August 27, 2009

Totally unprepared

Posted in Teaching traumas at 3:29 pm by Erin

I’ve had to deal with a lot of students’ issues in the past 3 years.  Students who are pregnant, sometimes not happily and often unexpectedly.  Students who have been kicked out of their homes.  Students who are drug addicts or recovering addicts.  Students going through divorces.  There have been many of them.  It’s one of the hardest parts of my job, because I am not a trained counselor by any stretch of the imagination, and yet they’re giving me their trust.  They’re deciding that I’m the person that they can trust to tell about these things.  It’s humbling and terrifying.


Today, though.  Today just whacked me upside the head and I’m still spinning around.


First thing this morning, a student came in to apologize for missing a class yesterday.  She may have been given a drug that rendered her unconscious, after which she was definitely beaten and (reading between the lines of what she said) probably raped.  We talked for a little while before she left, and I offered her my ear if she needs it.  We have counselors and I recommended them but she wasn’t ready for that*.


After my class, a former student came by to say hello.  He looked upset and I asked him if he wanted to talk about it.  He started out sharing that he’s about to get kicked out of the country because his visa will expire and can’t be extended.  Then he started explaining the major cause of upset, which involves an affair, abuse (not of him), and a broken marriage with children involved.  I don’t feel right sharing the details, but he was here for 40 minutes talking about how this situation is happening and his role in it and all.


Again, I recommended the counselors for both himself and one of the other people involved, but he wasn’t interested.  He just wanted to talk about the situation with me and get my take on it.  I reminded him several times that I have no experience in counseling and that I’m not a professional at that, but he clearly needed to talk it out and have someone reinforce his decisions.


It astounds me the thintgs my students go through.  I’m honored that they think I can help, but these stories…they just leave me feeling like I’m flailing about, looking for the right thing to say.  The longer I’m here, the more I hear from them.  It’s amazing how the truth of some of these stories rings through the simplest of words that they use.


It just makes my heart break for them.


*I often recommend our counselors but very few students take me up on it.  It seems easier for them to talk to me about it than to go to someone who’s a professional in what they need.

August 26, 2009

A slap in the face and a kick in the crotch

Posted in TTC woes at 8:19 pm by Erin

A student in my first class this morning left a few minutes before the end of class.  In the break between my first and second class, she came back into the room and whispered “I’m so sorry that I had to leave.  I have morning sickness.”


After my second class, I went back up to my office and logged onto Facebook to find a pregnancy announcment…for someone due mid-March.


Because August didn’t suck enough…

August 23, 2009

The post that started shallow and ended deep

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:22 pm by Erin

P started Sunday school today.  Now we’ve got school 5 days a week, synagogue on Saturday, and Sunday school.  He was really, really negative about it until this morning and, because I am a horrible mom, I threatened him.  He’s been saving his allowance for months now to get a Legos pirate ship (seriously, it was $104.99 and he gets $5/week) and today earned the last $5 towards it.  He’s known he was close to his goal for weeks now, and J and I had promised that we would take him out today to get it.  When he started whining about not wanting to go to Sunday school for the 50th time today, I told him that if he whined again or behaved poorly, we weren’t going to get it today.


It worked.  He didn’t make another peep about it.  And I only felt moderately guilty about it.


Don’t ask me how I would have felt if he had whined and I’d had to follow through.


Anyway, he’s in the Pre-K/Kindergarten class.  There are two girls from his Pre-K class at the Jewish Community Center there, which is great, and another friend that we see weekly at shul.  She walked in unhappy about being there, saw P, gasped, and said “I love P!”  After that, there was no trouble.


It’s 3 hours long.  When I first heard that, I thought “There goes my Sunday morning.”  I started to feel resentful.


When J and I were talking about getting married, but before we were engaged, he wanted to raise our children without a specific religion; that is, he wanted to expose them to both of our religions and let them choose when they were old enough.  I refused.  I said I had no objection to exposing them to both religions but wanted my children raised Jewish.  First of all, because they would be Jewish by birth since I am Jewish.  Second of all, because it is important to me (though less so at that time).  Third, because they should be bar/bat mitzvah’d around age 12/13, not age 18.  And finally, I said, “What child is going to give Judaism an equal shot when they have to go to Hebrew school twice a week after school, synagogue on Saturdays, and Sunday school on Sundays?  Their Christian friends will go to church and Sunday school one morning a week.  No child is going to look at the deeper religious significance and decide that all the extra schooling is worth it.  They’re just going to look at which one gives them more play time.”


I knew this was coming 12 years ago, before we were even engaged.  I’m so glad we made the decision back then, especially as J really doesn’t attend church anymore (he actually goes to synagogue with us far more often than he goes to church) and I worry that our kids would have been raised without much religion either way.  12 years ago, it wasn’t even that important to me; I wasn’t even sure how much religion I wanted to have in my own life, let alone any hypothetical children’s lives.


We are not a typical interfaith household.  I consider it very important to raise my children Jewish, for many reasons.  We are Conservative Jews, not Orthodox, but also not Reformed.  I was raised with a Catholic father and Jewish mother in a Conservative synagogue.  Most interfaith families go to Reformed synagogues since very few Conservative rabbis support intermarriage.  And yet, J and I were married by a rabbi.  I don’t feel comfortable in a Reformed synagogue…it doesn’t feel like enough somehow.  My rabbi has met J several times and welcomes him as warmly as he welcomes anyone else to the synagogue (a lovely change from my mom’s synagogue, which has never welcomed my father despite them being married for more than 35 years, raising 3 Jewish children, and even seeing one of them married by the synagogue’s rabbi (my sister)).


Where was I?  Oh yes.


12 years ago, I knew that this would be happening someday.  My son has been going to a Jewish preschool for 2 years but with public school comes the responsibility to continue his Jewish education outside of “normal” school hours.  When I started thinking “Three whole hours every Sunday morning?  Really?”, I had to remind myself of why we made this decision.


And those three hours are well worth it.

August 21, 2009

Mixed bag

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:53 pm by Erin

1. It made me really sad to go to the consignment sale yesterday and only buy clothes in sizes 6/7.  I couldn’t even bring myself to look at the little tiny sizes.


2. On the other hand, it made me really happy today to have an impromptu…uh…interlude with my husband after P was on the bus and K had been dropped off at daycare.  We didn’t exactly make it upstairs 😉


3. It also made me really happy that we both committed to doing work all morning after said interlude, then played hooky for the afternoon and went to a movie together.  I’m trying to think of the last movie we saw together in a theater and can’t.


4. I am really starting to resent teaching so many Bradley classes.  Teaching childbirth classes in my current mindset is seriously messing me up.  And yet I have another class scheduled, with students signed up and money in hand, to start in a few weeks.  I’m running 2 a week right now to help financially.  I’m wondering at the cost to my peace of mind.


5. I really wish we had a synagogue closer to home.  I work near my synagogue, so I’m there nearly every day (Fridays off this semester).  We have services on Saturday and now P is supposed to start Sunday school on Sunday.  It’s a 25 minute drive with no traffic.  Urgh.  But I know that we won’t find nearly what we’re looking for anywhere closer to home, so we’re kind of stuck.  And since I won’t move into that area (96% white), I guess I’d better get used to it.


6. I’m pretty sure that if I stay on the same track as I have been for the past few months, I will get my period twice in August.  Because August wasn’t going to be painful enough for me.  I started it August 2nd and *think* I ovulated around the 16th.  So I should start spotting by the end of this week.


7. My parents’ cat is dying.  She has terminal cancer and might have a month left.  Thankfully, she’s not in pain.  This is a 15-year-old cat that was left on our doorstep as a 5-6 week old kitten when I was a senior in high school.  I opened the door when the kids left her, rang the doorbell, and ran off.  If my mom had opened the door, she probably never would have been let in…but I opened the door and she stayed forever.  She slept in my room for the first few nights.  I woke up with her sleeping on my arm.  She was small enough to hide in a tissue box.  She was too tiny to jump out of the bathtub when she had her first flea bath.  Everyone outside of the family loathes her–she’s really mean to anyone else–but for my parents, myself, my sister, and my brother, she’s still our little cat.  It doesn’t matter how long I’m gone, she always remembers me and gives me kisses.  I’m praying for some sort of miracle that will let her live without pain until Christmas so that I can see her again before she dies.

August 11, 2009

The first day of school

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:28 am by Erin

P had his first day of kindergarten yesterday, as did K at his daycare.  P was SO excited the whole time–when he got up in the morning, while we drove there, walking in, and even in the classroom*.  He hung up his lunchbox and told his teacher “I can’t believe Mama forgot my towel for rest time!”  He was thrilled.  I took a picture of he and his teacher and then said “OK baby, I’m going to go now.”  He gave me a hug and then unexpectedly whispered “Don’t go.” 


It took me another 10 minutes to get out of the classroom.  There weren’t any tears but he just wouldn’t sit down on the rug with the rest of the class, even though there was a little boy beckoning to him.  Finally, after trying almost everything, I got him to let go of me (by threatening to take away privileges…I am the worst mother ever) and he sat down near the rug.  The paraprofessional told me “He’s fine, don’t worry,” and I left the room. 


Then I went into the library for their “Coffee and Comfort” meeting for parents of new kindergarteners.  The kindergarten counselor read The Kissing Hand, one of the sweetest books for a new child starting school and one that we have at home; in fact, I had even kissed P’s palms and curled his fingers around the kisses when he was so nervous in his classroom.  Then she read a poem written from a teacher’s perspective about how they would love our children when we dropped them off, and I just lost it.  Tears were streaming out of my eyes.


Thankfully, I wasn’t the only mom so affected (the dads in there didn’t seem as emotional), but most of the kids had been so excited that their moms weren’t worried.  It was just so unexpected after all of his excitement.  The counselor promised he would be OK, which I knew, and said she would double-check on him after I left.


I had to go to work and snifflingly made my way out of the building, drove to work, and spent the whole day hoping that he was having a good time, that we wouldn’t hear about how he refused to participate and was devastated and crying all day.  I worried that he wouldn’t get on the right bus even though I know how much they help the kids.  I spent the entire day nervous and worried, even though I KNEW he was having a great time.


When I got home, I asked him how his day was and heard “I had TOO good a time, Mama!”
It was the perfect first day.


*And I practically jumped with glee when I saw the diversity in his classroom.  P is one of only a few white kids; the others are evenly split among black students, Hispanic students, and Indian students.  There are two physically disabled children in the class as well.  It is so inclusive and so diverse, and such a wonderful classroom with a great teacher.  I know it will be fantastic for him.

August 8, 2009

August isn’t likely to be a good month for me

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:11 am by Erin

I’ve been back on the Metformin since last summer and, for about the past 8 months, I’ve had a regular cycle.  Not just my “typical” regular of ovulating around d33.  I’ve actually had 28-30 day cycles every single one since at least January, and I’m actually ovulating right around d14-16.  It’s bizarre.  I was on Metformin for a full 2 years between when we were TTC before we adopted K and was happy if I ovulated around d30.  Somehow something has changed in me and I’m ovulating regularly for the first time EVER.


In some ways, this is good.  Of course it’s good to know that my eggs are not being bombarded by estrogen and FSH for so long that it kills their productivity–later ovulations are not known for their likelihood to produce oocytes that ultimately produce successful pregnancies.  P is all the more a miracle for knowing that, since he was a d33 conception.  So it is a good thing that I’m ovulating regularly.  It probably is producing healthier eggs.  It gives us more chances to have another miracle and actually conceive a baby in our bedroom, rather than at Dr. Wonderful’s office.  It’s certainly a healthier sign that the Metformin is really doing what it’s supposed to be doing.


Despite that, there is a big problem with it.  I had resolved to be very calm about TTC from the time I started on the Metformin last year.  I swore that I was not going to get upset when I got my period, that I wouldn’t worry about it if we didn’t have sex at exactly the right time, that I wouldn’t analyze every single twinge and cramp during the 2WW.  For a long time, I managed that pretty well.  Lately, though, I can’t do it.  I keep thinking that since I’m ovulating when I’m “supposed to” ovulate, that maybe my eggs and hormones are in better shape and that I’m more likely to conceive than I used to be, and that maybe it will actually happen.  I have started thinking about every ache and sensation throughout my entire cycle.  And when that first sign of red shows up on the toilet paper, my heart sinks and I start getting sad again.


This month it’s already particularly bad.  I just had my period this week, so we’re clearly starting over again.  But August was supposed to be the month we tried IVF.  A year ago, when we started making plans for adding another child to our family, we planned to TTC until early summer and then get back on the treatment rollercoaster.  We thought that would be the case even up until earlier this summer, when we did meet with Dr. Wonderful in anticipation of that happening.  Sure, J was out of work but we figured he would surely have a job by now and then we could do IVF as planned.  IVF in August would, if successful, allow us to have a baby at the end of the spring semester so that I would have 3 months off over the summer with the baby and my boys.  It would mean that K and the baby were 3 1/2 years apart, which was a little further than we would have otherwise planned, but then we could easily adopt a toddler between the baby’s age and K’s age.  It seemed ideal if it worked and if it didn’t, we planned to start our homestudy right afterwards so that we could adopt siblings in 18 months or so.  Then K would be about the same age that P was when we adopted K, and that was a great age for adoption.


As it turns out, J has now been out of work for almost 6 months with no interviews in almost 2 months and few job openings for which he can even apply.  My job has the “option” of a faculty furlough for 10 days this academic year–10 days is a full 5% of my salary that I wouldn’t get paid, on top of the increased contributions to our health insurance.  Finances are starting to get tighter.  I’m frustrated with him, though I know he’s trying and so I’m trying desperately not to show it.  And I know that most of my frustration comes from the expectation that we would be truly started on IVF by now.  That K will be 3 in 3 months and I have been suppressing this desperate desire to have another child since my miscarriage last May, thinking that there was an end date in sight.


I’m struggling.  Getting my period regularly means that there are just more chances to think about all of this.  I almost wish I wasn’t getting it as often, because then I wouldn’t think about how we’re no closer now to having another child than we were last year.  My family brings me so much joy, but there’s this sense that someone is missing.  There’s someone who is supposed to be here and isn’t.  I don’t know if this little person is inside of me or in Ethiopia right now, but I do know that they’re not here right now.  And even without knowing anything about this person, I have an ache that doesn’t really go away.

August 6, 2009

Family dynamics

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:23 am by Erin

P had a playdate yesterday with his friend (we’ll call him Friend, just to be really original), and at one point I overheard this escalating argument:

“He’s my brother!”


“No he’s not, he’s adopted!”


I went over and explained to Friend that K is every bit as much P’s brother as Friend’s brother is his brother.  I said that it doesn’t matter that K didn’t come out of my stomach, he’s still P’s brother.  Friend didn’t look convinced but dropped it anyway.


I really like most of P’s friends, but Friend is different.  Friend is ultracompetitive, who is being strongly encouraged to go into all “boy” mode.  He made fun of P’s long hair “Because that’s something girls have,” he was constantly one-up’ing anything P said or did, and then there was the above conversation.  At one point, he threw a ball over a fence irretrievably for no reason other than because he felt like it.  Friend has been a little challenging to take in the past, but yesterday I found him almost intolerable. 


For the most part, I stayed out of it.  I handled the “brother/not brother” debate since P didn’t really have a way to deal with it beyond “Yes, he IS my brother!”, and  I gave Friend time-out for throwing the ball over the fence (I don’t think I’ve ever given time-out to a child who isn’t mine); but I decided to let P handle the competition aspects, the disparaging comments about P’s hair and swimming abilities, etc.  I think it’s good for P to be able to handle those without me jumping in.  As much as I would like to protect him from ever hearing things like that, I can’t always be there to do it and so that seemed like a good time to let him deal with it.  And deal with it he did.  He didn’t care about Friend saying that only girls have long hair, because his uncle has long hair and he adores his uncle.  He is justifiably proud of the progress he’s made swimming this summer and didn’t let Friend’s comments get to him, and even complimented Friend on his swimming skills.  I was very proud of him.


Last winter, I visited P’s class about a week before we left to get K to read the class stories about adoption and Ethiopia.  Most of the kids were genuinely interested in hearing all about Ethiopia, all about how K had another mom in Ethiopia but would be in our family, and about how P was going to be a big brother.  Friend, however, said “Brown skin is ugly.”  I was horrified, as were the teachers (one of whom was black).  One of them immediately addressed the comment for the class to explain how people look differently, etc, while the other one took him aside and spoke to him about it in private.  They also told Friend’s parents about it at the end of the day, and Friend’s mom called me to say that she was so sorry that he had said something like that and to reassure me that they would never have said anything like that at home.  She said that he’d probably said it to get a reaction.  Knowing Friend, she may very well be right about that.  He likes to get attention, he likes to get that kind of reaction, and it’s entirely likely that he said it solely for that reason.  Even so, I’m glad that everyone handled it seriously rather than just passing it off as attention-seeking behavior.


I wasn’t really surprised that he’s the only one of P’s friends who is so insistent on finding the differences in our family dynamics compared to his own, but I wasn’t expecting to have to deal with them in a 5-year-old.  Most of P’s friends simply accept that K is his brother and don’t even question it.  In little kids, they tend to accept reality as it is presented to them.  For Friend to feel so strongly about K not “really” being P’s brother because K is adopted means that he’s probably heard that somewhere else, and that surprises me.  I wouldn’t have thought that Friend’s parents would say something like that but where else would he have heard it?  And how do I go about addressing it?
Do I need to address it with Friend’s parents or does what I said to Friend suffice?  We do socialize with Friend’s family sometimes, primarily because of P and Friend’s friendship.  They don’t go to the same school anymore and Friend doesn’t often come to our synagogue anymore, so it’s possible that the friendship will fade out in the near future just because they rarely see each other.  I’m not quite sure what to do next.

August 5, 2009

Summer is almost over

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:36 pm by Erin

In Georgia, summers end early.  Public school teachers started work this week, and the kids start next week.  P will be starting kindergarten on Monday and I have a lot less apprehension about it than I used to have.  Last year, he almost got kicked out of school in the fall.  He was belligerent, refused to participate in any activities, and even violent at times.  If he hadn’t had such wonderful teachers to work with him and us to help him through it, he would have been expelled without a doubt.  It was one of the lowest times for us as parents–a child who was uncontrollable at school, for reasons that he couldn’t articulate, and feeling so powerless to help him through it.  We even tried to take him to a behavioral psychologist, but she was kind of useless.  Ultimately, J and I ended up going to a counselor to help get more parenting help (and to work through some of our issues).  His teachers helped him slowly get involved and he ended up enjoying it.  But if he hadn’t had one of those teachers for part of the year before, and they hadn’t known that the behavior wasn’t typical for him, he would have been out of there.


P went to a gymnastics camp for a week this summer.  It was the first time he’d ever set foot in the facility and he didn’t know anyone there–it seemed like a recipe for disaster in some respects.  I got him there 20 minutes early the first day, expecting tears and begging for me to stay with him.  Instead, he took off his shoes and put them in his cubby, sat down with the other kids, asked when I’d be back (after lunch), and said “OK, bye Mama.”  It was such a complete 180 from last year that I could hardly believe that he was the same child.  Granted, he’d changed tremendously at school after such a bad beginning, but I was really worried that the same combination of new routine and new people would bring back the same behaviors.


He was at Kindercamp last week with his best friend, who lives next door.  The school has the rising kindergarteners come in for a week-long morning camp so that they can learn their way around the school, about some of the activities, etc.  P’s teacher for Kindercamp was a different one than he’ll have during the year, but he also got to meet his regular teacher.  He was just as mature about Kindercamp as he was about gymnastics camp.  On Friday as I dropped them off, I was thrilled to see him get out of the car and give his Kindercamp teacher a big hug unprompted.  He is such a sweet boy and it was wonderful to see that he’s already so comfortable there.


He and his best friend will be in different classes this year.  Neither one got into the multi-age classroom, which we had applied for, and we didn’t request that they be together (they don’t always honor those requests but will sometimes).  They really are best friends and we are so lucky to live next door.  We could have easily moved next to another family with a son the same age, but the kids might not have gotten along.  Instead, they are such great kids and have incredibly similar personalities.


I have to admit that I deflected anytime my neighbor mentioned requesting the same class for them.  They would love to be in the same class.  Their personalities are not the type to be disruptive even if they were seated together (OK, they might talk too much), but I still didn’t want that for P.  My biggest concern?  P doesn’t like to stretch himself out of his comfort zone.  If his best friend were in his class, he would have very little motivation to make other friends, to get involved with other people in the class.  Without his best friend in the class, I think he will get more involved–he really does make friends easily if he takes the time to actually talk to someone else.  Since it’s his first time in public school, I very much want him to have a good experience and I think being in a different class from his best friend will contribute to helping him grow his social skills.


I can’t believe my oldest baby is going to kindergarten.  Everyone says it but they really do grow up so quickly.  I can still picture sitting right where I am today with a 3-day-old P asleep in my arms as I wrote his birth story.  Now he’s playing with Legos and wearing a Superman shirt, with his little brother trying to sit on him, only 5 days away from starting kindergarten.  Somehow it’s surprisingly easy and scary to picture us dropping him off at college right now and I know that when we do that, 13 years from now, it will feel just like it does today…how could it possibly be time?

August 1, 2009

Where to go from here

Posted in The musings of Erin at 8:45 pm by Erin

I think it's quite obvious that this blog has…well, faded is probably the kindest word for what has happened to it.  I barely write.  It's not that I don't have anything to write, I just can't imagine anyone wants to read it, and most of my readers seem to have disappeared anyway. 

Those of you who remain clearly have lots of stamina and certainly have lots of my gratitude.  I can't imagine what I would do without you.  So I leave it up to you to help me determine the future, if any, of this blog.

The options:

1) Shut down entirely.  I've been paying $9 a month to leave posts up for weeks at a time, without writing anything.  It's not much money but I can think of other things to do with it if I'm not going to write.

2) Write more often about our current TTC journey.  We've been actively TTC, with metformin and paying attention to cycles for many many months now–15 and counting.  I can certainly write about that, but I'm much less angst-ridden than I used to be.  For example, I got my period today.  It still sucks and I was, of course, hoping not to get it, but it doesn't feel as endlessly painful as it used to before we brought K home.  Actually, I almost feel numb about it–how likely is it that good ol' sex will actually get me pregnant, even with metformin?  It's been almost 5 years.  Still, though, as IVF is stil in our future plans, there will be more to write about later.

3) Write more about life as an adoptive and transracial and interfaith family (heh, we encompass a lot of groups).  There's a lot to be written there but I'm not sure if people are interested in reading it.

4) Write more about our general daily lives.  Life gets more complex and, in most cases, more fun as the kids get older and as J and I struggle to figure out our professional lives.  (Thankfully, our marriage seems particularly strong right now after a recent rough patch.  I finally feel comfortable saying that we've come out of it at last.)

5) Anything else you'd like to read?

I wish I could say what I used to say: that this blog is entirely for me and it doesn't matter if other people read it, but I've apparently become a comment whore–I do care a lot if people read and comment.  This seems particularly self-centered since I've been commenting less on other people's blogs, but there you have it. 

There are a lot of words inside of me, lurking about, but I seem to have lost my direction.  Mel says to keep a 75%/25% ratio of writing about your main topic to other topics, but I don't know WHAT my main topic is anymore.  It used to be infertility.  Clearly, that hasn't gotten any better.  Then it was international adoption.  Clearly, we have the most wonderful little boy because of international adoption, and we do plan to adopt again from Ethiopia in the future (whether or not IVF succeeds, we WILL adopt again), but the paperwork is months away from even being started.  There's really nothing to write about the process right now, though there's plenty to write about the reality of being an adoptive family.

I'm not naturally funny.  I can't make great stories out of my daily life (unless prompted by the actions of my kids or students).  I'm not Aunt Becky or DD, or many of you who make me laugh and think and wonder.  I'm me, and me can be very dull.

So dear readers, tell me.  What do I do?  And know that I love you, no matter what you say.