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Friday, October 26, 2012

I went to a mid-semester parent teacher conference for my 8th grader the other night. I sat with his teachers and heard their thoughts on my boy's progress. I heard that he has some trouble staying focused. I heard that he is likeable and pleasant most of the time but that he also has anxious times, especially around testing. I heard that he is doing well in History, his grade in Science is in the 70's, and he's flat out failing Math and English. I heard that he tries to avoid doing his work, is at times disorganized, and has to be redirected often to stay on task.

Honestly, I couldn't have been more grateful or more proud to sit in that chair and hear what these wonderful folks had to share with me...
  • because for a big chunk of last year, my boy was in a locked psychiatric unit for his protection and ours
  • because 4 months ago, my boy was incapable of sitting in a chair, staying in class, or completing the simplest task at school
  • because at the end of the last school year, it looked like my boy would not be able to function in a mainstream academic setting due to his mental health issues
And yet, here we are in late October with him back in school, goofing off in class, griping about homework, studying and passing what he likes, trying to catch up on what he missed last year in the classes he doesn't love so much. This conference seems like another one of those mundane things that is really an amazing gift...another miracle.

I came home from the conference, walked in the door and was greeted by my anxious son who wanted to know what his teachers said. I put my arms around my boy and told him I was proud of him. He was startled. "Wow, Mom, I didn't expect that! Why are you proud of me? I'm failing 2 classes." Well, for now, maybe...but my boy has come so far and that's just what I told him. I reminded him of how he was feeling last year and where he is now. I was rewarded with a big smile from my boy...a smile as bright as my hope for his future.

Then we sat down and worked on his English presentation together...on Homer. He got an A. In your face, PTSD and Bipolar disorder.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The little things

So I picked up my kids from school this afternoon and the normal chaos ensued. There was laughter, teasing, griping, and complaints about homework all around. The music was blaring, the kids were loud, and the traffic was horrendous; in other words, just another normal ride home for us  Then one of the sister cherubs planted a big noisy kiss on the cheek of one of her brothers and that drew the following response from another brother:

"Eww!! A sister kissing a brother? That's just wrong!!!"

What followed was a few seconds of silence from the rest of the car. Then the boy who had been smooched said, "Ahh, dude? Seriously, that's actually normal. We're family and that's what families do, man."

This from a boy who a few short years ago wasn't sure he really wanted or needed a family, let alone have a solid definition of the term. This from a boy who used to say we weren't his "real" family so he couldn't care for us like his "real" brother.

Sometimes in the midst of the mundane, little miracles happen. On this chilly fall evening, I'm basking in the warmth of our little miracle of family.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Apple picking our way...

It's fall and we live in New England...so that means a trip to our local apple orchard is pretty much a sacred tradition. With 5 teens, it's not easy to get everyone on board for family outings these days but apple picking generally still rallies the troops. In fact, our kids have been begging me to go apple picking for weeks. Personally, I think the kids just like an excuse to run through the orchard, climb trees, and gorge themselves on apples. Can't say I blame them...so off we went to Brooksby Farm.

Here's the best part...we had plain old fun. No drama, no outbursts, no safety concerns. A few months ago, we wondered if we'd ever be able to have "normal" family outings again...so grateful for the progress we're seeing.

We started out easy with lower branches but couldn't find much fruit...

so the boys took things up a notch.

Next my star athletes took over...Mr. Agility was up in the tree, pitching apples to Ms. Softball...

As you can see, he's awfully proud of his harvesting technique.

Apples were safely delivered to the sorter for bagging.

Our quality control specialist insisted on testing for flavor and ripeness.

The highlights and stats from the day:
  • Great afternoon, brought home about 20 lbs of apples. We got Jona Gold, Mutsu, Russet, Cameo, Golden Delicious and a few other varieties.
  • OK, maybe 15 lbs actually made it home but hey, we were hungry after all that exercise! 
  • We were thirsty too so we had to have cups of apple cider in the barn...and cider donuts. 
  • If you don't live in a place where you can get fresh, hot cider donuts on a crisp fall day...well, I feel sorry for you.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

It's over 4 years since I started this blog...287 posts chronicling the growth of our family through adoption, our triumphs and trials, and the adventures and misadventures of parenting 5 kids. For me, "Kate's Wish" has always been more than a way to keep in touch with family and friends...it's been a way to reflect, to process, to celebrate, to vent...in short, cheap therapy for a stressed-out mom. At least that's the way it used to be...but the last year has been challenging and my blogging voice has been all but silenced.

For those of you who don't know the back story, let's review...I am the mother of 2 girls and 3 boys ranging in age from 14-17. I have one biological daughter, the oldest of my kids. My other 4 kids were adopted from the far off land of Kazakhstan; they came to the US as older kids who had to learn a new language and culture. All 4 have PTSD from the trauma of their early years with birth family and/or in the orphanage system. All four are under IEP's at school and have special needs of one type or another. Two are on medication for behavioral and emotional management. All 5 are teenagers with all the attendant mood swings, drama, activities, and events that go along with the middle and high school years. When I tell people I have 5 teenagers, they shake their heads in dismay and ask how I do it all...I tell them I honestly don't know. I just know that life is pretty intense at our house...never dull but definitely intense.

Some days it's all I can do to survive, keeping all the plates spinning. You moms know the plates I'm talking about...the ones that hold the soccer schedules,  doctor appointments, homework, field trips, college visits, parent teacher conferences, not to mention the platters of housework, groceries, cooking, and laundry. Throw into the mix our boy's mental health issues and the boatload of therapy appointments, the medication regime that needs to be managed, the wonderful team of mental health professionals that support our boy with regular meetings...more plates spinning. It's not that I don't appreciate the value of the services we are getting for our boy or that I don't love being a mom to my kids, I do...but I just don't have enough hands to keep the spin action going. Lately I've been breaking a lot of dishes. It's hard to hit the keyboard for a blog post when I'm buried in broken crockery.

Yesterday, our awesome family partner and intensive care case manager came to visit with me re: goals for our boy. They asked me how our boy was doing...and he's doing well. Yay! He's coping better, handling stress better, back in school, benefiting from therapy, all good...so the plate spinning is working. Then they asked me how I'm doing...or more specifically, what I'm doing for myself. Ummm...not much...and suddenly, I was crying. They gently observed that I seem to be crashing, that maybe it was time for me to be less of a super woman. They gently suggested that maybe I should take better care of me...because if I burn out, who will keep those pesky plates spinning? Hmm, good point. But where do I begin?

First step...put down the darn plates for an hour or two each day and do something totally self-serving. Maybe it will be a walk in the rain, maybe an hour of mindless TV, maybe (gasp) a nap in the middle of the day while the kids are at school. Maybe my voice will return to me and I'll blog more often. Maybe if I allow myself some time, I can worry less about broken dishes and do some mending of my own.

It's a start...