Sunday, June 30, 2013

Get In; The Water's Fine.

Just removed my first mean comment, after a bit of pondering on how to respond to it.  It didn't take long to conclude that while people have the freedom to express their opinions about me, since I'm the one putting my story out in public, it's not worth putting a lot of energy into rebutting, educating, or (even?  especially?) defending myself to online strangers who go on attack.  It helped that she attacked me in an area I'm not concerned about.  If she'd actually attacked me on one of my weaknesses, I'd probably have more trouble letting it go.

Moving on.  It was hot today.  In hot weather, these are my ideal places to be, in descending order:
1.  In a sandy bottomed lake.
2.  In any lake.
3.  In a slow-moving river.
4.  In an outdoor swimming pool.
5.  With my feet in a fast-moving river.
6.  At a splash pad.
7.  Running through the sprinkler.
8.  Washing the car.
9.  Sitting with my feet in a bucket of cold water.  (This one was brought to my awareness by Linden and our neighbor girl.  Brilliant.)

As far as I'm concerned, the benefit of hot weather is the enjoyment of cold water.  So I squeezed my matronly body into an old Speedo and took the kids to a splash pad, the other options being too time- and gas- consuming for today.  As I wandered through the spray, I slowly realized that although I was not the only parent enjoying the water with the kids, I was the only one wearing a bathing suit.  Then I noticed a hot young mom in a bikini, which just sort of proved my point.  Then I realized I work with her, and had to stop and make small talk instead of punching her in the throat.

It's summer.  It's 87 in the shade, and we're all broiling.  Why are so many moms hovering on the edge of the water, all covered up and sweaty?  What are we teaching the kids about their bodies, that we feel ours must stay hidden?

My mom always got in.  She too loved the water.  She stayed somewhat slimmer than I have, but after three pregnancies, her belly was soft and round, and she had varicose veins popping out of her calves.  What I learned from her was about enjoying the water, not about hiding your aging body.

When my daughter said, "Mama, please will you go into the water with me?" and I shucked off my shorts and shirt, she gasped with admiration at the bright purple color of my suit.  "Oh Mama, I LOVE your swimsuit!" she exclaimed.  She didn't care about the waddle of my thighs, the bulge of my belly.  My wish for her is that when she's 43, no longer a slim little miss, she'll be willing to put on her suit and get in the water.

Saturday, June 29, 2013


And now it's a year.

My mind still sheers away from the horror of that trip home and the first days; the layover in Heathrow which brought me to miserable tears, and then that first unending day when we finally asked my mother-in-law to come over so we could sleep.  She woke us up when they went from mooning her to throwing things at her.

We survived some pretty serious regression from Oak last week, but hey, there was no mooning.  The other differences we noted were that we have a common language now, and his sister did not join in his rebellion, which made it marginally easier to manage.

However, he's been consistently unkind to Linden this week.  I've had to stop myself from snapping, "Why are you being such a dick?" several times.  Then today, when I picked them up a half an hour late from art camp, he was being kind, generous, funny.  She offered him most of her share of the cheetos I'd bought as a surprise treat.  He thanked her sweetly.  The evening wasn't without tension, but the tone was set early, and we kept bringing ourselves back to that spirit of friendliness and affection.

I love love love to cuddle with Linden at night, to ask her for 'three roses and a thorn" from her day, to sing her lullabies, to drop kisses on her arms, her face, her head as we murmur sleepily together.  But Oak has night fears, and the Winemaker was gone, so I tucked in my easy child with a quick kiss and a damp cloth to help with the heat  Then I met my boy just outside his sister's door, where he'd been laying so he could still hear me.  When he goes into the bathroom to pee after dark, I stand outside and give him math problems so he knows I'm there, and so he doesn't dwell on his terrors.

"Mom?"  he'll say anxiously, checking that I'm actually there.

"Seven plus seven?"  I'll reply.

We laid down together in the big bed, because his room was so stuffy.  I rubbed his back.  I thought of how I am with Linden, how I cuddle and kiss and whisper sweet nothings.  I pour on the adoration that a mama gives her baby, and she soaks it in.  I don't do this with Oak.  He has grown to appreciate and even offer physical affection, but it's not that same kind of baby sweetness that I give his sister.  Feeling suddenly bad about this, I lean in and kiss his neck, whisper, "I love you so much."

He replies, "What's the biggest number you know how to do times with?"

"I know up to 12 times 12 by heart," I tell him, "and  I can do numbers that end in zero, like 100 times 100."

I know that his distancing doesn't mean he doesn't need the affection,  I keep rubbing his back.  He asks for water.  Last week, we had four nights in a row when he freaked out at bedtime, got aggressive, intentionally woke his sister up, went wild around the house.  I'm willing to put up with a little stalling this week.  He drinks his water.  I lay down next to him again.  "I love you," I whisper into the dark.

"Me too," he sleepily replies.

 We said that at bedtimes a year ago too, only in another language.  It was perhaps more a promise than a reality, but here we are, one tour of the sun later, still making the promise.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Another picture. I'm on a roll.

Linden drawing, while resting her hand on Strawberry Bunny.  It turned out that she was actually doing a portrait of Strawberry, so apparently touching the bunny was part of getting it right.  

She usually doesn't really like drawing, so I was thrilled when she set up this little spot for herself and asked for paper.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Our Ride

Our '97 Honda Civic has had a front headlight out for about four months.

The plates expired three days ago.  I'll get it taken care of this week, I swear.

I spilled something on the hood a few months ago, and little by little, the paint is slowly melting away.

So when Linden picked up a rock and scratched "kitty whiskers" (three on each side) to "make the car cuter" it was a toss-up whether it was vandalism or actually an improvement.

Some Actual Photos

I'm aware the the lack of photos makes this kind of...boring.  But having decided to be hyper-private about this blog, I'm really trying to be consistent about that.

Still, I've come up with some photos that don't show identifying features, so I thought I'd share.

We were at the beach on Memorial Day with several other families.  

Linden crossing the creek on our first day of vacation hike.  Really, with her insisting on growing out her bangs and simultaneous dislike of putting her hair up, most pictures of her this day show no revealing facial features anyway.

Oak showing off his blister.  He was the only kid of five who didn't whine the whole hike.  He was in his element.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Parenting fail?

Completely appropriate dot-to-dot

Linden and I were at a bakery today while Oak was at therapy.  She asked me to make her a dot-to-dot.  I am artistically challenged.  I looked around the place for inspiration, and saw their vases, which were wine bottles painted black.

I dotted.  She drew.  Then she added in the cork and a label,  including her dad's name.  I'm not the only one who thinks of him as The Winemaker.  She wrote "Win" and asked, "Is that how you spell wine?"  I almost said, "In a sense, yes," but I went with the straight answer and had her add an e.

A few minutes later, as we sat in the bakery with this displayed between us, it suddenly occurred to me that this may not be the world's most child friendly dot-to-dot theme.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Nearly a Year

The Winemaker and I just had a very rare morning alone together.  My school year wound down a few days before the kids', so I'm home for their last day of school.  We went out for coffee and ran a few exciting errands (bank, grocery store, etc.)  It was lovely.  That may sound sarcastic, but I mean it.  Just to have two hours of my husband's company.  Lovely.

As we came in the front door, I noticed the two painted plastic "wind chimes" hanging in the front window.  The kids won the kits at a school art night, and knew right where they wanted to put the finished products.

There are bikes strewn all over our front porch, and picture books and early readers from the library sprinkled liberally all over the house.  The quilt my mom and I made when I was sixteen is not here on the couch for me to cuddle with, because when Linden was sick, she got very attached to it, and has moved it up to her own room to cuddle with.  There is, however, a large stuffed bunny by my feet. And some leaning towers of clean laundry.  The bin of colored pencils that's permanently sitting on the china hutch, the "oh my God I just scrubbed this two hours ago" stickiness of the dining room table, the hanging basket we bought to remember their birth mom on Mother's Day, the pillow airing out on the front porch after someone somehow managed to get the corner of it when that person wet the bed, and yes, the art on the fridge.  This house holds children.

We are nearing our one year mark.  I talked to Linden about that, about which date we should commemorate (although instead of "commemorate" I said "bake a cake on").  The date we met, which was also the date they were handed into our full time care, forever? The date the adoption was finalized?  The date we came home?  She and I both lean towards the latter.  This house is where we are becoming a family.  They've lived here less time than they did in the orphanage, less time than they did with their birth family.  We're still struggling, all of us, every day.

And we're making progress.  We're learning.  We are brave, we are loving, we keep trying.  There are bikes on our front porch, and the bathrooms are almost always pretty sketchy, and this is my family.

Excuse me, but I have to go meet a school bus.  Let us all welcome summer.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Rest of the Story

That nap turned out to be pneumonia, by the way.  When I took her temperature Saturday, the numbers whizzed by on the thermometer rather the way the cost rings up when you're getting gas in the car.  This definitely helped build up my credibility with the "you need to take a nap" thing.

I  made it to my doctor's appointment too.  And cried.  In the waiting room, while filling out the screening form.  I think the receptionist might have made a discreet note on it:  "Please give this woman meds."  Then I cried some more while telling my sweet little doctor that I get so angry at my kids that I'm afraid I'm going to hurt them.  She said nice things, and gave me some sensible advice, prescribed Zoloft (which I had just learned can help with anger as well as depression) and wondered in her mild way if Oak might also benefit from something to take the edge off his anxiety, which is at the base of a lot of his more enraging behaviors.  She even used the phrase PTSD, which somehow impressed me.

I keep reading or hearing that kids from tough places will be misdiagnosed as ADHD or oppositional, because their behaviors will be similar, but that meds for those diagnoses will be wrong, because the cause is so different.  At our first school conference, I said something to Oaks' teachers about this, and they all (classroom teacher, ELD teacher and counselor) looked at me funny and said, "No, I wouldn't have said he has any attention issues at all.  He's quite able to focus.  It's more the way he behaves when he's stressed out or there are transitions..."  Now the doctor seems equally well in tune with the way our kids' background will affect them.  I like this.

The school where I work is undergoing a "digital conversion" which is fancy talk for getting one iPad for each student.  As part of this, teachers got an iPad mini and a Macbook Air to take home and familiarize ourselves with over the summer.  Don't be hating on me.  I'll be equipped for blogging, at any rate.  Don't let the door hit you on the way out, decrepit old off-brand laptop.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Two steps forward, one step back.

I'm not sure where to start, much less where to go from there, but part of trying to get out of the sh*tstorm that Mother's Day launched is trying to get myself to write.

I could start by saying that after heavy blog reading (Orange Rhino, Hands Free Mama, and some essays about anger and parenting on Creative with Kids), and watching some of the new videos we ordered from Karyn Purvis, I had three good days in a row.  Days where I responded gently and kindly, and helped kids regulate, and followed their lead in play, and caught them being good.  I even did a craft, dammit.  It didn't work the way it was supposed to, but we had fun making it anyway.

Then I came home today, and my husband was stressed and wanted some TLC, and my daughter kept trying to touch me in her most space invasive ways, and my son was acting up to obtain the remaining shred of my attention, and I kind of lost it. 


While I was in the midst of my three good days, I finally got up the courage to call my doctor's office and make an appointment to talk about my mental health.  I can't keep going, 'Oh, hey, I got this, I got thi--WHOOPS!" 

I can say that too many people wanting my physical touch at the same time was a trigger.  I can say that not getting lunch was a problem.  (By the time I got dinner on, I was seeing sparkly shapes in the corner of my vision.) 

In the midst of my bitchiness, I told my daughter she had to take a nap instead of going to the park, because her voice is hoarse and she has a fever.  A kind woman would have left out the "instead of going to the park" part.  I wasn't feeling kind.

I know Linden HATES being told to lay down during the day; it's a pretty sure way to trigger at least a minor tantrum from her.  In the orphanage they had to nap after lunch, and she bitterly resented it.  So that made her yell and kick, which led to more meanness from me, but I calmed down first, and went to, "I know you don't like to nap during the day.  That's why you only have to when you're sick.  Your body needs some time to rest."  I told her I'd set my alarm for 20 minutes, but wouldn't start the time until she was laying down and closing her eyes.  She stormed, "If you LEAVE, I'm going to SIT UP!" and I calmly responded, "That's why I'll be right here." 

She really is an obedient little girl most of the time, so instead of jumping on the bed or dashing for the door, as Oak would have, she grumpily lay down and played with a stuffed animal for awhile.  I reminded her the time would start when she closed her eyes, so she turned her back to me, clearly planning to KEEP HER EYES OPEN while obeying me otherwise. 

She was asleep within two minutes.

Five hours later, she's still sleeping. 

I tried to get her up for dinner, but she rolled back over and went back to sleep.  I've taken her into the bathroom and given her some water, then just tucked her back in.  Her skin is still hot.  She's sick.  She needed to go to bed. 

Mean Mama still loses, but it helps a little, knowing she really did need to go to bed.  The park (with a splash pad!) would have been a lousy idea. 

There's also this. I spent four of those hours with my son.  (The Winemaker went out for the evening.)  This is rare.  Homework time is probably his only guarantee for one-on-one time with me, when I will send Linden away if she tries to horn in.  (This may be the secret of why we don't really have the homework battles I know some families have.)  He had lost privileges for his new phone*, and needed to do three "jobs" to earn it back.  Friday night the kids are normally excused from dinner and dishes duty, but he helped me dry dishes tonight for one job.  Then we went outside and cleaned up the branches the Winemaker had trimmed from the magnolia tree today.  Oak got to stand in the yard debris bin and squash everything in, which he loved.  Job two.  Afterwards, I read him some stories while he massaged lotion into my feet.  Job three.  This is something I've done for him several times, and I must say it was lovely to receive the same gentle care back.  With the three jobs done, we put his phone in the charger, and he brushed his teeth so we could watch ALL of The Lion King together.  Watching movies is usually a weekend morning event, before the parents get up, so it was another nice treat for us to cozy up in the big chair together and share the experience.  He'd say, "I love this part!  You'll love it too, Mom."  Then I laid down with him so he could get to sleep easily. 

Nice Mama wins.

I'm gonna do this. 

Still nervous about the doctor appointment. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sugar, sugar

You know about the five love languages,?  The idea being that we all have different ways we receive and express love, and that if you're expecting someone to show you their love by, say, buying you a Ferrari, but they show their love by getting up in the cold every morning to turn the furnace on so the house is warm when you get up--well, that's kind of a screwy example, sorry.  But the point is, if you recognize one kind of expression of love, and your beloved shows their love differently,  you may miss it, and become sad and/or resentful, which is one of life's less appealing emotional cocktails. 

Well, my love language for children is Sugar.  As in, I love you, so I bake for you.  I love you, so I sneak you a little treat.  I love you, so I put chocolate chips in your pancakes, let you lick the beater, and hand you bubble gum when you're doing your homework, because Karyn Purvis says it's okay. 

The Winemaker, on the other hand, sees frequent doses of sugar as setting the kids up for obesity, diabetes, and a lifetime of emotional eating.  (Now, WHERE would he get that idea?!?)  So it's like, the "Die Early" language from his point of view. 

This causes some confusion, and leaves us ripe for triangulation.

On a very related note, tomorrow is Oak's birthday, his first with us.  We had a party with friends, and cheesecake, and goodie bags with candy, and a present from a friend that included a bag of candy, today.  Now I'm working on his real birthday cake, which involves, yes, licking the beater and helping frost, and so on.  I'm all, "But it's his birthday!" and the Winemaker is all "But we know that if we bend the rules once we fight the battle eternally after that!"