AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, FPM, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Sofia, Tess

The Graduates

We’re one week into summer break now, and adjusting to our new schedule. It has been an extra adjustment to have me back home again, and in charge of moving the children place to place. Oh the places they need to move. So many places. We lost our 3rd driver last week.

Ally has a summer internship at the university. She is working at campus’s early childhood center in the Toddler Room. She is so happy about that, but the littles all miss her terribly. Isabel asks about her less than we thought she would, but that’s good. First, she is sure Ally will come back. Second, she is used to Ally coming and going. Ally has her own life. When you live in a large family, and have a huge heart, it is really easy to make your younger siblings the center of your universe. We want our bigs to have their own lives. Ally does.

Cam has a job at our local pool and is waiting to take Driver’s Ed until such a time that he can prove himself responsible enough to handle that. We have high standards in this house, especially when it comes to operating a motor vehicle. And, I have big feelings about 16 being the driving age. It seems so young to me. That’s just me though, I’m sure. Some kids are so ready. Some aren’t. He’s not.

Brady is playing tons of local venues with his drum line and his bands this summer. He just played at the Union Terrace last night. That makes him an official Madisonian, I think. He leaves for Band Camp tomorrow. He has few to no responsibilities in this house other than being the great entertainer that he is. We will miss that for the week he is gone. The house always feels so quiet when the great entertainer is gone.

AJ just graduated 8th grade. He is so ready for high school, especially for the athletics part.

Jax and Jules are now completely adjusted to middle school, enjoying swim team this summer and waiting for Sofia to join them next year. She is so ready, and she is SO done with 5th grade.

Bowen is getting ready for Paralympic Junior Nationals again in mid-July. He’s competing in short course swimming and made it on to a relay this year!

Tess is my crazy reader and can’t wait to continue passing reading levels and logging her books read this summer! She has dreams of her own Good Reads account.

Cate bid farewell to Kindergarten. With her went our constant enrollment in Room 4. This man has become like part of our family. To him, we say ‘aloha’, which is hello, goodbye, and we care about you all in one word. How does one say thank you to a man who taught all of your children?

Isa has completed 4K, and will move on to full-time Kindergarten in the same center-based Deaf education program that Gigi is in. She can’t wait. School is definitely her jam.

I am looking forward to a summer of them. I spend so much of my school year focused on meeting the needs of other people’s children. Now it’s time to focus on us.

–FullPlateMom, who is summer lovin’

Being a Transracial Family, Cam, FPM

Year one is almost done.

*Stock photo, not my school, or the school any of my kids attend*

This past September I began working in our local school district in the role of School Nurse. I know it seems like an odd move for me after working for myself for 2+ years. Not gonna lie, I miss the flexibility of making my own schedule. I miss making as much money as I did before I began working in a public school.

Our district is working toward the goal of having every school become a truly Trauma Sensitive School. I definitely want in that process. It is my passion. I also see so much being talked about in our district in regard to acknowledging our racial inequities. My kids have experienced both micro-aggressions and overt racism in their schools. I loved that this need for learning amongst staff was being acknowledged.

I accepted the job in July, and for the past 9 months, I have truly begun to love the schools I have been welcomed into.

Even though my own kids have been students in the district for over a decade, finding my place at the beginning of the year was so hard. The education world and the medical world are like two different planets. I would leave every meeting I attended thinking three things…”What just happened here?” “Why did it happen?” and “Why are these people the way they are?” I’m starting to figure some of that out. Again, completely different planets.

I adore the kids. Adore. them. I now have some of the funniest stories from some of the most creative elementary students ever to share with my own kids. We spend every night at dinner talking about the goings on in all six of “our” schools within the district. The first year of any new job is hard though. It’s uncomfortable to feel inept. This has been harder than any other year though, and at first, I couldn’t figure out why.

I hit roadblock after roadblock this week that explained a lot, and I think I finally have an answer as to why despite great successes and forward movement that it would be hard for anyone to dismiss, I feel so beat down. For awhile, I couldn’t put my feeling on why? I couldn’t even truly name the “beat down” feeling. That’s unusual for me. Part of my own training was focused on self-identification of my own struggles. I am good at identifying and addressing those so that I continue supporting others. But this feeling, it’s a feeling of sadness over…something…that I couldn’t quite put my finger on? I was able to name it once I was out of school for the day.

Before I transitioned to this role I used to chaperone my own kid’s field trips. Not every single one of them, but a few a year. This year, I have chaperoned exactly zero. That has left me with the very natural feeling of ‘mom guilt.’ I’m a work out of home mom, that feeling isn’t unfamiliar. I can hold space for it.

When the opportunity arose for me to chaperone a field trip for Cam, who is now a Sophomore in high school, as his pre-college group attended a conference on inequities in education, I jumped at it. Cam is enrolled in a program that will give him a full scholarship to college. He is in a track to become an educator. He hopes to teach middle school math. While not pressuring him into this, we are definitely encouraging it. Black, male, educators are precious and rare. They are needed. I know this firsthand.

During the conference, a panel presentation was scheduled. The panelists were local high school students who were going to discuss their experiences as students of color in our local high schools with the room full of educators in front of them. One of the panelists cancelled, so a fellow student asked Cam to join. I did push him to do this. Cam is finding his voice. That voice is necessary for him. He needs to be able to discuss, and share, his experiences with racism if he really wants to serve his students.

He got up there. For the first few questions, he let other panelists speak. Slowly, I could see him become more comfortable. He began to share, so maturely, some of his experiences. He shared what it felt like to be the only Black child in his Advanced Placements classes. He shared how it felt to integrate the Men’s Swim Team in 2017. Yes, he is the first Black Varsity men’s swimmer at his high school. He shared how he could see a need for change on multiple levels in his schools. Then he shared a story from school that he never told me.

He had been pulled aside one day after class, with three other Black classmates, and only three Black classmates, to be questioned about why the classroom smelled of marijuana. All of the white students, Asian students, and less brown kids had been excused. Only the three darkest children were asked to stay behind. “Why does it smell like that in here?” The students explained that the odor had been present when they entered the classroom. This explanation was dismissed, and for a solid five minutes, he and the two other students were asked repeatedly which one of them had just smoked.

Cam explained that he doesn’t smoke. He explained that he is a student athlete, a member of the Varsity Track Team, with his sights set on running in college. He explained that he has made a promise to his parents, and to his coaches. He explained he has a personal code of conduct along with an athletic code of conduct, to which he adheres. None of that mattered to this teacher. He had to explain all of that, when he owed no explanation to this individual. Finally, after a sufficiently uncomfortable period of silence, all three students were excused. As they all walked to their next classes, now late, they discussed how change isn’t coming fast enough. The adults aren’t creating change fast enough to stop the trauma of students who we are supposed to be keeping safe.

Later that night, I asked Cam why he hadn’t told me the story when it happened.

“It happens all the time, mom. I saw how much it cost you to try to make change on the swim team. Nothing really changed. It cost you so much. I saw what you went through when we got that letter. It cost us all so much. It’s better to not lose so much over these smaller interactions.” This was a small interaction to him. That broke my heart. What would be big to him?

We’re not moving fast enough to stop the trauma. I’m not moving fast enough to stop it from happening to my own son. I’m not moving fast enough to stop it happening to the students I serve every day in a place that I promised them would be safe.

There are so many stories to share. This is one of many of Cam’s stories. Brady has just as many. AJ and Jax have stories. Ally has stories. Juliana and Sofia haven’t even crossed over the line of being teenagers, yet, they have stories. Isa has stories she can’t even name yet.

Cam had the courage to share this story publicly in this moment. He is allowing me to share it here. The point of sharing it is not to seek retribution for the person who committed the act. She is still teaching. She will continue teaching. He knows that neither he, or I with all my privilege, have the power to change that. We know that if we tried to seek retribution for every act of racism we had seen this year, that we would be fighting constantly, and that fight would cost us so much.

Grief. That’s the feeling. It’s a sign of my privilege that it took me this long to name it. I am sure people of color have this feeling named and claimed. I have named it now too. And I will have to figure out how to move through it if any change is going to come from what my kids have endured, all my kids, at the hands of people I may interact with at work.

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Deafness, Dessert, FPD, FPM, FullPlateBupa, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Megafamily, Sofia, Tess

Disney 2018: All the things I want to remember.

Hi Kids!  It’s mom here.  I’m writing to you at the tail end of our Disney 2018 adventure.  We haven’t been here since January of 2017.  We were supposed to come in January of 2018, but your sister’s impending arrival put a little crimp in those plans, so here we are, ten months later.  Isabel is with us, and we all agree the delay was so worth it.

I wanted to commit to memory some things about 2018’s trip.  Sometimes, years after we take these trips, when we’re back in the most magical place on earth, and your favorite place to be, I get flashes of memories and I think ‘I should write that down before I forget!’  So, here I sit, on the patio of our Grand Villa at Saratoga Springs, writing it down before I forget.

First and foremost, I want to remember what it felt like for all of us to be together.  This is Ally’s Junior year of high school.  It is a little bit of a question mark how long she will be able to come with us.  Although, she insists it is forever.  I want to remember that, because forever is a hard promise to keep.  I want to remember what this little girl looked like when she met her beloved Mickey Mouse.  This was her first visit, and it didn’t disappoint.  She RAN through the parks with reckless abandon, searching for that mouse.  We finally found him at a character breakfast.  A $900 character breakfast that Disney paid for because of a mistake they made with our reservation.  Let’s remember that too, not because of the mistake, that made me cry, because it was a doozy, but because sometimes mistakes are huge blessings in disguise.  

I also want to remember this face.  Gigi finally had the language to understand ALL of what was happening around her.  She marveled at the interpreted shows we saw.  Thank you Disney, for providing ASL interpreters, it means the world to this girl.  She has named all the characters, this one is ‘Carrot Nose.’  She was THRILLED to meet him.  She knows he is friends with ‘Princesses, Frozen’ and I interpreted as she asked him all about them, in ASL.  ‘Princesses, Frozen, where? You are friends! Tell them, COME!’  Carrot Nose, couldn’t make them appear, but she was cool with that too.  Hugs and onto the next thing!  She has grown so much in her time in our family.  What once would have caused a complete meltdown is now explained to her and she simply moves on.  Thank God for language.  

I want to remember how the Christmas decorations were just going up as we got here for this trip, how we’ve never seen that before, and how excited all of you were.  They appeared overnight and you all declared it ‘magic.’  I want to commit to memory how you all believe, so wholeheartedly, in magic.  

I want to remember that this was the year that Cate posed for photos with a sass that only she could pull off, and only at this moment in time.  I took about 1000 pictures of you, Cate, because of this moment in time.

I want to remember that this year, at the age of 8, was the year that Bowen FINALLY reached 40 inches tall and got to ride a rollercoaster.  I want to remember what that did for his self-confidence, and how he declared himself no longer little.  He is now ‘a middle’ in our family.

I want to remember our bigs.  I want to remember how Ally spent all day wrangling strollers, without ever being asked, she just did.I want to remember how Cam, Brady and AJ set down their phones, chose not to venture off on their own when offered, and spent all day in the Magic Kingdom riding all the little kid rides with their younger siblings, because they believe in magic too, just a different variety.

Kids, I want you to remember me at this moment too.  Because, the days are long, but the years go by so very fast.  I want you to remember how much fun this was for me too, even when I had to yell “WALK THIS DIRECTION!” in my drill sergeant voice to get us to the next ride.

I want you to remember that you all are my joy, my magic.  All 12 of you.
I also want you to remember that I can whip a tea cup better than ANY of you.–FullPlateMom, who got her teacup whipping ability from her dad, and who plans to keep passing that on to future generations.

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, FPM, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Tess

We Made It.

Tomorrow we’ll start week 3 of school.  Last week was our first full week.  They are ALL back at school now.  

We’ll pretend this one says ‘first day’, but I’m not changing it, because this is SO Jax.

All the sass.

It was my first day of school too.  In May I applied for a job I never thought I would be accepted for in our local school district.  I am a School Nurse at two schools that are ‘Behavioral Health Schools.’  We are focusing on Mental Health outcomes for our students.  I am so proud to get to be part of this.  Working with teams who focus on how poverty, past trauma, and race affect student achievement in school.  But, I also get to see kids who have fallen on the playground and scraped their knee, or kids who have lost their first tooth.

It’s crazy hard, but just like most things in life, it is worth it.

And, the health insurance is really great too.

–FullPlateMom, who is stocking her office with some great tools for mindfulness.

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Dessert, FPD, FPM, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Tess

DC Day 2–Their History and Culture

Today was the day!  The kids finally got to see the African-American Museum of History and Culture!

We rode the Metro to get there.

Those four were quite excited.

Then we walked through one very famous mall to get to the museum.

The museum was amazing.

But the absolute best part is, none of it was for me.  Because, you see, when this was written, it was meant for me.  Well, not me exactly, because I’m not a man, but this was written for people who look like me.  This museum was devoted to the history and culture of people who don’t look like me.  I was their as a guest, to appreciate that history and culture, to learn about it, but not to belong to it.   It is good for me, as the majority, to be in a space that feels that way.

After the museum was over, we headed to China Town, where we ate in a tiny little restaurant with some great friends.  Photo credit on this one goes to Reece.  This might be the only family photo we have since Colombia!

–FullPlateMom, who is taking this babies into space tomorrow, thanks to the Smithsonian.  DC, we love your free museums!

 

FPM, Meat and Potatoes, Veggies

Summer Overcomer

It has been a rough one, there really is no other way to put it.  Isa is doing great.  Her health is better than we could have asked for.  Eyes, perfect.  Heart, holding steady.  Lungs, chronic, but manageable.  Ears, super deaf, which is just what we expected, and what we love.

Work has been hard.  I am currently partially unemployed.  We’re working on that, but upon coming home, I took a large salary cut that impacted us in ways it will take us awhile to come back from.  It was like the perfect financial storm after coming home from an adoption.

The political climate has us worried about our health insurance.  We’re self-employed and there promises to be a large increase in our premium very soon.  We struggled with our ACA premium under Obama.  We’re suffocating with it under Trump.  Ally will become an adult soon and we will have to buy her own policy.  She can no longer be covered under our policy purchased on the market.  She has asthma, which is a pre-existing condition.  We feel like we’re working harder than ever just to survive.

Last weekend I was diagnosed with kidney dysfunction and I am currently being worked up for Type 1 Diabetes.  I have long battled auto-immune issues.  This seems to be the latest one.   We have conquered way bigger things.  It’s just that, right now, it feels like a pile on.  I’m tired.

I had big plans for this summer.  They have gotten a lot more low key.  We’re hitting up locations around town, exploring our city, and getting ready for a big trip to DC in a couple of weeks.  Hopefully that will make up for some of the bummer parts of this summer.  

Because we are overcomes, summer overcomes.

–FullPlateMom, who is so grateful for what she does have.

FPM

Today, I Was A Good Mom.

I don’t feel like a very good mom lately.  I’m angry about all the things I can’t fix for Isa.  I’m tired.  I feel old.  I feel beat down.  In those moments, I tell myself I don’t deserve to be celebrated.

Mother’s Day is Sunday.

This post is for all of the parents who don’t feel good at this thing that we’re doing.

Today, I was a good mom.  I woke up early to do some billing for my job, so that the kids could have my undivided attention during the crunch of getting ready for school.  They would get a better breakfast.  We would be more relaxed.  They would hit the door of school ready to learn.  Today, I was a prepared mom.

After kissing most of them goodbye, the two littles who are left with me got to play in the water table outside.  It will be so messy.  I’ll spend an hour combing and drying the dog because of all the water they will dump on him.  But, they love it.  They are little for such a short time.   Today, I am a fun mom.

They ask for a picnic for lunch.  I hate picnics.  I hate the mess, and the hot sun.  I hate that I won’t be able to eat because I’ll have to run in and out to get them everything they need.  My soon-to-be Kindergartener asks for grilled cheese.  At a picnic?  Ugh.  But, I make it, because soon there will be no more soon-to-be, she will be in Kindergarten, and I will miss these days so much.  Today, I am a sentimental mom.

I mopped all the floors today while they dumped out every puzzle we own.  Today isn’t mopping day, but there are doctor’s appointments for the rest of the week.  It’s my only chance.  I did it.  Today, I am an organized mom.

The interpreter who interprets for my Deaf 6-year-old during the school year is going to interpret for her in summer school.  YES!  Today, I am an elated mom.

The hospital billing office called.  They have no prior authorization for an appointment we have tomorrow, one that we have been anticipating for many weeks.  I pretend to lose the call so that I can handle it myself.  I won’t let them cancel this appointment.  Today, I am an advocate mom.

The kids hit the door after school and I go through the house in reverse age order making sure they’ve all done their daily work, focusing on every area where their teachers told me they needed work during their recent parent teachers conferences.  “Read the chapter and write me a brief summary.”  “Here are this week’s math problems.  Do the first 10 and then I’ll circle back.  You can do it, I know you can!”  Today, I am a diligent mom.

I finally sit down and pour myself a glass of wine.  My teens have arrived home.  My eldest daughter comes to me, running shoes in hand.  “Will you do a couple of miles with me?”  This is our only chance to be alone, to really talk, to connect.  I put my wine in the fridge, grab my shoes and head out.  Today, I am a fierce mom.

As we run next to the pond on our usual route, we pause for a moment.  I tell her about a mom who messaged me today.  She is going to help a child whose adoptive placement failed.  I tell her about another mom who may have to hand her baby back to the mama who gave birth to her.  I tell her about another mom whose daughter is in critical condition from the same heart defect that plagues her sister.  I tell her about the mamas I know whose babies are in heaven this Mother’s Day.  We cried.  Today, I am a sad mom.

Then we prayed, because everyday, I am a faithful mom.  And I want her to see that.

After dinner, when all the kids are in bed, my son comes to me as I’m crafting teacher appreciation gifts and asks “Is there anything I can do to help you?”  I’ve got it, because he needs his rest, but, today, I am a grateful mom.

I need to hold onto this day.  Not every day will be like this.   I hope my kids will remember these days, and when they do it for their kids, know that they are good parents too.  I am a good mom.  I need to hold onto that too.

–FullPlateMom, who wants you to hold onto that too.