Friday, September 28, 2012

Tourist traps

We have passed by the mastodon on Highway 102 many many times. And tho we have stopped at the exit often for gas and snacks, we have never taken the time to get out and visit the mastodon. Until this fall. We just did it. Aren't you jealous?

Peter and Gaelle didn't have 2 clues about The Flinstones but we still enjoyed the little house and concrete table and chairs. 

Modern day smiles.

So, is this half way to the equator? I've seen the sign and so I looked it up. Well, technically it's not exactly on the 45th parallel. However, because of the earth's bulge, it can be considered half way between the north pole and the equator.

I hope this is the closest we ever come to a polar bear. A great photo op anyway.

BIO Open House

It's always great when our free time coincides with a great event. Lasts weekend the Bedford Institute of Oceanography had their 50th anniversary open house. They did an amazing job. I can't even imagine how much work that must have been. I think every employee was there. It was great. They do large surveys of the sea life and they obviously saved samples of every species they found. The variety was impressive.

The sharks were some of the cool things the kids saw and touched. But they also had some of the ugliest most amazing fish I have ever seen. I think my favorite was the deep sea angler just like you see on the Finding Nemo chase seen. The scientist were there to tell us all about them and I was surprised to see how small they are.

An open house wouldn't be complete without live touch tanks. This was complete with sea cucumbers, star fish, crabs, lobsters, fish, mussels, oysters, scallops, and on and on.

Gaelle would not touch the live sea creatures at first, but eventually she gave it a shot.

We also got to tour The Hudson which is one of the research Coast Guard vessels. It is old but it was still interesting to walk around and see how they live and work for months on end.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Meet your farmer

Sunday, September 16 was Meet Your Farmer day. There were 60 farms in NS with open houses. This is such a great opportunity to see working farms in our communities. 

I looked at the list and chose one close to Truro. The kids were in heaven because they had all of their big equipment on display for the kids to sit in. 

Doesn't she look tiny? But she was in heaven touching everything.

I chose this farm because they have a dairy operation. Unfortunately we didn't get to see that part. But we did see cows.

We went on a little tractor ride through the fields of corn.

More tractor fun.

This farm also has a grape/wine component. They organized a grape stomping competition. Peter and Gaelle were amused by the hilarity of that. It was a big sticky mess by the end of it. All the teams were trying to see how much juice they could produce.

It was a beautiful day enjoyed by all.

Birthday party conclusion

When our older kids were younger we never bought a cake from the store. It was all home made. And for some reason, once the cake was made, Robin became the cake decorator. We have some great stories throughout the years of real cake flops and cake successes. But they are shared stories. Any one of us can say, remember the Winnie the Pooh cake and we can all laugh and remember. That was a flop but one of Kaylin's 6 year old friends was so gracious and said she didn't recognize it because the shirt was the wrong color. Oh yes, if only the shirt was red we all would have known it was Pooh. 

Emily was my birthday party helper for Gaelle and when she arrived Saturday morning she was adamant that dad decorate the cake. The movie was "Finding Nemo 3D" so the cake was of course, Nemo. As anybody can tell. Robin was game and was ready for another generation of kids to laugh or oohh and aahh at his cake decorating abilities. More shared stories and now all 5 kids can say remember when dad made the cake, and all 5 kids can share in the laugh.

This time it was a success. Gaelle was pleased and Emily and I oohhed and aahhed.

We had the party at the movie theatre and only had the party room for one hour. I bought a craft kit that was supposed to be for 6 years and up. I couldn't figure it out. Robin couldn't figure it out. Emily to the rescue. She figured it out and got all the bracelets started for the girls. Once they got going they did really well. And they enjoyed it.

Gaelle had 6 guests which is pretty small for most parties around here but it was good for us.

She was pleased with the cake. Go Robin. 

All the girls wanted a piece of NEMO. 

This part cracked me up. All the girls sitting in a line with their 3D glasses on. I always like to see Gaelle's interaction with her peers. The dynamics of a group make a huge difference for her. She doesn't always use the best discernment in her choice of "friends". It was nice to see that she chose girls for this party that she really likes and who like her. I've seen her gravitate towards girls that just don't like her. It's heartbreaking to see her excluded when she tries so hard. She often gets it wrong and definitely plays a part in her exclusion because of her negative social interactions. But for this day and this event, she had a positive experience and I'm so glad.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Got music?

Peter is in Grade 6 Band. Can you believe it? Is there anything more fun than the Grade 6 Band playing their first concert at Christmas? I'm so looking forward to that. The kids playing the songs sooooo slow, squawking and squeaking, and the band teacher practically dragging them along to the end. 

Peter has been anxiously awaiting his first day of band. He has not been allowed to touch his new instrument so that he didn't develop bad habits. Band teachers rule. But today he got to take it out of the case and put it together and he learned his first note. He can belt it out with the best of them.

And he can put it away. This should be quite the experience for all of us. Looking forward to it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Look who's 7

Wow. Does your heart just melt when you see how grown up Gaelle looks. She was so excited about her birthday and just had to change into a dress for our family birthday meal. Complete with a necklace and bracelet.

Gently unwrapping each present. 

Love the books. Thanks Grammy.

A new fun barbie.

And a pack of gum at the bottom. We know that won't last long.

Yes, Baby Alive.

Big brother helped with the excessive packaging. 

Blew out the candles in one try.

Ready for bed and time to say goodnight to Emily and Josh who were here for the family meal. So thankful we can share these special days. When she said her prayers tonight she said, "I'm sorry Kaylin couldn't be here. But I know she misses me and wants to be here." As I mentioned earlier, Kaylin has left for school. These are phrases I say frequently to Gaelle. Kaylin has been a constant in her life for the past 2 and half years and she feels her absence keenly. So I verbally reassure her that even though loved ones are far away, they are thinking about her and missing her.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Change, transition, stress, and anxiety

As the summer has ended and a new school year has started there have been many changes in our family. Since Peter and Gaelle have joined our family, I have become a bit obsessive about these changes. Anticipating the behavioural issues. Guiding the teachers and other professionals in their lives with handy sheets outlining their needs. Researching. Discussing. 

However, it just isn't easy. We all have changes which often leads to anxiety and we all deal with that differently. As a parent I want to help my children navigate their journey through life but I often am a major fail.

When one of my kids was 4 we moved to another community 3 hours away. Before the move this child introduced us all to John Smith. An imaginary friend. John Smith lived in a purple house just behind our house. They had amazing adventures together. I never clued in to the sudden appearance and need of an imaginary friend for this child. Amazingly enough, John Smith never showed up in our new house and town. Apparently John Smith wasn't needed anymore. He provided a source of comfort while anticipating the move and all the changes that would bring, but once there, that comfort wasn't needed. 

We moved again and once again I didn't clue in that this child would need extra comfort and assurance and help leaving behind all that was familiar. Major fail on my part. John Smith didn't show up but tears and longing for the past did. 

Over and over we've seen this one child process change and have difficulty letting go of the past. On the positive side, this child is fiercely loyal. But it's an issue to always be aware of. The past brings comfort. The future brings anxiety of the unknown, and the pain of good byes. I have done a lousy job of helping this child process feelings and anxiety and trusting God through it all. I just didn't clue in. 

So if my biological kids feel stress and anxiety when change occurs, how could my adoptive kids just roll with the punches. They can't and they don't. But what I have to remember is that we are all different and we all have different needs.

Gaelle had such a great summer. For the most part the rough edges were gone. She has a few major behaviours that pop up when she is stressed. They were gone. But they're back and they're back with a vengeance. As I'm writing this, she is hard, demanding, not nice. She's just screaming (figuratively not literally) out that her control is gone. Things are happening to her that she has no say in. Again. So she will control her world and she will protect herself.

Peter also had a great summer. His behaviour when he is anxious is not as obvious but it is still there. He needs to be noticed. What if nobody sees him. What if nobody knows he is there. So the nonsense questions start. The constant talking and noise. I am here. Please see me. 

So where does that leave me? I know how weak and imperfect I am. I know I can't be all things to my children. I've already demonstrated that with 3 older children. My word for the year is HOPE. I've been  using a devotional from YouVersion called "Fostering Hope". It's been so inspirational as scripture and stories are told from a doctor working in the foster care system. So as I realize that I can't provide everything that will help and heal my children, I can draw on the strength and grace of God. 

... and then he told me, My grace is enough; it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Thursday, September 6, 2012

New beginnings

Here she is. A brand new university student. We took Kaylin to Moncton on Monday as she is studying nursing at UNB - Moncton. We have some of the greatest stories about Kaylin when she was little talking and dreaming about her future as a nurse or a doctor or even a vet. It changed some but it was always about medicine. She had her own collection of medical books that she would pore over. Always medicine somehow. 

The next four years will be a challenge for her I am sure, but I know that she will flourish and persevere and bless everybody she comes in contact with. I'm so happy that she if on her way. 

And another 2 starting their new school year. Peter is in grade 6 and Gaelle is in grade 2. They both enjoyed their first day although their summer was so wonderful, I am kind of sad to see them go off. They like school but it brings some stress and anxiety to all of us. There are definitely challenges for all of us to navigate as we continue this journey of public school education.

Here we are at the end of the day just kind of debriefing. Telling each other about our day.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The last of Family Camp 2012

Peter and Gaelle love love love playing with other kids. One of the great things about Family Camp is all of the kids. They can play to their hearts content. One other thing we've noticed about Gaelle is her fascination with babies and pregnant women. One of the moms this summer was very generous with her little guy. She had no problem letting Gaelle play with him and carry him. After this cute shot, I asked Gaelle to just play with him. And leave the carrying to his big sister and family. 

Another big family game is The Amazing Race. We were on our own this year and completed several different types of activities. Always racing to be the first. Our mix of old and young kids gives us a bit of an edge and we have won the past 3 years. You can also see the determination on the older kids faces. We can do it.

Peter turned out to be a great shot. We only needed to hit the target 3 times and he got one.

Gaelle didn't hit it but she tried.

We've done better at the fire burning other years, but the wind was strong and unpredictable and it took us a little longer than we wanted. Oh well. 

Another favorite activity at camp is the rock climbing wall. Gaelle tried again this year but didn't quite make it to the top. Maybe next year.

Peter had no trouble getting to the top. 

The camp director has concocted a giant out door roaster and the staff takes turns feeding the fire all night so that on the final evening we can enjoy pulled pork. Once it's cooked, it has to be pulled. Go Josh. 

Another surprising highlight is the pie auction. Anybody who wants to can go to the kitchen and bake a pie. Some families opt out and that's ok. The cook makes sure there are plenty of pies. Other families come with their own special recipes. 

Each family has been accumulating Monopoly money all weekend. We finally get to spend it on a pie or two. I don't know how, but it ends up being an evening of laughter. Everybody gets carried away. Josh manages to have a pocket full of cash to pull out at just the opportune time. 

The staff hold up the pies and go to the tables to eat pies with the families. Actually nobody goes hungry and everybody is going around to all the tables making sure they get just a sliver of that one special pie they didn't win. 

I don't know if our family of seven will be at Family Camp 2013 but I hope so. Such a great time together.