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


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 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


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.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Happy Birthday to My Eldest Son

Last Sunday was A's 14th birthday.  We celebrated the Friday before with a hike with his friends and the movies (Captain America--so good!).  Sunday we had a family barbecue to celebrate his actual birthday and K's which was on the 30th..  It was a crazy weekend. Unfortunately K was sick and out of action the whole day of the party (end up in ER that night with strep and flu diagnosis).  We also had a bunch of people who RSVP'd and then didn't show (totally annoying since I cooked for the original amount). A had a great time, though, which is what is most important.

He is such a great kid.  Funny. Empathetic. Interesting. Intellectually curious.  Wonderful big brother and cousin. I could go on and on about how much joy he brings to my life and those around him. I am so very lucky to be his mom.

Here are a few pictures celebrating my sweet guy.

A and his friends starting the hike.

A with the first catch of the day--a juvenile water snake.

A ring neck snake.

D catches a water snake.

Big bro and little bro.

The bluebells were beautiful.

A had so much fun with his friends and was totally in his element.

My sweet L.

A ring neck snake.

A catches a queen snake.

Last snake of the day--another ring neck snake.

The whole crew with their new shirts.

2 year old H (oldest daughter of sister S)
My in-laws with A.

Me and my buddy.