Friday, May 30, 2008

Max's Best

Tonight at dinner Max's best for the day was, "I wasn't really in trouble at all today."

It totally cracked me up because I'd just gotten done writing about all of the troubles today here on the blog.

I'm guessing the difference is that no one got overly mad or yelled and he didn't have to ever spend time in his room or sitting on a stool. So, even though he did stuff he shouldn't have and there were consequences, he felt like he hadn't been in trouble all day.

Is this a good thing? Yes, I think so. I think what it really means is that he never really felt unloved. That's a check in the good column in my book.

Friday - Babbling On

It's Anthony's Friday off, which is very nice. He got up early this morning and went for a killer bike ride - 50+ miles with a good amount of hills. The down side to this is that I got up and got Max off to school, rather than sleeping in. ;)

Getting Max off to school went okay today, but there were a few complications. Max opted to not walk with me because he didn't like my topic of conversation. I was asking him how he thought Dad's business trip was going. You see, Max told his substitute teacher on Tuesday that his dad had left on a week long out of town business trip and Max hadn't had a chance to say good-bye. This is why Max was so sad that he had to put his head down and cry rather than do his school work. Yeah. Max didn't want to talk about that, so much.

When we got to school, Max had to give a pencil back to his teacher that he'd appropriated yesterday. His teacher is finally getting more strict with him about this issue. She, in fact, told him that he couldn't take some markers home when school is out (even though he was going to get to) because he took them early and then claimed to her that she'd told him he could.

Then it was back home to get Davan up, do chores, have breakfast and go off to open gym. Davan spent some time showing her coach some more advanced skills today. When kids move up to team from pre-team, if they have a certain set of skills mastered, it's a big deal and they get a trophy. Davan had a whole list of about 30 skills to work though that her coach wanted to check, including several things she'd never done before. Literally. However, she did all of them but two. Yeah, you read that right. Two. It was pretty awesome. She'll have a couple of weeks to see if she can get those last two in order to get the trophy. Quite a few of the girls that move up to team don't get it, so it's quite a coup.

Right after open gym, we went to Max's therapy appointment, Max having been picked up by Anthony during open gym. We all went so that we could go out to lunch afterward. During lunch, Max took his shoes and socks off. We explained that it was a restaurant rule that you have to wear your shoes, so he needed to put them back on. This was especially true because it was a buffet and there was a lot of getting up and walking around. He hemmed and hawed until he got a time limit after which his shoe needed to be on or he'd have to leave. I was near done and could have easily taken him out. He got it on. I explained that he needed to leave his shoes on or he'd have to leave the restaurant. He said he understood.

We got up to go get him some more food and I noticed that the tongue of one shoe was jammed down to the toe of the shoe. Max mentioned that it was uncomfortable. I sympathized, but told him it had to stay on, as he had several chances for it to not be on that way - not take them off in the first place, put them on as soon as he was asked to and put it on right when he was given the time limit (which he beat by a fairly healthy margin).

Guess what his shoe looked like when we left the restaurant? If you guessed that the tongue was fixed, you'd be right. The only way to do that was to take the shoe off and put it back on.

We have plans to go out tomorrow evening for dinner to celebrate Davan's moving up. We were going to do that after he testing, but she was too sick for eating out to be fun that night. Tomorrow is her last Devos meet, so we're doing it then. Max is now not invited. He wasn't able to follow the restaurant rules. We have to figure out what he's going to do instead, though. We'd hoped he could go to Anthony's MIL, but his cousin, Conor, who doesn't like him, is going to be there and we don't want Conor to have to put up with him more than necessary.

Here's a good thing, though. I was mad, but I didn't yell. I just fairly calmly expressed my disappointment and then started trying to make arraignments for him to be elsewhere tomorrow evening. I haven't even rubbed that in or anything. Yay me.

But, the drama for the day doesn't end there! No! We had more! Max came home today with a marble and a Lego figure, both stolen from school. We found out about the marble first because he totally flaunted it by putting it in Anthony's pocket while we were at therapy. What kind of sense does that make? When we got home from lunch, I just calmly when into his room and went through everything on his shelves and toy boxes. That's when I found the Lego figure, as well as another pencil and a couple of erasers that had been taken other days. Yeah, it's little stuff, but it's constant. And it's not his.

Then he, Anthony and I put his room back together. It looks much nicer now and he might actually be able to find stuff to play with. It probably won't last, but oh well. We didn't even do it in an angry way, so we spent relatively positive time together, even. It felt like a good, logical consequence.

Then Max went and betrayed our trust again. Sigh. He was supposed to be doing his chores and he went out side. I figured he was doing possession patrol, as he had left some stuff in the yard earlier. However, when I looked out there later, his stuff was still there. It turns out that he'd gone to see if Nate was at his grandparent's across the street! He's not allowed to leave the yard without permission and he was supposed to be doing his chores, which he was perfectly clear on. It's very frustrating. He seems to be getting worse and worse about being trustworthy. He's lying more, appropriating things from school more and generally doing things that betray our trust. Another example of trust betraying was that he had lost the privilege of listening to a book on tape earlier this week by being loud late at night. After Anthony said goodnight to him, he got down and turned it on himself.

Any-who, that's enough ranting on for this evening. Davan would like me to do something with her while the boys are at football practice.


I know I've been going back and forth a lot here on the blog. I'm practically schizophrenic. Guess what? I'm still working through the stages of grief. I don't know how long it'll take me to get past it because wounds keep opening up - a new crisis, the adoption finalization, Anthony seeming to take Max's side. All of these are likely to open up my grief wounds again.

What am I grieving? The loss of our family as I knew it. The lost of the family I'd hoped to have after adoption. The loss of my ability to think of myself as a good, or at least decent, parent. The loss of Davan's safe childhood.

I move onto "I can do this. It'll be okay," back to anger and depression. It's normal. It's a normal way of processing grief. It might look crazy, but it's not. Eventually, I should be able to heal.

Now, in all fairness, Max is grieving, too. He's grieving for his foster family. He's grieving for his birth mom. He's grieving for his family ideal (which we are not!). Rationally, I can see that. Living with it all day to day...well, it's much harder.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Another Rough Day

Max is having another day on the rocks. He still seems to be having school issues - feeling unsettled. We talked some this morning about the other school options. This afternoon he told me he hated Highland and wanted to move to another school. Now.

He's showing is very anxious behaviors. Two weeks for the meds to kick in. Supposedly. Yesterday was one week.

Unfortunately, he escalated enough today that he'll be missing football practice this evening. He lied to us yesterday, saying that he didn't have any reading homework. Today he told me that he'd lied (only because I'd have known as soon as I looked at his book) and I decided that I wasn't going to let it go. I'm very tired of being lied to all the time. And lying about stuff he knows we'll find out about seems especially stupid. That's just saying, "Hey, I can lie all I want and there won't be any repercussions."

I let him know that because my patience was just about out as a result of being lied to and generally annoyed for the last couple of days, that he needed to get his list of stuff done post haste and then entertain himself in his room until dinner if he wanted to go to football this evening.

Well, he had some troubles, but was making it, when I found out that he'd lied about finishing a job. That was it for me. He's not going.

It just doesn't feel like this job gets easier. I can probably do it, though. It just isn't going to be fun. It'll be a job. His whole childhood. Probably. Maybe not. Maybe he'll change. Maybe I will.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I'm Not Sleeping

I wish I were. I know that tomorrow, I'll really wish I'd been sleeping now. But, I'm not. My mind is chasing it's own tail around and around. Lots going on. Lots to think about. Dark chocolate too close to bedtime. Yeah. I think it all contributes.

Davan. She made team. This is great. I'm very excited for her. I'm also worried about the excitement/apprehension levels in the house up until she goes for her first team work out. It's only a week, which is good. But, it's a whole week. Yeah. I'll have to keep her busy.

I'm somewhat worried about finances. We can swing it for her to be on team, but it'll cost us a vacation or deck or there abouts. It's so important to her and it's worth it, but gosh. It's a lot of money.

Max. He had a rough afternoon. He just felt like being as annoying as he could be including gems like making a loud and sudden noise behind Davan's back while she was reading, getting out of bed to turn on his book on tape that he did not have privileges for this evening due to poor after bedtime behavior last night and asking multiple times to take one of the family balls outside after he'd already lost one over the neighbor's fence. (The neighbor does not want Max in her yard. I can't blame her. He'd be over there about 5 times every 15 minutes while playing with a ball in our yard. He's just that sort of kid. So, the rule is, if a ball goes over the fence, you have to leave it until she feels like tossing it back. Meanwhile, you can take more of your own balls out to loose over the fence, but not any family balls.)

I finally figured out after he went to bed that he might have been having a rough day because of my answer to a morning question. Of course, he couldn't just say so. No. He asked this morning if he was going to go to Highland again next year. The answer is, "Not if I can help it." and I wanted to be somewhat truthful, so I said I wasn't totally sure. I don't know what brought the question on, but it seems that his teacher might have asked him. This kind of ticks me off because I wanted the question to be settled before I brought it up with him, which it's not. At any rate, he's probably feeling unsettled about the whole thing. Does this mean his meds aren't helping? Or is a week too early to tell?

I'm supposed to call a judge's assistant tomorrow and set up a time for finalization. Again, I'm feeling balky. I still think we're going to do it and I still don't really think there's a good alternative, but. But. But I want him to be in a family where he's truly loved and cherished. Maybe he can't be yet. Maybe he isn't healthy enough. But maybe he could be in a different family. Would he find that family if we opted not to adopt? Probably not.

I'm reading Another Place at the Table, which is about a foster/adoptive mom and her experiences. It's a good read, but when she talks about one foster daughter, Lucy, and why they opted not to adopt her, but rather let her find an adoptive family where she'd be truly valued, I want to cry. Max won't ever have that. And it's sad. The kids they adopted or wanted to adopt all felt like one of their own, but Lucy didn't.

It's sad for me and it's sad for Max. I wanted a child that would feel like my own. Max deserves that. We're both loosing out. I feel like I messed up. We should have fostered. I thought the heartache of loosing a child that we loved (back to bio parents) would be too much. I didn't consider the possibility of having a forever child I couldn't love. I wish we'd fostered so that we could get to know potential children without the pressure of being chosen as the adoptive family already. We'd all know it was probably temporary then. That's what I'd do if I had it to do over again.

I want to talk to Barbara (our case worker) and tell her these things. I want to say to her, "Look, I want what's best for Max. Is there any way that what's best for him is a different family? Does he have a chance if we don't finalize? Can we keep him until a permanent family that is the right family is found? If we back out and Max moves on can we foster and maybe find a child that moves into our hearts?"

I want to ask her, just to make sure, "What happens if he needs residential treatment when he's a teenager?" I'm pretty sure he's covered, but I was just realizing that I'm not totally sure. And it's possible that he won't be able to live here.

Is it too late for all this? Now is better than after finalization, but never is probably better for Max's attachment. Or is it? Maybe he could attach to a family that loved him for who he is. Or maybe he's too sick and wouldn't attach to any family and this is as good as it gets for him.

I wish I had a crystal ball and could know what the future holds. I could always consult the all-knowing Magic Eight Ball. Oh, Magic Eight Ball, is it the right thing for Max to stay in our family? (My sources say no.) Oh, Magic Eight Ball, is it the right thing for our family for Max to stay? (Don't count on it.)

Well, with that stellar advice, we should disrupt. To make sure: Oh, Magic Eight Ball, should we disrupt Max's adoption? (All signs point to yes.) Very consistent.

At least when I asked, "Have we harmed Max by keeping him this long?" it said, "Very doubtful." Thank you Magic Eight Ball. I feel all better now.

I'm off to try to sleep again. Tomorrow is another day.


I'm listening to a set of presentations by a lady named Holly van Gulden. She grew up in a large, multi-national, multi-racial foster/adoptive family. I believe she was the only bio child in the family. She is also an adoptive mom and a therapist who works with adoptive kids, particularly the most troubled ones.

Now, life with Max isn't easy, but he's also not one of the most troubled ones. Yeah, he is passive agressive. Yeah, he's oppositional and defiant. Yeah, he has physically attacked me. Yeah, he's somewhat destructive. Yeah, he lies. Yeah, he hordes in a way that is precariously close to stealing. However, sometimes he also does what he's asked to do. Sometimes he's cheerful and helpful. He's only had one hard hit in the last several months, although there are other agressive behaviors.

But. He doesn't attack me with butcher knives. He hasn't yet molested anyone. (I do say yet because he's done a little skirting of the issue and I don't feel the case is closed here for sure.) He doesn't ruin Davan's stuff. Nor does he physically harm her. He doesn't

So, in listening to these presentations called Keeping Families Healthy, I'm sometimes thinking we don't have it so badly. Suffice it to say that it's bad enough for me, though. And I still need to hear what they're saying to deal with stuff.

There are three separate presentations in the set. The first is about Keeping Healthy Siblings Healthy When One Child is Acting Out. The second is called Living with an Angry Child. Both are interesting and pertinent. It's the second that's got me thinking, yet again, about anger.

I read a lot about anger with parenting. It's in most parenting books. We get angry. How do we deal with it? It's an especially big deal with a child who is angry because parents get angry more easily then.

I've read to let it out in small bursts as you feel it. It's okay to yell a little to prevent build up of anger, says this theory. When I yell, Max tunes out, freezes up and probably takes a bunch of steps backward.

I've been told by therapists that it's okay that I get angry and blow my top sometimes because Max is such a hard kid and I'm only human. Looking at it now, I'm thinking, "I don't need permission. That just makes it too easy to blow my top. I need to not blow my top instead."

And there's been lots of other advice, as well, both from therapists and from books. What van Gulden points out, and I think it's very valid, is that we're modeling all the time, that kids who've been abused often feel abused just by yelling (thus regressing in feelings of safety and security), and that we need to figure out how not to buy into the anger.

As is often the case when I read (or listen to) good advice, I also feel like too much is being asked of me. However, if I, the 36 year old, can't stop myself from picking Max up and shoving him into his room, then how can I ask Max, the 6 (almost 7) year old, to not shove when he's angry?

How do I manage my anger? Well, van Gulden has some advice about the matter. Don't add "should haves" to the equation is a big one. If a child doesn't do his chores, you can deal with that directly and might add some fuel to the pile of stress, but adding in "he should have done his chores" sparks the fuel, causing anger.

She has short stress reducing ideas - such as do jumping jacks.

Basically, the idea is that you can change yourself, but you can't change the child. If you do change yourself, your child will then have the room to grow. She, herself, was stuck for 4 years in a negative anger cycle with one of her kids. When she took her anger out of the situation, or the negative way of dealing with the anger out, then her son had room to grow.

It's a lot to swallow. Even if it's stuff I've heard before and even tell myself. I'm making things worse with my angry reactions. It's not that I've caused the damage in the first place that makes him angry, but I'm not helping him to heal, either.


Tonight is the meeting with Davan's coach to talk about the testing she did on Friday. I know why Linda wants to talk to them individually. I know why she doesn't just want to call with the news. I can understand that. Especially if a girl didn't make it or needs to know her options.

However, our weekend would have been a lot less stressful if Linda had said to Davan on Friday, "Good job - you made it - we'll talk more Tuesday." I've told Davan that she's in like Flynn, but my word doesn't make her believe. The worry plus the illness made for an emotional weekend for my little preteen.

This morning, though, she is suddenly confident that she made it. Okay, then. Now that the waiting is almost over.

Thus, next week starts the step up in gymnastics hours. She'll have workouts for 3 hours at a time 3 times a week.

I've promised to stay with her for the whole first workout, but then I'll mostly drop her off with some watching at the ends. The problem here is, for watching that first workout, is Max. I really don't want to have him at the gym for 3 hours. Or even for 1 1/2 until Anthony could come and get him after he gets home from work. When we were there for 2 hours for Davan's testing on Friday, it didn't go well. He and another boy (who has behaviors I would not tolerate in my home) fed off of each other. Just one of his lovely behaviors was when I put my hand out for him to put whatever he was chewing on (it turns out wadded up paper, but it can just as easily be toys, beads, candy found on the ground) in it and he worked up a whole mouthful of spit to spit into my hand. And all of this was in spite of the video that was on to watch, which usually pacifies him.

I'm trying to decide what to do with him next Tuesday while I go to the gym. I'd like it not to be a reward, but is that just petty? I'd like to hire a baby sitter and tell said baby sitter that he/she is just there for his safety and not to play with him. I'd like him not to play video games or watch videos during that time.

I don't want to pay for a baby sitter. I think it should come out of his allowance, as otherwise, he'd get to go to the gym, where there are siblings to play with, a movie to watch and a play area. So, it's really not torture to go there. However, he doesn't get much allowance. Said baby sitter would have to baby sit from about 3:40 until about 5:30 - basically two hours. I guess he could pay a month's worth of allowance to cover most of it. He only gets $5 a month for a variety of reasons. Neither of my kids get weekly allowance.

The other stumbling block to this plan is that we don't have a regular baby sitter. I'd have to find someone in a short period of time. And, frankly, most of the teens I know either wouldn't want to baby sit for him, wouldn't be available or would think that not playing with him was cruel.

So. Another alternative is to have him go to my SIL's house for that period of time. It'd be free, if they are available. But, again, that would be a treat for him. Maybe I should let that go. It'd also be very much not a treat for Conor, though. Conor is a similar aged cousin. Conor very much dislikes Max. I don't think it's fair to impose Max on him more than necessary.

What else? It's possible that my MIL might be able to come by and watch him, but that's the day she spends time with said SIL's family, so that probably wouldn't work.

There's the Champions after school care program at his school. That's a little costly and, again, probably a treat. And I don't really know how to go about signing him up for the one day and if they even have availability.

So, I'm mulling it over.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

We are just hanging out today. We were going to go camping this weekend, but 1) the weather report changed from nice to rainy, even thundershowery and 2) Davan and I got sick. We've already done the visiting of my parents that happens every weekend they are in town.

Davan has a play date that should be starting in about 20 minutes and go for the whole afternoon. Max can also invite a friend over, but he is currently passive aggressively pretending he doesn't know what I asked him to do (get out a clean napkin for himself), so that needs to be resolved before he can move on with his day.

Davan and I are both healthy today. Whew. I might go for a walk at some point. That'd be nice.

My MIL comes for dinner tonight, as it's her usual Monday. Neither kid has sports stuff this evening with the holiday and all, so there won't be any rushing off.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Pee Again

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, having gotten off on the side track of K, about Max's late night adventure last night.

Anthony and I are watching a House episode, chilling out, long after Max was in bed, when we heard a loud thunk. It was a familiar thunk of Max jumping off of his loft bed and, thus, we were waiting to hear his door open. Instead, we heard the sound of pee hitting the ground. Anthony went running down there and Max had peed in the corner of his room.

First we were mad. Then we thought he'd been asleep. Then I started talking to him while helping him get cleaned up - he'd pulled up his pj bottoms when he'd heard Anthony come down the hall while he was still peeing - and discovered that, indeed, he'd been awake and had chosen to pee in his room because he "just had to pee so bad." Now, Max has had some peeing trouble in the past, but he's never done this.

I'm feeling quite out of sorts about it. It's yet another thing we had said we didn't want to take on and yet, here we are. My life these days, folks.


Davan and I have both been sick sense early (like 3am) Thursday morning. Stomach stuff. Neither of us has puked, but we've both had our fair share of the runs, plenty of cramps plus general sore stomachs and being quite run down. All-in-all, it's been rather yucky.

It was also quite bad timing. Davan had testing for team for gymnastics on Friday evening. She was in bad shape. She still really wanted to go. We went. She lay like a lump on the floor in between getting up and performing her skills like there was nothing wrong. She didn't even warm them up, but she still did everything. The only thing she didn't ace was the cartwheel in the medium beam, which isn't a make or break deal. For being dizzy, she did awesome on the beam. We won't know for sure until Tuesday evening, but I'm almost 100% sure she made it.

Meanwhile, my tolerance for Max was very low and his annoyance factor was very high, resulting in me doing something I regret Saturday. Max lied to me and then argued about it when I caught him, even though I tried not to even give him a chance to argue and that, on top of his annoying behavior for the past 24 hours prior to then plus my illness put me over the top. I grabbed the kid by the face and yelled at him, then picked him up and tossed him into his room. Sigh. Max is good at pushing my buttons, but I've been good about not doing things I regret for several months now. I'm not happy about doing it.

Max's 7th birthday is approaching...more or less. It's at the end of June. He wants a laser tag party. So, he and 8 other small boys are off to Lazer Planet for some rousing laser tag, pizza and cake. We worked on invitations today even. He's got his list of invitees figured out and we'll hand them out soon. It's a little early, but he is inviting several friends from school whom he doesn't see outside of school, nor do we have contact information for them. So, we have to get the invitations out and, hopefully, hear back on the RSVPs before school is out in case he needs to fill in with other kids.

I take it back, actually, Max and 7 other small boys are off to Lazer Planet. There's also going to be one girl. It's not Davan. She's going, but not playing. The girl is his other sister, K, his bio half sister who lives about 2 1/2 hours away. We try to see them about once every 3 months, but it's been 6 months now since our last visit. This is mostly my fault.

Max would like to see her and K's adoptive parents (her paternal grandparents who aren't related to Max) are supportive of them getting together. However, I'm really not fond of the grandpa. And, while Max pays lip service to loving K and visa versa, they don't seem to actually have any depth to their relationship. They've never lived together. K was removed from their mother when she was a baby before Max was born while Max lived with their mother until he was 2 1/2 and then lived in foster families.

The relationship is very awkward all around and in some ways I think it'd be a lot easier to just cut the ties. I'd feel differently if Max and K had lived together and had a sibling bond, but they just don't. Still, Max wants to see her, so we'll keep it up.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


I'm looking at schools for Max for next year. I'm less than thrilled with the school he's in this year. Of course, there would be a new teacher next year, but still. Even without a new teacher, there is still the whole candy for good behavior stuff that feels indicative to me of the atmosphere of the school. It sort of says, "We don't really expect children to act right, so we'll treat them when they do." Not to mention that I think candy for rewards sets children up for eating troubles, which Max already has.

So, what are the alternatives? Well, the ideal alternative, for Max, would be The Arthur Academy in my opinion. It's very structured and good behavior is expected, not rewarded. It's very close to us, which would make pick ups and drop offs easy. They even have a dress code, which I appreciate for Max. It's a charter school, so we wouldn't have to pay tuition.

However, The Arthur Academy is full. And, while there are three stages of deadlines for the lottery for next year (for those few spots that might have opened up), we missed the first two. i guess I was slacking. Anyway, I did make the final deadline for the lottery, but I am not holding out high hopes of him getting in.

Of course, another alternative would be to find a private school that I like. Costly, though, and we're saving tuition money for when we send him to military school starting in middle school. Kidding. Sort of.

The two other charter schools that are near-by, but not walking distance, although one is conceivably biking distance, are MLA and Lewis and Clark.

MLA would be good for Max with the multisensory approach. And, basically, I just think that charter schools are a better environment. People there care about what they are doing and are more consistent across the class rooms. However, currently, they are about a 15-20 minute drive away and I'm not excited about that every day. At any rate, I've applied for Max and we'll see what happens with the other choices.

Lewis and Clark is a new charter school, starting up the coming up fall. It's a Montessori school. If it had been around when Davan was starting school, she might well have ended up there instead of homeschooling. Even if they were offering classes for her age, I'd consider having her try it out, but we're pretty happy with the homeschooling. I think she'd like it, but miss her days at home.

Anyway, about Max, though. They will offer K-2nd grade the first year and they'll add a year each year up and including 5th grade. They espouse many philosophies that I like and look for many traits in their students that I'd like to see in Max.

In some ways, it seems like a good match. There isn't much sitting at desks, which Max would appreciate. There are long, uninterrupted periods of time for doing long projects. Max doesn't like having to stop doing something to move on to another thing, even if the other thing is fun, too. Collaborating is encouraged. Some of what Max gets in trouble for at school is helping other kids because he's talking when he's supposed to be doing his own work. There is a lot of using of motor skills, which is also very good for Max.

The things I worry about, though, are not few. They want kids who are self motivated and don't need pats on the back when they get things done. They want kids who can follow class rules without threat of punishment. Kids who are super distractable might find a Montessori class room to be too much stimulus. Yeah.

It does look like Max would get in. I went to an information meeting last night and most of the parents there seemed to be there for kindergarteners. And there were not enough families to fill the school. Thus, it seems like Max going in as a second grader would be a pretty sure bet. They might not even need a lottery.

I've decided this. The Arthur Academy is my first choice for Max. If he gets in there, then that's it. My second choice is Lewis and Clark. And that will probably be where he goes. If things go very wrong, I can always pull him out.

Another upside is that they like kids helping kids, so Davan can probably volunteer, which she's dying to do. I have to volunteer - 40 hours for the school year between Anthony and I. That's okay, too. Being involved in school is a good thing if that's what your kids are doing.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


You're probably familiar with the idea that putting a label on kids is a bad thing. They will do their darndest to live up to it. Call little Johnny a trouble maker often enough and he'll show you just what kind of trouble he can get up to. "Man, Suzy, you're such a whiner!" is not likely in the slightest to reduce the whining.

Yeah. This I know. And, yet, I've got Max all labeled in my head. In fact, we've even said it aloud. Anthony and I joke that Max's motto is, "If it's said to me, I must disagree." This is funny and true. But, are we helping to make it true by saying it?

Truly, Anthony says at dinner one night, "It didn't rain on me on my bike ride today." Max said, "No! It was raining!" He wasn't even there! It's crazy stuff like this that he argues about.

He also is unreliable in the truth department. Sometimes I can tell he's telling the truth, but a lot of times I can't tell. So, yes, we've sort of labeled him as a liar. I try hard to tell him both that it's hard to trust him because he isn't always honest and to let him know that I expect he'll start telling the truth sometime and then, after he's done that for a while, I'll be able to trust him.

It's a hard thing this whole labeling deal.

Nail Bitting

I guess Max's stress level is up. When he was first moving in, his foster mom told us that he bites his nails and we could use that as a gage as to how he was settling in. His first two fingers on his right hand were short all the time then. He was biting them.

Then, for a while, it seemed like all his nails needed trimming. Then it was back to the first two fingers on the right hand.

Now? Now, all of his finger nails are down to the quick. It must be painful, but he doesn't mention it. No trimming necessary.

Is it just a bad habit he's gotten into? Is his stress really up that much? If so, what about? The fact that the finalization still hasn't happened?

I dunno. However, we did start him on anti-anxiety meds yesterday. We'll see if that makes a difference.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Moving On and Lots of Rambling

I'm moving on from the listing of good things. Not that it wasn't a good exercise, but I'm feeling done with it. Bored. I want to write about other stuff, but I was using all my time with the listing.

Game Day. There's stuff about Game Day. For the several years now that I've been hosting Game Day on Thursday afternoons, it's been one of my favorite days of the week. I love having everyone over and playing games. I love the laughing. I love the running around at the park. It's good stuff. However....

Davan's gymnastics schedule is changing. She's testing for team this Friday and it's almost a sure thing that she's going to make it. She has her skills and is looking good. Even with a sore elbow (more on that later), she did all her skills last night at practice, rarely missing anything. This is great news. However....

We do Game Day from 1:30-whenever. The organized portion of Game Day finishes up at 3:30. We could end then. I really like the free flowing play whatever in smaller groups portion that happens after 3:30, though. Most of the time, everyone trickles out around 4:30 or even 5:00.

Level 4 team workouts are from 4:00-7:00 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. We have to leave about 20 minutes before class to get Davan to the gym on time. I've already let Davan know that I won't be staying for the whole class all the time. I plan on catching the last hour or so most of the time. I did tell her I'd stay for the whole session her first time.

All this means that I need to leave home around 3:40 to get Davan to gymnastics by 4:00. Even if I dropped her off and came right back home, I'd still be gone for most of the free flow portion of Game Day. Thus, I either need to find a new day for Game Day or a new time for Game Day or cut Game Day off at 3:30 or just stop having it all together.

The new day thing might work for the summer. Many of us have more availability in the summer. Of course, the summer schedule is supposedly different for gymnastics, as well. But, I don't know what it is yet. Either way, the summer schedule for gymnastics doesn't start until the third week of June, but Davan starts working out with the team the first week of June.

Perhaps I can keep Game Day where it is for now, have a couple of weeks that I kick everyone out at 3:30 (sigh) and then take it from there with the summer schedule. That might be the best solution for the time being.

Changing days won't work for the fall. In the fall, the only free day for us and the vast majority of Game Day attendees is Thursday because we've all kept it free for years now. Other days involve swimming, book groups, park days, skiing, etc. However, a new day could work for the summer.

Then there is changing times. Well....that could work, but wouldn't lend itself to having the extended play time either. If we meet in the mornings, people would need to get going for lunch. Might as well keep it where it is and just cut it off at 3:30.

Then there is letting it go altogether. That could happen. The kids are all getting older. Several are off to college and/or have schedules that make attending an iffy thing anyway. It might be time to consider this option.

For the time being, though, I guess I've worked it out that we'll stay on Thursdays at least until swimming is over and there is the new gymnastics schedule starting (that's the same week). Then I'll take it from there.

On another Game Day note...somehow I hurt both my back and my left knee last Game Day. I didn't notice when it happened, but when we got back to the house and I was sitting on the floor playing games, I sure did. My back was in serious pain for a couple of days and then it eased off. Both back and knee are still twinging some, but neither is serious now. Whew. Although, I'd have rather not had the pain at all. :)

We went to Great Wolf Lodge for Sunday and Monday. It was fun, but we probably won't do it again. We went while the prices were cheaper (but still costly) for their introductory offer. They just opened this one here in Washington. We enjoyed the water park.

Davan and I played the most with about 7 hours in the park on Sunday and about 4 1/2 on Monday. It wore Max out. He fell asleep watching TV with Anthony in the room Sunday night and again in the car on the way home Monday.

We had a cute room with a theme. It was called a KidCabin. My parents came along, so it was good that we had a room that fit 6.

Davan injured her elbow on Sunday. She was just walking around a corner and went sprawling, striking her elbow when she landed. The scream was so loud and long (not unusual for her, though, really) that the thought crossed my mind that she'd broken her elbow. She hadn't, but it's stiff and sore still today.

I think I had the most fun playing in the wave pool, when it wasn't overcrowded with people. It was amazing how many people were in the water park. The lines were a bit long, especially for the Howling Tornado and the wave pool was often very crowded.

The general consensus was that we were glad we'd gone, we'd had a fun time, we were glad we'd only gone for one night and we didn't really need to do it again, especially given the cost to go when the usual fees apply. Davan was the only one who thought another night would have been cool. She, though, agreed that the price wasn't worth another visit.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thursday's List

Max was very grateful for the French toast I made him for breakfast this morning. Max told me he was happy about going to the foster/adoption appreciation dinner we're going to tonight, even though it's on the same night as a fund raiser at Chuck E Cheese. I'm not sure he really feels this way, but he put on a brave face.

Davan was a joy to be with at the park today. We shared lunch and she ran around a lot. When I spilled a large container of cat food on the utility room floor this morning, she didn't say a word, just started to help pick it up.

Anthony agreed to come home early from work tomorrow so that he could be here when Max gets home so I can teach a spring board diving class. Anthony gets up for work every day at 4:30am so he can be home to have dinner and spend some time together as a family before Max has to go to bed.

I took Davan to the park today. I hold game day every Thursday and it's a favorite event among the attendees.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Park This Afternoon

We had a lovely time at the park this afternoon. I spent most of the time laying in the shade, as I've not been feeling very well the last few days. It felt nice to rest a bit.

The kids played together! With minimal arguing! It was a thing of beauty!

Max was running around for a while with no socks on! When he came to us, it was challenging to even get him to take his socks off for his bath. Well, practically.

It was a very successful 45 minutes or so. Then I had to go to the bathroom too badly to stay and it was time to get home so Davan could make dinner and Max has his list to do before dinner and flag football and, and, and. A very nice time was had, though.

Whew! I need that every now and then!

Wednesday's List

Max drank his smoothie this morning even though there were chunks of blueberries in it (apparently I did a poor job of running the blender this morning) and, in the past, that would have totally been a deal breaker for him. I had to tell Max this morning that I don't think the adoption will be finalized before school gets out for the summer after all. There is a delay in Salem. Nothing to do with him or us, but it's for everyone. The adoption office is behind. He took the news pretty well. He wasn't happy about it and was able to say so, but he didn't let it ruin his day, either.

Davan did an awesome job with chores this morning. She worked quickly and diligently and we got done in record time. Davan amazes me every day with her strength. She is getting so muscular around her upper arms and across her back, particularly. She really works at it, too. On her off day from swimming and gymnastics yesterday, she did push ups, sit ups and other calisthenics just because she wanted to. I really admire her fitness.

Anthony read to Davan last night even though it was my night so that I could talk to my mom on the phone when she called right at bed time. Anthony was totally cool with me telling the kids some good news by myself, even though he'd miss their faces lighting up with excitement.

I have honored my word to keep Max appraised of the adoption proceedings, rather than assuming that he knows without ever really being told. I made dinner without complaining or snapping at anyone last night, even though I was really not feeling well. I'm feeling better today, but still seem to have a little something.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tuesday's List

Max chose to have carrot sticks with dinner last night when he didn't have to. Max is an enthusiastic participant in physical play type activities.

Davan makes dinner at least once a week and it's usually quite good. Davan is good at showing affection.

Anthony rides his bike to work, which I think is great. Anthony always makes time for me if I call him at work and need to talk.

I make sure my family has healthy things to eat all the time. I give my kids lots of hugs.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Learning to Love Max

When Max first moved in with us....or, rather, when we first started going to therapy for Max, which was a couple of months into placement...Max's therapist told us that we didn't have to love him yet. It was enough to get through the day and have him in bed, fed and safe (not abused), at the end of the day.

I'm sure that's true. At that point, that was enough. I think, though, that it gave me permission not to love him. I still don't feel love. I hug him, I read to him, I feed him, I do finger rhymes, I tell him I love him, I cuddle him. But I do those things because that's what you're supposed to do with kids, not because I really want to.

I have impulses to hug Davan. When I see her first thing in the morning, I want to pick her up and hug her. If I miss her bedtime because I'm out, I feel sad that I didn't get to say good night. I figure that's how a parent should feel about their child.

I don't know if it's a lack in me that I don't feel this for Max. Parents who have bio kids and then adopt kids talk all the time about how they don't feel differently about their adopted kids. They feel the same intensity of love, protection and devotion for all of them.

Sometimes, I must admit, I think it's because they aren't as bonded with their bio kids as much as I am with Davan. 'Cause here's the thing - my SIL is glad to have time away from her kids. She's glad when they go to school. She's exasperated by them all the time. It seems like there are very few positive remarks toward them in comparison with all the snappish/frustrated/annoyed/angry remarks. That seems pretty much like I feel about Max. So, if parents feel that way about their bio kids, then, yeah, the adopted kid wouldn't be any different, would they?

Then, of course, there is the adopted kid that just crawls right into the heart for whatever reason and the parent feels immediate love. Max's therapist tells me that this is rare. Perhaps that's really so, but perhaps it's rare for her because the people who feel that way about their adopted kids aren't taking them for therapy.

At any rate, I wonder if it's time to stop giving myself permission not to love him. Not loving him makes it so easy for me to be angry with him. I feel punitive toward him because I want him to suffer for what he's done.

When I'm well rested and objective, I can stop the downward behavior cycle with him. I inform him of the consequence or even just point out the misbehavior, accept that he's going to be a shit for a bit and forgive him that. He gets over it a lot faster that way. But, I'm awful about holding onto my grief and anger most of the time. Then he gets worse and I punish more and it's a nasty circle that I eventually break, but not until things are out of hand.

Would that happen if I loved him? I don't know, maybe still so. Never-the-less, I think I need to really try to focus on positives.

I'm going to try to post at least two things a day that are good about Max in general or that he's done that day. And, for balance, as I also seem to be focusing on Davan's more annoying traits, I'll do the same for her. Also, because my relationship with Anthony is the cornerstone of the family, I'll do the same for him. And, to give myself some positive strokes, I'll look for two positive items about me, parenting related or not.

Max giggled about the book we were reading this morning and it was cute. Max doesn't light fires (a very bad sign when coupled with attachment issues).

Girl Scouts was canceled today, which disappointed Davan, but she didn't fall into a snit about it. She acknowledged her disappointment and then has moved on with her day. Davan's memory amazes me. She's gotten into memorizing poems and can recite a good half dozen long poems off the cuff. This morning she was singing a song off of a new CD of mine that I'm sure she can't have heard more than a couple of times. I didn't even recognize it, but she's got it all memorized all ready. Amazing.

Anthony absolutely believes that I deserve every thing I got for Mother's Day yesterday, even though last year we'd agreed that we weren't going to make a Mother's and Father's Days big gift giving events. He and Davan had picked out a Sig water bottle for me and had it wrapped and ready yesterday morning. Plus, I got three new shirts at the Saturday Market. :) He is also willing to make almost anything work that will make life easier for me. For example, he rushes home on Mondays and Wednesdays with just enough time to change clothes and grab a dinner I've packed for him to take Max to flag football practice.

I am a mindful parent. I arrange fun things to do as a family. This Sunday, we're going to Great Wolf Lodge, for example. :)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

"Martian Child"

We watched this movie this evening - "Martian Child". It was a good movie and I didn't like it at all. I cried at the end - not happy tears, even though it's a good ending. Sorry to blow that for you if you were waiting in suspense to watch the movie yourself.

I was very depressed by this movie. It's about a man, David, who adopts a little boy, Dennis, who thinks he's from Mars. The little boy is very troubled and has attachment issues. He steals and is definitely way out of sync socially.

David totally dedicates himself to this little boy, sitting in his car outside of a new school all day to make Dennis feel comfortable and safe. He accepts pretty much everything about him, from eating exclusively Lucky Charms to the stealing (at least for quite a long time on the stealing). I know it's a movie, but it is also based on a real life experience.

I felt totally humbled. I can't dedicate myself to Max that way. I don't have the energy nor the single minded devotion nor, frankly, the love. I can't accept his behaviors. I'm trying to change most things about him, really, from how he eats to how he plays (less video games) to, well, it feels like most everything.

My tears were of frustration, longing and worry.

Mother's Day Visit to Saturday Market

Anthony, the kids and I went to Saturday Market today. It was what I wanted to do for Mother's Day - go look around and pick out some gifts. :)

We weren't there long. We did look at most of what I wanted to look at and I did find a few shirts I really like, but we left suddenly before I might have chosen to leave otherwise.

Anthony had been standing outside a stall where Davan and I were looking with Max. I called Anthony in and Max opted to go hide behind a tree. We found him quickly, luckily, but, even after I explained that it was unsafe behavior - he could get lost especially if we tore off to look for him and he lost track of us - he kept telling me that he didn't understand. Finally, I told him to think about it for a while and let me know when he could explain why it wasn't safe.

Anthony asked to hold his hand to keep him by his side and Max passively aggressively wouldn't. I grabbed his wrist and went to walk off. Max fell down, making it look like I was dragging him. Great. So, then I held his hand up above so I could pull him up if he tried to fall again and he fought me, trying to get my hand off him while I was trying to move him to the car. It was lovely.

I felt inadequate as a parent, yet again. I was so mad at him. But was it that huge a deal? Should I have just let it go? Did I have to really drag him out of there? I question my parenting every single day now. I used to just question it a couple times a week, BM (before Max).

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Saturday Afternoon

We joined all the other sports suburbanites and their SUVs/Minivans (mostly) at flag football this morning. My mom and step dad came to watch Max play. "We tied and that's the first time we've tied. We've won this team once," Max told us.

Then we went out to lunch and a short stroll around the grounds at Edgefield, which was cut short by rain and inadequate rain gear. Max was glad it was cut short and proclaimed the stroll around the grounds to be boring. Can't win them all. He was very anxious to get home, get in a half and hour of entertaining himself and 20 minutes of reading so he could get to his video game.

I left on a walk to the library by myself after both kids turned down my invitation to join in. While I was gone, Davan got an invite to a play date and was taken over there by Anthony and Max.

Anthony spent some time out in the yard, mowing and weeding and such. Now he's going to join Max in video game play for a while. I'm about done on the computer, so I'm thinking of sitting down to read for a while. I'm reading "A Long Way Gone." It's both interesting and horrifying.

Friday, May 09, 2008

An Up and Down Sort of Day

I think Davan is still working through the issues of me being gone. Odd, hun? From the supposedly well-adjusted child? But, there it is. Or it could just be the whole pre-teen hormonal thing. Or both. Anyway, she and I had some serious ups and downs today.

We did chores with her rather dragging along again. She's usually an enthusiastic participant. I hope it's not a new trend. I like the enthusiastic participant thing better. There was a minor fit (followed shortly by an apology) over her reacting kind of rudely to a question I asked and me calling her (very mildly) on it.

Then we went off to open gym, which deteriorated when she had trouble landing her cartwheel on beam. Sigh. I finally had to go sit down for a while, after which it was somewhat better.

We then had a peachy-keen (but expensive) grocery shopping trip. Oh! But first, we stopped at Target to get Max's prescription filled and there was a snafu. Lucky us. It's Friday and didn't get worked out, so no meds until at Tuesday at this point. Apparently, the nurse practitioner doesn't have a medicade number, so medicade won't pay and she was unavailable today to work things out. There is a cheaper medication that would work fine, also, and she even considered, that we could change to, but now it'll be at least Monday before it's worked out. Sigh.

Davan helped bring in and unload groceries after shopping with a pretty good attitude, then went outside to enjoy the sunshine. It was a nice afternoon after a cloudy morning. Davan ate lunch outside and played out there for a good two hours before it was time for gymnastics.

Max came home from school and announced that everyone should spend some time outside today because it was a nice day. I said, "That's not a bad idea. Davan's already been out there for an hour."

"She has? Oh." I think it took the wind out of his sails.

We dropped Davan off at gymnastics, then Max and I went to a near-by park to enjoy the sunshine. It's a park with a river, so we played at the water's edge for a while - throwing rocks and playing with the wet sand. Then we kicked the soccer ball around a bit. We had a really nice time. It's always great when that happens.

However, the 20 minutes that I wanted to watch Davan at gymnastics was not so fun, with Max being extra needy instead of playing in the play area with the other waiting siblings. Sigh.

We came home to dinner, which I'd mostly done before we left, but Anthony was working on. I helped finish up, ate with everyone and then went for a walk. It was a nice walk with nice weather, but I felt kind of sluggish for some reason. I don't really know why.

Anthony is itching for the computer for a while and then I think we're going to watch a House. Friday nights are nice. :)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

I'm Home!

Actually, I got home Tuesday night. I've just been quite busy ever sense arriving home.

I got home just in time to say good night to Davan and go to bed with Anthony. Then it was up and ad'em in the morning. Max had therapy with the prescriber of the therapy group he is in. He'll be going on meds. He has a prescription and we'll start tomorrow or Saturday. We haven't decided for sure yet.

Davan had to go to a friend's house, which is usually quite okay with her, but after I'd just gotten home, she was less than thrilled about it, but did fine there.

After therapy, we took Max to school and Davan and I spent some time together, including a lunch out for a special reunion moment. Then it was off to swimming. As it was Wednesday, Max was picked up by a friend and delivered to the pool for us.

I took the kids to a park for about 45 minutes after swimming, where we all played both together and alone. Well, Max mostly played with another boy there, which was fine, of course.

Then it was home for making dinner and Max doing chores before he was off to flag football with Anthony and Davan off to gymnastics with me. Whew. Right back into it.

Today Davan and I just hung out at home for the morning. We had chores to do, but also got in a lot of cuddling and togetherness, which she really needed. Boy has she been emotional today. I'm guessing it's major backlash from me having left her for 5 days.

I think it was too long. Even though it was fun, Davan had some pretty rough times before, during and after. I feel guilty. :( And I don't, as I had a good time and got in some much needed time with my best friend. We laughed, played, gave each other therapy...all good stuff.

It doesn't seem to have hit Max as hard this time. He was a crab before I left, but that's pretty normal for him. He had a pretty normal time of it while I was gone and when I've come back. He did say that he missed me a lot and seemed happy to see me. I don't think he's so happy that I'm making dinner again, though...There was a lot of eating out while I was gone.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

After Today's Checking In

I called home and spoke with everyone. Actually, I called last night and spoke with just Anthony and Davan, Max having already gone to bed. I called back today to talk to everyone.

Davan misses me and cried a little on the phone when we first talked last night. :(

I'm still very happy to be here. Chris and I did a great yoga workout this morning. We streamed a work out from here. It was hard work. We were both sweating up a storm! We've gotten in more games, which is what we like. We're going out for Lebanese food tonight. I'm very excited. I've done well with food sense I've been here, which is great.

However, when I spoke with the kids today, it felt like it was going to be a very long time until I see them again. Hmmm....

I am enjoying the lack of demands on my time, though, for sure. Although I did do some dishes this morning. LOL

Max lost a tooth (a loose one) at flag football this morning. Flag football is still a very physical game - lots of blocking and kids are going down like they've been tacked all the time. I had no idea.

Max had lost a tooth playing basketball last winter, also. He's just going to go through all the sports, loosing teeth, I guess. Let's just hope they're all loose like these two were.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Checking in From Pittsburgh

Here I am, in lovely Pittsburgh. No, really, it is. It's particularly lovely because my best friend is here. :) Yay.

We've been having an nice time so far - after my plane landed an hour late last night, resulting in a 2:30am bedtime for all. We slept in, had breakfast at home, went for a walk across a new pedestrian bridge. Well, the bridge is old, the pedestrian part is new. We went to REI so Chris could buy a personal flotation device on sale. We browsed through a book store. After a stop at the grocery store we came home to grill dinner. Chris made a great potato salad to go along with our green salad and grill stuff. Chris and Mike had burgers while Chris and I had grilled veggies. Yummy.

Now I'm lazing about on the couch, surfing, while Chris and Mike do the dishes. What luxury. I did help with the food prep, though. :)

I'm thinking about the family, wondering how their getting along. Davan was going to make pizza this evening, so I'm wondering how that's going. It's the first time. I hope she's doing okay and not feeling too anxious. She has gymnastics this evening and she told me that she noticed that doing active stuff helped with her anxiety - how self aware! - so that's good.

Honestly, I'm less worried about Max. It seems like he just is how he is. I bet things are going fine for Anthony with him. Or as fine as they usually go. Plus, being extremely honest, I still don't feel as bonded to him. I still hope that it'll some some day.

It's funny because when the nurse practitioner asked on Wednesday about if Max worries about stuff, we agreed that he did, a lot. However, Davan has even more anxiety than he does. The difference is...well, there are several. One is that it's not interfering with her ability to bond and develop. The other is that it's not coupled with low self esteem. Nor does she have abandonment issues. Thus, even though Davan is more anxious, Max is the one needed the medication.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

I'm Off to Lovely Pittsburgh and Adoption Stuff

I have a busy morning ahead of me. At 11:00, my parents are coming to pick me up and take me to the airport. They'll spend the rest of the day with Davan and Max (once he's done with school) plus help out quite a bit more over the next five days because.....I'm off to Pittsburgh! Who-hoo!

How many people do you know who get so excited about Pittsburgh? Well, I'll admit, that while I think Pittsburgh is a surprisingly nice city, the main reason I'm so excited is that I'm visiting my very best friend. We're such good friends that we just think of ourselves as chosen sisters. I can't wait!!! I have a lot to do before then, I probably shouldn't be sitting here....

However, I also wanted to share that I'm feeling a new sense of commitment to Max. I'm back to what I'd come to at the end of the summer when I had an adoption crisis: I can live with it now with the right attitude. Davan thinks of him as her brother and I can't imagine taking her brother from her. It's not right to toss people to the side, especially kids. If he ends up in residential care later, then so be it, but we won't have given up on him.

That said, we have no idea when the finalization will happen. Apparently, the office in Salem that handles adoptions is way backed up and causing all sorts of delays. It'd be best for Max if it happens before school is out for the summer. More waiting will freak him out more.

Speaking of freaking out, it's looking like he might go on Prozac. We had the meeting with the nurse practitioner who prescribes for kids at Kinship House and she thinks it could help him, along with more counseling and a therapeutic home (that's us, folks). She wants to meet Max first, though, so we're taking him in next Wednesday morning.

Okay, now I'm off to get stuff done. Food to pack, other stuff to finish packing, dinner to keep going in the crock pot for the family tonight, assorted chores to do, Davan to wake up and read to. Actually, here she stands! I'm off!