Archive for the 'Parenting' Category

Beachy Keen

Here I was, taking a break from working on our taxes to let Bonus Child “style” my hair, when Big Daddy plops down in front of the computer.  I thought he’d never get off!  Not only do I have a crapload of numbers to crunch, I have other important plans with my computer like stalking Facebook friends and reading blogs!  Big Daddy usually has no interest in the computer unless he’s excited about something, like checking out biking gear or mapping his next ride.  So by the length of time he’s hogging my computer, I know he’s kind of excited checking out the beach house I reserved for this summer.  I’m kind of excited myself!

We don’t do vacations every year.  When we decided to dig up our yard and put a pool in 15 years ago, we knew we’d spend most summers at home.  And we’ve been fine with that.  But this year, even though we’ll be heading out to sunny California this fall for Oldest Son’s wedding, Big Daddy wanted to spend a week at the shore with the family this summer.  It may be our last shot before the boys get too busy with life.  Youngest Son is heading off to med school in the fall.  Middle Son J will likely be deployed to Afghanistan or some other scary place next year.  We thought Oldest Son and his fiance would be able to join us, too, but they are planning to head out to California for good when she finishes her studies and student teaching in May.  Already it’s getting hard to plan these family vacations together!

We hope we’ll still have the girls this summer.  They’ve never seen the ocean.  It would be so much fun to see the smiles on their faces when they’re playing in the sand and running to the water’s edge.  If by some chance we don’t have them, though, we will then enjoy a calm relaxing adult vacation.  I’m nothing if not flexible these days.  Our beach house sleeps 8, and I’m sure I can find a couple of takers!  I’d love to take my almost-14-year-old niece with us because she loves the girls like the little sisters she never had and they’d all have a blast, but our van (that luckily never sold!) only seats 7, which we already have counting J’s girlfriend.  But who knows?  Maybe the boys will decide they don’t want to be crammed in one vehicle with the old folks and a couple of kids and drive a second car.  Maybe we’ll ask my mom and niece to come if the girls aren’t here.  Maybe Youngest Son will find the perfect independent sports-loving competitive non-possessive compulsively tidy young lady to drag along with us.  Who knows?  All I know is, after the winter we’ve had, I am more than ready for a week of this:

Photos courtesy of Ward Realty Corporation


Been There; Not Doing That

Just like I thought, I can still be a good parent.  As a matter of fact, in a lot of ways, I can now be a better parent.  First of all, I have experience and confidence.  I know the basics from raising my own boys; I am confident in my abilities because they turned out fine.  On top of that, shows like Supernanny gave us even more knowledge and strategies for dealing with temper tantrums and bad behavior although with Big Daddy’s booming voice and authoritative presence, we didn’t get much of that with our little guys.  Finally, I’m just so much more laid back these days.  Parenting is still hard work, but it’s just not so stressful anymore.

I’m happy to say that Bonus Child seems to have settled in and is actually allowing herself to enjoy living with us.  She hums and smiles a lot, has had friends from school come over, and even has confided in me to having one or two schoolgirl crushes!  Instead of shouting at us about how we’re ruining her life and then sulking, her occasional bursts of anger now usually are followed by a contrite apology–from her–without us even asking for one.  This is HUGE!  Sometimes she has these fits of giggles, and I ask her if she’s eaten feathers with her lunch.  I can’t figure out what’s tickling the child so much!  She sometimes even acts like she likes me!

Bonus Baby is still a piece of work–and we love every energetic ounce of her.  She’s got Big Daddy wrapped around her little finger.  This is exactly why I was happy to have boys.  I know Baby loves me, but I’m not much more than chopped liver when “Daddy” is around.  Her face lights up when he comes home from work, and of course he just eats that up.  “I miss my daddy,” she wails, and when I tell her we’ll be visiting him (her bio dad) next week, she’ll cry and say, “My daddy outside,” and points to where Big Daddy is working in the yard.  My two younger boys confided recently that they used to feel the same way about me.  Whenever they were visiting grandma, they always hoped that I’d be the one to come and pick them up.  “Hope it’s mom, hope it’s mom,” they told me they would say, although their daddy was an awesome dad and I know they loved him very much.

I can be a good parent to these children, but I can’t be the same kind of parent I was with the first batch of kids.  It has nothing to do with them being girls instead of boys, nor do I believe it has to do with them not being my biological kids.  I just have to do things differently–for my sanity!    We’ll go to open houses and teacher conferences, but I’m not getting roped into PTA meetings and events.  I’m not bugging the neighbors and relatives to buy the crappy overpriced fundraising junk so the kids can win some cheesy prize that falls apart in two days.  I will happily find an extracurricular activity or two for the kids and will enjoy watching them participate, but I refuse to serve on any more committees.  I did this all once, and I’m tired.  I can’t even imagine living at that pace again.  It’s someone else’s turn, and I think the kids will be just fine.

Respite and Relaxation

They have this blessed thing in foster care called respite care.  When we signed up with our agency, we told them we would do long-term family care, emergency care, or respite.  Our girls are with us as long-term care (meaning more than a few days), so we are currently not available to provide respite or emergency care because we now have no more room.  But now, the agency encourages us to take advantage of respite care.

Big Daddy was very adamant about us not using this service.  (Easy for him to say–he’s at work all day and taking 3-hour bike rides in the evenings while I’m cleaning up pee accidents and managing mini-meltdowns!).  His logic was that we would never have sent our own kids to a stranger for a weekend.  I could understand his logic, and I know that these poor kids have been shuttled around enough in their young lives.  I had no intention of sending them anywhere until they were comfortable here and knew that we’d be back for them.  But I realized also that anyone selected as respite caregivers had been thoroughly screened (as we were) and had clearances.  Our agency seems very stringent in its requirements.   Also, we had grandma and pap-pap to give us a break with our kids, and we could find other suitable non-family members to babysit our own kids.  My mom is 20-some years older now with a heart condition and could never keep up with my sweet three-year old, my dad is no longer with us, and we are only allowed to leave these kids with people that have clearances.  My boys fill in enough when I have to run out here and there, but Youngest Son is now back in college and Oldest Son just stops by to do his laundry sometimes between his work gigs all across the country.

I guess foster parents frequently use respite care early, when the “honeymoon period” is over.  I’ve heard this term often since being involved in foster care.  At first, the kids are adjusting and maybe on their best behavior, the parents are just so excited and happy to finally have these young lives in their home, and everything is hunky-dory.  The kids’ case manager even asked me early on if I needed a respite weekend.  We were fine and I said no.  These kids are pretty normal kids and although they’ve kept me very busy (have I mentioned that I’ve lost about 8 pounds since they’ve been here despite the fact that I’ve done hardly any formal exercise AND have eaten more fast food than normal), I haven’t really needed the mental health vacation that I’m sure some of the more saintly foster parents, who are brave enough to take kids with serious problems, would need.

But I did need a break.  Bonus Baby is in preschool now, but when she’s home, she requires constant supervision.  We’re totally in love with her, but she’s very demanding and likes a lot of attention.  The only thing she’ll sit still for momentarily is the one very irritating episode of Barney (God help me!) about bugs which is on On Demand until the end of August.  The few times she’s been quiet are the times I found her slathering my insanely overpriced Bath and Body Works sunscreen all over her tiny body, or pulling all the diaper wipes out of the container.  Big Sis has finally realized that she may be here longer than she thought she would be, and sometimes lashes out at us in frustration.  Although in our heads we understand the conflict she is going through, it really burst my bubble the first time she told us she doesn’t want to be here.  Her first loyalty is with her birth family, which is normal, but we’ve tried so hard to make sure she has fun that it still stings a little when she gets mouthy or says hurtful things.  I know it’s not about us, but hey, we’re still human.

So, although respite is not meant to be used as a babysitting service, when my best friend from middle school wanted to have me, hubby, and my mom over for dinner and drinks at her home with another friend from high school this Friday night, and Youngest Son needed our help moving the rest of his furniture into his big dorm room on Saturday, I decided to take advantage of respite.  I had a wonderful time with my friends on Friday (even though my friend seemed hell-bent on putting that 8 pounds back on me with her wonderful dinner and appetizers), enjoyed every moment of my three-mile walk in scorching heat on Saturday and spent way too much time sleeping in and even taking a nap.  I tried to redeem my decadence by using the steps instead of the elevator to carry Youngest Son’s lighter-weight possessions to his 4th floor dorm room.

We’re picking the girls up at 5 today.  I hope they had a good time.  When I dropped them off, the usually clingy Bonus Baby was too engrossed in all the new toys and baby dolls in the pretty girly room to give me much more than a quick hug good-bye.  Bonus Child chatted to me the whole way there and gave me a big hug before I left.  When she’s not trying to reject us, I know she actually kind of likes us and despite her Dr. Jeckyll moods, she does have a good time.  I can tell by her girly giggles and when I hear her singing along with the Justin Bieber videos (God help me again!) that we’ve found online.

I’m just hoping these respite parents are still as excited about having the girls  visit them as they seemed to be when we first got there.  We know all about those honeymoon periods.  I’m hoping they’ll be more than willing to take them in November for the high school reunion weekend.  Future daughter-in-law has offered to babysit that weekend–but she’s a busy girl.  Besides, there’s an open bar and I know I will not feel like waking up at 7:00 am the morning after to “Mommy!  I want to watch Barney!”  Ugh!

New Mom Dementia

At 52, I could blame it on my age–you know, those blasted senior moments.  But I spend half my day looking for things like my shoes, the keys, the baby’s eyeglasses.  Sad to say, the eight-year-old is creating more order in my life than I am able to do for myself.  She is so used to being the one in charge, the little mother figure, that she has taken it upon herself to totally reorganize and straighten two of the messier areas of my home–my desk where my computer sits, and one of my kitchen counters.  Big Daddy was annoyed by my desk every time he sat down to use the computer.  I guess Bonus Child didn’t like my clutter either.  Her organizational skills are impeccable, and after she arranged everything, she even dusted!  She also does a better job fixing the baby’s hair than I do, but I’m getting better.  The other day when we were going out shopping and I put the baby’s hair into little wispy pigtails (with awkward strands sticking out like the Bride of Frankenstein), Bonus Child told me she was kind of embarrassed to go out with her sister’s hair like that because it “looked ugly.”

Of course, Bonus Child’s baby sister is probably the main reason the last vestiges of clarity are being sucked dry from my brain.  Bonus Baby is the most hilarious raspy-voiced little bundle of energy in my world.  She is busy every moment of the day, running after me, tattling on the boys (even if they haven’t done anything), clowning around and making us laugh.  I vaguely remember days like this when my boys were little; however, I know they would sit and play by themselves or sit and watch a movie or Sesame Street.  Bonus Baby will have none of that sitting still stuff, yet her two-year-old tantrums are very short, and she is generally a very cheerful child, eager to please and well-behaved when we go out.

It wasn’t exactly in my plan to be this busy at my age.  We were looking for a school-aged child when we decided to take in a foster child.  We were open to siblings; in fact I thought it might be easier for a child to feel comfortable with another family member.  But when they called us about these two little sisters, eight and “almost three” (as they put it), it was too hard to turn them down.  And I think it was meant to be.  We love these girls already, and I’m pretty sure they like it here.  They’re both learning how to swim like little fishes.  I heard the older girl happily humming away today like the child she has never been able to be.  And for the first time in over a week, Bonus Baby hasn’t cried for the usual half-hour after I put her to bed.  She just looked up at me after I tucked her into her sheets and said, “Good night, mommy,” with a tired little smile on her face.

Pretty In (A Bit of) Pink

Last night I put the finishing touches in the girls’ room.  We had one of the boys’ twin beds set up in there, but once we found out we were getting two kids, Oldest Son decided it was the perfect time to get himself a full size bed to better accommodate his lanky 6’5″ frame.  That gave us a matching twin bed to create the loft set up the boys used for a while.  Of course, I had to find matching comforters and some pretty matching sheets!  This turned out to be a more difficult quest than I would have thought.  While there were umpteen King and Queen sized comforters out there, even on sale, I couldn’t for the life of me find two matching twin-sized solid color comforters in one of the colors that would go with the rug and curtains already in the room.  I know in a month or so the stores will be teeming with twin size bedding for the back-to-college crowd, but right now the shelves are bare.

Although we’re getting girls this time, I wanted something more neutral for the comforters in case we ever have a boy stay with us.  After schlepping to four different stores, I finally found what I was looking for!  The book shelves are stocked with kid-friendly books, and there’s not a dust bunny in sight!  Here is the finished product (cell phones don’t take the nicest pictures, but they make it so easy to share them!):

I did break down and buy two little pink throws for the bottom of each bed.  We’ll find out how they like their room in about 12 hours from now!

The Funny Twists and Turns

Lately, my home has been a crowded crazy mess.  It’s fun.  It’s exasperating.  It’s hard to stay on top of things. My Oldest Son has been laid off for a few weeks until the company he works for starts on their new contract.  The two younger sons have been done with college for about a month.  Many of our once-tidy rooms are loaded with stacks of boxes and furnishings from dorm rooms and apartments.  Our grocery bills are through the roof and if I want anything good to eat, I have to hide it.

When the boys are home, I also get to spend time with their girlfriends.  I like having them around.  The boys are fun to talk to, but there are some things I like to talk about that they zone out on.  When I went shopping with Muchacha, she actually responded enthusiastically when I held something up and said, “Isn’t this sooo cute”?  The boys will only set foot in a store with me if I’m buying them something, and even then, it’s all business.  Get the item and leave.  Immediately.

Gender differences aside though, I relate to my guys like “one of the guys.”  We kid around a lot.  We push the limits sometimes, but there are rarely hurt feelings.  If they sometimes say something crude, I dish it right back at them.  We rehash embarrassing situations and laugh at each others’ expense.  Sometimes I feel so comfortable with their girlfriends, I treat them the same way.  Sometimes it doesn’t go so well.

A couple of weeks ago, one of the girlfriends got angry at me and the boys when we were having a little too much fun at her expense.  To us, it wasn’t mean.  It was funny.  She should have been having fun yelling right back at us.  But we were told, via her boyfriend, that she wasn’t mad; she just didn’t think it was funny.  At all.   Then a few days later, Youngest Son high-fived me and thought it was hilarious that I embarrassed J’s girlfriend when I made a flippant comment kidding around.  Damn.  Have I been living with guys for so long that I’ve become one?  Or would I act this way with daughters if I had them?  Would they be used to our way of communicating, or would they also not appreciate my humor the way my boys do?

A couple weeks ago we were all kind of bummed when my habit of not carrying my cell phone with me cost us the chance to have a three-year-old boy come stay with us.  By the time I got the voice mail, the foster care agency had found another home for him.  I made sure I had my phone with me all the next week, and voila!  We got a call asking if we could take in two little sisters.  Big Daddy gulped hard when he got the news but he’s ready for the challenge.  I’m determined to have fun with them without being an asshole.  The boys have reminded me that it’s going to be different having little strangers in the house at first.  I just hope they don’t feel like they’re strangers for too long.

Just Call Me Mrs. Rodney Dangerfield

Yeah, you got it.  I get very little respect.

Some of this, I deserve.  I can be goofy and annoying.  There’s a ring of truth to the comments my boys sometimes make about me being immature, like when I get on their case just for the sheer joy of annoying them.  Other times, though, they fail to see my strengths.  Like, I’m not quite as dedicated to my exercise regimen as they may be.  But I’m like 30 years older than they are. Our senses dull a little with age and I just can’t seem to hear that little voice that says “Push on” when the legs want to quit running or the arms don’t want to lift those weights.  But I still do push myself…a little.  At least give me some credit for putting on those running shoes!

Tonight, after downing 6 slices of Pizza Hut pizza, Youngest Son decided to go for a run before it got too dark.  Mr. Track Star is the same little dude who used to hate me the most, cussing me out under his breath the whole entire time he ran around the community track, back when I used to bribe the kids to run a mile with me for Dairy Queen rewards.  Now he’s psycho-runner, breaking his school’s records at track meets, building bulging calf muscles doing wind sprints, mapping killer 5 mile practice runs through the neighborhood.

Mr. "I Hate-To-Run" all grown up

Does he give me any credit, though?  No.  Instead he comes home with this story about how he nearly puked multiple times during this evening’s run.  It was pretty funny hearing about how the pizza tasted so good going down but how the flavor of the sauce takes on an evil salty aftertaste when it wants to come back up.  I empathized with his desire not to throw up in front of the elderly neighbor lady who was out walking her dog and so he made himself plod on, knowing that if he stopped, the puke would flow.  But then my amusement at his clever telling of this tale vanished at the point when he said he almost quit running after the first mile, but then he decided he “didn’t want to be like MOM.” Really?

A party? No, just dinner for my "hosses"

Mr. Big Shot is running a 5K on Memorial Day.  I didn’t sign up this year.  It would serve him right if I plopped a Pizza Hut pizza in front of him Monday morning before the race, because that little voice of his may know how to keep him running through the pain, but it hasn’t been able to convince him not to down half a large pizza before going for a run.

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