Find the Someone’s

His hood was pulled tight around his ears, blocking the winter cold as he burst through the door. It was way past his bedtime, but his eyes danced and the biggest smile ever flashed across his face. He kicked off his shoes and bounced away into the living room. I turned to my friend, gave him a brief hug, and say “Thank you.” “It’s good to be a friend,” he said as he turned to leave.

After a rousing basketball game (I almost typed “unsuccessful” there – as in his team didn’t win – when I caught myself. The act of playing is “success.” The ability to catch, dribble and toss a ball is “success.” The joy of the swoosh and the cheer of the parents around the court is “success.” I shall remember.) Anyway, after the game, I dropped Super Tall Guy off at a friend’s house – a dear couple who used to go on training runs with me years ago when my three were a little easier for someone else to handle. A delightful set of friends whose kids have gone on to college and beyond and yet their house remains an open door of love and hospitality. Though we have only seen each

other a couple times in the past year, I jumped on Mr. G’s offer to show Super Tall Guy his canaries.

About 4 ½ hours later, Super Tall returned, beaming from ear to ear, bouncing around the house with stories about holding birds, cleaning cages, writing down the “secret” number of the birds, and naming them (Sunny 1, Sunny 2, The Dark). He showed me how you can hold them without squishing them. That if you blow on them to “see their bellies” you can tell if it’s a male or a female. He talked until sleep took over.

It’s going to take a village for me to raise these boys.

  • It takes the daily help of my mother who despite being in her 70s, carts around a 9-month-old foster baby wearing his “my-head-is-misshapened” helmet.
  • It takes a father to unclog the drains, put up plastic over drafty windows and change the chandelier light bulbs over and over as they are knocked out by arching footballs.
  • It takes a sister to help juggle the schedule and take the oldest one skiing while I stay within a warm house.
  • It takes a school to sit down and meet and develop a plan for the new kid in the class and commit to doing what needs to happen to help him succeed.
  • It takes a Big Brother, Big Sister program to bring alongside a mentor and a friend for a kid without a father.
  • And it takes a whole bunch of friends for me – texting friends, dining friends, babysitting friends, comforting friends – to be able to survive.

But what really warms my heart are friends from years past who step up and take a kid for a couple hours and when you thank them profusely over text as you tuck your bubbly boy in bed, they reply – “Really glad to love on the kid.”

You see, that’s what all kids need – someone to love on them. And it can’t be me because I’m too busy racking up awards of “Meanest Mom Ever.” It has to be someone outside the family. Someone who really shouldn’t care that I chose to adopt three beautiful challenging boys. Someone who doesn’t have to give up their Saturday night to show a 90-pound clumsy 8-year-old how you hold on to a delicate bird. Someone who will love on a kid because that’s what the kid needs and they are willing to give.

If you have kids – find those someone’s.

And if you can – be that someone to a kid. You have no idea how profound and powerful you can be when you love on a kid.

Even if just for a day.

Thank you, Mr. G.

The “smaller” family…

“Jump in the car, we’re going on an adventure.” The boys were in their snow pants, jackets and gloves. For the past 10 minutes they had hopped on little sleds for a 2-second ride from the garage to the mesh fence 15 feet away. They weren’t complaining, but it seemed that we could probably find something more.

It was Sunday morning. We should have been heading into church. I had no energy for it. My body ached a bit from the tight “bear hugs” needed to get Super Tall Guy back into calmness during a sudden rage event the day before. I needed some peace for my soul. I needed some nature. I needed to find a few moments of joy with these boys because single-parenting was tuckering me out.

We pulled over along the windy road in the nearby park. Bumbling out with snowsleds in tow, the boys were soon whizzing down a hiking trail covered by a fine layer of ice and snow (and pebbles). The first couple times I held my breath and prayed they wouldn’t careen into a tree or fly over a rock. Their giggles and shrieks of exuberance soothed me.

We clambered through the leaves. Watched deer dart up the hillside. Stared at the ice wall that once was a low waterfall. Balanced on logs. Slid on the frozen stream. We just needed to be. To be outside. To be free. To be marveling at the winter landscape. To be enjoying time with each other and helping each other. To be a family.

We’re trying that out now and trying to figure out how to be a smaller family. It is quieter. It is less chaotic. But it’s also a bit more overwhelming to me. Sometimes I feel like I just went through a divorce – suddenly the “other” parent isn’t around anymore and here I am. Figure it out.

So, we have had Family Movie Night on the couch because we’re too tired to do anything else after an hour in the woods, two hours at the roller-skating rink and then basketball practice.

We have spent more time in Family Game-playing with cookie prizes to the winner (and the dog considers herself part of the winning team each time and deserving of a Nutter Butter Bites too!).

We have a few new rules that I occasionally record as they run around in my brain so much.

We have had Family Time at the Upward basketball games as well, taking turns being on the court versus being disruptive on the sidelines … or being on the look-out for where the Little Guy might have disappeared to….again (right, water fountain….).

And, we had a Family Meeting early last week to discuss the consequences of acting out so much before school that Grandma “quit” her morning role as school “dropper-off-er.” (And how the boys are going to cost so much more money to use a before school service, so what changes will we need? Hmmm?  Anyone? Anyone?)

nature

I’ve put a little more energy into focusing on the “family” this week and how we live together and get-along (or not) together. How we’ll need to make sacrifices for each other. How we’ll need to better respect each other. How Mommy will still need evenings with my “texting friends” to improve my coping skills so we’ll be looking for babysitters.

There have definitely been so many changes for this family lately and my sister’s family. Yet, there is also lots of love and commitment and mutual support. It’s a “season.” We will figure it out and be okay. I am grateful.

 

 

 

 

You must have texting friends

And you need quite a number of them because you never know who might be too busy at the moment….changing a diaper, engaged in a heated argument with a three-year-old over whether cows have four legs, locked in an endless cardgame of “War” with an eight-year-old, or actually (no way?!?) be engaged in an adult-only activity!  For when a mom is busy – a mom is busy.

But when a mom is hurting or scared or frustrated or feeling so guilty that she knows her kid will need counseling the rest of his adult life, then a mom is hurting or scared or just out of her mind. And at that moment, she needs another woman. (No doubt this applies to dads too – I just can’t speak from that experience :) ).

If you’re a mom today, you must have texting friends (and your texting mom!)….because that’s how we “do it” nowadays. In other times, there were the quilting bees – sitting around an edge of a quilt, needle in hand, sharing life’s moments, passing along wisdom from one generation to the next. There were the book groups – I mean, really – who’s ever been to a book group where you actually read and discussed the book?!? There were the church women’s groups for tea and cakes. And in some developing countries, there’s the long walk to the watering hole with the empty jug and the heart full of the day’s worries.

These days, for me, it’s the text. When my heart is full, I don’t actually want to “talk” to someone….because they might notice my red, wet eyes. They might hear the crack in my voice, the sniffle of my nose. And sometimes I don’t want to talk face to face because I’m in my pajamas. And I’m home alone and the kids are sleeping upstairs. And I’m on the couch with a huge heartache. But when I send my woes out in the void, I need the return “beep” of comfort, wisdom, advice….or sometimes just “I hear you.” “It’s hard.”

Mr. Ornery has taken his namesake to an all new level. He has become that obnoxious, bratty little kid that every parent dreads and every parent wonders, “How did I create this monster?” I react and push back against his hurtful words. I demand he clean up his toys and get to bed. I grump about how “bad” his behavior is….until suddenly it dawns on me that he is speaking from a place of pain. (I’m slow at these realizations, I know, but am trying to get better.) You see, my Mommy job is to explore that pain and figure out what’s really bothering him deep in there – you know, other than the fact that he just started a new school – um, yesterday – and returned to his prior daycare center for the afternoon, and his buddy The Flipper is not around anymore, and it’s no fair that they get to stay “at the new house and he doesn’t.” I could go on and on. texts2He should be angry, sad, stressed, exhausted, tearful. So I finally get control of myself and wrap him in my arms beside his bed. I “secretly” cry enough silent tears that he finally sits up and says, “Why is my hair wet?” We wipe his head. I grab a tissue. He sleeps. I text the void. My friend replies.

I’m not saying that that’s all you have. In fact, you can’t “have” texting friends until you actually make friends and develop enough of a relationship that they can “read” the subtleties of your text. That your friend can “feel” you through time and space and “know” that they need to respond. And your relationships can’t all be built upon texting, either, because that can get too messed up and sometimes mistaken (or auto-corrrected!). You actually do need face time (not on a screen!) and you do need time that you sit beside someone in silence and you really do need hugs (find those hugging friends too!). To survive this thing called parenting, you need all kinds of friends.

But find those women who will be your texting friends. Some day….late at night….when the heart aches….you will find comfort.

Thank you to all my friends (and my mom….who texts!).

 

Changes in the New Year!

The moment my sister carried out her son’s small vault, the tears welled. I didn’t expect to be crying. But it had been four very long and stressful weeks –  eldest son “let go” from his school, looking for a new school for the 3 boys, looking for new house in the right neighborhood to get to the “right” school that can handle “behavioral” problems. The stress gave way. I had visions of the boys not seeing each other anymore. Of Mr. Ornery never becoming a great gymnast because he doesn’t have The Flipper to keep encouraging him (I know – insane). It felt like the beginning of the end – such a huge change in the status quo, years in the making.

It wasn’t about the gymnastics – it was about a change in the boys’ relationships. It was about a change in the adult relationships. In the true sense of the phrase, I am a “single mom.” But I rarely think about it that way – because I have such a beautiful family. In essence, it has been more like two parents with five boys…..and incredibly supportive grandparents (incredibly supportive)! We have been one big (and mostly) happy family.

But suddenly, the “singleness” hit and I was afraid and so sad. It was the day after Christmas. My sister was making good use of “vacation” time to get the move done. Friends came over to carry out the couch. My father spent countless hours putting together a dining room table and chairs. My mother flitted around doing everything and anything.  I, however, was frozen in denial, dipping into sadness, punctuated by jealously (why do you get to move into the sparkling clean cute townhome with a master bedroom and your own private bathroom that likely won’t have “tinkles” on the toilet seat and gobs of kids’’Sparkle Fun’ toothpaste lining the sink?!?), sprinkled with shock at all the rapid changes.

Verklempt.

“It will be good to have some quiet,” she said. I nodded. It’s impossible to explain to anyone the mind-numbing, energy-zapping level of NOISE and motion that exists within the walls of this house with 5 boys ages 3 to 8. Super Tall Guy likes to poke at kids to get a response. The Flipper and Mr. Ornery either swing from the pull-up bar or set up gymnastics floor routines through the living room/parlour area. Mr. Trouble exists as a constant threat to everyone approaching his Ninja Warrior Nunchucks or swinging light saber. The Little Guy doesn’t know he’s little as he excitedly tackles Super Tall Guy to the ground and wrestled around while the dog squeals and hides when moving bodies collide into hers. It’s nonstop. It’s pandemonium. In an effort to survive,  I proclaimed the Holidays to be unlimited “screen time” (or there’d be no sense in calling it a “holiday” for anyone!).

A little bit of quiet. The truth is – it’s probably what we all need. A chance to let the boys develop a little bit of themselves as an individual instead of constantly in relationship to or in reaction to another child. A chance for my sister and I to figure out a little bit more about how we can parent our own children without all the clutter and chaos of who hit who? Who’s tattling on whom? Who’s fault is it really? Who’s toy was it first? (Like you even cared about that Nerf gun anyway…. until The Little Guy picked it up!)

It’s likely a really good thing for everyone to have a little more space. And, as my sister reminded me, it will just be a temporary time until we can figure out the next step. And, I still have the Thai house guest here at “the Big House” for another month, so I still have back-up help and am not completely “single” :).

It’s just been some crazy stressful few weeks. I’m super proud of my sister for just jumping in and getting everything together to create a new home for herself and the boys. And we’ve tried not to visit too much as New Yearthose walls are too flimsy for my boisterous boys (but come summer….when she can walk to the community’s swimming pool….she might need to adopt a few more little men!).

The schedule is going to be a lot to juggle as the three older boys begin in a new school in the morning. And there are going to be a great many kinks and glitches to iron out. But I have a terrific family and much hope in this New Year of New Beginnings!

 

 

 

 

A Christmas in Photos

Whoever is making toys these days just doesn’t understand boys….or at least not our boys. We tried some new toys this year and have not been impressed. My top goal is to find a sturdy remote control vehicle that lasts more than a couple days – I’m still hunting.

This Wubble lasted a couple hours, despite the claims to “bounce it, catch it, squeeze it, kick it.” Fortunately it has a lifetime replacement guarantee (“if you happen to pop” it, you can pay for another one, states the website….since our patch attempt with Ninja Turtle Duct Tape didn’t help :))

"Lifetime warranty"

 

IMG_8506Yet the replacement Wubble seemed to experience the same fate as the first (and the mom is not paying to replace it again!).

 

 

 

The “Smash Toys”  that splat against the ground and slowly reform to be thrown again also come with a free lifetime replacement….and lasted …oh….about 4 throws….(doubt they will be replaced either)

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The tent survived almost an entire day before the poles were too bent to erect again….(guess it’s trash!)

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So I am just thankful for Legos….every single time I open a box, I’m amazed legosat the quality (and the price tag! and the pain of an unsuspected Lego under a walking foot). This year, though, The Little Guy got his first set and he was thrilled (and persisted in putting together 5-6 pieces)!  And….we have a new record — of keeping a 400+ piece “construction” together for more than 3 days so far!  The Star Wars spaceship goes to bed every night with Mr. Ornery to “protect it” from the others!

 

 

 

And…lest you think  we have mice in the house (well, we do….but mainly in the kitchen)….most of the mess comes from 5 boys! (Um, one does not like chocolate. One does not really care much about candy. One is too young to figure out how to hide wrappers behind furniture. Hmmm…that leaves two with incredible sweet teeth and cunning mentality!)

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Lastly, it seems pretty clear that the dog is just humoring me with a new toy, but she seemed to survive the chaos commonly known as dog-bearChristmas!

 

 

 

 

 

All in all – it was “relatively quiet” (ie, no broken windows) and the boys were “relatively happy” with their gifts (ie, very little thievery from each other….except of stocking candy), and the adults got “relatively” few moments to open some gifts as well. (Although, we have resorted to texting relatives to ask, “what did you get for so-and-so?” — helps in writing the thank-you cards that way!).

Hope you all had a great Christmas. Any gift joys or frustrations?

P.S. (added 12/29/14) – And….apparently….you shouldn’t submerge new watches in 8 inchesIMG_8511 of bubble bath water! Who knew?  (Actually, I’m not complaining about this one. First and only day the 8-yr-old wore a watch and I was vowing to never buy him one again! “Aren’t we done yet? It’s 11:47.” … “You said 10 minutes and it’s already been 12 minutes.” Never. Again!)

Sacrifices of the Second Sibling (or third or fourth or fifth)

Mr. Ornery dances around the kitchen floor. “I love my teacher. I love Miss P,” bubbles out over and over again. I sigh inside, knowing that the week, the season, of Miss P is coming to an end. Sometimes I let him dance. Sometimes I remind him that he’ll be leaving Miss P’s class and his friends. Sometimes I let him sit in the sadness of “I don’t want to leave Miss P” as he falls asleep at night.

Four months ago he left the day care center where he went almost every single weekday of the year since he was 6 months old. He entered a new school – new “authority figures,” new friends, new routines, new expectations. And believe me – it took him a LONG time to adjust. But he did. Because he’s strong, he’s bubbly, he’s the class clown, and he’s just so darn cute! – the girls swoon already, he asks “if you’re in love do you kiss a girl?,” and the little fairies gather around him when he enters a room.

But four weeks ago, I was asked to “transition” my eldest, Super Tall Guy, out of the school. He didn’t “fit,” they didn’t want to work with him anymore, they had a symphony “orchestra” to coordinate, he was an electric guitar. Mr. Ornery is the bystander. The one who gets uprooted almost before he has his feet under him. Just as he’s coming into his glory. Just as he’s figuring out who he is and who he’s becoming.

Star Student of the Week

Star Student of the Week

I mean, when you are 5 – what is huge in your life?  Your family – though he often says he needs to find a new one (you know, one that won’t ask him to pick up his clothes or put his dishes away). And his school. That’s it – that’s where life is when you’re five. And his world is about to be completely and totally changed….on behalf of the needs of a sibling.

So part of me hurts on behalf of Mr. Ornery, knowing that he is happy where he is and I have to make the decision to move him. In the larger scheme of life, I know there are many times a parent has to make decisions that dramatically alter their children’s lives – moves to new cities/houses/schools, arrival of new siblings (Super Tall Guy is still not too thrilled that boy #3 arrived and stayed), addition of a pet or loss of a pet. The list goes on. There are also more dramatic times of when the needs and happiness of siblings are affected by other sibling needs, especially if one sibling has chronic health problems. We had a small window of that when Super Tall Guy had to return to the hospital after his tonsillectomy and I thought about how unsettling it was for the younger boys to watch us rush out of the house late at night and not be home the next day. I am so thankful that our kids are generally healthy, yet having multiple kids does lead to multiple unpredictable situations.

The good thing is that the boys are young and they’re resilient. And they’re resilient because they are loved and they know they are loved and they still have a great support group around them. They have family, they have friends, they have neighbors, and a new church family. They are also resilient because they have had prior experiences of shifts in schedules and environments and have made it through them. They will likely handle this transition to a new school better than I am going through it.

Super Tall Guy’s teacher told me that she talked to him on his last day of school and explained that finding the right school was like trying on shoes. Sometimes you have to try on a few pairs before you find the right one. Well, we’ve tried four of them already – Montessori, daycare center kindergarten, cyber school kindergarten, and private

Frustrated second grader

Frustrated second grader

Christian school. We’re moving into the public school system – the one school that will not say, “I’m sorry, your child doesn’t fit here,” but that says, “All children fit here.” That’s where the boys need to be – where they will “fit” and thrive and grow.

It will be a big change for both boys, but hopefully it will be their last big change — at least for a few months :) and I have high hopes for them that this New Year will bring some great new joys and friendships and happiness.

 

 

 

 

 

The rush of time

This is how I know I’m stressed – when a friend offers to arrange a massage for me (AND watch the other kids….AND bring me Starbucks!) AND…. I actually consider it.  Never been a fan of massage, I hate to say….but I do know that all the muscles that I can still name from medical school anatomy class and the ones that I occasionally pull and can’t remember their name – they’re all pretty tight right now!!

The other way to tell that life is in that “stress” mode is the lateness of this post. When your brain is filled with the “have-to’s,” there’s very little space for the creative. Yet, if you pause enough, it will come.

Every single year I have high hopes for Advent. Teaching the boys about patience and waiting (“I hate waiting”). Focusing on hope, love, joy and peace (“It’s my turn to blow out the Advent wreath candles!” “No, you blew them out last night!”). Thinking about service and how we care for others (“Oh man, I’ll just get that Angel Tree gift myself this year”). Starting new traditions that will carry on year after year and become that lore in adulthood of “well, when I was a child, we always did…..at Christmas.”

When I struggle to slow time down – it has a way of speeding right along.

Literally, this Advent season has been:

  • Choose a new school district for the boys from (thankfully) some really great choices. My sister and I have thought about which district we would prefer “in theory” for a few years now, but we suddenly needed to make the decision….like yesterday!
  • Put up Christmas tree top-heavy with the “fragile” ornaments
  • boy tree_wp
  • Tape up a strand of Christmas lights around the door frame
    • Re-tape
    • Re-tape
    • Tape again
    • “Stop playing with these lights!!”
  • Find a place to live – not only within the school district but in the “zone” that feeds into the elementary school that handles kids with “special emotional/behavioral needs”
    • Search for places online – Thanks, sis, for handling the brunt of this!
    • Visit homes for rent, townhomes, apartments
    • Agonize
    • Look at more, change mind, get close (oh, wait, this place doesn’t take dogs!)
    • Sign lease
  • Fill Advent calendar boxes with candy
    • Forget to open a box every day – our calendar says it’s December 7th – we have LOTS of shopping days left!
  • Complete paperwork for neuropsych evaluation intake appointment for Super Tall Guy
    • Freak out the morning of the appointment when the forms are who knows where
    • Out-smart 8-year-old to get him in the car to go to the appointment
    • Pat self on back for remembering to charge and bring along the DS game system
    • Groan when informed, “Mom, there’s no game in this DS”….ugh!
  • Thank Grandma for bringing over “Advent Bags” filled with toys/treats for each evening of Advent
    • Forget to open them after day 5 or 6 – we’ll just save them for next year (Did we say that last year?)
  • Complete (redundant, endless) paperwork for school enrollment for two boys
  • Find central admin office just in time for school enrollment appointment
    • Freak out in parking lot over who has the copy of the lease – really – honestly – the ONLY important paper we need today
    • Sweat bullets over whether all the forms are done correctly as the administrator slowly marches down the checklist – check, check
  • Complete paperwork and behavioral forms for behavioral assessment intake appointment for Super Tall Guy
    • Huh, he is pretty challenging
  • Bake brownies for
    • Christmas party #1
    • Christmas party #2
    • 2nd Grade Christmas party
    • Kindergarten Christmas party
    • Oh, you want some for your second-grader as well??
  • Battle with self-will to NOT go in to Toys R Us
    • Lose battle
    • Spend too much (again) on the boys
  • Sit on the couch
  • Turn off the lights
  • Soften Christmas music
  • Cuddle with sleeping dog
  • Get lost in the glow of the tree lights
  • Breathe
  • (message friend to accept massage offer….)

Want to slow down time? Just do it.