Monday, December 17, 2012

The Big Brother's Coming For Christmas.

Wow, my head continues to spin.

So, we were busy reacting to the fact that Patrick told his case worker that he was considering whether he wanted to be adopted by us (despite the fact that it hadn't been officially presented to him as an option) and planning for a December visit...

(backstory -

Then, I talked to Patrick's case worker.  She advised me of the dates of the visit in December which are basically the dates that the foster mother wants respite care.  And she told me that Patrick's been having a little trouble.  She also asked how we would feel about Patrick relocating to our area and residing in a foster home here.  It seemed like the perfect solution.  It would give us the opportunity to get to know him, spend time with him, and let whatever is supposed to be go ahead and happen naturally.

So, we agreed to the dates, not knowing that my new job and my sudden lack of babysitters would eventually totally screw that all up.

And, then I got the chance to talk to his guardian ad litem (GAL).  I learned a couple of things.  I learned that she's a very devoted GAL and that she didn't intend to sugarcoat anything.  (This is something that I am very grateful for.)  She said that she didn't think Patrick was ready to be adopted; at least, not before a lot of pre-adoptive counseling.  I was shocked.  I naturally assumed that everyone wanted us to do it.  And, she was saying no.  I briefly wanted to argue with her.  My natural impulse was to explain how perfect we were for him, even if I wasn't sure myself.  But, that didn't last long.  As I listened to her talk, I realized that if she was against it, it wouldn't happen and that she knew way better than me, anyway.  And, I learned that he had been through a little more of hell than I realized.  I also realized that his former adoptive parents may have been a little more sadistic and a little less "not sure how to handle things" than I thought.  And, here is my epitomizing example.  They fed him separately.  That's right. The family ate together and Patrick had to eat separately.  Suddenly, his resistance to sitting with us at every meal suddenly made sense.  And, it broke my heart. 

Anyway, the kid's been through too much.  I now understood him better.   Adoption was off the table for now, but we had the chance of having him nearby.

But, sadly, I had to cancel the visit.  When I agreed, I thought I'd have many more child care options.  But, it turns out, that I didn't.  With no idea what I was going to do with my three and the best option being an expensive winter camp; we realized that it just wasn't going to work out.  I was really worried about disappointing him, but since the dates couldn't be adjusted, I didn't know what else to do.

And, then the GAL gave me the phone number of a former friend of the former adoptive parents. (Follow that?)  In fact, she is no longer their friend because of how they treated him and she is now a GAL because she wanted to do something to help kids after seeing how they treated him.  Wow.

So, I talked to her.  Again, wow.  By the time, I was done talking to her, I was ready to rush to South Florida and scoop him up.  I'll resist the urge to go into all the upsetting details, so I'll just share a few of my "favorites."  Sadly, there's much more.

He had to sit in the back of the van, even if the other rows were available.  Because, apparently, they had gone back a couple of decades.  At a birthday party that this woman's daughters attended, the family had steak and birthday cake at the dining room table while Patrick was required to eat a TV dinner in the kitchen.  He slept on a mattress in a room with no curtains or toys.  And, when he climbed in his friend's window (with his friend present) so he could open the garage because his friend was locked out of the house; they (adoptive parents) called the police and reported him for breaking into a house.   (And then they told me that he had a history of breaking into houses.)  It seems like the only good thing they did was have him committed and then refuse to pick him up when his program was done.  While he was with them, they were reported by many neighbors and formally investigated.  After some, slightly obsessive, web sleuthing, I've only confirmed that she's still a teacher, so I'm guessing nothing came of it.

Wow.  Suddenly, Patrick made a lot of sense.  His issues suddenly make sense.  He suddenly seemed heroically well-adjusted based on what he's been through...sort of.  

So, from that point on, my mind was racing; trying to figure out what I could do to make the Christmas visit happen.  Clearly, the boy deserves it.

So, when his GAL emailed and told me that he was upset that it was cancelled, really wanted to spend Christmas with us, and told her that he officially wants us to adopt him; we knew that we wanted to make it work the visit work.

I don't have all the answers.   I don't know what we are meant to be to him.  I don't know if we are the ones that can show him that there are people who he can trust and that he is worthy of being loved.  But, I do know that I managed to book a babysitter for the days that I have to work, have started getting the house ready, have panicked inwardly several times about the stress I'm about to add to our holiday, and have vowed to give all four of those kids the best family Christmas possible.   

Because that's what every child should have.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Being Thankful, eventually.

Because, apparently, I was only thankful for two weeks and no one can accuse me of not following through...  (Oh, wait, lots of people can accuse me of that.)  Anyway, I wanted to finish up my "thankful" November blogs.  It's November somewhere, right? ;)

I'm not going to try to go day-by-day because, well, that would be crazy.  So, I'm going to just semi-randomly list some stuff (13 days worth, to be exact) that I'm thankful for.  It might actually all be from today or from 1999, but I'm going to pretend that I was thankful for them in November.  (I’m sure that I would've been!)

Here it goes!

1. I'm thankful that I found the last chocolate pop-tart that had fallen out of the box.  (Yes, this is a theme with me.  I really do need to organize that pantry.)

2. I'm thankful that there are cows outside of my office.  Because cows are cool.  And, it's hard to be grumpy when there are cows nearby.  It's also hard to focus.  But, come on, cows!  :)

If you wondering if I stood in the rain to get this picture, the answer is yes!
I'm pretty sure that the cow is judging me for it.

3. I'm thankful that when I paid the cashier for my gas, then merrily drove away without actually pumping the gas; I was able to get it when I came back.  It’s possible that this has happened before.

4. I'm thankful that my job is awesome and that it challenges me mentally and fulfills me emotionally.

5. I'm thankful that William enjoyed his 10th birthday.  I'm bewildered at how he could possibly be that old already, though!

cupcakes at school!

6. On Thanksgiving (and every other day) I was thankful for my kids, my husband, my parents, my sisters, my nieces and nephews, my friends, etc, etc. 

With my parents

Daddy's so patient with us.. :)

7. I'm thankful for my kids.  I know that's repetitive, but I'm just really, really into them. :)

8. I'm thankful for our new dog, Rose, and the fact that she hasn't chewed up anything in the last 24 hours.    (Although, the day is young...)

9. I’m thankful that I found a pair of black slacks on the clearance rack for $2.00 and they fit perfectly.  I'm not so thankful that they fit perfectly, even though, they are a size too big.  We’re just going to assume that they were not labeled correctly. 

10. I’m thankful that my secret santa got me this adorable reindeer.

11. I’m thankful that I have a “pet” opossum that has been having dinner with the cats lately when I feed them outside. Yes, I know that I’m not supposed to be happy about this.

12. I'm thankful for my dear friend, Jennice, who has taken on the role of volunteer nanny as I figure out how to juggle my new working-mom schedule; in addition to her already-established roles of god-mother and honorary aunt.  The kids love her and she loves them.  You can never have too much of that. :)   

13.  I'm very thankful that people actually take the time to read my blog!  Thank you so much!

So, now that I'm done being thankful for things, I think I'll go right on being thankful for things.  Because, at the risk of being too sappy in a blog post that wasn't really meant to be sappy; there is just so much to be thankful for. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Four-Legged Adoption Is Forever, Too.

So, this weekend's excitement was adding a dog to our home again.  Ever since our Ben passed away, the house has been so very dog-less.  It's also been less hairy, less noisy, and less messy (kind of).  But, mostly it's been dog-less. 

At first, I couldn't stand the idea of a different dog in the house.  But, whenever I met a dog, I was aware of how much I missed having one of my own.  But, the clear sign came when I watched Lizzie and Antwan play fetch. 

Antwan would throw the stick and yell "Get it, doggie!"  Lizzie would then run and fetch it.  I'm fairly certain that she was going to pick it up by mouth, but luckily, I stopped her in time. :)

So, we started looking around and, at just the right time, there was a big adoption event at the fairground.  So, armed with Brian's permission to pick the dog while he was stuck at work; I headed to the event.  And, by the end of the weekend, we had a dog.  :)

Welcome to the family!
Her name was "Pretty."  But, since she didn't answer to it, anyway, she is now Rose.  She is pretty, but she's definitely a Rose, a pretty one. :)

Before making the decision, I asked the kids, repeatedly, if they were sure this was the dog for them because she'd be part of the family. 

Adopting a dog when adoption is such a big part of your life is, well, interesting.  When we sat down to fill out the adoption application, William sat next to me and said, happily, "I'm your lawyer for the adoption finalization!" 

So, Miss Rose has proceeded to drive me a litte bonkers since we brought her home.  After she growled at a dog in Petco, William asked if we were going to send her back.  I said "No."  It was at that moment I knew that we couldn't send her back, despite the fact that I was panicking a little.  But, after years of telling William that adoption is forever, I knew that Rose deserved the same privilege.

She's a sweet girl.  She loves all humans, big and small.  She's not too keen on cats and dogs (although I've come to the conclusion that she's confused and curious, not aggressive.).  She's quiet.  The first and only time that she has barked was at the iguana. 

It feels very similar to our experience with the boys.  Her personality emerges each day and she's finding new and unusual ways to drive me crazy. 

Tonight, Rose peed and pooped on the floor, chewed up the remote control, and climbed onto William's lap and promptly threw up. 

But, looking back, on the first couple of days with William.  He wet his pants and sat down on the computer chair instead of telling me.  He ripped open a collectible figure that I forgot to take out of the room and lost the pieces throughout the room.  He left the remote control alone, but he made it clear pretty quickly that he was going to keep us busy.  :)

So, life is about adjustment.  William (and therefore, we) watched the first 15 minutes of Monsters Inc, approximately, a million times because he would lose interest and then ask us to start it over.  And, Rose just ate my razor.  Not exactly the same.  It's apples and oranges.  Children and dogs.  But, the point remains the same.

Rose is now one of us.  And, we take this adoption thing seriously. :)

And now I'm going to go hide all my stuff from the dog...

William believes that all dogs should have a bandana.

She thinks she's a lap dog.

I think she likes it here. :)


Friday, November 23, 2012

They Are Children Of My Own.

I was talking to someone once about adoption.  He was telling me how great it was that we had adopted.  Then he added that he didn't think he could do it because he would want a child of his own.  And, I was thinking, don't you get it?  They are your own!  I don't love my kids differently.  I don't love my kids as if they were my own.  I love them because they are my own.  (And because they are extremely lovable!)

They may not have my blood coursing through their veins.  I may not know what it felt like to feel them kick inside me.  But, I know a whole lot of other things.  And, I know that they are part of me.  William loves traditions and silly jokes because of me.  He feels compelled to sing about what he's doing like I do.  And, somehow he has inherited my ability to drop things, knock things over, and bump in walls.  His appreciation for bad/corny jokes, though, is totally Brian's fault.  Antwan makes the same sound with the exact same inflection that I do when he sees something cute. ("Awwww!")   He gets grumpy when hungry and feels better when he's fed, just like me.  His love for sports, though, is all Brian.  Lizzie calls every living creature (except humans) "Baby" like I do.  She gets intimidated in crowd settings or if everyone is focusing on her, like me.  Her love for vegetables, though, is Brian's fault. ;)

When William gets picked on at school, I don't think "I want to protect my adopted child."  I think "Where is that kid who is messing with my baby?!?!"  The fact that I haven't gone up to the school and beat up a bully yet is also Brian's fault.  (But, I don't want to be the grown-up!!)

When Antwan took his time and said his line in the Thanksgiving play so well; I wasn't beaming because the child who I adopted did a good job.  I was holding back tears because my baby did a great job!

When Daddy and Lizzie met me for lunch yesterday and Lizzie woke up from her car nap and hugged me so hard when she realized that I was there; I wasn't thinking how glad I was that I adopted her.  I was thinking about how much I loved my little girl.

And, I know they feel it, too.  When William says whatever random thing that he says, he almost always adds "Right, Mom?"  I don't usually know what he's talking about because he has a habit of assuming that I'm listening, no matter where I am in the house.  But, I do hear how he says my name.  He says it with love and a confidence that I am mom.

When Lizzie bellows for me at a park. She is secure in her knowledge that it is me who will come.  

And when Antwan asks me about breast feeding him, it's because I'm mom to him, in every way.

Cue the back story....

Antwan has recently discovered "boobies."  I blame his chatty big brother who has since had it explained that there are some things that you don't talk to your little brother about.  First, we explained that it's an inappropriate word which it resulted in him constantly referring to the "b-word" followed by a giggle.  So, then I tried explaining to him that the proper term is "breast."  I explained that "boobie" is rude and not a nice thing to call them.  That it is a normal part of a girl's body and no, you shouldn't touch them because it's not your body.  I didn't discuss breast feeding with him.  So, when he said this to me during dinner, I was floored. 

"Mommy, do you remember when I was a baby and I sucked on your breasts and I got milk?"

Several things went through my head and out of my mouth.  Good job using the right word. (head)  Who told you about that? (mouth)  After Antwan ratted out his brother and William got another lecture, I explained to Antwan that when we adopted him, he was already drinking regular milk.

He seemed a little disappointed.  And I felt sad because I wanted to say yes.  Not because it bothered me that he wasn't biological, but because I want every part of him.  He deserved to be lovingly fed as an infant.  Just like there were so many things that William deserved to experience.

They deserved to belong to someone who wanted them.  Well, they do now.  That's the only thing that distinguishes them.  If you have a child, they are your own and they always know it.  When you adopt a child, they become your own.  I have plenty of reminders everyday.  My children look nothing like me.  Their hair is different.  Their skin is different.  Their blood is different.  Everywhere we go, there are curious looks and questions.  But, when I look at them, all I see are my children.  The children that were meant for me.

Yesterday, all five of us were walking into the boys' school for a meeting.  One of the other black kids at William's school (there aren't many) was looking at us with a confused look on his face.  We're used to that. 

But, then he asked, "Is that your dad???"

And, Brian said, cheerfully, "Yep!  I'm his dad!"  Then he added, I assume for his own amusement, "I'm a little taller than he is."

And, I felt proud and I know that Brian did, too.  We are so proud that we belong to them and they belong to us.   

So, this Thanksgiving weekend and National Adoption Month, I can tell you that there is nothing in the world that I'm more thankful for than this.  When we didn't get pregnant, we were smart enough to go looking elsewhere.  We discovered foster care adoption and through that, we got the opportunity to make these (wacky, clumsy, silly, grumpy when hungry, freaked out by crowds, slightly obsessed with boobies) children---our own!


Monday, November 19, 2012

Being Thankful, Week 2

Week 2!

A lot of the things that I'm thankful for this week are centered around work because I feel like that's all I did last week.  It's been an adjustment, but the job's definitely a good fit.  Just have to figure out how to juggle a little better! :)


Nov 11- I'm thankful for the day that I spent with my family, celebrating my Dad's 80th birthday.  My sister put together an awesome Cub themed party and he loved it.  :)

Happy birthday, Dad!

Go Cubs!

Nov 12 -I'm thankful that Brian has socks in his sock drawer because ever since I started work and can no longer throw on flip flops, I've been wearing his socks non-stop.  I'm also thankful that my pants are mostly long enough to hide my man socks. :)

Nov 13 - I'm thankful that there are Reese's Peanut Butter cups in the office vending machine.  Because, man, those are good!

Nov 14 - I'm thankful that the boys really love extended day and I don't have to feel guilty for leaving them there while I finish work.   On side note, William asked me if I was planning on sticking with my new job.  When I told him that I was; he pointed out that if I decided not to, I could always be an extended day teacher.  He seemed bewildered when I pointed out that he wouldn't be in extended day if I wasn't working. :)

Nov 15 - I'm thankful that when I snuck off with Brian's hairbrush and realized it wasn't in my bag when I went to return it that I found it on the floor of my van.  Because he's attached to his brush and he' s had it longer than he's had me. 
I'm also thankful that Antwan did a fabulous job in his Thanksgiving play.  The boy knows how to work a pumpkin costume!

Nov 16- I'm thankful that I was able to take an early lunch so I could make it to Lizzie's Thanksgiving program.  If you're wondering, yes, she did make an extremely cute pilgrim! 
I'm also thankful for Jennice who watched Lizzie when I had to go back to work and washed all my dishes that had accumulated in the sink. (This is the part where I pretend that the dishes had only accumulated because I've been working so much and that never would've happened otherwise.  Jennice knows better....)

Nov 17- I'm thankful that Brian was off today and we were able to spend the day as a family.  We had a relaxing day which ended with xbox family time.  That consisted of William racing Daddy, me getting my butt kicked while trying to race Daddy, Antwan racing William because he wasn't about to take on Daddy, and Lizzie and I finally just giving up and dancing to the xbox music. :)

What have I learned?  I've learned that my exciting first paycheck purchases should probably be socks and a hairbrush of my own.  (Not too exciting, but maybe they could at least be Batman socks?)  That my kitchen would be better off if Jennice was in it more often.  And, Lizzie can really cut a rug!

Ok, on to next week!


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Being Thankful, Week 1

After reading the daily "what I'm thankful for" posts on facebook and reading a blog that does the same thing;; I have come to a conclusion.  I want in!  But, I don't think for a minute that I will remember to post daily so I'm going to cheat and do it weekly!  Starting today! 

I'm now going to think back to what I'm thankful for.  :)

Nov 1-I'm thankful for my family.  That's obvious, but important.

Nov 2 - I'm guessing that I was thankful that it was Friday.

Nov 3 - I'm thankful that my parents took me and the kids to IHOP for dinner.  Because I love spending time with my parents and the food was good.

Nov 4 - I'm thankful that when searching for ziploc bags, I found two unopened boxes of pop-tarts.   I guess I should plan on being thankful soon for finally cleaning out the pantry, but it doesn't seem likely.

Nov 5 - I thankful that I actually completed he ridiculous amount of errands that I had to run.  I would've been more thankful for a relaxing day, but you can't have everything.

Nov 6 - I'm thankful that there wasn't a line when I voted.  Because I hate lines.  I'm also thankful that Brian was there to reassure me that I had sufficiently bubbled in the circle when I got irrationally worried that I hadn't. ;) 

Nov 7- I'm thankful for my first day of work at a job that I think I'm really going to like. 

Every working woman should have a super hero lunch box.

Nov 8- I'm thankful that Antwan got right out of bed this morning and started to get dressed so I didn't have to be late on my second day to my new job that I think I'm going to like.

Nov 9 - I'm thankful that I got to hang out with friends which I haven't done in a long time and got to see my favorite singer perform.

Nov 10 - I'm thankful that there were no bruises or broken bones to deal with this morning.  Because when I heard that the kids were awake and I dragged myself out of bed, William proudly told me "We played roughly in my room, with the door closed."  So, the morning started with a little talk about the dangers of playing roughly when I'm not there to make sure everyone's safe.

I'm also thankful for the relaxing day that I spent with the kids at the farmer's market. 

 And, really, really hoping to be thankful for the smooth bedtime. ;)

But, judging by the noise, it's not going smoothly.  So, I guess I have to get back to work.  I'm not feeling so thankful for that ;)


Saturday, October 27, 2012

The 6Parkers?

So, last week, I got a voicemail from Patrick's case worker.  She was wondering about setting up a December visit.  Then, she said that Patrick told her that after this visit, he would decide if he wanted to be adopted. 

Immediately, a few questions come to mind.  The first, of course, was "Wait, what???"  We had considered the possibility, but it hadn't gone beyond some obsessive talking and agreeing to
wait and see.  When Patrick hinted at the possibility, we tried to be neutral, but open.  The last thing that we wanted to do was give him false hope or commit out of guilt.

And, in all honesty, as he casually rode off with his case worker, I was pretty sure that we had dodged a bullet.  I don't mean that so harshly, but, yes, I was happy to get back to our little family that works just as it is.  We kind of figured we'd be like an aunt and an uncle to him.  We'd be somewhere for him to come on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We'd be his home base.

But, as I listened to the voicemail, I realized that he had been thinking about it.  When he left, Brian said (to me) that it would be good for him to go home and see how he felt and we would be able to do the same.  My insecurities led me to assume that he was bad-mouthing me to his foster family, that he was glad to be home, and, that was telling everyone that his siblings drove him crazy.  But, turns out, the visit actually meant something to him; although those things may still have happened.  She went on to say that she wasn't sure if we were still thinking in those terms.   And, I was glad that it was a voicemail because I don't know what I would've said.  I also wondered who told him that it was officially on the table as an option.  I assume it was the foster mother who was going to try to open his mind to the possibility.  Apparently, she did.

Knowing that he might want it, though, changed how I was feeling.  That suggested that he might be willing to make some effort to make it work.  And, of course, it got my mind racing. 

It got me thinking.  Could it ever work out?  On the surface, I can list a million and one reasons why it wouldn't be a good idea.  He's a bitter 12 year old.  (For now, anyway.  In a couple of weeks, he'll be a bitter 13 year old.)  He has trouble with relationships, being honest, and picking up his socks.  He talks back, argues, and wants control over everything.  He eats too much, yells too much, and talks about wrestlng too much.  He has walls that I wonder if I could ever climb.  He doesn't feel much of a connection to his siblings and it's unclear what he thinks of us. 

But, he's also a kid.  A kid without a family.  A kid who will turn 18 and basically have no where to go.  Odds are not in his favor.  If it's not us, then who is going to come looking for a cranky, black (let's be honest here, it doesn't help his chances) teenage boy? 

Then I wonder what I would be like.  I mean, I had my token bad boyfriend (everyone gets one)
and it shattered my confidence for years.  What would I be like if I was basically rejected by everyone who was supposed to love me?  What if everyone who supports me in life is paid to care?   (Disclaimer:  They definitely do care, though.)  What if I grew up without my siblings?  Would it be any surprise that I don't know how to relate to them now? 

I'm so lucky that I don't have to know.  I have parents who love me.  I have sisters who I have known all my life and I love them dearly.  And, I know that they love me.  When I married Brian, I knew how to behave in a relationship (mostly) because I had good examples of love in my life. 

Anyway, the one thing that is extremely clear is that he deserves better than he's gotten.  It's also clear to me that he's going to have to work for it a little (or maybe a lot), if he wants better than he's gotten.

What would I need from him?

Fade to my imaginary conversation scene with Patrick....

-I need you to understand that we're doing the best we can.
-I need you to know that we're not perfect and we're well aware of that.

-I need you to know that we're big on respect.  You have to respect us.  We have to respect you.  You have to respect your siblings.  It might take awhile for you to feel like they are part of you, but they are, and deserve to be treated that way.

-I need you to understand that I'm going to expect from you what I expect from them.  Good grammar.  Politeness.  Appropriate words.  Etc.

-I need you to admit that Batman is cool because you know that he is. ;)  It's ok to like superheroes and anything else that we like.  No one will make fun of you for enjoying things.  At the very least, don't ruin our fun.

-I need you to be honest (or at least try to be).  I need you to understand that stealing is wrong.  Cursing at your teachers is wrong.  (He apparently did that, too)   And, getting in fights is wrong.

-I need you to understand that if you join this family, you're in.  All the way.  The good, the bad, the mundane.  There will be no sitting/sulking at different tables in restaurants.  You can sulk at the table with us, but you'll be sitting with us.  You'll be part of family activities, whether it be dinner out, movies, or seemingly endless errands.  And, you'll wash your hands, brush your teeth, or whatever else I ask the four of you to do.

-I would say something about putting your clothes away and cleaning up after yourself.  But, I haven't figured out how to get these three to do that yet, so not much point there ;)

-I need you to understnd that it would be an adjustment.  We would love you and accept you.  But, it would take us some time to figure out the best way to do that.  And, we would need you to be a little patient.

-And, not most importantly, but it will feel like it to us, once a year, I need you to put on a wacky costume, wander around DragonCon, and pose for pictures.  This might seem like a weird thing to insist on, but it's important to us.  Because it's part of being a Parker.

Plus, I'm pretty sure if you left your attitude at home, you would love it, too.

And, in return?

-We would love you.

-We would listen to you.

-We would admit when we screw up.  Because we will screw up.

-We would do our best.

-We would even let you have a say in what costume you wear to DragonCon!  haha.

-We would understand that you might not be ready to call us Mom and Dad.  There would be no pressure.  Although, I will be hoping for soon. :)

-And, most importantly, although, you might have trouble believing it, we would not give you back.  We would not reject you.  We would love you.  You would be free to drive us as bonkers as the other three do.  But, it would be awesome, if you tried not to. ;)

I don't know what the right thing to do is.  I take that back.  I do know what the right thing to do is.  But, I don't know what the right thing to do for us is.  I think I'm just going to see how we feel in December, too.  Because it is definitely not like getting a new dog which incidently, I want. ;)  It's like getting a bouncing teenage boy with issues on ton of issues.  And, since we mean it when we say it's forever, we would need to make sure that we were really, really ready for it.  Or at least as ready as is possible.

I don't know.  But, I do know that I'm looking forward to seeing him, again.  Now his cover is completely blown.  We know that he cares enough to seriously ponder being one of us.  Oh, Patrick, you thought I was bad before, insisting on hugs and obnoxious things like that.  You are in for it now.  ;)


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Was The Floor Thirsty?

Parenting is definitely a learning process.  Some days I feel like I've got it all figured out.  Some days I feel like I've got a lot to learn.  Most days, it's a mixture of both.

But, today, I learned why I should've resisted the temptation to hit the snooze button when I knew those kids of mine were awake....

The weekend rule is that they are allowed to sleep in the same room.  There are bunk beds in William's room and Lizzie usually passes out on the floor.  Then I move her back to her bed.   And, half the time, I have to send Antwan back to his room because they just won't fall asleep.  But, in the morning, they are always together in William's room, playing.  Which, in general, I think is very sweet. 

Last night, they must've been tired because they fell asleep pretty quickly.  So, I should've known that they would be well-rested and up to no good, pretty early.

Meanwhile, I'm battling a head cold and had Nyquil-ed myself up.  (I love you, Nyquil.)

So, in the morning, when I heard them playing, I thought to myself, "They sound like they're having fun, it won't hurt them to play in their rooms for a few more minutes.  A couple snoozes later (Ok, ok, it was more than a few minutes), I dragged myself out of bed, feeling lousy and extremely sorry for myself.

As I'm coming around the corner, the first thing that I see is William holding a bucket and a cup and hear him happily say "Lizzie, you're up!" 

Then Antwan looks up, sees me and says "They're playing with water!"

Then William sees me and says "Lizzie's playing with water and I'm trying to stop her!"

Then I advised him that I had heard what he said and that he was full of it. 

Then I looked around and saw that everything (and  I do mean, everything) was soaked.

They all started talking at once and I went to hide in the bathroom for a minute; making sure to step carefully beause, of course, the bathroom floor was soaked.  I tried to shake off the Nyquil haze and figure out how to deal with my lovable, but extremely mishievious little monsters.

So, after a little personal pep-talk in the bathroom, I came out and presented them with towels for wiping off their toys and the floor and rattled off a list of consequences: no more water in the room, no more playing in the room in the mornings, etc, until they can make better choices.

Remembering that I'm obligated to feed my children, I brought them out for breakfast.  ;)  I had them get dressed, brush teeth, and sent them back to finish up.

I sat in my recliner had my healthy (I use the term, loosely) breakfast of a chocolate pop-tart and Cherry Coke.  I took some more cold medicine and, quite frankly, had the most relaxing morning that I've had in a long time.

I'm not saying that I'm glad that they made their rooms look like a hurricane came through, but I am saying that I'm not so sure that I really learned my lesson... ;) 

Hopefully, though, they have!

Halfway through.  Everything in this picture is wet
  Wish I had taken a picture before they started cleaning!

I'm not so sure about Lizzie, though...

Taking it all very seriously....

Sunday, September 30, 2012

It's Not Easy To Be The Tooth Fairy --spoiler alert ;)

So, sometimes, I'm very impressed with my mom skills...and sometimes, I'm not.  This week was a little of both. 

On Tuesday, as I was pulling into the pick-up lane at school, I could see William running to me, a little unnecessarily enthusiastically.  He was going so fast that all I wanted to do was open the window and ruin his fun by telling him to settle down. 

But, when he got in the van and showed me his tooth in his hand; I understood why he was so excited. 

So, when we got home, he promptly tossed the tooth down on the couch and lost it again.  I would have been more surprised that the tooth seemed to have disappeared from existence, if not for the fact that I live with William.  He's got mad skills in this area.  :)  As he searched, there was a part of me that was relieved that I might not have to figure out how to get some tooth fairy cash.  Especially since, I evidently had the bright idea to leave a dollar before.  (This was something that he happily pointed out, on the way home.)  So, the random change that I had in my pocket wasn't going to cut it.  But, despite my potential to save some money, I still felt bad for him, of course. 

So, he went to bed with no tooth and woke up with no money.  He seemed resigned, but I did hope that the tooth would still turn up.

And, it did.

The next afternoon, he found it in Lizzie's room.  Lizzie's room??  Sigh.  He was thrilled, but by bedtime, I had forgotten all about it.  So, the next morning, when he woke up with no money from the tooth fairy, he was less resigned. 


Not sure how to save this.  I suggested he write the Tooth Fairy a note because maybe she didn't know about the tooth since it was on a different day.  He said that he could see that The Tooth Fairy had moved the tooth, even though, she hadn't taken it with her or left money.  Not sure how to respond, I blindly stuck to my "write a note" defense.  He agreed.

Fast forward to around midnight when I suddenly remembered that I hadn't dealt with the tooth.  But, since I was pretty sure that he hadn't left a note and wasn't sure if he was completely asleep; I took a gamble and figured that I would help him write a note tomorrow.  This was a bad idea.

The next morning, William came out sadly and said that she hadn't left him anything.  Ready with my answer, I said "Well, did you write a note?"  He said that he didn't, so I told him that he needed to write a note.  This is when he told me that the Tooth Fairy had taken the tooth.  What??  Again, I didn't know how to respond.  He added that it was "kind of sad that she didn't leave me anything." 

So, I sent him off to school and rushed home to try to save the Tooth Fairy's (aka my) butt.  My plan was to put a dollar bill somewhere so he would think she dropped it.  I spent way too long trying to decide where to put it and finally just dropped it.  You know, to make it real.  Yep, I managed to drop it in the slit between his mattress and bed frame.   So, instead of a quick fix, I had to lift up his mattress and box spring to find the dollar bill that he would never find. 

I finally got the dollar bill, dropped it on the floor by his window sill where he had left the tooth, and figured I had saved the day. 

William came home and I waited for him to find it.  Nothing.  The day came and went and he never found the money. 


The next day, I moved it to what might be a more obvious spot.  And, still nothing. 

By the end of the night, I was ready to burst.  So, after bedtime, but before lights out, I went into his room and summoned up all my acting skills (didn't take long).  I said, while trying to be casual, "I was just thinking, have you looked around to see if maybe the Tooth Fairy's money fell somewhere in your room?"

He quickly got up and started to look around.  He went right to the spot where I left the dollar.  He was even using his 3DS as a flashlight.  But, he sat back down and said "Nothing's there."

Seriously, kid?  Work with me here!

"Oh, that's too bad" I said as I tried to casually walk over to the magic spot.  Only thing missing was a nonchalant whistle. 

I pointed to it.  "Hey, what's this?!" 

He rushed over and looked where I'm pointing, but still didn't see anything.

"Right there, William."  I said, pointing more and more emphatically. 

Finally, he saw it and happily grabbed the money.  He, slightly anti-climatically, said "yay!" and I left the room, silently cursing the creator of the Tooth Fairy.

I was glad that was over.  Or so I thought. 

The next night, I came into the living room and William showed me his tooth that he found in his room.  Again, with my lack of quick reactions, I said something to the effect of "That's weird" while taking advantage of the fact that I was on the phone with my sister and said I'd talk to him about it in  a few minutes. 

So, a few minutes later, thanks to my sister's ability to think fast (she got it all, apparently), I asked William if he thought that maybe she dropped it on her way out of his room.

"Yeah, she did!"  He said, confidently.  I guess he had already worked all that out. :)

Ok, now it's over! :) 

What have I learned?

I no longer particularly like the Tooth Fairy.

I should confiscate any lost teeth, immediately.

And, yeah, maybe I should get my kid's eyes checked. :)

Not sure that I'm ready to quit my day job yet... :)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Pirates Get The Best Doughnuts

I wouldn't say that I'm a huge pirate fan.  But, when I heard that Krispy Kreme was giving out doughnuts on "Talk Like A Pirate Day," I suddenly became interested.

Thanks to facebook, I learned that they would give a free doughnut to anyone who came in and talked like a pirate.  Pretty cool!  Or, they would give a free dozen doughnuts to anyone who came in dressed like a pirate.  Extremely cool!

Well, it's go big or go home with fewer doughnuts, so I was immediately determined to dress us all up as pirates.  Of course, the question was, what's the limit?  Would they really give us a dozen per pirate?  It seemed doubtful.  But, I was happy with even one free dozen.  So, it was on. :)

So, despite the fact that I got the bright idea to ebay my pirate costume, a month ago, because I was sure that I wouldn't wear it again and hadn't taken the time to get the kids' costumes figured out; I rushed home on Talk Like a Pirate Day determined to pirate us up!  I sent the kids to their costume toy box with instructions to pull out everything piratey that they saw, tracked down Brian's Dread Pirate Roberts' costume, and opened my closet and realized that I didn't really have anything that would work.  That's when I started to panic a little.  I mean, come on, free doughnuts were at stake!

Anyway, there's no room for angst in this blog.  I figured it out and looked pirate enough to pass the Krispy Kreme test.  We had enough components to create three mini pirates.  And, Brian was quickly ready with his costume and his cool Pirate voice. :)  (I don't have a cool pirate voice...)

We went to Krispy Kreme and learned that they would indeed give us a dozen doughnuts per pirate.  Ok, five dozen doughnuts???  Maybe not literally the happiest moment of my life, but it was probably in the top ten. 

We sat down, quickly went through our first dozen, aarghed at strangers, and then headed home with sugar highs.  

Not a bad afternoon.  Not at all. :)

Always posing

All sugared up :)

Dread Pirate Roberts, at your service


Our little Pirate Family

Extremely happy with my loot! ;)


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Clucking for Free Chicken

This is what I love about my family.  Brian came home from work and I was expecting a mostly boring night since he was planning to watch a football game.  I was fine with the football, but didn't expect much excitement in my evening.  So, he comes home and says that someone from work said that Pollo Tropical was having a promotion for International Chicken Lovers Day.  (Did anyone else not know that it was International Chicken Lovers Day?)  Apparently, if you show up in yellow and cluck like a chicken, they'd give you a free chicken dinner.

Free chicken?  All we have to do is dress in yellow and cluck?  These are two things that I can do!
Heck, the kids were already in yellow.  I'm famous for color coordinating them, but this time it was an accident. :)

So, after investigating and liking Pollo Tropical on facebook, Brian and I got yellowed up.  Brian was forced to wear his Spongebob shirt which he never intended to wear outside the house. Who are we kidding?  I'm the one who wears it in the house. And, I ended up in a heat-retaining yellow jacket.  Small price to pay for 5 free Chicken dinners and unexpected family fun. 

We had a brief, but educational, clucking tutorial with the kids and headed for some free chicken!

Getting ready to go in a do some clucking.  Not so sure about Lizzie...

Antwan is giving me his best enjoying his food pose!

The boys walked in clucking and sat down clucking.

Lizzie is lucky that they gave her chicken.  She refused to cluck.  I guess it's because she preferred the butter.

No time to look at the camera!  We're clucking!

It was fun.  Lots of fun.  And, the food was good.  Really good.

When we got home, football was on the tv, but our bellies were full.  And, here's the important part...I didn't have to cook! :)

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Big Brother Visited, part 3.

Last time...Patrick found all my buttons and pushed them, said thank you and brushed his teeth, and  tried to be nice to his little brother...

Part 2---

And, finally, the rest of the story. :)

So, it became clear, pretty quickly that Patrick wasn’t into anything that I planned.  He liked the movies, but anything else that involved us hanging out?  Forget about it.  He didn’t like the park.  He didn’t like the zoo.  He really, really didn’t like the children’s museum.  Even the arcade didn’t occupy him for very long.  It was frustrating.

Since the zoo seemed to be the least objectionable of my objectionable ideas, we ended up going twice.  We have a membership and I was desperate to make time pass. :)  On one of the visits, Patrick found a wallet in the bathroom and turned it in.  I was pretty impressed and told him so.  But, on the way out, he added that he had kept the $5 that he had found in the wallet.  He insisted that it wasn’t stealing because it had been lost and no one was going to come looking for him for $5.  I told him that it was not his to take and doing the right thing wasn’t about doing it so you won’t get in trouble.  Doing the right thing is about doing the right thing because it’s the right thing.  He kind of sighed, but didn’t bother to argue it.

This led to more talking.  Much to my surprise, he started to talk about his failed adoption.  I think they were well-intentioned people, but it was definitely not a good match.  The more he had normal reactions to a new situation (which is admittedly frustrating), the more they tried to make him become the child that they expected him to be.  Yeah, that doesn’t work.  They tried to be firm, physical, and, in the end, he was basically confined to his room with only a yo-yo to play with.  This is assuming, of course, that his recounts were accurate.  But, after seeing his yo-yo skills (Brian bought him one), it definitely seems possible.

What do you say to that?  I wanted to make it better, but, of course, that’s impossible. 

So, I said “It’s not fair what you’ve had to deal with.  I’m sorry that you’ve gone through all of this.  It just plain sucks.”

And, he simply said “It’s all right.”

So, the final days passed.  We hung out at the mall.  That’s when he semi-casually mentioned that a Batman cup would be cool.  Of course, I bought him one.  You know that I have to encourage the Batman love! ;)  We went swimming at a friends’ house.  Turns out that he really likes to swim.  That’s when he started to refer to me as Mommy.  (Instead of saying “Go to your Mommy,” he started saying “Go to Mommy.”)  It was subtle, but seemed noteworthy.  And, on the last night, Patrick put his last $3 from the money that he kept into the kids’ allowance jars.  He said that it was to make up for “what you think was stealing.”  J

He started to make “jokes” about staying.  He started to make plans for coming back for his birthday and Thanksgiving. 

I was feeling attached to him, but I still knew that we were in no position to adopt him, at this point.  (It was also clear that he wasn’t ready, either.)  Our house isn’t big enough.  And, there’s not enough food in the fridge.  Brian and I agreed that it was best for him to go home and we could all see how we felt about things.

It was the last day.  I had spent the night before gathering his random things that had accumulated through the house.  Turns out in this way, he is very much a typical 12 year old.  It took a while for him to start packing.  I guess he didn’t want to go.  I felt bad.  I didn’t want to rush him, but his case worker was meeting us so we had to go.

So, William’s Nintendo 3DS charger had broken and he’d been borrowing Patrick’s.  It had annoyed him, for some reason, when William would ask.  But, there he was, on the last day, telling me that he was going to leave his charger for William.  He said that he could just use his car charger.  I asked him if his foster mother would be upset if he came home without it.  He said she probably would, but he would just say that he lost it.  Now I don’t encourage lying, but I thought his motivation was awfully sweet.  Busted!  You care about your brother!

We got in the car, he buckled without being asked, and I felt like it had been a success.  If I had it to do again, I probably wouldn’t start with such a long visit.  Although it took us that long to figure each other out.  I would somehow figure out some activities that a cranky 12 year old would actually enjoy.  And, I wouldn’t enter into so naively.  But, I would do it again.

We pulled out of the driveway and Patrick quietly said “It was fun.”

I said “Yes, it was.”

And, you know what?  It was.

But, it all shifted when we got to McDonald’s where we were meeting his case worker.  The walls went up.  He got less polite and less interested in anything that we had to say.  He wouldn’t take a picture with us and he barely hugged us good-bye.  He hopped in her van, barely looking back, and then he was just gone.

And, we stood there, watching him leave.  We weren’t sure what to do, so we got in the van and headed home.  I hadn’t gotten the good-bye that I wanted and expected.  And, I was mad.  I knew it wasn't fair.  I mean, I got why he was acting that way.  But, in spite of myself, I couldn't help but be mad at him a little.  

We went home and I focused on the bright side.  It was quieter now.  Not quiet, but definitely quieter.  There was less arguing.  I felt like I could talk freely.  And, I didn’t feel obligated to empty the dishwasher.  I didn’t particularly care if the kitchen was clean in the morning.

As I mentioned, I found out the very next day that my beloved English Setter had Lymphoma.  Between that and getting the kids ready to go back to school, I had plenty to distract myself with. 

I thought of him.  I thought of him when I found out that Ben was sick because Patrick is an animal lover and gave Ben lots of attention.  I thought of him when I found the random things that he left behind like socks.  I wondered if he missed us.  I wondered if he was telling people that I yelled at him in a grocery store.  I thought about him and wondered about him.  But, I still wasn’t really dealing with it.  In fact, I had myself pretty convinced that I didn’t particularly care at all until the other night when I had a dream about him.

I don't remember the details, but he was back at our house.  I woke up and I realized that I missed him.  I finally emailed his case worker.  I know that I waited too long, but hopefully, the universe will cut me some slack for that.    
Turns out that he’s doing mostly ok, but he’s having some issues.  Just like that, all of my maternal, protective instincts kicked in.  I forgave him for not giving me the good-bye that I wanted.  (For my sake, not his.)  And I just wanted to help him.  I still don’t know if we’ll ever be in a position to adopt him, but I do know that I want to be a positive and loving presence in his life.  And, I know that I want to see him again…soon.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

How Not To Be Cool

I often wonder what my kids will think of me when they're older.  Sometimes it helps me remember to take the extra time to have special moments because I know they'll remember them.  Sometimes it's the reason I insist on traditions so they can continue them and look back on them, years later when we are gone.

And, sometimes it just makes me feel like a dork.  :)

So, the other day, Lizzie and I were in the kitchen.  I was busy doing some tedious kitchen activity like loading the dishwasher.  Lizzie said randomnly while pointing to a bottle of water, "Mommy, can we shake this up?"

I couldn't help myself, I broke into song and dance channeling The Beatles "Shake it up, baby! Shake it up, baby! Twist and shout!"

I was enjoying myself tremendously until I was rudely interrrupted by my annoyed little girl yelling, in her best teenager voice, "Mommy!!!"

I looked at her.  Her fists were clenched, in frustration, but she did have a slight smile on her face.

She looked at me, sternly and said "Mommy, shake it down."

Shake it down?  Good play on words, little girl!

So, I've learned two things from this experience.  My daughter is very clever and I'm going to be a source of constant embarrassment to her when she's actually a teenager.  But, I suppose by definition, that is my job. :)
Mom, I'm on the phone.


P.S.  Part 3 to the Patrick story coming very soon!  I'll finish it up this weekend! :) 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Big Brother Visited, Part 2

Previously on The Big Brother Visits:  Emily learned lots of stuff.  She learned that 12 year olds know everything, enjoy nothing that you enjoy, and enjoy getting a reaction. And, 12-year old with issues do it even more...

---If you want to know what the heck I'm talking about in this blog, check out part 1. :)
Part 1:

We were hanging in there.  As much as it hurt my heart, I knew it wasn't meshing like it was supposed to.  (Or, at least, like I thought it was supposed to.)  Brian and I talked about it every night, every morning, and everytime that we hid in the bedroom for a few minutes.  It just wasn't a good match. And, as upsetting as that was, you really can't force it. That's not good for anyone. 

So, that's how I started to see things.  They would spend time together and even if they didn't appreciate it now, they would appreciate it later.  And he'd be welcome to come for future (maybe shorter) visits.  At that point, I couldn't imagine what would change my mind.  I w
as becoming painfully aware that I didn't have the ability to give all four of them the attention that they needed.  In fact, I felt like I was barely talking to my own kids because I was always talking to him,   

It took the pressure off.  But, it still made me sad. 

Then, there was the day in Winn Dixie. We stopped for hair cuts for William and Antwan. They were not good hair cuts. They really weren't. But, the stylist was new and I didn't bother to make a fuss about it,  but Patrick was beside himself.   He was angry and a little too loud about his disgust.   So, attitude in hand, we left Great Clips and headed to Winn Dixie.  Shopping with the kids when they are on their best behavior is not easy. Shopping when Patrick is cranky, Antwan is squirmy, and Lizzie really wants the popsicles that you didn't buy her (because we have some at home) is extra hard.  (William, however, is always good at the store.)   So, this was the scene.  We were walking through the store.   Lizzie was crying because she wanted popsicles.  Apparently, she chose this summer to test out the tantrum in the grocery store angle.  Antwan was demonstrating his cool moves as he bounced up and down the aisles.  William, thankfully, was sitting in the cart playing his 3ds.  And, Patrick was engaging in a running commentary of the event.  It just plain sucked.   He wanted me to buy Lizzie the popsicles so she'd stop crying. He said that they were ungrateful children who never say thank you (not true), and he disagreed with everything that I did to deal with them.  Finally, I snapped.

I did something that I've never done. I yelled at my child (my temporary one, anyway) in the middle of the grocery store. I told him that I couldn't take him criticizing everything that I do all the time and that I didn't want him criticizing the kids. I said that they are good kids and I was doing the best I could.   I pointed out that he hadn't said "thank you" for one thing since he had been with us. (He would say please when asking for something, but never thank you.)   I told him that he needed to back off.

Not my best moment. I was not even a little proud of myself for this.  Although, I don't really think anyone could really blame me...  But, I was ashamed of myself.   I'm not going to bother denying that it felt good, though.  ;)  So, I felt a little better. But, he definitely didn't.   At the beginning, he kept interrupting to argue my points, but then he just stopped talking.  We shopped in silence. We drove home in silence. He went to his room in silence.  Quite frankly, it was a nice break.  But, I didn't know what was going to happen next.

Before the visit, his case worker told us that he secludes himself when upset, so I wasn't surprised and knew to give him space.   It gave me time to plan my conversation with him when he was willing to talk.  It would be so well-delivered.   I would apologize for losing my cool and calmly explain how I feel. He would understand, hear me out, and then everything would be wonderful.   Yep, had it all figured out.

So, a little before dinner time, Brian and William were doing what they do.  Trying on costumes. :)  You may or may not know that we are a little nerdy.  And, once a year, at least, we put on elaborate costumes and parade around a sci-fi fantasy convention in Atlanta (Dragoncon).  Why?  Because it's fun.  The kids get to put on costumes, we get to put on costumes.  We meet our favorite celebrities and lots of cool people.  Now you know. :)  We hadn't talked about Dragoncon much because I could only imagine what a grumpy 12 year old would think about that.  ;)  But, since he was avoiding us, Brian thought it would be a good time to geek out with William a little.  So, they dressed up as Nick Fury and Agent Coulson which, if you've seen The Avengers or any of the pre-Avengers movies, you know that's pretty cool.  Yep, just an average night at the Parkers....

I don't know if it intrigued him or if it was an easy way to slip out, but Patrick came wandering out and started talking to them about the costumes.  I came out of the room where I was admittedly enjoying my own space and headed to the kitchen to make dinner.  Next thing I know, he has joined me and is casually talking to me about the dinner that I was making.   I was so confused.   He acted like nothing happened, so I did the same.   The rest of the night, I could tell that he was making concerted efforts to be nice and polite.  He started saying thank you.and made a point of brushing his teeth.  The night before, he told Brian that he only brushes in the morning.  Gross, but evidently another fun way to have control of something.  So, it was kind of significant.  So, I never had the conversation.  But, in a weird way, I felt like we understood each other.

My frazzled mom routine at the grocery store turned out to be the first step to actually bonding with him.  And, for a couple of days, he made an extra effort to say thank you more and let me do the parenting.  And, I made an extra effort to thank him for saying thank you, etc.  We were being crazy grateful over here.  But, he still wasn't being particularly nice to William.  He was bonding to me, but not him.

After a day that seemed to be reserved for William bashing, I experimented with direct, calm communication.  Crazy, huh?  I talked about the fact that I knew that William is a lot to take sometimes. Despite, his excellent behavior in grocery stores, he is actually pretty high-maintenance. But, I told Patrick that I needed him to try to be more patient. I told him that William is very sensitive and more than anything he just wants to spend time with his big brother. I acknowledged that this was not easy for him and it was a different situation than he was used to. I said all the wonderful and well-thought out things that I could think of.

Over the next few days, I saw more efforts.  He was being more patient with all the kids and being more polite to them. He even started playing with them a little. I don't know if he was trying super hard or if he was finally bonding with them. Or maybe a combination?   But, things were getting better. For the first time, I didn't end the day feeling totally defeated and wondering how I would make it through. I was able to start worrying less about my children's emotional state.

This is when the game changed. He started letting me in a little more.  And I was kind of enjoying being in.  And, I was officially starting to love him.

I couldn't help but wonder if maybe it could all work out. 

Next time!  Patrick tells me about his past,  consistently dislikes every fun activity that I plan, and actually asks me to buy him a Batman cup...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Big Brother Visited, Part 1.

It has taken me a long time to write a blog about our adventure with my kiddos' brother.  This isn't because of a lack of interesting material.  It was definitely interesting.  But, I was so darn exhausted at the end of each night.  I couldn't really figure out what I wanted to say.  Let alone, stay awake to type it.  So, I decided that I would sum it up when it was all over.  And, then there was the extra bonus (used with extreme sarcasm) of finding out, the day after Patrick left, that our dog had Lymphoma and there was nothing that could be done.  I'll spare you my weepy explanations about how losing my dog tore me apart because that's not what this blog is about.  But, yeah, it sucked.  

So, anyway, three weeks later, I'm down to 3 kids again and no dog.  But, I do have the will to blog.

So, I guess I'm going to do a fancy retrospective blog. Well, probably a few blogs because there's no way that I could fit it into one without losing everyone half-way through. :)

So, this will be "The Big Brother Visited: the mini-series!"

And here we go...

I spent 2 weeks and 3 days of my summer with my children's brother.  And I learned why I got the reactions that I got from smarter people than me when I told them that he is 12. 

He is a troubled 12 year old who has been through too much.  He is also a boy that wants to love and be loved, but really, really has no clue how.  At times, I wanted to wrap my arms around him and show him how to love and, at times, I wanted to throw him off a roof.  I experienced every emotion that I can think of.  From excitement to frustration to loving to seriously pissed off to pride to...ok, I'll stop, but the point is it was very emotionally eventful. 

On the day of his arrival, we spent the day frantically preparing.  So, of course, when he got here, we were exhausted.  So, the case worker pulled into our driveway and here comes Patrick, casually wandering in with a suitcase.  I was so nervous.  Every time that we had seen him in the past, he had been fairly quiet; so I was expecting some challenges in trying to get him to talk to us.  That turned out to be an unrealistic expectation. 

After visiting for awhile, his case worker pulled out of the driveway.  We walked into the house and he started talking.  And, he didn't stop.  And we were totally thrown.  He talked to us about the boys' skin and hair (and what we should be doing differently), wrestling (not my favorite moments), and anything else that popped into his head.  Ok, what is going on?  Then at the end of the night, he casually told us that William asked if he wanted to stay permanently and he said that he could do that.  We ended the night, feeling pretty good about things, totally thrown that this kid had basically just asked us to adopt him, and wondering if we should.

The next day, we took him to one of our favorite restaurants.  He was mightily unimpressed.  He laid down for most of the meal and had no patience for his brothers.  I started to see his stubborn streak and his need for control.  I did understand why.  In my head, I got that these kids feel so out of control that they have to get control in any way possible.  I had experienced it with William.  But dealing with a need for control in a William and a bitter 12 year old; now, that's why they invented the cliche "apples and oranges."

One of my favorite examples is this.  We got in the van.  Everyone buckled up, except for Patrick.  Brian casually asked him to buckle up.  He casually ignored him.  I asked him with a jokey voice that was full of eggshells and he sighed, but didn't buckle.  It took at least two more requests before he finally gave in.  Ridiculous, really.  We're trying to make sure you arrive safely at our destination and this is what you are going to fight us on?  I didn't think too much of it, at the time, because, well, I didn't want to.  I wanted everything to be rosy and easy.  But, obviously, that's not possible.

The first few days passed and we quickly departed the official honeymoon phase.  Actually, I think we left that after the first night, if lying down in a restaurant was any evidence.  And, although, he was pleasant to me, said please when asking for food, didn't kick holes in the wall, or shave my eyebrows in my sleep; it wasn't going as well as I hoped.

It was clear, pretty quickly, that he just plain had no idea how to behave in a family environment.  He had no immediate sense of loyalty to William, Antwan, and Lizzie.  And, really, it just seemed like he found them annoying.  Lizzie won him over, first.  Because, well, she's Lizzie and even the grumpiest pre-teen can't resist her for long. ;)   But, I found myself in a situation where I was referee-ing all the time.  He seemed to think I was favoring my kids, no matter how hard I tried to stay neutral.  He didn't (or said that he didn't) like anything that they liked and got sick joy out of telling them so.  One of his favorites was criticizing Batman.  Now, hold on there, we love Batman.  We watch the cartoon together and enjoy it as a family.  So, it kind of stung.  Besides, what's wrong with you, man?? Batman is super cool! ;) 

In a way, it felt like he had always been here.  If he had, the bickering and arguing would've been natural.  What 12 year old doesn't find his little brothers annoying?  But, he hadn't and it didn't make sense to me why he was blowing this chance to bond.  I quickly realized my romanticized, sweet family reunion was apparently not going to happen.  I could accept that because this whole thing wasn't about me.  But, the problem was what was happening.  William was getting hurt.  You see, William, like me, built this up in his head.  On top of that, William is desperate for a loving big brother.  But, what he got was a brother who had very little patience for his random questions and basically everything else he did.  I could see that it was hurting him and it was awful to watch. 

So, I could deal with the constant talking, the constant eating, and the constant antagonizing.  But, my children were getting hurt.  That was not ok. 

When we enthusiastically agreed to a visit, Brian and I talked about it, over and over. The big thing that we agreed on was that our three came first. We had to make sure that nothing would harm them. At the time, I couldn't imagine how any harm could come to them. But, I learned.

When you think about it, we combined an emotionally damaged 12 year old who had an unstable past and turns out, has trouble with relationships with 3 happy-go-lucky kids who have been taught about courtesy and the importance of being considerate of people's feelings.   And, oh yeah, and one of those three happy-go-lucky kids is William who despite being happy-go-lucky is insecure and gets his feelings hurt easily.   So, I guess I shouldn't be surprised.   But, I still was.

I was counting the days.  I had no idea how I could make it.  My friend came over and I literally cred in her arms because I felt so lost and defeated.  I mean, it wasn't all bad.  He was polite, funny, and helped cook dinner (whether I wanted him to or not.).  And, I felt like we were bonding.  But, it was not, in any way, how it was supposed to be. 

I knew that I had to get through it.  Despite it being tempting, I knew that I couldn't send him back early.  I could not and would not do that to him.  I would not add to his rejections.  So, I gave William lots of extra hugs, got lots of hugs from Brian for myself, felt super jealous when he left for work, and started a new day.  Over and over. 

So, at this point, if this was a tv mini-series which, quite frankly, it is in my head.  (Jennifer Garner plays me, by the way.)  You'd now see some intriguing scenes of me losing it in a grocery store and getting my first silent treatment from him.   But, there are also a couple of touching heart-to-hearts. ;)  So, please come back for part 2!