Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Well, I am Roman's mother.

In the wake of the shootings on Friday in Connecticut, I have enjoyed the rising call for understanding and more treatment for mentally ill people.  There clearly was something "wrong" with the shooter. Autistic people do not plan mass killings just because they are autistic. In fact, I'm willing to bet what was diagnosed as Asperger's was probably something else - mood disorder, personality disturbance, whatever.

Anyway. What I've especially been interested in is a mom's post about having a young teen with the same issues. I've been sad about the backlash. Because what she describes as an undiagnosed rage issue is exactly what Roman experienced when younger. She describes having to hold her son so he wouldn't throw himself out of the car into traffic after declaring he wanted to kill himself, and then getting elbowed, kicked, punched, etc. THIS IS WHAT ROMAN DID.  This began as an argument over blue pants. YES.

I can't stand when people blame the parents - they're not parenting right, they're reading too much into the behavior. Or they blow it off as not as serious as it is described. Or they shame & ridicule the parents when the parents admit to real feelings - of wishing they didn't have that child, questioning whether to place them in an inpatient facility.  Why doesn't the public see these types of tragedies coming? Because they don't want to believe there is a problem with someone earlier on.

I don't like to revisit the dark days of Roman pre-medication and pre-therapy. I remember one particular afternoon when I stood in the hallway, grabbed the post, and tried to shake the darn house down with my own rage, rather than direct it at Roman. To raise an emotionally unstable child is simply draining... exhausting.... anger-inducing.... frustrating. I sought conversation with our pastor at one point because I found myself daydreaming about hitting Roman & that it could be a good thing - and that scared me. Oh yes, gentle readers.  Yes, he's the sweetest boy. Wonderful and thoughtful. But you've probably never seen him in a rage.  We often had to restrain him from hurting himself or us. Do you believe me when I say that he has bit me? Punched me? Kicked me in the stomach? Probably hard to imagine. He often can't believe his own behavior either, after the rage is over.

It took us medication & 2-1/2 years of weekly therapy to get to the point we're at now - which is generally good. I'd say he's 90% better than he used to be. He has the mood changes still, the occasional rages - but we see them coming now, & can prepare ourselves for it.  My validation quote is "I am the best mother for Roman."  And I believe that's true, because I don't think many people could or would handle a child with the difficulties he has/had.  And unless you've been in the situation... viewed it multiple times... or sat in a room with a therapist and psychologist and heard the words, "I actually was worried because of the sociopathic tendencies he was displaying" said about your son..... then you can't make any judgements at all about the person OR their parents.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

How to lose a teacher...

I finally said the words to Doug. They'd been rolling around in my mind off and on since this time last year, but I can confirm now that they are true. This is the least amount of fun I've had in my job for the entire 12 years I've been doing it - and I'm really, really close to making a change.

This post isn't for you idiots who think teachers have it easy. Those of you who believe I took this job for the "great hours" or "summers off."  If your mantra is "those who can't, teach" then you probably aren't my friend anyway. Go away.  I've run the gamut of emotion over this career path - overwhelmed, insanely happy, inspired, amazed, irritated, angry, frustrated, creative, fulfilled.  I have never ONCE woken up in the morning and not wanted to go to work. Can you believe the blessing that is? Well, that is, until this year.

I have a federal government that has put impossible timelines in place for my achievement. A state government that wanted an extension, so now has created more hoops for teachers to jump through. A district that wants to be "ahead of the curve" so has required 8 common assessments throughout the year to gather data. A curriculum coordinator who made my job twice as hard than it needed to be because she was lazy. A school board who created goals for its teachers which sound good on paper, but in practice are ridiculous & so poorly worded it took us 2 months to figure out what they meant.  A district that introduced 2 new styles of instruction and demanded we train on it & implement immediately. The same district who promised us great testing technology but gave us little training, and still expects us to be experts.

I have students who failed a 20 point test and want to argue with me about whether they should be allowed to retake it. I have parents who email me and question my policies to make sure they are "fair" for their child.  I have students (please note the plural) who are struggling so much with their own issues that they are admitted to inpatient psychiatric treatment centers, and I am expected to teach them mastery of my content.

I am a professional who holds a Masters degree in her chosen field. I have 12 years of experience with 7th and 8th graders, a population to whom only the bravest would devote their time. I volunteer my own time (and take time away from my family) to be with these students in extracurricular activities, sports, & overnight field trips. 

And I am tired. I am not getting anything close out of my efforts, to what I put in.  I am not enjoying this job anymore. And dammit, I'm a GREAT teacher. But they're really close to losing me.

Monday, October 22, 2012


*Warning* It's about to get gross.

For those of you who have had cats, you will know what I'm talking about. You know that smell when the litterbox has gone too long without being cleaned? You know that tangy smell after the cat has urinated in the wrong area and you think you can still smell it? You know how most people gag at the smell of fresh & large excrement?

This is our life now.

No, we don't have a cat. We have a child who continues to meet our acknowledgement of "special needs." We have a child who unofficially has encopresis.  Let's get real about this. He poops in his pants every day. Every. DAY. Sometimes even more than once a day. We have that smell in our nose constantly, thinking we smell it everywhere - in the bed, in the car. It makes cozying up next to him a chore. I have had a nauseous feeling & headache for two days - because I can't escape it.  We divvy up the job - who is going to wipe his dried crusty butt when he gets home each afternoon, peeling away the excess; and who is going to peel the excess out of his underwear and scrub the chunks out so they can be washed. If we threw them away, we'd have to buy 2 new underwear packages a week.

He had an x-ray to see if there was severe constipation or an impaction - it was clear. So we've been referred to a pediatric specialist in Ann Arbor to determine if it's something physical or psychological. So another doctor. Even he is starting to complain about it. Meanwhile, you can find us armed with an old potato scrubber & flushable moist wipes.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

An adoption right NOW

A coworker is finally adopting an infant. They have waited for SO long, years in fact. I am so happy for her & her husband. News came in today that the birthmother has gone into labor & delivery will have to be by C-section... and then I had a rush of thoughts & feelings that I wish I could have said to my coworker. So here's what I would have liked to say:

Remember that the happiest day of your life is the worst day of your baby's. Think of the triad - what are the birthparents going through, what is the baby going through? Be sensitive. The birthmother is going through trauma and will have nothing to show for it but a good decision. The baby, while going to a loving home, is losing its familiar world. Babies are made to be with their mothers. Be sensitive.

Write everything down. You will not remember all the details of this amazing day, and your baby will want to know every. single. detail.  Sounds, smells, colors, people. It is so important to document your baby's first moments. Who held the baby, how long, in what order, what did each person say or do or whisper... it all creates "page one" of your baby's story. Many adoptees start at Chapter 2. Don't let that happen to your baby.

Attach with that baby. Meet its every need. Its psyche is experiencing loss - soothe it. Baby knows you are not the original mother... soothe it with your actions. Mother is more important than Dad right now. Put in lots of hard work.

Continue to keep the birthparents in mind & prayer. While they made this wonderful choice, they are going through loss too. Remember that in their hearts, love helped make this decision. You will not be its only parents, but you will be its best parents.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

The "normal" boy

Charlie had his first true playdate today. He met a friend from daycare at McDonald's, where the mom and I chatted and the boys ran around crazy in the play area, taking occasional breaks for their vanilla shakes. They played for an hour and a half. I say this in amazement and with a little bit of awe. Yet another example of what we didn't know with Roman, & how easy "normal" kids are.

I was waiting for the moment - when Charlie would bust in rudely, say he was tired, bored, or didn't want to play with his friend anymore. It didn't happen. I was waiting for the faux injury to occur, so Charlie could cry and beg to go home. It didn't happen.  We went, we played, we went home with a minimal amount of whining for a McDonald's toy.  I don't think I can describe to you gentle readers what it's like with Roman, except to say, constantly exasperating.  Roman has never played for 1.5 hours without needing me to intervene. He is always bored within 15-20 minutes of playing something with a friend and wants to change what they are doing. Worse yet, he's gotten to the point where he doesn't want to go to other kids' houses because he gets bored with their toys.

It was just so nice, to sit at McD's, chat with the mom, and not get interrupted. For the boys to enjoy themselves and actually play. To have a child that is not so needy all the time.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Slow down, you move too fast...

Simon & Garfunkel had it right. Life is just going too quickly right now, or too much is happening, or... something. To catch 5 or 10 minutes where I can think, or even have a conversation with Doug - priceless. It's to the point that to even do the things we enjoy is getting to be a hassle. Something has got to give. And it will - after October.

The boys have been swimming 1x a week, and Charlie has also been doing tang soo do (karate) 1x a week. Because Ro and Char give school their ALL, having this extra stuff wipes them out. We've been dealing with tired-meltdowns from both of them. So the decision was made that they will end swimming; but Goldfish wants 30 days' notice! And so they will go for another 4 weeks, because goshdarnit if we're paying, they are going!  Without swim, that gives our family an entire evening free.

Roman has been continuing neurofeedback this entire time. We pay for it in 20-session blocks. Our next block of 20 will also be done at the end of October, and we'll just do an occasional "maintenance" session after that. So that will loosen up another night as well; only Doug & Charlie will have tang soo do that evening.

One night of the week is reserved for Doug and I - but not, unfortunately, a date night. Unless you call parent therapy a date. :)  We have been taking an online course through Heather Forbes and then meeting with others & a therapist to discuss & apply the ideas. We are 4 sessions in and already are working more as a team. So while beneficial, it's another night where we're out of the house.

Toss in work we both bring home, homework for Roman, occasional extra meetings for work, church, or school - and you are reading the blog of a woman who is about to lose her mind. The idea of laundry, cooking dinner, making a grocery list... some days it paralyzes me. By the time we get the kids into bed & asleep, we're ready to sleep ourselves! This evening, instead of downloading some software for work & trying it out, I decided to write this instead. I am succeeding at one thing, though - I'm continuing to develop my skills at procrastinating!

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Back to school edition

What a crazy week! Three of the four of us went back to school, making for a complete shakeup of our routine. Roman was very excited to start school and see his friends again. Charlie was sort of excited... he was nervous about his daycare teacher and hoping she would be nice. Me, of course, I was worried about setting the right tone in class so the year would go right.

Three days in, and we're close to our "usual." Charlie hates mornings and doesn't ever want to go to "school" but then loves it once he settles in. Roman seems to be happy, except he brought homework home tonight and made it clear that's what he dislikes about school. I finally am feeling more comfortable and getting a feel for my classes' personalities. Still wish I could have a housekeeper, as all the little things like laundry & dishes are falling behind!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

It's about sex.

Roman and I were just having a nice conversation about movies. He was asking what is involved in an R-rated movie that he couldn't see. I answered that it would be really violent, or have a lot of swear words, or other things that he didn't need to see. And he says, "I know. S-E-X."  And there it was. The conversation I had been wondering when would happen, is in my lap.

So I asked him if he knew what it was. "Yes."  Can you tell me? "I don't want to explain it. It's disgusting." Do you know what it's for? "No."  To make babies.  "Oh. Did you and Daddy do that?"  Yes, that's how Charlie was made. "Oh, my gosh."

I asked how he found out about it - "my friends." I asked what, do you just sit around the playground discussing this?  "No, remember that website with Nick?"  Oh yes I do. (a few months ago, they were discovered on an inappropriate website that Nick wanted to show Roman).  I said, I thought there were only naked women on that website. "No. So was THAT." 

Oh, my goodness. I told him I was sorry that he learned about it that way - because sex really is a nice thing when you're married, and Daddy and I would have liked to have told him about it first. "Yeah." And then we got to talking about the Lord of the Rings movies.

It was an easy-going conversation, unfortunately not face-to-face; I was cuddling with him, his back to me. But what I was most impressed with is how natural we both were - he didn't get dysregulated, he asked & I answered, and we moved on. I sure hope we can keep that kind of communication in the future.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Keep up the ambition

Summer always re-motivates me to do things, both with the kids and for myself. Sometimes summer seems so long, with days and days with no plans. If you have children like mine, you would understand that this strikes fear into my heart! But then I realize, we have done some awesome stuff already and have more on the way! Consider:
A re-enactment of the landing of Sicily during WWII
A week's art camp for Roman
2 nature center classes for Ro
2 nature center classes for Charlie
Long weekend in Traverse City area
Swimming almost every day
reunion picnic
Splash park, beach, playdates

That's a lot to stuff into a couple months! Plus the doctor appointments, grocery shopping, and usual "stuff" that goes along with actually running a house & family.

I have taken up the Couch to 5k program, which is supposed to train me to jog 3 miles in 9 weeks. It will certainly take me longer than that, but I am actually enjoying it. Once I got my breathing rhythm down, things came much easier. I continue to have problems with my shins; whether due to form, shoes, weak or tight muscles... I don't know. So rather than 3x a week jogging, I can only do 1-2. But I'm riding my bike or walking on the other days - hoping to get some answers regarding my shins once a friend returns to her job at a running store. I can't even imagine how nice it will be to run without pain.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A 4-year-old's world

With all of Roman's issues we've dealt with, we were sure that he would be the most affected by Doug's hospitalization. Maybe because of how he and we have learned to process things, however, Roman did well! It was Charlie, who we first thought was taking things in and we were doing a good job with, who has suffered the most.
When Doug returned from the hospital Charlie was very excited, but within hours was gravitating toward me for everything. He got clingy, emotional, whiney & weepy. He would not go to Doug for anything, and sometimes would even deliberately skip over his Dad to ask me for things. The other night it all came to a head, when it was Doug's turn to put Charlie to bed. Char wanted nothing to do with him and started crying and having a tantrum over wanting me. As I finally calmed him down and agreed to put him to bed, out popped the fear that Charlie had been dealing with in his little 4 yro mind - "When is Daddy going to die?"

With some gentle questioning, it turns out that Charlie thought Doug was going to die in the hospital, and when Doug came home he figured it was just a matter of time before he DID die, so Charlie was not going to get cozy with his Dad. A 4yro's self-preservation, if you will; keep Daddy at a distance so I don't get hurt when he leaves again.  We decided that it was immediately time for a family meeting to hash this all out, and with Roman present too. It was a good talk & Charlie has slowly warmed up to Doug, even cuddling with him yesterday.

The other thing we're noticing with Charlie is a real ramping up of fears. I kind of remember this with Roman at this age- for him, it was ghosts at bedtime. For Charlie, it's that plus more. He's afraid of "something" chasing him up the stairs, coming from his room, hiding in the laundry room, and occasionally I have to stand in the doorway while he goes to the bathroom, because "something" could come out of the bedrooms (no, the door is not enough).

Saturday we went to a small science center and there were taxidermied animals, as well as some dinosaur skeletons. Charlie practically freaked out, refusing to go into the rooms, grabbing our legs and hyperventilating. This one, we finally realized, was our fault - he had seen the movie "Night at the Museum" and thought the animals/bones were going to come to life. It took a lot of convincing him that the tablet wasn't there (you'd understand if you saw the movie) & pointing out it wasn't nighttime, before he would go near the dino skeletons. He never did go in the Galapagos room.

It's hard to keep my cool when these things pop up - No, I do not want to accompany him to the bathroom for the third time to protect him; and among other things, constantly reassuring him that the Joker & Batman don't live in our world. He does need to feel safe, though, so we keep at it.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Home & healing

Surgery for Doug went fine, and after many more days of recovery, he returned home this past Tuesday. It's a delicate mix of resting and yet building his stamina back up. Doctors told him to go ahead and do normal things, but just do them very slowly. He's allowed to drive, but he can't report back to work until clearance from doc, which won't happen until at least next Thursday. A conundrum for Doug - on one hand, he doesn't mind sitting around the house for once with no stressors. On the other hand, it drives him crazy that he can't do the things that pop into his mind.

The boys were so thrilled to have him back. Charlie, especially, seemed to struggle this time with a parent gone. He became more and more clingy to me, and even his preschool teacher said he was like a "lost puppy."  There was quite a change even the night that Doug got home.

We had so many people step up for us - some we can never repay. Meals, watching the kids, and to top it off - a group coming to spread our mulch, prep the little pool site, and set it up for us. Even included grilling out!

One more week for us until summer officially arrives. I hope I get to rest before that happens!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Hurry up and wait

Our continued adventure at Botsford has led us to meet some great doctors. Dr. Eisenburg is the pulmonologist Doug was admitted under, and he's very casual and cool. Dr. Kaplan is also a pulmonologist that was on call over the weekend, also very nice. I didn't meet Dr. Jenner (Jennings?), the thoracic surgeon who will do the scraping, but Doug liked him.

Surgery is going to be scheduled for Wednesday, hopefully in the morning. Because of the holiday weekend, it messes everything up. His surgery will be to remove the excess goo that can't be removed from around the lung. Basically, the goo is the body's way of isolating where the infection was - his left lung. It wraps around the lung, between the membrane and lung. The thicker the goo gets, it squeezes his lung and collapses it. Doctors guess that when Doug finally started having a problem, was because his entire left lung shut down.

They have drained a bit over 3 liters and the goo that is left is turning into a jello-like substance. Doctor said the longer it's in there, the more "leathery" it gets. So they will go in Wednesday and scrape it all out, then re-inflate his lung. They did say to think of his lung like a paper bag; the longer it's collapsed, the more likely it is to hold it's crumbled shape. So they may have to get in there and slowly pull the tissues apart to help it re-inflate; he may not get all his lung capacity back. Is this scary or what?!

But for now, he's being a smart aleck with the nurses and getting particular about the way the food service handles his orders. He may become THAT patient. Tube still in the lungs, but they took him off saline drip and oxygen for now. Still in the ICU because his doctor ordered a private room for him; until one becomes available, he will remain in ICU. We did sneak the kids in for a 5-minute visit yesterday so they could see him; we Skyped tonight (Doug on his cell phone). So we're just waiting for Wednesday now.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

This time it's Doug...

We are becoming true experts on the hospitals in our area. This week's adventure is brought to you by Doug, who is currently being attended to in the Critical Care Unit at Botsford. His pneumonia/fever was just not progressing, so they admitted him through the ER on Friday night. This morning they stuck a tube in his lung (yes - ow!) and immediately drained 2 liters of fluid out. Over the last few hours he has drained another liter, and it still keeps coming.

Big Doc Pulmonologist stopped in later while I was there and said they want him to have another CT scan tomorrow to check that lung. He confirmed that indeed, it was "collapsing" in the lower part of his lung. He wants to make sure that it is beginning to "inflate" again. If all is well, the tube can come out and Doug can start healing. If not, the tube stays in until Monday. Big Doc P. also has a thoracic surgeon on hold, who has looked at Doug's tests & was present for the chest tube insertion, in case something more has to be done. He will remain in the ICU as long as the tube is in.

Meanwhile, Doug is remaining almost comfortable. He and the nurses are having a great time teasing each other - we think the nurses are probably glad to have someone in the CCU who can respond to them! That's what the x-ray tech said, anyway. There is definite pain as the chest tube runs into his armpit, around his back, through the rib and into his lung, and since he is on his back, he's laying right on it. Morphine is helping that. They have him on a clear diet, which apparently includes red jello and purple popsicles.

Will keep everyone informed, of course. Doug's brother came to stay with the kids and entertain them while I am at the hospital, which is wonderful.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

1 bad, 3 good - an update

Well, let's get the bad out of the way first - Doug is in a bad way. Out of the blue, he started feeling "dehydrated," then had a fever, then started getting really winded. 2 days later, diagnosed with pneumonia. The doctors did debate admitting him to the hospital, but decided to keep a close eye on him. He has reported 2 days already this week, with a third followup tomorrow. Two shots of antibiotics, one of steroids, 2 breathing treatments, and 2 prescriptions. He can't do much but walk really slowly around the house. It's quite scary, actually, when the rock of the family is all the sudden bedridden. The boys are handling it quite well; Roman was very anxious and worried for a couple days, but Charlie luckily is still in the stage where he believes everything we tell him. :)  Doug reports he's getting incrementally better, and that's all we can hope for. He's off work, trip to Germany cancelled, and his life is pretty much in limbo right now.

For the rest of us, however, life is good! Roman has decreased his anxiety pill and seems to be doing well; we report again next week for followup. He has agreed to continue neurofeedback for another 20 sessions, which will make a grand total of 60 when we're done. He made a new friend on the block who lives by the park; and he has been a mellow constant for over a week now. No meltdowns, just regular "kids getting mad" stuff. It's been a real pleasure to be his parent this week!

Charlie has been kicking butt in the athletic arena. He passed his tung soo do testing last week, making him a "Tiny Tiger" with a stripe. He can't graduate up to the "big room" until he is 5, so he will just accumulate tiger stripes now.  In swimming he has moved up to Junior 3 class with a big goal of swimming across the width of the pool by himself. It's amazing to see what he can already do; rollovers, swimming half a width, going under to the bottom to get rings. He is a born fish, that boy.

I myself, while being very busy, had a great professional evaluation. So great, in fact, that I qualified at the highest level of effectiveness, a position my principal assured us would be difficult to obtain as it's such a high bar to meet. That made me very pleased! But I am definitely ready for this group of 8th graders to move on and school to be over for the summer. Come on, June!

A low-key Memorial weekend is planned. Big thoughts of Greenfield Village (for Civil War weekend) or the local fair have been dashed, with new thoughts of a clean basement and laundry replacing it. I guess it happens once in awhile, eh?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A step back, a step forward

Our vacation did reveal one thing - wow, did Roman's ADHD medicine need some adjusting! I thought a couple times, if he acts close to this at school, no wonder he's having social trouble! The boy has flying thoughts and a mouth that almost keeps up with them. And I have noticed a handful of times that when he does his homework later in the evening, he can't focus worth anything. Like this evening, he spent 10 minutes trying to find the "right" pencil; then the pencil he had didn't have a good eraser, so he had to find another one; then it wasn't sharp enough; then the eraser was too loose so he kept fiddling with it. All while attempting a review math packet that is due tomorrow.

He had an appointment with the psychiatrist this evening, not a moment too soon in our opinion. The last week, for a variety of reasons, played emotional havoc with Ro. He was very manic for a few days (grandparents coming to visit, going to see the Titanic exhibit); then he crashed over and over throughout the weekend. He leveled out on Sunday, but I don't think I could do another few days like that for awhile. We had been hoping that the neurofeedback Roman is doing would help; and it has, in the OCD & anxiety areas. I guess a little more work is to be done on the bipolar & ADHD front.

Anyway, so we are tweaking medicine & hopefully will have a boy who is leveled out some. It breaks my heart when I ask him, like tonight, "is it frustrating that you can't sit and do homework?" And he looks at me with his beautiful blinky eyes and says, "Yes, a lot."  And when we finally can get him "off the ledge" of a manic crash and talk with him, and he bursts into real tears because he just doesn't know why it happens... my poor sweet Ro.

On the good news front, Roman graduated on Monday from "talk therapy." There are some topics that he just won't visit right now (and that's okay), and we have been trained as a family how to deal with his bipolar outbursts. He recovers from his meltdowns much quicker now (seriously - 10 minutes instead of 45!) and Doug and I are able to empathize and stay calm (most of the time). We do expect he will need to see someone again when hormones arrive or social issues become a large problem (read: middle school), but until then I *think* we'll be okay. So that's a huge plus!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Heading for home

We have had quite a few adventures the past few days. Monticello was a hit with Roman (except for the garden walk - he'll be quick to tell you that). The next day we stopped at Montpelier, James Madison's home, which was sorta on the way to Richmond. That was also very interesting and I would have liked to spend more time there.

We made it to Richmond around 2pm and decided to hit the Civil War museum. As usual, I would have liked to spend more time there - but with 2 kids who have short attention spans, it was best to move along. We discovered at the museum (part of which is run by the National Park Service) that they have a "junior ranger" program; do a certain number of activities and earn a badge. They also have "trading cards" particular to a place, usually 2-3. I think Ro would have preferred just getting candy or something, but both kids liked doing the activities.

Wednesday was battlefield day. We started at Fredericksburg and did the short walk along Bloody Lane & Marye's Heights, then through the cemetery.  Just wow. Then we moved on to Chancellorsville, where the park rangers were super nice to our kids. The boys earned their trading cards by learning something in the small museum displays & telling the rangers; then they got booklets of activities to complete to be junior rangers. We drove to a couple spots and walked around, and I learned much more about this particular battle.  Then we had lunch (mmm... Sonic burger & tater tots!) and drove on toward the Wilderness battlefield. On the way there was a detour to see Stonewall Jackson's left arm's burial place. The home where it is buried near is closed for the season but people are allowed to walk back to the family cemetery. So the boys elected to stay in the car and watch a video while Doug and I made the trek. Of course it was awesome.

We drove through the Wilderness battlefield which is quickly being encroached upon. (is that sentence grammatically correct?). Roman was done getting out of the car, and Charlie was fading quickly, so we decided to call it a day and head back to swim.

Today was our last day doing touristy things, and we went to Colonial Williamsburg. Doug and I both had an expectation that was not met. I guess because we are used to Greenfield Village, we expected it to be similar; a free-flow in and out of the historic buildings, some signs to read identifying the buildings or history behind them; and that was not the case. We're not sure if it's because there were some school groups (I counted 3 separate ones) or because of Spring Break, or someone's genius idea to attempt to control people-traffic-flow, but they had people forming lines outside each building to get in. We thought at first that nothing was open, because all the doors were closed and people were just standing around. Then we realized they were waiting to get in buildings. Our first experience was at the gaol (jail); we waited about 5 minutes to get in there, then weren't allowed in 2 of the holding pens because there were school groups.

We walked in the silversmith's shop and then realized there was a line for the actual smithy; we ditched it. Decided I definitely wanted to see the wigmaker's shop and we waited over 10 minutes to get in there, then almost were pre-empted by a school group.  Roman really wanted to see the magazine (where the weapons are stored) so we walked down there. We missed the "entrance time" so ended up waiting close to 15 minutes to get in there, then since there was a school group being lectured to by a costumed person we couldn't really freely walk around. It was very disappointing, to say the least. Not sure we will make the effort to ever go back.  For the boys, though, it was made up for by a swim when we returned and a milkshake with dinner. Love that they are so easily pleased.

Tomorrow begins the car ride home. And when we talked about the best parts of our vacation tonight over dinner, my heart filled when Roman said, "hanging with my family."  And that's absolutely why we took this vacation.

Monday, April 09, 2012

On the road

Our vacation has been good so far! We are the kind of planners where we have one definite thing we want to do, and then explore the area or wait until we get somewhere to decide what else we might do. With 2 kids, swimming in the pool is mandatory every day!

Saturday was our long day in the car, but we got to Berkley, WV about 4:00. The boys loved the suite because they had a tv to themselves, and Cartoon Network (we don't have that at home)!  We swam twice, before and after dinner, to reward the kids for being awesome in the car. The Easter Bunny came to our hotel room, too, both hiding eggs and leaving some candy and little toys for the kids.

Sunday we had breakfast at Cracker Barrel, and it always pays to chat up the locals. We told a man we were going to do the coal mine tour, which he said was a great idea for the kids. Then he told us about the New River Gorge, which had the longest arch suspension bridge in the US/Western Hemisphere (there's apparently one in Japan and possibly one in Canada which is now longer). We decided to take that detour on the way out of town. It was really gorgeous!

The coal mine was really interesting. We all liked it - except Charlie. Apparently he's not much for dark underground passageways. Our tour guide was a former miner himself, and there was only one other couple on our tour, so he paid special attention to the boys. Especially Roman, as he is the age where they would begin to apprentice boys in the mine.

After the gorge, we drove the 3-4 hours to Charlottesville. Arrived around 5pm and decided to just order pizza to the room as we were all a little grumpy from the car ride (and stopping no less than 3 times for Charlie to use the bathroom). We swam again, of course!

Charlie is a little hotel expert now, telling us what he likes and doesn't like. He would spend the whole day in the room if he could. As long as we continue to have cable channels we don't at home, Roman is happy to do whatever we ask. Today we are heading out to Monticello and find somewhere for the kids to RUN! There is a glass-making shop in town that looks interesting, we thought the boys might like a hands-on experience after touring the home. And a special stop at Jefferson's Vineyards for some wine for Doug and I.  Tomorrow, before we head out to Richmond, we may do one more thing here - I didn't realize the home of James & Dolley Madison was near here as well.  While fully restored, they are still working on tracking down furniture. But there is also some archaeological digging going on that people can watch, which would be sweet.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Roman's turn!

A rare shot of the subject doing quiet work...

Roman, my heart. Outside of fart/poop jokes, his dry wit has us laughing out loud almost every day. He'll toss off a one liner, like the other day when they were all washing the Jeep. Doug said something about shuffling the brush over the car, or Charlie should shuffle over... Roman stuck his hands in his pocket and said, "you mean shuffle like this?" and proceeded to do a little tap dance number with a big grin on his face. He gets those little word plays that crack us up.

In working with his adoption therapy, we found trying to get him to be okay with his story is just too challenging right now. He's got a lot of anger at his birthmom and a lot of feeling worthless that he's just not ready to tackle. So we are continuing on the plan to have him "graduate" from talk therapy for the time being, last appointment at the end of April. He really is controlling his moods & hyperactivity SO much better than he used to, in conjunction with his meds. He also is continuing on neurofeedback, which has proven remarkable on his anxiety & hyperactivity. We are 35 visits in out of 40, and then Doug and I will decide whether to press on for the rest.

Roman had yet another friend move out of the neighborhood last week. It was one we really liked, he was very agreeable and played well with Roman. We will miss him, and I know every little "bon voyage" rips Roman a little bit. We're focusing on a couple other calming friends and of course I can keep him busy this summer! Most days he's a great big brother too. If not a bit on the bossy side.

At school he still loves Math and Social Studies the best. He did a biography recently on Neil Armstrong, then had to "dress" like him for a presentation last week. He said he wasn't nervous at all. I've tried to get him into theater but he won't have it yet. Still fascinated with skateboarding but won't try it himself. He has a great fear of breaking his leg again - why he won't rejoin karate, for example. He doesn't want swim lessons either. He's a hard boy to please!

Legos are still the main event here at our house, although Imaginext guys / playing guys or cars with Charlie is also a good way to pass the time. I feel like he's approaching that dicey foreign age-land of 9, 10, 11 - ages when I don't know what interests boys and I definitely don't "get" them. Hopefully Doug can help out with this!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


My little independent son. Loves to be a helper - he wants to cook, do the dishes, and tonight he wanted to help me take the trash & recycling out. He's very proud of himself when he does, too. He loves cars, planes, "guys," & recently decided he needs to collect Pokemon cards like Roman. He also has shown some interest in creating Lego guys.

At school his behavior is much improved. No more hitting. Between them and us, we've almost cured him of constant potty-talk, too. Now we're just in the "not following any directions" stage, which drives Doug crazy.  Charlie decided his second swim coach was not as good as his first, Mr. Joe. He told me he wouldn't do a rollover for anyone but Mr. Joe... so we switched his swim class to a new day & time to accommodate his affection. And what do you know, after 2 practices he's doing rollovers for Mr. Joe.

Charlie is also excelling at Tiny Tigers tang soo do, earning his "tiger stripe" after testing last month. Doug reports he seems to be a natural, loving the kicks and remembering combinations pretty well. Clearly he's going to be the athlete of the family.

I have a video but seem to be having trouble uploading it here; but mark my words, it was cute. Charlie singing a little song. Ah well, I'll try it on Facebook for those of you who see me there!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mr. Squishypants

I certainly can't call Charlie "Mr. Squishypants" anymore. Little guy turned four today! At times I can't believe how fast it's gone... and there are times when I feel like he's always been a part of our life. He's such a joy-bringer to our family. Watching him figure out the world is so much fun. From being a shocker pregnancy, to a shocker birth, this boy has grown to be quite a light for us. Happy birthday, Charlie-boy!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Finding balance

So, I mentioned in the previous post that I was working on bringing about balance between work and school. This weekend didn't count, though, because I had a ton of work to catch up on from when I was MIA. Otherwise, this week I did pretty good - although when at home and I thought of something from work, I had to consciously push it to the back of my mind. That's hard work!

I knew that something was going to give, though, as soon as I signed Charlie up for swim lessons. Roman has therapy on Mondays, neurofeedback on Tuesdays along with tang soo do for Doug and Charlie, and now Charlie with swim on Wednesdays. And with the perspective that comes from being at home with no pressure from anywhere, I knew what had to give.

I resigned my position as swim coach on Friday.

Every other year we have "late" practice, which means 4:45-6pm. I wouldn't be able to do anything else, and I can't ask Doug to leave work early every day for 6 weeks. My family life comes first. Now, I know this might be a "duh" for most people, but it has taken me many weeks to get to this point. I talked with Doug, a coworker, another swim coach, and my principal. Did a lot of thinking about my emotions during the season and how I would feel not having the swim season anymore. I love coaching swim almost as much as I love teaching. And I would have had the opportunity to truly shape the practices & routines the way I wanted, as one of the other veteran coaches on the team has decided to quit. But my sanity - and my family's calm & center - would be completely gone.

In the long run, the kids I coach will be less affected by me quitting than my own children would be by my continuing to coach. And that sealed it.

I will be in the "helping & training" role this year, attending practices when I can, meets when I can, and helping behind the scenes with the computer program for lineups and paperwork (and getting paid under the table for it by one of the other coaches - the deal's already been made). But that gives me the leeway to take my boys where they need to be without guilt, and doing things on my own terms. And then next year, done. As of now, the decision makes me sad and feeling a bit empty - but also a whole lot less stressed.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What 5 weeks off work taught me

It has been an interesting break from work that I've completed. 3 weeks away from the classroom, and then another 2 weeks of break. A relative told me that there was a reason why it would happen during the school year and to go with the flow. Of all school years, this has been the most frustrating to me so I do find it interesting my medical needs came up when they did.

In the break I found that I really like being at home. Of course, there was a lot to do - Christmas shopping & the like - and I could get that all done while the kids were at school. Once I could stand for more than 10 minutes at a time, cooking was (almost) fun because I had the time to plan ahead and everything was ready. I could do things for my family and for myself, and thus evenings were more relaxed (and Doug!) because there wasn't laundry, dishes, medicine to pick up, presents to wrap, etc. hanging over us.

But I can see that staying home all the time would be hard on my brain. I like people, I like conversing, and the checkout lady at Kroger's just doesn't cut it. But on the other hand, I'd have the time to join groups; I could read a book for book groups, go see artsy films and do discussions at the library, women's Bible study at church, and an idea I've been toying with lately - teach digital scrapbook classes. I could cart the boys to their ever-growing list of places (therapy, swim lessons, etc) and be completely relaxed about it.

So why don't I quit? That brings up a whole different host of issues. I love working with my students, first and foremost. I love the subject I teach. I enjoy most of my coworkers and count a small number as personal friends as well. I like the challenge of getting an idea across to students; learning new strategies and trying them out in the classroom. The kids make me laugh daily with their dramas & observations on life.

A perfect world would be converting to part-time again. That is definitely a consideration I'm keeping in the back of my mind. Within a couple years I suspect there will be a few more retirements and perhaps I can negotiate. The best would be the first 3 morning classes of 8th graders; I would still have lunch with coworkers, I'd be done by noon, and have the afternoon to myself. I'd be totally willing to stay on the days we had meetings, because I could do planning and grading on those days. What a fantasy...

All this ruminating has led me to think hard on a comment a coworker-friend made, when I explained all this (but more briefly) to her. She said, "It makes you rethink how much work you put into work, doesn't it?" I guess I can't do it all. So the next few months I will strive to balance my physical work and my mental work; try to keep my mental work at school especially, because sometimes all I can think about when I get home is all the stuff I have to do at work. Hopefully if I can do this, then home life will be calmer as well. Until we win the lottery, that is.  More is in the works at school to help me bring about balance, but I can't really mention it right now as it's not "official." So there's a teaser to keep ya'll coming back.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Roman's progress

(note to self: update the blog page! It's not Christmas anymore!)

2012 is bringing interesting changes on the mental health front. At the end of December our weekly therapist, D, and I agreed that we have gone as far as possible in respect to learning strategies to help Roman (both on parental and his own part). there is one big thing left for him to deal with - his story. Roman does not like to talk about his birth or the fact that he was abandoned. He will talk about Russia; occasionally let slip that he thinks about his birthfamily; but when it comes to facing the hard truths, he gets very dysregulated. So that is our goal over the next 2-3 months - he will be creating a physical timeline of his life with ALL the details that we can put together between what we know, what his paperwork said, and what Doug & I gleaned when we were in Russia. It's going to be hard, intensive work for Roman but necessary.

Our visit to D last week brought the introduction of the timeline idea to Roman, as well as the confidential announcement to Doug and I that she has decided to retire effective end of May. This dovetails well with our plan (or was the plan made to dovetail with her announcement?) and so we have decided to not tell Roman that she is retiring; we will "graduate" him instead. I feel strongly that Roman needs to earn his way out of therapy rather than feel like he is being left. This was something Doug and I had worried would happen earlier in therapy, so we actually feel some relief that she stayed until Roman could wrap things up. When April arrives, we will drop to maybe every-other-week appointments, and then do a couple "check in" appointments, and then he will be done.

Does this mean Roman is all healed? Not by a long shot. We have been encouraged to continue with neurofeedback, which we will for another 18 sessions or so (we pay 20 at a time). We have also been encouraged to seek out some Occupational Therapy for Roman regarding some sensory work. There are little things that we've always noticed; he doesn't sense his own pressure (like presses too hard when writing and breaks the pencil lead); he has always had trouble sensing his body functions (whether his stomach or bladder is full or empty, etc). We also are going to request an OT evaluation at school so we have in writing some of the suggestions made and also what strategies his teacher has already put in place. Toward the end of April we want to ask D's coworker, L (school psychologist) to do another, shorter, workup on Roman to see how he stands regarding his ADHD, attachment issues, anxiety, etc.

After all this, will he be healed? No. He will need medication for his bipolar disorder the rest of his life, and we will all need to continue the strategies we've learned to help him stay regulated and successful. As Roman grows older D predicts social issues may bring about the need for therapy again, as well as developmental hormones that could wreak havoc on the bipolar medication. Roman has made some great strides however, and we're proud of the work that he (and us!) have put in to get him mentally healthy.