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!)

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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.

The moments of parenting “expensive” boys!

I sat beside him crying. “I can’t keep doing this,” I said over and over. I’m sure it was lost on him, but the feelings just become so huge and overwhelming to me. Okay….so it’s just a window – I say days later. Yes, it’s the stained glass window that he kicked out – recently replaced and huge –  but it’s still just a window, and just the corner of the window.  Yes, it’s another expense (you know, in addition to the TVs he has destroyed), stained glassbut it’s still just a window. It will cost about $1000 to take it out and back to the store to replace the corner and bring it back, but it’s still just a window.

And yes, it’s another marker of  his inability to control his anger. But really, who am I to judge? Sometimes (a lot…) I don’t control my anger either and I’m 36 years older than him.

Sometimes though it all just feels so “Big” – that suddenly everything is crumbling – that my son has enough “problems” to be asked to leave a school (okay, so a private school that worries they can’t meet his “needs”…); that I’m an awful parent who can’t figure out how to stop the “antecedents” and triggers of anger explosions in my kid in time to diffuse the situation; that we’re never going to get anywhere.

You ever sink into this abyss?

So deep that you drive sub-consciously to Grandma’s house with the youngest child while tears stream down the cheeks?

And you remember sitting down on a date the other week and pausing at the question, “Do you ever regret it?” Tough question. Do I regret adopting three boys? My honest answer – “It’s pretty hard sometimes. But I don’t regret it. The boys need a mother to love them and I do think that the brothers need to be together.” And admittedly, I need them to bring depth and joy to my life.

But driving away from my angry and now grounded son, my tears return to that question. Do I regret it?  It certainly has been harder than I could ever have imagined. My mind briefly recalls reading about “reversed adoptions”…. “failed adoptions.” I remember being appalled (especially as it would completely undermine a kid’s sense of belonging and family and hope) and yet I think I can understand the draw to find an “easy” solution to the complicated mess called parenting.

Sometimes it’s easy to pretend that this parenting is all fun and games. It’s the cheesy Facebook photos. It’s the awesome crafty Pinterest project. It’s the hugs and kisses and gentle sleeping snores of tuckered bodies. It’s the fluff and love. But it’s actually so much more than that.

I talked to a mother of a two-week old last week in for a pediatric check-up. She lamented, “Everyone keeps saying ‘enjoy these wonderful moments,’ but I’m not really feeling it. What’s wrong?” I smile graciously, shaking my head, “Those moments – those moments are rare. So very rare. They will happen, so grab them and hold them in your heart. Because the rest of the moments range from mundane to pretty darn hard to down-right heart-wrenching horrific. But the good moments are just fantastic.”

The other morning the moody, grumpy, stained-glass-window kicking Super Tall Guy rolled over before completely waking and said, “I love you, Mom.”IMG_7706

A moment.

Grabbed.

Held.

Peace.

To us all.

No regrets.

 

Don’t mess with Mama Bear

That should be the mantra for all parent interactions. Say, for example, that you are a school representative about to deliver bad news about a child’s behavior. You might just have this line running through your mind. Kind of like – the customer is always right. Don’t mess with Mama Bear.mama bear2

Apparently the meeting with the principal 10 days ago was to let me know that Super Tall Guy needed to “transition” out of the environment in which he no longer “fit.” From the principal’s perspective, they had done all they could in adjusting his environment but it wasn’t helping and things were getting worse. Super Tall Guy was more disruptive and more disrespectful and beginning to require “in school suspensions” sitting in the principal’s office.

I could see this was the end of our grace period, but I am also absolutely convinced that an 8-year-old boy does not need to be expelled from school. That while trying to figure out what’s going on inside the head, we need to support and keep alive a desire to learn and succeed. We can’t let very young children develop a sense of failure. We need a smooth transition to the next arrangement. In that vein, I offered to take him out of school at lunch time since it was clear that he was consistently falling apart in the afternoons.

It was certainly an emotionally charged meeting – Mama Bear was in high protective mode, while also trying to acknowledge and understand their point of view. Disruptive children do not fit into the beautiful “orchestra” of small private schools.

As often happens, though, emotions cloud discussions and we never wrapped up the details. However, when I arrived to pick up Super Tall Guy the next day – Friday – I was distressed to find that he had been sitting in the office of the Head of School all afternoon – having a “nice time looking up insects on the iPad….as we were expecting you to pick him up at lunch.” “Oh,” I replied. “I didn’t know that was starting today. For I had no details. For example, do you know what time his lunch is? Do you know when I was mama bearexpected to be here?” Don’t mess with Mama Bear – because she’s holding herself together pretty darn well right now given that Baby Bear is staring at us! Because, you see – you just made Baby Bear miss out on the combined second grade class holiday party?!?!?

The calm before the storm was a bit eerie. Why wasn’t Super Tall Guy more upset about missing his party?  It took 24 hours for the waves to swell and the gale-force winds to build ….when he realized his behavior at Grandma’s had just led to missing “movie night” of the next Star Wars film. And then it all unleashed. The anger. The pain. The disappointment. The fear. The frustration. The teeth on my arm. The kicking feet. The refusal to try any calming tactics suggested by the therapist. The storm, it seems, just has to settle itself out…and then the tears flow about how unfair the world is. How sad it is to miss a party that you had been looking forward to.

His pain pierced Mama Bear’s heart.

My sister, bless her, kicked into active drive, spending hours on the internet looking for a new school district and a place to live. I, however, spent a couple days with my heart wrapped up. Distraught by the realization that my eldest must have some “problem” clearly severe enough to disrupt schooling and result in the whole family moving. Saddened by the way he has struggled for months. Disappointed in myself for not recognizing all this sooner. Frustrated by the crumbling of our current status quo. Overwhelmed by the thought of moving and packing and transitioning boys to a new school – much less trying to decide “which” new school.

And yet hopeful – that we might find a school that will honor my son. One that will meet his needs and build on his strengths. A place that will not try to “break the strong willed boy” but will seek to understand his struggles and help instill healthy coping strategies and skills. A place where he is not judged as “bad” but will rejoice in the small steps of progress.

For Mama Bears have pretty high expectations. Don’t mess with them.