Woohoo! We're on Top Mommy Blogs! Please click on the banner to vote for us...and thanks.

Visit Top Mommy Blogs To Vote For Me!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Losing Our Joy

The past month has been bittersweet to say the least, ever since two of our 3 greyhounds were diagnosed with bone cancer. We've tried our best to keep our old girls comfortable with pain meds without sacrificing their quality of life...and we've been spoiling them rotten with lots of attention and tasty treats. We've also tried our best to prepare our kids for the inevitable...illness and death are never easy and for our kids, it's particularly difficult to accept. Max suggested that we just get the dogs robot legs and they would be fine; Aniyar didn't seem to understand at all; the other 3 kids struggled with the idea of putting the dogs to sleep when the time comes. Craig and I have tried to explain that we will do all we can to keep the dogs with us as long as we can...but when they no longer enjoy life and are suffering, it's time to let them go. For our Joy, that time came over the past weekend.

Joy's cancer was in her right foreleg, causing the bone to weaken rapidly. Her leg developed a tennis ball size swelling that was rock hard and hot to the touch, making it impossible for her to bend her leg and support her weight on it. Her back legs also weakened rapidly so that by the weekend, she could no longer stand without help and had to be carried up and down the stairs. She became incontinent, losing control of her bladder frequently. It was hard for her to lay down and she kept licking her sore leg. The vet said the bone was probably fracturing as it weakened and said all they could do was amputate the leg to reduce her pain...but it wouldn't save her life. We made the hard choice and encouraged the kids to say their goodbyes. The girls sat with Joy, stroking her and singing to her, feeding her tidbits of cheese and other tasty morsels...the one thing Joy never lost was her appetite. The boys wrapped themselves up in videogames and denial, avoiding a final goodbye as we left for the vet. Kate went with us, comforting Joy during the ride. On Sunday afternoon, just 3 weeks after her diagnosis, Craig carried Joy into the vet's office and we held her and cried like babies as she was put to sleep. We could see her relax, could see her pain ease...and then our tail-wagging, sweet tempered, enthusiastic, goofy, gorgeous silver brindle drew her last breath. Our Joy is gone.

Painful as it is, death can bring its own lessons. Our kids have been observing us closely as we go through this process of caring for our sick pups. They've asked questions like this one from Tanya as she watched me hand-feed Rika her dinner, "Doesn't the dog food feel gross when you pick it up and when she licks it out of your hand?" "Yes, it does, sweetie...but it's hard for Rika to bend her head down now to get the food from her bowl. I love her so I help her by feeding her." Tanya thought about this for a minute, then said, "Can I try?" Then there's Max who has watched me mop up dog pee several times a day the past few weeks, vowing that he'd never do anything so disgusting...but when I ran to the store last week and he was alone with Joy who struggled to get up, cried in pain and then peed all over the kitchen floor, my boy mopped it up and sat with Joy, feeding her peanut butter ("...to keep her calm, Mom") until I got home. Then there's Kate who smiles through her tears and swears that Joy is free and happy now ("I felt her, Mama, she told me she's OK!") and Madiyar, my strong, silent boy who met us at the car when we came home from the vet, wrapped his arms around us and held on tight because he knew we needed a hug...and even Aniyar who doesn't quite understand and who keeps asking, "No Joy?", then says, "Mama sad..." and pats my back, senses the loss. Yes, Aniyar, you're right...no Joy...and Mama is sad...but I'm also proud of our kids and the lessons they've learned about caring even in loss.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Madiyar's birthday

Madiyar turned 14 yesterday...what a difference a year makes. Here's what he tells us he did on his 13th birthday in Kazakhstan: the older boys in his boarding school helped him sneak out of the 2nd floor window and into the woods of Ridder for a party to celebrate his becoming a teenager. He says the boys stole money from some of the teachers' purses to buy food and drinks. They gave him vodka and taught him how to huff gasoline...he says he saw lions chasing him and he was scared...but it was the celebration they gave him to mark his rite of passage into manhood.

Yesterday, our oldest son celebrated his fourteenth birthday, the first since he joined our family...and it was all about giving him back some childhood. Ever since he arrived, Madiyar has been taking note of the birthday rituals observed by our family and asking me if he, too, would get the special treatment that his brothers and sisters have gotten. He's been increasingly excited as his special day approached and he's loved the little perks of the birthday child in our house. As such, he did the following:

Made a birthday wish list and hung it on the fridge for all to see weeks in advance
Revised said list frequently as he came up with more wishes
Got to choose the menu for his birthday dinner (he picked takeout Chinese)
Checked the mailbox each day to see if he got birthday cards addressed just to him (he did)
Chose the type and flavor of birthday cake complete with his name on it
Received a gift as soon as he woke up in the morning (soccer shin guards)
Sat in the specially decorated birthday seat of honor at our dining table
Blew out the candles and enjoyed presents from all of us after dinner
Tried out his new roller blades even though it was dark outside
Got one last gift right before bed (comic books)
Got a hug from Mom and leftover birthday cake for breakfast the next morning!

And tomorrow, we'll all head to Roller Palace for Madiyar's birthday party. He's invited a friend from school and his brothers and sisters. He even had a celebration at school in honor of his first b-day in America; his ELL class brought in treats, made him cards, and decorated the room with streamers. Someone gave him a cool new soccer ball...he was grinning from ear to ear at the end of the day.

It should be noted that there was no vodka or gasoline involved in this birthday and the boy was in bed shortly after 10pm...but he was allowed to read one of his new comic books. Pretty tame stuff compared with a year ago but he didn't seem to mind. I think he's waited a lifetime to be spoiled a bit...and he told me recently that he doesn't want to grow up too fast. Smart kid, isn't he?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Beginnings and endings

As summer draws to a close and a hint of fall wafts in on the morning breeze here in New England, I find myself turning contemplative. After all, Autumn is a time of inherent contradiction which lends itself to philosophical musings about change. This fall is all about change for us, some very good and some very sad.

As the leaves turn vibrant and the air crisps, we're facing the beginning of a new school year with a mixture of excitement and trepidation...even though our kids claim to want summer to last forever, they all got a bit bored and were ready to see their friends again. The older 3 have all been back to school for almost 2 weeks now and have all settled in well. Tanya was worried about starting middle school but has now decided she likes being one of the big kids...especially since she now has a later bedtime! Kate is thrilled to be back at school and is enjoying the designation of high school student...and Madiyar has started 8th grade and happily joined the school soccer team, earning the right to practice with the high school students because of his advanced skill level. Aniyar and Max start school this coming Wednesday, not a moment too soon in my opinion since they are both witchy and bored all day with no sibs to play with. All 5 kids are acting like true siblings, bickering one minute and playing together the next. We've come a long way as a family and now that things have settled down, we are anticipating a fun fall as we share some of our favorite activities with Aniyar and Madiyar for the first time...the Topsfield Fair and Halloween being at the top of the list.

Unfortunately, we have reason to believe that the next few months will also bring us great sadness. Our greyhound, Rika, was diagnosed with bone cancer in her right shoulder last week. As if that wasn't enough, our other old greyhound, Joy, started limping badly...and when we took her in to the vet yesterday, she was diagnosed with bone cancer in the right leg. Both of our girls are 12 years old, an advanced age for greys, and we're grateful that we've had 9 wonderful years with them...but this news is hard. There's no cure...nothing we can do but keep them comfortable with pain meds and spoil them for the time they have left. Our young boy grey, Fletch, is most confused because no one will run and play with him now...I'm not sure he will like being an only dog. As for the rest of us, we're taking it a day at a time and trying to savor the days we have left with Rika and Joy.

Having already experienced too many losses in their young lives, my adopted kids don't do change well...but in this case, Kate, Mom and Dad are right there with them. Some changes, while a part of the natural order of things, still stink.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What we did on our summer vacation…

We flew to Florida with our 5 kids, effectively filling more than one full row of the aircraft and drawing comments from ticket agents, ground crew and flight attendants re: the size of our family.

In light of the fact that JetBlue doesn’t serve meals, Mom the Thrifty packed a healthy dinner for our family to eat on the plane. I was very proud of my fruit, cheese, crackers, and yogurt plates that I was planning to offer my darlings while winging our way south…who knew that yogurt was considered a liquid and therefore banned by the FAA? Say goodbye to the Activia, kids…it ended up in the trash at security. Oh, yeah, guess what? Hummus is also a liquid according to the FAA so the treat I packed for Mom and Dad went in the trash also. Live and learn.

We now know that ushering 5 kids through an airport is like herding cats. We also learned that ushering 5 tired, hungry and excited kids through a strange airport, baggage claim, and a wait at the car rental counter too close to the children’s bedtime is like transporting volatile substances on your person. In order to avoid spontaneous combustion, we made an emergency pit stop at Checkers for burgers, fries and milk shakes, then completed our day’s travels with another 30 minutes in the car to a repeated chorus of “Are we there yet?”.

We experienced the joys of attempting to explain to our new sons that our rental van wasn’t ours to keep…nor was the beach house we rented on the Gulf of Mexico.

We remembered that Florida is really, really hot in August…as in almost Africa hot. On the positive side, the Gulf water was a perfect 90 degrees, just the way I like it!

We introduced our new sons to our Florida family, just about frying their poor brains with the effort of figuring out who was related to whom. After a few days of family visits, dinners, an overnight to Orlando to meet some more cousins, and a family reunion picnic in the park with almost all of Craig’s relatives, the boys were a bit overwhelmed. Luckily, when overload set in, we could take the kids back to the beach and let them swim and play to relieve their tension headaches..

Aniyar discovered lizards and the fun that can be had chasing them. All 3 boys spent a lot of time in this pursuit, even caught a few…then Mom had to explain why we couldn’t bring the lizards home as pets.

The kids also loved discovering coquinas, the tiny colored shellfish that burrow in the sand at the water’s edge…and Mom had to explain why we couldn’t bring the coquinas home as pets.

We showed the kids the areas marked off on the beach where sea turtle nests were located…sigh…no, Aniyar, we can’t bring a baby turtle home as a pet.

We enjoyed the beautiful sea oats that have been planted on the beach to help with erosion…they’re protected and picking them can result in a very stiff fine…no, Aniyar, really, Mama doesn’t want you to pick them….nooooo!!

Kate enjoyed convincing her brothers to bury her in the sand so she looked like a mermaid complete with tail…and Aniyar and Max were more than happy to dump wet sand on their big sister.

Madiyar liked learning to body surf on a rare day when there were waves due to a tropical storm…and during the summer thunderstorms, the kids all liked doing arts and crafts and playing with games that our relatives provided. Tanya, Kate and I painted each other’s nails and pasted on tiny gems. The boys loved drawing and painting and Max especially liked the Lego set he got from Grandma’s store. The beach toys that cousin Matt provided were also a huge hit…but all the kids liked swimming with Matt just about better than anything.

Grandma Schoelles gets the award for the best way to keep 5 kids busy while grown-ups chat…she gave each of them a $5 gift certificate to The Coffee Mill, her store which obviously sells coffee but also stocks yummy candy and small toys. (Here's a pic of Craig's mom and sibs at the Mill.) On our last day in Florida, our brood spent a long time quietly perusing Grandma’s shelves and making their selections. Some chose candy, some gum, some trinkets…and they all had cookies and frozen treats from the coffee bar. Kate helped Grandma price some new stock and Tanya did some sweeping up of spilled coffee beans, too…I think the girls are angling for a summer job in the future!

We flew back to Massachusetts after a week of sun and fun and were reminded once more that one of the best things about going away is the coming home again…we ended our vacation with Chinese takeout and snuggles with our dogs.

(BTW, for those of you who are wondering how we’re doing, rest easy. Life is almost normal again here in Witch City. We’re gearing up for a new school year and looking forward to fall. Our kids are adjusting well now and family life is much less dramatic these days. Aniyar is still a challenge but his medications have made a huge difference in his ability to function positively and control his impulses. We are proof positive of better living through chemistry!)