Tuesday, April 30, 2013

It Makes Me Sad

Last night was a full night of baseball practices for both Lucas and Eli.  Quiet night for me...2 hours of mom time as Mike helps out at practice so it's just me, me, me.

After practice and the required clearing of all food in the refrigerator, all three congregated in the living room to rehash practice and talk about Eli's Tuesday night game.  Lucas was talking and I happened to turn my head to listen and I would not be able to tell you a single thing he said...I was dumbfounded as to who this young man sitting in my living room was and what on Earth had happened to my son.

One of the hardest things for me in adopting older children is how fast they grow up.  I felt that way with our daughters but with our sons it is like warp speed parenting and growth.  Yes, we have the fluctuation between boy and teenager....but last night was a whack us side my head that the future is here and the little boys we brought home from the Philippines are disappearing and becoming their future selves.  Makes me sad and happy at the same time if that is possible.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Disney World Needs Funding

Everyone can rest assured that Disney Incorporated does not have financial concerns at this point.  Lucas and Eli's "funding" for our summer, family Disney World trip does.  They are totally in the mode of earning money in order to have money to spend at Disney World.  I am totally on board with supplying the chore list.

Today's chore was yard clean up.  Of course the fact that they got to burn the leaf piles may have been as much incentive as the money earned.....or the challenge of who could hold the rake with one finger the longest.  Either way the yard is getting cleaned, they did it without complaint and their Disney fund has money it it.  A winning start to spring clean up!

......and yes Eli is wearing snow boots and Lucas has sweat socks on with sandals....whatever gets the job done and I'm so saving this picture for later embarrassment.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Have I Mentioned I'm Proud of Our Son?

Lucas.  He is a constant work in progress.  Initially he was our great communicator when the boys came home from the Philippines.  He was the "favored" brother for many of the people  he dealt with on a daily basis.  The easy going, people pleasing kid.

While he still is all that (most of the time) I think it's more for the reason it's good to be those things rather than his life situation being so desperate, using them as a survival technique.

One of his huge hurdles these past 3 years was Eli's evolution as not the person he had been pegged to be in the Philippines.  Eli coming out of his shell, learning independence and his abilities has put Lucas in a new spot.  He no longer has to survive for the both of them.  Lucas is finding out who he is and in a lot of ways it makes him self conscious and shy, shaky in certain environments.

We've been working for two weeks to get him to ask questions in school....every time he doesn't understand...anything....pretty annoying from the teacher side of things....or it would be if we could get him to do it consistently.  Everyone needs to understand when he doesn't understand (including us) because it very easily looks as if he's spacing off.  It's a work in progress.

Last night I was so proud of him.  We were with a group of family members from out of town that Lucas was meeting, some for the first time, some he has met once before.  During our visit something was said and we all laughed.  I couldn't even tell you what it was but what really came home was that Lucas said, "that was a joke right?"  Most people and some reading this probably think, so what?  It was a big deal to him.  Humor is hard for an English language learner on a good day.  For Lucas to stand there and ask a question in a group of people he doesn't know well and then wait for the answer and not duck his head is amazing.

I have to keep reminding myself even now.  Even though he visually looks like he's doing ok and sailing along, he still needs that twice over look from all of us to make sure.  Appearances are deceiving.  I can remember reading on the Philippine Yahoo parent chat group about families that had been home for 3, 4, 5 years and were talking about these types of things and couldn't believe that it was still a work in progress.  Three years down our journey.....I know it to be true.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Retraining Mom

I have been very lucky the last several weeks as Mike has been home in the morning to get the boys around and run them to school.  This morning my "mom" luck ran out, he had an early morning call and the boys and I were on our own.  I'm also pretty sure the boys "believed" they were on their own.

Every step that you can envision in getting a teenager and preteen ready for school was diligently and repeatedly explained to me....loudly.  You would imagine that I had just materialized from space with no prior working knowledge of the routine or them.  

Even as we pulled into the school parking lot, I was being instructed which lane to take, speed limit posting, drop off point and what I needed to do in order to pull out of the school parking lot.  To top everything off Lucas says, "Pooooor Dad.  He has to go to work.  I feel bad for him."   Excuse me!  I'm going to work too....every day....Dad works every day.  Apparently I missed the calendar posting of today as "Feel Sorry for your Dad and Harass Your Mother Day".

Monday, April 22, 2013

Bring On The Homework

Some days a mom just knows that when you see your child approaching you should be taking a seat.  It's just self preservation.  I was sitting at the computer on Sunday when I have a very ratty, purple school folder shoved under my nose by Eli.  "MOM!  I've got papers."

Eli always has papers but for some reason yesterday morning he did not have to be asked if he had papers or homework.  He left me with a pile to review, pulled out a chair and said, "I have homework.  I need to get busy."  And busy he got.  I was totally in shock.

He set in that chair for two hours solid.  Much erasing, sighing and writing.  Never once did he stop.  He wouldn't take a break for anything.  It was amazing to watch.  I couldn't help but think about his initial report on short attention span and educational concerns.....yep, I'm thinking that was not an accurate assessment of what he can do...at all.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Your Sister Can Still Take You

It's been a few weeks since either Sydney or Rachel have been home from college.  To say that Eli and Lucas have become used to being in a primarily male household is an understatement.  The house is louder, messier and very busy schedules....I mentioned louder right?

Sydney came home for a quick visit this week-end before she goes back for her final few weeks of the term.   I think she was genuinely excited to see her brothers....for the first evening anyway.  After that I think the boys got it into their collective brains to tease, torture and TEASE her.

She handled it well, I thought about intervening but when witnessing a couple of "instructional" encounters which let me know that she was not out of practice in sister to brother communication I let her handle it.  Needless to say before going to bed Saturday night, Eli came up to me and said, "Sydney is coming home for the summer?  Man!  She's going to be the boss again."  I just didn't have the heart to remind him that Rachel will be moving home mid summer also.  Enjoy "boy" world guys now, the sisters are coming home soon.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Doing The Math

Did you know that working on homework at the same time as your brother requires arguing every 7.8 seconds?  It does if your sons are Lucas and Eli and you mistakenly put them at the table to work at the same time.

Now keep in mind they aren't in the same grade and were not working on the same subject....it does not matter.  Arguing with one another is the same as breathing to them.

After surviving the homework, Eli closes his folder and came over to stand in front of me.  He proudly announces, "There.  I am done with math.  I know how to do American math now.  Am I done learning?"

"Number one, math is math regardless of country and no son you will never be done learning."  To say the least Eli was greatly disappointed.  Lucas.....laughed his head off resulting in another "loud" disagreement between brothers. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

IPod Is The Devil

To say that both Eli and Lucas are easily lured into video games, videos, movies, etc. is a simplification.  It is something that we monitor (or try) and frequently ban.  We keep trying to increase their personal responsibility in an effort for them to understand their own actions and bodies telling them enough is enough....yep so far that works better than other times.

Self regulation and understanding how their bodies and behaviors are affected is a big learning thing for both of them right now.  We don't think us taking every video related item away and banning them is the answer, it makes them crave it more, doesn't teach them self control and being able to "feel normal and like all their friends" is huge.  

I work in an elementary school and am astounded at the expensive electronic devices kids have at school.  We've never allowed any of our kids to take toys or games to school.  It's a pain for everyone.  That's not saying that our kids didn't and don't "sneak" it to school.  They are kids and kids try things.   I'd hate to know how much money walks into a school every morning in the form of student electronics....I always think..."Who can afford to have their kids walk around with that much equipment?"

The one and only thing that Lucas asked for on his birthday in January was an IPod.  We debated, we saved and he did get one.  After a few learning experiences where the IPod was grounded from him and parental restrictions installed he does well self regulating most of the time.  Not all the time.  He really, REALLY wants to take that dumb thing to school....."Everyone else does" is frequently heard.

He tried taking it awhile back, got caught by the mom patrol, grounded, served "no IPod" time and retained the experience for 6 weeks.  Last night, mom patrol discovered it again and now the IPod is in my purse.  Perhaps Lucas is not the only one having to learn a lesson.

Eli's birthday is in June.  IPod is the only thing on his list.  Thinking, thinking, thinking......we'll let you know.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Did You Know Shoes Were That Important?

Last Saturday I took Eli and Lucas shoe shopping...by myself.  Their feet are the latest body item to explode into a growth spurt.  I know from shopping for baseball shoes that they have now entered the world of men's shoes.   Big time for them, expensive for mom and dad.

I had to laugh as we were entering the store, Lucas says "Hey mom those are shoes like we wore in the Philippines."  Eli's comment, "I'm NOT getting those!"  We made it in the store after promising that no we were shopping for tennis shoes. 

Who knew that two boys from the Philippines, who only wore shoes when absolutely necessary and took the first entire winter they were home that, yes they did need to wear shoes in December in Iowa, would become such label conscious and status aware of their footwear.  Let me tell you in 10 seconds they had spotted Nike, Reebok and Adidas.

After a quick lesson that all brands were not the same size no matter what the number said, they had picked out their shoes and were trying them on.  I was slightly suspicious when Eli said he had the right size on the first try.  I walked over to see a 2 inch gap between his heel and the shoe back.  I said, "Eli, you need a smaller size that doesn't fit at all."  Oops big mistake, he looked like I had just set the shoe on fire.

Needless to say, we purchased shoes and everyone was happy.  I asked him later what he was thinking when I told him the first pair were too big.  He said, "Mom.  When we used to get shoes (in Philippines) there wasn't always enough.  If they didn't squeeze my toes I kept them cause there weren't any others and if I complained I didn't get anything."  That noise you heard was my heart cracking.  I said, "Eli, you understand that you will be able to have shoes that fit here, right?"  What do I get for his response, "Yep I know but sometimes I get that funny feeling that there won't be enough.  I know it's different but it still feels funny sometimes."  Again the kid has the ability to absolutely break my heart with his struggles that we probably don't always pick up on.

Monday, April 15, 2013

You're Old When.....

You are old when your youngest son (Eli) is explaining old age to his oldest sister (Alison).  He has a definite view point...do not try and dissuade or realign his thinking.

He explained very precisely to Alison that a person is old when the veins in your hands stand out and are green and blue.  His reasoning was that his great grandmother's hands were that way.

Unfortunately, Eli's explanation took place in the middle of a busy restaurant that caters to the elderly.  When Alison questioned him, he began looking around and scared me to death that he would want to point out those elderly with "large" veins.  Lucky for me, he zeroed in on my hands instead.  I was so relieved to not be designated among the elderly per the "Eli Scale of Aging".

Sunday, April 14, 2013

People Ask The Most Amazing Things

Mike and I are somewhat used to being asked amazing, thoughtful, outlandish and heartfelt questions about Lucas and Eli's adoption.  We've had a lot of practice in the past 4 years of answering, not answering, deciphering the motivation behind questions and being amazed at people's overall interest...good and bad.

For the most part Lucas and Eli don't generally experience questions from adults, there have been a few but not many and generally with one of us there to direct or deflect as necessary.  Their friends are another matter.  

Usually they come home from school and tell us questions they were asked and how they answered and then check to see if they answered the question accurately or will talk about things that the question may have started them thinking about.  We've not had that many chances to hear these questions from their friends.  Generally when friends come to play it's about playing not question and answer time.

Recently on the way to a movie we were able to glimpse a picture of the kinds of questions they are asked by friends.  It let us hear what other kids are thinking and wondering about the boys' lives....let's face it kids have their own thought process and when any of you figure it out please let the rest of us know.

This particular friend of Lucas is very bright, inquisitive and a sponge for knowledge.  He's just curious not malicious. Totally out of no where,  Mike and I hear him say from the back seat, "Lucas did you have a dad in the Philippines?"  "You lived in an orphanage right?  What's that gotta be like?"

We listened to how Lucas chose to answer, not answer and talk about the pieces he was comfortable with.  Later after we got home, he wanted to know if he answered "right".  I told him there isn't any right or wrong just what he wanted to share and what he wanted to keep private.  I asked him again if it was ok for me to continue sharing as much as I do.  His answer slays me, "Yep.  You do it, you talk a lot and I don't like to say that many words."

We all know that the early life experiences of Lucas and Eli and that of their friends have little to nothing in common.  It will be interesting to see at what point if ever their friends have their curiosity and questions met and we experience less questions of what was and more what is.  Time will tell.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Big Words

Frustration.  I can't even begin to estimate the amount of frustration Lucas and Eli experience in the course of a day.  Eli takes his frustrations in stride most of the time.  He shrugs and says he will learn, whatever the subject is, later.  Lucas blurts his challenges at random and spontaneous times.

One night this week after baseball practice, he plopped on the couch beside me and with a huge sigh said, "How do you learn the words?  You know the big ones.  Did you go to kindergarten and they told you all the words and you remembered them?  I didn't go to kindergarten here so I didn't get those big words told to me.  Where do you get them?"

Wow.  I asked if there was a particular word he'd heard or was it a matter of not having a word for what he was trying to say.  Nope.  He said he just got to thinking and he decided that "we all" must have learned every word we know in kindergarten.

Eli, ever the supportive brother, chimed in, "Dude.  Just go with it, make it up, it all sounds funny when we say it any way."  After I stopped the inappropriate parental laughing, I explained that everyone has to learn little words and then over a long time we all learn bigger and more complex words.  

What did I receive in response to my improvised English lesson?   "Huh."  Guess Lucas is staying with the little words as they express what he thinks pretty clearly.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Disney Here We Come

We are planning a huge family vacation this summer, to Disney World.  It's quite a trip for us as getting our family all there in a timely fashion is an undertaking in logistics.  Mike and I are driving with Lucas and Eli.  Thought it would let them see the country between Iowa and Florida.  The girls and their friends are flying, of course not on the same flights as that would be too easy. 

We've wanted to take the boys for some time but also wanted to make sure that they were better equipped to handle the hectic schedule, chaos and crowds.  They are better prepared, we....will never be totally prepared.

The trip is supposed to consist of 4 days of Disney, a beach day and an air boat trip in the Everglades.  We tried to delay telling the boys about the trip because they are now wound beyond all reason.  The next 2+ months will not go fast enough for them, it has even eclipsed Eli's plans for his birthday.

We have also tried to explain how long the trip is..2 1/2 days...that we are all confined in a car for however long it takes.  They've had two other road trips, 18 hours to New Mexico and 7 hours to the Black Hills in South Dakota.  They also do not understand that we won't be close enough in Florida to visit our relatives in New Mexico.....no maps do not help thus the road trip to hopefully give them an idea of the size of the United States.

I'm sure I'll bore the blog world with more vacation trivia as we get closer to leaving...sorry about that.  I have just found it to be another aspect of the boys' learning curve.  Distance, space and time are very hard things to get them to understand unless they physically experience it.  Unfortunately they both get car sick so I'm thinking the physical aspect will be all too real.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Learning About Their Adoption Story From Friends

By the previous posts you've probably gathered that we've been talking a lot about adoption with the boys.  Periodically one or the other will come up with questions or go through phases when remembering is very important to them as they worry about forgetting their lives before adoption.

This past weekend our talks took an unprecedented turn.  Lucas came up to me and asked if our church helped to adopt us.  We've talked about this a lot.  They know that our church family as well as others were vital in bringing them home, from the very start without our community and church they would most definitely not be here in our family today.  So I once again waited and wondered where this conversation was headed.

Didn't have to wait long.  Luke said one of his friends told him that she knew about him before he ever knew any of us.  That she got to see pictures of him in church before he saw pictures of his new family and that she helped bring him home.

I asked if he thought she knew what she was talking about.  His wise response?  "Yep.  I know she did and the church people too but it's really weird that she knew me first cause I'm older and older people are supposed to know things first.  Right?  Cause your old and you know stuff I don't know.  So that's just the way it's supposed to be.  Old people know stuff."  

I asked what he thought old was.  "You know mom like 35."  Made this old mom feel slightly better but we did go on to talk about how even some of the small kids from church remember when we were all working hard to bring them home.  That even small kids have the ability and understanding to affect the world around them.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Alternate Views on Adoption Through The Eyes Of Lucas and Eli (Short Version)

Before we start let me (hopefully) stop any negative comments by saying the boys have a pretty good grasp of adoption, theirs in particular.  I will say they bring laughter and light to a lot of conversations that we, as adults, tend to over think and complicate.

Take the "adoption" of our dog Jack.  They began comparing their adoption story to Jack's adoption, more important to them was to find how many types of things they could find in common.  Ok, as a mom I was slightly appalled.  I tried to redirect the conversation as my "adult" mind thought to be acceptable.  

That was right up until Lucas said, "Mom.  There's nothing wrong with saying us and Jack are adopted...we are.  Except this time we got to be in the family when he was adopted cause we weren't when you and dad adopted the last time."  

Eli's perspective?  "Mom.  It's only fair we got to be part of adopting Jack...except this was a lot easier.  I didn't get so tired from flying home from the Philippines,  we just had to drive to town."

I told you it was adoption...the short version.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Wake Up Call

You know those Saturday mornings when a parent (delusional parent) dreams of sleeping in a little later, enjoying a relaxing cup of coffee and just having a lazy morning?   Yep, I still have those dreams....just not the reality.

Not complaining because in exchange for missing out on this particular dream, Mike and I are treated to dancing, singing and yelling in the kitchen from Eli.  His favorite morning song?  "I'M HUNGRY, I'M HUNGRY!"  I feed the dogs, now it's MY TURN!"  or variations of this theme.

One of the discussions Mike and I had when we were talking about adopting at our ages with the girls almost on their own, centered around what were we planning for the next 25 years.  As I sit in my kitchen this morning listening to "full volume Eli" I did not contemplate this particular activity.  Still glad we didn't miss out on it even though we occasionally reminisce about sleeping in.

Friday, April 5, 2013

You Explain It, I Can't

American humor is one of the hardest things to explain to Lucas and Eli.  First you have to get by the language frustrations, then you have the concrete thinking of English Language Learners and you have to discuss humor, teasing and where the boundaries are to no longer humorous but bordering on bullying.  Yep, it's not easy.

There are some days the one or both of the boys come home and have to ask about something someone said or did that they didn't understand.  It's hard sometimes trying to judge the context in which the original conversation or action took place.  Sometimes humor is humor but there are times when it's necessary to explain that just because the other kid was laughing doesn't mean it was funny.

Tonight Lucas came home from baseball practice saying that a team mate tried to take his new batting helmet.  They each had identical helmets....old mother experience...I put Lucas' name in his.  Apparently, the other boys' helmet was older and I'm not sure if he was teasing Lucas or if he was serious he argued that the new one was his.  Lucas is very, very protective of anything that is new and solely his but he is also the youngest on the team and conscious of not rocking the boat.  

Long story short, Lucas came home with his helmet but was really confused, "Mom?  Was he kidding me or not?"  I didn't have the answer.....again.  I don't want him to be taken advantage of but not leery of people.  Humor is not easy to explain....bad humor is worse.....teasing impossible.  Think I've found another missing chapter to the adoption books.....Explaining the Unexplainable.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Because I Said No

You know you have reached the low point in a conversation with your child when the only thing you have left to say is, "because I said no."   Lucas and Eli are both master bargainers and don't take no for an answer easily, not out of disrespect, it's the challenge.  I think I'll take them to flea market sales this summer....that would be an experience for sure.

Tonight the bargaining was over whether or not "the boys...include my husband in this" could have permission to sell the go cart....and buy a dirt bike.  The go cart was a huge concession for me.  It has roll bars, motor cut off, speed controlled (by the parent) and seat belts...I mentioned the roll bars right?  Dirt bikes possess none of these therefore my vote is NO DIRT BIKE at this point in time.  Much more skill, judgement and SKILL followed by more good judgement needed.

I told Lucas that he didn't know how to ride a dirt bike. He informed me that it's his Dad's fault (remember the good judgement requirement?  Not shown here as he threw the parent in his corner under the bus) as Mike won't let him drive his motorcycle...a full sized Kawasaki 1700 Nomad thus proving the child has no concept  of what he'd be dealing with even in a much smaller version.  This conversation continued until I hear the words, "because I said no" come out of my mouth.  Apparently not something he could bargain or argue with cause I got a humph and he went to tell Eli how they would have to "get along" with the go cart until mom stopped being scared.  Wonder when that exactly is scheduled to happen....probably the same time the good judgement arrives.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Mom's Sick With Lots Of Help

Mondays are tough, tougher when you feel cruddy.  I survived work, came home, my head met a pillow with a chaser of Tylenol.  It was a glorious time.....for approximately 10 minutes.  That's when my worry wart helpers arrived or at least realized mom was out of commission.....they hit the panic button.

Every 5 minutes either Eli or Lucas would appear in front of me, wake me up, ask if I was ok or needed something.  Now please understand that I really appreciate all the love and care and concern.....after the fact.  All I could think of at the time was that if they didn't leave for baseball practice soon, my head was going to explode.

A two hour rest after I achieved quiet and solitude helped somewhat.  Being under the weather definitely limits the boys arguing....again much appreciated.  Before going to bed Eli asked, "Are you better now? Cause you should be cause I need you to feel better.  Good night."  Guess I'm better.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter At Grandma's

My dad died in September 2001.  Alison was 16, Rachel 9 and Sydney was 7.  At the time I very vividly remember thinking (with me being the youngest in my family) that my kids would not get the opportunity or privilege to grow up knowing their grandparents in the same way that my nieces and nephews did.  

My dad was not the most politically correct, educated or sophisticated man.  He had an 8th grade education, raised 5 kids, farmed his entire life.  Born in 1915 he saw a lot in his life.  Good and bad.  I also know that grandkids meant the world to him..

He never got to meet Lucas and Eli.  We had never discussed adoption during his life.  I often think (usually when the boys are cracking jokes or speaking the blunt truth) that he would have had a blast with them.

One of the special things that Lucas and Eli missed out on was going to Grandma Plummer's house for holidays.  She has been in a nursing home since before they came home from the Philippines.  It doesn't phase them in the least.  They listen to the girls' stories of grandma's house and seem to file it away in the drawer with "things that happened before they arrived".

Mom is no longer able to come to our homes so we bring pieces of home and holidays to her as much as possible.  As I watched all our kids gather around her for this photo I couldn't help but think of dad.  It's moments like these that bring him close and even though he's not in the picture he's smiling as big as his grandkids.