OnWakeUpTime scripting error

6-year old humans and computers have a lot in common. When you give them literal instruction they follow them. We told Emmett that when he woke up he could open his only his stocking and nothing else until everyone was up. We thought we had all the bases covered. At 12:20 am we realized our mistake. We had left out a line of code assigning a value to OnWakeUpTime = x.

Since the program had already been compiled and was running there was no redo. We got to re-realize our error at 1:20, 2:40, 3:10, 3:15, 3:17, 4:25 and then finally 6:30.

As we pretended to be getting out of bed Emmett raced back and forth between the living room and our bedroom reporting each gift that Santa had left in his stocking. Each and every gift was amazing!!! Each report was delivered to our horizontal faces at a volume level of 11.

Santa had been up late putting Emmett’s Playmobil house together – which involved a huge collection of microscopic pieces. We laid in bed surrounded by little colored bags that we methodically assembled into windows, doors and flower boxes while we watched the Tudors mistreat each other.

We finally managed to get up and initiate the present opening. Paw Patrol, PJ Masks, Star Wars, Playmobil, and Converse were reoccurring themes that emerged from the cacophony of wrapping paper that carpeted the living room.

The kids settled into playing with their new things and we got to lounge on the couch eating cinnamon rolls and dodging the occasional Owlet fly-by.

Merry Christmas everyone!!



4H Holiday Fun

Our family loves 4H holiday events!
Early last week we hit the 4H Holiday craft event at the armory. Some of us glued, painted and glittered through each station fully sucking the marrow out of each experience…others of us ran frantically from station to station dipping in long enough to sample the essence of the craft.
Noble was completely enchanted by the candy cane reindeer making station. Once the reindeer was constructed it went on fabulous adventures all over the armory… until he acquired another candy cane reindeer from his sister. Once the two reindeers came together they really brought out the worst in each other and on the ride home they got involved in a pipe cleaner antler conflict that broke each of their necks.
Noble wailed without pause all the way home. He and Kaety huddled on the bathroom floor applying bandages to each break. I was skeptical, but they did pull off a neurologic miracle…until not more than an hour later another antler conflict occurred. We jumped the gun on the road-kill salvage laws and ate them both.
Later in the week we joined the Youth in Action Team to create holiday centerpieces for Meals on Wheels recipients. Stabbing sticks into green foam was a big hit with the boys. Emmett lost sight of the goal pretty quickly and began making birdie home entertainment centers. The only thing that got him back on task was being allowed to ‘cut’ with the pruning shears. Symone kept her distance from us fearing a possible market drop in her social capital.
Every branch the boys shoved into the florists foam we had to remove and replace. As we worked we built Betty up to mythical proportions as ‘the judge’ who had the final say on whether a centerpiece was good enough. Once Emmett bought into this approving authority he got more interested in the mission and possibly getting in on some of this ‘hard won’ approval.
We knew it was time to go when the pile of greens was being eyeballed and the question, “Can I jump in it?” was floated.


The Slow Goodbye (no photos)

I spend a lot of time in the meeting rooms at the DHS office. The walls are peppered with posters meant to lend hope, guidance, caution or wisdom to the highly diverse audiences that use the rooms. I have to admit, I wander off focus a lot during trainings and find myself staring at the posters, thinking about their messages and who they are targeting. Last night at the foster parent support group I looked over at one I’d not noticed before. “Attachment is not convenient,” it said.

The statement triggered a twist of reactions within me.

Our time with our foster baby “Oscar” was coming to a close. Our attempt to adopt him had failed and after a year as our baby and a member of our family he would be moving on to another home.

Our family vacation had fallen right on the heels of the adoption committee decision. We talked about canceling the trip, wondering if our emotional state would be productive for the trip. We decided we wanted to go and take him. We believed that the quality time as a family would be good for everyone as we prepared to say goodbye.

This trip was a big collection of delightful ‘firsts’ for him. For us, as his parents, it was a confusing and bittersweet collection of ‘lasts’.

In the midst of fun vacation activities a sad shadow would often pass over us. Oscar would be belly laughing and splashing his hands as we zoomed him through the water, and Kaety and I would meet each other’s eyes—we each knew this would be the last time we’d be in the pool together. We broke our eye contact with each other before we took the next set of thoughts together. When would it be the last time we would hear him laugh? It was agreed between us, without even talking about it, to stay in the moment and feel the grief as it came. We didn’t need to borrow the grief of tomorrow. There would be plenty of time for that.

Kaety and I have struggled to make emotional sense of this transition. We realized that we aren’t wired up as people/animals to let go of children.

Years ago I lost a dear friend to a lingering cancer death. I found myself making parallels between the bizarre situation of losing our baby and that death. During the grim march through terminal illness you start having thoughts like, “This will be the last time we are able to take a walk together,” “This will be the last time we will talk,” and eventually, towards the twilight… the last kiss and the last goodbye.

But our baby is not dying. He is leaving because of policy. My mind, even thought I do not agree, can understand policy and law, but my heart does not.

In the last month people have cautiously and callously asked us, “You chose to foster, you must have known this would happen. Aren’t you used to losing children?”

Questions like this require a lot of patience. How do you explain a child that is a “good fit?” How do you explain that they all hurt… and that eliminating the factor of hurt is never the point? How do you explain that not feeling make us monsters? How do you explain the resilience of the heart, or the big picture of need and giving, or the plain fact that we are made to love no matter the consequences? How do you explain that the privilege of loving is the greatest gift to one’s soul?

Kaety and I are often asked to speak about fostering at civic groups. The sentiment always comes up, “I could never foster, I could not bear to give them up.” We have a pretty good response developed to this statement.

“We’ve all seen that news story of the naked little three-year old running down the middle of a busy freeway at night? Right?”

“I’ve been watching you all while we’ve been eating and chatting, and I know in my heart, without a single reservation, that if any of you came across that scene you would slam on your brakes, fling yourself out into traffic to get that child. You would not for a moment think of your own safety – your mind would only be filled with reaching that child and bringing her to safety. And if you got clipped by an on-coming car and you broke your leg, would you have regretted saving that child? No. You would consider it a small price to pay.

“Fostering is that exact scene in slow motion. We get the child to safety. That safety is always inside our hearts. Yes, they need food, shelter, and care… but they mostly need love. Love leads to attachment. Attachment is the foundation for life-long emotional health. We’ve seen children come back from the most horrific abuses to their bodies and minds, but we rarely see children come back who’ve not had any attachment.”

Choosing to be foster parents means we put our hearts in harm’s way to save a child. Most of fosters Kaety and I take in are short term. We love them and give them what they need to thrive but we know they will be with us for only a day, a week, or a month. But a year or more? That changes things. No, we are never prepared to break the most fundamental thing: the bond of parent to child.

What will we do as we transition to him leaving? What will we do afterwards? We will cry, we will snuggle him for the time we have left, we will celebrate who he is and the joy he brought to our family, and we will have faith that every bit of love and reflection we gifted his spirit will bloom in his life to guide his journey to finding himself.

We will take a break for a while to heal, and to support the kids in the loss of their baby brother. Will we open our hearts again? Of course we will.

As the poster says, attachment is not convenient – nor is it causal.

Nor should it be.


4 children, 1 bag of kettle corn

A placating bag of kettle corn seemed like a good idea while we were in the store, but once we arrived at the car the one bag of popcorn was always two arm lengths away from 3 out of 4 children. What was in everyone’s reach was the desire to be in control of the bag, passing the bag too slowly to their siblings, and to lick things that other people might touch.

At some point we reacquired control of the corn based Gaza Strip and dolled out portions of popcorn in cups. Shortly after the cup system was deployed someone in the back of the van dropped their cup – since we were driving and weren’t allowed by the laws of god or man to unbuckle our seat belts the only option was to cry and scream.

It may have simply been wishful thinking, or perhaps some other less thoughtful emotion but I didn’t even pause as I chucked the half eaten open bag of popcorn to the farthest reaches of the van. Kaety looked over at me incredulous, “Did you just really do that?”

“I may have just done that”

She looked in the rear view mirror, “I don’t see it”

“I’m pretty sure it hit him and he’s eating quietly”

Emmett, the intended recipient of the launched food piped up, “No, you missed, it’s all over the back. All over!”

Kaety looked at me, “what did he say?”

“He said that everything’s great and in no way is there popcorn scattered all over the back of the van.”

The circus goes to Vegas!

During last year’s annual OSU Extension BBQ we won a weeks worth of lodging at any RCI resort. We were very excited and promptly went to figure out what the heck an RCI resort was. Come to find out it’s a huge network of vacation lodgings all over the world. We dove in, figured out the arcane system of points and weeks, and had a funny time brushing up on our geography.

“Where’s Bulgaria? Is Constantinople still a place?”

We decided on St Lucia and booked a week in a beautiful thatched roof cliff side bungalow overlooking turquoise water filled with cavorting mega-fauna. We were very excited.

When we got around to booking flights we discovered that all flights were full and all other modes of transportation took too long for our block of time. I called lots of people to find a way in. When one smart-ass in Florida mocked me by calculating the cost of an open ocean kayak rental we knew it was time to throw in the towel.

We returned to the RCI website and discovered that the only place left in the whole world was Vegas during the week of Thanksgiving. It was an odd choice but gave us the idea to turn our St. Lucia lemons into a lemonade smoothy with a side of beef. We booked a couple of additional rooms and invited Grammy Robin, Alan and Delores to join us and the kids for a Thanksgiving week in Vegas!

Holy cow. We leave Friday…

Keeping it personal

We spent the afternoon in juvenile court at the trial regarding the charges filed against our foster baby’s parents. I didn’t entirely know what to expect. The birth mom attended via phone and there was a lot of testimony presented that contained hard and emotional details.

As I sat there and listened to the arrhythmic song that only mental illness and addiction can sing I found myself reaching out the two hunched grieving figures across the courtroom: the birth mom’s parents – Two people who have lost their adult child to drugs and illness but still have the instinctive patterns of love and protection shaping their thoughts, hopes and actions.

But I knew that this was just today’s devastated family, this was only today’s abused and neglected child placed in state care. Tomorrow this story would play itself out with different parents, grandparents, and children. And this was only one court room, in one county, in one state. And if you move back far enough all of those broken hearts, tears, and anguished souls become a number, a statistic, and I find that abhorrent. None of those terrible stories should ever become easy to ignore.

And what do I do with the weight of all of that grief and pain? I keep it personal. When the trial was over we immediately connected with the grandparents and gave them both big hugs and shared tears.

We raced home and scooped up the baby and felt grateful. Grateful for an attentive social worker that rescued him in time, grateful that he was placed with us and awed at the boundless adventure that saying yes to love brings.