Monday, June 29, 2009

On the road again...

The kids continue to do really well on this trip. Some RADish behavior from Corazon but easy to redirect for the most part. We spent the morning and early afternoon visiting a family member of C.'s in NJ. She runs an amazing wildlife refuge, and treated the kids to a behind-the-scenes tour. They had done most of this before but it never ceases to thrill them. I am so impressed by their questions. Tortuga and Corazon love to learn. Tracy was very impressed with their behavior and questions. We hadn't seen her in about 16 months and she commented that Tortuga just seems to be so happy and calm. She found him engaging and thoughtful and teased him when he said he wanted to work there. He does love animals. She noted how different he is from a year ago and it was good to be reminded. It isn't that we don't notice the progress but we definitely see the challenges and can sometimes get so weighed down by them. It helps to be reminded and to hear that the positive changes are so notably visible.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Departure Delay and some Happy Times

We had planned on leaving Boston Friday morning. Thursday was the first day we got a break from the constant rain so we spent it with friends lounging in their backyard and pool. The kids were thrilled and behaved beautifully! This was to be our last day but that evening I FINALLY heard back from the boys' birth mother. She agreed to see us Friday morning. So we postponed our departure and planned on a morning visit with her and an afternoon whale watch. That morning, she called to cancel (and reschedule for Saturday) so C. took Tortuga and Corazon to Fenway Park instead.

Then we all headed out to Gloucester, MA (remember the movie "The Perfect Storm") only to get to there and find that the trip was cancelled. Everyone, especially C., was disappointed but we regrouped and headed to Rockport with its art galleries, quaint shops and calm beach. The two older kids had their first lobster rolls and everyone sampled too much fudge and taffy.

I woke up Saturday praying that the boys' birth mother wouldn't call to cancel. I hadn't told the boys anything about the visit just in case it didn't happen. When I spoke to their mother she seemed nervous and yet determined to make the visit. She noted she is on probation again and continues to have multiple challenges. We all drove to her neighborhood and I called her as soon as the time came and went and we didn't spot her. We had decided that I would take the boys on the visit and C. would take the girls to breakfast. So there we sat waiting in a clinic parking lot hoping that she would show. She called to say she was down the street so I took the boys out of the van and C. left. I was so excited that I didn't mind that she was late. Tortuga was clearly happy to see her and Pollito was just upset he couldn't go with the girls.

We spent about an hour and a half and I could tell Tortuga was happy although not in a clingy way as he had been about a year ago. Pollito was not happy and he was very confused because she focused her attention on him. She kept asking him to call her "mommy" and telling him she was his mom. Tortuga seemed to recognize more of the challenges she was having and even corrected her when she called me their "foster mother." She was clearly very touched to see them and expressed her joy and gratitude several times. There were a few awkward moments but nothing we couldn't get past including her finding out my spouse was a woman (which I had mentioned before). At the end of the visit she handed me a small photo album with baby pictures of the boys! I had asked her for these in the past but this was the first time she brought them. I almost cried when I saw that there were some of Tortuga since I have no pictures of him before age 8. She said I could keep them! Priceless! Definitely worth the travel delay!

After the visit Tortuga seemed calmer and more relaxed and very clingy towards me. We went on that whale watch and had an absolute blast despite the nippy weather on the water. We saw some humpback whales and the kids LOVED it! We even got some close looks at a whale calf so that Pollito and Milagro could enjoy the experience although Pollito was being a bit of a pain. At one point, when one whale was literally right below us so that we had great views of him, Pollito started jumping up and down and SCREAMING "the pee is coming, the pee is coming!" So, I had to stop in the middle of this glorious display of whales to take him to the bathroom! I was not happy especially when the whole incident could be summed up by saying "high drama, low production". As if to rub it in that I had missed out Milagro ran to me as we returned to the deck and excitedly exclaimed with her hand to her chest "Mom, the wayyyyyle said hi to meeeeeeee!"

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Corazon and I went out to lunch with her mother today and we had a good time. Her mother and I have an easy relationship and Corazon is pretty comfortable around both of us. She hasn't gotten to the point where she has too many questions about her mother. Perhaps because of the fact that she doesn't have any conscious recollection of living with her, combined with the RAD, she seems to accept that she doesn't live with her mother as perfectly "normal." Her mother and I caught up on our lives much as old friends would. I heard about her job, health, husband, her two adult children and the one still in foster care and in an RTC. I heard about her extended family, her mother's health problems, recent issues with her sisters, money issues and future plans to move out of state. I saw recent pictures of extended family member and she handed us recent pictures of family gatherings along with some horror stories involving some of those folks. I talked about all our new home, the kids, school, my consulting work and C. who couldn't make the visit because of an orientation to her new job (that's a whole different story to save for another post). We even discussed whether we should "have" more kids. She thinks Milagro shouldn't be the only bio-kid with so many adopted ones so she has her heart set on us "having" another one. She is also the one who has pushed us to consider adopting her granddaughter who is currently in foster care. This visit she shared more bad news about that situation. Her granddaughter's mom is still having a hard time sticking to her rehab program. Her 21 year old son is the child's father is currently on probation. It is a question whether either of them will get their 3 year old back (they arent together) and we are letting that process evolve before we commit to taking her. Corazon's sister is turning 20 in a few weeks and has an 18 month old. She just moved back from SC to MA with her husband. It seems that has become an abusive situation but she insists on staying with her husband. I had called both of Corazon's siblings about our visit to the area but neither of them was able to schedule time to see her. She did talk to both of them on the phone while we were having lunch with her mother. We were not able to get the 12 year old social worker to arrange a visit with her brother who is in residential treatment.

Corazon's mother showed me her tatoo which has the initials of all 4 of her children and she talked about being "resolved" and happy that Corazon was with us. She explained that her other children and even her husband think she is "crazy" that she can be so accepting of a friendship with me and they accuse her of not loving Corazon enough to hate not having her with them. She says she cannot explain to them that she loves her more than they can ever understand AND that it is because of that love that she has accepted that she believes Corazon is exactly where she should be. She misses her child tremendously but doesn't believe she could raise her and knows she messed up her child's life in many ways. She knows Corazon is loved and she knows I will always make sure Corazon knows that. She also knows she can call Corazon whenever she wants and that if she really needs to see her I will help make it happen. She said all of this to me in our conversation today and we both easily accepted the fact that we are both Corazon's mother and always will be. It is painful for me to see her in pain over the lives of her other children and also resolved to let those things be as they are. She doesn't believe she can do much to help or change her other children's situations and she feels she is helping Corazon's by supporting and developing the relationship with our family. It is an awkward position for me because I see the love, the pain and the sacrifice she makes and I hurt for her and the love it must take to believe this is the greatest love I have ever seen and experienced. It is also an awesome responsibility to be entrusted with raising another woman's child.

She brought a most precious gift. It was 3 pictures of Corazon as a baby. One taken when she was 6 months old and the other two when she was about 13 months old. I cried. We have no pictures of Corazon as a baby except for a faded group photo of a baby group she was in that the social worker found in her file. I think about the fact that I probably have over 1000 pictures documenting Milagro's less than two years of life but I have almost none of my other three children before they came to live with us. These 3 pictures are her ONLY pictures of Corazon and she gave them to me with the trust that I will keep them safe and copy them and send those back to her (which of course, I will!) These are her ONLY pictures of her baby girl and she trusts me with them in the same way she seems to trust me with her daughter. I was so very grateful and so very humbled.

We said goodbye as we dropped her off at home and I could see the tears in her eyes and the sadness and joy mixed together on her face. That image will stay with me for a very long time.

We pulled up to our house about an hour later and my cell phone was ringing. It was the paternal aunt who Corazon lived with on and off for 3 1/2 years. THIS is the person Corazon had some attachment to and the one she has abandonment issues with. I had called her as well to tell her we would be in town and to encourage a visit. She doesn't usually return my calls and we have seen her only twice in the last 4 years. She was excited to talk to Corazon on the phone but I encouraged her to come over and see us right then and there. She hesitated. I told her I knew she was still at work and we were only 10 minutes away. She caved and agreed to come over. I wish I could capture the sheer joy on Corazon's face when she saw her aunt. She was beaming and so was the aunt. We were supposed to be at a friend's house for a party in our honor but how could we leave? We visited with the aunt for about an hour and it was heartwarming and heartbreaking to see how happy they were to see one another. At the end of the visit we once again invited the aunt to come visit us in Texas. She ended the visit by slipping something into my hand--two pictures of Corazon as a baby. The first one shows her as a 7 or 8 month old sitting on a bed and the other is one taken of her at 5 months of age with her birth father. Both pictures are worn and show signs of being handled hundreds of times. They look like they have been carried inside a backpocket or wallet and looked at often. In fact, I believe it is the same two pictures she showed me but wouldn't part with three years ago when we first made contact with her.

But today, without another word, she passed them into my hands. I have no words to share what this act meant to me. I have no words to explain how much these five pictures mean.

Rain, Rain, Rain

It has rained the ENTIRE time we have been in Boston. This is highly unusual weather for Boston and while it puts a serious damper on our plans it seems to be a whole lot better than the 100+ degree weather they are experiencing back home in Texas. Of course this means the kids are a bit stir-crazy and they can't run around they way they need to. So far they have been handling it remarkably well. I decided to start our summer schooling while we were still on this trip and that seems to be working for Tortuga. He pores over his workbook and reading and enthusiastically tackles every assignment. He genuinely seems to be enjoying it and has spent 2-3 hours straight working on that and his reading with no interruptions excepts snacks and food. Corazon is a bit different. She is going to resist doing this work no matter what. Thus, she is spending more time missing out on family game time and movies each evening since those are basically the only activities we can do. Pollito continues to be confused about what we are up to and declares that he misses our "new house." His RAD-like behaviors continue to increase but I think it may be the combination of what he sees his siblings doing and his anxiety. Milagro is simply enjoying being with everyone and doesn't seem to be distressed by being away from home so long. She is funny though because she recognizes her old room and lots of her "baby stuff" that we still have here. (We are lucky to be staying in our old house where we still maintain a bedroom because of C.'s travel back and forth for work.) She saw her baby swing and immediately exclaimed with glee that it was "mine!" and then got into it. Other than that there isn't much baby left in her. She has become an avid storyteller as she recounts her day. When she doesn't have the word she uses visuals by pointed to items and acting them out. She had us in stitches last night over dinner as she described her stay at the babysitter's, playing with her toys, watching a morning cartoon and they basic story line, and her running around being silly with Pollito and her outing in the rain. She was so animated and comical but also impressive since we could follow the entire story AND see how many new vocabulary words she has. She is basically at a point where she repeats every single word and retains it so her spoken vocabulary is well over 200 words and she has more full sentences than we can keep track of. Yesterday she told me to "put the book down please," "I s(l)eep with you mom?" and "I go s(w)imming wit(h) my suit?" She hears how the other kids put their sentences together and imitates with surprising accuracy. It's both impressive and overwhelming at times.

Tomorrow we are seeing Corazon's mother. She is excited to see Corazon and I think Corazon will have a good time. Nothing yet from the boys' mother but I am still hoping we can see her.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Special Day

We baptized the children today. It was an amazingly beautiful and special event. We were surrounded by our dearest friends and the godparents for all 4 of our kids were present (see pic). It took an awful lot of coordinating and so much love to pull this together. So many special moments. Tortuga and Corazon were the only two who understood a little of what it meant and they were both so excited about the ceremony. They were very serious in listening to the minister as she spoke and when she baptized them their expressions were pricessless. Tortuga said it was his "best day ever!" His behavior was awesome. Pollito seemed to be taking it all in and got very quiet and serious. Milagro listened attentively as she was baptized and when I picked her up to hug her she excitedly said "agua" and pointed to her head. Then at the end of the prayer she shouted "AMEN!" :-) The most moving was Corazon. As she was baptized her eyes filled with tears and when she came to hug me she just held on tight and the tears were streaming down her face. She was clearly touched in a way we have not seen too often. My little girl has come such a long way!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Joy and Sadness

We spent 3 days in Scarsdale, NY with my college roommate and good friend. Corazon did beautifully. She loves playing with my friends daughters who are 9 & 10. The 10 year old is bossier than Corazon can be and the 9 year old adores Pollito and Corazon so it is a good combination of kids. It continues to be wonderful to see her when she can play so normally. The RAD stuff doesn't gear up much when she is with the girls and I so enjoy seeing her. The couple of times it appeared she seemed to get it right back under control after tapping and practicing patience (strong-sitting.) It truly warms my heart to see how happy and "normal" she can be.

It's hard for Tortuga because he wants to play with the girls and they are very accommodating BUT he cannot handle it too well so he gets carried away which leads to disruptive behaviors and "over-zealousness" which looks like aggression. Plus we are struggling with his "hatred" of both Pollito and Corazon. It galls him to see them having fun and it makes him mean, rude, and just plain unsafe. So we dealt with quite a bit of that. I finally got to the end of my patience with him so by the last evening there I declared that since he wouldn't listen to me I was done telling him what he could/couldn't do and thus C. was in charge of him. What that looks like is that she doesn't try to work with him to get him over difficult behaviors so she she puts him to bed early or makes him sit and read away from the others. He got quite a bit of that after I stopped dealing with him. By the time we got in the car to drive to Boston on Wednesday he was begging me to be in charge of him and promising to work harder to listen. :-) It didn't last longer than the 3 1/2 hour drive to Boston!

We arrived in Boston to a wonderful welcome in our old home. My dear friend lives there so we get to stay in the same place that the kids are familiar with the space. It is great for the kids to see their old rooms (and how they have changed). So far, they are doing really well. They each have commented on how happy they are to be here AND how much they prefer their new home. On Thursday we went strawberry picking but we decided to leave Tortuga with a sitter. He had sentences to write and his attitude was mean and disrespectful. We were going with a dear friend and her new baby and I just wanted the kids to have a good time. He was in a mood that just didn't seem to be conducive to having a good time.

C. & I took the three youngest. The day was overcast and it threatened to rain but we were committed to going and the kids were excited. The rain held off until just about the time we were finishing but we still had about a half mile walk back to the car. It poured just as we wrapped up so we got a little wet but we managed to laugh our way back to the car. The kids had a great time. Just about the time we were rushing back to the car it dawned on me how peaceful and pleasant our outing had been. The kids were cooperative, silly, helpful to one another and just seemed so relaxed and ready to enjoy the day. Milagro ate her way through the strawberry field and she is eating strawberries in every. single. picture. It made me so sad to realize how different it would have been if Tortuga had joined us in this excursion. Both C. & I realized how rarely we have these experiences and more importantly how rarely our kids have a chance to truly relax when we do things as a family. Both Pollito and Corazon pointed out that they wished Tortuga could have had fun too BUT they were glad he hadn't been with us. How do I create more of these opportunities that Tortuga cannot handle but that give the other kids a chance to be family kids who can enjoy one another and us without being as on edge as they clearly are whenever Tortuga is around? It makes me so very sad.

We are planning something really special for Saturday but I am not ready to share it yet. I will leave you with some pictures from our adventure pre-rain.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Visits with birth families

Part of this vacation includes returning to Massachusetts to visit with our children's birth families. We have a good relationship with Corazon's birth mom and sister and have an open adoption agreement that we have had no trouble adhering to. The agreement gives her birth mom one visit per year plus cards/letters twice a year and gives her birth sister (who is 20 years old) 2 visits a year with the stipulation that her sister submit psychological assessment at my request prior to a visit. I have the right to "deny" the sister a visit if she doesn't submit that assessment. Her sister relocated to another state and has the burden of meeting us in MA if she wants to schedule a visit. Luckily we have never had to deal with much of the letter of the agreement. When we still lived in MA we saw Corazon's birth mom every 6 weeks or so depending on what other special occasions were coming up. When her sister was in town she joined in on the mother's visits or called and spoke with Corazon on the phone. Since we relocated we made one quick trip to MA in September and made sure to visit with her birth mom. Since then we have kept in touch via mail, email, text messaging and phone calls. We have been planning this trip to maximize visiting time for Corazon with her mother so we will probably see her two or three times during our time in MA. Her sister is also in town so we will try to visit with her and her son (18 months) as well. Corazon is happy to see them all but she hasn't yet developed any real sense of them as her "family." She knows who they are but partly because she has almost no memories of living with them and partly because we have seen them often in the past 4 years they are like family friends to all of us. It feels very "natural" and doesn't seem to cause much anxiety or stress for her (or us). I think this will change as she grows older and begins to truly question her identity, roots, etc. I hope that by maintaining this contact as strongly and positively as possible we are giving her a chance to see her families as more integrated and connected rather than feel pulled in two separate directions. Only time will tell but that is our hope.

This visit also has an additional piece which is that we are seeing Corazon's niece (her 21 year old brother's 3 1/2 year old) who is currently in foster care. We have had periodic contact with the niece and her parents since she was born so Corazon especially has a slight connection to her. We have been approached as a potential family for her if the CPS goal changes from reunification to adoption. I refused to take her as a foster child because it would be too hard for our current kids. When they heard she was in foster care both Corazon and Tortuga insisted that we could "make room" for her and that she needed to be with us. Right now her mom isn't making adequate progress towards whatever CPS wants her to do (she has substance abuse issues combined with just being young) and we have opened the door for contact again. We will see where that goes.

The visit with Corazon's birth family will raise anxiety for Tortuga so we are trying to figure out whether we bring him to the visit or not. Either way he will know about it and I need to sort out which is better or worse. I have tried to schedule a visit with the boys' mother but she doesn't want to visit. Legally, we have a "closed" adoption with her but she and I stay in touch via telephone and I send pictures and letters whenever she is willing to talk with us. Our dilemma is that she wants to see Pollito but she doesn't want to see Tortuga. I have told her she needs to see them both if we visit and she isn't opposed to it but it isn't her preference. I think part of it is that Pollito is her "baby" and perhaps there is remorse when we consider that he is the one she had custody of for the longest time and he suffered the most neglect. Her favoritism towards the little one is apparent to all but Tortuga so when we do see her he doesn't notice her increased interest in Pollito. It is so sad because he loves and misses her so much. I don't know but it is hard to get Tortuga to understand that it is her choice. He believes with all his heart that I am the one who keeps him from her. While I have the "proof" that this isn't the case (her voicemail messages are clear) I believe it would be more painful for him to hear them and he still isn't ready to believe otherwise. So I will spend the next week or so calling her and seeing if she has changed her mind and regardless of whether we see her or not we will have fallout.

Friday, June 12, 2009


It has been an interesting few days. Milagro LOVES being with her grandparents and is particularly enamoured with their swimming pool. She has quickly added "I s(w)im," "I go s(w)imming," "S(w)im you, me" and "S(w)im agua now peeez(please)" to her language explosion. She is like a fish. No fear. Put her in one of those floating donuts and she paddles and kicks her way across the entire shallow end of the pool. She is so much fun to watch.

Pollito is also doing ok so far. We were the most anxious for him to make this return trip and the most concerned about how he would take it. He is showing some anxiety which looks like tantrums, crying, incessant talking/chattering nonsense and generally not doing what he is told to do. It increases when my attention is diverted so he will be playing nicely by himself or with Milagro and as soon as I start talking with anyone he gets loud, interrupts, cries, fights or does whatever it takes to get my attention. He is the one that has missed our home in Boston the most. The first four or five months he was literally pining for Boston. He talked of missing his room (he hated it when we lived there), his house, his yard, his babysitter and our friends. After the November/December holidays he really wanted to come to PA to visit with his grandparents and talked constantly of coming here. He is a bit confused about where home is so now he talks about going home to Boston and calls our Texas home our "old house." We will see what happens as we get to Boston. So, he is being pretty predictable and relatively manageable although annoying at times. He is happiest in the pool as well so we have obliged pretty much daily.

Tortuga is also quite happy to be with his grandparents. He enjoys the attention of his grandpa especially but every time he gets individual attention we have a grumpy kid to deal with afterwards. He gets moody, rude, disrespectful and just plain defiant once he has had any attention from an adult. It makes it challenging to let him go on walks with his grandpa or grandma because he is definitely a goner after that. All in all though he is managing ok as long as we can keep his grandparents "in check." He is also a quirky kid. He wanted to know if we would start homeschooling while on the trip and I asked if he wanted that and he said "yes." Since Corazon is doing these online bookclubs I went ahead and brought some work for him. Everytime I assign him something to do in the workbook he thanks me and declares that work is his favorite. Go figure.

Corazon is a special case. I am not sure what is going on with her. She has had moments of really good behavior but the past three days she did almost nothing beyond eat, sleep and use the bathroom because she cannot get her behavior under control. She did some damage to her grandparents' carpet and then covered it up. WHen she got caught we told her she needed to write an apology and the assigned her 40 sentences to help her remember to change certain behaviors around impulse control and sneaking. You would have thought we assigned a dissertation. She took 3 WHOLE days to complete those two tasks thus she missed swimming, eating out, walks with grandparents, movies (3 videos/3 nights.) I am wondering if there is too much anxiety bottled up in there. Even tapping was a major battle and didn't really seem to help. It may just be too much change and too much activity. School was crazy those last couple of weeks, then her teacher resigned, we pulled her out of school early, we drove cross country, are now at one of her favorite places and then there is the anticipation of going to Boston. It may just be too much for her. Either way she has been royally challenging and I feel so bad for her. I tried baby time, cuddling, having her work right next to me, etc. and all to no avail but she seemed to be ok after she finished the last of the sentences this morning.

We will be here another day and a half and then move on to New York to visit with my college roommate. Corazon is great friends with her girls who visited us back in February so I know this will either be great or an even greater disaster. We shall see. I am excited to see my friend and for the kids to get together as we make our way to Boston.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Almost there...

From the comfort of my king size bed with a sleeping four year old at my feet and an almost two year old's head on my lap, I finally have a chance to write. I posted what I wrote on Wednesday and Thursday below because I couldn't do it before now.

It has been a good drive thus far. Tennessee is really beautiful so I have been enjoying the skies, the lushness of the trees and of course the mountains. We are now settled into a lovely hotel room in Virginia, all the kids are showered, and we even had some family time. Milagro won the "best behaved" kid award today but all the kids got treat because we went to BK for dinner and the kids' meal prizes were Pokemon stuff so they were happy. They watched "Bolt" and "Wall-E" in the car today which made the last 3 hours go faster for them. We only have about 4 hours to go tomorrow so it should be a more leisurely drive to their grandparents. They are lovely people who adore the children and respect our rules. Spending the next week or so with them will be great fun for the kids since they will swim every day, go on long walks/hikes, fly kites, ride their scooters, and just hang out and get loved by their family. C. will be happy to see her folks and her brother too. I will be the only one not so thrilled to be spending my birthday with them instead of our friends in Boston as we originally planned. I don't enjoy the time with C. family as much because the kids have more meltdowns and tantrums and I have to be even more on my toes in dealing with them because their schedules/routines are off and of course, they have adult attention without our expectations. They will also vie for grandpa's time and attention and I will play referee and "bad guy" since we cannot let the two oldest do anything together if one of us isn't along. So that usually means I decide who goes and who stays and someone is always miserable. Nothing I haven't dealt with before just not fun for me.

C.'s parents really are nice people so I don't mind being around them but we have little in common. Plus they are "tolerant" and respectful of the two mom thing but they still struggle. C. came out to them when she was 19 and her mom didn't speak to her for almost a year. I think her mom still "mourns" what she hoped her daughter's future would be in a more "traditional" situation. I think she held out hope that C. would "become" straight at least until C. and I had the baby and got married. In a way Milagro helped them accept who C. is because she was able to have a baby which was in that traditional future her mom always envisioned for her. She likes me but doesn't quite know how to deal with me. Her dad respects me and is just more laid back so we have an easier interaction. It will all be fine and the kids will get to reconnect with family they really enjoy.

On a totally unrelated note, I am seeing more RAD-like behaviors in Pollito. Nothing extreme and not as bad as the other two but I am hoping it is just mimicking his older brother. I am just trying really hard to shower him with love and provide the structure he needs because I really don't think I am ready to deal with another RADish. Even one as cute and charming as this little guy!

Change of Plans -- June 4

June 4th -- 11:45 pm

I am writing this from my hotel room in Jackson, Tennessee. The kids are neatly tucked into their sleeping bags and/or sofa bed and the baby is finally asleep. Pollito has an ear infection and Milagro has a bad cold/cough and a yeast infection. The ear infection made Pollito's asthma act up (which it had been doing for a few weeks) so when I took him in to the doctor's change his asthma plan on Wednesday they discovered the ear infection. We would never have known since he hadn't shown any signs of discomfort. Except of course for tonight now that he knows he has to take medicine. We also took Milagro to the doctor's yesterday because she had a cough that wouldn't quit and a weird diaper rash (she almost never get that). Her doctor discovered the yeast infection. Despite all of that we decided to get on the road early today (Thursday) because C.'s younger brother is only going to be in PA until Monday. He is a college senior in Montana and C. and the older kids adore him so we got on the road at 6 a.m. today! (Good thing I am pretty organized and was mostly packed so I did get about 5 hours of sleep last night.)

So far, the only things I know I managed to forget were the kids' bike helmets! :-)

Both younger kids had a hard time settling down tonight so I was playing Dr. Mom. They travelled really well and surprisingly Tortuga "won" the "best behavior" award for today. I don't think he has ever done that before! So it was a big deal. I travel with a special "treat" for each day of our vacation and we select the kid who was the "best" for the day (or part of the day if all of them have a hard time.) They LOVE doing this and it is they only time I see "rewards" work to keep them in check. I have to figure out why that works only during these times.

As I said before, I really can't complain. They travel well. Tomorrow I am surprising them with what should solidify my "best mom in the whole world" title. We bought a DVD player for the car and they will actually get to watch movies during tomorrow's afternoon drive!

Lots of lying and sneaking going on...-- June 3

I just managed to get this posted up today but I wrote most of it on Wednesday.

Lots of lying and sneaking are going on around here and it's all me. The kids finish school today and we are planning of taking off for Pennsylvania and Boston this Sunday. They don't know so it means I have to do all the preparations and packing behind their backs. Hard to do when we are practically attached at the hip! On the pretense of going through their summer clothes to see what still fits, I have managed to get the bulk of their clothes packed without their realizing what is going on. I send them off to get sleeping bags and they ask why. Hmmm....they need to be washed. Orienting the folks who would be taking care of the cats right in front of their faces was really a piece of cake. The kids wondered why Pollito's PreK teacher was at our house (she is a neighbor and her daughter and son will do the cat watching) and we just talked about "being prepared" for when we do go on vacation. So far they don't seem suspicious and it seems to be working except when they asked why I needed them to get their bike helmets in the middle of the night yesterday and I insisted it couldn't wait until today. I got a couple of sideways glances but I excused it with "I'm old and I might forget tomorrow." Corazon piped in with "yea that's right she gets even older on Sunday!" Gotta love that kid. Too smart for her own good.

We have learned that they are really GREAT travelers BUT not if they know in advance. So usually we spring the trip on them about 20 minutes before we leave. They stay focused long enough for us to get out the door and then we have a good start which usually holds out for the duration of the trip. This is a very long trip. We will be driving to Lancaster, PA which is about 25 hours of driving. Our plan is to spend two nights in hotels which usually transitions everyone nicely into vacation mode before they get to their grandparents' home.

Yesterday, Pollito had his end of school PreK slide show and picnic. We went to the slide show which featured a "movie" with ALL the preK kids playing characters out of the books they had read this year. It was quite sweet and lots of work on the teacher's part. Pollito was so excited that we were there so he sat in my lap the whole time. I actually surprised myself by tearing up as I watched pictures of him flash before my eyes on that big screen. My baby is going to Kindergarten in the fall. It seems like just yesterday he was a little two year old who couldn't speak more than a handful of words and there he was in a movie with speaking parts and all!

Tortuga seems to be doing great with end of year transition activities so we haven't had to pull him out of school early. Corazon on the other hand is a basket case. Her teaching resigning on Friday has thrown her for a real loop so we decided that was the end for her. She is home this week which is fine since they were ending all semblance of school work on Monday. She still gets to see her friends at gymnastics this week and throughout the summer since most of them are at the gym regularly so that will allow her to transition. She acted really angry that she didn't get to go to school this week but I also saw relief. She didn't beg to go, pout, rant or in any other way suggest that she wanted to "negotiate" about it. She has been such a difficult kid to deal with for the last week and a half or so that we knew it would just go downhill. This allows her to end school feeling really good about herself and her experience there and she saves face by telling her friends her mean mom won't let her go to school even though she knows she cannot handle it.

We do school all summer because it helps Tortuga catch up since he still has so many gaps in his learning and it helps both of them maintain a consistent schedule. We will add Pollito to the summer school schedule this summer so that will be fun to do. I'm such a mean mom that they even do school while we are on vacation!

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