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Monday, August 14, 2017

10 ways to know...



With 8 kids you can image that there's a lot that goes on around here. Lots of opportunities to parent. Even the one that doesn't live here any more, still requires parenting, or rather now we call it just being one of my best friends ever, but still I think that counts. If we add it all up, which I often do in my low moments just to validate all I've done, survived, enduredaccomplishedsuccessfully parentedunsuccessfully parented participated in as a mama over the years it's an astounding total of 109 years of parenting. So I'd like to make it clear that after all this time I still feel like I'm wingin' it in the parenting department. Seriously folks, most of the time I question what I'm doing, and I often look back with regret and apologies coming out of my mouth, and thank the Lord that I haven't totally messed up our kids for all times. I think God knew I needed especially resilient children. 

That being said, I do report many things that go on here in our crazy house on the blog. Both good and bad. Happy and sad. Funny and tragic. (Well... when our dog died back in January I just couldn't bring myself to talk about it, so not that.) In hindsight I am totally amazed at that things we've gone through with our kids. And our kid's friends. And our friend's kids. Sometimes really freakin' hard stuff, and if you can think of it, there's a better than not chance that we've personally had experience dealing with it. 

So hopefully it makes sense that I do not write about everything that goes on in our family. If you know me, you know I'm usually an open book because I believe there is strength that comes from owning our weaknesses, and the power to change things only comes after acknowledging it. But mostly because of privacy issues, and because teenagers are... well... teenagers, there are many happenings that I don't share. Good and bad. And this post will be no exception to that rule. That's why there's isn't a ton written about them. As they grow, their privacy becomes critical. So I'm not about to start blabbing about their idiosyncrasies anytime soon. 

So let me share a story with you about another mother, of a whole different family, in a different household entirely. Not my family mind you. But my dear friend's family and her young adult person. A story we shared over coffee recently. 

10 ways to know if your teenager has had multiple parties a party in your home in your absence... you know, like when you are at Little Cabin in the Woods for the summer on an extended vacation on the Outer Banks in North Carolina with your Aunt Marge and Uncle Weldon...  

1 - You scraped up gum off the floor and no less than seven places. 
2 - A door is not only off the hinges but off the door frame. Frame and all. 
3 - There's not just blood on the floor, but blood on the walls. All over.
4 - A window is broken. 
5 - You actually witnessed the aforementioned party on the security monitor that your teenager didn't know you had installed.
6 - Along with a lot of dried-up mystery liquids, you find 8 dead flies in your refrigerator
7 - You find a lot of laundry that doesn't look familiar... including girl's clothing. 

Do we really need 3 more reasons? 

Of course I've been consoling my friend and stuffed a towel in the gaping hole in the window until she could get it repaired. No judgment from me, just commiseration. My friend and her child are just like everyone else's family, going through good stuff and hard stuff all at the same time. I love her, and I love her kids and she's the same with me. I've been there. We've made mistakes and so have our kids. So have her kids. Haven't we all? And please don't tell my kids, but I kinda think that's what some teenager's job need to be, to see where the lines in the sand are drawn. And as a parent that's part of my job, to continually point out and repetitively redraw those lines when necessary. And I'm so very thankful that I can do that while they still live in my house, because I'm a safety net that loves them and catches them unconditionally, no matter what. 
No matter what. 
No matter what.
No matter what.
***She says repetitively to remind herself of this important fact.***

Now you'll have to excuse me. I just found more gum that needs to be scraped off the floor. 

Or rather my friend's floor. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Little Fish


It's summer in the desert.
It's hot, but that probably goes without saying.
But becuase of the heat the kids spend a lot of time in the pool practically every single day. Could have something to do with the fact that it's about 110 degrees outside by the time they get homework done.

Something finally clicked and for some unknown reason Ru suddenly figured out that he could actually propel himself in the water rather than just bob around, and he can actually swim across the pool without the floaty now! Because literally for the last couple months he's just bobbing around in the pool going wherever the current takes him.
Keeping it real, Papa and I cannot stand having a pool. Seriously there is nothing worse than having an old pool. It continually needs maintenance and costs a ton of money I'd rather not spend. Maybe it would be different if we had a new(er) pool, but we don't. We have an old pool that likes to not work properly. But watching these little fish splash around after a warm day at school or after they get their chores done makes me wonder if it's worth it after all. 
Actually watching them splash around makes pretty much every thing worth it! 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

No 1st day jitters here!


Yesterday was the first day of school, and it went off without a hitch!
Except the kids woke up at 5:30 raring to go! And I accidentally left a good chunk of their school supplies in the car. And we couldn't find last year's water bottles. But aside from that it went very well with no tears, well except the ones that were starting to well up in my own eyes as I left Ru in his classroom
And of course I started day one with all 4 kids making their own lunches. This is still one of the very best things I ever did, and it helped me knowing Ru had foods that he picked out himself, apple slices, strawberries, peanut butter and Nutella sandwich and an Oreo cookie. He was so excited to buy strawberry mild at school! And his lunchbox came back totally empty!
As you can see, Ru is taking this education stuff very seriously even if it's only a coloring project the 1st 5 minutes of class. He had the biggest smile when I met him when school was over. His teacher sent me a wonderful text that the day was equally as good on her end too. Actually all the kids, Boo included who refused to get his picture taken for the first day of high school, reported a wonderful 1st day.

1 day down!
179 days to go!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

21 - Happy birthday, Livy Bivy!


Happy birthday to my now-adult daughter, Livy! Truth be told, between going to nursing school, working nearly full time
and the extra pair of hands you lovingly offer around the house, you've kinda already been acting like an adult for the last 10 years so this number really hasn't changed a thing.
When you were a little girl, you were afraid of most everything. Dogs. Candles. Ceiling fans. You were the only child in your kindergarten class that came home every day to take a nap 'cause the day was just too long for you without it. Likely because of this, we talked a lot about independence, fear, and safety... over the years. And not surprisingly now you are one of the bravest people I know. Really, I mean it! You are! You'll do anything once. You'll taste any food, (as evidenced by today's chicken feet!) You're up for any adventure. I think we could all use a little of your strength. Thank you for being one of my role models!
As per your request, I made an ice cream cake, chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream with Oreos to celebrate. I had never made an ice cream cake, before and in the end it wasn't very pretty, but it sure was pretty delicious if I don't say so myself! And although I was willing to make whatever you wanted for dinner (i.e. just like the ice cream cake) you chose to go out to eat for Shabu-Shabu, which honestly I was quite happy have with you!
Happy birthday, gorgeous girl! We all adore the young woman you've grown in to!

Friday, August 4, 2017

10 - Happy Birthday, Dude!


This amazing young man is now 10 years old!
Double digits!
Maybe I shouldn't call Jude a "little" any more, but maybe I still will anyway because he'll always be my little adorable wonderful man! And I'm so crazy blessed to be him mom! Every year he gets older his light seems to shine a little brighter.

He loves fruits and veggies and is an avid golfer and baseball player. This year Jude was finally released from physical therapy after his club foot relapse and almost 1 1/2 years of PT! He's 49" tall and about 47 lbs, so he is a full head shorter than most of his classmates although he's almost a year older than them. He's is starting 4th grade in a couple days. He is a whiz at mathematics and is the comsumate direction follower which makes his mama very happy!

Jude celebrated his birthday by going out with Papa, Livy, and Tess for ribs and arcade games! Then came home for his chosen birthday desert of homemade chocolate chip cookie cake with vanilla ice cream and presents. Yum! His favorite present was a scooter which he has been riding around in the house ever since!
Luv you to the moon and back, Jude dude!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Shame on me


He is a part of every conversation.
He inserts his opinion on on every topic, even ones he knows nothing about.
He remembers and confirms every detail, even when he was never here in the first place to experience it.
He's wiggly and jiggly and bouncy and giggly almost all the time.
He talks constantly... sometime just to repeat everything you've saying.

And it's all a part of his defense to the newness of it all and finding his place in it.

Just prior to this he literally bounced out of his shoes.

There's a lot of research and soul searching when you adopt, especially an older child. And much of this research is directed toward attachment. We ask ourselves a lot of questions. Will our child like us? Will our child accept us, love us, eventually? Will we form a family unit with parents that unconditionally love their child? Will our child feel secure enough to trust us with the scariest of feelings? Will he initiate appropriate affection? Will our child feel safe enough to show us their real un-perfect self? In all 3 of our prior adoptions I firmly believe that I solidly attached to my child extremely quickly, maybe even before I met them (if that's possible) with 2 of the 3 children. So if you would have told me a year ago that I would be the one with the attachment issues this time around, I'm not sure I would have believed you.

This is our 4th time around adopting a special need's child via international adoption all from institutionalized care. I know better than to create a false image of what it'll be like ahead of time. Yet completely unknown to me, I absolutely did that with Ru, created an image of what he'd be like in my head even before I met him. And this vision was so far from accurate. Because Jude is also a boy, around the same age and also adopted, I think I unknowing envisioned Ru having a lot of Jude's personality traits.
Reserved.
Cautious.
Sensitive.
Incorrectly I thought Ru would have a personality that would need to be coaxed out. You know, like the stereotypical orphan you see in the movies. A scared little boy that would need to be wrapped in love before we'd see glimpses of his true personality. A shy quiet still child who would literally hide behind my skirts (or a pole or the chair or the wind) with fear in his heart and wouldn't smile till he felt safe.

***insert record scratch here***

Ummmm nope!
That's not what we got at all! 
Ru is nothing like that, and instead this is the boy that walked through the door 3 months ago.
In a room full of scared and crying children meeting their forever families for the first time,
Ru contrastingly laughed and smiled his way through it. This pic was taken about 30 minutes after we met. 
Full of life, vim and vigor from moment one. Enthusiastic about life! And certainly no need to coax out out his personality because he wears it on his sleeve! On the outside he's afraid of very little. He's on All. The. Time. He's confident and bold. He's nothing like what I imagined he'd be.

Shame of me for even unknowingly creating this image of a child I knew nothing about. He's so different. So so much more. He's louder. Ru is more in the middle of everything I do. He's faster and brash and more self-reliant than I unknowingly thought he'd be. He's just plain o' more than I expected. Again, all unknowingly.
And this is taking me time to process.
And accept.
And attach to.
When folks ask me how it's going I truthfully say something like, We're still finding our new normal, but everyone seems to be adjusting well and just like we hoped they would... 
except me.

Keeping it real, 'cause that's what I've always tried to do here, (except for the name thing. Sorry.) I'm surprised by my lack of unconditional acceptance who my new son is. I'm embarrassed that there's some part of me deep down that might still be trying to put him in a box that he just doesn't fit in. I don't want to do this, but let's be honest, there's parts of me that are. The good news is that with time I think I am getting to a point of acceptance and ultimately a secure attachment. I thought it would be all Ru that would need help attaching to us. I'm surprised tht instead it's me that's going through this journey. I'm also trusting my support system that time and practice will get me there.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Walmart with 4 kids (or why boxed wine should be sold in the back-to-school department)



School starts in 6 days! This necessitated our return to the stinkin' hot desert as my papa calls it. And yes, it's really really hot here right now, especially when one has been relaxing stress free at the cool Little Cabin in the Woods for the last 10 weeks at 7311'.  I'm sweating right this very moment. And nearly always since we returned, (In places that need not be mentioned!) even though the thermostat is at 78. And a thermostat at 78 degrees in the summertime in the desert is a luxury. 

And to add insult to injury, my first day back to the desert, we had to go school supply shopping, at Walmart 'cause I'm cheap. It was just as awful as I had imagined it would be. I kept trying, loudly, to convince any Walmart employ I could find that they really should sell wine by glass in the back-to-school section. I'm not sure if Livy was embarrassed by me or proud. Walmart employees thought this was funny, in a kind of you're-not-serious, right? way.  But judging by the affirmative looks and nods I was getting from all the other stressed out mamas in the back-to-school section, I still think it's a really good idea for cross marketing. 
For some reason Ru was totally perplexed about a single yellow pocket folder with brads. He kept opening it saying This make no sense to me. This make no sense to me. This make no sense to me! Again and again and again... Never you mind that he also had a blue and a red pocket folders with brads that were exactly the same. He only found the yellow one perplexing. Mrs. Malley, if you're reading this, I told him you'd explain it to him. Thank you very much. 

A note to other mamas: As a worn-down haggard experienced  mama of 8 I have to recommend that you have each child carry their own basket with all their school supplies in it. Yes, it gets heavy, and that's the whole point. 

1- Kids carrying baskets are much easier to navigate the congested back-to-school isles than pushing the cart around.
2 - Your child will be extra tried from carrying that basket, and that helps them fall asleep extra quickly that night.
3 - As we were in the checkout line Tess, who was getting tired of carrying around her heavy basket, asked me why we didn't just get a cart for the school supplies. I told her it was a metaphor for the importance of her education. Ya, obviously! she replied. Well, at least she gets it. Or not.  
The other reason for this post... we finally got Ru's MRI results back. They found something. Or rather several somethings. Things that require treatment. We go see the specialist in a few days 'cause I'll be darned if I actually understand the medicalease of the MRI report. Ultimately, based solely on the phone call we got from scheduling we need to see a specialist and schedule treatment. Why in the world we'd get a first phone call from Ms. I'm-sorry-ma'am-but-I-can't-go-over-the-results-of-the-MRI-with-you-because-I'm-just-the-scheduler lady before even being notified that there's even an issue is beyond me. Yes, that's right. Nobody actually told us they found something on the MRI! They just had the scheduler call us to schedule treatment as the first notification that something is wrong. Welcome to the world of special needs. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A different type of scared


3 months in, and we're still finding our new normal.
Remember when you had a newborn baby, and you didn't get much sleep at night. Instead there were long-ish stretches of kinda-sleeping where ever you landed with a baby on your chest, as your rhythms of breathing synchronized with each other... Ya, it's like that but with a 40lb, 7-year-old Chinese kid. And laundry that needs folding. 

Recently Ru has been having anxiety of some type, usually at night. Surprisingly, our brave boy that ususally deals with stress by laughing and getting giddy, he has been getting weepy. Sad. Easy to upset. And instead of raging or having his usual tantrums, his tears flow. In other words, instead of getting mad, he's getting sad. Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross via my psychology 101 class in college (circa the stone age) tells me this is yet another classic sign of grief. At night, he has been waking up, coming to our bedside and saying, "I so scared." Actually we're not so sure he's so much scared as he is craving the extra comfort and snuggle time from Papa and me. I mean actually that is fear but of a different type, not the I had a bad dream or There's a scary shadow in my window type of scared. More like the Crap this place seems permanent with these people, and I miss my friends, and everything I knew is gone type of scared. During these episodes he doesn't cry, but he is definitely melancholy and quiet, and totally content to snuggle in the quiet dark (not sleeping) for as long as we can... over an hour if I can keep my eyes open that long. Don't get me wrong, it's a good step that he's expressing his feelings, and this is coming out. It's our understanding the in China children aren't encouraged to express their feelings but rather to suck it up and make like it's all okay, not a big deal. What Ru has gone through is a big deal, and although we're heart broken that he's lost so much, I'm happy that he's letting his feelings surface so he can hopefully process all this change and loss, with us to support him through it.

It's sad.
It's again heart breaking.
But I think it's a healthy step in a very good direction.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A good stick or our 19th annual family summer tradition


In 2008, when I had been blogging only about a year, I first wrote about our annual summer junior golf tournaments. When none of the littlest ones were home yet. Mimi and Ru weren't even a twinkle in our eye yet, and U.S. government was threatening that Tess and Jude would never come home. And amazingly by 2008 we had already been participating in the junior golf tourney for 4 years. That means that this year is the 19th year in a row that our family has been doing this very same junior golf clinic! Good golly that also means I'm almost as old as dirt at this point. 
In honor of that first golf blog post I'll just give the quick Reader's Digest condensed of this years golf clinic/tourney like I first did 9 years ago, youngest to oldest.
Mimi age 7 scored a 7 - girl's 1-hole, and she took 2nd place!
Ru age 7 scored a 16 - boy's 1-hole and not bad at all for his first year!
Tess age 9 scored a 56 - girl's 6-hole, and she was right in the middle of the pack.
Jude age 7 scored a 44 - boy's 6-hole, and he was only 1 stoke away from 3rd place.
And just to round out the oldest 4 kiddos too...

Boo age 14 - Well he's here with us at the Little Cabin in the Woods but golf just doesn't tickle his fancy any more. And he's still not feeling well this summer so we're okay with that.

The Man Child (Patch) age 18 - He hasn't made it to Little Cabin in the Woods this summer. I think he's reveling in his quiet time down in Big House in the City. He's almost 19 years old now so it's his choice. I miss him. A lot.

Livy age 20 - She spends her summers working and often makes it up to the cabin for long weekends. She doesn't play golf any more though, not since she discovered fly fishing!

Sunny age 23 - Is still living in New Mexico, jumping on top of dying people, cracking their ribs as she does CPR to save their lives and making us crazy proud of her. We have high hopes that she'll be moving closer to us very very soon! Golf... not so much for her. But I've heard that she's really getting into the rock climbing gym these days!
Happy summer to y'all!

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