Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Infinite Patience and Calm

I'm going to try to describe what it's like to be Robert's mom. It's actually very difficult to describe. People understand best when they see for themselves. But since very few people see Robert's less pleasant side, and more people should understand what it's like, I'm going to attempt it.
First of all, I love my son very, very much. Or more accurately, I love my son's sweet personality very, very much. I also love him when he's hellishly difficult, even though it might not seem like it sometimes. We actually have as good of a relationship as I think we can. Other's might disagree.
All I can say is, I may not always be as sweet and understanding as those who've only seen his angelic side wish I was. But I do my very best 85-90% of the time. Yes, there are days and times when I'm cranky and everything he says and does, gets on my nerves. Even in his sweetest state, he has quirks that can be challenging. The main quirk is his incessant talking. 75% of the time, Robert is talking nonstop. Cameron always jokes, and sometimes he's not joking, about wishing there was on "off" button somewhere on Robert. It would be a very convenient feature! ;) Then the next time he's about to meltdown, we could just switch him off and wait until we think he's cooled down sufficently, and turn him back on again in a good mood. Boy, wouldn't that be nice!
But unfortunately, that's not the way it works. And since they don't usually issue tranquilizer darts to parents (lots of parents would appreciate them, not just us ;)), we use much more ordinary and boring methods. :) Raising Robert is a lot like raising a lion. Just like a young lion, he's very cute and lovable when he's in a good mood. He's very amiable and fun too. That's when it's easiest to be his parent. But just like with a young lion, he's also unpredictable. I've found that anyone who says they understand Robert or that they get him, doesn't understand or get him at all. Because anyone who has seen all of Robert, never says things like that anymore. They've seen the lion roar or attack, (Robert rarely hurts anyone. But he does throw amazing tantrums.)
and they know they can't always predict it. Even Cameron and I can't always predict how he will react. We just have the most experience reading his moods and are they best at predicting.
(I love to write, but writing about Robert at home, is surprisingly exhausting. Too much emotion and history involved, I guess. So I'll write more later. :))

Friday, September 16, 2011

Growing Up Me

I guess I'll start at the beginning. Best place to start, right? Whenever I'd ask Cameron for ideas for what I should write (I meant fiction), he'd always say, "Write about your family." So this is a first attempt, writing about my life and family growing up.

I think I grew up in a unique home. I've met other people who grew up in a very large family. But I think it's still a little unique. I guess you can decide for yourself. :)

I was born in the summer of 1975. My parents were living with my mom's parents in Amarillo, Texas at the time. My dad was still finishing his degree at BYU. But they were at my mom's home, I think so that my dad could work.

Anyway, I was born 2 months early. My mom still talks about how surprised they were and how they didn't have a name picked out. But I'm an impatient person. So I'm pretty sure I decided that 7 months was plenty of time to gestate and decided it was time for me to make my appearance. Luckily I didn't have any health problems. I only spent a week or two in the hospital so they could make sure my lungs were working well.

I was tiny though. Only 4 lbs 8 oz. I think my grandma has a picture of me in a shoebox to show how tiny I was. They never found out why I came so early. My mom had 9 other children without any issues, one even 3 weeks late. Like I said, I'm pretty sure I just got tired of waiting. :) My dad called me the million dollar baby because I cost so much. It wasn't really that much, but to college students, a few thousand seemed like a million at the time.

I had one older sibling. My sister, Juliene, was 13 months older than I was. We were alot like fraternal twins that were born separately. When we were little, we both had white-blond hair. I was slightly taller, so we were about the same height. And my mom always cut our hair the same and we usually had similar outfits. People thought we were identical twins all the time. We're not identical, but lots of people don't actually look. They see the same hair and the same clothes and decide you're identical. I liked being my sister's twin when I was young. But when you're in high school and people can't tell you apart, it gets a little old.

We all moved back to Provo, Utah after I was born, so that my dad could finish his Master's degree in art. One of his professors told my uncle years later that he still remembered my dad. He remembered how talented he was and how my dad only wanted to paint. Most students planned on teaching to make a living. But my dad had no desire to teach. He was just going to be an artist.

My brother Brandt, named after Rembrandt, was born a year and a half after I was. Can you see a pattern developing? My parents had 10 children. The longest gap between kids was 3 years. So this was a normal thing in our house. Relatives would say to my mom, "Every time I see you, you're either pregnant or have a baby with you." It was true. My mom loved babies and had easy pregnancies. So there were lots of kids in our house. :)

After my dad graduated, we moved back to Amarillo so my mom could live near her mom. This was a very good idea, since we were very poor and my grandma could help with the finances and the kids. My dad's first job was in a tiny museum in Panhandle, Texas. He painted the backdrops for the museum displays and I think he painted a portrait of someone also. Judging by their website, things haven't changed much since I was last there in high school. So probably his backdrops are still being used. The rest of the time and when that job was over, my dad just painted and tried to sell his art. Problem was, no one knew him and he wasn't a good salesman. Still isn't. But he's better at it now than he was then.

My dad was painfully shy all growing up and into his adult years. When someone set my parents up on a blind date, he hardly spoke to my mom. She obviously was the right woman if after sitting beside him while he was silent for an hour or two, she still wanted to go out with him again. She wanted to make sure he knew she liked him, so she took him cookies later that week. My dad didn't know any other girls, so when he needed a date for an event soon after, he called her. And that's how they started dating.

My dad went on a semester abroad to Spain not long after this and wrote my mom while he was gone. That's how she got to know him, because he barely talked. They got engaged when he got back to BYU. They were both on the lawn reading. My dad stopped reading long enough to ask my mom if she wanted to get married. She said yes, and they both went back to reading. They had their first kiss at their wedding.

But they had no problem having children! Neil was born a year and a half after Brandt and Caleb was born two years after that, and so forth. My mom was very good at running the household and getting by on nothing. She would borrow money from her parents or one of her brothers until my dad sold a painting in a few months. My dad did some odd jobs for extra money here and there. But mostly he would ride his bike to his studio and paint all day. He started teaching night art classes at Amarillo College after a while. It was a good thing, because the art alone wasn't enough.

When I was nine and Juliene was 10, my dad finally got a real job. It was kind of against his will. He didn't want to teach and didn't like teaching. But finally realized he had to. So we all moved to Borger, TX, an hour away, so that he could teach at the college there. My parents had 7 children at this point. My dad has been an art professor ever since. First for 9 years in Borger and now in Barnesville, GA where he's been for 18 years.

He's a very talented artist. He's a realist. He has the ability to nearly photographically reproduce pictures or stilllifes. He's a very capable portrait artist, but he isn't good at flattering his subjects. He tends to paint them or draw them like he would any other object. People usually prefer to have their portraits flatter them. His landscapes are phenomenal! He likes to do gigantic landscapes, say 6-8 ft x 4-6 ft. They're his favorite. They take forever though. :) But his art sells well now.

His art is at marlinadamsart.com or gandynet.com/art/Marlin or gdn.edu/faculty/m_adams

Monday, September 5, 2011

Robert's First Day at School

Before kindergarten started, they had an open house, where you could meet the teacher and see your classroom. So of course we went to show Robert his class and to talk to his teacher. We hadn't counted on the fact that at least 5 different parents would be trying to talk to her at once and that it would be hard to get a word in edgewise. But we tried. When she finally had a moment, we said something like, "Robert might have some trouble in kindergarten." (Yeah, we tend to understate things.) "Oh no, he'll be fine!" she said and was already talking to another parent. Well, so much for warning her. At least Robert seemed interested in his new classroom and liked his new desk.

Cameron drove Robert to school on the first day, took him to his new classroom, and made sure he was settled. And the day began. I was on pins and needles all day long. It was hard to do anything but imagine what might be happening and hoping things were going well. So after a tense day, the phone rang just as school ended. It was the principal. "Your son had some difficulty today. We need to put him with a more experienced teacher and work on an IEP (individualized education plan) for him." Me, "What did he do?" Principle, "He stood on a table in the middle of the classroom and yelled." I laughed. (I'm sure she thought, "No wonder this kid had problems. His mom laughs at his bad behavior.") Principle, "He also cried a lot in the cafeteria." Okay. So tomorrow he would start with Mrs. LeVeau who had been teaching for ages and had another child with challenges in her classroom.

So school, take two, began. Cameron would drive Robert every morning on his way to work and talk to Mrs. LeVeau before school started. Mrs. LeVeau had an assistant teacher in her classroom. She also had a very special lady named Valarie Wallace in her room, who was assigned as an all-day aid to the other child with issues. And that's when our miracle happened. You see, in order for Robert to be assigned an aid to help him, the IEP had to be completed. But the evaluation and IEP process took 4 months to complete. In the mean time, my little five year old with the maturity and speaking skills of a three year old, was supposed to go to regular school without assistance.

And so, a miracle happened. The child Mrs. Wallace was assigned to help all day, didn't need the help after all. So instead, Mrs. Wallace spent all her time taking care of Robert. She became his school mom. She even went to lunch with him to help him get used to the cafeteria. And when the fire alarms would go off for fire drill and Robert would become hysterical, she worked to find a solution. She had the principle warn her if there was going to be a drill, so she and Robert could go outside before the horrible noise started that would set him off.

Robert was having a terrible time doing any of the school work at this point. He could recognize his own name but was only starting to learn letters. And Robert hated to write anything. But Mrs. Wallace would work with him and take him to another room if he got frustrated and agitated, which happened pretty often. Robert would get frustrated when his teachers couldn't understand what he wanted or what was bothering him, like mom could. He would yell gibberish and cry when he couldn't make them understand.

Very quickly, though, because there was no other option, Robert started speaking in complete sentences. Also, as he would walk with Mrs. Wallace down the hall from the classroom to another quieter room, he would pass a bulletin board of the solar system. He was fascinated by it and liked to look at it with Mrs. Wallace. He surprised Mrs. Wallace one day, by telling her all of the planets in order. So Mrs. Wallace would get books from the library about the solar system to read to calm him down. They flew through all of the books for younger kids. Robert would soak up and memorize the information and want to know more. He still couldn't read and was struggling to do any work, but soon Mrs. Wallace was checking out books intended for the 5th graders and reading them to Robert. So Robert was now memorizing what each planet was made of and all of the names for each planets moons and even learning what those moons were made of. He would ask me and Mrs. Wallace questions we couldn't answer. So back to the library for more solar system books.

Two or three months into the first semester, the light went off in Robert's head and he suddenly got this reading thing. And when he got it, he got it. By the end of that semester, he was communicating well and reading solar system books to himself on a 2nd or 3rd grade level and memorizing all of the facts in them.