Lows and Highs

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Ayub. There are some days where he is so frustrating and wears me out. Then the next day he lights up my world and makes me see things in a whole different way. Examples…

A few weeks ago, we got another call from the babysitter. It seems that the dogs had escaped the yard again and the kids had gone to catch them. Somehow, in all the chaos, the dogs came home. Sam and Eleanor came home. But Ayub didn’t come home. He had wandered off, in the snow, and got lost. He walked “to the really big street” where a man saw him and asked if he was alright. He told them man that he was cold and lost. (For those of you who are TBRI followers, you’ll laugh to hear that when Ayub retold this story to me, he said “I asked him to help me, but I asked very ‘spectrally.”) The man called the police, who came and got Ayub. He couldn’t remember our address, so the policeman asked him where he went to school, drove him there, and Ayub was able to point the way home.

He can’t remember his address, but he is wicked smart. Last week he started telling me all about how islands are made by volcanoes. So while I was Black Friday shopping I saw a book on the clearance shelf about the Earth. I took it home and we started reading it together. We got to the page on volcanoes. Before I even started reading the page, he pointed to the picture (a cross section of a volcano) and told me how the lava builds up inside until it just can’t hold it in any more. “It’s like when you have to poop, and you hold it in, but there’s just more and more until you have to get it out.” I am, of course, laughing hysterically, to which he responds, “Mom, stop it. This is serious. I’m trying to teach you something.”

Yes, kid, you’ve taught me a lot.

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So…this happened.

“Ayub is in the top of one of the pine trees in our backyard I’m racing home.”

That was the text I got from Andrew while I was on my way home from work.  I actually arrived first.  I had to stop and let he fire chief pass me on the way  into our subdivision.  When I arrived at our house, there were lights flashing, fire trucks, police cars, the works.  And still, Ayub was in the tree.  They had a ladder against the tree, which only went about half-way up to where he was.  They shooed us all inside.  I am not an idiot…I knew they didn’t want us out there when he fell.  They brought another ladder.  This time a 36 footer.  Still not tall enough.  At the same time, they were pulling huge fire truck with the ladder into our driveway so they could extend the ladder over our privacy fence.  The fireman on the ladder finally talked him through climbing down.  He made it to the top of the ladder with some coaching, then scampered right down.
Why?  As a parent with significant emotional needs, I find myself asking that question all the time.  Is this just normal behavior?  Or is this related to adoption?  And the answer I usually land on is adoption.
That day, Eleanor had a tantrum which disrupted the morning routine, so Ayub didn’t get to finish his homework.  It was a half-day at school.  So there were two major changes in routine.  And he just. Can’t. Handle. That.  So when the babysitter insisted that he do his homework, his fight or flight kicked in.  And this time his flight was up a tree.
We talked to Ayub about how he could have gotten hurt.  He doesn’t believe it because he’s a very good climber.  He even told the fireman so.  We talked about how he scared the babysitter, and his siblings, and us.  He doesn’t think we should have been worried.  I am thinking that instead of convincing him not to do this again, we should put those aluminum wraps around our trees that you use when you don’t want squirrels to climb up.  But, there will always be other trees, either literal or figurative.
Enjoy this video of the situation, filmed by Sam, with additional commentary by Lucy.  Yes, I am able to laugh about it now, and this is pretty funny footage.

Up a Tree from Kristin W on Vimeo.

Back-to-School Edition

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about life.  And I realized recently that I really miss it.  I write a post in my head every day, it just doesn’t always make it to the web.  But, I wanted to catch everyone up since school has started and we’re back in the real world for a while.

There’s so much to tell, it’s hard to know where to start.  I guess by telling you that Ayub has the most awesome teacher (for him) ever.  I went in to meet with her the Friday before school started.  I had printed out about six articles about adoption trauma and its effects on brain development and behavior.  I had a handout on avoiding “family tree” type assignments.  And I launched right into it.  After about five minutes, I took a breath and she said, “My two younger sisters were adopted from the Philippines and my mom fostered emergency placements when I was growing up.”  BING!!  She gets it.  She totally gets it.  She also said that she doesn’t do any family history projects because she prefers to get the kids looking forward at what they can be when they grow up.  Oh, and did I mention that she’s African American?  It’s like we won the lottery.  Seriously, if you asked me to write a description of the perfect teacher for Ayub, I think it would be her.  Only maybe a male.

DSC_1569So, you would think that all is well.  But, like is usual for us, when one thing is great, something else falls apart.  For the past few years, we have had a college student pick the kids up after school and take them home for snack and homework help.  This year, since all four kids are at different schools, and really only Ayub needed after school care, we decided to give the after school program a try.  The first few weeks of school seemed to go ok…not great, but decent.  Ayub was always STARVING when he got home at 5:30.  He was a little grumpier than usual, but I attributed that to the start of school and change of routine.  Then, one Monday evening, I walked in to get him from the after school program.  He was laying down next to some large trash cans, with the hoodie pulled over his face, in the fetal position, crying.  Seriously, his photo could have been on an anti-child-abuse poster.  I scooped him up and tried to get him to tell me what was going on, but he was in that catatonic state caused by flight or fright.  You adoptive parents know what I mean, right?  That stare that looks through you instead of at you?  Well, anyway, I hightailed it out of there and put him in the car, played some music and went to get Eleanor from violin.  (Yea, that’s another post for another time…)  By the time we got home, he had calmed down and told me what happened.  A bigger kid had kicked the trash can and blamed Ayub, who got in trouble from the college students that oversee the program.  They sent him to time out until I got there.  Who knows if that’s what they really said, but that’s what he heard.  I. WAS. LIVID.  Needless to say, he has not been back to after school since.  We are currently interviewing for after school nannies.  I have talked to his teacher and the principal and written a letter to the superintendent and the president of the school board.  I’m not sure where this will go, but the fact that they left an obviously distraught kid lying on the floor and didn’t really seem to care at all that he was there is a HUGE problem.  The program isn’t overseen by the school; the city actually runs it, which is a weird situation.

On the bright side, though, he is doing great.  He has spelling tests for the first time this year, and he seems to get it.  He’s doing pretty good at math.  His best friend is in his class again this year, and they’ve had some play dates.  He is excited about school and maintains his “let’s get crackin'” attitude every morning.  Our summer babysitter did a great job of preparing him for 1st grade, and I think it’s going to pay off.

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As for Eleanor, we haven’t been so lucky on the teacher front.  She doesn’t have one.  They found out right before school that one of the teachers wasn’t returning, and haven’t yet hired a replacement.  Yes, for the first three weeks of school, they have had a substitute.  The walls are bare.  There is no routine, no homework folder, no organization and no stability.  But Eleanor says that on Monday they are going to announce who the teacher will be. It’s a possibility that it will be the substitute that’s been with them, but it might be someone else.  Welcome to 5th grade.

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Sam is in middle school.  He doesn’t say much, so I guess it’s going well.  Except for Spanish, which is freaking him out.  Lucy is in the same class she was in last spring, so not much has changed for her.  Me?  I’m back to juggling work with pick-ups, homework, making lunches and trying to get everyone to bed at a reasonable time.

Wow…I feel better already.  I really have to force myself to sit down and write at least one post a week.  It clears my head.  Thanks for listening.

 

 

 

America’s Pastime

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Last week, Sam’s baseball team travelled to Cooperstown to play in the biggest baseball tournament of the year.  It’s not normally the kind of thing that I would recap on my blog, but I just can’t stop thinking about it.  I think it is a perfect example of why I love what team sports can do for kids.

First, a little background.  We live in a cold-weather climate.  We don’t play baseball year-round.  We started practice in February.  Indoors.  That’s right, some good batting practice, but hard to work on realistic fielding on a gym floor.  The history of our team at this tournament was a horrible 1-12 record.  The boys were told that we’d go to Cooperstown, but that we couldn’t really compete with teams who have been together for years, practice year-round and have corporate sponsorships.  Yet they were excited and worked to raise money to pay for the trip.

Now, you are probably thinking that despite the odds, we prevailed and did great.  But, this is not a made-for-TV movie.  We sucked.  We lost every game, most cut short by the mercy rule.  That’s not the cool thing.

What happened was a display of pure sportsmanship, which was totally driven by a group of 12-year-old boys, and not a coach or parent.  We were a few innings in to a game and once again found ourselves down.  If we made it to the fourth inning, we were once again in mercy rule territory.  But then, another team (one who had beaten us earlier in the tournament), showed up onto the hill in the outfield.  

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And they started cheering for us.  It seems that after the morning games, they had checked the standings and seen that we were ranked 31 of 32.  So they found our field and came to cheer us on.  And you know what?  It made a difference.  The inning that they showed up, we had a six-run inning.  It didn’t get us out of the hole, but it certainly turned around some momentum.  After the game, they came down and stood outside the dugout waiting for our guys.  When the team came out, they did so to a round of applause and encouragement to keep our heads up.  And for the first time, our ragged team didn’t look like they were miserable.  They looked like a team that was having fun, despite losing a game. But it doesn’t stop there.

The next morning, we played an 8:00 am game.  It was single elimination at this point, so a loss would send us home.  And guess who showed up?  Yep, they were there again.  This time, they had skipped their own camp breakfast so they could come and cheer.  And they had made signs out of a cardboard box they had in the bunkhouse.
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The story would be a lot better if I could now say that their encouragement led us to a victory, but let’s be real.  We lost again.  But our guys then turned around and cheered for their new friends later that day.

So my point?  We do a lot of complaining about kids’ sports today.  Too much pressure.  Parents are too involved.  Kids specialize in a sport too early.  The cost keeps the haves and have-nots separated.  But this week I was reminded of the power of team sports.  Our kids learned a lesson that we, as parents and coaches never could have taught them.  They learned how it feels to have someone on your side.  They learned what it means to play with heart.  They learned how to reciprocate a good deed.  And they learned how to take a loss and look at the good that came out of it.  Later in the week, after both teams had been eliminated, they played wiffle ball on the lawn.  Two teams from across the country, just hanging out, brought together by America’s pastime.  Cooperstown is a magical place.

To the parents of those 12 boys who came and cheered for us, I hope you’ll give yourself a pat on the back.  You’ve done a great job raising boys who understand the real meaning of sport isn’t winning or losing.  If there was a sportsmanship trophy for this tournament, I’m sure it would have gone to your team.  Your kids have heart.  And they taught our kids to have the same.  

The two teams together.

The two teams together.

Guest Post

[I asked Eleanor if she would like to write a guest post to celebrate our two year family day.  This is what she wrote.]

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Sisters and brothers are great.  Every kid is different.  Mine are beyond compare.

I love every thing about them.  I remember Lucy when she was little.  It was great to be there while she grew up.  It was amazing to watch her grow up. She was tiny and energetic. Now she talks a lot and is really fast.  Ayub was great to watch grow up.  He cares about a lot of people.  They are great.  And I think we are the luckiest family.

There are  things I don’t like about them.  For example Lucy wakes me up early, Ayub has a bad attitude, and I can never find them.  Also they take my stuff.

Overall they are the best siblings in the world.  And I’m glad I’m their sister.

A Day in the Life

I’ve seen many great photographers do a “Day in the Life” project and I knew I wanted to do one.  Someday.  But I was always waiting for the right time. I wanted the house to be cleaned up, for us to have some fun outings planned, or at least a day where there were sports practices or games. And I wanted the weather to cooperate so I could take pictures outdoors.  Without snow.  Oh, yeah, and I wanted it to be Daylight Savings Time, so I’d have natural light longer into the evening. Then last week, I realized that Friday would be my last day as a stay at home mom, since Lucy was starting school.  So, it was now or never.  I grabbed my camera, tried to shove all the clutter into unseen corners of the house, and started my project.  It was also our Family Day (two years home from Ethiopia), so it seemed like a good time to document life. For my photographer friends who are reading this, since I knew that I wouldn’t have a lot of light, I wanted to force myself to “embrace the grain.” It it not typically my style, but I didn’t have many choices since we were stuck mostly inside and not on the brightest day ever.  And for the record, this is a really hard project.  Lots of switching of locations means changing settings all day long.  I also had to have my tripod and remote ready.  No time for reflectors, so light is not great in some of these.  And as for the processing…I didn’t do much since there were so many photos.  Preset city. So, here’s my day. I wake up with a cat cuddled on my legs, enjoying the electric blanket.  At 5:38, Lucy comes into my room.  She is crying because her boppy feel out of bed (although she is now holding it).  Since Andrew is out of town, I let her crawl in bed with me.  She snuggles while I go take a shower. 1Sam watches CNN until I go to wake up the other kids.  Ayub is the best morning stretcher I have ever seen. 2Breakfast.  Legendary Waffle Sam Sandwich. First argument of the day. I make lunches instead of mediating. 3   Help Ayub with his OT exercises.  These are supposed to help center him, but right now they just get him all revved up.  5Help Lucy get dressed and do her hair. _DSC5860   Take the middles to school. 7Stop by the store to pick up milk.  Leave the store with $58 in groceries. 8 Get home, let Lucy watch Sesame Street while I put away groceries, feed the dogs, and clean up the kitchen from breakfast. 9Lucy makes a Family Day heart to celebrate. 10Head down to the playroom.  This is what it looks like when we arrive. _DSC6011Practice cutting, take some pictures, have a dance party, and do some coloring. 11 12Meanwhile, I have been cleaning up, so when we leave, the room looks like this. _DSC6065Lunchtime.  This is what I’m going to miss most about my time with Lucy.  She is always full of animated conversation over lunch. 13And since the weather was so beautiful on this particular day (it got up to 40 degrees!), we decided to take the puppy for a walk. 14Reading, and finally nap time. 15While Lucy sleeps, I feed my children’s book addiction by completing my Scholastic order form, open the new Tom’s that came in the mail, enjoy a drink, train the dog, and publish a blog post. 16Lucy wakes up and wants to play with stickers. 18 _DSC6304   We pick up the middles, Sam calls and says he’s bringing two friends home with him to spend the night.  Snack time. This time Ayub makes the Legendary Waffle Sam Sandwich using mini waffles. I realize I can’t remember the last time Sam brushed his hair.19Andrew has now arrived home and took a cab straight from airport to a meeting, so we go pick him up and drive him to his car. _DSC6332I arrive home to find that this heat wave has melted some snow. This is the first time I’ve seen the top of this table in two months. _DSC6341Next I wish I could show you step-by-step how I made a delicious home-cooked meal, but since I had three 12-year-old boys to feed, we ordered pizza. 20And the boys were happy. 21

Eleanor has no desire to be around the boys, so she packs up and heads over to the next-door-neighbor’s house to spend the night.

_DSC6396Dad handles the bath- and bed-time routines. 22And finally we kick back and relax. _DSC6405So for those of you working moms who wonder what a SAHM does all day (and I know you wonder because I used to wonder, too), this is pretty much it.  On a slow day, meaning no therapy appointments, basketball practices, or school events. Today I was driving the middles to school and they asked what I was going to do all day.  Ayub answered for me. “You’re gonna watch the Weather Channel. And you can play whatever you want to play, not what Lucy wants to play. It’s like your dream come true.” I’m not sure about that, but I certainly won’t be watching Sesame Street today.

Day Brightener

_DSC5253-3Today I had an appointment, and I knew that Lucy would fall asleep on the way home, so I stopped for lunch at KFC.  There were mainly African-Americans there, on their lunch break from work (I know this because Lucy asked them).  As usual, she was talking.  A lot.  To me.  To people in line.

“Why do you have paint on your clothes?”

“Why you eating that?”

“Is that your coat?”

“Can we sit here?”

While I ordered our food, she amused the customers, introducing herself to several people and asking their names.  And how old they are.  They all wanted to talk to her.  They all engaged her and asked her questions.

We sat down to wait for our number to be called and Lucy stood up in the booth and turned around to have a conversation with the woman behind us.  The woman didn’t seem too excited to chat.  Still, Lucy insisted on knowing more about her crocheted hat and why it had a flower on it.  I kept trying to interest Lucy in things at our table and to have her sit back down and leave the nice woman alone.  But she wouldn’t have it.  She just kept pestering her with questions.  She wanted to know where her coat was.  She wanted to know where she lived.  She asked about her food.  Lucy didn’t ask how old she was, but I’d guess she was about 70.  Finally, our food came and that was enough to get Lucy to sit back down and focus on our table instead of our nice neighbor.  After a few minutes, the woman got up to leave.  She threw away her trash and then walked back over to our table.

“Lucy, I want to thank you.  I was having a pretty bad day when I came in here.  I was feeling kind of depressed and down in the dumps.  But then I met you and now I feel a lot better.  You changed my day.  You be a good girl for your mama, okay?”  Lucy blew her a kiss, flashed her gorgeous smile and she was off.  

And I couldn’t even respond because of the big lump in my throat.

This kid has such a gift.

For Those Who Have Asked

Sorry I’ve been a little behind.  It’s been a while since I updated you all on Ayub.  The last you heard, we had scheduled surgery and were planning to start ADHD meds.  So, here’s what’s happened:

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The week of Thanksgiving, Ayub had his tonsils and adenoids out.  I have to say, this was a much tougher process than I expected.  It took a good eight days before he was feeling well again.  Poor thing was pitiful.  For a kid who never complains about pain, he had a tough time.  Once healed, we did begin to see a minor difference in his behavior, mainly that he could sit through dinner more calmly.  However, it wasn’t a big enough difference to stop there.

Despite the massive ice storm that left us without power the week of Christmas, we headed off to the pediatrician to get some ADHD medication.  We started it over Christmas break and saw an immediate difference.  Although he was still hyped up about the holidays and Santa and new toys, he was manageable.  We sent him back to school expecting rave reviews from his teacher.  Results were not as great as we had hoped.  She saw a slight difference, but not enough to help him academically.  He still struggled with behavior and was still disrupting the classroom.  So, after a month, we raised the dosage of medication.  TA-DA!! Suddenly the fidgeting lessoned, he was able to concentrate and he started bringing home completed work from school.  His teacher was thrilled.  One day he brought home a very complicated drawing of a dragon for Chinese New Year.  He spent a total of four hours over the weekend coloring it in.  Every.  Single.  Detail.  It was amazing.  He has never liked to draw or color, yet the time he devoted to this was massive.  I was floored.

I will say that as much as we are enjoying the calm, there are some down sides to the medication.  He really isn’t the same kid he was before.  He’s still funny and a bit of a clown, but lately he has seemed more sad.  There are days when he just looks unhappy.  We’ve also seen a huge shift in his emotions.  Prior to his tonsillectomy, we had seen him cry four times.  That’s right, in almost two years, he had cried only four times.  Now there are some days when he cries four times in one day.  That may be an exaggeration, but he is definitely much more emotional.  I’m not writing this off as a bad thing.  It is tiring and can really slow things down when you have to stop and deal with the waterworks, but it is showing us some of the things that upset him.  Before, he must have been just closing off those emotions.  Now we get to see them, which is interesting.

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Somewhere in the middle of all this, his teacher asked whether we’d ever ruled out Sensory Processing Disorder.  I have to be honest, I had heard about this from a lot of other adoptive parents, and I thought it was just kids who don’t like tags in their clothes to rub or have to have a certain kind of bath towel.  I had no idea how encompassing it could be.  I went online and found the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation, which had some online checklists.  My jaw hit the floor when I realized that we were dealing with a sensory seeking kid.  We made an appointment with an Occupational Therapist who specialized in SPD (whew…lucky to have that handy) and she confirmed my online diagnosis.  He does have sensory seeking SPD, but she says it is secondary to ADHD in his case.  So, we will continue with the ADHD meds and have an OT visit every week.  I will say that just receiving this diagnosis makes it much easier for me to deal with his behaviors.  Now when he climbs all over me, I understand why and try to find appropriate ways to give him touch.  When he hums or makes nonsense noises, I try to find music or something else to give him an audio input.  It suddenly makes so much more sense.

Bottom line – he is doing much better at school and we are all doing much better at home.

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Birthday Reflections

I’m a little behind, but someone around here had a birthday.  A big one.  Ending in the digit “0.”  That’s right, Eleanor has joined the ranks of the double digits.

For some reason, Eleanor’s birthday always sends me into flashback mode.   I remember my pregnancy and her birth much more than  Sam’s.  Maybe it’s the eight weeks I spent on bed rest thinking she wasn’t going to make it.  Whatever the reason, I always seem more nostalgic.

_DSC4608Eleanor is an amazing kid.  She is super-smart.  And for those of you who have smart kids, you know what I mean when I say that it’s hard to parent a super-smart kid.  She remembers everything.  And argues about everything.  Even when she’s wrong.  She can drive me absolutely bonkers, but at the same time, it makes me proud to see her intelligence shine through.  (Which in turn makes me even more bonkers…)

_DSC4650Eleanor is tall.  She has always been tall.  I think that has worked against her in some ways. People have always expected her to be more mature than her age, just because she looks older.  I’m guilty of it, even though I try very hard to keep her real age in mind.  But sometimes she acts even younger than her real age, which is even harder.

DSC_3939-2This year, Eleanor finally got a chance to play basketball.  Because she was in gymnastics, tennis, and then swimming, we’d never been able to put her on a team before.  This year was her first chance.  I was a little leery about the whole thing, as she doesn’t really enjoy physical activity, and definitely likes lots of breaks, which isn’t consistent with basketball.  But she has LOVED it.  She was a little behind, since most of her teammates had played before, but she has learned a lot and come a long way.  I have to say…I’m impressed.

Eleanor has probably done the best of any of us since moving at making new friends.  Our next door neighbor has become a constant fixture in her life, with one of them spending the night at the others’ house at least once a weekend.  And, she has more friends at school who have welcomed her to a new place.  She’s a lot like her (fundraiser) dad…she can talk to anyone and as soon as she’s met them, she considers them a life-long friend.

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So now she’s ten.  Which is exciting and scary at the same time.  She’s at the age where she is starting to be critical of the way she looks, which breaks my heart because I think she’s so beautiful.  She isn’t happy about her weight, doesn’t like the space between her teeth, and doesn’t want to be the tallest kid in the 4th grade.  So I’m savoring these last moment of childhood while fully aware that we are entering into adolescence.  Happy birthday, Eleanor.

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Oh Yes I Did…

A few months ago, our house was burglarized in the middle of the night.  We were all home sleeping.  A strange man walked into my bedroom.  That’s right…the boldest (or drunkest) ever thief.  Needless to say, I’ve been having a bit of trouble sleeping since then.  We installed a landline (he stole all of our cell phones, making it difficult to contact the police) and activated the security system.  I still didn’t feel safe.  I still woke at every sound.  I still couldn’t fall asleep.

So, I did what any mother of four who is looking for a job, going back to school and has too much on her plate already would do.  I got a dog.

DSC_4098Meet Albus DumbleTHOR.  He’s a 107-pound, 1-year-old great dane.  Andrew and I had two great danes when we were first married, and they are the funniest, goofiest dogs around.  But I realized that I always felt safe when they were around. Better than ADT.  And, to add to his goofy personality, he is slightly cross-eyed.

DSC_4052We had our first obedience class last night.  Let’s just say I doubt he’ll be valedictorian.  And in true dane fashion, he spent his first week with us nursing an injury after he cut the pad on his right leg.

DSC_4095I told the kids that his first owner couldn’t keep him because she couldn’t take care of him.  A parallel that did not escape our adopted kiddos.