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.