Wednesday, July 9, 2014

ABC's

Not sure why I haven't been able to write lately.  It's not really a lack of time as it's more of a lack of motivation.  I've been keeping up with reading all the blogs I love.  I simply haven't had the "umph" to sit down at the keyboard and knock out a post.  Lots of "drafts" in my head. Not sure why and not sure it really matters.

In an effort to get back on the horse, here's an update for each member of our assorted cast in alphabetical order.

A.
A is really have a great few weeks.  He did amazing at his recent skate competition and far exceeded his own expectations.  Most importantly, he dedicated his skates to our young neighbor with cancer who is currently sitting in a bed at the hospital the event was raising money for.  We texted her pictures during the weekend including a cute one with her initials written on his arm.  He actually came in second in the fundraising aspect of the event and won tons of cool prizes including a new longboard.  On the herpetology front, he has caught and filmed two species that he has been looking for at least 4 years.  One was at a secret location shown to us by his local mentor that included us pulling about 100 ticks off of each other (yuck). Totally worth it though to see his face after he found the snake he has been searching for for such a long time. He's actually been in such a good mood, it's been a bit annoying.

D.
D has also been having a good start to the summer.  This week he's running a sports camp out of our house from 9:30 to 12 teaching soccer and baseball.  Campers include his brother and 3 cousins, but also 2 kids from down the street.  He's only charging $50 for the week and having such a great time.  He wants to earn money to buy a new itouch and came up with a great plan.  He wrote curriculum, collected all the gear, and taking it very seriously.  I've been impressed with how professionally he's handling himself.  We've been getting requests from other parents who've heard how much fun the kids are having so he might even do a second week at some point. With D, it's very important to keep him busy and with a focus, and the camp has been just what the doctor ordered.

E.
Ah, E...We've had moments of normalcy, but for the most part she has been so difficult. We almost feel like she's regressed to our first year together.  I'm assuming it's her way of dealing with leaving us in the fall and a result of her anxiousness about everything. It's still really annoying. I'm trying so hard to balance being patient and at the same time not allowing her to make life miserable for everyone else. She has always needed to be the center of all attention and recently taken it to a whole new level. Inappropriate comments during family events, complaining about food again, and rude comments to her sister and cousins.  I knew this summer with her was going to be trying.  Going through it with that knowledge isnt' helping too much.  On the good news, she's really busy finally with lessons and coaching so she's not around as much to cause too much havoc.

K.
I'm trying.  Really, really trying to focus a little more on him and our marriage.  Last week I tried to make extra efforts to be kind to him and he did seem to be more engaged with our family life. He's at least making more efforts with the kids and for that I'm happy.  I still yearn for a day that I feel more like we are a team and one time he put me first.  I still worry about his overall mental and physical health.  He has not been himself since he got sick.  I don't know what to do to help him other than love him the best I can and hope we weather this storm.

L.
This kid is hilarious. He makes all of us smile and laugh throughout the day.  I love every age, but 7 has really been a blast with this one. I've made a concerted effort to get more one-on-one time with him.  We've had some great nights at the pool, game time after dinner just the two of us, and cosy time on the couch.  His big prize to start the summer was a box of 120 crayons.  His favorite thing to do is reading all the different colors...his current favorite is piggy pink.  We are easing into doing his summer reading and I decided that playing 1 v 1 on words with friends must count for some academic work. Right?

M.
We've had our ups and downs with M lately.  She's had a much better attitude about swimming and as a result she's been doing great.  In a little bit of harmless rebellion, she dyed her gorgeous red hair hot pink/purple at the ends last week.  I think it looks dorky (A hates it), but giving her this little bit of control seems to help her behavior overall. We did have a few days of weirdness and a fake illness that included me bringing her to the doctor to call her bluff.  Very tiring our M can be. We also just finished up her re-testing for learning disabilities and ADHD last week and get her results next Friday. I'm curious to see how things have changed if at all in the 3 years since we last tested.  She and her sister have been fighting non-stop.  I'm thinking E going off to college in the fall is going to calm things down for her a bit.

P.
Then there's me.  I've been a bit off and maybe that's why my writing has slowed.  Chicken and egg kinda thing I think.  Even with school out, I simply have so much to do in the day that it's impossible to get everything done.  The result is often a feeling of being so overwhelmed that I am paralyzed not knowing what to prioritize.  I get further behind and the cycle keeps going. My patience at the end of the day is non-existent. I'm working to stay in the positive as much as possible...key word being "work."  I hope one day I'll turn the corner and truly accept this is my life and tackle it with the same enthusiasm the old Peg used to without having to make such a cognizant effort.

Other randoms...World Cup has continued to be so fun.  Lots of gatherings at our house to watch all the games not just the US (poop we lost against Belgium). We got a ping pong table. It's awesome and the boys especially have had a great time playing.  K and I both had a table growing up and have enjoyed playing with them.  Our house has also become the hang-out place this summer.  Today we have two of M's friends, one of A's friends and my nephew R.  Actually A's friend has been here pretty much non-stop since Saturday (he moved home from England on Friday).  I like this. 

I'll try to write more regularly.  Getting this out today makes me feel good.  I've got lots of things to be grateful for and this blog is one of them.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Believe

Where have I been? 

Here, slugging along with lots going, but also watching lots and lots of World Cup soccer.  It's been fun.  The kids have played impromptu games in our backyard, taking on the names of their favorite teams and players.  I actually got to play in a tourney last weekend which was a blast.

We root for the United States and England in this house.  My father-in-law and brother-in-law were both in Brazil which made things even more exciting.  We've had lots of family over for each of the US games making it loads of fun.  The boys have been sporting their US jerseys every chance they get.

The US team just lost to Germany, but given the Portugal v Ghana result, we made it through.  If you don't know, the US was put in the "group of death" and weren't given much of a chance to make it to the final 16.  I have consistently been positive about our chances and spouting off to the kids that, "I Believe!!" the phrase coined by US goalie Tim Howard.

Lots of posts in draft.  Too negative and whiny given our mood today with the US result to post.

I believe and will be rooting for our boys come Tuesday.

Go USA!!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Graduates

We've had a lot going on over here in the land of graduations.  Sorry for the long writing break, but in addition to all the festivities we had unbelievable sports drama with D and the stress of these big changes in our family has made me (and everyone else) a bit of a basket case.

E's graduation was spectacular.  She graduated valedictorian and gave hands down the best speech I've heard (I'm a little biased, but seriously, she compared their high school experience to Chipotle...so funny, clever and touching).  She was so happy and our party afterwards was fun.

E with all the cousins.

E with the aunts.

E with her sisters.
 
 
Last night was 8th grade graduation for A and M.  They had a fun and emotional week leading up to the actual graduation mass.  A has been at his school for 9 years.  He has such great friends and it was tough on me thinking of my little boy all grown up.  We are so happy with the experience he has had at our school, and the way M has been embraced has been such a blessing. A won academic awards for honor roll and English. M won an academic award for Religion and the last individual award of the night for living her Catholic values.  The awards were actually big surprises for all of us. She was floating on air getting not one but two awards.  A was his usual chill self and happy to be starting summer vacation.  He's got lots of plans for herping and skating.
 
 
The graduates

Me and K with the graduates.

Me and my boy.

Big bro with little bro.

Me and my guys.
 
This morning I only dropped off D and L at school.  It was quiet.  It was strange.  I think sometimes in our family we brace ourselves expecting badness to come with change. Frankly, that has been our experience the past four years. In this case, I can only hope for positives.  I really can't wait to see what's in store for our three graduates as they start their new adventures.  I'll be there to support and cheer them on all the way.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Finish Line?



Yesterday E turned 18.  We had a big family party on Sunday.  A bunch of her friends also came and E seemed happy to show off her entire family including all of my in-laws who have embraced the girls wholeheartedly.  We ordered pizza from a local NY pizza joint and I made a "duo of penne" that are her two favorite pasta dishes that I make.  It was a lot of work getting the house ready, buying supplies, making a red velvet cake and 24 key lime cupcakes, cooking, etc.  Everyone had a really nice time with good food and company, corn hole going in the backyard and, due to lovely weather, a fun game of whiffle ball at the park across the street. 

Her mellow, sweet mood followed into the next day (her actual birthday) and she didn't even mind that her birthday dinner was leftovers from the night before since D and L had baseball games.  She loved all her presents which was my biggest coup since she is notoriously picky and has a hard time hiding her disappointment.

Since we adopted the girls almost 4 years ago people have always commented that we only have four years of parenting E.  Like somehow that 18 was going to be the magic number and our parenting responsibilities would end.  It doesn't work that way at all.

The things that have changed:
1.  We are no longer her "legal" guardians in that we have to sign things for her as a minor.
2.  We don't have to itemize every penny we use out of the guardianship account and submit a report to the state commissioner.
3.  We no longer receive social security money which helped defray the costs of food, clothes, school fees, swimming stuff, gas money, etc.

Things that have not changed:
1. She is still part of our family and one of our kids.
2. She still has to follow our rules.
3. We will still feed her, do her laundry, take care of her, support  her and do all the things parents do for their kids getting ready to head off to college in the fall.
4.  We still love her and worry about her and want the best for her.

Just like most parents who would never consider their parenting roles done after their kids turned 18, I don't understand why some (including members of my family) thought that when she turned 18 K and I would triumphantly stagger across the finish line with our arms raised in glory and that this date would absolve us of all our responsibilities for E.  She and her sister are not the little lost orphan girls without a family.  I am tired of people treating us that way. We are their family and that is forever. 

I do recognize that our relationship will change in the next year, especially as she heads to college.  I would be lying if I didn't admit that in lots of ways life will be a bit easier with her at school (one less mouth to feed, no more 3:30am wake ups for swim).  But I will also worry about her in a way I haven't had to with her living under our roof.  I expect the texts and phone calls to keep coming all day like they do right now.  She'll be home on holidays, summers and we'll proudly travel down for parent's weekend.  I can't wait to see her swim in the green and gold (go Tribe!).

Even though she came into our family under tragic circumstances that we all wish didn't happen, and through all of the pain, frustration and work living with E has entailed, she is still part of our family.  We will support her in the next stage of her life and be there for her when she needs us and cheer her on in her new adventures.  That's what family does.  We may be dysfunctional in lots of other ways, but in this way our family totally rocks.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Progress of Sorts

Prom.

 
E with the boys












 
 
E with the aunts (a force to be reckoned with)

Last Friday was senior prom round these parts.  E looked lovely and had a great night.  The pre- and after-get togethers were at our house.  Hosting 14 couples (and their parents before) was a bit of a pain and she played me like a fiddle into hosting as the week progressed.  Not everybody stayed for the after party, but it was still a big group. In the long run, I don't really care. What is important is that she wanted to have her friends come to our house....her house.  For somebody who complains about our messy, cluttered house, this was a big deal. She wanted for us to host her friends!! I had food and drinks (water and gatorade) out and they ended up playing Apples to Apples and watching a movie.  They were kinda loud and stayed up till 3am with her 3 besties spending the night.  We chalked it all up to a family memory of the time we hosted E's prom after party and sucked up being tired the next day.

D.
D had a good week of soccer practice last week and played a great game on Sunday (with lots of well deserved playing time).  His coach seemed to be a lot more positive with him.  He was certainly in a much better frame of mind.  As soccer seems to be settling down into his normal rhythm, he's had a couple rough baseball games at the plate, including striking out for the last out last night in the 6th, with two runs on down 3-1. He was in tears which doesn't ever happen with him.  Being 12, the world is coming to an end and no amount of pointing out that major leaguers hit only about 3 out of 10 times, and telling him that what he pulls off each week as an athlete is amazing helped. 

As we talked him through it last night just the three of us, what really came out is that he's sad his little league career is coming to an end.  He has loved playing little league baseball and it has been a really positive experience.  He wanted a huge last season.  He's playing well, but not having the breakout season he wanted.  His coach this year isn't getting him enough reps in batting practice as in previous years and he feels like he's not hitting with as much power as he wants. His chances for the 11-12 all star team (the one qualifying with Willliamsport) are pretty slim given the numbers of available kids (other kids  play travel and basically play baseball 7 days a week).  He works so hard at all he does, I'm crossing my fingers he gets in.  And for the record, we do NOT push him into any of his sports.  This is all him.  While A loves his reptiles and skateboard, D is obsessed with sports of all kinds.

Coming up...
E turns 18 on the 19th.  We are hosting a birthday party for her on Sunday at our house.  I've got mixed feelings about all of this.  Technically, she will be an adult and we no longer will be her guardians.  I'm hoping the last four years of work will allow us to continue to be her parents.  To be honest, I'm a little nervous how it's going to play out.

E graduates from high school on June 1st.  The relatives from Indiana (Mike's family) are coming.  She's valedictorian...Yay!!  Again mixed feelings about all of this.  We're hosting a big ta-doo at our house afterwards.  Hoping I'll be able to pull it all off.

A and M graduate from 8th grade 3 days later.  This is a big deal for A.  He's been at this school for 9 years.  My heart is happy and sad all at once.  Trying to be there for both A and M is going to be hard.  My big boy is growing up.  Thinking about him in high school squeezes my heart in a way that E graduating from high school doesn't.  It's all a bit complicated.

Just taking things one day at a time.  Being in the present moment.  Finding the moments of joy and love.  Being all I can be to these 5 great kids.  I'm trying.  I'm trying. I'm trying.

I'm making progress....of sorts.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Dude

Korinthia got me thinking about A and his skateboarding.  Just like I can't control his passion for reptiles and amphibians which could lead to his exposure to a venomous snake, there is no way I could keep this kid off a skateboard.  Yes, he has broken an ankle and gotten stitches in a very uncomfortable place, but the pluses way outweigh the negative risks.  In addition to making him happy, it has taught him about hard work and it's actually really good for fitness (his abs are ripped). I do love that he plays soccer, but to be honest it just isn't his passion.

He's my skateboarding herpetologist.  And, dude, he totally rocks.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Lesson

Sixth grade was a pivotal moment in my soccer career. When I started playing soccer in third grade, I played a year up because I went along with my best friend who was a year older and lived behind us.  Back then, it was no big deal for me to play an age group ahead.  I was quick and skilled, but was a lot smaller than the other players which was compounded by my age.

This was the season that my coach, who was also my best friend's dad and neighbor, decided that I was just too small and my playing time reduced greatly.  One game in particular, in which my dad had driven me an hour up to Maryland to play, ended with my limited playing time and my dad having heated words with the coach.  I stood by nervously listening to my coach tell my dad I was just too small and would never be able to play in high school let alone college.  My heart dropped.  I loved to play.  I mean, I really loved to play soccer and worked on my game constantly in my free time, juggling the ball or playing with the boys on my street.  I was crushed.  My dad was furious.

A week later, I was off that team and had moved on to the team in my own age group for the same club.  I was a star on that team.  Nicknamed "mighty mouse" by one of the moms, my prowess on the field continued.  But I always had my old coach's words in the back of my mind.  I was never going to be able to play in high school.

I don't remember if it was a conscious decision, but I used those words as a motivator rather than a fait accompli for my soccer life.  I wasn't going let someone else dictate my play or take away from my love of the game.  My inner confidence, bolstered by my dad standing up for me, kept me motivated and allowed me to improve.  My size didn't take away from my success, but made me work on my foot skills, knowledge of the game and use my speed and aggressive play to my advantage.  The words were there, but they didn't effect me.

***************************************

D plays on a very competitive soccer team.  They are a good team, although haven't really gotten the overall successes, tournament wins, etc. that their potential might suggest.  D has been on the team since he was a U9 player, so we are at the tail end of his fourth year with the same coach.  His coach is British, who started with a professional English Premier League school boys team at the age of 12, dropped out of school by 16, and played professional for several years.

K and I have always had a problem with his coach.  I do think he runs good practices.  They are varied and fun, and the boys work hard for each other and go from going into hard tackles against each other to high fives for a good goal.  Our issue has always been his coaching style and the way he chastises the boys for poor play.  Our biggest problem, though, is how he treats our son in particular.  D gets yelled at for every little thing.  Screams of "what is wrong with you!" have happened multiple times during the past seasons.  D often plays like he doesn't want to make a mistake rather than just playing his own game. His body language in baseball and basketball is completely different than in soccer where he seems nervous.

New parents on the team have come up and commented on how D in particular gets the brunt of his negative rants while other boys making mistakes don't get yelled at or don't have mistakes dictate their playing time.  We also disagree with some of his tactical decisions (especially defensively), but that doesn't bother us too much.

We have addressed this issue in "anonymous" coach evaluations.  Did no good.  We talked to the president of the club, who's son is also on the team.  Did no good.  It became obvious that he knew how we felt about him, so direct discussions weren't really in the cards.  We actually thought the past year was better.  D still got yelled at, but it wasn't as bad.  We think he's had a good year on the field.

Cue to the weekend before last.  The boys state cup game playing a team that we have beaten as recently as August of last year.  D started the game--a big deal.  He played well, according to his dad, for the first 20 minutes.  They were up 1-0 and the other team scored a goal in which D was involved in the play (he plays defense) but it was certainly not his fault.  He immediately was pulled out.  Got in a few minutes the rest of the half.  In the second half he only got in for 5 minutes and was benched the entire overtime with a 2-2 score.  The team lost in penalty kicks.  D was crushed.  Not as much by the loss, but by how he didn't get a chance to play.  All he focused on was that one play and not all the good things he had done the rest of the half.

The next day he had a regular league game, and didn't start, but got his normal playing time and did well.  While he was still a bit down from the Saturday game, he went to practice like normal and did his thing.  Then we had his player evaluation on Thursday one-on-one with the coach.  K couldn't make it, so I went.  Last year's had been pretty good, so I wasn't too worried.  D was terrified.

It was awful.  I could go on and on about how this jerk talked to my son.  Any positive statement was caveatted with a negative connotation.  He even started off criticizing D for not going to camp last summer--a decision out of his hands and due to our family vacation and the fact that D doesn't like sleeping away from home let alone an overnight camp 1.5 hours from home.  Poor D, handled the situation the best he could listening and nodding as his coach criticized him for things that I completely disagree with.  It took all of my strength not to scream at the guy, but I didn't want to embarrass D and was afraid in my temper I'd say something I'd regret.

Afterwards, D had to go to practice and I called K and relayed the ridiculous conversation.  He was pissed too and couldn't believe that crap coming out of the coach's mouth.  We both agreed that we couldn't let this go, and needed to advocate for our son.  We discussed what I would say to make sure the coach wouldn't get defensive. 

I approached the coach after the practice and asked for a few minutes.  I calmly stated that we think D could use some positive feedback and was feeling down about his play.  He could have simply said, "Thanks for the information.  I'll try to give him some more positive feedback.  He's a great kid, I love to coach him."  Instead he got defensive and went on the attack.  I thought the evaluation was bad, but wow, this was crazy.  I quickly realized that he wasn't listening and tried to give him opportunities to step back and stop the crazy, but it only got worse. He wasn't talking to me like a parent and it was obvious he has issues with me and K. It was awful.  At the minimum, it was horrible customer service.

I asked D on the way home what he thought of the evaluation and he said, "Coach D hates me.  I suck.  I am the worst player on the team."

Here's the problem.  K coaches for the same club.  This coach is the technical director for the whole club and not only K's overall soccer boss, but he has the A team in the same age group.  He can directly affect K getting to coach, which also affects our son A.  D loves his team.  He has tons of friends on the team.  It is our local soccer club, so geographically it makes logistics doable with all the kids' schedules.  This is the A team, and D belongs on this team developmentally.  The situation is complicated and sucks.

Then there was Sunday's game, three days after the stupid conversation.  D played 16 minutes the entire game.  8 in each half. This childish, immature coach took it out on my 12 year old little boy.  I wanted to cry.  A week ago, he was good enough to start in the state cup game.  A conversation happens in which I simply ask the coach (who gets paid by my coaching fees) to be more positive with my son, and he gets benched.  Ugh.  K handled the whole conversation with D after the game really well.  He stayed positive and told D he is a great player and not to let it bug him.  Thank goodness he had two amazing baseball games the night before or my little serious athlete would be crushed.

******************************************

So is this D's sixth grade lesson?  Is this the moment that makes or breaks his soccer path like it did for me?  I'm hoping it's just a blip and things will settle down back to the normal status.  We have discussed him moving to the team a year up and have considered switching clubs.  Frankly, we don't have the time or energy to worry about all this right now.

On the way to practice tonight, I plan on sharing my story with him while we have some private time in the car.  I want him to learn the lesson that getting his coach's validation shouldn't affect his love of the game and his belief in himself that he is a great player.  I'm not sure it will help, but like me with my dad, I need him to know that we are in his corner. This one coach's opinion doesn't have to define him as a player now or ever.  Or maybe this will be the moment that pushes us and him to make a tough decision to switch teams, and years from now he'll run into this coach and get to tell him all about his caps with the US National Team.



p.s. that last sentence was a joke, but heck who knows his dream of being the first tri-professional athlete in soccer, baseball and basketball may happen.

p.s.s. my best friend (old coach's daughter) ended up playing with me at W&M.  After every game, he apologized for saying those things to me and repeated over and over again how wrong he was.