I haven't blogged in quite a while, but I'm hoping to get back in the swing. We've had our ups and downs the past several months, and for a while I felt either too overwhelmed or too unmotivated to keep up the blog. Am taking advantage of this rainy afternoon to catch up a little. Breathe in...breathe out...
Some of our story is harder to tell these days because there is more to keep private when kids get older. I read a blog post a while back - something like "to the mom of older kids" that expressed this idea nicely. When the kids are little, you can share those common struggles and stories widely without much worry - the tantrums, potty-training fails, and funny things they say aren't going to haunt us much if posted on Facebook. Now that they are 11 and 9, it's trickier...especially when your kids have certain challenges. When friends are posting about their kids' successes in school and on the soccer field, whereas you are that mom just waiting for the next call from the school principal, it's not exactly a boost to your self-image as a parent.
In short, the last 10 months have been somewhat tough going. No major crises - thank heaven! Suffice it to say that no one in our family is without issues, and I'm not always feeling equipped to handle things skillfully. For a while things did get easier when the kids were in school, but as it turns out, our kids are getting to a point where school (and life in general) is stressful for them. More is expected of them, friendships and school relationships get more complicated, and they both struggle with executive functions such as emotional control, time management, response inhibition (impulse control), and self awareness. (And -to be fair - Bryan and I have our exec skills weaknesses too.) Without revealing the gory details, I'll just say we've been weathering a series of storms.
But now for the good part. Things are getting better. The turnaround started when we enrolled Sam in a summer camp for kids with ADHD, including a parent education class. The main takeaway for me was the connection between ADHD and executive skills - something they didn't teach us in medical school. Sam is 3-6 years delayed in executive functions - typical of ADHD kids. Until I saw it laid out on paper I didn't truly appreciate this, but it was an "aha" moment. We gained new understanding of many behaviors, such as why he can't get himself ready for school on time, and now we're learning how to better set our expectations, and best of all how to help teach him the skills he needs (and stop blaming ourselves for his delays). The medications are very helpful in regulating his brain so he can learn, but meds don't teach skills. He's struggling a bit in third grade so far, but we're working with the teacher, principal, and after-school care staff and he's doing OK. They learned what happens when they don't give him his medication on time, and I think it only happened once. ;-)
As for Alle - she found school stressful too, but for different reasons. She also has some delays in executive functioning. After some research and soul-searching, we decided to go out on a limb and try online school at home for her this year. So far it's working out very well - she's less stressed and is less irritable and more fun to live with. She is learning to finish her school work by 1-2 p.m and is enjoying her extra free time. She has read through the Chronicles of Narnia and a few other book series. She's still playing violin, doing Tae Kwon Do, and being creative.
A little side story about Tae Kwon Do - they invited parents to participate, and Bryan broke his wrist on the punching bag. He fractured and displaced the scaphoid bone and had to have surgery this week. It is hindering his video game time but he is being a good sport about it. :-) .
So because of online school, we hired an au pair from Cape Town, South Africa to come for the year and be Alle's learning coach. (We chose the au pair option over a nanny or tutor because of flexible hours, the cultural exchange, and it made financial sense.) Her name is Mischell, she is 23, and we adore her! She's bright and fun and good with the kids. It's fun to see our life and American culture through her eyes. She expresses appreciation for a lot of simple things we take for granted, like automatic doors at the supermarket and kitchen garbage bags with built-in handles to tie. We are learning which restaurants and products are available in Cape Town (KFC, Finish dish detergent) and which are totally new (Olive Garden, Pop Tarts, grits, seaweed snacks). She's getting used to driving on the right side of the road and is enjoying exploring Utah with other au pair friends from Spain, Mexico, and Colombia. It is super nice to have another adult around, and nice for the kids to have a "big sister" - way more cool than a parent.
And now for me - I'm very, very grateful for the friends and family who have helped encourage me, and I feel I am finally getting back on firmer ground. Run-walking is keeping me sane too - the highlight this year was running the Redwoods Marathon with 2 brothers, one sister-in-law plus friends. Gorgeous course, great weather, and totally worth taking the kids out of school for a week. I ran two more half-marathons, bringing the total to 5 marathons and thirteen halfs. I need ideas for the next marathon. Anyone want to run one with me???
Love to all,