a fresh start

Another school year is upon us and we are all trying to settle in to the new normal.  With both of the younger boys starting HS, I was determined to impose structure to the weekdays/evenings. To that end, the boys are expected to be home each night for supper and both TV and computers screens are off unless required for school work.

After the first day, I diligently scanned class syllabi and filed away those that I would likely want to refer to again. I made a list of additional school supplies needed with a plan to pick them up this weekend.  I am determined to keep all 3 boys on track, checking in each evening about what is being presented in classes, related homework, and what assignments were looming on the horizon.

E’s schedule underwent some changes after his case manager determined that the skills course that she originally placed in him was not a good fit. The stress resulting from all of the schedule changes and the transition to the HS environment finally erupted on Thursday evening.  I rode the wave of yelling and insults with deep breathing and a strong Brandy 7. The night ended well with E and I having some 1:1 time on the couch before he went up to bed.

Youngest one got his first taste of the rigors of HS sports. He plays on the freshman FB team and had his first game on Thursday afternoon. He plays offense and defense in addition to being the team’s kicker, which translates to minimal opportunity to sit on the sidelines and catch his breath. After a dinner of Subway and reading a short story for English, he put himself to bed at 8:45pm.

Oldest is embracing his final year of HS in his usual happy go lucky style. The part-time job continues and his goal is to purchase a truck before the snow flies. The college mail keeps coming and we told him that he seriously needs to consider what his next move will be. I still need to schedule an appointment for him to have his senior portrait taken. The only blip on the radar was a missed orthodontist appointment, my fault for not having placed it on the calendar.

I am enjoying my new job and recently was able to swap a clinic that was 30 miles away to one that is 8 blocks from my house.  Covering 3 clinics, managing the needs of 130 patients and working with 3 different clinical teams is challenging, but void of monotony. My love of organizational systems has paid off and made the job manageable.

With the crisp days of fall upon us, I am content. Tom and two of the boys are taking in the Renaissance festival today.  I plan on doing some grocery shopping and baking a loaf of 5 minute artisan bread. Later, we will celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary by taking in the Jazz festival on Selby avenue.  I think I’ll surprise Tom by suggesting that we take the motorcycle.  That might be the only gift that he needs.


crashed and burned

How is your summer going?  Well, since you asked,  youngest was brought home by the park police tonight. He was found trespassing at the old XCEL energy plant down off of Shepard Rd. Just for the record, we are in the first week of summer vacation. We have 9 1/2 left to go. The irony is that last evening during supper, Tom asked him about a text from a friend that referred to “the factory.”  After youngest explained what and where it was, Tom told him that he was not to go down there. Tom emphasized that he would be trespassing and breaking the law.

After the officer left, well needless to say, Tom went off.  Hell, I almost wet myself and I wasn’t guilty of anything.  Youngest took a step back after Tom kicked the garage door shut then proceeded to tell youngest his behavior was equivalent to telling Tom to F–k off.  After youngest went to his room, Tom and I discussed consequences.  Youngest is grounded for one week. He will spend part of that week volunteering at my work and the remainder will be spent deep cleaning the house. Community service imposed by judge Morrison is lighter than the alternative I’m sure.

In addition, youngest will have tighter geographical boundaries and will need to account for his whereabouts and the company that he is with.  Something tells me that this isn’t going to be the last time that  youngest makes the wrong decision.

What scares me the most is that when I asked him if he had thought about what Tom had said last night before going there  he said “not really.” I told him that I was scared to death; and that the next four years are going to be filled with opportunities to make the right choice or the wrong choice. What is a parent to do except pray that their child’s good choices outnumber the bad ones.

How is your summer going?

summer, summer, summer, it turns me upside down

Summer, summer, summer, its like a merry go round. This post’s title is the first phrase of a song I remember from HS. This summer is bound to turn me upside down for many reasons.

I will start out on a positive note. E just completed 8th grade. Though the first six years of his life consisted of multiple changes in caregivers and schools, I am proud to say that E successfully completed his 9th year in the same school.  We were fortunate enough to have a public K-8 school in our neighborhood with a phenomenal group of special ed teachers and a great social worker.

That being said 10 weeks of unstructured days have just begun. The kid who only wants to BMX bike and watch biking videos has no plan for the summer. A one week family vacation and a week at CYC camp will break up June and July quite nicely, but the rest of the time I can expect to come home to chaos.

To complicate matters, I will be starting a new job on July 2nd. My close proximity to home and the ability to flex my schedule to run home at a moment’s notice will be a thing of the past. There is an upside to this story and that is the fact that my sister who leaves nearby took the summer off to be with her own kids. An adoptive parent herself, she is my emergency backup plan.

She came to my rescue last summer after E got a ring stuck on his finger and called me crying about it. I was 30 minutes away in Minnetonka so my sister drove to my house to assess the situation (love having a nurse in the family) and ultimately drove him to the ER where they proceeded to spend 25 minutes cutting the ring off of his blue, swollen finger.

A byproduct for me of parenting a special needs child is that I find myself wishing away the summer months. Even when E was young enough for summer day camp programs, I couldn’t wait for the summer to be over. Too many phone calls and reports of bad behavior interrupted my work day.

Summers full of unstructured time has not been good for my non disabled children either.  P fell off of a roof and sustained cuts that went the length of his back, buttocks and legs, the result of hitting a gas grill on his way down.  M landed a jump wrong on his bike and  was seen at the doctor’s office to rule out a broken jaw. Summers are no picnic. They bring a level of stress into my workday that is not present when school is in session. And so today begins the countdown to Tuesday September 4th.  The first of August, I start to wait for the first Target ad featuring school supplies. I begin singing that famous Christmas song “Its the most wonderful time of the year.” My kids give me dirty looks when I sing.

This coming fall, all three of my children will be in the same school for the first time in 9 years. I will go from tracking 3 school calendars down to one. This is a good thing!! I’ve save the details for another blog post.

the rigors of high school

I have a very unhappy 16 yr old. He is struggling with honors English and feeling pretty hopeless right now. The class is reading a book by William Faulkner.  My son says that he does not understand the language and cannot comprehend the themes etc that he needs to be able to write about for the critical analysis that are required for the class. He has  a presentation hanging over head for which he is completely ill prepared.

Despite the encouragement and suggestions that Tom and I have made, he continues to feel defeated and wants to skip the presentation and take a zero.  I feel for him. There is nothing worse than watching your peers excel at something when you already feel grossly inadequate.

He is stressed from work as well. The past two evening shifts have been much busier than he has been accustomed to. Also, some of the customers haven’t been so nice which has added to his frustration. At the same time, his “band” has decided to audition for the school talent show and my son said that he would make sure the drum set got to school.

I am feeling burdened for him and wish that I could take away his pain and frustration. I have a hard time not feeling as though I have set him up for failure. As parents we have not been very good about keeping strict rules about homework time and electronics. We have let the kids get away with underachieving.

At the same time, I believe that the work that is expected of children today is a bit out of control.  My coworker told me today that her fifth grade daughter had the work “indignant” included in her vocabulary assignment. I’m indignant that grade school children would be expected to have a vocabulary that some college kids lack.

God, what to do with kids and homework. As I sit here Patrick is watching tv. He had to look up one more source tonight for his history day project. Meanwhile my nephew who is also an 8th grader was being asked to find 100 facts for his history day paper which should be close to 8 pages. Eight pages for an 8th grader.  Unreal.

What are parents to do?

half empty boy

not feelin it

This is a picture of E after having just been presented with his new bike. E has been obsessed with BMX biking for over one year.  He began looking for a BMX bike last winter on the internet.  E has champagne taste on his parent’s beer budget and thus was looking at bikes that cost in excess of $250.  In the spring Tom bought him a bike on Craig’s list. E promptly destroyed the bike in an effort to make it into something that it was not.

E loves to rebuild things so I enrolled him in a bike making class this summer. He spent 15 hours at The Bike Depot in St. Paul  learning how to build and repair bikes. Before the class even began, E decided that he would not like the class because the bikes wouldn’t be the “right kind.”Needless to say, E left the bike making class without a bike. He deliberately chose to help another kid with his bike rather than make a “lame one.”

E was not moved by my argument that a “lame” bike could get him from point A to point B just as easily as a “cool” bike. Fast forward to Christmas. Tom had done his research by looking at the bikes that E had bookmarked on the computer and talking to E’s BMX pals. Tom bought a $300 like new bike on Craig’s list for $100.  It is in fact the same bike that E wanted to buy from his friend a few months back.  So how do you think E reacted? Drum roll please…. It’s no good. E sent his dad a Facebook message earlier today stating that since he cannot do a 180 on the bike, it is the wrong kind.  He has resumed looking for an alternative bike.

E is unwilling to entertain the idea that there isn’t a bike out there that is going to give him the BMX talent that he pitifully lacks.  His fantasy, which he had spent months nurturing, of becoming a professional BMX bike rider complete with sponsors was shattered by the red bike standing in our living room.

Reality and its limitations is hitting E hard.  It is difficult for me to be supportive when he takes what we give him and throws it back in our faces. I know intellectually that E is trying to fill a hole that can never be filled. The hole was caused by a mother who drank while she was pregnant and the complex trauma that he endured during the first 6 years of his young life.  That having been said it still sucks and wears me down knowing that nothing that we do on his behalf will ever be perceived by E as good enough.


My son likes to poke holes in his face.  Beginning about age 9, he began to ask if he could get his ears pierced.  I figured that if he was a girl we would have said “yes” so to me it was no big deal. Tom adamantly disagreed.  By age 12, Tom had come around and we surprised him with a trip to Walmart on his 12th birthday. He left the store with the bling that he had long craved.

Well, the piercings became a major pain in my ass and pain in my son’s ears.  My son found it difficult to leave the earrings alone.  He repeatedly lost the earrin backs and subsequently the earrings themselves.  There were many arguments over my refusal to continue to replace earrings that my son had used irresponsibly.  As of today he only wears an earring in one ear.

His latest obsession is with lip piercings. Our response to his latest request has been a strong “NO.”  Unfortunately, his parent’s lack of support  has not stopped his attempts to add ornamentation to his mouth by his own hands. Several months ago, my son told me that he has indeed succeeded in piercing his lip.  He stated that he used one of my sewing needles and had sterilized the needle with alcohol prior to using it.  I warned him of the risk of infection and told him essentially to “knock that shit off.” If only my warnings were heeded.

The other night as I entered my bathroom to ready myself for bed I noticed several pieces of bloody Kleenex  and cotton balls in the bathroom trash. I entered my son’s room and demanded to know what he had pierced.  After initial denials, he admitted to piercing his lip again.  I again warned him of the risk of infection that he faces every time he places a foreign object through his skin.

The irony is that this child is a germaphobe to the extreme.  He soaks his toothbrush in boiling water if it falls in the sink.  He will not use a drinking glass if there is a tiny chance that someone else used it first.  Most nights he replaces the silverware at his place because it does not meet his specifications for cleanliness.  In an attempt to prevent further piercings, I locked the alcohol and sewing needles in my room.  Oh, how naive I am to think that my proactive move would succeed in deterring him!

As of last night he is sporting  a new piece of metal in his lower lip.  I am at a point where I simply don’t really give a shit.  This child has not up until now taken to heart any of my warnings.  I am resigned to the fact that at some point in the near future he and I will be trotting down to our doctor’s office for Penicillin.  I will, however,  be sure to request that it be given via an injection in his ass, so he’ll be sure to feel the consequence.

there’s a hole in the glass

E’s glass has a hole in the bottom.  As a result it will never be 1/2 full or 1/2 empty.  Despite the vast amounts of love, patience and acceptance that his dad and I have poured into the cup during the past seven years, it  will never be full. By now you have figured out that the glass is E.  He has an empty space inside resulting  from the severe abuse and neglect that he suffered at the hands of his birth mother and the multiple caregivers that succeeded her.

E has strived over the years to fill the hole with superficial things like clothing, hairdos and the latest and greatest toy or gadget.  From the time that he was young, E has been obsessed with his appearance.  He determines what look is appropriate by watching YouTube videos of jerking, BMX biking and skateboarding. The hip hop culture has also greatly influenced his taste.   He changes clothes multiple times per day.

E has adopted very rigid rules when it comes to dress.  I refuse to buy him new tennis shoes when he has two other pairs that are perfectly fine.  This becomes a problem for E because he will not wear hightop tennis hoes with skinny jean.  His royal blue tennis shoes can only be worn with a shirt of the same color, of which he has none.  E’s clothing that he purchases with his lawn mowing money never fits correctly because he refuses to take input from me.  As a result his clothing often tears.  I don’t know anything. (not an issue unique to adopted children)

Unfortunately for E, he was adopted by an extremely frugal mother (Tom? Not so much.  We would be in the poor house if I didn’t manage the money.)  When the kids, myself or Tom need new clothing we do not automatically run to Kohls or the MOA. Our first stop is Valu Thrift.  Valu Thrift carries clothing that is in great shape at great prices. We have told the kids that spending less on items like clothing allows us to be more generous in areas such as family vacations, sports and camp fees. Michael and Patrick are good with this, E says it’s “ghetto.”

E is very hard on all of his belongings which makes it more difficult to keep up with his demands.  Every bike that we have purchased for him has been broken within the first week or two.  We told him last year after he broke a brand new bike that we were done. We agreed to get him a used garage sale bike as an alternative.  E refused to take responsibility for his bike breaking and instead maintained that it broke because we bought it at Walmart.  He never passes up a chance to chastise us for being “so fuckin cheap.

Because E is currently obsessed with BMX, Tom purchased a used bike for him off of Craigslist earlier this spring.  E declared it not good enough and immediately set out to improve it by  replacing pieces of the bike with parts from  his old broken bike.  His efforts to make the bike good enough,  rendered the new bike trashed.  So now he has no bike.  Believe me when I say that if I thought that he would be satisfied with a new bike, I would purchase one in a heartbeat just to bring me some peace. But it isn’t about the bike.  It is much more difficult problem to solve.

So I will move forward by pouring out my angst through this medium.  For E’s sake, I will again schedule some regular visits for him with his therapist and me and his dad will suck it up and continue to give him the love, patience and acceptance that he was deprived of in his early years.