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Thursday, May 23, 2013

5 months!!

I have had 5 months with my little men.  5 months of being their mom.  It feels like forever some days, like they have always been with us.  It is odd sometimes to think of what a blip of time that is for them.  That they have had other caretakers, been in other homes.  There is someone else who is maybe hurting they are not with them.  Little J attached so easily.  I can't imagine now how it would feel for me if he attached to someone else. I try to put myself in the shoes of their foster moms and their birth mom.

We had a visit with their social worker, and are hopefully going to have a finalization date for early July!!! It will make me feel so much better to have a date.  I have decided not to have a huge party, since we recently had a large baptism.  We may do a fun lunch somewhere after the court date, then we are going on a big family vacation in July.  To be honest, I can't wait to change their last names.  It shouldn't matter, but I can't help but feel judgement for having two boys with different last names from each other and from me. It will be nice to have that permanence. 

We all have come a long way in 5 months. Little J is your typical, mischevious toddler. Big J is attaching and learning to exoress himself. They both have such strong personalities. And are little comedians. D and I have adapted to parenting I think pretty well. It was a crash course, sink or swim. There were some days I thought we weren't going to make it. But I think we will all be just fine. I love watching my boys grow into little men.



Friday, April 12, 2013

Raising Boys

Lately I have been thinking about how to raise boys who are kind, moral, and of strong character. It is not that these thoughts weren't on my mind before. I think at first, we were all in survival mode. D and I were figuring out how to get into a routine and parenting issues. It was a logistical thing. I made sure to plan activities, child care, and early intervention. I planned child-friendly meals and snacks, scheduled when I would do errands and laundry.

Lately I have been thinking a great deal about what kind of men these boys will turn into. I see horrific stories on the news, like the Newtown shootings, the Steubenville rape case, the Aurora shooting. It makes me wonder why those boys turned into the violent men who would commit those horrible acts. What were there parents like?  Did they have a traumatic life? Did they have no limits, no nurturing?  Were these somewhat normal families, but something just always seemed "off"?

I try to ensure that I am little things with my children each day that instill character, and doing the right thing.  I model and explain empathy.  We talk about acts of service, and doing nice things for people and animals.  I think for children, it is easier to be empathetic to animals.  We talk about how being "rough" with our kitty will hurt him and make him scared.  We talk about how it feels like to be hit, or name-called.  We say hands are not for hurting.  We have been attending church and Sunday School and hope some of the messages sink in. (I am not saying that religious and/or Christian views are the only way to instill moral character in children.  In my case, I had a positive experience with my and want to provide the same for our children).

To be honest, there are some times that Big J's behavior scares me.  He is so little, but at times can be so angry.  It is not the angry outbursts that worry me most.  Not that it is okay, but I get why he hits his little brother for taking a toy.  Some of the "sneakier" and more planful behavior worries me the most.  Out of the blue, he has walked up behind little J and pushed him down.  I have seen some mean-spirited behavior towards me and his brother.  He is usually more gentle with peers at school and play-dates.  I think we are going to have to work extra hard with Big J to help him with limits, boundaries, and empathy.  I wish there was a simple solution, but I know there isn't.  We are trying to meet his physical and emotional needs as much as possible, but also setting boundaries and limits.  We also aren't afraid to ask for help, whether it be personal or professional help.  For now, I will try to enjoy his childhood as much as possible and not worry about the "what-ifs."

Becoming a working mom

It has been a month since I returned to my social work job.  I had mixed feelings about the return, but I have to be honest about something: I was mostly happy to return to work.  I say that with zero guilt.  I love my children both dearly, and am grateful for the maternity leave I was lucky enough to take.  But my workplace is luxurious (or so it feels).  I get to go to the bathroom whenever I want.  I drink hot beverages out of an open mug, and no one knocks it over.  I can talk on the phone, run errands, check e-mail.  Yes, I actually do work too. Most days I actually enjoy my job, and feel it is more than just a paycheck. That may have made the transition easier for me.
       The boys have mostly been adjusting well to the change, although I feel a twinge of resentment from big J.  We were able to arrange our schedule so that we have a nanny two days, and our MIL does one half day, I do one half day, and D does the rest.  It makes things easier that I don't have to bring them anywhere, and they are together.  Big J will see me get dressed and say "You have to work AGAIN?" I usually say yes, I feel the same way and laugh.  One day I was in the bathroom, but not on a day I had to go to work.  Little J was walking around saying "Mamma" and Big J said to him "She's not here, she's at work." 
I yelled, "I'm in here, I'm not at work!" and Big J said,"Little J, mommy's not here."
I have to admit, it broke my heart a little bit.
They do love their nanny and her 9 year-old daughter who comes over sometimes.  I miss some of the activities we used to do, and I miss getting Big J off the bus.  There is nothing like coming home to little feet running up to you screaming "Mommmy!" These boys give the best hugs.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Bragfest

This post will be dedicated to a bragfest about my kids.

Big J:

Finished his session of swimming and can go underwater without holding his nose.

Passed his belt test in karate.

Got hit by a boy at a playdate, and didn't hit back.

Wrote "I love you Mommy" on the magnadoodle and I wish I could save it forever.

Can recite parts of some books from memory, but is especially cute when he "reads" to his brother.

Went five days without a major meltdown.

Little J:

Has gained 3 pounds in 3 months.

Is saying new words like crazy. Most recently, grampy, sorry, and hat.

Figured out 3 pieces of a puzzle without help.

Wanted to use the dustbuster, and did a pretty decent job cleaning up his cheerios.

Is learning to be gentle with our kitty.

Did the low balance beam at gymnastics all by himself.

Does the motions to "wheels on the bus." It is adorable, by the way.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Honeymoon is Over

It is safe to say the honeymoon is over. Stuff has gotten real. After what I thought was a breakthrough, Big J has been challenging us every step of the way. On Monday, we had a huge meltdown at gymnastics. Which lead to me carrying him kicking and screaming to the car. Followed by more inconsolable screaming.

He has been asking more for his "Grandma" and wanting to go live there. I have to admit it is a visceral pain to hear your child call for someone else. We try to validate how he is feeling, that he misses her and gets sad. We tell him she loves him and misses him, but wanted him to have a mommy and daddy who would take care of him forever.

Big J is so jealous of little J. We try to explain that little J is littler, so some things will be different but we love them the same. I feel like some of the aggression is coming from jealousy.  He missed some of that time being taken care of as a baby.

Sometimes when I think we aren't making any progress, he says something so insightful. Last week, we has our nanny come over for a trial period. Big J said, "Next time you go to work, I am going to dump something out!" I said, "So you were mad?" He responded, "Yes! Like the sheep!"
(We are reading a book entitled Marvin Gets Mad, about a sheep with a temper.)

Yesterday, he was having a little snack as I was getting ready for my 1st day of work. His little voice says, "It's ok. You can go. I'm not gonna be mad."

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Kid behavior or foster care behavior?

2 months ago, we brought home our little men. Both of us were (and still are) new parents, gifted with two walking, talking battles of energy. Now I have been working with children for a long time, have an MSW, been a therapist. But nothing could really prepare us.

D and I have started asking ourselves, "is this normal kid behavior? Or are we seeing foster child adoption behavior?"

Big J came to us with some missing puzzle pieces in his history. He has lived with his mother off and on, was removed twice,was homeless and in 5 foster homes. All before the age of 5. Little J is a little more lucky to have had more stability, and was with the same woman "Nanna" from 3 weeks old until he came to us.

Big J has had times that were -- let's leave it at challenging. His tantrums can be intense, and the first week weeks would happen multiple times per day. What we have seen is a lot of regressive behavior, especially seeing his little brother being taken care of. He wants us to dress him, wipe him, carry him, feed him, and go in the pack and play. For the most part, we have been obliging. I am starting to worry about coddling him too much . He will be in kindergarten this year, and don't want him to be the kid who can't/won't wipe himself.

The sibling rivalry part has been exhausting. They had never lived together, and we were new parents. It was an adjustment for all of us. I think the sibling rivalry stuff is mostly normal, but hopefully will calm down at some point. When will they be best friends?

Other behaviors we have seen in Big J are very hard rocking (in bed and in the car), nightmares, and hyper vigilance. He is afraid of a lot of things, but especially loud noises, bugs, and the dark. He likes to carry play-knives (such as from play-doh, the play kitchen) in his pajamas for "protection". He used to cry hysterically when he was disciplined, and when he wet himself. It makes me wonder what his consequences would be in other homes.

Last week, we had some biting (at school and home). I am hoping this is a short phase, and am thinking someone bit him. Then the universe caught up with him, and Big J got bit at a playplace. After comforting him, I reminded him he didn't like how it felt. He told me he isn't going to bite anymore.

Little J I think is just showing typical toddler behaviors, but man it happened overnight. The one thing is he does not seem to like babysitters. He gets very anxious when we leave, but especially his dada.

As hard as some days have been, there is nothing like homemade Valentines. Or seeing 4 legs run up to you when you haven't seem them in awhile (such as to you know, take a shower). Although we have given up our freedom, privacy, and sleep, I know there will be a time all too soon they will be too cool for us and we will miss having little shadows.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Termination Visit

   It has been awhile since my last update.  We have a toddler who doesn't like to sleep anymore, so my computer time has been limited.  I have been trying to be good and give up my phone addiction when I am with the boys. ;)

We had the termination visit with the boys' bio mother 2 weeks ago.  I was nervous going into it, because I knew the bio mother wanted to meet us.  Of course the night before, Little J jumped off the couch and gave himself a bump and cut above his eye.  What great timing, huh? I was worried the bio mother would make a big deal about it.  Accuse us of hurting him or not supervising him properly.

The visit went as well as can be expected for the situation.  We tried explaining things to Big J as best we could.  I don't think Little J really understands much, and his bio mother never parented him.  I don't think he even understands that is his mother.  Big J definitely does, and has more memories of her.  The social worker and Bio mother both kind of laughed off the injury, and chalked it up to J being J.

The mother was pleasant but reserved with us.  She said she wants to get us a scrapbook and her family history, but she didn't have time. I was about the change little J's diaper, because we had been in the car for 2 hours.  The social worker said the mother would do that.  I offered to leave the diaper bag and bagged lunch.  I guess the mother bring her own diapers and lunch.  She brought McDonald's happy meals for the kids, and birthday presents and cake for Little J.  I almost said no to the soda, but remembered I have to give up some control.  A little soda every so often won't kill them.  It was an odd feeling to leave them.  Big J looked at us all confused, then at his bio mother, then back at us.  We reminded him we always come back and would see him soon, and gave him a hug.

D and I went and had a peaceful lunch.  Again, it was weird having a quiet car and not towing kids and diaper bags into the restaurant.  It is funny how fast they become part of our life, our routine. I will say it was nice to take our time and be able to have an adult conversation.

When we went to pick them up, they had had a good visit.  The bio mother couldn't believe how well the boys were getting along, and how nurturing Big J was to little J.  I almost said "Really?"  Both boys were excited to see us.  I think it was hard for their bio mom to see them call someone else "Mommy." She didn't say anything, but I could see it on her face. She had given them toys and clothes.  Big J was very attached to these toys for about week, including clothes that were too small for him.  I picked my battles and let him wear his tight clothes because they were from his first mommy.

We worried if the visit would affect their behavior, but it didn't seem to.  We went to a late lunch/early dinner with the former foster parents since we were in the area. I think it helped end on a positive note.