I need some parenting advice

As I’ve written about before, we have some behavior issues with the two older kids, primarily L1. The social worker is a BIG believer in rewards for good behavior, and has suggested giving stickers for small things (like doing something the first time we ask, etc) and every time he amasses a certain number of stickers (maybe 20 or so?) he gets a treat, like going to McDonalds or for frozen yogurt. We NEVER go to McDonald’s, and we’ve mostly been trying to avoid frozen yogurt due to his horrible teeth, so those would be fun options for him that he otherwise wouldn’t get. But what do we do about his sister? Does she get a sticker chart too? She doesn’t really need incentive to behave, she mostly behaves already. And if he doesn’t get his stickers, what about rewards for her? Does she only get McDonald’s or frozen yogurt when HE earns it? I don’t know how to figure this out.

Pain

Yesterday was really painful. First, I went to the doctor, who immediately suggested an endometrial biopsy. If you haven’t had one before, they’re basically like a really bad period cramp, magnified by 100 (although I’m guessing not as bad as childbirth?). Instead of the somewhat dull ache of cramps, it’s more like someone sticking a hot poker into your lower abdomen. In other words, it’s really painful, and the pain doesn’t end when they’re done with the biopsy, it sticks around for a few hours afterwards. Basically, it sucks.

I then made a VERY quick stop at IKEA (because after that, I deserved it) but there were people swarming everywhere. I don’t know where they all came from on an early Monday afternoon, but there you go. And then I got to go to L1’s before-school program to meet with the teacher to discuss the issues he’s having. These include:

• Throwing things at people and hitting them
• Yelling
• Using potty words (partly our fault, as we have a 2-year-old at home and we’re using “correct” words for things like pee, poop, and fart)
• Ignoring others including teachers
• Climbing furniture
• Disrespects peers and teachers
• Pushes
• Pulls
• Is very physical with peers

They didn’t even bother mentioning the racist comments he’d made, although I think he’s mostly stopped doing that. But I seriously didn’t even know what to tell the teacher. I explained that D had been talking to him every night, that we both had told him that he wouldn’t get to go to skateboard camp if he couldn’t prove that he can behave (since they’ll kick him out and I won’t get a refund), that we don’t tolerate him disrespecting us. I told her that we were expecting to get counseling and hopefully intensive behavior therapy (although he’s been in foster care over three months! Where are the services???). I’m at a complete loss.

Anyway, back to the pain. After that, D’s stupid cat got his claw stuck in my arm when I was looking under L2’s bed for a missing library book and I accidentally hit him. Then A slammed a door into my ear, which has several cartilage piercings. I may have used some choice words to describe that exquisite pain. And last but not least, Lola was being super annoying while we were watching TV so I gently rolled her off the couch, and she managed to hyperextend my ankle. I’m so happy yesterday is over.

Today, we have a social worker visit at 5:30 for A, a CASA visit at 5:45ish for A, and then the big kids have their karate assessment at 6:15. Tomorrow, the big kids have a visit with their parents, then I have to pick A up from a visit (although I still don’t know when or where), then we have a social worker visit for the big kids at 5. I feel like I’m losing my mind. Next week is going to be a busy week too, what with A’s 24-month check-up (only four months late!), both big kids having end-of-year events at school, and we’re finally getting our car windows tinted, although I’m wondering why we’re putting any more money into our cars.

On top of all of that, D is now telling me that I’m basically on my own for all of the days that the kids don’t have school or camp, plus he’s going to be gone for 5 days for an overnight camp that he’s volunteering for. And he doesn’t understand why I’m upset with him all the time.

Definitely not

So it’s been 6 days since my last post and I don’t think I have to worry about being pregnant (yay?). On Thursday, I started having real cramps, and by Friday I had a real period, much earlier than I should have. It’s weird. I scheduled a doctor’s appointment for today (with a doctor I’ve never seen before, but whatevs. I’m hopeful she’ll know about DOR, Asherman’s, fibroids, and all of the other issues I have). I haven’t had a PAP in at least two years, and since I’ve only had one normal one since I had several abnormal ones, I figure I might as well get that done.

On another note – it’s starting to feel like everything in my life is falling apart. Literally. We recently had to drain and clean our pool, and now that it’s all nice and sparkling, the concrete is starting to spall and come off the surface in chunks. It seems like it may have been refinished at some point and it wasn’t done particularly well. It can cost thousands to have a pool refinished, and I knew we were going to have to worry about it at some point, but I’m a little shocked at how badly this is happening now. And on top of that, the glass lens on our pool light cracked and we had to fish all the pieces out of the bottom of our pool, and when we were pumping out the pool we blew the outdoor outlet in the backyard and I can’t figure out how to get it to work again (long story, let’s just say I’m grateful no one was electrocuted and angry at home depot for giving us a faulty pump the first time I went in). Plus, our station wagon that we’ve only had a year and a half (it’s a 2002 but had just less than 50,000 miles when we bought it) apparently has leaky head gasket(s) and it will cost close to $4k to have them replaced, plus apparently we would be foolish to have them replaced without checking for cracks, and who knows how much that will cost? Considering the car supposedly cost less than $10k in the first place (plus an extra $5k that the dealership tacked on for some “service plan” that apparently doesn’t cover anything – note to self: don’t buy from a dealership ever again, especially from a sleazy salesman who tells you that he would never allow his girlfriend to ride a motorcycle), I’m not sure I’m ready to spend over $4k getting the car fixed. It’s so frustrating.

Anyway, how are things going with the kids? A is doing great! She has her first overnight with her mom this weekend, and I know her mom is nervous. A is very, very strong-willed, and her mom’s house is TINY. L2 is doing well, as well, although now she is refusing to get into the pool at swim practice because L1 is mean to her (or so she says – I know he isn’t nice to her, but I’m wondering if she’s using that as an excuse because she doesn’t want to swim). L1, on the other hand, got into trouble at school AGAIN and I have to go to a meeting with the teachers this afternoon. I also have a meeting with one social worker tomorrow, and another social worker on Wednesday, and I’m going to be ready to not have any more meetings at all come Thursday.

I don’t know what’s going on

I’m ever-so-slightly worried I might be pregnant. My last period was super, super, super light, with minimal cramping, and then a week later, I started having more weird feelings in my lower abdomen, sort of like very mild cramping, along with a persistent lower backache (my uterus is retroverted, so I often get a backache in addition to cramps). I had spotting on and off for another week or so, mostly when I had a BM (sorry, TMI?). And my boobs have been super, super sore. The spotting stopped as of yesterday (yay!) but the mild cramping and weird feelings continue. I don’t know what to make of it. I’m terrified of pregnancy (I’m guessing with my severe Asherman’s, it would be a really bad thing). I can’t even imagine how I could possibly even get pregnant, but I don’t know what to make of the symptoms I’m having. I don’t know if I want to waste money on a pregnancy test. Or get my hopes (fears?) up.

The insanity of my days

This is what a typical day looks like (except Mondays and Wednesdays, which are harder because of visits/no swim practice):

5 am – wake up. Try to get out of bed. Usually unsuccessful
5:20 am – actually get out of bed, start getting ready for the day, pack lunch, etc
6 am – wake kids, clean litter boxes, feed and water cats
6:15 am – leave for work
7 am – arrive at office
2:30 – leave work (after only putting in 7 hours, despite the fact that I’m the primary breadwinner)
3:10 – Pick up L1
3:30 – Pick up L2
3:45 – swim practice (Depending on the day). This is the best part of the day, as I can relax by the pool and talk to other moms (although L2 got upset with me yesterday because I “spend the whole time talking to people and not watching”)
4:30 – big kids finish swim practice, I try to drag them out of the spa as quickly as possible. Then I try to get them away from the pool, out of the crossfit area, and away from the window to the dance room where Zumba is going on. They love to press their faces against the window and just stare
5 pm (but really more like 5:05 or 5:10) – pick up A from daycare
5:15 pm – arrive home! Kids immediately begin whining, acting horribly, and refusing to go in the house because all of their toys are in the front yard. L1 and L2 often start riding their bikes, and A either hunts for snails or chases after the bigger kids, which can be super dangerous so I have to stay outside and keep a close eye on them. I start panicking that I can’t get dinner ready while the kids are in the front yard. Existential crisis ensues.
5:30 – 6:15 pm – D arrives home sometime during this time, I never know when. Despite the fact that I usually haven’t even made it in the house yet and I definitely haven’t had a chance to pee in HOURS, he insists on going to the bathroom, putting all his stuff away, etc, before coming out to keep an eye on the kids. Once he finally comes out (beer in hand), he starts to complain about his day. I tell him I have no time, then rush inside and maniacally try to get dinner on the table between 6:30 and 7
6:30 to 7 – Dinner is somewhat ready, but D has decided there is something that absolutely has to be done RIGHT THEN and so we all sit around waiting for him to feed the dogs/change the laundry/water something that could have been done 10 minutes earlier, but wasn’t
7:15 – Try to get the kids to clear their plates and go upstairs for showers/baths. From this point on, L2 reverts to constant whining about everything, L1 torments L2, and A sees the chaos and decides to hit whomever is nearest at any given opportunity, resulting in a million time-outs, more pouting/crying by L2, and L1 making fun of L2 for crying. I begin to wonder why I ever got married/became a foster parent in the first place. At the first opportunity, I sneak off to find my phone and start looking for cabins in the woods with no cell phone service
8 pm – With any luck, showers and baths are done, after telling L@ to do everything 10 times (brush your hair! Get in the shower! Wash your hair! Get out of the shower! Put your pajamas on! Brush your teeth! 10 times each, starting with a polite request and ending up with exasperated yelling). I hunt through the kids rooms to find the wet towels that they have bunched up and stuffed into any available crevice and ask myself why I mounted cute hooks for them to hang their towels on
8:30 – still trying to get the kids in bed
9 pm – on a good night, everyone is asleep! This almost never happens. If it does, I try to stay awake for an hour or so of television. I usually fail
9:30 – On a mostly good night, everyone is asleep! This sometimes happens. I usually crash and fall asleep not long after
10 – The more usual bedtime. I go straight to bed
11 – On a bad night, everyone is asleep at this point. I’m a walking zombie

You might wonder when I do the dishes, clean the kitchen, clean the house, or do anything else remotely useful. The answer is, most of the time I don’t. My house is a disaster zone. I can’t find anything. My husband is upset that I don’t get up EVEN EARLIER to get more done, but I am so not a morning person.

I also take care of: grocery shopping, meal planning, paperwork, bill paying, scheduling of everything (veterinary visits, car maintenance, doctor’s appointments, supervised visits for kids, camping trips (which involve researching where we’re going, making reservations, and finding a house-sitter), before and after school activities, summer camps, play dates, birthday parties (including figuring out what the other kids will do when one is at a party, RSVPing for the party, and buying and wrapping a gift), and keeping track of money (news flash: we’re broke!). I’m losing my mind. Also, I’m wondering why anyone has kids. Maybe I’m looking at this all wrong, and being infertile is a blessing in disguise.

Everything falls apart (plus your daily dose of mild sexism)

We’ve had the new kids since Friday night, and it has been quite a ride. I’ll call them L1 and L2. L1 is a 6-year-old boy in kindergarten, L2 is a 5-year-old girl in preschool. L2 is a sweetheart, always happy to help and generally fun to be around. She loves being a big sister to A, and she’s generally always happy. She seems to have some issues with people-pleasing, so I’m guessing her role in her bio family was the peacekeeper. I need to work hard to get her to advocate for herself and do what makes her happy instead of what she thinks other people want, while also encouraging her to step out of her comfort zone and try new things. She’s already made tons of new friends and is doing great at school. L2 is the opposite. He doesn’t think about others very often, hasn’t really made any friends, is incredibly destructive, antagonizes his sister and the dogs, lies constantly, doesn’t listen, hates rules, and in general is a pain in the butt. I can tell he’s hurting, but discipline is a major problem. He’s also really racist, which I’m assuming he picked up from his family of origin. And he’s not shy about sharing his racist beliefs. The one thing he has going for him is that he’s very kind and protective of both A and the cats (I think he sees them as defenseless and in need of his protection, and he likes to feel like a protector).

Obviously, we really have our work cut out for us and it doesn’t help that D has a bad temper. His anger flare-ups are making things worse, as it’s hard for a child to listen to you when you’re telling him to be kind, and then you turn around and yell at someone just because you’re frustrated. I was so angry with him the other night, although I was very careful not to yell at him. But I did tell him I was tired of him being mean to me. I mean, here I am, working full time at a job I don’t particularly like in order to support our family so that he can work at the low-paying job he supposedly loves, doing most of the childcare, the grocery shopping, the cooking, the cleaning, and handling all of the bill-paying and paperwork and everything that keeps our lives from completely falling apart, and he had a bad day at work and he’s mean to me all evening. I was so, so, so angry and he actually apologized, but sheesh.

I rode my motorcycle to work today, so D could use the truck to take the kids to school after dropping the car off for an oil change. After I arrived and parked, another motorcyclist arrived and pulled in near me. I ride a Triumph cruiser (think Harley, if you’re not a motorcycle person) while the new guy was riding a sports bike (think: Ducati? Motorcycle racing? Something like that anyway). One of the custodial staff for our building was working nearby, and he said to me “Did you just ride up on that motorcycle?” and completely ignored the other guy. I answered that I did, he asked if it was a Triumph and I said yes, and then he asked how I liked riding. I answered that I loved it. But the whole exchange still bothered me, and I wondered if it bothered the other motorcyclist. Was the custodian talking to me about it because I’m a woman? Because I ride a cruiser? Was he ignoring the other motorcyclist because he’s male? Or riding a sports bike? Was the other motorcyclist annoyed that I got attention simply for being a woman rider? Did he even notice? But I’m still irritated that to a lot of people, of course that guy was riding a motorcycle. Guys ride motorcycles. Anyone can assume that a guy can ride a motorcycle right? But a woman on a motorcycle? What a novelty! Who knew women could ride?

And if I seem a little offended, try substituting other things for “riding a motorcycle”. Like, “do math”, “be a scientist or engineer”, “work on a car”, “run a business”, “be President of the United States”, and so on. Grrrrrrrrrrr.

Anyway, D took the car in today. We apparently have a leaky head gasket and our catalytic converter is going (D’s phone changed it to “calico converter” and I had a good laugh). I’m terrified to find out how much it will cost. Out kitty Nymeria needs to have 5 teeth removed and it’s going to cost about $1K. The truck needs 3-4 new tires (depending on if we want to replace the full-size spare that’s 15 years old), and those size tires aren’t cheap. School for the kids is insanely expensive (they’re in public school, but it’s in the neighboring town that is full of wealthy families that frequently have a stay-at-home parent, so kindergarten is only 3 hours a day and the “daycare” that makes up the other 4 hours costs a small fortune – plus I have to take time off EVERY SINGLE DAY so I can get there in time to pick up L1).

I’m overwhelmed. And I haven’t even thought about everything that needs to be done to settle my mom’s estate in weeks, and there’s still a lot to do.

Big changes (maybe)

It feels like whenever I write here, it’s only to drop some sort of huge bombshell. (No, I’m not pregnant, and no, we’re not adopting, so I guess it’s not THAT huge).

We were called last week and asked if we would be willing to take a sibling set who has been in a placement for two months, but one of them wasn’t getting along with one of the children who already lived in the home. They’re 5 and 6, a girl and a boy. We thought about it A LOT. And we said yes (well, we left a message that we would do it and we’re waiting to hear back about whether another family was willing to take them first. I’m not sure what we’re getting ourselves into here. These kids are much more likely to need to be adopted (as opposed to A, who is right on track to go home this summer), and right now they’re living in one of the other big towns in our county, where it would be ideal for them to stay until they finish school for the year. The social worker had been trying to find a family in that town, but hadn’t been having any luck.

That would mean three drop-offs and pick-ups daily, in two different towns (neither of which is where we work, and only one is where we live), plus an extra visit every week (possibly two) in ANOTHER town. I would have to start driving to work. I would need to find parking and try to keep up with maintenance on the car a bit better (oopsies) and budget more for gas. We would have to figure out summer childcare. We would need to fit them in our house, which is getting awfully crowded with the addition of a lot of my mom’s stuff and D’s parents downsizing and giving us a lot of stuff.

I’m feeling somewhat conflicted. On the one hand, they’re super close in age to my sister’s twins and my brother’s youngest (and not too far behind my brother-in-law’s youngest too), which is awesome. There’s a really good chance we could adopt, which we really want to do, and we’re in our late 30s so this age really is perfect. A has been having some serious terrible twos lately and the idea of older kids is really appealing, plus we’d be able to start camping and hiking and doing all the fun stuff you can do with slightly older kids. And I talked to their current foster mom, who assured us that they’re really great kids and love the outdoors just like us! But as we pack up all the baby stuff we’ve been collecting for the last year and a half to try to make some room, I’m feeling awfully sad that we’re not getting a baby. Of course, taking these two doesn’t mean we can’t get a baby later. Who knows if they’ll stay with us? And there will always be more babies needing homes in our county (although we never seem to get calls for the babies). But I’m turning 39 this summer. I do kind of feel like my time to raise a baby is getting short. I’m so tired these days, and dealing with a 2-year-old is really pushing me to the limits of my patience.

I’m very worried about how A will react. She has older brothers whom she loves, but she only sees them a few times a week with her mom or dad, and they’re doing fun stuff. Most of the time, she’s an “only child” and she really relishes all the attention she gets. She does love older kids, but just this weekend she started saying “mine” about everything, even if it wasn’t hers, and if we get these kids, she’s going to have to share a room, and she’s going to have to give up her bed and move back into her toddler bed (which is where she should be sleeping anyway). We’ll have to rearrange all the furniture, move the crib out (which is where we’ve been storing all of her clothes because she likes to pull them out of the dresser drawers), and find a new place to keep all of her millions of stuffed animals, which have been living in the toddler bed. And we both have to work all week, we have vet appointments for Lola and Nymeria (our perfect cat whom I never talk about because she’s perfect), I have minor surgery Wednesday, and I’m hosting a book club meeting Thursday evening, so we don’t even have that much time.

I’d like to share a funny story about A. She’s figured out that she can use toilet paper for wiping (which she is really bad at) and for blowing her nose, but she can’t figure out how to rip the pieces off the roll. She would just pull and pull and pull until she either gave up or one of us saw what was happening. So on Saturday I commented on FB about how I spend an inordinate amount of time rolling TP back onto the roll (since she only uses the first few squares and the rest is salvageable). That afternoon, I threw our bath towels in the wash and dried them, and forgot they were there. I went to take a shower yesterday morning and forgot that there were no towels in the bathroom until I was about to get out. During the shower, A wandered into the bathroom, realized I was in the shower, and started crying because she couldn’t get to me (yay terrible twos!). When I poked my head out to grab my towel and realized it wasn’t there, I said “A, can you please go tell dada to bring me a towel?” I didn’t really expect too much, but I thought it was worth a try.

She said “Dada… towel… ok!” and took off. And came back a minute later with 5 squares of toilet paper which she proudly handed to me and then just stood there waiting for me to use it. At least now she knows how to rip it off!

OK, just one more story. As I said, she’s hitting the terrible twos really hard right now. That means that bedtime has become quite the struggle. D and I go upstairs with her and try to get her to calm down, put a nighttime diaper and pajamas on, read some books, lie down, and hopefully go to sleep. We will often lie down on the floor with her when it’s time to turn the lights out to make her feel more comfortable. On Saturday night, instead of going to bed, she got up, got each of us a blanket and bottle, kissed us, and left the room. When she’s left the room during bedtime before, it’s usually just to grab something from the playroom and come right back, but a few seconds later, I heard the dog gate open, so I jumped up and rushed out to find her kissing the dogs and telling them good night as they slept on the couch. It was the cutest thing ever. I’m really going to miss her.