Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Almost a month?

I cannot believe it has been nearly four weeks since I posted last. The time has just flown by. Sadly, I cannot report that my house is completely unpacked and we are settled. I can, however, report that it improves daily--albeit slowly.

So what have we been doing the last 3.5 weeks?

Week 1 -- Training week. This whole first week we bounced back and forth between training sessions, shadowing other Houseparents, unpacking enough to get at least a functioning household, hanging out with our girls at the cottage they were staying at, and attempting to cook some meals so I could eat. Our chef on campus is fantastic; however, as he is somewhat limited to the ingredients he can use as a lot of what he has to utilize is donated, taking on the challenge of cooking for food-complex people is double difficult. He enjoys a challenge, however, and has been doing his best. But we're helping out as much as possible by communicating a lot with him and bringing meals for me to eat as necessary.

We have met most of the staff who work here. I think we see some good friend potential in several of them. I'll be glad when we actually have time to develop relationships!

Our training was, unfortunately, not as helpful as we would have like; however, it gave us enough to be going on with. We were supposed to have had 2 days off at the end of that first week, but we wound up using that weekend to prepare for the girls coming back on Monday. We knew if we didn't, we were going to wind up hurting ourselves in the long run. However, not having those two days to just work on our house was frustrating because it meant that we really didn't get any time to focus solely on setting up our own house until we had been here nearly 2 weeks.

Our cottage is requiring a lot of TLC. Cupboards have been scrubbed, dozens of bags of trash have gone out, oodles of maintenance requests have been written up, and I still feel like we have a long way to go. However bit by bit it comes together.

Week 2 - Monday the girls came home. This whole week was interesting as we were working on relationship building, boundary setting, limit pushing (on their end), and trust establishment. All in all, I think it's coming together well. More about our girls later. In general observations though, we have a fun cottage to be working with.

The thing that made this first week particularly difficult to work was the continued training sessions we had to attend. It meant shipping the girls off to another cottage (or three) for about half the days. And poor Blueberry had more babysitting between this week and the few previous ones than she has had her entire first year of life.

Tuesday of this week was her birthday. Mommy had a hard time this day as it was one of our few all day training days, and she couldn't be in that session. Between the realization that my baby is now 1 (and most definitely a Toddler), not being able to celebrate properly (although we did have cake and the girls were infinitely amused by watching Blueberry get chocolate smashed all over face), and having to be separated from her most of the day--I had a bit of a rough day. But I survived. And am even more thankful that we had a birthday party for her before moving. Once again Chris' birthday disappeared in the rush of insanity. Poor boy. Need to have a proper celebration for him next year.

This week also involved a lot of hurried changes in the cottage. We had put in a few requests for improvements to our part of the cottage, and it all came together this week. A team was in and what these volunteer teams do is work around the campus in the mornings/early afternoons and then in the later afternoon/evenings they hang out with the kids. Well, by the end of the week we had a chain-link fence up around "our part" of the cottage yard so we can let Calista run free again in the backyard. All of the rooms in our part of the cottage are painted (yay!) and look so much nicer than the stark white on white that they were. I had one evening to pick out paint colors, so I will confess to sticking basically with what our home was in Missouri. I knew I liked the colors and it was simpler and faster to decide that way. Deeper blue in our bedroom and our living room/ kitchen are actually a brown (already painted, and we decided to not change it), but if anyone ever comes to visit who has seen our old house, they will recognize much of the general color scheme in the rest of the rooms.

Week 3 - The first three days of our third week we had off! We work on a 6/3 schedule, so our off days rotate regularly. It's an interesting schedule, actually, as it allows for us to work with our girls all days of the week (just not every week), and also gives us days off in the middle of the week for getting our own work done as well as occasional weekends. 6 days is definitely long to work, but having 3 days off is fantastic. Unfortunately, we did great the first day off and then all three of us were sick to some degree or another the last two days off which really limited how much work we got done on our apartments.

While we were off, the girls started school. We came back to work on a Wednesday morning, so they had already had two days to get settled into their school routine (it's an interesting system. We establish how the cottage works, but then on our off days, we have "Relief Houseparents" (RHPs) who come in and are supposed to continue running the cottage as we have established. The success of that is really dependent on the RHPs themselves as well as how well we have worked to set up systems for them to work within).

This week was definitely a little rougher than the first week. The girls had gotten comfortable enough to really start pushing limits. Plus the change of school starting was another factor in everything. But I think we came out positively in the end. And several of the girls have really bonded with us which is fun.

We did get to explore the town a little bit. As employees here we have an automatic annual free pass to the local botanical gardens--beautiful. Took the girls there one day. Beautiful gardens. Quite large and includes waterfalls, caves, rocks, as well as regular gardens. Will enjoy exploring more as the weather cools off (it has been so hot here).

Sunday was our first Sunday at "our" church (the one the girls have already been going to). Will fully admit that it's not the kind of church we would have chosen to attend if it was just us, but rather than providing another change and point of instability in their lives, we will continue to attend this one at least for now. It's a nice enough church, just not our style.

As I type this we are now on the tail end of our second three days off. We have successfully managed to get a lot more done this time around as well as getting a lot of sleep and down time--both of which were desperately needed.

More to come...


almamater said...

So glad to see an update! I have been wondering how all was going for you. Is the eating communal, then? And laundry? Is it all your responsibility?

Glad you were able to get the fence and the paint...I always feel that choosing paint color and giving birth in a house really marks it has Home. Well, maybe you'll be content with choosing paint color for now ;)

Ouph said...

I'll stick with paint :) Trying to figure out how to raise my 1 year old and take on 4 other girls is enough mommyness for me (well, at least for now...)

Laundry--each of the cottages has its own laundry room. Our has 2 washer/dryers in it. As the youngest of our girls is 9, we're teaching them all to do their own laundry. However, they do need monitoring still, and I do wash towels every day. Our apartments have their own washer/dryer, but they're this awful stand-up unit. World's tiniest washer and a completely obnoxious dryer. Trying to get permission to make them go away and just have the actual space to use in another way as I wind up using the main cottage's washers/dryers instead.

Eating is half and half. During the school year, the Dining Hall is open 4 days a week just for dinner. Then I'm responsible for cooking dinner Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We also always do breakfast in our own cottage and Saturday/Sunday we do the lunches as well. During the summer, Chef does lunch and dinner during the week (and sometimes on the weekends if a team is on campus). It's not too bad, and since we have access to all of the donated food, quite affordable even for us!

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