Saturday, August 13, 2016

Like Billy Madison, I'm back to school

This past week was our first week of the school year and I am happy to report that we all survived!

The kids seem to be the ones adjusting to the new schedule the best. They have been awake and already preparing for the day by the time I make my way to their rooms to give them their scheduled wake up call. They have also handled all the time in my room before and after school well. M has been faithful in doing his homework each night (30 minutes of reading) despite being a self-proclaimed hater of all things book related. Y has not had homework yet, but I sense this is simply a small back to school gift from her teachers before the real hard work begins.

I, on the other hand, have been dragging. My body and brain are not used to this new schedule yet. My Spanish skills are a bit rusty from disuse over the summer which has made introductions interesting. I'm also trying to adjust to the fact that I have stuff to do with the kids in the afternoons now and can't rely on quiet evenings at home to handle school related stuff. Y has dance, both kids have various appointments, and errands to run.

It's a good change, but it's a big one.

Steve finished up his paternity leave and is back to enjoying the thrills of corporate American life. His group got a little behind on delivering trainings while he was gone, so he is busily playing catch up this week (and even on Saturday morning).

All things combined made this week a big challenge for us as a family. We made it through, but it was clear last night that we all needed some time to relax. The kids get really testy when they are tired and I have been pulling out all of my coping strategies to stay as calm and patient as I can.

It's one thing to read all the parenting strategies and books recommended by the agency, it's another to actually put them into practice when you have had no sleep and someone continues doing their "most annoying sound in the world" competition while I'm cooking dinner and attempting to create student login cards simultaneously.

One thing I'm trying not to stress about (but can't seem to help myself) is my class size and all the implications that come with it. I only have 16 kiddos. The entire grade level is hovering around 20 kids each, but I have the lowest by far. This wouldn't be a problem at all if it weren't for the fact that our 9 kindergarten classes are all hovering around 27 kids each.

Nobody has said anything official about moving teachers around yet, but as the newest hire of the grade level with the lowest official enrollment, AND having the smallest class in that grade level, there is a strong possibility that I could be moved to kindergarten. Obviously I'll make the best of the situation if it happens. I am just crossing my fingers that I get to stay put. I've got enough big transitions happening in my life right now. Adding the task of teaching a brand new grade level to the mix is not an appealing possibility at the moment.

Monday, August 1, 2016

More Beginnings

Today was my first official day back to work after the summer break.

As I mentioned previously, I'm in a new school this year but the same grade level. I am also in a regular classroom in the building now rather than a trailer. By some stroke of luck, I am by the teacher bathrooms, two sets of student bathrooms, the clinic, and the cafeteria.

Part of me feels like I have died and gone to teacher heaven.

My new grade level team is pretty awesome as well. I do miss my old teammates, but the new ones hold their own when it comes to being inclusive and communicating important information.

I won't even mention the ridiculous amount of resources (technology, manipulatives, books, etc.) at my disposal this year.

The kids will be attending school with me this year as well so they have stopped by a few times to help me set up my room and get a look at the teachers in their grades. Its so funny watching their faces get all shy when I introduce them to others in the building.

With last weekend full of back to school shopping during the tax free weekend, I think we are just about ready to get this year started!

To all my teacher friends, even those who will be starting closer to Labor Day, I wish you a fantastic school year!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

new beginnings and one sad goodbye

It has been an interesting week at our house.

We began the week with the death of Steve Jr, the dragon. It was actually quite a gruesome death and I'm glad I was the one to discover him rather than our son. M was a bit upset about the loss of his pet, but he seems to be coping okay.

There was also a debate as to what to do with poor dead Steve Jr. You see, our family offers a wide variety of pet memorial options. There is the family pet cemetery at my grandparents' home in New York, my parents' back yard in a newly designed pet cemetery, or a traditional backyard burial at our home.

Steve Jr. began to smell quite quickly so we went with the fastest option. I feel a little guilty about that. Human Steve thinks I'm nuts for feeling guilty that the dragon's funeral wasn't more fancy.

Anyway... it wasn't all doom and gloom around here.

The kids are now both registered for school! They will be attending the school where I will be teaching this year. My NEW school in my NEW district! I've met a bunch of my coworkers and they are AWESOME! I know Y and M are going to love it there.

We went by the school today to drop off some paperwork and we checked out the playground. It. Is. Incredible. Seriously, there is a musical section with outdoor xylophones and this wheel that makes sounds like those rain sticks everybody created at summer camp.

There are also two outdoor classroom spaces with chalkboards and three more class meeting spaces without boards. A full basketball court. A huge field with soccer goals. A traditional play structure. And my personal favorite, SWINGS!

It's the playground of my dreams. Y and M loved it, too.

This week we also signed the kids up for RCIC - the Rite of Christian Initiation for Children.

Since both of our kids are older than the age of reason, they will be going through a special program at church designed to help them complete the steps necessary to receive their sacraments. It's very similar to RCIA (the program Steve and I went through when we entered the church in 2013), just geared toward children.

The kids will attend classes at church after Mass on Sundays throughout the school year and then receive their sacraments at the Easter Vigil service. They will be baptized, receive their first holy communion, and be confirmed all in one night!

And they are actually pretty excited about it. At least, they are acting excited.

I don't know if I'll ever get used to this new normal we have created around here, but I am so grateful for this life I get to live and these kids I get to parent. It's exhausting and thrilling and never boring.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

let's have a chat about poetry

There is a poem that's really popular in adoption gifts and cards. It's like someone once declared it the official poem of adoption related things and everyone just ran with it. The poem goes like this:

Not flesh of my flesh
Nor bone of my bone,
But still miraculously my own.
Never forget for a single minute,
You didn't grow under my heart,
But in it.

It's cute and clearly meant to be sweet.

And I hate it.

Not the first two lines. Those are just stating fact. The third line is okay, too, I guess. Those last three lines are pure garbage though.

My kids are not biologically related to me. Steve and I are adopting children that, until June 4th, 2016 around 10am, were complete strangers to us. They were conceived, carried, and born to a woman I will very likely never meet.

My heart had nothing to do with the process.

My hope to one day have children was definitely growing in my heart at that time, but these specific children (or any children for that matter) were not.

I think my reaction to this poem is, at its root, a reaction to comments I have received and attitudes I have discovered about adoption among the people I know. Not the inner circle, but coworkers and other acquaintances. It's as if they think being adopted somehow erases all the traumas my kids have experienced to get to this point in their lives. That it takes away the pain Steve and I went through to get here. Or that it doesn't involve awkwardness or struggle now that the kids are here.

The truth is, adoption from foster care has no business being involved in cutesy poems. All four of us in this new family have fought tooth and nail to get here, to not give up on the hope of a life we wanted, to not let pain and bitterness steal our future or our joy. The kids even more so than Steve and I.

Even now as we adjust to life together as a family, there are struggles to be overcome. There are rough edges to be smoothed. There are old wounds needing mending. There is awkwardness.

I won't speak for all adoptions. Just ours. But for me and my family, this kind of poem does us and our journey no justice.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

New levels of crazy

Life with the kiddos has been pretty great!

By great I mean we have loved getting to know them and helping them get to know us. We haven't had any major issues and we are getting at least a little sleep.

Everybody told me that you get no sleep as a parent and I naively believed that was only parents of babies and toddlers.



My kids are 11 and 9 and, by some quirk of nature, I can not fall asleep unless I know they are asleep. And I wake up no later than 7am. If the kids haven't gotten up and knocked on the door for breakfast by then I'm still awake. Usually checking on them to make sure they're ok.

This weekend that meant I was up until 12:30am comforting them during the fireworks and then awake again at 6am because they were hungry and wanted me to cook breakfast.

Please don't misunderstand me. I am not complaining at all. Not even a little bit.

I am simply in awe of how much my life has changed in the span of one month.

That's how long I've known these kids. One month and two days.

On friday they move in permanently. All of their stuff will be here (including Steve, the bearded dragon belonging to my son) and we will finally stop the endless shuffle back and forth between foster homes and forever home.

Monday, July 11th, we sign the temporary custody paperwork.

That also happens to be our 7th wedding anniversary. Fried chicken and lemon cake for everybody! lol

Seriously though... someone pinch me. I can't even comprehend the blessings I've been given lately. My heart is so incredibly full it's bursting.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Parents for a weekend

Yesterday was Father's Day , Steve's very first one as a dad, and our last day of a three day visit with our kiddos.

Overall, it was a fantastic visit. There were some moments where I found myself going "this is NOTHING like teaching/babysitting" and feeling a little intimidated. But I think that must be pretty normal.

We watched a couple movies throughout the weekend and spent a lot of time at the pool. The kids wanted to hang out at the house rather than go to the park or out anywhere, so we had kind of a chill weekend.

My parents (the newly dubbed Nana and Pop) came for a visit on Saturday. They got a chance to meet the kids and spend time with us while we were at the pool. Seeing my parents interact with my kids was surreal and awesome all at the same time. They were acting like little kids again. My dad kept doing canon balls into the deep end and my mom was busting out the diving sticks and other pool toys.

We even got my dad to try one of the Mexican candies the kids love. It's a peach and chili candy. Seriously good, but very spicy.

Our last day together we took the kids to church which proved to be quite interesting since both of their foster placements go to Baptist churches and Steve and I are Catholic. They were so curious about the different areas of the church and then the various parts of Mass. As our son put it "That dude up front is cool looking, but I don't like having to sit on my knees so much."

By "that dude" he meant Jesus on the crucifix. lol

After lunch we loaded their stuff into the car and began what became the road trip that would not end. Our son was heading to camp for the week and our daughter was going back to her foster placement. Little did we know those two places were four hours apart. And the camp was 2 hours away from our house.

Long story short... after factoring in traffic we spent 10 hours in the car to get everyone where they needed to be and make it home again. I loved the time with the kids, but I was definitely happy to be back in my bed at the end of the day!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Important encounters

If you don't believe in love at first sight then I am here to tell you that you are wrong. It exists. I know it does because I have been lucky enough to experience it with three different humans (and two ridiculously spoiled dogs). 

The first human was my husband. He walked into the party in his purple dress shirt and Regis Philbin tie straight from work and my heart said "That's him. That is the man you are going to love for the rest of your life".

The second and third humans were my daughter and my son. Their caseworker pulled up to our meeting place, the kids stepped out of the car, and my heart said "That's them. Those are the kids you've been praying for and dreaming of since you first realized you were meant to be a mom".

Steve and I have met our children.

In fact, we spent a morning with them and then, a week later, an entire day. On Friday morning I am picking them up to spend the weekend together. They are spending three days and two nights here. In their rooms. 

The first time we met the kids was a brief 2 hour meet and greet type thing in a park near their foster placements. Super casual (in theory) so everyone can make sure we don't hate each other right off the bat. I was so afraid it would be awkward. Like: Hey, I just met you. And this is crazy, but I wanna adopt you. Call me Mama maybe?

Despite my own highly awkward and weird personality, the first meeting went so well. Steve was a complete natural at being a dad. The time together FLEW by. 

I genuinely think there is some sort of parent-child time warp thing going on because time without kids seems to go at a reasonably normal pace. When the kids are around I blink and it's dinner time and they are leaving.

I hate that part. The leaving.

When they spent the day with us on Sunday I very nearly cried when they left. I held it back only by thinking of move in day and the fact there will come a day very soon when I won't have to send them back to their foster placements. They will be home to stay.