bad medicine

Last weekend, 4 and I went on an adventure to our nation’s capital: There, we visited playgrounds, went to the National Zoo with friends, and dined at TrueFood more than once — we also ate doughnuts and pizza! It was a really decadent weekend, full of mommy-4 time and I loved every second of it. 4 is now an expert at train travel and taxi travel (thanks to the RideSafer) — the number of compliments he gets at the airport for getting his own bin and putting his backpack and jacket in show his savvy when it comes to air travel.

Along our journey from northern VA to the zoo, we got out at Farragut West and walked around for a bit. We were running early and I wanted to show 4 where I used to work (across the street from the WhiteHouse). I pushed him in his stroller a bit and we made our way back to Farragut North to take the red line train to Woodley Park. We took the elevator down to the lower level and then went to board the next elevator to the train platform when we ran into our first joint encounter with a woman who was clearly in a space. Of course the elevator wasn’t working, so we turned around and had an employee turn off the lock so we could access it. As we waited for the elevator, the woman had a very boisterous moment which was followed by taking pills.

All in all, 4 was exposed to language and activity I’d rather not him see but realized that at some point I would need to address. Given 4’s life experiences, I always want to have an open line of communication when it comes to drugs and experimentation. This is something my husband and I have spoken about tirelessly and always figured we’d start addressing this deliberately at an early(ish) age. So, when 4 asked why the woman was screaming, I took it as a chance to open the doors of communication.

I wasn’t sure how to really approach the idea of drug abuse, but given that two of my cousins and an uncle lost their lives to overdose, I felt like I could deliver information about the habit/behavior without judgment/lessening the value of the person; thus, I introduced him to the term of ‘bad medicine’ and I explained that sometimes people take bad medicine because they want to feel a certain way or feel better about things but instead it makes them sick. Then, we talked about how we can’t take Zarbees (honey cough syrup) when we aren’t sick because it won’t work the right way with our bodies.

Keeping things in line with 4’s understanding and allowing the lines of communication to remain open are of the utmost importance when discussing such heavy matters. Considering, he has been talking about this since shows that he is processing what we talked about and what he saw — which leaves me hopeful that as he grows, he will continue to work to understand the epidemic facing our society, show empathy, and make the best choices he can.

national zoo

This weekend, 4 and I are boarding a plane and heading to our nation’s capital to see ‘the bunnies’ — 4 has been obsessed with pandas (or bunnies, as he so lovingly names them) since he first saw one in a book. Two years ago, we were in town for a baby shower and took him to see them at the zoo — enter, Little Bunny, the stuffed panda he chose there. Little Bunny has been his right-side guy every night since then. It seems 4 is excited to add a sister-bunny to the mix this weekend and has already asked if he can pick one out.

Who am I to say no?

I am really excited for this mommy-4 trip. Our last trip together was in the spring when we went to Great Wolf Lodge; there, my son kept yelling, “I’m trump patrol and I’m ready to roll” — what he meant was ‘chug patrol’ from a British cartoon he enjoys: Chuggington. I can only imagine what little statements will come up on this trip.

We land late Saturday morning and will head straight to our hotel and then lunch with a dear friend. Sunday is our national zoo trip with some of my closest girlfriends and one’s little lady (she’s two) and Monday is completely up in the air — whatever the little man is into, I suppose: Could be a museum trip or a few hours at a local playground. At the end of the day, I’m just really excited to have this time to spend with him. He’s my little buddy and our time together is so special.

I am also excited to share with him where I spent nearly 10 years of my adult life. I love getting back to DC and haven’t been there in two years now. I have kept in touch with my closest friends from there (of course, I just went to Charleston with one) and so having 4 be a part of that circle is also something that’s so very important to me. Every trip we take, he gets to learn more about his tribe of people who care for him endlessly.

I’m not sure what else will be on our agenda — I’ve thought about a special dessert trip to the Melting Pot because who doesn’t love chocolate fondue and I read about a local doughnut shop just near our hotel; of course, I love my favorite Tex-Mex restaurant in DC, Cactus Cantina and 2Amys, right next door with the best pizza I’ve ever eaten. I am packing our Rider Safe so that we can take a taxi through the city if we so choose and maybe get to my alma mater for a quick tour.

I am all packed and ready to go and my heart could just explode thinking of all of the memories we get to make this weekend. To top it off, 4 had a great day at school today, so we are heading into the weekend in a really good headspace and are ready to take on our mommy-4 adventure!

*Note: This was written Friday but I set the publication date to go live after our return (safety reasons).

gotcha day

October is such a fun and busy month: 3 turns 4 and our Bruttie boy turns 10 a week later. There is a lot of celebration and far more cookies and pizza than usual. This month, we decided to do our family fun date around 3’s birthday because that’s what scheduling permits. I can’t wait to write a recap of that. Alas, I digress.

The most pivotal thing that’s ever happened in October is 3’s Gotcha Day. We officially adopted our little man two days after his second birthday. Our judge was also an adoptive parent and truly spoke from the heart when he met us. I will forever be grateful for his decorum: He gave our two year old child two stuffed animals (Rainbow and Nice Bear as they’ve so lovingly been named) and a gavel. We hired a photographer for our special day and there are some doozies in there with our son waving that gavel proudly.  It was a really memorable day, filled with high-fives, fist bumps, an appearance by his foster family who loved him so deeply, and more tears than I could qualify.

In the days leading up to his adoption, my husband and I were able to sneak away to Savannah and Hilton Head, sans children. It was nice to have a bit of space to process everything that was going on. It had been a stressful few years where infertility blazed the way of all of our stresses and my hormonal rises and crashes. Not fun. Alas, those feelings were largely erased after our little man’s gotcha day.

He had spent ~730 days in foster care prior to that day and it was a relief to know that we could help him to break the cycle. We are quickly approaching our two year anniversary of this special day and I am just beside myself that I get to be his mommy. He has the sweetest little voice and the best personality — he is athletic and shares my love of books; he’s never one to turn down a muffin, even if it means he’s taken it from the trash and attempted to dine al fresca. He is my best little buddy who I take on flights and travel adventures and who never turns down a trip to the zoo or local library.

It’s hard to get through the month without taking a pause to reflect on this special day. We have pictures from the courthouse in our hallway and we always make a deliberate effort to talk about his adoption and remind him how special he is to have so many people love him and want what was best for him.

Of course, adoption and his gotcha day is not made of all sunflowers and applesauce. There is trauma and questions of family history at the forefront of our minds. It is constant. Still, we continue to approach this day with care and love and our best intentions with our family’s light.

 

“threenager”

Three has been quite the age for us. We are in a season of life where all 3 does is argue — literally, about everything. Because I am with him all day, each day, I am really worn down by the incessant arguments. Sure, we’ve moved past the spite peeing but now that school is on the horizon, I think that his anxiety is kicking in and EVERYTHING is a battle: Getting dressed, using the bathroom before we go on a long car ride, eating, brushing his teeth.

I know that his anxiety is revving, and I try to talk about what school will look like. He is going three days a week for three hours each day. He starts on Monday and I’m hoping some of these behaviors fall by the wayside when he starts school and adjusts to his new routine.

It can be very challenging to remain patient through the minute-by-minute arguments, followed up by throwing-himself-on-the-ground tantrums. I have been giving myself tons of breaks throughout the day so that I can have some semblance of patience when dealing with these behaviors.

In addition to the anxiety, he has been fighting naps most days. Some days, he’s out so cold that he goes to the bathroom and doesn’t wake; most days, he just fights naps. I recognize that I can’t make him sleep, obviously, so my typical rule is that he do a quiet activity. Most days, he follows this rule and will relax in his bed with a few books. These are the days he tends to have better days; but then there are days when he scales his brother’s furniture (it’s all bolted) and plays with his things — he knows he’s not supposed to; he’s engaging in these behaviors out of spite and sometimes anger.

I can honestly say that there are days where I’ve felt like 3’s behaviors were going to break me. A few weeks ago, I texted my husband and told him needed to come back and work from home; he’s just left. We were in the throws of the third tantrum by 8AM and 11 & 13 were so tired they were just spinning around. (Keep in mind, we maintain pretty strict bedtime schedules, so we recognized everyone was run down — probably because we spent a lot of time at parks and the beach and just running around in the sun.)

So, here we are, the weekend before school starts and 3 is acting helpless — “can’t” put on his clothes or go to the bathroom or drink his water. He is a trooper, though: We’ve traveled a lot this summer and he’s a great flier and a great backseat driver in the car (“Oh, mommy, watch — that car isn’t paying attention … Mommy, there’s a red light”) — his backseat driving skills have only improved since switching him to forward facing — alas, once we return home, his behaviors kick back in.

Part of it, I think, is him exhausting himself trying to keep it all together while we are out and about and traveling to and fro; so, when we are home, he just can’t keep it together. He’s also had more appointments than usual with his care team; he weaned from thick liquids to thin and had several follow-ups as a result. This was a big deal for him and his health but also a big transition.

Regardless, it’s rough and it’s been weighing on me. I like our normal routines and I’m hoping that once school starts, he will feel safe in the environment and some of these behaviors will fall by the wayside. Until then, we will keep doing what we are doing — we give him a lot of choices (he chooses what snacks he wants; toothpaste; clothing). We try to give him as many choices as we can, which we’d hoped would make things easier for him but it sometimes feels that’s not the case. Last week, I took him shopping to pick out a backpack, which was very exciting for him (but again, I think it made his anxiety brew).

So, here we are in 3’s last week of summer break. We are hopeful that we can reel things back in and alleviate a lot of these behaviors sooner than later. Until then, you can find me sitting in silence in my room after copious hugs are given… happy to receive any positivity…

water park adventures

My semester ended on Monday and on Wednesday, 3 and I packed our bags and drove to Great Wolf Lodge. It was interesting trip for a few reasons:

  1. We drove to Fitchburg, an area I’d never been but in our journey to get there, we passed Shirley, MA. Five years ago, my husband and I put an offer and deposit on a lot to build a house in Shirley.

    WHAT. WERE. WE. THINKING?

    When you get off of the exit, you’re greeted by a giant tractor store. I know that there was a lot going on during that time and it is beautiful out there in the country. All I kept thinking as I drove past was how miserable I’d be if we’d ended up there. Sure, we’d have a beautiful home that we’d designed, but that’s where things would come to a stand still for me. I am happy we ended up in our beach town, able to walk to the ocean (and bonus, we designed our current kitchen last summer when our floor caved in, so – there’s that).

  2. We drove past the town where my son was born and spent the first year of his life. I was definitely feeling emotional passing those exits. I’ve only ever been to that town for his disclosure meeting, pre-move-in visits, and our court date when his adoption was finalized.
  3. My son was excitedly talking about our “abventure” and then I looked back and he was out cold asleep. What a little trooper. He managed to get in a 40 minute nap on our 70 minute drive, so he was all ready to roll when we got into the water park.

Great Wolf Lodge is HUGE! I parked on the other side of campus and when all was said and done, we walked nearly three miles before we even got to the water park (granted, I ran 1.5 in the AM and we did walk the dog before we left).

We went to our room, moved the car, got changed, and then went to the water park. What fun! There are two sides of water park at the GWL in Fitchburg. We spent a few hours on one side where 3 ran and played and swam. He went down a water slide over and over and over and just laughed and laughed, having the best time.

I love that I get to see the world through his toddler eyes. He was just having such fun and as a result, so was I. After our water park time, we showered and went to dinner and then to bed. It was a busy day and I wanted to be well-rested for the following.

The next morning started off okay — we went to breakfast; 3 ate a small feast; and then we went to the other side of the water park. He didn’t care as much for this side, so we only spent a little while there. We went back to the room after a bit, changed, went to the balloon animal activity where 3 got a purple monkey on a green tree balloon.

We walked around, got dessert and then pizza, and then went back to our room for naps and some HGTV. 3 was pretty exhausted at that point, so we took it easy the rest of the night. Friday morning, we got up, had breakfast, and got on the road to head home. I had my Friday 5k to run upon our arrival and figured 3 could use a nice, long nap… actually, it seemed we BOTH needed a nice, long nap. I put 3 down and decided to lay down myself; two hours later, I awoke, got my 5K in, and got ready for dinner.

We ended our adventure with a trip to one of our favorite Tex-Mex restaurants as a family. All-in-all, it was a great couple days and a nice way to kick off the end of the semester. I am still waiting for consistent warmer weather, though I will say, this weekend’s preview has been lovely!

end of semester recap

Well, folks, I made it through the end of the semester! Monday marked my last day of classes and yesterday I spent some time updating grades. I will submit and finalize everything on Friday upon my return from 3’s and my FIRST SUMMER ADVENTURE!

We are leaving in about 30 minutes to head on a mommy-3 retreat and we are both so excited. 3 has been talking about his “abventure” all week and told me today that he can’t wait until we get there. I can’t wait either!

This week has been really remarkable. On Monday, I had students wait in a line to talk to me after class and tell me that they looked forward to attending my class every week. It was so nice to hear. The biggest compliment, though, was from a student who casually mentioned that it really meant a lot to him to see how I tried to connect with all of my students and build a community within my classroom. I know that this is not something that most professors do and I’ve definitely been told by colleagues that I really shouldn’t care about my students, but it was honestly one of the most appreciated comments I’ve ever been given about my work.

I’ve been looking to transition out of teaching for a while and started doing some consultant work here and there; nothing really steady or serious. I’ve been working on rebranding and marketing in 2019 and have a few big projects in the pipeline that I’m excited about. Monday’s end to the semester really left me on a high note going into a summer and at least a fall sabbatical.

Monday’s high was quickly knocked down by Tuesday’s low. 3 was just not having any part of that day. He went to daycare on Monday and we know when he goes he is over-stimulated and under-rested. This trickled into Tuesday like a waterfall… it was throw-himself-on-the-floor tantrum after tantrum accompanied by screaming and crying. When it was nap time, I ate two giant bowls of ice cream and took a nap myself (I may or may not have cried myself to sleep).

The evening was better for both of us, even though I was so upset all day that all I’d eaten was breakfast (eggs) and ice cream, so I ended up missing my yoga classes in lieu of a salad and some cabbage. It was worth it. I had S relax and read in his room before bed and he got a good night’s sleep and is ready to take on today’s big adventure.

 

kids & responsibilities

We believe in shared household responsibilities. Some people classify these things as chores but we think they’re necessary for everyone to pitch in for the house to run smoothly and also for the kids to learn to take proper responsibility for things.

3 has the simplest chores, of course. He is responsible for matching his socks, he also folds and puts away his pants and pajamas (though I fold the tops). He can’t reach the other drawers yet, but he does take ownership for what he can. He is also responsible for keeping his room clean and putting away his dishes. He enjoys feeding the dog, too, so he frequently takes on that responsibility (or watching him in the backyard).

11 and 13 have similar chores: They both do their own laundry (this started a couple years ago when they both decided they were done sorting laundry; it started as a consequence and we just decided to turn it into a responsibility); on some weekends, they do some dusting and swiffering and each clean one of the two bathrooms they use. They are responsible also for keeping their rooms clean and doing their homework.

In the mornings, 11 takes the recycling down and in the evenings, he’s earned dish duty (loading the dishwasher). 13 unloads the dishes in the mornings and walks the dog after school — she just started this responsibility after turning 13. It’s comical; today, for example, she stood at the bottom of the steps begging the dog to come downstairs for his walk. We decided to add this responsibility to take something off my plate but Brutus isn’t really impressed; hopefully, he will start to trust her intentions sooner than later so he more swiftly will leave with her.

We feel strongly that having household responsibilities is important for a few reasons — it makes everyone invested in the house, it allows everyone to contribute, and it offers ownership of certain spaces/aspects of things. What types of chores/responsibilities do your families divvy?