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The Melting Pot

Life Amidst Teenagers

I know I promised you a post on my melting pot family, and I’ll get to that… next time (I promise!). But, since this is so much on my mind of late, I thought  I’d write about TEENAGERS this time.  Sometimes I wonder if I am going to lose my mind.   I recently read a post on Facebook about how mothers of teenagers would give anything to have the worries of toddlerhood over the worries of teenage years, and I had to whole-heartedly agree.  Not to belittle the anxiety we feel when our children are younger, but the teenage years brings anxiety to a whole new level.  It is so scary when your children want to be so much more independent.  In addition to the anxiety, the exhaustion I feel is also on a whole new level (aside from those few weeks as a newborn when master Yi-Yi refused to sleep at night). 

Look at how sweet they looked.

When the kids were little, our lives were filled with preschool activities, playdates with friends, trips to the park, and all kinds of activities in which I took part.  Much of my social life was centered on my children.  As they have gotten older, it has morphed into being the designated chauffeur or sitting at home waiting to make sure they come home safely.  Don’t get me wrong, we still manage to do some things as a family, albeit sometimes begrudgingly on their part, but it’s not the same.  And my own social life has become next to nothing, often because I am too filled with exhaustion and anxiety to muster up the energy to pursue one.   I feel like I’m becoming more of a recluse by the day.  I’m sure I’m not the only one out there, though sometimes it sure feels like it.  My ideal Friday and Saturday nights involves watching a movie in bed, something that rarely happens as my teens find more and more they HAVE to do.


Family Time at Graves Mountain

Take Master Yi-Yi.   Now that he has his driver’s license, he thinks the world is his to explore.  Every time he is on the road, I get a sick feeling in my stomach, and it’s still hard to send him off to school with his sister in the car every morning.  I constantly have to remind him that he’s only 17 and not a self-sufficient adult.  We have a constant battle of wills about what he is or isn’t allowed to do.  Up until this point, he had been pretty good about listening, but I feel my control slowly slipping.  And the energy it takes on my part to rein him back in is enormous.  He’s been grounded from spending any time with friends after school this week and is in danger of losing a lot more if he defies me again.  Then there are the school stressors related to his ADHD, but that’s for a post all its own.


First Day of School (11th and 9th grade)

Little H has discovered the joys of boys, trips alone with friends, and anything and everything that does not involve parents.  There is still some part of her that actually enjoys spending some time with her family, but for the most part, she thinks she’s little Miss Independent.  She constantly tells me she can’t wait to be an adult.  I have to remind her she is only 14, and has a long way to go.

At least I still have Monkey Boy.  For the most part, he still wants me around (unless I’m doing something to irritate him like making him do his homework).  He can still be a cuddle bug when things are quiet and relaxed.  I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do when he reaches these more rebellious teen years.  Until then, I think I’ll just enjoy the sweet moments I have with him and the more rare time I still have with Master Yi-Yi and Little H.  And maybe try to become a little less reclusive. In fact, I’m closing down my computer now and going to plan a long overdue lunch with a friend!


A Very Rare Picture of all 3 Kids

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Monkey Boy’s New World….Middle School

As we enter another fall season and hence the beginning of school, I wanted to give you an update on Monkey Boy.  This year was his big transition into middle school.  As I mentioned back in the spring, I was dreading this step. 

IMG_7331_001.JPGSpring 2015

Let me backtrack a little bit and tell you what I did to try to make the transition easier.  At Monkey Boy’s IEP meeting in May, I was informed that there was a “Jumpstart” program (which is actually just a fancy name for summer school), and he was invited to attend.  In theory, I thought it was a great idea.  Of course, I also had concerns.  Would he rebel?  Would it be a constant battle to get him up and out the door?  Was one-on-one tutoring better (I had already worked out a tutor for the summer)?  His fifth grade teacher also had reservations about how he would react.

After much discussion and debate, I decided that the benefits of becoming familiar with a new school prior to the beginning of the school year outweighed the cons.  I figured he would get used to using a locker and meet some of the teachers.  It was also supposedly more hands on than traditional school.  Another point in my favor was that his best friend would also be going.  Telling Monkey Boy that he would be going went better than anticipated, especially in the wake of a huge meltdown when he learned about tutoring.  I’ve since discovered that in his mind, school work is for school and home is for fun.  It’s definitely one of the biggest reasons I won’t homeschool him.IMG_7694.JPGCelebrating the end of Summer School at Great Wolf Lodge

The session was only four days a week for three weeks and three hours a day, so it wasn’t like there wasn’t plenty of time for fun.  Although, I still ruined his summer, don’t you know?! He did learn how to use a locker and he became familiar with the school.  I think he got some academic benefit from it, although it was the polar opposite of the hands on experience I expected.  He did enjoy the teachers, but neither one of them were part of the regular sixth grade team (one didn’t even teach at the school regularly anymore).  I have to say I was somewhat disappointed in the experience overall, but there was still enough benefit that I’m pretty sure I would repeat it if I had it to do all over again, knowing what I do at this point.

Which leads me back to how Monkey Boy is handling middle school.  He’s actually doing fairly well, for him. However, the first day was a disaster.  He was so upset when I picked him up because he had gotten lost “fifty times” according to him.  But by the third day, he’d gotten the hang of it.  And I really think his experience in summer school made him become more comfortable more quickly than he would have been otherwise.IMG_7778_001.JPGFirst Day of Middle School

He’s learned the routine and the schedule.  And now he knows what happens on X days versus Y days a lot better than I do.  We are still getting used to homework, though thankfully it hasn’t been bad yet.  Luckily, they have to record assignment in an agenda (back when Master Yi-Yi and even Little H were in sixth grade, it wasn’t checked as scrupulously), and most of the teachers are good about posting assignments.  Otherwise, I’m not sure he would ever remember his homework assignments.  I have him bring everything home every day.  I do feel bad because his backpack is insanely heavy, even without the textbooks, but I figure it’s better than not having it.  He’s also taking band and is very excited to learn how to play the saxophone.  I really hope that’s something where he can excel.

From what I can tell, his test grades haven’t been great, and he tested right below the fourth grade level for reading, so I am keeping a close eye on those.  I figure I will give him until the first interims come out before requesting any conferences, which will be very soon.  I already sent my yearly letter, and his teachers have been very supportive.  What’s hardest is that Monkey Boy expresses interest in wanting to learn and do well, but then he tells me, “If I get this one wrong, I’m just going to quit trying.”  He definitely still needs to learn some self-confidence.  These days, not only is he picking up on what he’s not good at, but he’s verbalizing his feelings about it very well.

Which reminds me, last week was his final week of speech at Fox Therapy.  He’s been going for sixteen months, and I feel it has greatly benefitted him (although he will tell you that it’s done absolutely nothing).  And it’s not that more sessions wouldn’t help, but we are at the point where his attitude is interfering.   I feel that he’s made this huge leap in progress already, and there may be a few more baby steps he could take, but the cons have started to outweigh the pros.  He also sees that he’s far older than most of the kids who come in and out.

So, I’d say the transition is pretty positive so far.  He even went to his school first dance!  I’m still concerned about academics, but I think we need to get a little further into the routine before I can really tell where his weaknesses still lie.  I will come back and tell you more about that in the future.

Next time, I’ll finally do justice to the name of my blog and delve a little bit more into the ins and outs of my “melting pot family.”


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Lost in a Haze of Construction

I’ve realized that I’ve been MIA from this blog over the last several weeks.  I hope you were too busy with your own summer to notice! Our trip to Disney was definitely the highlight of my summer.  As I had mentioned in my last blog, what awaited me at home was a major renovation and summer school for Monkey Boy.  As the renovation is foremost in my mind, let me tell you about that.f23a0752ea3d4a5fbe4a03f136888085.jpgFond Memories

In the grand scheme of things, the eight weeks since the construction crew began our addition and kitchen renovation has been fairly short, though at times it has felt like forever.  Of course, just like a wedding, it took almost a year of preparation.  We started last fall by hiring a designer.  That was an OK experience.  It definitely made the prep time with the builder shorter, but it wound up being an exercise in frustration, getting what we needed from our designer in a timely manner.  If you want a lot of input, it’s a great way to go.  But for us, we basically knew what we wanted and felt like a lot of time was wasted on reviewing elaborate alternatives.71415__5_.JPGNo More Patio

It wasn’t until late February that we contacted a builder for an estimate.  Our plan was to add a 12x24 foot addition onto our existing family room, build a small deck, redo the upstairs HVAC system and replace the kitchen cabinets, countertops, kitchen floor and family room carpet.  At the last minute, we decided to replace the living room carpet while we were at it.  Early on, we thought that hiring a contractor rather than trying to find people to do the individual jobs would make life much easier.  We wound up using John Robb Custom Homes at the referral of a friend.  I cannot say enough good things about this company.  They were professional yet friendly, communicative, timely and reliable.72915__2__001.JPGOur Lovely Dining Room

By the end of April, we had a signed contract along with a final copy of our plans thanks to the builder’s designer, and he submitted for permits.  Stafford County is a royal pain for permits, and it took until the end of June for them to come back.  It was a pleasant surprise when the excavator broke ground on July 14 by bulldozing our old patio.  For the first couple weeks thereafter, things seemed to move at breakneck speed.  The whole project has been filled with very productive days interspersed with lulls.

During those first couple of weeks, I managed to completely empty the contents of my family room, kitchen and laundry room into the dining room.  Imagine floor to ceiling disaster.  To say I can’t find ANYTHING at this point is an understatement!  As soon as I finished that, they completely demolished the kitchen, and the five of us, plus two cats and one dog, moved in with my parents who conveniently live across the street.  To give kudos to my parents, they have been super about us invading their house.  And luckily we all get along.  But after six weeks, I am more than ready to move back home.

IMG_7772.JPGOur New KitchenWhile it seems like it’s been dragging on forever, the end is almost in sight.  The new room is virtually complete, the cabinets and flooring are in, HVAC is done, we have a fresh coat of paint and after today we should have our countertops and be done with electrical.  Labor Day weekend will be filled with painting the living room in anticipation of the new carpet.

We should be on the verge of moving back in just in time for the school routine to begin!  The timing really worked out in our favor.  I’m sure I won’t win “mother of the year” though considering that we’ve done almost nothing fun since Disney.  Monkey Boy has been to the pool exactly once, Little H went to the Art Museum in Richmond, and we did manage to get away for one night to Great Wolf Lodge.

I’ll be back soon, and will tell you more about Monkey Boy’s experience with summer school and his transition into…sniff, sniff…middle school.

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The Not So Magical Magic Kingdom

IMG_6584.JPGEntrance to the Magic KingdomIf you remember my previous posts, my mom, the kids, and I were really enjoying our Florida vacation…until the last day when our luck ran out.  We had saved the Magic Kingdom for last, hoping it would be a little less crowded on a day not flanking the weekend.  That was our first mistake.

In the past, we tried to be at the Disney parks before rope drop.  This year, we decided Monkey Boy would do better without the initial crowd, so we had been arriving a little bit after opening.  We didn’t think the Magic Kingdom would be any different.  Armed with fastpasses for Space Mountain in the morning, I had our itinerary all planned out. 

IMG_6588_001.JPGThe first hiccup in my plan occurred while in the parking lot. We were planning to take the tram from the parking lot to the ticket and transportation center, which is the hub for transportation to the Magic Kingdom.  We got in line behind the pole designating the front of the tram line.  Soon after, the parking attendant picked up the pole and moved it further to the back of the line without saying a word.  By then, the line was completely backed up, so we decided to walk (big mistake!) because it didn’t appear to be far.  When we arrived at the ticket and transportation center twenty minutes later, with Monkey Boy already complaining about his asthma, we realized our error. 

Disney also had this brilliant idea to put the Magic Kingdom on an island, so you can only arrive via monorail or boat.   We chose the boat thinking that the line looked shorter and more people could pile onto it.  By the time we made it through the ticket line and rented a wheelchair, then worked our way through the throngs of people taking selfies on the main thoroughfare and finally arrived in Tomorrowland, the kids were begging to go home!  Mind you, this was our eighth day of amusement parks, and everyone was beginning to tire of the crowds and heat.

IMG_6591.JPGSpace MountainA cool drink and the promise of Space Mountain revived them.  I planned to get a DAS pass to Buzz Lightyear, but when I asked, they said the system was down (because of the heat!!)  and were pretty rude about it.  Just two days before when the system wasn’t working in Animal Kingdom, they gave us a paper pass, but we weren’t in the mood to argue and never did make it to Buzz Lightyear. 

Space Mountain (another ride from which I refrained, but my mom had on her bucket list) put everyone in a better mood.  We headed off to use our fastpasses for The Little Mermaid, which according to Monkey Boy was “dumb”, and The Mine Train. When we arrived at the Mine Train, we realized that the fastpasses were for 11 pm not 11 am (and all of the morning passes were gone).  Epic fail on my part!  We would have gotten a DAS pass, but we had already gotten one for Peter Pan, which had an 80 minute wait and needed to be used first.  Since we had time on our hands, we thought maybe we could move our lunch reservation up a bit. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out either. 

IMG_6594.JPGThe Minetrain (which we never did ride)By then, everyone was hot and cranky, and we no longer cared about backtracking to Peter Pan, so we went to see if we could cancel the DAS pass and get one for Splash Mountain.  The system was still down, but this time the attendant was super nice.  He told us we needed to do Peter Pan first, since he couldn’t cancel it, but he went ahead and gave us a paper pass for Splash Mountain.  So off we went to Peter Pan (Monkey Boy thought that was dumb, too…sometimes he can make me crazy!!).  Since the Mine Train fastpasses had been a failure, I exchanged them for the Haunted Mansion.  And can you guess? Monkey Boy wasn’t happy with that ride either. In his defense, he was tired, hot and hungry, and he had gotten a taste for the more exciting rides.  I can’t say I was in a much better mood either!  It was definitely a mistake to have saved the Magic Kingdom for last.  We had about 45 minutes before lunch and were still too early for Splash Mountain, so waited in the restaurant while Master Yi-Yi and Little H colored with the four year olds!  And did I think to snap a picture…that would be NO!

A DAS pass doesn’t expire; you just need to use it before you get another.  So, we made it through Splash Mountain (I actually went on that one) right before the skies opened up.  Monkey Boy absolutely loved the ride, by the way, and wanted to go again!  We waited out the first wave of heavy rain and then headed to the monorail just as the skies were lit by sheets of lightning.  We finally made it onto the monorail just to be told it was no longer working.  We spent about an hour waiting to see if it would be fixed and also waiting out the storm.  Eventually, we gave up and headed for the boat.  The kids did great through all of it.  We made it to our car about three hours after we had begun to exit the park!IMG_0579_001.JPGStorms over the Castle

Luckily, we had planned a day off between the Magic Kingdom and driving home.  Which leads me to our other brilliant idea…driving home from Disney World in one stretch.  Remember how we decided to drive all the way to Jacksonville on the way down because the idea of unloading and loading for one night sounded unpleasant.  With more stuff to take home than we had brought, stopping seemed even more daunting.  The trip down went so well, we thought, what’s three and a half extra hours?

I wound up dragging the kids out of bed at 5:30 am to beat traffic.  The trip home began well enough, until we hit our first snag in Jacksonville and wound up going the longer way around and losing 15 minutes.  In Georgia, we encountered our first huge traffic jam and decided to take back roads.  When we finally got back on 95, we were beginning to question our sanity.  Our next holdup came in South Carolina, where standstill traffic forced us onto back roads again. Of course, this is when Little H decided she desperately needed a bathroom, as we were travelling through the middle of nowhere.  We reminded ourselves that we COULD still stop for the night if we needed to.   Monkey Boy had decided he wanted to sleep all the way home and was pretty disgruntled to realize that four hours into the trip, we weren’t anywhere close.

20150628_367.JPGThe Ride HomeThe rest of the trip was uneventful until we crossed the Virginia border.  This is when the sky opened up in full force (the same day as the flooding around Fredericksburg).  The visibility was nothing, and we were surrounded by a tornado watch.  My mom had the pleasure of driving at this point.  Once again, we questioned our decision to drive all the way home, but by then we were on the home stretch.  As we were approaching Fredericksburg, my mom and I were discussing whether to “bail out” of the interstate, and Monkey Boy, being rather loopy by then, got the idea into his head that we meant abandon them in the car.  It was quite comical.

When I got home, what was I greeted with?  The daunting task of clearing out two rooms of our house for an addition and renovation and breaking the news to Monkey Boy that he was going to summer school!  I’ll tell you more about all that “fun” soon!

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More Escapades in Florida

20150628_363.JPGThe Pool at Our Rental HouseIf you remember from my last post the kids, my mom and I were taking a much- needed rest by the pool at the Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando before venturing off to Disney World.

Once we got to Disney, we chose to rent a house through  The kids love having the space, and each of the houses has its own pool.  While staying in the park has many perks, we have found in the past that because we always stay for at least a week, we enjoy having the house to get away from the craziness. And it’s generally only a 5 to 10 minute drive to Disney depending on traffic. (In our case, even with my mom at the wheel and me navigating, we got lost in the labyrinth of roads around the park on multiple occasions, making the drive a bit longer!).

Having had a day off, we were ready to head to Hollywood Studio’s bright and early the next morning.  My plan was to activate our tickets and head directly to Guest Services for a DAS pass (or Disability pass…I’ll get to that soon), so Master Yi-Yi could ride the Rockin’ Roller Coaster and be on time for his first fastpass to Tower of Terror.  The rest of us chose to refrain from those rides!!  Anyway, by the time I got the tickets settled, I completely forgot about the DAS pass. 

As a quick aside, for those of you not familiar with Disney, you can find more information on the new fastpass system here. I found it somewhat of a pain to guess where we would want to be when in order to coordinate fastpasses with meal reservations, but, at the same time, it was nice to have a semi-schedule mapped out in advance.  I downloaded the Disney app on my phone from which you can track reservations and add or change them if need be, and that was very helpful.  I knew that you had to use all the fastpasses before you could get another, but I mistakenly thought I could also do that on my phone.  Word to the wise: you need to use a kiosk in the park, and I didn’t find this out until I got home. 

20150628_277.JPGHollywood StudiosHollywood Studios is fairly small, so Monkey Boy did OK without any extra accommodations, though he had been complaining about his lungs and chest because of his asthma on and off for days. As the day progressed, he became more irritated.  I decided I would inquire about the DAS pass on the way out, so we would have it the next day.  It’s a relatively simple process at guest services.  You just tell them why you need one and don’t need any type of proof.  They scan the child’s ticket, take his/her picture and then scan the rest of the tickets in the party.  To use the pass, you just go to the ride and tell them you need a DAS return time.  They will then scan the ticket and give you a time to come back that is the posted wait time minus ten minutes, at which point you are allowed in the fastpass line.  The only stipulations are that you have to use it before you can get another pass and the child connected to the pass needs to go first in the party.  It can be used at any time after the given time unlike fastpasses, which need to be used within an hour window.  We didn’t use it too much, but for the most part, it worked great when we did.

20150628_323.JPGHats from "China"Our second day at Disney was a very long day at EPCOT.  Because it is one of the biggest parks, we decided to rent a wheelchair for Monkey Boy.  I knew that his stamina for long distance walking could sometimes be a problem (see my earlier blog where I wrote about his stamina), especially in the heat and humidity.  I didn’t anticipate that his asthma (which has seemed to improve as he’s gotten older) would cause him to complain nonstop about his chest and breathing, therefore also making walking at length difficult.  Monkey Boy happily allowed his brother to push him around, and he wasn’t the only mobile child we saw renting a wheelchair.  It made the day sooo much better.  We were there for at least ten hours, and that would have been impossible without the chair. 

We didn’t have lunch reservations but after several rides, everyone decided they were hungry, so I checked restaurants on my Disney App and found us a reservation within twenty minutes at Nine Dragons in “China,” giving us just enough time to walk there.  It was without a doubt some of the best Chinese food we have ever eaten.  Little H, my super picky eater, even found something she liked.

Monkey Boy started to become more irritated by the crowds and heat towards the late afternoon, and told us no more rides, but we convinced him to do a couple more.  We hadn’t done Test Track yet, and it was one of our favorites, so we retrieved a DAS time.  Of course, Monkey Boy insisted he wasn’t going to ride it and without him, none of us could.  I figured I would worry about when we got there, so we headed off to Spaceship Earth and the Living Seas until our return time.  Spaceship Earth did nothing to help Monkey Boy’s mood, but he loved the Living Seas, and therefore was in a great mood when it was time for Test Track.  He loved it so much he wanted to do it again, but the wait would have been too long.  At that point, we decided to call it a day.

8 4x6_1.jpgBlizzard BeachOur third day took us to Blizzard Beach.  The boys really enjoyed the slides, but the rest of us mostly relaxed and observed.  They had a “lazy river,” and Monkey Boy used it as a mode of transportation around the park.  As long as he was in the water, he was happy.  Besides this, there wasn’t a whole lot they wanted to do there, so we headed back to the house fairly early for a relaxing afternoon by the pool.  My mom was especially happy to get away from some of the chaos and float around on a raft (until it started to make her seasick, that is!).

We had planned on Animal Kingdom for the fourth day, so we arrived bright and early to try to beat the heat.  We started in Dinoland USA, but after one trip on the roller coaster, the kids decided they wanted to move on, so we headed to Everest.  I’m the one that chickened out.  Did I mention that I’m not the most fun person at amusement parks?  My mom, however, had it on her bucket list, so she went with the kids.  She said she was glad she did it, but one time was plenty!  Monkey Boy loved it.  After a walk through the “jungle of Asia,” and a snack in Africa, we headed off to Kali River Rapids.  It’s a good thing we had fastpasses because the wait time was 80 minutes.  Even so, Monkey Boy was disappointed that the ride was too short and upset that he barely got wet.  My mom, on the other hand, took the brunt of the spray. We worked our way through the rest of the park and ended our day with a fun late lunch at Rainforest Café.

Up through this point in our trip, we really lucked out with weather and plans, so you know we were likely to encounter one bad day.  Look for my next post, in which the Magic Kingdom wasn’t all that magical and then we had the harebrained idea to drive all the way home in one stretch!


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About Laura

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Laura is mostly a stay at home mom who works part time at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.  In the past, she was a first grade teacher.  Over the years, she has kept herself busy volunteering at school, babysitting and caring for her children.  Currently, a lot of her time is spent dragging her youngest child, Monkey Boy, to various appointments in search of answers to his developmental issues.  She also has two teenagers, son:  Master Yi-Yi and daughter: Little H. Her melting pot family also includes her ex (father to her kids), the world’s best step-dad and husband, “TR” two step-daughters, two cats and a part-time dog!

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Established in 2006 in memory of Laila Rose Engh, The Laila Rose Foundation partners with Living Hope Adoptions to provide financial assistance to families adopting foreign born children with medical needs. Laila Rose, the namesake of the charity, and her mother, Lisa, lost their lives tragically in an automobile accident in 2005.