Saturday, May 30, 2009

Best Laid Plans

The kids have about one week of school left but you would think school ended weeks ago.

Tortuga hasn't had homework in about 3 weeks because he "finishes" it at school, teachers are out for various activities and don't leave homework, or he "forgets" to bring the right thing home because the teacher was to busy to meet for his daily check in at the end of the day. Combine that with talent shows, splash days, field trips, moving up days, track and field days, book fair, there doesn't seem to be anything that is routine about his school days. Thus, his school behaviors (and subsequently home behaviors) have made a downhill nose-dive! Even if all this wasn't bad enough, next week he had the following activities: Today was "packing up day" and "cleaning your desk day." From what I can tell, that's all they did today. Monday will be"read-in" all day with sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, books, etc. While I appreciate the focus on reading for a kid like mine bringing all that stuff means he gets to check out everyone else's stuff and play because he takes reading VERY seriously. As it is he reminded me he needs to bring all that stuff but forgot to mention the books. When I reminded him he asked incredulously "We HAVE to bring books? What if we don't feel like reading?" I guess he missed the point of a "READ-IN". But he does raise a good question. What if the don't feel like reading? Tuesday they have "board game" day scheduled. All DAY long with a "picnic" of sack lunches outdoors and an extra long recess. Wednesday is "slide show day," complete with birthday celebrations for summer birthdays, ice cream treats from the teacher, and a whole school gathering to "lower the flag." Then it ends. Although who are we kidding? It ended already. The poor kid came home really excited about his experiences with moving up day this week because they got to visit all 6 fifth grade classes and see the teachers "in action." I asked him which class he liked best and he said "Ms. _____" because the kids do work ALL the time. They only have one short recess after lunch but the rest of they time they are working on learning." Music to my ears! She is also the teacher we requested for next year if we don't decide to homeschool.

Corazon hasn't had any real work to do (and doesn't do the little bit she has) in over two weeks due to all kinds of "special" events at school--girls away for competitions, news crews following individual kids at her school for TV specials, goodbye parties from various specialists with ice cream sundaes, trips to Sonic for slushies, and packing up the classroom because it has to do double duty over the last two weeks of school. Teachers are so busy packing up and getting their stuff out of the way it is no wonder they have any time to teach. For a kid who needs consistency this is just awful and of course, RAD behaviors have been most present. Next week they have a book report due on Monday and a pool party all day Friday but otherwise they are scheduled to help pack up the classroom for the other days.

My preschooler has done more work in the midst of all the fun activities than the two others put together.

So what does all of this have to do with "best laid plans"? Well, tonight C. and I mistakenly assumed we could take the whole family out to dinner to celebrate the end of the last full week of school. Pollito had peed on his clothing throughout the day so had gone through the TWO extra changes of clothing he had in his backpack. He was in a lousy mood and taunted his older brother the minute he got in the car. Tortuga had a bad day and had notes from the teacher about his need to remain "in control." Really? So of course, he is mad at himself and gets in the car in the foulest of moods and starts fighting with Pollito. They actually come to blows which doesn't happen ever.

In the meantime, I get an email on my phone announcing that Corazon's teacher has resigned as of today! We just met on Monday to strategize about next year so I know something bad happened. I also know that Corazon isn't going to take it well so we decide to head over to her school to see her at dismissal. Usually on Fridays I don't see her because she only has 30 minutes between school and gymnastics but I wanted to see what state she was in. As we pull into the parking lot I spot her OUTSIDE in the lot running around. Her rule is that she must stay in the building at all times. She doesn't see me but goes back inside. By the time we park and I go inside she is sitting at the table outside the gym just finishing up pouring a soda into her water bottle. I come up behind her and she quickly jumps up to hide the evidence and says "Mom! You scared me." That's code for "I'm busted doing something I shouldn't be doing." I tell her to get her stuff and she shouts/cries "Ms. ____left today." Then she burst into tears. I hug her but then she pulls away to try and hide the soda. I tell her I saw it, know she stole it from the staff pantry at the gym, and have to deal with this incident before anything else. I send her to wait for me and tell her coach she will miss gym today.

Needless to say we had too much to deal with and going out to dinner just didn't seem to be the thing to do anymore. By the time we dealt with everyone's issues I was exhausted. We fed the kids leftovers and sent them off to bed to read an hour early. Then C. and I realized we didn't have anything for us to eat so we ordered Chinese takeout and discussed our options for next week and next year. Do we send them to school to potentially explode or implode? Do we homeschool the two older ones next year?

I guess we won't tell them yet that we are going back to Boston next weekend for a few weeks so they can see their birth families. We don't think that will go over too well right now.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Basic Package"

A couple of week ago I participated in a Katharine Leslie "webinar" from the comfort of my own dining table. I have only read a few of her works and there are, of course, aspects I agree with and aspects that I don't believe work for me. Nonetheless, this was a wonderful way to be reminded of her work and get a "new spin" on some of what I had read before. I have been thinking a good deal about some of what she said and have even started several posts as I test out these ideas. I have so many thoughts jumbled up in my head that I have to write them down but I think it is going to be more piecemeal over time.

Last night I was chatting with ldw over at My Sweet Chaos and we were discussing what Katharine Leslie calls the "basic package." For me this resembles Tortuga's grounding from a few months ago. (I have referenced this here and here and here.) I don't think I had explicitly looked at Leslie's basic package reference but after the webinar I did go back and revisit it a bit.

Katharine Leslie discusses creating a home environment that is a "structure and rehabilitation" setting which meets "basic needs for food, shelter and warmth." In this setting the parent focuses on safety and basic needs but would provide affection in response to the child affection when it is the right thing to do at the time. She encourages parents to do the following:
  • give consequences that produce caring behaviors
  • call attention to the "giving" and the "taking" that is a part of every interaction so the child learns to recognize when it is happening or how it is supposed to happen
  • coach children to say and do what "normal" and healthy children say and do
Basically, if I understand this correctly, we are to work to develop a relationship with our child that doesn't have him (or her) doing all the taking so that we are drained in the process. During this time we provide the basic needs, work to have positive interactions and fun, and we honor the child's choice to be a member of the family or not and respond accordingly.

Last fall I was getting pretty frustrated with many of the behaviors that were going on with the kids and that I was seeing Pollito and even Milagro pick up from the older kids. So we had a family meeting in which I asked the older kids to tell us what behaviors and attitudes were most important in our family. They quickly rattled off rules they shouldn't break but I pushed them to think about what we as their parents really valued. Eventually we hit upon a list of our most important "Family Values". There were 5 of them:
  1. Safety
  2. Respect (for self, learning, property, others, elders)
  3. Responsibility
  4. Obedience (God, parents, elders, rules)
  5. Caring/Kindness
I informed them that I was going to try to stop making too many rules and just work to remind them to act according to those values and if they couldn't or wouldn't there would be serious consequences in an effort to help them become better family members. Doing this really helped to keep me in check around the rule making. I was no longer making new rules every time something bad happened because all I had to say was "you aren't acting responsibly so you will need to _________." I was still doling out consequences left and right but it made what they (and I) had to remember that much easier and if he/I forgot what he was supposed to be doing I could still give him a consequence when we got in the car or home. So, for example, if vile stuff was coming out of Tortuga's mouth during a shopping trip I would tell him he needed to put his hand over his mouth for the duration of the trip because he wasn't being caring and respectful. If he couldn't control himself then he was also being disobedient and would need to practice keeping his hand over his mouth in the care and then when we got home. Sometimes I might get caught up in my shopping and forget that he wasn't supposed to be talking (although someone else would often remind me :)) It didn't matter because I could just pick up where we left off once we got in the car or home and I would claim that I was no longer issuing reminders for these things because he should be responsible enough to monitor himself. He might also need to write sentences to remind himself before he could get dinner or snack and if that still didn't work he could go to bed early. I just had to make sure I followed through. I am not saying this solved all our problems but it made things go smoother and made me less anxious about catching every single rule infraction.

We stepped things up for Tortuga when C. and I decided to ground him back in March. In a sense I put him on what Leslie calls the "basic package." He got all his basic needs met (safety, security, shelter, food, clothing) along with some toys and activities that were more conducive to his behaving appropriately such as books, journals, drawing pad/pencil, activity books, music of my choice (wordless, soft, soothing) and puzzles (legos got too noisy and it was amazing where those little buggers ended up!) We "removed" him from all family activities that weren't essential NOT as a punishment but to remove him from anxiety provoking situations or wherever he couldn't handle himself accordingly. We didn't let him be with any of the other children unsupervised even for a minute and when we did allow him to interact with the other kids we reminded him up front of the expectation and removed him immediately when he couldn't act accordingly. We also left him home whenever the rest of the kids went to a social activity and he even lost his extracurricular activities (scouting and football.)

Yes, he was upset and angry. Yes, he acted out even more for a little while BUT when he saw we were serious and not budging he started working a little harder to get some things back. We also noticed almost immediately that despite his anger he was actually calmer and more relaxed. I realized that what we did was take the pressure off. I thought we had done that already in lots of other ways prior to the grounding but in fact it was still too much for him to handle. We made his world really, really small and it helped. Of course we had one really huge obstacle which was that none of what was happening at home was reinforced at school so our biggest challenges were after school. More things started slipping through the cracks (homework not brought home, acting out in class, etc.) but we just explained that the people at school weren't as invested as we were in him being successful so they weren't going to go the extra mile to take away the stressors. We are just biding our time until school ends and we are confronting the very real possibility that he needs to be homeschooled.

Over time we are slowly introducing some things that might be considered what Leslie calls part of the "luxury package." She says a "luxury package" is the basic package plus those things kids don't need but are great to have such as parties, meals out, driving them to activities, etc. In our case the luxury package includes playing with other kids, playing with toys that need extra care, participating in family night games/movies, and at one point even included sitting at the dinner table with the rest of the family. As Tortuga has shown good family behaviors (well done chores without complaining or attitude, kindness towards his siblings, helpfulness, and even cooperation when he doesn't really want to do something) we have added some of the pieces of what she might call the "luxury package".

Baby steps... but we are slowly seeing small progress and I like him a little more.

Katharine Leslie has a webinar scheduled for June 18 "Parenting From the Trenches," 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm eastern time. (Click the title of the webinar to go to her website then look to the right hand column under announcements for details.)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Downhill slide

Corazon hasn't been able to recoup/regroup. She keeps digging a deeper hole for herself and I see no sign of her getting out for a little while. She goes to a school that prioritizes athletic schedules for the gymnast so it has a "no homework" policy unless students manage not to finish their in school work. She has managed to not have homework for over a month except for ongoing projects. Friday she came home with a long list of homework for the weekend. Turns out she hasn't done ANY of her work this entire week and it is a substantial amount of schoolwork. The teachers sent me an email just in case she didn't share the information. To her credit she did share that she had homework because she "hadn't finished Friday's work" but failed to mention that it was the work for the entire week and that she is sneaking reading instead of doing her work. I should have known. She lost reading privileges here on Tuesday so it would explain her need to sneak at school. So, I informed her that she could spend the whole weekend doing her homework and nothing else. Yesterday she did one out of 4 math assignments and she wrote 8 (out of 50) vocabulary word definitions. She started her work at 9 a.m. and went to bed at 8:30 p.m. Except for tapping, bathroom breaks and food she didn't do anything else. Gotta hand it to her. She is stubborn. She kept trying to get my attention if I went anywhere near her and I did a really good job of ignoring her.

I spent my day rearranging the boys' sleeping arrangements. I am probably going to regret it but I needed to try something else for the summer because Milagro is almost ready for her own room and we get the daughter of a friend of mine for the summer. Each of the three older kids has their own room and the toddler sleeps with us. Technically she shares a room with Pollito but she prefers sleeping in our room and when we have put her in there he bothers her a great deal. He will wake her and he cannot seem to keep his hands away from her. She is sending signals that she is ready to sleep in her own bed/room but we don't trust him with her right now especially because he tends to be quite aggressive towards her. She will not sleep in the crib which offers some protection but loves the toddler bed. So, we needed to figure out a different arrangement. Both boys are afraid of the dark, hate having their own rooms and wet the bed so their respective rooms reek of urine no matter what I do. They shared a room when we lived in Boston. So, I decided to move them in together which I know isn't great for RAD kids but I need to try something else. Their room looks good. Metal bunk beds with a bed tent for Pollito, two small dressers, 2 lamps and 2 beanbag chairs. The kids were both THRILLED that I made the changes and kept thanking me. Should I be scared? Most likely, I will regret it and just have to change it around again.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sometimes following through is so hard...

On Tuesday I got a cryptic email from Tortuga's teacher letting me know he was bringing a note home. I dread those. Turns out he stole someone's snack at school (although he fessed up pretty quickly.) He took something he doesn't like and he wasn't even hungry. I reminded him he would need to do restitution (twice whatever is stolen), write an apology letter to child and us, and that he was jeopardizing going to field day on Friday if he couldn't pull it together. He was also going to miss out on going to the school book fair on Thursday which he really wanted to attend. He was mad! He yelled at me and was belligerent and refused to do it. I told him he could go to bed instead BUT he would miss dinner if he made that choice. I have only let him miss dinner once in the two years he has been with our family because I know food was/is a big issue for him but I fully expected him to do what he needed to do to make this right and I reminded him how serious this was. He just couldn't get it together and he didn't get it done but instead chose to rant, rave, cry, scream, run away (to the front yard) and get himself sent to bed without dinner. It took everything I had to not change my mind and bring him dinner but I really needed to make the point. I realized that recently he has been using getting sent to bed to avoid taking responsibility even when there is a relatively "quick fix." So I upped the ante. It seemed to work and on Wednesday night he did everything he was supposed to do and he was working to keep his attitude towards me in check.

What is it they say about great laid plans? We had made great plans for Thursday (yesterday.) C. and I were taking the boys to the book fair at their school in the afternoon to get new books. Then we were going to get their favorite takeout and drop them off at my sister's house for the night to hang out with their uncle. The girls (Corazon, Milagro, C & I) were having a "girls' night out" and going out to dinner then off to an Indigo Girls concert. It was planned as a surprise for everyone because the kids don't do well with advance notice on anything. We take Corazon to see the Indigo Girls each year and it is one of her favorite music groups (ours too.) Of course, I took away Tortuga's book fair but we could still do the rest with him, right?

So, yesterday I go to pick up Corazon from school. I had pulled out her old Indigo Girls concert t-shirt so she could wear it to the concert and I was still planning on taking Pollito to the book fair before getting the girls ready to go to dinner/concert. She hops into the car and we see her teacher leaving the school Her teacher comes to the car and asks her if she has given me "the note." Corazon feigns surprise ("what note?") and teacher directs her to run back up to the classroom to get it and fills me in on a relatively minor incident at school that Corazon was asked to tell her parents about in a note and return it to school signed by her parents. She hands me a note that says almost nothing about what she did except that something got torn and that the teacher expects me to sign the piece of paper BUT in the space for my signature there is a big black markout. I ask what it is and I get the following, IN ORDER:

"What mark?"
"Uhmm...I think it was there before I wrote the note."
"Uhmm...let me look at it. What the... someone must have written on it and crossed it out."
"Mom, I left it on my desk and I think someone thought it was theirs and wrote on it."
"Oh, I remember, my friend signed it as a joke, and I had to cross it out."
"Mom, I don't know what it is. Believe me. I am telling the truuuuuuth!"

Yep, six times, and still no admission of anything. I calmly said to her that we needed to tell her teacher about these people writing on her stuff and walked her over to her teacher's car. At this point Corazon is bawling and I am pissed off quite upset but staying calm. She doesn't want to face her teacher but since I am trying to get her teacher to understand some of these behaviors and I wanted Corazon to face this I stood my ground. The teacher was great! Very stern, told her she was disappointed, reminded her of the story they are reading in school about taking responsibility and how much worse things get when compounded by further lies, etc. She also told her parents and teachers know better and we are too smart to fall for tricks like she tried to pull. In the process I overheard that Corazon had told everyone she was going to the book fair to get new books that evening. I realized she had read the boy's school papers because I had only spoken about it with Tortuga and she hadn't been home when it happened. So, I confront her and tell her we both know she signed the note with my name on it because she thought she would miss the book fair I hadn't told her she was going to. To which she replied with the biggest attitude I have seen from her in a while "yeah! you are right. I knew Ms. ___would know and I would get in bigger trouble but I didn't care. I would still have gone to the book fair already so I would get what I wanted even if I got in trouble later!!!" With that we drove home in silence with me fuming but keeping my cool.

When we got home I made her sit outside to "think" while I went inside to think. It was 86 degrees outside so I was trying to make her uncomfortable too. I told C. what happened and we strategized to see if we could figure out how to reconcile still letting her go to the concert. I wanted so badly to justify it but knew it would send the wrong message not just to her but to her teachers if she went to school tomorrow having gone to the concert. We made the painful decision to not take her but then couldn't figure out what to do with 3 kids staying with my sister because she cannot handle them all in her home (setup is not conducive to what they needed.) After reaching my sister on the phone we were able to change plans and have her come here to babysit but we didn't get to go out to dinner. She was clearly upset that she was missing this and kept saying she wished she could start over. I had her practice what she would have done differently and she did fine. I praised her then sent her to bed at 6p.m. I felt terrible. I so wanted this to be differently but in my heart I knew we couldn't take her. She was so very sad but I think I was even sadder. This is so hard sometimes.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I can't believe I am writing about potty issues

In parenting my four children I have learned more about bathrooms and potty issues than I ever thought I would be forced to learn need to know. Feel free to skip this post. It's all about peeing just because I am annoyed with this and wanted to vent so I could get it out of my system.

We are still having potty issues with the older kids. Not as bad as they used to be but I am tired of it all. Corazon FINALLY stopped the mad peeing (and I do mean peeing just because she was mad) at the drop of a hat. All of a sudden all those peeing issues went away this past summer and it has been almost a year since we had this issue with her. That kid spent every summer including part of last summer when she was almost 8 in pullups and diapers whenever we left the house because of her "pee at will" behaviors. If we sent her to bed early she wet the bed INSTEAD of going to the bathroom. If we sent her to her room and she didn't want to go, she would pee all over the floor. If we took away a privilege, she peed on herself, her clean laundry, or whatever was nearby. In the middle of talking to her about something she didn't want to hear, she would just open her legs and pee right there on the spot regardless of whether we were at home or in public. Then as soon as we moved to Texasit stopped. It was like she was ready to give it up and never looked back. HOWEVER, we are still having the issue that she won't flush after using the bathroom and she doesn't wipe regularly. What is that about? She must wash "questionable" clothing and she gets to clean the toilet whenever she "forgets" to wash. Any thoughts? Suggestions?

Tortuga has other issues but bedwetting wasn't one of them. He just turned 10 but in the 9 months that we have lived in Texas he started wetting the bed at night. Sometimes he sleeps right through it which is a good sign because he didn't start sleeping soundly and through the night until we moved. Other times though he claims that he knows he has to pee but he doesn't feel like getting up to go to the bathroom so he says he "chooses" to "pee just a little"and sometimes "more comes out" onto his sheets. He balks at changing his sheets because "he only peed a little" and he will leave his dirty clothes in the middle of his clean clothes. His room reeks of urine no matter how often I change the sheets or clean the room. Thank goodness he hasn't been too much of a creative pee-er since he first came but at that time we were dealing with the bigger issue of poop withholding and major constipation which we gratefully eliminated (no pun intended) in about 4 months. Now he just uses the toilet to "hang out" on and he will spend 45 minutes sitting there just because he can. I won't even try to discuss the handwashing without soap or without water depending on the day and the refusal to use toilet paper. Yikes.

Pollito is almost five and is my current mad pee-er. He has been resistant to giving up diapers since our first attempts at potty training about a year and a half ago when he turned 3. He never seemed/seems to notice if he is wet or not, whether he was wearing a diaper, pullup, underpants or nothing at all. I didn't work too hard at the potty training before he was 3 1/2 because it seemed to cause him too much stress. When we did start being more "aggressive" about it I used gentle approaches (never punishing or chastising, always praising effort, etc.) We set up potty chairs all over the house, got potty books, special toys for when he was sitting there, sticker charts, etc. You name it, we did it with limited success. He would jump off the potty and announce he had peed or pooped and even when we looked and had him look at an empty potty he would emphatically declare that he had indeed done something in the potty. We had a pediatrician check him out to make sure there were no problems and he came up clear. So we waited and kept encouraging him and continued to clean up after him. After a looong time we could finally trust that he wouldn't pee during the day but nights still required pullups. He was almost four so we were thrilled to be able to send him to pre-K (with a couple of changes of clothing, just in case.) All was good for a couple of months so we tried (again) to teach him more of the potty basics for a boy. He was APPALLED that we expected him to pee standing up! "I am NEVER going to do that!" he declared and he hasn't. At least, not in the toilet. However, he did discover that peeing standing up had its benefits when he was upset with us so suddenly we had pee in all the unusual places--plants, hallways, rugs, bathroom doorways, dresser drawers (not just the bottom one!), toys with receptacles, laundry baskets--you get the picture. And, if he was mad because he didn't get his way, we were bound to find pee in some of those places. Yet, to this day, he still denies that he can pee standing up even when he is caught literally with his pants down and in the act. Then we have the issue of his refusing to let us know he needs to use the bathroom and just going "on the spot." Even when we take him at regular intervals, he won't always go and wait until afterwards. He will also resist going to the bathroom and deny needing to use it even when he is grabbing himself and doing the pee dance. I started thinking that maybe this was also a sensory issue for him. (He has some others.) Maybe he really couldn't tell when the urge to go was upon him. Maybe he really couldn't feel the wet (pullups didn't help.) I won't even talk about how much pee there is in his bed at night (how does it get into his hair?) no matter how often I take him in the middle of the night or how much we restrict food/drink after dinner. So, for the last couple of weeks, we have been absolutely THRILLED that he actually seems to have stopped peeing in all the unusual places and is now peeing in the potty during the day but still soaking his bed (and himself) at night. Baby steps.

My youngest (20 month old)loves the potty and is a cheerleader to anyone's efforts in the potty--"ready?....set....GO!" she announces as any of us head for the bathroom. She will happily announce anyone's potty business --"Mama peeeeeed!!!" or take credit for someone else's potty business --"I pooped!"--even when she was nowhere near the potty. She has even shown some early signs of self awareness in bringing us a diaper to change her, pointing to her diaper to tell us it needs a change, pointing to her bum and declaring "STINKY!", and occasionally removing her diaper and putting herself on the potty to pee (AND asking for toilet paper afterwards!) After each of these times she will ask for a wipe or want to go to the sink to wash her hands. She has recently taken to "hiding" when she is going to poop and I find it charming and amusing. Of course, she keeps everything in her diaper so I haven't yet had to worry about WHERE her potty business is. So far, it seems like she might just be the first one of my kids to be fully potty trained and have good bathroom hygiene before age 5 or 6.

C. just reminded me that we used to live in a house with 1 bathroom and "hinted" that I should be grateful that we don't have to share a bathroom with them. She is right. Grateful I truly am...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Toddler Love

I have to admit it. I am totally smitten with Milagro. She is such a complete little person and she is growing so very, very fast. Her language and observation skills are developing so much. The other day we were at Tortuga and Corazon's football game and she was playing with Pollito. The sky was a glorious blue with very few clouds. Suddenly she looked up and noticed a big, fluffy cloud and I told her it was a cloud. "Cowd!" she declared and motioned for me to take a picture. I obliged.

She went back to her playing and a few minutes later she looked up and pointed to the same cloud and said "Oh. Oh." then looked across the sky and with a puzzled look asked "Cowd?" I assured her it was and took another picture.

She continued playing and then stopped to check out the sky again. This time she questioned me by asking with her hands up in the air "Where cowd?" I pointed to it and she seemed confused and said "No." I assured her it was the same cloud changing shape right before our eyes. She wanted me to take a picture so I did. Then she checked out the image and seemed satisfied with the image but the puzzled look didn't completely leave her face.

She didn't seem to believe me so she sat down at my feet and settled into looking up to the sky at the cloud. It continued to change shape until it disappeared and I heard her say "Bye-Bye Cowd" before she said to me "Wowwwwww!"

Last night at about 3 a.m. I noticed her diaper was soaked and even though I didn't want to wake her, I didn't want a mess in my bed (yes, she sleeps with us) so I turned her over onto her back and changed her diaper. She barely woke up and I repositioned her on the bed and settled back into sleep. About a minute passed and then she suddenly bolted upright and exclaimed "MOM! ... Thank you!" Then she went right back to sleep. What manners!

This afternoon she was taking a nap on the couch in the family room so I sat at the breakfast table so I could be nearby. She doesn't like to wake up from her nap and find herself alone in a room. I didn't hear her wake up and suddenly I heard her yell "MOM!"and turned to see her hop off the couch and frantically look for me. I called to her and she ran towards me. She jumped into my lap, threw her arms around me and then said "love you." Awwww. I always melt when she says that but this time I was overwhelmed with an incredible feeling of gratitude and pure unadulterated LOVE. I cannot explain the power of that feeling at that exact moment but I just started crying. She still had her arms around me and I held her tight. She pulled away and touched my face then she said "love you" and gently patted my shoulder. Absolutely priceless. I am such a sap!

Thursday, May 14, 2009


My dear friend P. left Tuesday after a brief 6 day visit with us. She is one of my dearest friends and housemate from Boston. We surprised all the kids last Thursday by not telling them she was coming and just showing up at their school pickups. They were thrilled! Pollito saw her and gasped! His teacher was shocked to hear that and then he just ran and jumped into her arms! He smiled from ear to ear. Tortuga did a double take and then had to pull her car door open to give her a hug, even though we were in the drop off lane and holding up traffic. Corazon was leaving her gym and ran into P. at the restroom and couldn't believe her eyes. She just beamed as she came out to the car with her. It is wonderful to see the kids so happy to see someone and it genuinely looks like they have formed a strong attachment to her over the time we were in Boston together. They spent the whole weekend vying for her attention and sharing all the significant things they could recall. Even Milagro warmed up pretty quickly and recognized that she was special. She would prop herself in P.'s lap whenever we were all sitting in the family room winding down. It was precious to hear her say "love you Po" which was the closest she could get to saying her full name.

Having P. here was great for me because this was C.'s "hell days" as she wraps up her teaching and her coursework. She provided me with company, an extra pair or hands, and was able to give the kids some one-on-one attention. She also babysat Milagro and made it possible for me to chaperone one of Corazon's field trips. We went to see "Earth" with her class. It was really nice to observe her behaving very much like a regular kid. She was so happy I was there and it helped her relax and just be. Even her teacher commented on how calm and centered she seemed. I gave her some space but got to "spy" on her and recognize what a great kid she is. We were eating lunch at Subw*y and one of the chaperones, a grandma, was entering after everyone else. She had her hands full and Corazon leaped up from her lunch to go open the door for her even though she was probably at a table farthest from the door. When finished eating she came over to my table and cleared my trash and that of the 2 other adults at the table without being asked. She offered to buy me something at the movie snack bar with her money. Lastly, they had about 45 minutes after the movie to "shop" and she asked if she could buy something she'd been wanting for awhile in one of the stores. Next thing I knew she had picked out two stuffed animals (Webk*nz). One was for her and the other for Milagro. She insisted on paying for them with her own money even though it depleted her cash. I have such a generous kid! All in all we had a good day and she thanked me for coming along. I wonder how long that will last.

P. and I have an easy relationship where we can tell each other most things and question each other and not get upset with one another if we say something that sounds too critical or that we completely disagree with. I miss her. Yet I also had to realize that I don't miss our lives in Boston too much. I miss my friends and my close colleagues. I miss teaching and having a place to go, like work, without the kids constantly interrupting me. I miss the intellectual and academic stimulation of my work and my students. All of these are important but I don't miss too much else. I like the pace of our lives here. I like that people are more pleasant, warmer, friendlier and generally more relaxed. It makes my kids (and me) that way too. I notice that we don't "rush" as often, get caught in hellish traffic no matter what time of day, and we take time to stop to chat with neighbors, go for ice cream, or make a quick run to the grocery store without it feeling like a major outing or inconvenience. I know some of it is that I am not working full-time and have only a little consulting work to do so most of the time I can focus on them, their needs, and the household stuff. But, it is also the culture of this place. I am not ready to say I like everything about being back in Texas because nothing could be farther from the truth. Yet, I had to admit, this agrees with us. All of us, except maybe C. who I think suffers the greatest culture shock. The kids love being here even though they can't articulate why that is. But I get it because I feel it too.

When P. said goodbye to the kids it was telling. Pollito teared up and got very sad and clingy with me. Corazon cried. Tortuga didn't seem affected by it at all. I am noticing that more and more with him. Besides me, he doesn't seem to care one way or the other if people are around or not. That saddens and scares me. I know it's only been 2 years and he had a whole other life before us and has limited experience living with a family so maybe I expect too much too soon.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to ALL you great moms out there!!!

My day started out with a text message wishing me a good day from Corazon's birthmom. That was different and not what many of us might expect but it was definitely special. I think it speaks to the nice connection we have been able to develop and maintain. She was happy that she got the cards and two photo albums we sent with hundreds of pictures of Corazon throughout 2008. I usually send it out for Christmas but...I was a bit behind. :) This year I was so happy to get all my cards out on time to friends and family and of course, my mother didn't get my card. Then she didn't get the gift I ordered for her even though I paid extra to have guarenteed delivery on Friday. Oh well.

Pollito and Corazon made cards and gifts at school for me and presented them on Friday since neither can keep a secret. They were little flower pots with flowers from Pollito and a little flower vase with "candy" flowers from Corazon. They each attached some nice notes with the help of their teachers. We celebrated by going out to brunch and made a bad choice for the restaurant. Everything from ambiance to service to food was mediocre to bad but the kids were well behaved so it made it ok.

Corazon's card to me read as follows:
"Dear Mom, You are the best mom there is! You are always there to cheer me up. You will always be beautiful. Even when you're old! Thank you for being my mom. Love, ______ Happy Mother's Day!"

The highlight was a handmade card from Tortuga (who has treated me like dirt for the past week or so.) He did some wonderful and thoughtful drawing of some of my favorite things on his card which said the following:

"Dear Mom,
I will have to pay you back because I don't have anything to give you. So the only thing I will give you is LOVE and RESPECT on MOTHER'S DAY. Happy Mother's Day Mommy! Love, ____ P.S. THANK you for taking care of me and LOVING me!"

He then proceeded to be rude, disrespectful and generally annoying. Oh well. I suppose it is the thought that counts!

Otherwise, it actually was a pretty good day! Hope y'all had a good one.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Have I been in denial? ...

Pollito is showing some classic signs of being a normal 3 1/2 year old (except that he is 4 1/2 but that's OK.) He is also showing some disturbing RAD like behaviors that are not present in my two older kids although some were present before in them. So my questions to myself are: How did I miss this? and Am I jumping to conclusions? Some examples:

He is a chatterbox. Has been for about a year which has really helped his language skills. Trouble is he doesn't ever stop now and I mean ever. It used to be ongoing prattle about his day, asking questions, talking about what he saw, etc. Kid stuff. But these days it is LOUD and nonsense chatter is incessant. Asks questions about the obvious: "Are we having dinner" in the middle of eating dinner? "Is this a car" as he sits in one. Etc. Etc. Etc. We get in the car and he starts up. Sometimes it is just noise, sometimes words, but mostly nonsense. Did I say it never stops. I do mean that. Even if I tell him to put his hand over his mouth he continues. The volume is deafening and can be heard from far and wide. It's not screaming but it might as well be.

Then there is the hitting and hurting of his 1 1/2 year old sister. He has never been a hitter or shown any real aggression or meanness towards anyone that I know of. Right now he is in school so I could pass it off as something he has learned there. It could be true except that the hitting is disturbing because it is not out of anger or frustration. It's a "crime" of opportunity AND he looks to see if I am watching before he does it so it isn't quite so impulsive. Lastly, it is done without any expression on his face. He also does things like pull chairs away just as Milagro is about to sit down or put big toys behind her so she trips or bumps into them. He will put his foot out or hand out to trip her as well. He also tries to "feed" her things (like rocks, lint, cat food and cat poop)when they are playing. He uses a sweet little voice to coax her into doing it. Again, there is no expression and he denies it even if he knows we saw him do it. I hadn't really registered that until I read a post by The Accidental Mommy addressing a similar thing. Then I started being more vigilant and have now witnessed two dozen or more incidents so it is a pattern.

He is getting sneaky and telling more fibs but that could just be 4 year old stuff. Yet, he lies most elaborately when caught with the evidence in his hand then just has a meltdown. He is peeing out of anger. Really. In interesting places. Other people's places. Not an ounce of impulse control these days, destroys everything, . He rolls his eyes when he apologizes, makes "mean" faces at people (not just his siblings), and so on. Did I mention his interest in fire? Hadn't noticed that one before.

I have been vigilant with him since he came at 2 1/2 because he exhibited lots of sensory issues and hated to be hugged, wiped kisses off his face, raged often, had been neglected by birth mom, and had been moved twice in his first 2 years of life. I showered him with love and affection. He was/is a little guy so I carried him around in a sling, co-slept, swaddled him, babied him, bottle fed him, spoon fed him, etc. We had a chance to do most of the baby bonding thing with him because of age, size and developmental level. Granted, given the other kids' needs, he doesn't get as much one on one as he could. So I keep watching and trying to be proactive and try not to worry because it could be normal stuff. Plus he has been around it so much that who knows maybe he thinks it's what he is supposed to do around here. :)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I am working on a couple new posts but keep getting interrupted by more pressing matters. It's been a busy week with average everyday struggles. In the meantime I am posting information about a fabulous opportunity to participate in a Katharine Leslie webinar. She's really got some great experience and information to share so if you have 90 minutes on May 18th from 10-11:30 a.m. CST please consider signing up for "Parenting from the Trenches." Here's the info as passed along by Lisa over at Life in the Grateful House.

Katharine Leslie is going to be doing a webinar. May 18th. 10 AM to 11:30 AM CST. $30.00 Grab all your fellow Radical moms, invite them over for tea, and split the cost. Continuing education credits will be issued if you need/want them. Dr. Leslie presents at Attach every year and gets rave reviews. Also a parent to radicals which gives her big stars in my book. ;-) She doesn't "get it", she lives it.

Parenting from the Trenches
Do you have a child who lies, steals, sneaks, stalks, hordes, chatters non-stop, or urinates in places other than the potty, etc? In this webinar Dr. Leslie will teach you essential, sensible, safe and effective solutions to your child's behavior problems that can also increase positive behaviors in your child, create an attachment friendly environment, simplify daily life, reduce family conflict, and even get some of your parental needs met. Dr. Leslie will weave lecture material around questions from the audience.

AGENDA (This is a 90 minute Webinar)
  • Quick overview of attachment and brain facts
  • What children are supposed to give to the parent-child relationship
  • What do you really want from your child?
  • Preventing negative behaviors
  • Rehearsing positive behaviors
  • Punishment vs consequences: What's good for you?
Click here to sign up: Parenting from the Trenches

Friday, May 1, 2009

"Smooth Sailing" to Corazon's Adoption

October 2006--This is the last installment in Corazon's adoption story. Previous installments can be found here. Of course, our story continues throughout this blog.

16 months after our journey began, all systems were "go" for the adoption once everyone signed on the appropriate dotted lines and all papers were filed. Of course it was now summer so it was difficult to get people to schedule the adoption. We were further impacted by the judge's request that she "officiate" at the finalization. I know most of the social services people had NO desire to have her involved any further in this process so we joked about selecting dates when she would be on vacation. I really didn't care. We had waited so long that it just didn't matter as long as we could finalize. We had some delays because of vacations, summertime and then on my end because the first date offered in September was the first day of school, the second date offered was 9/11 and we finally settled on October 3, 2006 in that judge's courtroom.

That morning it poured! The rain was intense so traffic downtown was ridiculous. We managed to get to the courthouse as the skies cleared up a little and we got a couple of pictures outside the courthouse. As we waited inside the group of people who would be joining us arrived. We had scheduled a HUGE celebration so we didn't invite many people to the courthouse. I was the only one adopting Corazon (long story) but C. was there as was our friend and housemate P. Another close friend who was to be Corazon's godmother was also there. It was actually funny when we started seeing the social services people arrive. There were the two social workers who had handled my homestudy, there were 3 of Corazon's social workers over the years, the mother's social worker, 3 supervisors and the social services attorney! It was clear there were so many people anxious to see this happen that several of them had taken time off just to be there and be able to go out to lunch with us after the adoption. We were so grateful.

The scheduled time for the adoption came and went and we weren't called into the courtroom. After 30 minutes, the social services attorney went to see what the issue was. The judge was no where to be found! Another 30 minutes passed and it was determined that the judge had a personal emergency and would not be coming. There was talk of rescheduling due to the large volume of court business. The look on my face said it all. When the social services attorney saw my face she told everyone to hang tight because she had an idea. Within minutes they were clearing another courtroom and we were being ushered in. Turns out she was friendly with one of the other judges and when she told him our plight he offered to do the adoption for us. We quickly went in and started the process. As it turned out the judge recognized Corazon from her previous year's performance in "Black Nativity." He was very thoughtful and engaged with Corazon and the rest of us. He took one look at the number of social service folks in the room and commented that he would love to know the story behind "this one" and he recognized that there were many people invested in seeing this adoption through.

With a few signatures and the banging of a gavel, we legally became what our hearts knew all along we were meant to be. This part of our journey came to an end EXACTLY 20 months from the day it began.

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