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Monday, June 29, 2009

Rainy summer days

Well, here it is the end of June and it feels more like November...we've had two weeks of rain, drizzle, grey skies, and high humidity...gotta love New England weather. Of course, we refuse to let the crummy weather stop us so we slog along to our various events and activities which range from doctor visits to summer camps to the last few days of the school year for two of the kids. Poor Kate and Madiyar don't finish school until July 2 but at least this week, they're having fun activities like field day and beach day...if it doesn't rain.

Aniyar has been home almost 2 weeks now and we're all doing better than we had actually expected. He is responding well to the medications he's on and he's much less impulsive. I like the new psychiatrist who is monitoring his meds and supporting us as a family. Aniyar has also returned to therapy with our Russian child psychologist and she says he's responding well in her sessions with him. Aniyar is starting to test the boundaries a bit at home but no more than our other kids and he responds well to redirection now. He still has more energy than any kid I've ever met so he started a specialized therapeutic YMCA camp today which should give him a physical outlet. He'll be swimming twice a day, playing in the woods, doing outdoor adventure activities, and playing sports until 4:30 each day...and he's been assigned his own counselor to keep an eye on his behavior and redirect him as needed. Next week, he'll start summer school in the mornings, then go to the YMCA camp in the afternoons...our goal is to provide him the structure and support he needs while also letting him make friends and have fun in a safe setting.

Madiyar has been a bit conflicted about his brother's return. He was delighted to have him home but also a bit jealous of the attention Aniyar got at first. I think Madiyar was also worried about how Aniyar would behave with the other kids...and for the first few days, Madiyar took it upon himself to act as Aniyar's cultural guide in regard to our family dynamic, often whispering in Aniyar's ear to remind him to be polite to his sisters or to be kind to Max. It has been touching to see Madiyar trying to pull all of his siblings together. I can see him attempting to weave the threads of his relationship with Aniyar and then his relationships with all of us together into a new fabric...our family tapestry. Of course, don't get me wrong...Madiyar is also a 13 year old boy who can be as difficult as they come. Kate has nicknamed him "The Pouty Prince" because he tends to sulk when he doesn't get his way...

Of course, keep in mind that Kate is known as "The Drama Queen" and she comes by it honestly, especially now that she's a teen who will begin High School in the Fall. She now has an opinion on almost everything including the state of the economy, the environment, and world peace. She likes to stay up late and sleep until 10am on the weekends. She often finds her siblings immature and seeks "privacy", and her "own space" where she can read, dance, and write dark, angst-filled poetry. I can hear my mother laughing from the pearly gates...Kate is just like I was at this age, all dramatics and poetry, with her grandmother's love of dance and the Night Owl gene thrown in to boot.

Tanya completed 5th grade and is now officially a middle schooler. She's going to a YMCA summer camp each day, riding a boat to Children's Island in the middle of Salem Harbor where she spends the day swimming, sailing, kayaking, and playing games. She had her first overnight camping trip on the island last week and she loved it. It was family night so I took Kate, Madiyar and Aniyar out to the island for a picnic dinner; Tanya loved showing everyone around and taking the boys swimming in the saltwater pool...but I think she liked waving goodbye to us as we returned to the mainland and being allowed to stay overnight even better!

Max is in a summer playground camp; he spends each day at a nearby park where he plays tennis, kickball, dodgeball, baseball, and goes swimming under the watchful eye of his city recreation program counselors. He comes home every afternoon dirty, wet and tired...fine with me, it beats videogames and TV any day. Max also had a great thrill yesterday...his flag football team made it to the division tournament and he was able to play in the championship rounds. His team won 2 games and made it to the finals but were eliminated in the 3rd game....since it was drizzling the whole time, I don't think Max was too disappointed that he didn't have to continue to play in the rain...and Dad was proud of Max and glad to cheer him on but soaked to the skin and chilled to the bone by the time they got home.

We're all headed to New Hampshire for the July 4th weekend. We'll only be able to stay 3 nights but we'll make the most of it by leaving early on Friday since all the kids will be out of school, then returning on Monday...there's a cookout planned for Saturday and Aniyar wants to go fishing. The kids all want to take the inflatable boat out on the lake...now that we have 5 kids, Craig and I decided one rubber boat that seats 2 kids wasn't enough so we popped for a second one at Big Lots. ($20.00, we're such big spenders!) We can now seat 4 kids in boats and let the 5th wheel use a raft or inner tube. (This plan has already resulted in squabbling about who gets the first turn in the boats...there's nothing like sibling rivalry and bickering to make a Mom crazy...can't wait for the 3 hour drive in the van with all five kids!) There are also plans to celebrate Max's birthday in NH with a movie and ribs from his favorite BBQ place. We have friends who will also be there to help us keep an eye on the kids so it should be fun for all of us.

Now if it will just stop raining...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Home again...

After two months in a pediatric psych unit, Aniyar was released from the hospital yesterday and has spent his first night at home! It was a pleasure to see the smile Aniyar wore most of the afternoon and evening...and to see him interacting so positively with the rest of the family. He was a relaxed and happy kid last night, singing and dancing and being sweet and silly. He was able to accept limits and went to bed without complaint; he also was up and dressed for school this morning with no problems so we're off to a good start. We've missed Aniyar and we're grateful to have this chance to bring him home again...but we'll also be monitoring closely for signs of stress and any indication of the unsafe behaviors that led to Aniyar's hospitalization in the first place.

During Aniyar's visits home on day passes, we have been delighted to see a great improvement in his ability to control his impulsivity and behavior. We are optimistic about his return to family life but we're making sure we all have as much support as possible for Aniyar's special needs and for the safety of the rest of the family. I've spent the past week preparing for Aniyar's release, attending meetings with his case manager and educational team, consulting with his psychologist, finding a psychiatrist who can monitor his meds, and arranging for a therapeutic day camp and an extended year school program to support him during the summer months. The wonderful social workers from Adoption Journeys (a great resource for families dealing with post-adoptive issues like ours) have visited our kids here at home to help them prepare for Aniyar's return; they'll continue to do regular home visits which will give all the kids a chance to talk about their feelings. Then there are the therapy appointments and summer camps which will provide structure, support, and just plain fun for our other kids...and my new full-time job is born. I'm a mental health case manager/social director/bus driver...in addition to my other Mom duties. The other day, one of the kids asked me if I didn't just love summer because I didn't have as much work to do....HAH!!!!

Thanks again to all of you who are keeping us in your thoughts and prayers...we're grateful!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Finally Spring...and Summer

May and June are two of my favorite months because the time is chock full of special events. Between Mother's Day and Father's Day, we celebrate 2 birthdays, a wedding anniversary, and the end of the school year with all of the attendant ceremonies and activities.

In New England, May also usually means that the weather will actually be warm more often than not and the chance of snow is finally behind us. The old willow tree in our back yard is green again, the grass is growing in spite of our 3 greyhounds, and our vegetable garden is taking shape. Craig is cooking a lot of burgers and steak tips on the grill and we're all enjoying being outside more. On a couple of nice evenings, Craig and I have even been able to relax on our deck while the kids play basketball, street hockey, soccer, or catch until it's too dark to see the ball. Other times, we rush to feed everyone, then race off in different directions to get Tanya to a softball game, Max to flag football, or Kate to piano. We laugh a lot more these days and the atmosphere in our home is much more relaxed. It feels almost normal around here...but the reality is that we're still missing one of our 5 kids so nothing is really normal at all.

Aniyar has been in the hospital for 6 weeks now. He's still in a pediatric psychiatry unit in the Franciscan Children's Hospital in Boston where he's being evaluated and treated with therapy and medication for his impulsivity and his angry outbursts. We visit him frequently and have taken him out on passes both on and off the hospital grounds several times now. We were able to take him out to lunch with us on Mother's Day and he has been home to visit on the last 2 Saturdays. We do see some improvement in his ability to regulate his behavior and we're encouraged. We are hopeful that he might be able to rejoin us at home at some point as long as we can all be safe.

Time and the support systems we've accessed for the whole family have helped the rest of us to recover and regroup; we have help from social workers who visit us from a great group called Adoption Journeys. They support all of the kids as well as Mom and Dad. We also have on-going therapy for Madiyar who struggles greatly with his brother's absence...and for Max who is most anxious about Aniyar's return. The girls continue to do well with this roller coaster ride and Craig and I just keep hanging on with support from family, friends, and trusted advocates from our adoption community (Thanks, Ann and Leah!)

Life is even busier than ever now that my role as Mom also includes attending multiple IEP meetings for Madiyar, driving to Boston every few days for visits and family meetings for Aniyar, and continuing to support the other 3 kids as well. I feel like I spend most days in my minivan...or doing laundry...now if I could just put a washer and dryer in the minivan, I'd be all set.

Craig has taken on the primary role of sports enthusiast, adjusting his work schedule to take Tanya to her softball games and practices...the rest of us have watched parts of her games and one night we even cheered her on while we ate a family picnic supper...but Dad is the faithful fan who has been to every game. Little League softball has been Tanya's own form of therapy this spring; she's loving the physical activity and being a part of a team. She's making new friends and enjoying learning something that comes easy to her. Tanya is a good athlete; she's gained enough confidence that she asked the coach if she could pitch in the game they played on her 12th. birthday...and she got her wish. Our girl wasn't the best pitcher of the day...but it makes my eyes fill with tears to see her on the mound and know how far she has come in the 6 years she's been with us.

Max is doing well at school but struggling a bit at home...tonight he gave me a note telling me that he wanted to talk to me but he didn't want to interrupt since he knew I'd rather spend time with my new favorite son, Madiyar. Actually, I viewed this as huge progress for Max who has been really mad lately but not willing to talk about what's bothering him...his fear of being replaced. We were able to talk and I was able to remind my boy that he was my first son, my special boy and absolutely impossible to replace. (After all, how many other mothers have a son who is obsessed with squirrels and dreams of assembling a squirrel army to take over Canada?) We've turned a corner tonight as we've faced Max's worst fears about being sent away...no way, Squirrel! You're stuck with us and we'll always love you.

Kate continues to sail along through the year with her eyes on the prize...and this time, it's a gift card to a bookstore. She submitted a poem to a writing competition at her school and was selected as a finalist; she and the other finalists will read their works at a local bookstore tonight as a part of the competition. If she wins, I'm quite sure Kate will have the gift card spent before she lets us take her home...the child loves to read...so you won't be surprised to learn that her poem is entitled, "The Library", and is about one of her favorite places.

As for our Madiyar...this boy still delights and confounds us...and I must admit that he has a way of melting his new mom's heart. He can be rude and inappropriate and pretty darn annoying at times...but he can also be mature beyond his years and caring beyond measure. This is the boy who was recently suspended from school for kicking a teacher...arghh!!!...and the same boy who carefully picked out 12 items in the Dollar Store for Tanya's birthday, all painstakingly chosen to her interests and bought with his own money...awww! As for being suspended, I didn't want him thinking he was getting out of school that easily...so we brought his teacher and computer to the house every day and he did all of his work here at home. By the end of the suspension, he said he would never have a problem at school again; staying at home was just too boring! (Score one for Mom.) At home, our Madiyar is a gem, funny and kind and warm...and his English increases exponentially with each passing day, informed by friends and family, TV and Radio Disney. Yes, he sings along to all the songs in English...with a strong Russian accent and lots of enthusiasm.

Craig and I celebrated our 16th anniversary on May 29 with a quiet dinner at home (as quiet as it can get with all of our kids around). We fed the kids early and sent them off to watch movies and play videogames, then had our friends, Rick and Deb, over for a late evening grown-up dinner of salad and steaks on the grill. We shared a champagne toast and reminisced a bit, then called it a night. There was no expensive jewelry with lots of bling as a gift, no Ferrari with a bow on it in the driveway, no tickets for a 2nd honeymoon in Paris. Kate says we're boring and not very sentimental. (Our defense is that we shot the wad on 3 trips to Kazakhstan last year and our 2nd honeymoon was spent traveling the road between Ust-Kamenogorsk and Ridder.) At this point, the best gift of all for Mom and Dad is a peaceful evening at home and a good night's sleep...jeez, we really are boring...but never bored with our brood!