Friday, April 30, 2010

No News Is No News

I still haven't heard anything from the girl's mother, and at this point, I have to think I'm not going to. I'm teaching the kids' class today, and I hope it goes well. I had strong thoughts of canceling the job in the middle of the night, but decided against it. DH convinced me that it would be good to go through with it, because the fact that I will treat all the children the same, just as usual, will help to move everyone beyond this whole mess. I hope that's true. I'm not looking forward to going in there, though. Who knows what has been said about me to other people who work there (did I mention that the woman's a para at the school?), but whatever. Hopefully anyone who has heard anything will be adult. I'm bringing a book and hanging out at my desk during their lunch, anyway, just for my own nerves' sake.

In other news, some kids have gotten letters about being accepted to the magnet programs they've applied to. Patrick hasn't gotten one, but I know they're coming out in waves, because one friend received theirs for one school last Saturday, another for a different school on Tuesday. Part of me hopes he gets in, because I know it will be so fun for him, and I hate for him to be rejected, but a little part of me won't mind if he doesn't, because that will remove a lot of transportation and childcare issues for me. The magnet school is several towns over, so there's no public transit for him, and I'll have to leave the house a lot earlier in the morning to get him there and then me to school.

I feel so much guilt about the idea of going back to work, it's ridiculous. I'm so nervous about how it will affect our family. I know millions of people do it, and I myself used to work, but it's been a long time, and it's a huge change for everyone. I don't think it's wrong for both parents to work, it's just not the choice we've made since I was pregnant with Patrick. Josie will be alone after school for awhile, he'll be in before and after care... it just seems like a lot. I know a lot of you do exactly that, though, and it's working out fine.

I went to the orientation for my grad school program last night, and it's *intense*. We get little breaks here and there, which is nice and also more than I expected, but WOW. The classes over the summer are 5-9pm M-Th, and during the school year we're either student teaching all day or in school ourselves from 8:30-3:30. There was a woman there who's in the program now, and she said that keeping up in the summer isn't that bad, but during the school year when you're working all day and having a ton of projects to do was very difficult. I knew it would be hard, but having it described that way was intimidating, I have to admit. I couldn't help but think about all the time I'm going to miss with my kids during all of this.

Sigh. Focus. I just need to get through today, and then my final next week. One foot in front of the other, right?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Off The Wagon

Well, I haven't heard back from the woman I emailed the apology to. I'm not sure if that means I never will, or if she's mulling, or if she put it in the trash without even reading it. I'm trying to console myself with the fact that I've done what I can to make her feel better, and the rest is up to her. There's nothing more I can do.

The problem is, while I did feel somewhat better after writing the email, and a little bit more today, I always feel like I've run over a bag full of puppies when this kind of thing happens. I hate making other people upset, and I turn it over and over and over in my mind, which makes me feel worse and worse until I am almost physically ill. In the past few days, I have worried about this situation until I almost can't breathe. Welcome to OCD, the so-focused-you-can't-function condition.

As a result, I have broken down, and gone back on my medication. I had been doing pretty well without it, talking myself down from whatever I was worrying about at the moment. Lately, though, with the stress of planning the school's fifth grade graduation events, my own schoolwork and approaching finals, and realizing that I have to work on and teach Sunday school for the next two weeks, in addition to the regular schedules, has been pushing my coping to the limit. Add in the grad school financial aid process, kids with friend problems and now this debacle, and that's more than I can handle.

I didn't want to go back on medication, and I gained a lot of weight last time I took Z, but maybe if I try really hard and am very careful, I won't gain more. I think that what I'm learning is that yes, I might be able to handle ordinary things, but when something sudden and upsetting happens, I can't do it on my own, and because it *is* sudden, I will have to deal with it on my own even if I do break down and start to take something because it probably won't build up in my system fast enough to deal with the situation even if I take one right then. Granted, I feel better for having taken my Z last night, but I probably won't be at 'cruising altitude' for a week or so. I'm going to keep taking it, at least for the foreseeable future. I think I was really near a nervous breakdown the other day, and it's because the obsessively constant worrying my OCD demands prevents me from being able to keep things like this in perspective. Even though I know I'm being irrational, that knowledge doesn't seem to help. Maybe this tiny white pill will.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

OK, OK...

OK, OK - you guys got me, I apparently messed up. I'm glad you all have been honest with me, rather than gloss over it. I'm embarrassed. The chances that I was too close in to this one to see that I was making a mistake are pretty high. Even though we aren't coffee-and-tea friends, I do enjoy knowing her as a fellow parent, and I was awake a lot last night thinking about this. I went back and forth all night, between feeling that I hadn't done wrong by posting about my own kid, but that on the other hand I had upset someone without meaning to and that was wrong.

So, this morning I wrote and apologized. I explained that when Josie came to me in tears, it brought back all my fears of my kids having the same problems that I had had, and since I was on fb already, I reached out for advice and support from friends. I told her that I was upset at some of the comments that people had left and had followed up their comments with another of my own saying thanks, but the girl wasn't a bad kid, she had good parents, and that I was sad that their friendship wasn't doing well, before deleting the whole mess after long enough that anyone who had posted would have seen it. I said that I was sorry that I hadn't emailed her first, but that ironically I hadn't wanted to upset her with another email, and that I hadn't been thinking about her being on fb as well (which is, ok, a small lie, but I really hadn't been thinking about her seeing the comments from other people, so I let myself get away with it) or I would have called people rather than throwing out a net to look for support. I said that I wasn't trying to be malicious or unfriendly, and I certainly hadn't been looking for anyone else to be so. I closed by reiterating that I was sorry she was upset.

That's the best I can do, really. At least I can go forward now knowing that. I'm not perfect, and I hate it when I mess up. Hopefully she will accept my apology and we can move forward. If we never hook up on fb again, I'm fine with that, but I would at least like to be able to run into her and not feel like there's something I could have done to make it better. We probably won't see each other much after the next month, anyway, since the school year will be over and middle school isn't like elementary school - if you don't make an effort to see other kids' parents, you don't. I just want to be able to hold my head up and know I've done the best I can.

She won't see my email for awhile because she's at work until 1, so I won't know anything until at least this afternoon, if she responds at all.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Considering the Options

DH and I are talking about adopting.

I've always wanted to either foster or adopt, or both, both because I think it's a great thing to do and because, that could have been me. Once my father left, I had no family other than my mother, and if that guidance counselor had believed me when I told her what was going on at my house when I was in third grade, social services would have been at our door in no time. In retrospect, I'm glad I was able to stay, because at least I was able to go to college and move on with my life, whereas had I been put in The System, who knows where I'd be now.

Anyway, I browse the foster care photo listings occasionally, just thinking about it, and last week I came across a girl who looks a lot like Josie, just a few years older. I couldn't stop thinking about her. I thought about her for three days before I got up the nerve to say anything to DH, and even then, I thought, really, that he was going to tell me I'm nuts, bring me to my senses, and on we'd go.

He didn't.

We were sitting at Uno's, and I blurted out, 'what would you think about adopting?', and without hesitation, he said that it sounded like a great idea to him. I could have cried. Josie was with us (Patrick was in the bathroom), and as I told DH what I'd seen, she started listening; after a minute she started almost bouncing in her seat, asked if we were thinking about adopting her a sister, and could they share a room! By this time, Patrick had come back (he tends to dawdle in bathrooms, so he'd been gone for awhile), and Josie told him what we'd been talking about. He looked at us, smiled, and said that that sounded nice. I was so proud of them both; neither one had any qualms whatsoever. Since then, I've talked to them individually about what exactly that would mean, with the sharing of their parents, and the conversion of the finished attic from a playroom into a bedroom, and they're both still really into it.

I talked to social services yesterday, and they're sending us out a packet of into on what we have to do. MD requires anyone adopting a child that's not an infant to take a 9 week class, one evening a week, on whatever it is they want us to know. I can't imagine what on earth will take 27hrs to teach us, but I suppose it's for people who don't already have children as well, so maybe that's part of it, as well as making sure people are really committed and not just looking for a check (foster parents get a monthly check from the govt). I'm sure it will be full of good info, though. Once we're done with that, we will be cleared to foster and adopt any available child we choose.

Since the next class doesn't start until fall, that will give us time to convert the playroom into a bedroom, and put the new carpet squares down in the basement, which will let us move everything from the attic that needs to be moved somewhere else down there. There really isn't a lot up there other than toys, so it won't be too hard. It'll make a really cool room, actually; I had been thinking about letting Josie use it when she was older, but this will work out fine, too. Also, my evening grad classes will be over in August, so there will be no conflict there.

It looks like the earliest we'll be able to think about having someone new in the house is after Thanksgiving, and maybe not until after the new year, since while it would probably be nice to allow a child to have a Christmas with us, depending on the scheduling it probably wouldn't be the most stable environment to bring a new child into, with how crazy everyone's schedules get around Xmas. We'll have to see. For now, all we know for sure is that in the next year, we're probably going to be adding a new older girl to the family.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ugh. Just, UGH.

Over the past week or so, Patrick's behavior has been in a steady decline from the realm of Regular Boy Stuff into the area of I'd Rather Not Appear With Him In Public. Usually it's kids who don't want to be seen with their parents, I think, not the other way around, but sadly, this is where we have been.

We hit rock bottom the other day at piano lesson. Josie and Patrick have the same teacher, and their lessons follow each other, with Patrick going first. Based on his sullen mood over the past few days, I knew it probably wasn't going to be the greatest lesson, but it turned out that I was WAY overestimating his good-behavior potential. He did everything from averting his eyes constantly, purposefully ignoring the teacher, banging on the keys too hard more than once and having to be told to stop, and, the piece de resistance, when the teacher put his hand on Patrick's shoulder to get his attention because he was rudely staring at the piano bench, Patrick (I am ashamed to even type this), did that thing that kids do when they're being bratty; he slouched and slid away like the teacher was putting a crap crown on his head. I could have DIED, I was so angry and embarrassed. For the record, the teacher was really polite about it and dealt with it well, but internally I was EXPLODING.

I usually try not to interfere when the kids are being instructed by someone else, but I couldn't take it and scolded him right after he did that little action. The piano teacher then ended the lesson - ten minutes earlier than usual - and I told Patrick that he should put down his things and follow me out to the front stoop as Josie took her place at the piano. He knew he was in for it, obviously, but he had no idea what he was really in for.

I reamed that boy a new orifice. Usually I try to go for the more placid approach, ask what has happened to him that day, etc, but this time, while I did maintain a regular level of voice, I took that boy up one side and down the other, with a little in between for good measure. I told him that I didn't know what his problem was, but that if he ever acted that way again he would never touch another musical instrument, never mind have lessons, and that he should be ashamed and humiliated at his own behavior, treating an old man like that in his own home when all he was doing was being kind. I said that I was horrified to see that he thought it was appropriate to treat someone that way, and that as a result, he will no longer own a DS or be watching Pokemon, because until I can see that he can treat real people well, in person, there will be no interacting with electronic people. He can only use the Wii if he's playing with someone else. Obviously, I made him apologize once Josie's lesson was over, too.

He's had behavior problems before when he's played his DS too much, so this punishment ends up being an appropriate one. I'm a firm believer in trying to make a punishment fit the crime, and this is as close as I can get. I took away the Pokemon show because I think it's feeding into his overly-dramatic tendencies; both the japanamation and the obviously formulaic boy cartoon style provide examples of constant over-the-top actions and reactions, and they're rubbing off on him. He's really into it, and I'm sorry to take something he likes away from him, but maybe I'll be able to compromise and let him read the books instead.

I know that all of this is mostly my fault. I was falling down on the parenting job, letting him play his ds too much and spend too much time with these character he likes but yet can't interact with. It's not like he sat around the house all day playing, more that he'd wake up early in the morning and probably play for hours before I would see him doing it, realize it had been too long, and tell him to do something else, added in with car trips, etc. I understand the desire to do that, because I love to use my ds, too (yes, I have one, so there), and sometimes will play for hours, but as an adult I can walk away and still be nice to people afterward. I feel bad that it was probably my inattention to detail that allowed him to travel that bratty path to begin with. Sigh.

However, since being told that he can't have it back until he can prove that he can be nice to real people again, he hasn't asked for it once, and in fact yesterday sprang out of the car to go and play with the little girl (who is 4) and her baby brother in their yard across the street! Josie goes over there routinely - she likes to be a little mommy - but usually Patrick isn't that into it. He's been really into reading a new book that I gave him, one that Josie and I just finished reading together at bedtime about two weeks ago.

When these things happen, though, I worry. His teacher had that ADD-insinuating a few months ago, and he could very well have inherited OCD/depression from me. Any of those things could induce the behavior we see rear its ugly head in him. He's my only boy, and I have no siblings or cousins, so I have nothing to measure him by. I see his friends, but that's not the same. Do your boys act like this from time to time, or am I maybe seeing the blossom of something that needs to be carefully watched??

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Action, Reaction, and Resolution (sort of)

I want to thank all of you for your comments about the hate club problem. It really made a difference in what I did; Stimey in particular opened my eyes. My nephew, too, will probably be the butt of something like this someday, and won't be able to easily tell anyone, either. Thank you all for helping me to realize that it was absolutely my job to say something. I've told Josie before that watching something bad happening and not doing something is almost as bad as doing it yourself, and there I was, not doing anything. I guess I was muddled by the fact of not actually *seeing* it myself, but it's the same thing in the end. Also thanks to Marie for the book suggestions - I have Queen Bee because I read it years and years ago when it first came out, out of curiosity, but I should definitely read it again NOW, and the others as well.

I ended up discussing the incident with someone who works at the school, another substitute who was the Josie's class's student teacher last semester and who was subbing for Josie's teacher that day. The principal was busy, and the other fifth grade teacher was as well, so since I knew this woman and am reasonably friendly with her, it was an easier option, anyway. Astonishingly, she was shocked that E would do such a thing, and I think almost didn't believe it! She said, 'What? But she's so little and sweet and quiet!' I just looked at her and said that sometimes that's exactly who it is. The astonishing part is, this isn't the first time that E has done something like this, and I can't believe she's missed it all this time. She also said that they've had a really hard time with bullying in 5th grade this year. I think, though, that fifth grade is often this way, and she just hasn't been around older children, and in a school, long enough to know it.

Anyway, she said that she'd talk to the other fifth grade teacher about it, but I wasn't sure what would happen, given her shock and disbelief. I found out yesterday, though, from a friend who also works there, that my friend saw E, two other girls, and K, who was the object of one of the clubs, leaving the guidance office after lunch, which is about an hour after I spoke to a teacher, and yesterday when the regular teacher returned to the classroom, the grade split into boys and girls, with each half going with one of the teachers (there's a man and a woman teaching that grade) to have a discussion about bullying and what had happened. I am SO PLEASED that it was handled so swiftly and without any room for doubt as to the school's opinion on the matter. The girls were dressed down within the hour, and all 50 kids were spoken to within 24. I call that impressive.

Also, I am so, so happy to say that Josie, who at that point didn't know that I had said anything, told me yesterday that she herself reported the incident to her regular teacher as soon as the teacher returned from her time off yesterday morning. I am so proud of her! It's not easy to face up to that kind of thing, especially when the next 'target' could easily have been her in retribution. She's always been a brave girl, but I am SO proud of her. I did tell her yesterday that I had spoken to the sub, because I wanted to be honest with her and for her know that I felt strongly about standing up for people. I said that I hoped she didn't mind, and that anytime she wants to tell me something and doesn't want me to say anything, she can tell me and I will respect that (within reason), but that I hadn't thought she would mind in this case. She wasn't upset, although I think she was a little disappointed that the whole in-school resolving of the event wasn't due to her own reporting of it, as she had thought it was. Both DH and I made a big fuss over her about doing the right thing, though, so she seemed to feel pretty good regardless.

The only depressing part is that K has gone right back to being friends with E, AGAIN. Why do some girls (and I guess boys, too, but it seems to be mostly girls) go back time and time again in these circumstances to what basically amounts to more punishment!? Josie asked me this, and I told her that the only reason I could think of was that K is buying into the idea that E *is* better and cooler than everyone else, and thinks that by being near her, K will be cooler, too. It's so sad. K has real friends, but she's insistent that she WILL be part of this group who really doesn't want her there. Sure, they skipped along out of the guidance department together, but this isn't like when little kindergarteners say they hate each other over some incident with the jumprope. This was calculated hurtfulness, and while obviously I hope that E has learned a lesson, to be honest, I doubt that after a twenty-minute group-hug free-love meeting in the guidance department she's magically ready to accept K as her new BFF. It's not like she didn't KNOW what she was doing was hurtful and wrong, for heaven's sake; it's a personality thing, and her desire to be Queen Bee isn't going to change just because some touchy-feely grownup announced that it was wrong and hurtful, kumbyah. In fact, I think she did K a huge disservice by not telling her in no uncertain terms that she should NOT be friends with E until E has proven that she deserves it. Allowing her to go trotting out of there all happy and trusting that things are fine was just ludicrous. Sigh.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hate Clubs

In the past week, Josie has come home from school telling me about various 'Hate Clubs' that one little girl, E, has started in her grade. E is very pretty, and gets a lot of attention for it, unfortunately, among the other kids. Boys want to sit next to her, and other girls apparently want to be her friends. Josie (thank GOD) is not like this, but from what she says, half of the fifth grade has joined this little witch's hate clubs, even girls who were previously friends with the two who have been targeted so far. I have no idea why one of the two girls in particular was targeted, since she's funny and pretty herself; the other girl does tend to bring problems onto herself with her own words and actions, and has never been even remotely popular - not that she deserves this in any way, just that if someone is going to be the target of something like this, it's much less of a surprise that her name would come up.

Josie's very upset that this is all going on, and we were talking last night about how she's been trying to figure out why E is this way, and all she can come up with is that it's because her parents are divorced and she somehow is messed up because of that, but since it happened years ago that doesn't really make sense. I was forced to tell her the truth - while there's always a reason, some kids are just going to be nasty. Before this, when other children have been unpleasant, they've been younger and it's been easier to see the acts as related to something around them, but they're reaching the age where kids are going to be starting to act based on their own emotions and feelings, not necessarily as a reaction to something else. I told her that kids who already have a little following based on something shallow, like their looks or parents' money, sometimes crave more, and either because of insecurity or power-hungriness they work to build up on that following through the easiest means possible - making others feel and look bad. I also told her the other awful truth, that this is really only the beginning of what's to come, unfortunately, over the next several years, and that the only good news is that, even if she's not standing there to see it, eventually these people will fall flat on their faces and be as miserable as they've made everyone else. I truly believe that, at some point, karma boomerangs meanness back around; it's just too bad that those of us who were treated badly don't get some email about it!

This really hit me in the head with the fact that we're about to enter the whole horrid cycle with her. Girls in particular can be so, so awful to each other, and I feel like I'm going to have to take a LOT of Something to walk with her through all of it. It was bad enough when I was a kid, but at least then the nastiness was somewhat contained to individual phone conversations after the school day ended. For the moment, these hate groups are probably stopping at the door at the end of the school day, particularly for those girls who aren't really Into It, and are just going along for the ride. In another few years, all of those girls will be facebook friends, and the nastiness will be continued and fanned in the afterschool hours as well. It's like a 24hr live-action slambook, I guess (remember slambooks? it makes me a little ill thinking about them, actually).

I posted a short about this whole thing on FB, and one person I know said that I should report it to the principal, to stop the bullying now. I'm thinking about that. I think we all know that I'm big on reporting and complaining when I think something's not right at the school (ahemhelpedgettateacherfiredahem), so that's not the problem - I'm not shy. The thing is, 1) Josie told me this not really in confidence, but it was a conversation between the two of us, and I don't want her to feel like I report everything she says all the time, and 2) the girls targeted, so far, don't include Josie, and I'm not sure whether I should be the one reporting this stuff to the principal. My other option is to talk to the parents of the children who are being picked on, who I know because they're the parents of Josie's friends. That would be a GREAT conversation, wouldn't it? 'Hi, Josie wanted to know if K could come over to play on Friday because K has been so sad over having a hate club formed against her - oh, you did know that, right?' Sigh.

Meanwhile, on the Josie friend front, that same girl who was giving her crap before continues to do so in various other ways, but all basically surround the girl trying to make herself top banana. When they're alone, Girl is nice to Josie; when they're with the other girl in their trio (I know, three is a BAD number), Girl constantly corrects and talks over Josie. I'm pretty sure this is her way of trying to be the group leader, and of expressing her jealousy over the third girl's equally strong friendship towards Josie, but still. I told Josie that the next time Girl does it, call her out immediately, in front of the third friend, and tell her exactly what she told me - that it makes her angry, hurts her feelings, and she doesn't like being treated so rudely. Josie's pretty ballsy, so I think she'll really do it. I worry, though. Hate clubs, bitchiness, jealousy... hooray. Welcome to puberty, fifth-grade style. :(

Friday, April 9, 2010

It's Been Awhile!

Hey! It's been awhile! I don't know how this happens, that time passes so quickly and I don't have anything to say, or maybe don't know how to say it. There's been stuff going on, too, that I don't necessarily want to post specifics about because I can't control who's reading.

In general, one thing that's thrown me for a loop is an older married man who attends my church, and knows my family, blatantly propositioned me about two weeks ago. I won't say where or when, exactly, except that it was in a public place where we both had cause to be, and that it wasn't aggressive or frightening, just more sad and surreal. We've talked at length before this, and I had considered him a sort of older fatherly-friend kind of person, but apparently he was taking it in a more.... incestuous manner. That particular time, we were talking about his grown children, and his marriage, and he told me that I wasn't missing much not knowing his wife, and that they weren't intimate in any way, and that he didn't know why he was telling me this because he'd never told anyone before, but that lately he's been thinking that it would be nice to spend time with someone, married or not, and have dinners and such, because, as he put it, he's not dead, the coals are still hot and the fire's still burning, if I knew what he meant. I started to giggle after a minute. I couldn't help it. The whole thing was SO WEIRD. After a few more minutes of talking, I told him I had to go, and he called after me that he hoped that he hadn't scared me off, to which I replied, 'no, you're not scary', and drove off. Yes, it was inappropriate and weird, but I think he's just a sad, lonely man in a bad marriage and I don't have the heart to be angry at him for misinterpreting my friendship. It does make me really self-conscious, though, especially since I sit at the front of the church in the choir loft in plain sight of everyone there, including him, and I feel like he's looking at me. Weird.

The other thing that's been going on is that DH had his final hernia surgery on the 2nd of March (for those of you who are counting, that's three), and it's been a slow road to recovery. The incision is healed, but he's a very squeamish person, and it freaks him out that he can feel the patch, even though he's been able to feel the other one he's had in there since he got it. He 'can't' bend over, which I'm pretty sure means 'won't', since we're talking a completely-healed 2.5in incision from six weeks ago. I'm trying to be patient about it, but I'm getting overwhelmed with things that need to be done, especially now that yard work season is here, and now everything outside is on me as well. Men are so weird. After both kids, I had a week where there were people around to help me, and then I was on my own, even after Patrick, who together with the plunger tore me so badly that the doctor told me I was 'one big stitch'; I did housework and cared for an infant and a preschooler while still bleeding pretty heavily and having to poop *through* my stitches after that week, and so did every other woman I know. I am a terrible, unsympathetic wife, I think. I haven't said any of this to him, because it wouldn't be nice, but inside I'm starting to lose it a little, I think. It's been a really rough few months with him not around much, and now this. Ohm.

My mother is arriving today for the weekend. Cue the simultaneous feelings of anger, guilt (over being a poor hostess and unforgiving person), frustration, sadness and annoyance.