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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thanks for the dough!

Anne's Scented Play Doh
Mix 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 cups flour & 1/4 cup salt.
Boil 1 cup water, and add 1 1/2 Tbs veg oil. 1 pkg unsweetened Kool-Aid & 1/2 - 1 tsp food coloring to match.
Add liquid mixture to flour mixture and stir quickly. Knead dough (it's hot!), adding more flour as needed to reduce stickiness.

Sundays are still screenless in our house...no TV, computers, videogames, or movies for the entire 24 hour period. We've had a few not so good days...for example, the Sunday I found our youngest son hiding in a corner with his Nintendo DS, looking for all the world like an addict who needed his fix. Overall though, the kids have not only observed the screens-off rule but have worked at finding other kinds of fun.

We're still cooking, playing games, doing puzzles, and spending more time outside...but last week we added in a craft activity compliments of my friend and fellow blogger over at http://bringingboryahome.blogspot.com/
(BTW, I highly recommend that you check out Anne's blog, she's an awesome writer and wicked funny.) Hey, Anne, thank you very much for the dough...even if you did make me beg for the recipe.

We used 1 pack of lemon Kool-aid in our batch of dough, then divided it into 3 parts and added food coloring,.
Easy-peasy lemon squeezy (Sorry, I just had to say that...)
Tanya made a softball...

...complete with stitching!

Aniyar made a snake
The kids played with this stuff for a couple of hours...

Max was secretive about his creation...
Alien experimentation?

Kate made a family of....ummm...something purple...and Japanese...from one of her favorite anime shows
I love it when my kids suck up...
Madiyar made this guy...also Japanese...with purple Elvis hair

Mom made a flower (ever hoping for Spring!)

The kids decided to pool their talents and make a dough birthday cake.

It must have been convincingly real; Nel started begging...and later, the dough disappeared. The gnawed-on remains were discovered later...in Mom and Dad's bed.  She only looks innocent.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The perks of being sick...

OK,  the actual being sick part stinks which is why when my kids aren't feeling well, I tend to spoil them a bit. Tanya was the "lucky" winner of a day in Mom's big comfy bed most recently; she's had a cold, also spiked a temp of 100.7 at school on Monday and ended up going to the doctor yesterday to be tested for strep throat. (Fortunately, her throat culture was negative...I was imagining all 5 of my kids with strep...not a pretty picture.)

Speaking of pretty pictures, here's a visual diary of Tanya's sick day:

An Ipod, a cool cloth for the fever, and an attentive nurse work wonders.

A healthy snack helps, too...oatmeal cookies, apples & peanut butter...and girl scout Thin Mints

After the visit to the doctor, Tanya and her nursing staff rested on our porch in the sun...

I knew Tanya was feeling better when she picked up my camera and started taking the pictures. Back to school, girl...but I loved hanging out with you and helping you feel better!

Monday, March 28, 2011

When bad things happen to good people and dogs

Any parent of teens knows how tough parenting big kids is and how hard it is to see progress. I think it's a lot like watching grass grow...you know growth does happen but it can be pretty invisible on a daily basis. There are times when I think I'm spitting in the wind as I try to instill a sense of responsibility, and empathy in our kids. There are days when I despair of my kids ever learning to be kind to each other, to work as a team, to put aside their petty jealousies and stop competing with each other. There are times when I wonder if it's even possible for our kids who came to us at different ages and in different ways to bond as a family...but every once on a while, something amazing happens that reassures me. Yesterday was one of those times.

It happened in the blink of an eye, like most terrible things do. One minute, I was bringing our two greyhounds out of our yard, crossing our driveway with the dogs by my side as we've done several times a day ever since we moved to this house last fall. I stopped to pick up a muffin wrapper one of my kids had dropped (I was grumbling to myself about those darn messy kids!)...and it must have startled our scaredy-boy dog. He took off running down the driveway and into the road, then headed up the next street. I reached the end of the driveway just in time to see him round the corner, running full-speed toward one the busiest roads in our neighborhood. I ran after him, faster than I've run in years, calling his name...but I knew I'd never catch him in time. I realized that I wasn't alone...my husband and kids were all running, too, calling our dog, trying to head him off before he reached the busy road. 

As I ran, I could see the cars streaming towards us and I could see our greyhound run into traffic, too far from me to do anything but scream his name again. I knew I was too late. In that awful instant, it flashed through my mind that my kids would all be there to see our dog hit by a car...and I couldn't stop any of it. Time slowed down, inching toward the inexorable conclusion that left me feeling powerless and sick at heart.

Then again, it all changed in the blink of an eye. My oldest son flew in front of me, running almost as fast as the dog at that point. He hurtled into the street, hand in the air, calling to the driver of the closest car to stop...and luckily, the driver did. Our dog made it safely to the other side of the road and so did Madiyar. Fletch was tired and scared by this time and so he let Madiyar take his collar. By this time, our whole family was running across the road in blatant disregard of our town's jaywalking ordinance. (OK, I'll admit, I was the first one in the street so I didn't set the safest example for the others.) Once we reached our wayward pup and determined that both dog and boy were fine, we started our trek home in a tight little band, hearts still pounding. (My dear husband, ever the cool-headed one, insisted we all use the crosswalk on our return.) The kids took turns petting and fussing over the dog who by this time was walking glued to my leg, shaking like a leaf...or maybe that was me doing the shaking. Tanya kept saying, "I thought he got hit, Mom. I was so scared! I thought he was dead!"  I couldn't have said it better myself...

It wasn't until we got home that I realized I still had that darn muffin wrapper clutched tight in my hand, a reminder that while they are messy, my kids can work together when it counts. Today we were lucky in more ways than one. Our dog is fine, our kids didn't witness a tragedy to add to their therapy/trauma issues, and I've gotten a glimpse of the seeds we've planted growing.

When he's not running, he's a real couch potato...of course, I'm talking about the dog.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to add this postscript:

Ever mindful of our new carpet, I'm always nagging the kids to take off their dirty shoes and leave them on a rack in our mudroom. They've all complied pretty well...except for Madiyar. He couldn't resist pointing out that he was able to run fast because he had his shoes on in the house when he heard me yelling for the dog. I couldn't resist hugging him and telling him I wasn't going to argue his logic. My boy isn't just fast, he's fresh, too...and he has a very big heart.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

With regrets to Elizabeth Taylor...

The sad news of Ms. Taylor's death was all over the morning TV shows and so it became the topic of discussion during breakfast. It started like this:

Child A:  So who is this person? I never heard of her!
Mom: She was a very famous actress for many years and she was also a wonderful humanitarian who supported AIDS research among other things.
Dad: She was also pretty famous for her 8 husbands...
Child A: Say WHAT?
A photo of Taylor with Michael Jackson flashes on the screen
Child B:  Oooo, MJ looks like a girl!
Child C: He's dead, stupid...
Child B: Mom says not to call people stupid, stupid. So was she married to MJ?
Mom: No, but she was married to Richard Burton.
Child A: Who?
Mom: Another really famous actor who bought her a huge diamond. She married him twice...
Child A: Say what????
Dad: And she was married to that trucker who she met in rehab....
Child A: What the heck would a rich, famous person need rehab for???
Mom: Think Lindsey Lohan, honey.
Child B: Oohhhh, I get it.
(About this time, the commentators start talking about Eddie Fisher leaving Debbie Reynolds for Taylor.)
Child A: Who the heck are those people?
Mom: More famous folks...remember Princess Leia from Star Wars?
Child A: You mean the chick with cinnamon buns on her ears?
Mom: (Sigh) Yes, dear. That's Carrie Fisher. Her dad left her mom and ran off with Ms. Taylor a long time ago.
Child D: Seriously, dude...someone should have punched him in the face. That's just rude.
Child C: Who gets the diamonds?

Just another theater-of-the-absurd lesson in current events and popular culture in our household...and people wonder why I don't home school.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Seven years ago...

...on St Patrick's Day, this little girl stepped off a plane in Boston and became a US citizen.

 She started a new life as our adored second child...and a princess in training.
 She had a big sister to teach her the ropes and be her best friend...
 ...but she brought her own unique style to everything she did, from sports (note the ball in one hand and the glove and purse in the other)
 ...to music. (She hated piano lessons but likes the violin.)
 She's a real beauty inside and out...
...and even though she's a teenager now, she's still just as silly as she is sassy!

Happy anniversary, Tanya Banya! St. Patrick's Day will always be special to us because of you. You're truly the pot o' gold at the end of our rainbow.

Monday, March 14, 2011

I've had homework...

Sorry I'm behind on my blogging but I've been busy. It's the end of the trimester and I've had exams to prepare for. In 7th. grade, I'm working hard in Life Science on heredity and genetics and I'm killing myself in Ancient Civilization keeping Sumeria, Egypt, and Israel straight. My 6th grade report on Africa, especially Mali and its ethnic groups, took more time than I expected but it's shaping up nicely. My 9th grade math trimester final is thankfully behind me! My 10th grade work in English is done, I just need to be an editor and proofreader there. Then there's 5th grade math, the stem and leaf plot method (HUH?)...I think that's the most confusing of all.

For my special needs kids, I'm the at home tutor, not quite homeschooling but I work with the teachers to modify the curriculum for my kids who need the extra support. That means I create study guides, give practice quizzes, assist in preparing reports and presentations...and act as primary cheerleader for 3 of my kids who are sure they won't succeed. That means I'm lending my brain and my organizational skills as needed for my kids who are struggling academically while also giving moral support to my kids who are on grade level. This is also the time of year when we begin MCAS, the state mandated testing of our kids' academic skills. The class schedules are whacked and the stakes are high. The pressure is on for both teachers and students. No stress for the kids with PTSD and anxiety issues who reeaally don't do change well. Jeez, I hate this time of year!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Just another quiet evening at our house...

I have big kids, teenagers, in fact. Heck, they're almost grown...just ask them! Two of them are counting the few remaining months until they can start driving. Last evening they were showing me how mature they are. Would you trust them with your minivan?

Max couldn't care less about driving yet...at 13, he has two passions: video games and food..but he hates when someone thinks he's "immature". It's the worst kind of insult.

They try to act all cool, my kids...but this is what they're really like at home.

You know what? I love these guys.  I don't want them to grow up too fast. I'm so glad to see them being kids...because life wasn't always like this for them.

I think of all the struggles we've had, the bumps and bruises, the adjustment issues after each of our adoptions. I remember the rages of this kid, the tantrums and fears of that one, the kid who would sit crying outside the door when I was in the bathroom, afraid I might disappear. I think of the times I was hit, scratched, sworn at, and bitten by this one and the day another one ran away with no shoes or coat in the dead of winter. I remember holding a bedroom window closed when one of them was trying to jump out. I remember holding one of them tight in my arms so he wouldn't hurt himself while he raged, then holding him even tighter when he started sobbing. Thankfully, those times are mostly memories and rarely a part of our reality now. We've been lucky, we've worked hard at it, and the kids are healing bit by bit.

We're a family, a big, silly, loud, crazy family...far from perfect...but what a gift.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Answering tough questions about FASD

"Mom, I take my medicine", my son said. Only half listening, I absently smiled at him and told him he was a good boy as I bustled around my kitchen. Then he asked, "Mom, why I take medicine?" and I knew it was time to forget about the breakfast dishes and talk to my son. This was a question that wouldn't wait.

The short answer is that Aniyar's medicine keeps him safe and helps him to control himself. The longer version takes us back almost 2 years to the days when Aniyar and Madiyar were new to our family...to the days when we feared for Aniyar and the rest of our family too. Here's part of the blog post I wrote back then:

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Things we wish would never happen...

One day last week, I heard the wail of an ambulance siren and knew it had been called for my own child.

One day last week, I pulled up to my child's school and knew the paramedics and police were there because of my child's crisis.

One day last week, I committed my child to a pediatric psychiatric unit.

Sometimes things don't turn out exactly as we hope...and when you adopt older kids with a troubled history, it's probably better to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. That's pretty much where we are right now.

It's now becoming clear that our youngest son has more problems than just cultural transition and language. Aniyar's behavior has been so inappropriate and unsafe that he had to be moved from the regular school where Tanya and Max attend to a program for kids with emotional and behavioral problems...and even that program has not been able to address his needs. Aniyar is sweet and charming one minute and then angry and aggressive the next; he has choked students, punched teachers, and tried to injure himself. At home, his behavior is marginally better than at school but still frightening; he lacks impulse control of any kind and has to be watched constantly to prevent behaviors that are unsafe for him or his siblings.

Last Tuesday wasn't the first time Aniyar attacked one of his teachers and had to be placed in the crisis room...but this time, the teachers couldn't calm him down after 40 minutes of raging. When they called me to come and pick him up, it was clear that bringing him home wasn't an option. We had finally reached the point our psychologist had warned us about...Aniyar needed to be hospitalized in order to get some help.

Where are we now? Aniyar has been in the hospital for a week now and we don't see much change in him. The psychiatrists tried him on a patch medication to reduce his aggressive behaviors and improve his impulse control but Aniyar wouldn't keep the patch on. They're trying other medications now...but Aniyar resists taking them. They also have him on a behavior chart...maybe they'll have better luck with that than we had. Sadly, even with meds and behavior charts, Aniyar is still acting out aggressively towards other patients and staff from time to time. We just don't know what will happen next.

We visit Aniyar every day; we miss him but are relieved that he is in a safe environment where he can be assessed and given the help he needs. We don't know what tomorrow will bring but we'll face it as a family...

Thankfully, Aniyar did get the help he needed. After two months in the hospital, we were able to bring him home. During that time, we learned a great deal about Aniyar's past...his prenatal exposure to alcohol, his extensive trauma and abuse from infancy, his developmental delays and his memory deficits. So many things to overcome...but finding the right medication brought his rages and unsafe behaviors under control. Medication brought him home and gave him a chance for a normal family life. Aniyar now has a future that doesn't have to be ruled totally by his past.

So what answer did I give my son? I told him the truth...about his birth mother's drinking and how that affected his brain even before he was born. I told him that he had problems learning and remembering things and controlling himself at times because of this thing called FASD. I told him none of it was his fault, any more than the abuse he suffered was his fault. I told him that the medicine he takes helps him with those problems so he can learn better, feel less angry, and be more safe. Aniyar thought a minute and then he said, "I'm mad at my mom for drinking and for hitting me. I don't like her now." I told him I understood how he felt but we couldn't change what happened in the past. I promised him that we would always be his family and I would always take care of him...including making sure he takes his medicine every day, twice a day...for as long as he needs us. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Screenless Sunday Update

It's been over a month since we began our grand family experiment.We've stepped away from our electronics one day a week, following these rules:
  • No TV or Movies

  • No computers

  • No gaming systems

  • Cell phone use for voice communication only; no texting, games, picture mail, etc.

    We're remaining unplugged on Sundays and I'm delighted with the results. I highly recommend unplugging but it comes with a price.  Here are a couple of things that I've learned in the past few weeks.

    Be forewarned! Once the screens go dark, the cherubs are suddenly much more present. 

    This means they're in my face, whining, "What can we doooo?????" Since this whole screenless thing was my bright idea, I felt compelled to give them some guidance...and since my dear husband promised to love, honor, and support my hare-brained ideas when he married me, he's on the hook with me.

    The truth is that our kids just don't have a clue what to do with themselves without screens...so it's up to us to show them.

    We've put down our own laptops, cell phones, etc. and are spending our Sundays face to face with the kids, exposing them to other options for the use of their free time. I'm ashamed to admit that at first I was a bit panicky trying to figure out what we'd all do with ourselves. Did I need to come up with field trips? Educational activities? A lesson plan for bonding and face time? Then I remembered the kinds of things my family did when I was a kid...when we had one TV...and no remote...and we only got 3 channels...before computers, videogames, and every other kind of electronic wizardry entered our lives.

    Here's our latest Sunday without screens: 

Dad slept in, then got breakfast in bed and a pile of kids to start off his day.

We played this cool game for a while.
We stocked up on reading material at the library.
Kate wanted to learn how to make homemade pasta...

so Dad resurrected his pasta maker and taught her to how to make fettucine the old-fashioned way.

Before we had kids, we used to have Craig's homemade pasta all the time. We haven't done this since Kate was born...over 15 years ago!

The rest of the kids helped me with the sauce, salad, and bread...and Madiyar made Rice Krispy Treats for dessert.
We listened to music...and danced...and sang out loud while we cooked and cleaned up.

Tanya has discovered that she's good at jigsaw puzzles. The rest of us are sharing her new addiction.

The girls have taken up knitting. One of the boys has, too...but he prefers to remain nameless.

And last but not least, this is what Mom learned on our most recent Screenless Sunday:

The whining about no screens decreased dramatically when fun and food were involved.

The kids are now making suggestions for activities we can share. Next week, the boys want to learn how to make lasagna from scratch. See what a day without screens can do? It's like the Chinese proverb. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Then teach the cherubs to cook and later they can make dinner for me!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How to survive the common cold...chicken soup and puppy love.

We've had more than two weeks of round-robin cold virus circulating through our family and I'm SICK of it, I tell you...excuse me a moment...ACHOO!! As I was saying, I'm sick...and my kids have been, too. Craig is the only one who has escaped mostly unscathed. (See? Working too many hours and being away from our germ infested nest for long periods has some advantages.) Our doctor says none of us have anything bacterial so we just have to let it run its course...HA! Easy for her to say. Despite my best efforts to medicate, hydrate, and separate us all, the cunning little germs continue to mutate, making us sick again and again. It's the viral version of the movie "Groundhog Day" around here and it goes like this:
  • At some point during the night, ____ (insert any one of my kids' names here) shows up at Mom's bedside complaining of chills, fever, cough, congestion, etc.
  • Mom staggers out of bed blearily to medicate said child and return him/her to bed
  • Quarantine rules are placed in effect until all healthy kids are sent off to school in the morning
    • Said sick child is kept in isolation for his/her own comfort and the safety of others even if he/she is feeling a bit better now that the Ibuprofen has brought the fever down
      • Isolation also precludes purposeful breathing on/coughing on siblings even if this is hysterically funny according to the Gross Adolescent Boy Book of Humor.
  • Sick child is then installed in Mom and Dad's big comfy bed for the day (see picture below)
    Aniyar's turn

  • Therapy greyhounds are provided to comfort the sick child throughout the day
    There's nothing as healing as a good snuggle.
  •  Lunch and more Ibuprofen are served in bed...
    Yes, it's a heart shaped fluffernutter sandwich with angel wings...yes, I spoil them when they're sick...so what?
  • Since OTC colds meds are relieving symptoms but aren't really a cure, Mom brings out the big guns and makes Jewish Penicillin. 
  • By day's end, the sick child is kicked out of Mom and Dad's bed to continue recovery elsewhere. 
    • Yes, the sheets are washed...although I'm considering burning them and buying new if we can't get this epidemic under control.
  • At bedtime, medication is distributed, air hugs and kisses are given (I love you but please don't breath on me/touch me!!!)
  • By around 3:00AM, the cycle begins again..new face, same schtick.
    • Sigh...More chicken soup, coming up.
Who says all that time I spend reading blogs is wasted?

Seriously, this is the best chicken stock ever. I'm making it by the vat these days.