Mr. Hyde Goes to School

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ever since Archie stepped through those glass doors at the airport and into my arms, things have really been so easy with him. His adjustment has been crazy smooth, to a point where I almost feel guilty because I am not experiencing a lot of the major struggles that other adoptive moms go through. Has it been all rainbows and unicorns? Absolutely not. He has tested us, annoyed us, and frustrated us more than we ever knew we were capable of being frustrated. But those are things that can be expected with any child. A child straight from your own womb, a child without any sort of diagnosed syndrome (other than my personal diagnosis for Ace-- Cantstopdawhinin Syndrome).
Who, me?

So, Archie started Kindergarten in public school three weeks ago. He LOVED it his first week. Everything seemed to be going great, I thought he was settling in and the fairytale would begin. He would make friends, bond with his teachers, do projects, and learn all sorts of new and exciting things. But somewhere along the way, it turned ugly. I got a phone call from his one of his aides last week, and although she tried to be as positive as possible I could tell when she told me in her very sweet voice, "yeah, he is really struggling with some things...", that it wasn't going well.

Of course it is easy to write about all of the cute things Ace and Archie did together, all of the milestones and firsts that we get to share with him, the funny things both kids say. But right now the truth is, I am an emotionally drained wreck.

So after I found out that apparently things were not going well for my little man, I went up to his school to find out exactly what all had been going on. And boy was I unprepared for what they had to tell me. The list was long. He had been hitting, spitting on kids, kicking, throwing, running away, standing on tables, yelling "no, no, no" at his teachers, refusing to do any work, refusing to go with his teacher or aide when it was time to transition from one place to the next.

Hearing all of this was so hard. I was a blubbering mess in front of these people who I really didn't even know. This wasn't my sweet boy. He NEVER hits. He and Ace play rough and have "wrestle time" pretty much every day, and she will sometimes play hit him, but he never ever hits back. I have even seen him in various settings be pushed around or hit by other kids (most commonly at the play castle in the mall) and again, he never hits back. Spitting? He knows how to spit? We have never once seen him spit. I was so shocked and confused.

My tears were for Archie. Not for his teachers who he was clearly giving an extremely hard time, and not for the kids who he was obviously pestering (although I am sorry for those things). But something was just not right. Around this time he started not wanting to go to school in the morning. He begged to stay home. "No school, Mommy, please no school. Archie stay home."

I wish so badly that he could communicate to me what it is. I totally understand that this is all so new to him, he is in a big class with 23 kids. I am sure he is overwhelmed, overstimulated, etc. But those behaviors are just so not like him. And he is not a kid with sensory issues. He is often in loud places with lots of other kids around, and he is perfectly happy. I expected that it would take time for him to settle in and calm down a bit. He is quite "high energy" and all the excitement of a new school and a big classroom with lots of fun things to mess with was bound to have him bouncing off the walls for a bit. But this is different.

Fortunately we are not experiencing any of this at home. I was told when he first started to just be aware that with this big change and him being at school all day and exhausted by the end, that he might start showing some defiance or negative behaviors at home. Well, it has been just the opposite...he is extra sweet and well behaved when he gets home. So that's nice!

This is what we get.....

Apparently this is what they get......

He admits to me everything that he did at school. I read the journal that comes home in his backpack, which is filled with notes on how his day went, and I ask him, "Archie did you throw blocks?". "Yes, Mommy"-- he says with a sad look on his face. "Archie sorry, mommy, Archie sorry." I continue on and he does admit to me that he indeed did the things that the teachers wrote. This is a pretty big breakthrough for him because before when he did something at home (like spilled a drink or drew with marker all over a book) and I asked him about it, he would adamantly deny having anything to do with it, and even blame it on Ace. Or Daddy, or Jessie (our dog). So I am super happy that he is now telling the truth. That is big.

Tomorrow I have a meeting with his principal, teacher, and one of the aides. I am really hoping that we can come up with some sort of behavioral plan for him that will be effective. Archie thrives off of positive reinforcements-- stickers and smiley faces. So we will make a plan, and give it a try for the next couple of weeks. But my heart cannot take many more days of pulling that stinkin' green journal out of his backpack and reading two pages filled with all of the not nice things he did that day.

I am constantly reminding myself that if this is the biggest bump in the road that we have come to, then things are going pretty well. I also have to remind myself of where Archie came from. I find myself forgetting that he spent his first seven years of life in an orphanage. I find myself forgetting that he has Down Syndrome. He is so "typical" that it makes it hard for me to remember those things. He has not even been home six months and the progress he has made is absolutely mind blowing. I cannot imagine where he will be in another six months.

Tomorrow is another day....

Lots of Love!

Don't Cry, Mommy!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Last night was a rough one. Ace and Joey ran to the grocery store while Archie stayed home with me and helped cook some spaghetti. He LOVES to help cook. One of his absolute favorite things to do. He is also very careful around the stove and reminds me over and over while we are cooking that it is "hot" and to "be careful mama".

All was great, spaghetti was ready, so I picked up the pot to bring it over to the strainer in the sink. Archie was still standing on his chair by the stove. As soon as I moved over to the sink, he wanted to come over there too. Of course that involved getting off of his chair and moving it.

When he went to jump down, he put his left hand right on top of the HOT burner- hot as could be. He fell to the ground SCREAMING and I could smell burning flesh. My poor baby.

He just screamed and cried as I held him. I have never heard him cry like that before. I looked at it, and it didn't look TOO bad...but I really didn't know what to do for a burn. We ran up to the pharmacy to ask them what I should do. As soon as we walked in the store, Archie wanted to be sure to tell everyone about his "boo boo" and show it to them. He chased one lady down an entire aisle (all the while still screaming and crying) and insisted that she look at his boo boo. He explained to her "hot sketti". (spaghetti).

He was still crying in the car on the way home, and I could tell he was in so much pain. He insisted on holding my hand the entire drive, which probably isn't the safest way to drive considering that his carseat is directly behind me.

I was trying to be strong the whole time. But I finally broke down. This was the worst pain I had ever seen either of my kids in-- and it killed me. I also was so mad at myself. If I had just reminded him before I moved the pot off of the burner, not to touch and that it was still hot, I would have prevented the whole thing. Or if I had just taken him down off the chair before I moved. So I started crying in the car right along with him.

The second he heard me crying, he said, "no, mommy, don't cry, mommy! Archie's okay, mommy." He actually even tried to stop crying and was just sort of whimpering. If he heard me even sniffle, he would beg, "please, mommy, don't cry".

It was as if he would rather take the pain than see me cry. It blows me away how concerned with my happiness he always is. Another time, during a church service, my friend and pastor told a little bit of our adoption story. I was holding Archie in my lap and I pretty much cried like a baby throughout the whole thing. Archie just held my face with both of his hands, looked in my eyes and would whisper, "no cry, mommy". He cuddled me and rubbed my back the whole time. He even wiped my tears.

He is constantly asking me if I am happy. "Happy, Mommy? Happy, Mommy?" He asks all day long. Of course I tell him a million times a day how happy he makes me and how proud of him I am. The absolute worst thing in the world for him is to hear me tell him that something he did made me sad. He will cry and beg, "please mommy, no sad! Mommy happy, please!" I am not sure where this obsession comes from- but it is a HUGE obsession of his.

Ace was so sweet when we got home and was doing everything she could to try and make Archie laugh. She put on a little show about Cinderella riding a giraffe. Archie loved it and was cracking up the entire time. They took a super long bath, which always makes Archie happy.

Since I didn't get any sad crying pictures during the whole ordeal, I tried to get Archie to reenact. This is him "crying".

He loves to go under and hold his breath
And then he comes up laughing hysterically

Then off to bed for Mandatory "Wrestle Time"

A book with Daddy.

Some good cuddlin

And finally, sleep. (Okay, so they are faking it here, but they really were fast asleep within about five minutes of this picture)

Sweet Dreams, my precious Little Monsters! You two make me the happiest mommy in the whole wide world!

Lots of Love!

The Salt Shaker and The Angry Lady

Thursday, January 19, 2012

This afternoon Ace, Mimi (my mom), and I went to enjoy a nice lunch at Guadalajara. All was pleasant, and we were enjoying our conversation. My little salt fiend, Ace, was quietly attempting to salt her wheat tortilla, but nothing was coming out. I attempted to unclog the shaker, but still, nada. So I got up and switched our dud of a salt shaker with one on the empty table next to us.
{Exhibit A}

Then all of the sudden a lady at a nearby table jumps out of her seat as if she is rushing to save someone's life, swipes the stubborn salt shaker that I had traded out, and comes and gets right up in our faces. I'm like, "whoa, what is going on here, crazy?" (No, I didn't actually say that).
I can picture her face so vividly. She was so angry. Here is a good representation of what she looked like as she began to scold us.

Angry Lady: "You guys know he put that in his mouth?!" (In a furious voice-- as if someone had just thrown rocks at her cat)

Me: {incredibly confused} "Umm ex-squeeze me?" (Okay so I really just said "huh", but "ex-squeeze me" would have been so much more awesome)

Angry Lady: "He (referring to Ace) put this in his mouth (angrily holding up Exhibit A) and was licking friend saw him do it." (She even demonstrated with her hand how Ace tilted up the salt shaker as if she was drinking from it- really weird, lady.)

(I look over at her friend who has her head down at their table, obviously embarrassed of the scene her lunch date was making)

Me: "Okay, first of all, this is a girl, and you don't need to be so rude."

Angry Lady: "I'm not trying to be rude (in the nastiest voice ever) but he had this in his mouth." (Yes, still referring to my girly girl as a boy)

Me: "Again, she is a girl, and you are being incredibly rude."

Angry Lady: "Here, maybe you should take this!" (Slams the faulty shaker down onto our table)

Me: "Um. Okay."

She took two or three very aggressive steps and was back in her seat.

Here's the deal- Did Ace's mouth come in contact with the top of the salt shaker? Quite possibly. It couldn't have been a complete slobber fest as Angry Lady made it seem, considering that my mom and I were both sitting right there, and didn't even see her attempt to sprinkle salt in her mouth. And besides, we are talking about a (mostly) mature 3 and a half year old, not a teething infant.

Secondly, okay maybe you are a huge germaphobe, and the thought of someone else using a salt shaker that a kid's mouth had been on made you feel called to action. I get it. Well, there were plenty of other ways you could have handled the situation without being a complete jerk. (I am using nicer terms than I want to because my Grandma reads my blog....Hi Gigi!)

If I were one who cared a great deal about germs, (which is a big if because I have just never been too concerned with them), here are some ways I would have handled the situation so as to not make a scene or ruin another person's lunch (I don't think any of our meals tasted as good after the encounter with Angry Lady):
1. Quietly and discreetly grab the contaminated shaker off of the table and then give it to my waiter, explaining that it needed to be cleaned.
2. Nicely got the attention of the salt licking kid's mom and said something like "oops, I actually think she might have put her mouth on that shaker"--- in a very sweet and playful voice so as to not make anyone feel bad. (Also being sure to get the child's gender correct). I mean, kids lick things, no big deal. I wouldn't have minded that. No need for an adult sized temper tantrum.
3. Quietly tell my waiter what had happened, and have them take care of it.

I truly just do not understand people like Angry Lady. Why are you so angry? How could that have possibly made you turn into such a mean person? Who knows. Lately I have been seeing a lot of rude and angry people. While driving, shopping, whatever it is. I just wanna say, "hey relax. It's all good- there are much bigger problems than me inadvertently blocking the intersection where you want to turn, accidentally cutting you off in HEB because I can't control the ridiculous oversized shopping cart/car my kids insist on getting, or whether or not my child's mouth touched the top of the corona bottle salt shaker.

What's even worse is when I did accidentally block the intersection, I waved and mouthed, "I AM SO SORRY" to you, and you still gave me the finger. Or when I cut you off with my giant yellow car cart, I said "Ahh so sorry can't control this thing", and you still just rolled your eyes and snubbed me.

Finally, how could you mistake this beauty for a boy??

"Who you callin' a boy??"
"You mess with my sister, you mess with me"

Keep Calm and Carry On.
Lots of Love!

Bus Boy

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Today was another big first for Archie. Riding the bus to school! He was so incredibly excited and we talked all last night at bedtime about how he was going to get to ride the bus in the morning. He couldn't wait.

The bus arrives to pick him up just a few minutes after 7. This makes for an earlier than usual morning for us. Archie has been so incredibly tired after school. His little body is just still trying to adjust to these long days. Ace has also been forced to wake up earlier, so she is also exhausted by the end of the day. This has been making for some very early nights-- they have been going to sleep around 6:30 every night. (which is very strange and different to us, and really a whole other post)

So anyway, we walk out of the apartment right at 7 and head down to wait for the bus. It was dark and cold. The bus was already there when we got to the stop and everything happened so fast. Normally before I leave Archie anywhere, I kneel down and look him the eyes, explain to him where he is going, and that I will see him very soon.

There was no time for that. The bus stops on a pretty busy street, and the traffic was building up behind it, so he was whisked onto the bus before I could say a much of anything . He was definitely confused. Maybe he thought that we were going to be getting on with him. He looked back at me and was screaming "toe pack, mommy, toe pack"....which means in Archie language, "be right back". I always tell him, "I will be right back", before he goes anywhere or I go anywhere. Those are his comfort words and it reassures him that he will see me again in just a bit. So I am screaming, "yes, baby, you will be right back!" As the aid on the bus buckled him in, he pressed himself up to the window and was signing "school" to me over and over. He was making sure that was where he was going.

The look on his face completely broke me. I don't know what goes on in his precious little mind. But what if he thought he was being taken away from us. The thought of either of my children ever being scared just kills me.

It also made me so grateful that he is here with us. But it broke my heart for those orphans who are not so lucky. Who will one day be put in a van and driven away, leaving behind their orphanage and taken to a horrific place tucked away in a remote village so everyone can just pretend it doesn't exist. I thank God every day that Archie never had to take that ride.

Ace rubbed my back and kissed my cheek as we walked back to the apartment. My intuitive little princess. She promised me that Archie was going to have fun on the bus.

Turns out she was right!

We couldn't wait for 3:40 to roll around. Ace and I sat outside and waited anxiously for the bus.

I was so happy when I saw his smiling face!

He of course had to do a little dance for his bus driver before he made his exit..

"Whoa. Hey mom...long day"

I love the bus!

Racing home....

He tries so hard to keep up with his sister.

There really is no place like home.

Lots of Love!

Best Birthday Ever.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Last year, my birthday was a tough day. Such a big part of me was missing. He was so far away . And we all just wished he was home with us.

I can't believe he is here now. Baking me a birthday cake with his sister, and best friend.

Spending every waking second together-- in equal parts tormenting each other,

and loving on each other.

Twirling spaghetti...

Helping blow out my candles...

What a perfect day.

Goodnight world.

Lots of Love!


Monday, January 9, 2012

LOVES Kindergarten!

Archie had a great first day. He is so happy and just keeps telling me, "Mommy, Archie work. Archie listen to teacher." He is quite proud of himself.

Of course I am sure he was quite a handful for the teachers. It will definitely take time for him to settle into this new environment. He is VERY high energy already, but even more so when things are new to him.

It is also a very long day for him. He came home from school one tired boy.

That is his preferred way to watch movies on the IPad (nose to screen). I don't always allow it, but made an exception today.

Little sister has had a long day too. As I said, this will be a major adjustment for all of us!

Thanks for all of your prayers, support, and encouragement.

We are BLESSED!!
Lots of Love!

Come Monday (It'll Be Alright)

Friday, January 6, 2012

The last several weeks have been so emotionally draining. We were incredibly blessed that Archie was able to attend the Arbor School for the past few months, but it was finally time for him to say goodbye to his friends and teachers. It was not an easy goodbye as he loves his teachers so much, and they love him the same.

Thank you for blessing us Donna, June, and Geana!

The public school world has been very different, and honestly, I was just not prepared for everything that we would face. I mean, I am really only classically trained in parenting until up to age 3.5, so this little seven year old has brought on a whole host of new and exciting challenges for me.

First there was all the testing for Archie to determine what kind of services he would qualify for. I still think it is a little crazy that a child with Down Syndrome would have to wait until testing was done to determine whether they qualified for special services- that just doesn't make sense to me. But it is the law and it is what it is.

I was in the room for the majority of his testing. He did not show his true intelligence at all. Maybe it was too much pressure, he was just in silly mode. Or maybe it was the sweet Bulgarian translator who looked exactly like so many of his caregivers at the orphanage, and clearly freaked him out and confused him. He mostly gave her the stink eye when she spoke, and at one point was telling her "no more" in Bulgarian (I didn't point out that he was saying that, and neither did she). Whatever the reason, he did not give a good representation of just how smart he really is.

Then there was coming back in to hear the results of his testing. That was one of my least favorite parts of this process, if not my very least. To hear someone in words telling you all that your child can't do, and how far behind they are, how they compare on whatever charts exist, it just doesn't feel great. Not because I care where he is on any chart, or how far behind he is any other kid, but because I just didn't want to hear somebody telling me what my child could not do. We are talking about a little boy who came to America from an Eastern European orphanage where he lived since birth, and within weeks was speaking an entirely new language; A boy who knows every word to Adele's "Someone Like You", and sings it on key; Can make a friend at any given moment, no matter where we are; A boy who plays make believe with his sister and has a sense of humor like no other. This is a smart kid.

It finally came to talking about Archie's placement and programming in school. Because of his age he would technically be placed in second grade. That was just not going to work for us. He was in what was considered a Kindergarten class at Arbor (although of course very different than a typical Kindergarten class considering that there were only 7 kids in the class and 3 teachers). But Kindergarten was just the perfect place for Archie. Academically, if he was given the chance to finish this year in Kindergarten, he could really start closing the gap and catching up to his peers. He could be involved in what they were learning. In second grade, he wouldn't have the slightest chance. Also socially-- he is TINY, would probably be the smallest kid in a Kindergarten class- but he would at least be able to develop some real friendships. In second grade he would have just been this little tiny boy who the other kids didn't even really understand why he was in their class. Of course I don't doubt that there are compassionate second graders who would have loved him and befriended him, but it just wouldn't be the same. Second graders are learning multiplication and playing football. Just not the appropriate place for Archie.

To make a long story as short as can be, what we wanted was for Archie to be mainstreamed into a Kindergarten classroom with in-class support. It was a battle. There were tears. (only from me). But....guess who is starting Kindergarten on Monday??

He's ready!

He will be at Hunters Creek Elementary-- which happens to be the old stomping grounds of both Joey and my Dad. It is a great school and we couldn't be happier. It is not the school we are zoned too, because that school doesn't have as much Special Education support, and he would not have been able to have full inclusion with support in the classroom there. But it is a fantastic school and everyone we have met there so far has been awesome. Archie cannot wait to get started!

This will be a huge adjustment for him, and I imagine it will involve quite a bit of trial and error for everyone. But I know that he will flourish. He will be exhausted at the end of the day, but he will be happy.

Dear Archie,

Today, your Daddy and I got you an awesome gift-- Kindergarten! Every kid deserves to have Kindergarten and you are no exception. You will be amazing. You will learn so much, you will make new friends, you will test and frustrate your teachers, but they will ALL love you. You will not be a burden on anyone, but rather a blessing. You are a smart boy and I could not be more proud of you. We love you more than words could ever say.

Big Kisses,

Just as a little side note-- none of what I have said in this post is meant to be negative towards the people who we have been working with throughout this process. Yes, there were many different opinions, some that we really didn't agree with. But we know that everyone involved only had Archie's best interest in mind, and wanted a plan that would help him to be most successful. (It just so happens that Joey and I know what is best for him-- cause we know him better than anyone!) But in the end, everyone really worked with us, heard what we had to say, and even understood where we were coming from. We had a great team in place, and the decision that we came to is exactly what we want for Archie. So we have no complaints! We are thankful that our voices were heard.

Thanks to everyone for your prayers and support. Here's to new adventures!
Lots of Love!