Sunday, November 08, 2015

November is in full swing. Halloween was a fun family weekend with Rob as The Goblin, Maryna a black cat, Katie was Little Red Riding Hood, Jorge was a vampire, and August was a knight. Julie was Black Widow, an obscure superhero who is primarily known for wearing black and having red hair. Done. We had two other families over for an afternoon of play and then trick or treating. Maryna had 2 classmates over, including her friend's little cousin. That adds up to ten kids between ages 5 and 10, three teenagers, and six adults. Ooof.

A week later, we're still crashing from the sugar rush and the excitement. I spent a few beautiful days in Philadelphia for a work conference and now we're all scrambling to catch up.

Life is good, just hectic.

Friday, October 30, 2015


For months now, whenever someone asks August his age, his answer (5) is typically met with "oh, so are you in Kindergarten this year?"  And then there's a long pause while he ponders the identity crises he's been having ever since he was demoted out of the Kindergarten cohort.

"It's complicated."

A few weeks ago we met with the pediatrician and specialist, had x-rays, and then started him on a nasal inhalant steroid to see if we could resolve the apnea by shrinking the slightly enlarged adenoids. Two weeks in, he still stops breathing 100 times each night, but not 500, so that's something. Mornings are less rag-doll-and-whining and more distracted-and-unmotivated, which is a huge improvement.

Today we had his parent teacher conferences and the verdict was--in short--that he'll be considered a "3rd year" this year, which is Montessori-speak for Kindergarten.  He's thrilled.

Monday, October 26, 2015


People keep getting headcolds. The end.

Saturday, October 03, 2015


It's appropriate that high school homecoming is just a few days after the anniversary of her homecoming to America.  We celebrated her one year anniversary at her favorite restaurant: Cheesecake Factory.  There was laughter and teasing and complete silliness.  And to her total surprise, awaiting her at home was a much desired giant teddy bear.

Because our home, this house, and America have become simply home. And there's love and laughter and joy here every day.

It's shocking how much has changed in the last month.  School kicked off and language took off with it.  Social interaction came along for the ride and suddenly there are friends and texting and a cell phone and plans to attend the homecoming dance with friends.

We spent literally every night of this week at the mall trying to find a dress, shoes, and jewelry.  Nerves were high and styles are all terrible right now (everything is black or dark blue or red or white; nearly everything is strapless and most is barely 12 inches long) but we finally found something we both liked (note: we found almost nothing she liked and a few I thought would maybe be ok but she dismissed.)  It is pink and pretty and there were gold glittery shoes and gold jewelry and funky pink nails. There was singing along to the radio as she got ready; and excitedly welcoming her friend over hours early so they could get ready together.

This is her life. It's her song.  After a year of muting it, it's suddenly playing at full volume and I'm in tears because it's so beautiful and so welcome.

We took photos and I mama-beared her into eating a little something. She drove us to the school and then parked in the drop-off so I could hop to the driver's seat and she and her friend could dart through the cool October night into the gym. They had their phones and tickets and the pure hope and joy of two teenage girls about to go do something fun that they'd spent all day looking forward to doing. I watched her turn and smile at her friend, laugh, and shoot a final smile at me before they stepped out of the light from the lamp post and turned into silhouettes from the school doors.

Eleven months of waiting has finally blossomed into this girl I'm so happy to meet.  She's funny and smart and saucy and opinionated and kind and clever and all the good things.  I'm so glad the world gets to know her, too.

dress link

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Deeeeeeep thoughts

I have to get this out of my head and into words.

Today I had to attend one of those mandatory things that happens at work sometimes where every person on the payroll has to go sit for two hours learning life lessons such as the value of diversity or the importance of respectful disagreement or why not to put too much paper in the printer at once. Today's lesson was Emotional Intelligence.  It had a long title but it came down to "how not to be an ignorant jackass."  So I sat down with two snarky colleagues and prepared to learn nothing, because I'm a delightful snowflake and clearly the seminar was directed at the four or five total sociopaths in this building but they couldn't very well say "you four or five people need to learn to work better with humans" and so--much like my "everyone needs a shower" declarations when really it's just one smelly child--we were all forced to sacrifice two hours of our time to the Emotional Intelligence seminar speaker.

Note: I've been reading The Bloggess's new book and may have assumed her voice for a few days.

So we start talking about emotional intelligence and it really becomes quite clear that this is just an infomercial for the collected works of Daniel Goleman.  We talked about developing self-awareness ("how am I feeling right now?  Why?") and self-management ("I need to not flip out at this waste of time.") and then I had an epiphany.

We were asked to think about and possibly share our triggers that really make us flip the flip right out.  Many of us talked about dealing with students that assume we have nothing better to do than to answer questions that are clearly in the syllabus, that email us daily to ask about when we're going to have something graded, who email us every day to remind us that they need a letter of recommendation before the end of the semester, who send their parents after us when we make them commit to the rules they agreed to on the first day of class, etc.  I had noted that I lose my ever-lovin'-mind when I hear my kids or students whining about how something isn't quite "fair" by which they mean it's not quite as awesomely generous as something someone else may have had once. Ungrateful.  I hate hate hate ingratitude.  It sends me right up over the edge of insanity.

As everyone else was talking and I was seeing this theme.  This lack of appreciation for how busy we are, how hard we're trying, how much we've already done.   So I suggested that maybe many of us could agree that a lack of appreciation for our efforts is a really big trigger. There was a lot of agreement (until the one guy said he couldn't care less about appreciation, he just lost his mind at rude drivers and so there you go.)

So I thought all day about why appreciation is such a big deal to me.  Why do I get so mad when I think someone doesn't appreciate what I've done and seems ungrateful for it? It's not that I expect endless praise or songs of gratitude.  Even just a neutral acceptance without a word is fine, or a little "thanks!" every now and then.  No, it's when my efforts are met with wailing and gnashing of teeth that I want to burn the whole house down and stomp away.  Why?



I interpret those moments as distrust.  When a student nags me to write something that isn't due for a month I think I'm annoyed that they don't appreciate how busy I am, but it's really I'm mad that they don't trust me to take care of it.  When the kids are wailing that they haven't had dessert in three days or that fruit salad isn't a real dessert I think I'm mad that they are just spoiled obnoxious and ungrateful (and I am) but way way down I feel it as distrust in my ability to know and meet their needs. Those are the times that really send me through the roof with annoyance.  When they break something I bought them or leave the house a mess it's not about trust--I'm straight-up annoyed that they are ungrateful and unappreciative of what they have. And in those cases, I don't lose my mind.  I just get annoyed.

And this is a totally reasonable feeling because the child that does this every minute of every day (Jorge) is the one that trusts me the least.  He assumes I have it in for him and want to make him miserable.  And so of course he whines that it's not enough, that it's not as good, that it's less.  But now I see.  Now we aren't really arguing about if he has enough dessert or socks or minutes of stories or time with the laptop to be fair. We're arguing about this deep deep fear: do you really love me?  Can I trust you to be loving me as much as I need?  Do I need to fight for it for myself if I can't trust you to just give it to me?

And I'm not saying the right response is then to just give him everything, or even to buy into his warped view of equal and fair as the same thing or to always give him an advantage--but maybe, just maybe, I can address it deeper down.  Trust me.  I do want the best for you.  I do want you to be healthy and happy and whole.  I do not want to burn the house down, darn it.


And then, woah...  I realize that this is such a giant trigger for me because this is my most vulnerable fear.  I'm the primary wage earner in this family and my job is probationary and I stress constantly that it won't last.  I worry I'm failing the kids by being gone too much, distracted by work, grumpy and worried about work....  I worry I'm failing my husband by being too busy and distracted to listen to him.  I worry I am letting everyone down all the time.  I'm a fraud waiting to be discovered as merely mediocre at my life.   And so those little pokes and prods of "you aren't enough; you fail; you can't be trusted to do your job, to parent, to function" get RIGHT THERE at my very worst suspicions.

Thanks for the free (in fact paid to attend) therapy today, job.

(We also talked about being aware of other people's emotions and helping manage those within a group.  I recognized a lot of what the counselor is doing with M within the contexts of this emotional awareness and management material, too, which was interesting and validating.  But, y'know, busy chewing on TRUST here.)

Monday, September 21, 2015


Katie was out Wednesday.

Friday found August home for his unrelated MD appointment and Julie sick in bed Friday and Saturday.  Sunday knocked Maryna down and she was home all day Monday.

Wegmans got about $100 of our money in exchange for bags of coughdrops, vitamins, Alka-Seltzer, tea, lemons, and some pretty flowers.  The first shots of the winter 2015-16 cold season have been fired.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The complicated academic world of August

August, age freshly 5, is home from a day of not-quite-pre-k, not quite Kindergarten.  I'm sick in bed and he's buzzing around.

 "Mama, can you teach me 'times'?"

"You mean, like, multiply?"

"No. Like 3 times 2. What does the 'times' mean?"

"Well, it's kind of like adding the same number a bunch of times.  Like 3 times 2 means 'do 3 two times'".

"Oh. 6. easy."

"Right.  And it also means 'three times of 2'"

"2,2,2,?  Easy. 6."

"Right.  Ok.  So...hang on."

I grab about 10 pair of earrings out of my jewelry box and clear a space on the bed.  "Let's do 4 times 3."  I lay out 1, 2, 3, 4.  "How many fours do we have?"


Ok.  I lay out 1, 2, 3, 4 near them.  "now how many 4's?"


"Right.  And how many total?"  8.  "And how many sets of 2's do we have?"

He looks carefully. "4.".

"Right.  So two 4's is the same as four 2's, see?"

"right.  But we're doing 4 times 3.  Do one more row."

And thus begins my math geek.  We notice squares.  We talk about re-arranging 4x3 into 2x6.  I lead him downstairs and pour a bowl of honey nut cheerios.  It's time.  I tell him to explore his numbers and that, if he wants, I will give him a question like "find five times six."  He's content just exploring patterns on his own for nearly an hour.  Explore, discover, snack.

He comes to find me when he's feeling lonely.  "Mom?  Three times six is eighteen.  And so is nine times two.  And then I ate one of the sixes.  Three times six minus a six is only twelve."

So, you know, he's brilliant.

But.  But!  He's a mess at school.  He can't focus, he abandons work half way through, starts doodling and throwing pieces at the wall, distracts others, and spins long half-fantasy tales of confusion and amusement.  He's in the Montessori school so he's got a little more freedom to set his own pace, but they do try to get kids to commit to and finish whatever work they've chosen and be respectful of the space.  Last spring there was a hard meeting where the teachers expressed that he shows early warning signs of ADD: inattentive, low impulse control, constant movement and talking, long dreamy fantasy ramblings that change course mid story, and so much more.  But ADD--as many scientists and we as parents believe--is less of a diagnosis of a single problem as it is a symptom of a problem. It's the rattle that gets you to look for the problem deeper in.  We looked at a lot of stuff, and landed on "let's just hope he gets a maturity boost in a few months".  They generally won't even try to label it until an older age, but they were concerned about his ability and confidence if he went into Kindergarten the way he was acting late last spring, because he'd likely feel discouraged or overly structured.    But, at age 4 and now freshly five, he reads and does math at a comfortably first grade level and understands science at a 2nd or 3rd grade level.  So another year of pre-k seemed wasteful.

Which brings us to today.  This silly curious sweet boy was home from school today because we finally had an appointment at the pediatrician.  After realizing he had symptoms of sleep apnea this summer and that this could explain his ADD symptoms (and to stop me freaking out when I find a not-breathing-child everytime I check on him).  The doctor checked his tonsils and referred us to an ENT for analysis of the adenoids.  Most of the time, sleep apnea in kids is due to those being too big for the kid's body, so a simple removal may mean all the difference.  We'll follow up with the ENT in a week or two and go from there.