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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

PTSD and Hypervigilence

My youngest is a wonderful helper; he loves doing anything he can to ease my burden. He will dash down to the basement to get me a fresh roll of paper towels when we run out in the kitchen. He will jump to mop up a spill if I slosh water out of a pan. Most of this is cute and endearing...but some of it is scary. For example, the other day he decided to help me drive the car...and he tried to grab the steering wheel WHILE I WAS DRIVING IN TRAFFIC. Not so helpful.

He also likes to be a mini-parent. He scolds the other kids when they forget to close doors, put their dishes in the dishwasher, or pick up their dirty clothes. He shakes his head worriedly like a little old man and tells me how his brother makes unsafe choices or his sister didn't watch the dogs carefully enough when they took them for a walk. Each day, I tell him that my job is to be the mom and his job is to be the kid...but he has a hard time believing that.

He worries about almost everything from houseflies ("They eat poop and put poop on your food, Mom!") to zombies ("They real, Mom, and they gonna eat my brain!") He also worries about sickness or injury...if I cough, he gets me a glass of water and wonders if I'm dying of cancer; if I trip, he worries that I've broken a bone. When he's in the car, he worries about accidents ("That car too close, Mom, he gonna hit us and we gonna explode! Watch out!!!") and bad guys ("That man a bad man, Mom...he gonna shoot us and steal our money."). He is terrified of the gas stove and tries to turn the burners off if I have a pot simmering, telling me that I'm probably going to burn the house down. Same deal with the oven...it's tough to get a roast cooked or a cake baked when my boy is home. He lives his life in a state of constant red alert.

Sometimes my little guy's hypervigilence drives me a bit batty. Well, OK, in the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit that at the moment, it's driving me totally insane!!! This is in large part because he is the only one of my 5 kids who hasn't gone back to school yet so we're spending waaay too many hours together. He loves the one on one time and it's been fun for me, too...except we've had a week now as best buds, him in my hip pocket, shadowing my every move, following me everywhere, sitting outside the door even when I'm in the bathroom...sigh. I'll also admit that when his yellow bus shows up next week, I'll breathe a sigh of relief for that 6 hour a day break his school schedule affords me....6 hours in which to regain my sunny disposition, relocate my patience, and actually get dinner cooked.

Well, I guess some hypervigilence and separation anxiety is to be expected with a little kid, right??? Yes, of course...but my youngest is 13 years old. Between his Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, and his other emotional challenges, he functions at a much younger age than is on his birth certificate. Given his early history of trauma and abuse, it's no wonder he's hypervigilent, either. He has good reason to fear the world and much of what's in it, to see danger in the everyday course of events....and as batty as it makes me sometimes, I do see something positive in his constant worry about me, his Mom, and all of us, his new family. Even though he joined our family through adoption at age 11, he is able to love us...he frets for us...he doesn't fear us...he feels a bond...and he values that bond. My boy has come so far...so there's hope for tomorrow. I think I'll go out and buy some teal ribbon.

Thanks to Think Positive, Live Well, http://jacksanfernandes.com/ for this badge.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Let her eat cake!

Kate requested a special cake for her sweet 16 birthday dinner...she loves watching "Ace of Cakes" on Food Network and had her heart set on something fancy, covered in fondant, and two-tiered. Since my baking skills are limited to boxed cake mixes and canned frosting, I set out to order the creation from a local bakery. When I saw the prices for even a small cake ($50-75 and up!), I decided to reinvent myself as a pastry chef overnight and bake it myself. I watched videos on YouTube about crumb coating, made a trip to Michael's for rolled fondant and other supplies, and started making a mess of my kitchen. It took most of the day but here's the result...far from perfect and Duff Goldman won't be feeling threatened, but it pleased our girl.
Purple, black and white...it matched her balloons and her dress!
Try to ignore the wrinkles in the fondant and just admire the pretty black and white sugar paper design instead.
Two tiers, fondant, fancy and girly...as requested.
The candles worked just fine!

Next birthday up...Madiyar in 3 weeks. I'm hoping he'd like a pan of brownies.

Friday, August 26, 2011

54 hours and 45 minutes is a long time...

August 26, 1995

That's how long I was in labor with my first born. Even the obstetrician said it was a doozy of a labor and delivery...but Kate finally arrived with the help of vacuum extraction at 8:14am on August 26, 1995. We noted her big feet, her cute little elf ear, and I called my mom to tell her she had a granddaughter. She fit in one arm...but now she's taller than me.

She's 16 today...old enough to get her learner's permit to start driving, old enough to be a junior in High school, old enough to be talking about college applications. How time flies....
August 26, 2011...what a difference...still has big feet, though...grin

Happy birthday, KT! You're worth every second of those hours in labor...and all the other ones since!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

First day of school for 4 out of 5!

It's here...we're back to early bedtimes, signing course syllabi, field trip forms...back to homework, structure, and schedules. Only my youngest is still home with me. He starts school after Labor Day...so for now, we're hanging out while the big kids are in session. Don't they look happy to be back in the swing of things? Well, maybe not Max...but the others are. Works for me...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

IRS Adoption Credit Update...finally!

Well, it finally happened...
  • after 4 months of waiting
  • after three rounds of letters from the IRS but without being able to talk with a single live person for guidance
  • after many hours of digging through financial records from 2008 and 2009
  • after contacting our adoption agencies for copies of receipts for adoption expenses for our two sons
  • After providing translations of adoption documents from Russian to English
  • After calculating conversions from KZ tengee to US dollars for our living and travel expenses in Kazakhstan for the 3 trips we made between October, 2008 until our adoption was finalized in January, 2009...
On August 12, 2011, the Department of the Treasury deposited $16,000 and change into our checking account. To their credit, it was every penny of what our refund was supposed to be...no interest, of course...or penalties for being late. I bet if we were the ones stalling on our owed taxes, the IRS wouldn't have hesitated to sock us with both interest and penalties...but I'm so relieved to get this audit behind us that I'll just climb down off my soap box and let it go now...except for a few personal observations about how this audit has affected us as a family.

It's been a lean summer here. Craig and I were worried about what would happen if our refund was disallowed so we've been trying to limit our spending. The kids are getting used to hearing us say, "No, we can't go to the movies this weekend, money is a little tight right now." and "No, we can't order takeout Chinese tonight because it costs too much for our family of 7...let's learn to make Chinese at home instead!" and I don't think learning the realities of living on a budget has been such a bad thing for our kids who normally don't want for much. I won't pretend that it's been fun for any of us, especially for Mom and Dad who have been stressing more and more as the months dragged on, wondering if we'd ever see our refund. (Have I mentioned that it's OUR freaking money the IRS was holding all these months???) Even with our austerity measures, there are bills waiting to be paid, home repairs that need to be made, kids to feed, and school clothes to buy. 

I feel like we've been holding our breath all summer; I have to admit I've been feeling the stress. I've felt angry, worried, and frustrated far more often than I have liked and it's been hard to relax and enjoy the summer with this hanging fire. We returned reluctantly from our NH trip prepared to sigh and cry over our bills once more...but when Craig checked our bank balance and discovered the direct deposit from IRS, we were finally able to breathe again.

I suspect we're not alone....every family in the country who applied for an adoption tax credit was audited this year. Wonder how much money Uncle Sam made in interest on our money nationwide? How much money they kept because not everyone was able to produce documentation? How much....

Oops, sorry....climbing off my soapbox. Assuming lotus position, practicing Zen breathing, reciting Serenity Prayer...ommmmmm.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Our trip to NH....in pictures

I liked relaxing with my feet in the water...and hiking with my DH.
Dad liked grilling brats, dogs, and chicken sausage over charcoal on a beautiful summer evening.

The kids liked eating everything...

especially the smores!

On Saturday, we went to Clark's Trading Post to visit the Wolfman.

Aniyar enjoyed the shows...

he wants to try this fire twirling trick that the Chineses acrobats did...I think not...

and he liked that the bears get trained with ice cream.

Bumper boats are always fun.

Even Max had to admit that he wasn't bored any more.

The girls and Dad liked squirting Max from these water cannons!
In the end, they were all soaked but smiling.

It rained on Sunday but that didn't stop us. The kids still went swimming (no lightning and they were wet anyway, so why not?) The showers didn't stop us from grilling either; we used the covered picnic area and gas grill near the lake for a feast of  BBQ chicken, burgers, baked beans, watermelon,and more smores.

Some uninvited guests joined us for dinner
so we fed them, too.

The kids enjoyed the lake all weekend long.
The swimming was perfect and they made new friends.

Aniyar liked the fishing, too.
He caught a whopper with bread and his net.

Kate liked boating...she and I rowed out to the shark together...
but mostly, I liked sitting on the shore taking pictures of all the fun!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

One last summer adventure...

Craig and I have been keeping secrets from our bored and witchy children. Just when they thought there was no more fun to be had under the summer sun, just when they had despaired that the start of school was the only new event on the horizon, we've hatched a plan to leave town, running away to one of our favorite places on earth. We told the kids last night...and by tomorrow afternoon, we'll be here:

North Woodstock, NH...our mountain retreat
Can't wait to see the kids out there on the blue float, spending hours perfecting their jumps and dives into the lake. See the white spot in the far upper left of the top picture? That's a huge rock painted to look like a shark coming out of the water...Tanya swears she's going to swim all the way out to it. Kate plans to row our inflatable boat around the lake while Dad and I will probably do some kayaking. Aniyar and Max like to stay in the shallows near the beach to catch fish and crawdads.

Gotta love the bear cubs!
And that's not all we have planned! 

I scored discount tickets to Clark's Trading Post on Groupon a few months back so we'll also be visiting the bears and riding the train into Wolfman's territory, then soaking each other on the blaster boats.

I gave the kids their allowance last night so they have spending money to burn on snacks and souvenirs...life is good. For the next several days, boredom shouldn't be a problem for any of us.

Blaster boats at Clark's

I can feel my muscles relaxing as I think of the mountain air...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


An all points bulletin has been issued across the New England and Mid-Atlantic states

by family members who seek the return of this runaway man-child.

Last seen headed to Pennsylvania in a car full of desperados...including his partner in crime pictured here.

Known to be armed and dangerous with a soccer ball...has a mean rainbow kick

Sometimes uses the alias "Mad Dog"...AKA "Pouty Prince" when he's in a mood. At almost 16, he's been known to have an attitude on occasion; there are also rumors that he can occasionally push his parents' buttons. Has also been known to lead family members around on a leash.

In spite of all that, he is missed. If found, please send him home...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Is it autumn yet?

Summer used to be one of my favorite seasons, especially here in New England. I love the sunny days with still coolish nights. I love having a garden, harvesting and enjoying our own fresh veggies. I love buying sweet summer corn from our favorite farmstand and other goodies from the local farmer's market. I like grilling steak tips and burgers, being able to sit outside on the porch with my iced latte (AM) or a frozen margarita (PM), both prepared perfectly by my DH. I love walks in the park and trips to the beach with the kids, no homework to monitor, more flexible bedtimes, lots of downtime and less of a set routine...at least for a while...but it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

All of this free time with the cherubs is just fine and dandy  until around August when boredom starts to set in. That's when the summer idyll begins to turn ugly and nothing is as much fun as it used to be. The daily trips to the community pool are no longer fun, they are boring. The video games that were so exciting last week are now lame. There isn't a single movie on Netflix that is worth watching unless it's R rated...and stick-in-the-mud-Mom refuses to allow any of those cool R rated flicks to be viewed by anyone in the house who is below age 17 (and that would be all 5 of the kids in question). Even the summer movies that were just released to the theaters don't relieve the ennui of our teens...not to mention that tickets and snacks for 5 cost a small fortune, so fun-sucking mom doesn't agree to movies at the mall very often anyway. Trips to the beach that were wildly anticipated last spring now garner complaints that the ocean smells like fish and cannot be tolerated. Trips to Roller Palace that were previously begged for now only hold interest for an hour before the cherubs are bored and want to be chauffeured home again. Bickering between siblings is constant, whining and tattling fills the air like the drone of summer insects, and the words

"I'm bored...there's nothing to do!"

are uttered at least 100 times per day per child. Parental suggestions to go bike riding, skateboarding, scootering, etc. to relieve said boredom are met with anguished cries of  

"It's too hot!!!!" 


"(Insert name of sibling) broke my bike/skateboard/scooter and now I can't ride it!!!"
Parental suggestions to get busy on that assigned summer reading have been made and were met with more whining and wailing. Ah, summer...I'm ready to bid you goodbye, to trade in your sweet charms for the wonders of autumn...which include the beautiful sight of a shiny yellow school bus arriving at our door. 
Our charter school starts in just 2 weeks...and not a moment too soon. Autumn in New England? My new favorite season.