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Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Lazy Saturday

We've all recovered from the stomach bug and Craig and I are finished licking our wounds over the house fiasco. We've lost our buyers and aren't showing the house any more. If a miracle happens and we ever hear from the bank regarding our offer on the house we wanted to buy, we'll consider doing a bridge loan and selling our place then. We're tired of being held hostage to uncertainty and are determined to move on with our lives...so the blog posts will be less whiny, I promise.

We're enjoying the first few days of Spring here in New England...OK, the weather is very changeable, some really warm days, some rain and even a bit of snow...but it's sunny today which makes the temps in the 30's a bit more tolerable. We all slept in a bit this morning and were slow to get moving.

Aniyar and Tanya were content to lay in a sunny spot and play Nintendo DS games.

Madiyar wanted to watch a movie and snuggle with the dogs.

Max was doing research on solar systems, galaxies and stars. Did you know that there are two blue suns?

Dad was catching up on tech news...always working...

...and our Kate slept through it all, hissing at me like a vampire suddenly struck by sunlight when I woke her at 10:30am.

All in all, it was a nice way to spend the morning!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How low is a snake's belly button?

Since I'm pondering snakes and navels, you might be able to guess that I'm feeling a bit down right now. The past couple of weeks have been challenging and I'm pretty tired. I'm trying to be positive but I seem to have misplaced my cheerleader outfit and pompoms. The latest in the Risley-Schoelles saga is as follows:

Our house woes continue...we've made an offer to the bank that now owns the house we were hoping to buy but it could be weeks/months before they respond. In the meantime, we are watching our potential buyers head for the hills unless we sell them our house immediately. I get sick to my stomach just thinking about it...

Speaking of nausea, we've all been battling a stomach virus for the past two weeks. Five of the seven of us have succumbed to 24 hours of violent vomiting followed by exhaustion and headaches; so far Kate and Dad have escaped the mini-plague. Mom and Aniyar shared the family room couch last Friday when we were both sick; we alternated tossing our cookies and dozing fitfully, a type of mother-son bonding I think we both could have done without.

We had 3 days of solid, cold, pounding rain that flooded our back yard and left us with 5 very bored kids over the weekend. We were luckier than many folks around here...roads and bridges were washed out and basements were flooded near us while we just had to keep a watchful eye on our sump pump...but cabin fever isn't pretty with our crowd. There was a lot of whining and bickering and not enough exercise to burn off all that adolescent energy. By Sunday, a rainy adults only/no kids allowed trip to BJ's Warehouse seemed like a vacation.

Yesterday, Aniyar's teacher called me to say that he has been drawing violent pictures and making a gun with his fingers when playing with his classmates. She said he's talking about killing and shooting a lot, especially regarding videogames. Of course, in our schools today, that type of behavior really freaks teachers out so I can understand the concern. However, how to cope with the situation is tricky...let's review...the kid has post-traumatic stress disorder and has been hospitalized for aggressive and unsafe behaviors in the past...but he also comes from a culture where drawing pictures of guns and playing violent games is very acceptable. He's also in a class for kids with behavioral issues and has not acted out physically or been aggressive this year. The challenge now is to figure out if this behavior indicates a problem in the making or if it's fairly typical boy stuff from a cultural perspective. For now, we've told Aniyar that we're worried about the unacceptable behaviors at school and we'll be taking a break from videogames that involve weapons until he can show us that he understands the rules at school. He's not too happy about this turn of events. It's ironic...Craig and I were just talking about how far Aniyar has come in the past year and how grateful we are for his progress. Let's hope we're not facing a setback.

As for our other darlings, Max had a meltdown over not getting the last lemon fruit bar for dessert the other night (No other flavor would do...) and decided he hated us all. The extra sleep he got by being sent to bed early was much needed. Madiyar decided not to work at school yesterday because he just didn't feel like it...and then he didn't want to do his homework either. It's funny, I didn't feel like helping him or fixing him a snack, either...until he finished sulking. Kate has decided that she has asthma...or the stomach virus...or maybe a brain tumor...and I should take her ailments more seriously and give her more attention. Tanya was really ticked off that she didn't do well on her Math MCAS practice test so she's been really cranky...which involved door slamming and being rude to everyone in her path for a while.

Let's hope today brings better news and attitudes...this cheerleader could use some cheering up. Oh, and in case you were wondering? Snakes don't have belly buttons...

Monday, March 8, 2010

The good news, the bad news, and the absurdity of it all

The good news is that we passed all of our home inspections last week and our prospective buyers love our house! I was a happy camper last Monday when the structural engineer they hired declared our home safe and sound. On to the closing on April 8th, right?

Well, not exactly. I had about an hour to savor our success before the bottom fell out. Our realtor called me in a panic with the bad news. It seems that the owner of the house we have been trying to buy had stopped paying his mortgage and he was being foreclosed on. In fact, his house was being auctioned off at that very moment. She advised me to drop everything and rush over to the house with a deposit check to bid on the property and I dutifully did just that, arriving within minutes of her call. Unfortunately, the auctioneer had already foreclosed on the property, buying it for the bank that held the mortgage. The house was no longer on the market.

Yep, you guessed it...this is the absurd part. Now that we have a buyer for our house, we have no house for us to buy. We've spent the past week trying to figure out if there's any way around this. Our realtor has tried to find out if we can buy the house during the foreclosure process but the prospects aren't good. The lawyers are all pointing fingers at each other and trying to assign blame for who dropped the ball here regarding the extension they were supposed to get from the bank. The seller is in serious denial about the whole mess. In the meantime, our buyers have requested that we reimburse them for their inspections and it seems that they'll be moving on. Sigh...so close to pulling this deal off and then it all turns to slime.

Craig and I were initially in shock (What do you mean, the house is being auctioned?), then in denial (Surely something can be worked out, right? After all, we had a purchase and sale agreement!), We've gotten mad (g#!*d#@&!!!!seller/bank/lawyers!!!!)and done some grieving (Kate is wearing sack cloth and ashes as she deals with the death of her dream for her own room). Now we're working on acceptance...we find ourselves once again in the position of hoping for the best (a miracle that will allow us to buy the house from the bank) and preparing for the worst (getting nowhere).

Wow, that's exactly how I felt when we were fighting to adopt each of our kids from KZ, especially Aniyar and Madiyar. It's also how I felt last year during the boys' very difficult first months with us. By comparison, this mess is a walk in the park. While we aren't thrilled about all the time and money we've lost trying to make this deal work, it's still just time and money. Our kids are all home, we're all safe and healthy, and we have a roof over our heads that we still really love. We're starting to think about making this house bigger...

My crocuses and daffodils are beginning to pop up in the garden. Soon the tulips that Craig and the girls bought for me in Amsterdam will be in bloom; they're a sweet annual reminder of our trip to adopt Max. We're taking a deep breath and moving forward, comforted by the fact that even the harshest winter is always followed by spring.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sticks and stones...

When I was a kid, one of my favorite retorts to anyone who picked on me was "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me." It was a nice, non-violent creed that left my opponents frustrated when they couldn't get a rise out of me...but as an adult, I've come to doubt the veracity of the statement. Words can be brutal weapons...just ask my children.

When you adopt kids, you also adopt all their baggage...their history, their memories, their birth families...and their trauma. In our family, we have one bio and four adopted kids so we have a whole lot of players in our family dynamic. Let's review: We have Kate who has a simple and rather boring background, only one Mom and one Dad that she shares with her 4 siblings (that would be us). Then we have Tanya, Max, Aniyar and Madiyar who have various birthparents and step-parents entering the mix. At times even I lose count...but it's roughly nine people that my kids can be referring to when they start talking about Mom and Dad. Considering that all 4 of our kids from Kazakhstan suffered trauma and neglect while with their birth parents, it can get pretty intense when the kids start swapping stories. Sometimes the conversations are poignant, sometimes funny...keep reading and you'll see what I mean.

Our kids can sometimes use their knowledge of family history as a weapon in a sibling disagreement, as is reflected in this recent exchange between Aniyar and Mom:

Aniyar:(Crying) Mama, Max say my mom drunk. He say my brain not work right. He lying!

Well, sweetie, Max isn't lying but he isn't being kind. The truth is that your mom did drink a lot of alcohol when you were a baby in her tummy. That's why sometimes it's hard for you to remember things and to control yourself...but that's not your fault, just like it's not your fault that your mom hit you.

Aniyar: My mom hit me? I not remember! How you know?

: Madiyar remembers...and you dad and aunt told us, too. But you have a new family now and you're safe here. You're my boy and I love you.

Aniyar: I you baby now? I youngest.

Mom: Yes, you're my baby now; even when you're a big tall man, you'll still be my special boy. Now let's go talk with Max.

Then there's the conversation I had with Max about a little girl at his school:

Max: Mom, there's this girl who is being really rude to me. She picks on me and calls me names. Today at lunch she said at least she wasn't adopted. I think she was trying to say that being adopted is bad.

Well, you know that's not true. What's bad about getting a family?

I think she meant that my mom and dad threw me away like trash...

Mom: Sweetie, you had a lot of very bad things happen to you but none of them were your fault. I can't change the awful things that happened to you when you were little but think about this fact today. You have a mom and dad who not only chose you to join our family but we traveled half way around the world to do it! You certainly aren't trash...

Sometimes the conversations reflect how well our kids have bonded to each other. For example, the other day, Max and Madiyar were chatting about their Dads. This is how the conversation went:

Max: You know, my first dad was nice but for some reason he went away. My second dad was nice at first but then he started hitting me for no good reason.

You should have punched him and used Kung Fu on him, man!

Max: Are you kidding, man? I was a little kid, practically a baby. I could barely walk even.

Madiyar:(Thoughtfully) Well, if we gonna go to Kazakhstan and I see him, I'm gonna punch him for you.

Max: Thanks, man...

My kids know all too well the pain that words can inflict...but they're also learning that words can heal...and they're learning the healing power of family, too.

Sometimes you just have to laugh...

Our son Max is in 5th grade this year and he's finally found something he enjoys studying. He came home from school today full of stories about the Revolutionary War. Like a lot of boys, he thinks tales of war are cool. Today he couldn't wait to tell me about the injustice of taxation without representation and the Boston Tea Party. He also told me about the colonists rising up against tax collectors...this is what he said:

"So, Mom, these guys got mad and didn't want to pay the taxes so they poured wax and chicken fingers on the tax guy. Then they poured tea in his mouth. Don't you think that would hurt?"

Ha!...since I've already passed 5th grade several times, I happen to know it was tar and chicken feathers but Max's image made me chuckle. Tomorrow Max is learning about the Boston Massacre...I can hardly wait to hear his version.