Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Kaleb Should Be In Pictures.

Life is strange.  And, adopting children can be strange.  (Much like giving birth to them can be.)  Adopting a teenager is definitely strange.   Because it totally goes against all of the laws of nature...whatever that means.  I could write a book about all the challenges involved and why it's so much harder to start with an older child.  And, it would be a long book.  I'm talking 13 chapters! ;)

But, the afterword, where I explain why I'm still glad that we did it, would be short.  I would say that it was the right thing to do.  That the siblings deserved to be together, even if they don't appreciate it now.  And, that I love him.  I really do love him. 

I have changed so much in the past year and a half.  I only use that specific time frame because that's the one that Kaleb keeps using when he says that I've changed.  Even though, I didn't love how he was telling me again that I've changed as we drove to Mothers' Day festivities, last week.  He's still not wrong. 

There are many different ways that a mom or a person, in general, can evolve.  And, I'm no exception.  But, there's one change that I hate.  Yes, hate.  I hate that I'm not as much fun.  I like to think that I'm still fun, but I can feel myself holding back, I'm just not as much me.  I've told myself that I would get that back, eventually, but it still stinks that it's gone.

When Kaleb first entered the scene, I was dressing the kids in matching clothes on a regular basis.  It was so extreme that Brian would check with me before he got dressed for a family activity.  But, the thing was no one minded.  Everyone just let me be silly me and put on the matching shirt.

I was taking pictures of EVERYTHING. I was keenly aware of how quickly it all passes and I wanted to capture all of it.  Aside from the occasional groan from Lizzie, no one minded this, either. 

After the Kaleb honeymoon phase had passed, all of these things annoyed Kaleb.  He didn't want to be told what to wear (which really is understandable, being a teenager and all).  He didn't want to have to stop and pose for so many pictures.  And, although, I had seen proof in previous pictures and in real life that he knew how to smile, he seemed unable to do so when I pulled out my camera. 

As time passed, I went from uber-silly, enthusiastic mommy to what I am now...a light version of that.  I still take pictures, occasionally coordinate our clothes, still a little silly and I'm still most definitely devoted to my family.  But, it's not the same.  And, over time, I accepted that, mostly. 

But, here's the thing.  Lately, he's been asking me if I want to take pictures of different things.  Usually it involves a dog on his lap or cuddled on his blanket.   This is a common scene because Kaleb really does love dogs.   The other day, he wondered if I wanted a picture of him trying a cold pack for the first time.  Not that he's never used a cold pack, but this was a fancy, snap the packet and, ta-da, it's cold, kind of packet.  I said that I would, but my phone was dying (which it was). 

And, he said, "What happened to the mom who used to take pictures of everything?" 

I was surprised and said, "She had kids who got mad when she used to take pictures of everything."

I generalized so it wouldn't come off like an attack.  But, yeah, I was referring to him. 

So, he's been mentioning these things over the past several days.  I've changed.  I don't take as many pictures.  I don't do all the silly things that I used to do.  I'm not as cheerful.

And, he's right. 

I had no idea what I was getting into.  And, I had no idea how much I would sometimes suck at it  I had no idea how much he would frustrate me.  (Sometimes through no fault of his own and sometimes through total fault of his own.)  In a lot of ways, I've given up how I want my family to be because it just doesn't work.  Sci-fi conventions don't really work.  Outings don't really work.  Family dinners don't really work.  Not like I want them to, anyway.  Nothing works like I want them to because everything is so much work.  I understand that this is natural in families.  Things change as kids grow, but, in our family, the change was so sudden.  So, I wasn't ready.  And, I just plain didn't cope with it well.  So, I became a pessimist, masquerading as an eternal optimist because that's who I really want to be.  And, I tend to assume that things aren't going to work out and usually end up making them happen that way.  Gotta love that whole self-fulfilling prophecy thing!  But, if you're wondering if Brian loves that whole self-fulfilling prophecy thing, the answer is no. ;)

Anyway, enough of that.  That's a little more melodramatic than I meant to be and I'm sure that I'm exaggerating, anyway.  So, forgive me.   :)

Many people have commented on various posts saying how much Kaleb really likes all the family stuff, but doesn't know how to show it.  And, it turns out, they were right!  It would seem that he did love it when I took pictures and did my other mom stuff.  I don't know why it was necessary to hide it so effectively, but there it is. :)   

It's so crazy how people work.  It would seem that Kaleb and I want the same thing. 

The other night when we got home from my parents, we were planning to watch "The Flash."  (Because, wow, it is a good show.)  It's the official one show that the kids and I are all into and we enjoy watching it together.  The popcorn was ready, the blankets were on the couches, the tv was cued....and Kaleb said "I'm going to my room."


This is the kind of thing that I find infuriating and I'm sure that you understand why.  But, this time, instead of reacting with frustration, I went another route.  Without meaning to, but feeling desperately determined that we would end the day together, the whiniest voice that he has probably ever heard from me came pouring out as I said "Kaleb, no!  Please don't go to your room!  We're all ready to go here.  Please, Kaleb, please!  Just this once, go along with things!  Just this once!  Please, Kaleb!"

It was over-the-top.  He looked stunned and unsure of how to react.  He said something about just meaning that he was gonna charge his phone (face-saving story) and that if I would be willing to just give him 10 minutes to get his snack ready, he'd be good to go.  I was fine with that, even though, it turned out to be, at least, 20, haha.

But, after 20 minutes, we all sat down, all of us in good spirits, and watched "The Flash."  And, it was awesome.  :)

So, maybe that's the secret to finding my way back to the mom that I was before.  The mom that he decided that he wanted to be him mom.  Take my pictures, plan my coordinated outfits (within reason...), figure out how to ignore his protests and not let them hurt me, let him know when things are important to me, and, most importantly, not lose any more of my mind in the process.

Because I'm the mom and I want us all to be happy.  Including him.  And, including me. 

So, these were the thoughts that I had on Mothers' Day as Kaleb inadvertently made me feel guilty by telling me how much I had changed as we drove to Grandma and Grandpa's. 

But, for the record, I did score this epic breakfast first!  I must be doing something right. :)

My Mother's Day breakfast!

Sharing was not optional. ;)

My Mothers' Day was more self-reflective than I expected it to be.  But, the fact is, that's what being a mother is all about or partially, anyway.  Self-doubt and failures.  And, constantly trying to do better.  But, luckily, that's mixed in with beautiful moments, adventures, and, apparently, soon, even more pictures.

Life is challenging, but my heart is full.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Is There Room For More In The Parker Academy?

Of course, now that we home school one child, the idea of home schooling all of them has crossed our minds.  We love Lizzie and Antwan's school, but the idea of having them home with me is enticing, for sure. 

I have all my important reasons.  If we home schooled, I wouldn't have to get them up early and get them ready for school because, you know, that part just stinks.  And, if we home schooled, I wouldn't have to spend all afternoon and evening trying to get them to do their homework because that part also stinks.  And, most importantly, we could take family vacations whenever we wanted! 

Ok, I know that those aren't the right reasons.  But, they are compelling ones.... ;)

But, then we started really thinking about it.  We both agreed that, at the very least, we were leaning towards home schooling Lizzie and Antwan when they got to middle school so we could spare them that experience.  But, the reality is that, so far, they haven't had nearly the problems that William has.  Lizzie always gets glowing progress reports.  And, Antwan, while his teacher has expressed repeated (and legitimate) concerns about his organizational skills, he is consistently on the wow board and often on best.  They have both made friends and enjoy school activities.  Admittedly, these are the most fun years of your whole school life, but, still, it is going well.

Those are good reasons for not doing anything now.  But, there are some convincing reasons to do it, too.

Everyone that I have talked to who has home schooled or was home schooled loves/loved it.  And, it's an opportunity to spend more time with my children.  I keep thinking about the fact that there is an opportunity to have our kids with us, all the time.  And, yes, that means that they'd be with us....all the time.  And, yes, that is daunting.  But, I'm painfully aware of how quickly time is moving.  And, I know that, in the blink of an eye, they'll be leaving and living their own lives.  And, I'll regret every moment and opportunity that I didn't take to soak them in just a little more.  The weeks go so quickly.  I get them up, rush them off to school.  They come home and I rush them through their homework.  Then, feed them dinner and send them to bed.  Then, we do it again, the next day and the next day and the next day...  Then we finally slow down over the weekend while squeezing in a bunch of social activities, all at the same time.  Before I know it, it's Monday morning again. 

The only time that I spend time with them during the week is if I pretend that I don't know that they haven't finished their homework.  I have a million conversations with Lizzie that end with, "Lizzie, you need to go back to your homework.  You distracted me, but you need to finish first before you... (insert fun activity)."  Or, like yesterday, when I watched Lizzie and Antwan play an elaborate and imaginative game with their Batman characters and Batcaves.  Brian asked me if Lizzie had finished her homework and I admitted that she hadn't.  Then, we both just let them play and I continued to watch (as directed) what Batman was doing on his motorcycle.  I know that's not teaching responsible behavior.  But, they were playing, really playing.  And, creating memories.  I just couldn't stop it. 

Frank the pug wants to play, too! ;)

I have a box of brownie mix sitting on the pantry shelf.  It's been there for weeks and weeks.  I bought M&M's to put in it (Lizzie's idea).  Then, nightly, I chased Brian away from the M&M's, saying that we were going to make them soon.  And, still it sat.  I bought green frosting to make it festive for St. Patrick's Day.  But, we didn't get done with homework in a timely manner so we never got around to it.  Still it sits.  Finally, I let Brian eat the M&M's (or he insisted, depends who you ask..haha).  And, the other day, I bought more M&M's because I am that determined! ;)  But, still they sit.  Now, I'm not saying that there has never been a time ever that I couldn't work brownie making in.  It's just hard because life is so busy.  And, I keep going back to that in my head.  How I haven't gotten around to making brownies with them.  And, I gotta say, making brownies and using it as a home school learning experience, better than...well, better than this.    

Back to objective reasons!  I can have a more active role in their education.  I can make sure that they are being taught in the best way for them.   I have seen how much William is actually learning, now that he is not losing points for handwriting and binder organization.  Both important things, but still not the most important things.  He actually chose to re-take a test because he was not happy with an 80%.  He said "I thought to myself, I can do better."   That's a far cry from the kid phoning it in at school.  (Wow, that was a cliché heavy sentence!)

Then, there's Kaleb. 

I find the idea of home schooling Kaleb a little more intimidating.  There's that whole teenager thing.  He is relentlessly a teenager.  And, I worry that we would make each other crazy.  I think that because, you know, we do actually make each other crazy.  But, maybe that's not such a bad thing.  I worry that I couldn't effectively help him.  And, I'm pretty sure that his current Algebra teacher/my friend would rue the day that she gave me her cell number, haha.  Because, me and Algebra?  No.  Just no. 

But, the fact is that the best moments with Kaleb are when we both slow down and talk to each other.  It's the drive-by/squeezed in interactions that wear me out.  And, I have a bad habit of blowing it or phoning it in when I really should stop, just stop.  (I'm trying.)  Like when he wants to have a quick conversation before he goes out to play with friends when I am inevitably hungry or tired (aka. right after school or right after I get home from the store).  Or when he wants to me to play him in an xbox game when the littles are in bed and I'm, again, hungry and tired.  ;)  Ok, admittedly, I'm always hungry and tired!  ;)  But, the point is, with more time comes more opportunity.  Opportunity to spend more time with the one who will be gone the soonest.  Theoretically. ;)

So, anyway, thoughts are floating in my head.  We've covered that.  And, as the days have passed, Lizzie and Antwan have started asked questions.  At first, they didn't realize that home schooling was even an option for them.  They thought that it was just because William "got in trouble at school."  Once I clarified, they had more questions.  I try to be as neutral as possible and just answer their questions. 

After making an initial statement that he didn't want to go to middle school and would rather spend time with me, Antwan hasn't said much about it.  And I don't ask because, at this point, there's no reason to.  But, Lizzie has an official opinion.  She was officially swayed by some compelling evidence.  A KFC cup in my front seat.

Last week, after dropping them off at school, William and I headed to Grandma and Grandpa's house so Grandpa could help with math.  (Have I mentioned how wonderful and supportive my parents are?  Because they really, really are.)  I've come a long way, but the words - "coordinates on a graphing plane" had me picking up my phone and calling in the big guns. 

William and my dad worked while my mom and I visited.  This was a pretty good deal for me, by the way. : )  And, when they were done, we went to lunch. 

So, Lizzie already knew that we were going over there and wasn't pleased.  But, when she got in the van at parent pick-up and saw the KFC cup, it was all over.  I really should've had the good sense to throw that away... ;)

Lizzie - "What's that?  Did you go to lunch with Grandma and Grandpa??"

I reluctantly said yes and added, "Don't worry, Lizzie.  Summer is coming up and we'll have plenty of time for visits with Grandma and Grandpa."

Lizzie - "Can we go over every day?"

Me - "Well, maybe not every day.  But, we can go over some."

I don't remember the rest of the conversation, I just remember that it ended with Lizzie saying "Mommy, I want to do home school.  Then, we can have lunch with Grandma and Grandpa, too!"

She went on to ask me if I could go talk to her principal tomorrow.

Lizzie's priorities are clearly just as out of whack as mine. :)

And, just to show her conviction, Lizzie brought it up again on the way to school, the next day.

"Mommy, I want to do home school."

And, yes, she referenced Grandma and Grandpa again.

She told Antwan who wasn't saying anything, "Mommy has to go talk to the principal.  Right, Mommy?"

I confirmed that a principal convo would probably be involved (if we were home schooling) and then, also, reminded her that if she was home schooled, she would miss out on field trips and school activities.

"Home schooling is great, but we have to think about all of those things, too."

All the while, I was resisting the urge to turn around and take my babies home.  What the heck, they were late, anyway! ;)

So, I don't know what will happen yet.  I don't know what the right thing to do is.  And, Brian and I are whole bunch of conversations from knowing.  But, I do know that my daughter sticks to her convictions.  Sometimes, that's frustrating when she is explaining why she can't clean her room or do her homework.  But, when her opinion is that she should spend more time with the grandparents who she loves (and, yes, score a fast food meal), well, then, it's just kind of adorable.  :)