everyone ate this sort of heat on Sunday basis.

And the soup concoctions often referred to as 'chilli?'  I never knew about that sloppy stuff until college.

You know what else I didn't learn until college?  That no one else knew of these magnificent heat-absorbing magical "Shock Absorbers."

Sadly, the rest of the world knew of:

Oyster crackers.  What a grody name.

Huh.  Yet another thing I didn't learn until I had to grocery shop on my own.

Today, I'm having a post-game chili party of my own.  So similar to those that my parent's had in my youth, we are serving up chili and celebrating our life here, even with the Packers stinking it up big time this season.  We still love 'em, and we'll still party it up.  With my dad's recipe.  And shock absorbers.   And my brother and sister and children. 

And you know what else?  My kids don't know of these things called Oyster Crackers either.  Because in my home, they forever are and forever will be referred to as Shock Absorbers.

I'm not going to burst their bubble.  They can learn that nugget of truth on their own, when they're in college, just like I did.  

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Channeling My Inner Witch

Many moons ago, I convinced my kids that I am part-witch.

I've relied upon that genetic trait of mine on many instances to shock 'em, amaze 'em, leave 'em in awe, and  I must admit, instill the tiniest bit of worry in my kids.  Because they understand, that due to my witch DNA, I have some crazy witchy skills.

Skills like knowing when they're lying.

Or explaining how I have eyes in the back of my head due to a spell.

Or how I know if they really brushed their teeth or not, even if they try to pull a fast one by wetting the head of the toothbrush head without brushing.

It  is an important element of our household lore, having a Mom who is part-witch.

Part-witch, EXCEPT, on Halloween.

On Halloween I channel my Full Witch.

Kind of like a type of PMS that happens just once a year, it's beyond my control.

Every Halloween morn, I wake up with my Witch Shoes on,

and I wear them all day long.

The kids are always certain to check.

This morning, Miles woke me up and said, "Mama, Mama, I forgot to tell you: I have to bring in a treat for the class party today."

A short while later, you could find me in the kitchen, guzzling coffee and drawing jack-o-lantern faces on Cuties with a Sharpie.

Can you guess which face represented mine?
Hint: It's not a smiley one.

Atticus walked in on my artistic magic. "What's Mom doing?"  he asked Miles.

"Getting my treat ready for school.  I just remembered this morning so I let Mama know before she woke up."

"Are you crazy?!?!" Atticus shrieked. "That lady is FULL witch today!!!"

It was a very cute moment.

If I were cool enough to tag my posts, I would tag this under, 'Cool Sh*t I Do for My Kids.'

Because being a Mom is hard enough, so you might as well pat yourself on the back when you can.

 And on Halloween, I definitely can bring it.  Just look at our early morning visitor, found napping in my antique baby buggy next to my hearth.  I mean, it's like Santa Claus, but creepy, and on Halloween, and he didn't bring toys. 

* * * * * 

Can't have a Halloween Post with pics of the 5FC costumes!

Before I get to the pictures, I should explain my rules about costumes and Halloween at large:

1)  Da Mama doesn't buy costumes at retail stores (on occasion, I may be willing to buy a piece or two from GW Fashions.)

2) Bring your imaginations or stay home.

3) All Bit-'o-Honey's obtained during Trick or Treat are immediately handed over, as legislated by the Mommy Tax Acts of '98, '02, '04, '04 and '05.

4) Eat as much candy as you want Halloween night, but don't wake me up that you have a belly ache.  I'll leave Tums on the bathroom counter because I love you all that much.  Smooches and good night.

After all that, behold!

 The Mad Scientist

 The Dead Cheerleader


A Pretty Little Liar (love how my scary candle photobombed her head!)

Harry Potter sporting Glow in the Dark Glasses

And a Very Pretty Fancy Girl

Hail, Hail the Gang's All Here

Happy Halloween!!!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hurting Hearts

I have found that the hardest part of being a parent is watching your child's heart hurt.

It took me a while to figure it out that this was the hardest part.  I was fortunate to have several years of ignorant bliss.  Not bliss as in everything was easy, but bliss in that what I thought was hard was just a tough phase.  For a while, I thought the hardest thing was the lack of sleep.  Eventually, I begrudgingly accepted the fact that I would likely never sleep again.   Then what was hardest was trying to figure out what a crying child needed when they didn't know what they wanted and I couldn't figure it out either.  Then the child becomes verbal and you realize tantrums are difficult.   Month by month, what was hardest morphed into the next new phase.

Until, one day, I brought a weepy Atticus home from pre-school.  I asked him what was wrong, and he explained that two little girls were being mean to him, having told him that quite simply, they did not like him and they never would.

"They hurt my heart!" he cried.

And that, my friends, nearly did me in.  My heart ached to a degree that took my breath away.  I could comfort with a hug and snuggle.  I could speak loving, encouraging words.  I could offer him possible ways to help fix the issue.

 But, I could not fix his hurting heart.

That is a process one must do completely on one's own.

Watching your children live through hurt, hurts.

Tonight, I was reminded of that time long ago, as I dealt with a boy, a teen and a tween all nursing hurting hearts today.

Each have hurting hearts tonight.  And in turn, I find myself with my own heart aching for each of them.

I walk to the elementary school every afternoon, to greet my lot of youngsters and walk home with them.  Lots of nonstop talking about the day ensues from the moment they greet me on the playground blacktop, all the way to my front step.

Today I noticed Miles was unusually quiet.  Upon asking him how his day was, his answer was short and simple:  "Abdulahi moved away."

That statement hit me with great gravity.  After two years of trying to find some 'nice' kids to hang with, Miles finally seemed to find just that special someone in his friend Abdulahi, a recent arrival to the U.S. from Somalia.

"Moved?  As in away?"

"Yeah.  To Minnesota.  Today was his birthday, and we were going to celebrate it in class.  But Ms. D. came up after lunch and said that his family called the office and said they were moving to Minnesota."

This happens a lot at our school.  The abruptness in which so many of these children move make my head spin and my heart sad for the disruption present in so many of their young lives.  Atticus had made a great friend too, who had moved here from California and was a new student this year.   On Monday, the friend simply did not go to school, because the family moved to Chicago over the weekend.

I could see the tears welling Miles' eyes, and I could feel his heart hurting.  And my heart hurts too, tremendously, for such a young boy who has had so much loss.

Miles expressed worry for his friend and the quick move.  We talked about immigrants, and community, and how Minnesota has a large, supportive community of Somalians.  Larger than Green Bay's.

That seemed to reassure him a bit, his frame of reference for understanding moves and new homes and new culture being so much larger and intuitive than my own.

Still, my heart breaks for my boy, who had finally found happiness in having a nice friend of his own.

After walking the kids home, I went brought Hatfield home from high school, and noticed some of her distress.  A simple inquiry into what was bothering her had her dissolving in tears immediately.   Life is changing, and relationships are changing, and she is hurting over troubles with a dear friend.  Troubles that she had a large part in creating, although I don't think she realized it at the time.

Unfortunately, I remember what it was like to be in middle school and high school, so I understand that we are going to have night's like this, because, unfortunately, I remember my own night's like this.  Yet, it's different too.  Almost more complicated, really.  Living in this age of texting-- when your children say things that they never would say in real life, and when it is so altogether too easy for them to interpret malice into a friend's simple words -- is complicated. 

Helping your teen realize her own poor choices when she herself is not seeing them is--- well, it's an experience. I am not finding it intuitive--at all-- to determine when it is the time to be loving and supportive while letting her figure things out on her own, and when to help her face the reality that she may have made some very poor choices which created this heartache when the she believes it was the other person's fault and everything done to her was injustice.

Because at work (Holy Cow-- I work at a college now!  I do!  And I love it!  I work in Student Judicial Affairs and love love LOVE my job!  But more on that later), I tend to see one of two scenarios factoring into the background every kid I see in the conduct system:  kids who were never taught how to take accountability for their choices, because they were raised to think they are the perfect one, so they think it is everyone else's fault but theirs.  Or, kids who are never taught how to figure out anything on their own because Mom and Dad did it all, resulting in a super needy student so very unprepared for life.

Clearly, I don't want my children to enter adulthood on either end of that spectrum.

"What do you think you could have done differently?" I (gently) asked my daughter.

"I don't know," was the response 9 times out of 10.

So I would offer a scenario, and then say, "what do you think would have happened had you tried that?"

Tonight, that worked.  It got her talking, and thinking.  Opening her mind, and facing some tough realizations about her actions.  After many tears and hugs, I had to attend to the other children.  Yet when I left, she knew she had things to reconsider and work through.

A hurting heart being one of those things.

Silly as it may be, even at times like this, it hurts my heart to see my children hurt.  Even when you know they are growing and learning.   Even when you know these growing pains will help them grow into better people.  Even when you know that it's just the way the world works (teens have been having drama for years.)

Even when you know that it is just a blip on the radar and it's not the first time, and it certainly won't be the last, it still hurts.

My tween had a different sort of situation, but one in which he was hurting nonetheless.  His is a less sticky issue by far, but still, one in which he has to step outside of his comfort zone and learn a different way to effectively communicate his feelings and needs.  For one of the first times, he is having to evaluate a situation, determine why he feels a certain way, and then see if the expectations being placed upon him are helping or hurting him. I feel his anxiety about it, his not wanting to disappoint others, yet his knowing an internal alarm is sounding.   I wish I could absorb it all, but yet, I know this is a great growing moment.

As I type these thoughts, I realize that I have decades of this to come.  I am nearly 40, and I know my dear mother hurts when I hurt.   I think of all the situations that my siblings and myself found ourselves in, and still find ourselves in, and I realize just how much hurt she has had to carry and process along the years.

Holy hell, we were and still are trainwrecks half the time.  How my mother is still standing, I'm not sure.

Maybe I'm too sensitive.  After all, we were blessed in having skipped the middle school drama trauma with Hatfield because of homeschool.  I never really had my chance to toughen up.

The small person who will give me those chances is lying just to my left.  All the while I'm writing, Paloma, curled up in bed next to me, reading while I type away, just announced, "I am so cozy I feel that goodness is attacking me."   

Now, just yesterday, while sitting on the bathroom floor, leaning over the toilet in anticipation of throwing up (Paloma has been very sick with the stomach flu), Paloma wailed:  "Please turn off the music!The radio is distressing me!!!"

Wow.  Attacking Goodness and Distressing Radios, and she's only 8. I have a feeling that no matter what situations my older children may find themselves in, it's gonna be nuthin' compared to what I'm going to see with the Mighty Miss Po.  That girl may be little, but she Thinks Big and Feels Bigger.  This Mama would do best to toughen up for that little one.

(That is, if I haven't died of heart failure when Keenan manages to finagle some kid into letting him drive their motorcycle before he even has a license.  Because I'm pretty sure my boy is working on such a plan every night before he falls asleep  ;)

Monday, October 28, 2013

November is nearly here, so about the book. . .

Last year was year of big changes.  This year has been big, too, but last year was REALLY big.

Last year, I stopped homeschooling (well, all the children except Hatfield, but she was in a really great online public school, so technically she was public schooled, just at home) and sent the small children out the door and around the block to our local school.

Many tears, fears, worries and qualms were dispelled the moment they burst into the door after their first day of class.  They LOVED it.  And they still do.  School has been a great thing, for all of us.

Homeschool was the right thing for us when we did it.  Some of the best memories of my life were while we homeschooled.  I truly believe that it really helped shape our our older kids-- which fortunately trickled down to the younger set-- and it was the right thing at the right time.

But dynamics change, so you assess and adjust.  We did, and have no regrets.

Someday, I'll share the story of what set that HUGE change into motion.  Now THAT is a great story.  It involves a ghost, a medium and a tearful 6 am walk with my dogs on an August morning. Sounds like the start of a joke, but I assure you, it's not.   THAT story will likely leave you convinced that I am either super awesome or super crazy, and well, that story is for another day.

Today, I'm going to write about my book.

Rewind to last September.  I was a Mom Experiencing Freedom for the First Time, since pretty much ever, as I had Hatfield just as I was entering 'serious' adulthood ('serious' adulthood because I was taking it seriously.  Not 'default' adulthood thrust upon me by a birthday.)

So what did I do, come September, when all of my children were away from the home for 6+ hours a day?

Well, first, I slept.  Because, sheesh, for 15 years, I considered a sleep to be exotic.  And, because I was really, truly, freaking T-I-R-E-D.

Then, I watched the first 5 seasons of Burn Notice on Netflix.

Then I slept some more.

Then I watched the first 7 seasons of Bones on Netflix.

Then I knitted a bit.

Then it was Halloween.

Seriously. (Don't judge.  I have 5 kids. I was REALLY tired.)

Seriously, though, you know how you think, Oh, when my kids are in school I'm totally going to paint a bunch of rooms, and clean the basement, and organize my closet, and re-landscape my yard, and work out, and resurface my kitchen cabinets just like I saw on Pinterest?

Yeah, that doesn't happen.  Like ever.

Anywhoo, come the end of October, I thought:  I really should have something to show for my time to myself.  Hmmmmmmmm. . .

And the thought ended there.

UNTIL, I heard about NaNoWriMo.  Courtesy of one of my most REAL LIFE favorite besties, The Accidental Mommy.

(Yes, that is my TOTALLY and SHAMELESSLY wagging my real life friendship with Essie right in your face.  3 years of great friendship has not nullified my complete adoration/slight obsession with her awesomeness.  And you would too if you were me.)

Anyone, the Divine Miss Essie introduced me to National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo

What is NaNoWriMo? you ask.  Is it for me? you ask.

Well, if you want to:
  • Write a novel in a month!
  • Track your progress.
  • Get pep talks and support.
  • Meet fellow writers online and in person.
 then NaNoWriMo is for you.

Last year, a week into November, I decided that NaNoWriMo was for me.  After all, I had a writing degree.  People (okay, my family...OKAY, my Mommy, but she TOTALLY counts because she's awesome AND smart) had always been telling me I should write a book.  And, I had a story kicking around in the cobwebby recesses of my mind for some time (i.e. years), and I wanted to see where I could take it.

So I did it.  I knocked out a 57k word novel in less than a month.  The story was in my head, wrote itself, and was a helluva fun ride.

(I'm from the generation that has to use the word "helluva."  I can't use "hella."  I just can't.  One, I think it sounds stupid.  Two, I don't understand how to use it.  Three, I call it stupid as a way of compensating for not being cool enough to know how to use it.)

I thought, back in February, that I would begin to edit the book.  Because, wubba, it was my first attempt and needed hella editing.

See? I can't pull it off.  Sorry.

It needed a helluva a lot of editing.

However, something else was going on at that time, and that something else was:  A crash course in Novel Structure.



I read about Novel Structure, and plot, and characters, and subplot, and tension, and protagonsists vs. antagonists, and so on and so forth and on and on.

I quickly realized that my first crack at a book was missing. . .oh, pretty much everything.

That's not me being self-defeating (I almost wrote, 'sadist' because a sadist sounds like a self-defeating person, but wow, Thank God for the online thesaurus!  Totally saved myself there.) Or too hard on myself.  It's just me looking at my novel, evaluating it against the checklists, and coming up a weeee bit whole lot short.

And you know what?

It's okay.

It's totally okay that it came up short.  Because, like I said, I had a great time writing it, and because it was in my head for such a long time, it was really cool to see it down on print.

But, it's not something I want to try and fix. The entire process of taking something from my mind that had been there so darn long and putting it down on paper (or computer screen) was extremely cathartic.

The process, itself, regardless of the end result, was enough

In fact, it was exactly what I needed.

But this next Saturday, I'm going to try again.  NaNoWriMo'14, and I want the t-shirt, baby.

With a new story.  One that's much more intricate and developed.  One that has been growing, along with my knowledge and understanding of novel building. One that I began writing early this summer, but then stopped, because creatively, I was stuck.

Yet, something funny happens each fall.  I'm back to walking the kids to school, in the company of my canine companions, and then walking the neighborhood with the pooches.

As I walk, I plot.  I create characters.  I create the story.

And it has taken off.

So I'm going to try again.  And this time, this time I think I just may have something there to share.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Several recent requests by my boy Atticus initiated my recent trips down Memory Lane.  On Monday of this week, school had sent home an All About Me poster. 

Never having been the Scrapbooking Mom or the Photo Album Mom, this Shove-Your-Photos-in-a-Disorganized-Fashion-into-a-Rubbermaid-Tub Mom hiked into the storage room part of our basement (aka The Man House aka The Dungeon aka A Mess), praying that she could locate at least one baby picture per her boy's meager request.

I hit the jackpot.  Boxful after boxful of photos from when my first two babies were just that: babies.  Back when our three-legged beagle Ernie was a spirited pup, his faithful sidekick was a one-eyed German Shepherd named Sissy, and we were still blessed with the presence of my Grandpa Joe and Uncle Gary. 

Many tears were shed.  Happy. Sad. Grateful. Bittersweet.

An hour after descending into basement, and I heard my children upstairs forming a search party for me.  I grabbed a handful of photos and rejoined them.

Paloma spotted a photo of Sissy, and exclaimed, "Oh! When I grow up, I'm totally going to have a Herman Shepherd!"

I love these moments.  And my first thought was:  I should be blogging this

But it was time to pick up Hatfield from tennis.  And then time to bring Atticus to dance.  And then time to bring Atticus home from dance while taking Hatfield to dance.  Or vice versa.  But trust me, by the time it was 9:45 pm, all my children were home and accounted for.

Today is an easier day, schedule-wise.  Today, after school, the children dive into snack time and chore time, so that they can have some play time before dinner time.

There's a lot of "times" in big families.  And this time, at homework time, Atticus requested a photo of he and the Mister for the last remaining spot on his poster.

(Yeah, because you know, I just merely gave life to the kid by pushing him out of my womb before the epidural even took and trust me when I say that you, reader,  you don't want to know what part of me tore in the process, but whatever, I guess just knowing how vital my role was in those early moments of his life is enough to deal with the sting of being snubbed on the All About Me Poster. Uh huh.)

I took to my computer to look up photos of My Man and his Mini-Me, only I could not easily locate one.   After all, it was prime distraction time as it was time for Atticus and Paloma to bicker over who gets to use which music stand for violin practice time.

Instead of searching through file folders, I took to my blog and its search engine.

And I pulled up This Particular Post:

That moment in time came flooding back to me.  I remember that day really well.  But it took the blog to spark my memory.
"Atticus and Paloma, come in here," I called to my bickering duo.  Of course, since it was bickering time, bickering about several subjects ensued along the way from the living room to the kitchen (all 18 steps.) 
"I don't think you two have a clear understanding of just how much Bickering History the two of you share," I informed them.
Their bickering ceased and confusion took its place.
"Shhh, just let me read this."
So I read the story to them, holding back each picture, scrolling only to it when it was the next and only thing in the story, to add to the suspense.
The three of us laughed so hard that we cried.
And I realized it then.  Just how important this Writing Down My Family History Time is.  And that despite Chauffer Time and Dinner Time and Homework Moderator Time and Reading Time and Bath Time and Bed Time and Mister, Pour Me a Glass of Wine Stat! Time, the Time I spend on the blog is Time I can't afford not to spend.
This entire journey goes by so very, very quickly.  And I'm grateful for every account I have written for my family, for their history, for their future. 
So I'm not going to worry about things I have missed (repeated over and over again for the type A-impaired orderly brain.)  I can choose not to feel this crazy, type-A pressure that I haven't done it perfectly, so I just need to go back and catch up by writing about birthdays and parties and events we missed.  
Instead, I can just start now.
And now is a great place to start.  Why?

Because while I'm typing, Paloma, Atticus and Keenan barreled in through the front door from playing football.
"Mom!" Paloma hollered.  "Keenan kicked the ball into the road just as a truck was turning the bend and Atticus saw what happened and said, 'Oh shit!'"
Atticus blushed bright red and said, "I didn't mean to! It just happened."
I held up a hand.  "Listen, it's okay. I say that all the time and I really shouldn't, especially in front of you kids, so I understand that it's something you will pick up along the way.  As long as you aren't using it all the time, and really, by the way, that was a totally appropriate time to use it, I'm okay."

Paloma pipes up:  "And Dad uses it too!  One time I heard him yell "Oh Shit!" and scream from your bedroom.  So I ran to the door and said, "Dad! Are you okay?" And he called back, "Yeah, I was just getting changed out of my work clothes and found a big bug in my underwear!!! '  So don't worry, Atticus, you get it from Mom AND Dad!"
Seriously, if that is not the Universe reaffirming my renewed commitment to blogging again, I don't know what is.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

4 Years HOME

Four years ago, we brought our boy Miles home.

FOUR years.

For an adoption that seemingly dragged on forever, these four years have flown by.  So much progress, so much growth and learning, for Miles, of course, but also for all of us.

I am at a point where I am very hesitant to continue to blog adoption/trauma/attachment issues, out of a sense of personal boundaries and privacy for our children.  I blog mostly for family and friends from afar to keep up with our lives.   Given Miles and Keenan's ages and involvement in our local neighborhood, school and community, I'm not really comfortable with airing things out in a public forum anymore.  They deserve to have privacy and share their own story as they see fit.

Also, over the years I have met more and more women in the adoption world, and I think there are a lot of phonies out there who want to be that in-the-know, I'm-so-healing, turn-to person for those families in the throes of this.  I don't ever want to come across as someone handing out advice or pretending I know what to do.  There are some really amazing, gifted individuals who get it and are great resources too the "trauma mama" community.  Utilize them.  But for me, I realize that honestly, I don't know what the hell I'm doing most days.  This experience has been has been a huge learning curve for all of us.  Some of my parenting trauma children attempts have been disastrous, and I feel badly about them for my own children; I sure don't want the burden knowing that I may have contributed to helping you mess up your own children, lol.

And, four years later, I don't think there are any tricks or techniques that are a sure-fire way of helping children with trauma histories and attachment difficulties that work.   I have read a ton and tried the gamut.  I do think that the best thing I have done so far is just to not worry so much, focus on connecting in the moment, giving chances for them to have re-do's, and not letting their behaviors push me away (thereby repeating isolation/abandonment cycles, no matter how little or trivial.)
So, all that being said (and wow, was that more said than I thought I would say), I will say this:  Miles is the bravest person I know.  He has let go of so much fear, let go so much need for control, let go if so much of constantly maneuvering himself emotionally to keep people at a distance.   He is still working and trying and growing, and I am often very humbled and always amazed by his perseverance.

The future gives me great hope.  If he can accomplish so much in four years-- four years of fear, changes, tumultous events in such a little boy's life-- I can only imagine just how much growth there can be in the next four.
We love you, Miles Jimmy (MJ.)  Four years.  What a journey it has been.

Friday, July 05, 2013

7/1/13 State of the Garden: The Promise of Pickles

Where did June go? I felt a twinge of sadness in my realization that it was July 1st, and time to update my garden photos.   June went by so very quickly, and here we are already at July 5th.

Summer is here, but the weather truly isn't.  While the rest of the country swelters, we have a mix of sunny warm days (70s, maybe low 80s, very breezy) with night showers and an occasional cool, rainy day thrown in there.  Not that I'm complaining, mind you, but it's just very different from recent past summers.

It's not optimal lake swimming weather, but it sure is optimal garden growing weather.

I can't believe how my gardens exploded in June.  Take a peek:

Above:  tomato plants, and some Three Sisters' planting.

Three Sisters is a Native American way of planting:  corn in the middle of a mound, surrounded by vining beans, surrounded by squash.  Nature's perfect harmony:  the three grow symbiotically: the corn providing support for the beans, the squash intermingling. And when eaten together after harvest?  These veggies combine to form solid, healthy, vegetarian protein.

Mother Earth is sooooo cool.

I added poles (discarded tree limbs from the Kelly Lake woods) for support because my beans took off(!) before the corn was sturdy enough to provide support.

The Mister spent a week in Vegas mid-June, and in just 5 days, it was as if he returned home to an entirely new garden.
So much is going on in the above photo it's hard to know where to begin.  Broccoli is hatching, cauliflower-- well, the plants are growing by leaps and bounds, but I haven't spotted any yet; brussel sprouts look promising and amazing.

Hey!  Ever see a dessicated, winterized Brussel Sprout plant?


Now you have. 

You're welcome.

Onto the pumpkin patch.  Oh! Lordy! The pumpkin patch!   I have never grown pumpkins or gourds before.

Well. . .  once I thought I was growing gourds, because my mother gave me a bunch of gourd seedlings.  Which turned into nasturtiums, altogether not a terribly unpleasant surprise, although they can't decorate your harvest table.  Turned out I was growing nasturtiums and Mother was growing gourds, because she mixed up the garden labels. 

So that was the closest I ever came to ever planting a pumpkin/gourd patch.

I knew that pumpkins and gourds need a lot of space.  So plunking them down in between the raspberry patch and the pumpkin patch seemed ideal-- lots of space in each for the pumpkins and gourds to grow.

But it wasn't enough, as the pumpkins felt confined and are now they are spilling onto the lawn.  Oh well.  Less grass for the boys to mow!

The side yard gardens are growing nicely.  I have little snap peas starting to plumpen, and the canteloupe looks like it may make it *fingers crossed.*

Plus, the promise of pickles abounds.
This year, I purchased a flat of pepper and tomato plants from a local high school greenhouse.  An entire flat for $10. That's it!  S-C-O-R-E!

I put most of those plants in my Triangle Garden Bed.  Yeah, I was feeling quite enlightened when I came up with that descriptive name.
At first, I was a bit skeptical of how these plants would do.  They were small, and took a loooong time in taking off.   A few weeks ago, I placed compost around the plants, then mulched with a layer of grass clippings.  What a huge difference compost makes!  Thank you, compost!

And my last garden pic-- one of my cabbage plants.

Who doesn't love a cabbage plant?  They are gorgeous and wholesome and sweet.  Cute, I dare say.  Like puppy cute or cute baby cute.

Only they don't cry.  Or whine.  Or soil things.

Baby cabbage clearly wins today.

I do take some time and non-vegetable/fruit garden as well, as well.  Every year, I try out a new arrangement for my front step urns.  Whatever strikes my fancy at the garden shop at the time is how I choose what goes in.

I love how they turned out this year.  It doesn't show up in the photo well, but on the right side of the urn is this super cool, spiral-shape, wiry green plant.   It adds some interest and completely funkifies my urns.  No stuffy urns here at this home.

Hey Daisy!  Love these happy little smiling faces that greet me these early mornings.

And look what greeted us upon our return home from Kelly Lake!

My day lillies have arrived at sweet last.

 Gardens are good.  Summer is good.  Life is good.

Garden on, my friends, and enjoy each day and the wonders that come with it.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Countdown Begins (and I'm Not Ready for It. Or Liking It.)

On the last day of May, Hatfield finished 8th grade.  And life as a homeschool student.
This fall, she will head off to a great local, public highschool, about 2 miles down the road from us.

She is ready.  I have zero qualms about her attending high school, other than the fact that I will be lonely without her (after all, she's been home with me since she was 9!)  Hatfield is bright, articulate, super-organized, self-confident and pretty damn kick-ass.  She will take the experience and run with it.

I, however, am kind of not ready.

Strike that.  I'm not at all ready.

I know that the process of watching your children grow up, into their personhoods, making their own choices (especially if they are good choices) is a joy in and of itself.  And it is.

But I feel sad. 

I do not do well with milestones, or changes, or those all-so-clear signs that my children are growing up.  I become very weepy and nostalgic.  I feel regretful over all the things I should have done differently or better.

A predominant personal weakness of mine is that when looking back at events in the past, I am overly harsh and critical of myself.  Instead of remembering all the things I did well, I remember all the things I could have done better.  I emotionally beat myself up, then feel low and drained.

In reality, I shouldn't.  I homeschooled well.  The kids are bright, advanced and equipped for challenges.  But I wish I had spent more time feeling less rushed.  Being more relaxed.  Trying to connect more.  Not having been so focused on an international adoption process that was far beyond my control.

Yeah, especially that last one.

I need to focus more on all the good times that we had.  The years of evenings spent reading Nancy Drew.  The blustery winter days spent curled up in front of the fire place with good books.

I need to focus more on the fact that, despite all my worries about what I did wrong or didn't do enough of, Hatfield has turned out.  She will make it in this world.

Hatfield turned 9 shortly after I started my blog.

Last Thursday, she turned fifteen.

15.  Seriously.  1-5, people.   I have a terribly difficult time grasping that reality.

As we do all birthdays here at the 5FC abode, we kick off the special day the RIGHT way, the Birthday Cake for Breakfast way.

A note about mornings:  Hatfield doesn't like 'em.  They are not friends.  8 am is a dirty word.

Yet, my girls looooovvvveeees birthdays, especially hers.  Presents are definitely her love language.  It was so cute to see her up bright and early and soooooo excited for her birthday!

Hatfield LOVES her new shirt.
 Uncle Si from Duck Dynasty, anyone?  Hattie thinks he's the best!
 I made her favorite cake, an Italian Cream Cake (find the recipe here) with a cream cheese frosting.  I colored the different layer to create a pink ombre.
 Given that Hatfield loves birthdays, and loves presents, it was a bit tough to figure out what would be a great gift for her.  She bought herself an iPad several years ago, and that's her most favorite possession (not that we would spring for an iPad anyway.)  She has saved up several hundred dollars, so if she really wanted something, she could have bought it herself.

We realized that Hatfield is entering a new phase in life-- high school-- and namely, homework.  Being a bit of a nightowl, much like the Mister, having a 7 year old roommate with a far earlier bedtime, while doable, was a bit of a hindrance.

So, we turned the downstairs office into a bedroom for Hatfield.  It's not completely finished, as Boppa is going to install French Doors to close it off, and we have nothing up on the walls.  I will have a huge reveal later.  But here's a sneak peak:
 We bought the bedding and painted the room as part of her birthday present.  She chose each, and I love her style.

We are using my cottage chic china cabinet to house her collectibles and some clothing.  As you can see, three walls are a lavender, and one is a beautiful spring green.
 Because the room is, in essence, a dining room, no closet exists.   Instead, we took an old wood armoire from the deep, dark belly of my mother's basement storage room, and Hatfield spent two days sanding, priming and painting it.

When your children are little, you spend a lot of time counting down to that next milestone of independence.  When they can walk.  When they can talk.  When they can use the potty.  When you, the Mama, can use the potty without being interrupted by a little person. You wait and watch and count days until a bit of independence allows you to breath a bit easier and enjoy it a bit more.

Now that my girl is 15, and enrolled in high school, I can't shake this overwhelming feeling that we are in a Reverse Count Down of sorts.  Just 1 more year until she has the freedom of driving.  Just 3 more birthdays as a child at home.  Just 4 more school years with her here at home.

I hate it.  Absolutely, positively hate this countdown.

Every year, I create a goal for myself, usually while I'm in Orlando (more on that another time.)  This past March, I said that I'm going to focus on building family fun with the kids in our house, instead of feeling worried or regretful about what is missing or what is different about us.  Just enjoying everyone, as best as I can, and focusing on fun, and not letting the little stuff get in the way of that.

This summer made me realize just how much I want to focus on having Fun and Girl Time with my Hattie Lou.  Next month, we are going back to school shopping (something homeschoolers do not do) in Milwaukee.  In August, we arranged for Hatfield and some family to spend the night at a haunted farm house (or rather, the barn, really) in Iowa, because my girl LOVES ghosts and being freaked out (clearly, she did not get that from her bawk-bawk-pass-the-chicken-Mama.)

Because seriously, it's just a few years left.  Less time left than the amount of time which has passed since I started blogging.  It goes by all too quickly, and that is a great reminder to just be in the moment and enjoy.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Conquering Fear

Several months ago, Hatfield played Green, one of Kevin Olson's Sonatina's in Color, for a local piano association's Baroque Festival.  She played very well, and her scores earned her a spot in the Honors Recital the following weekend.

The Honors Recital was held in a large auditorium of a local high school, with several hundred people in attendance.

Hatfield played towards the end of the recital, and two other girls played parts of the Sonatina as well (she played Green, another girl Yellow, a third girl Blue.)

She plays the piece from memory, and during this recital, she played the first section beautifully.  The melody flowed from her fingers, as she crescendo-ed and decrescendo-ed through the piece.

The second section begun, and about 3 notes in, she stopped.

As she described it, it was gone.

Simply. Horrifyingly. Gone.

She couldn't remember how it sounded.  She couldn't remember what came next.  She couldn't remember how it bridged to the third section to perhaps skip it.

In piano, dance, and violin, you are taught that when you make a mistake, you just keep going.  All of my children know it, and can do it, as they have all had moments where they have needed to do it, and that's one of the things I love most about these things.

Yet that day, Hatfield learned, you can't keep going if nothing's there.  And at that moment, you pray to God that something, or someone, will show up to help you keep going.

My poor girl.

Thankfully, her teacher was there, and had the piece, and ran it up onstage to Hatfield.  She was able to pound out the rest of the song, shaky here and there, but beautiful nonetheless, and she earned a huge round of applause.

Afterwards, she and I sat next to one another in the dark auditorium.  I gripped her hand tightly, as the last student performed.

As soon as the recital was over, we hightailed it the hell out of there.  We got to the car where she had a huge cry.

Her teacher is amazing, and within 10 minutes of arriving home, Mrs. H. was at the doorstep, with a huge hug and wonderful words for Hatfield.  We assured her that it was so very, very evident that she was well-rehearsed-- she knew the song-- but it was just one of those moments when something just leave us.  No amount of practice can prevent it, and it happens to the best.

Her teacher assured her that we were so incredibly proud of her for toughing it out onstage.  She continued.  She just kept going.  She didn't run offstage, or dissolve in tears, all of which we would have completely understood.

She just kept going.

Today, several months later, our piano teacher held her annual Spring Recital at a retirement home down the road from us (her mother lives there, and the elderly residents love attending the recitals.)

Hatfield chose to play Green.

She brought along her music.

But, she didn't use the music.  She chose to play the piece from memory, once again.

I am so inspired by and in complete awe of my girl.  The whole no music after the Honors Recital incident?   To trust in yourself and put aside that fear? To risk the same thing happening again?

That, my friends, is simply Bad Ass.

I am SO proud of my girl.

And here she is.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Bellin Run 2013

Sometime this Spring, I came to the realization that I needed to do something different to help Miles out, as he was constantly struggling with negativity and self-punishing behaviors.  I needed to help create a stronger, more positive dynamic between him and I.  I needed to help give him some more coping tools for his moodiness and tendency to over-focus on any perceived wrongs that happened to him during the school day (I write "perceived" because many times, no wrongs were really committed, but he walked away from interactions with people feeling as though he had been wronged.)  I needed to shake up the day-to-day and build some new neural pathways.

Miles is very athletic, and when the flyer about the school running club came home, Bingo!  I knew what he and I would do:  We would start training for the Bellin Run together.

And we did.  And it was a great idea, if I do say so myself.   Miles loved getting out of the house for a run.  And by run, I moved/shuffled my feet in a forward manner.  Not Miles.  He runs.  And hops.  Skips backwards.  Dances.  Pretends he is a ninja.  Karate chops and roundhouse kicks the air.  Counts birds.  Stops to pet dogs.  Moonwalks.  Jumping jacks.

He made it a TON of fun.  And the positive effects of the running soon became evident-- the endorphins raised his spirits; the extra physical activity made him fall asleep right away, instead of his usual lying in bed, ruminating on all that is wrong and unfair with his life.  He started waking up happier and in a better mood.  It was great.

A few weeks into our training, Atticus expressed in joining us.   He couldn't run with the school club because of dance and baseball scheduling conflicts.  I was hesitant at first, but then went with it because the more time Miles spends with an older boy who can properly handle emotions and family interactions, the better, really.

It was a great time. 

Our training wasn't perfect.  By the time the weather finally became really decent, we had dance, baseball, soccer and violin schedules to contend with.  And having a part-time job where I'm on my feet and active, then running a household, and caring for 5 kids and 5 pets, it was really, really hard for me to find the energy to go out and run.  And when I woke up last week and realized that the run was THIS weekend, I felt a bit panicky.

The Bellin Run is a huge weekend of festivities and fun in Green Bay, most of which are held in Astor Park.  Up until we moved back to Green Bay from Milwaukee, I had rented a home and then bought my first home in the Astor Park neighborhood.  It was so much fun to go back and see many of our old friends and neighbors.

The Bellin kicks off with an All You Can Eat Spaghetti dinner.  Well, the plate fee x 7 is pretty hefty, so I held our own Cruz Runner Dinner with pasta carbonara, which is the preferred 5FC pasta.

Boys don't like stopping a chow-down for a photo-op.  They'll grin a bit for the camera, but in their eyes you can see it:  I'm not amused with you trying to get me to stop eating, lady.  It's okay; I choose to take it as a compliment for the chef (moi.)

After mowing down dinner (and seriously, those kids ate through nearly 2 pounds of pasta-- wubba!), we headed over to Astor Park for the fun.  While I navigated the registration tent to get our numbers and t-shirts, the kids played in the bounce house village.

Before we knew it, it was time for Keenan and Paloma to run the 1/2 mile Children's Run.  Here they are, pre-race, pumped and ready to go!

 Here they are post-race.  Keenan feels PROUD.  Paloma feels VERY disappointed that she did not win ;)

I love this photo :)

After finishing up the Children's Run, going home for celebratory ice cream sandwiches, and hitting the sack, the big boys and I were up Bright and Early for the Bellin 10K Run.

 Look at my eyes. My Claritin didn't even have time to kick in because it was that EEEEEAAAAARRRRRLLLLLYYYYY. Lol

But, by the time we took out turns in the Port-a-Potty Lines and hit our starting corral, the boys were pumped up and ready to run.  With style. 
Mohawk style.

The great thing about the Bellin is that the run goes through Allouez and Astor Park neighborhoods, and tons of spectators come out to watch and cheer.  People set up sprinklers for over-heated runners and fun-loving kids to run through.  Stereos at different homes blast the Rocky Theme Song; I'm Holding Out for a Hero; The Beach Boys; Jimmy Buffet; and a homeschooling Dad and Mom play the banjo and Tambourine on a corner and sing, "You are Running in the Bellin" to She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain.

Everywhere we ran, people would yell out "Go Mohawks!" and "AWESOME Hair!"  The boys LOVED it!  It was so energizing and kept us going the entire run.

Atticus and Miles would high five everyone who had their hands out.  A little 2-year old was on his Dad's shoulders, waiting for a high five, and Atticus ran over there and gave him a very gentle high five.  The kid was thrilled.

It was awesome.  Watching Miles and Atticus take it all in was awesome.  More than once I found myself tearing up over the entire experience.

And we did it! Imperfect training and all, we ran the whole thing.  The Bellin Run is done, and we are feeling mighty proud, very sore, and very committed to doing it all again next year.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

State of the Garden: June 1st

Let's see if I even remember how to use this thing. . .

Well, we made it through a looooooonnnnnnnngggggg, cold winter.  I can't place enough emphasize the word long.

Many people around here, made crabby by the long winter, are now grousing for a variety of reasons: that we made it through only to arrive in an eternal spring (it's a blustery 47 degrees at 7 am this morning) or that we skipped spring and went straight to summer on those hot days that we hit the mid-80s.

I don't grouse.  In my mind, there are two seasons:  winter, and growing season.

I don't care what the temp is or where it should be compared to what it is.  If I can put plants into the ground and those plants will then grow, it's growing season, and my heart is content.

This year, the Mister built 2 new garden beds for me, bringing the grand total of raised beds to 6.  Additionally, I have a 3-plot raspberry bed in the side garden (it started as 1-plot when we bought the house, and I love raspberries way too much to stop their spreading), a 1-plot pumpkin/potato patch, and then a long skinny raised bed running the side yard fence, which opens into a triangular-shaped bed.

Because we simply cannot grow anything over our harsh tundra winters, each spring is a Clean Slate with these garden beds.  Other than keeping basic crop-rotation principles in mind, creativity can reign and I can try different planting concepts and designs in these spaces.

Two years ago, this space was our Potato Patch.  Last year, I had spinach, kale, tomatoes, beets and radishes here.  This year, I constructed two tripods out of sticks we collected in the woods up at Kelly Lake.  Both will have two different varieties of snap peas climbing them, with soy beans growing in the middle of them.  Cantaloup is planted as well as bush pickles.  And in front of the lattice work are several varieties of vining cukes.

Next to this space, I have a perennial garden, whose showcase jewel are Holly Hocks. The long, cold winter decimated my holly hocks.  I am absolutely devastated by this, as since I have moved into this home, a tall magnificent, large group of those gorgeous flowers graced my side yard.   My father grew up on a farm where hollyhocks grew rampantly all around the outhouses, earning them the name "Shit House Flowers."  I loved buying a home with a gorgeous garden of Shit House Flowers, and I would always smile and think of my dad when I would pull into the driveway and saw them, waving gloriously at me over the fence.

I digress, but the long, cold winter didn't hurt my rhubarb at least.  That would have just about done me in.  Because this ain't my Mama's rhubarb, after all, this is my Grandmother's rhubarb.  For real.


Next to the Rhubarb are the lilacs, which were especially magnificent this year, both in sight and smell.

I completely relocated our potato patch to a new spot this year, on the other side of the yard.  This little garden has long hosted tomatoes, salad leaves, beets and beans.  This year I mixed in a ton of compost and rotten leaves, and planted 5 rows of potatoes and a row of pumpkins for a Potato and Pumpkin Patch.  I also am trying my hand at a Potato Tower.  Contained within a wire cage (which we garbage picked along with several dozen other cages years ago. Score! ), I layered dirt, potatoes, straw, dirt, potatoes, straw.  I've always had tremendous success growing potatoes in trenches covered in straw, but I saw these towers all over Pinterest and couldn't resist.  We'll see how it goes.

After a record bumper crop of raspberries, my raspberry patched has thinned considerably after removing the dead canes.  Raspberries grow in a two-year cycle, with new canes producing a meager amount of berries, and second-year canes producing a bounty, then dying.  I had a huge amount of two-year old canes last year, and most of my canes are first year this summer.  

I took the opportunity to use the thinned out space to pull some weeds and remove spreading groundcover, and the Mister and I spread a thick layer of new composted garden mix/dirt over the beds.

Here's a view of the 6 raised beds, all planted and waiting for the bounty to start growing.  My mom gave us the arbor two summers ago, where we had plunked it in the corner of the yard, in front of the compost corner.

I love compost (I'm not being facetious, I truly looooooooovvvvvveeeeee compost), but the arbor was just too pretty and ceremonial to be an entrance to an ol' compost hole.  So, using the highly accurate measuring tool of my arms and hands (meaning I put my hands on each side of the arbor, then keeping them exactly in the same place, walked carefully to my garden beds and compared the space between my hands and the space between garden beds) and realized Voila!  It measures up perfectly!

And seriously, it did.  Look!  It's seriously calibrated, I tell you. (Just don't ask the Mister about the China Cabinet Relocation of 2008, when I attempted to have him move a large, heavy piece of furniture based upon hand measurement.)

Do you see what's peaking in the left rear corner of the above photo?

A shed! An honest-to-goodness, real-life shed.

 Isn't it dreamy? I love, love, LOVE our shed.  Paloma thinks it is fabulous enough to be a bedroom.  I concur.  The Mister and Boppa built a fancy deck for it to rest on thanks to scoring some of that great composite decking at the ReStore, and now I have a potting space as well as a place to store all the stuff clogging up the garage.

A cute, eye-rolling story to end this post:  I have a pot with dirt on the shed decking (for no good reason other than I have nothing to plant in it at the moment.)  So I stuck in a bunch of unused garden stakes into it.

The garden stakes are those designed to look like bamboo shoots (or heck, maybe they are, I have no idea.) 

Atticus was hanging out by me and noticed this planter.  "Cool! You're growing bamboo!" he observed.

Sigh.  I'm just gonna chalk that one up as My Son Thinks I'm Such an Awesome Gardener that I Can Turn Weeds into Bamboo, and not My Son Can't Tell the Difference Between Broken Sticks and a Living Plant , lol.  He's the Mister's kid too, after all ;)

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Age 7: Then and Now

Paloma is now the same age as Hatfield was, back when Paloma was born:  7.

Hatfield Age 7:
Back when we called her Sister Mary Hatfield

Paloma, Age 7: 
Back when we were ready to sign her up for a convent
 for her own good.

A wonderful thing about a 7-year difference between sisters is that they end up very close.  Paloma and Hatfield are great friends and companions.

 Hatfield, age 7.  Paloma, age New.

 Hatfield, age 14.  Paloma, age 7.

Now, don't get me wrong:  sometimes little sisters can be annoying, and sometimes big sisters can be bossy.

But thankfully, that is not our daily norm.

Quite a difference exists between your oldest daughter (#1 in sibling order) at age 7 and your youngest daughter (#5) at age 7.

For example, here are comparisons between Hatfield's Favorite Things at Age 7, and Paloma's Favorite Things at Age 7.

Favorite TV Show:

Hatfield:  My Little Ponies
and American Idol

Paloma:  Sponge Bob
 and more Sponge Bob

Favorite Movie:

Hatfield:  Anything with the little twins
Mary-Kate and Ashley

Napoleon Dynamite.  For real.

Favorite Music: 

Hatfield:  Hannah Montana

Paloma:  Jannelle Monae

Do you know who Jannelle Monae is?  She is AMAZING! Watch this:

Favorite Dance:

Hatfield:  The Macarena

Paloma:  Any Lyrical or Contemporary first, then modern Jazz

One of the many things my girls share is their love for Music, Dance and Making Videos (Hattie likes to make them; Paloma likes to star in them.)

Here is the newest installment.  Oh, how I love these two girls of mine :) Enjoy!