Saturday, December 31, 2005


The movie turned out just the way I wanted to, so it is nice to see something that turns out right.

Can’t beat these lyrics to sum up a year in the life:

525,600 minutes, 525,000 moments so dear.
525,600 minutes - how do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee.
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
In 525,600 minutes - how do you measure a year in the life?

How about love? How about love?
How about love? Measure in love.
Seasons of love.

525,600 minutes! 525,000 journeys to plan.
525,600 minutes -
how can you measure
the life of a woman or man?

In truths that she learned, or in times that he cried.
In bridges he burned, or the way that she died.

It’s time now to sing out,
tho the story never ends
let's celebrate remember a year in the life of friends.
Remember the love!
Remember the love!
Remember the love!
Measure in love.
Seasons of love!
Seasons of love.

Saying Goodbye to 2005 without a tear

2005 has by far been the most difficult year of our married lives, and probably the most difficult year of my life. The scrutinization of our family by the county, combined with having three of our sons gone from our home made it very difficult. While there have been good things that have happened, the whole year was overshadowed by the cloud of self-deprication and disappointment that we should have been able to do better.

But just like each day is new, each year is new also and we are hopeful that 2006 will be a better year.

I’m getting ready to put together a compilation of pictures from our new worship service that I am going to make a multimedia presentation with using the Seasons of Love song from Rent. I’m excited about the project and will spend most of the day working on it along with slides. Bart is busy cleaning and it’s so great that he does so (even though I often feel guilty for not doing more of it myself.

I may have another more reflective blog entry for the year end in me for later today.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Celebration and Insight

We just returned from celebrating John’s completion of the McCrossan Program with dinner at the cheap theatre and a movie. While the under 13 crowd (plus Rand) saw Chicken Little, the rest of us (besides Kyle and Mike who were snowboarding) saw In Her Shoes. We then had Mexican food for dinner, John’s choice.

The movie was an incredible statement about not separating siblings in foster care. Now, they didn’t know that when they were making it, but it so shows how much the oldest sibling is the keeper of the memories for the the younger ones. I won’t give away the whole movie, but it is about sisters who survived a somewhat traumatic early childhood with a mentally ill mother. Part of the movie includes this poem, which can SO explain the sibling bond shared by those who have lived through tragedy together. It is by e. e. cummings.

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate (for you are my fate,my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

Will Not, Can Not, Do Not Know How to Be Satisfied

It finally occurred to me this morning while having our first of thousands of very annoying and painful conversations with Mike that satisfaction will always be out of his reach.

He gave us a list of things he would like to do that I told him we would work out a schedule for him to earn.

He came up with a list of 19 things. He admitted himself when writing the list that some of them were a little out of reach.

Of the 19, in first week of a slow transition, he has already been able to do five of them. Five of the 19 things he could think of that he wanted or needed he has already done in his first five days home. But this is not NEARLY enough. According to him he should be treated like normal kids and the reason he ran away in the first place is because we didn’t treat him like a normal kid.

Five minutes later he is talking about how he has issues.

The bottom line, I realized, is that satisfaction and happiness will always be just one step beyond where he is. If he gets one thing on his list he will not be grateful to have it, but will simply whine about the things on his list that he doesn’t have. And if he ever gets to the point where he has everything on the list, then he will think of something he forgot to put on it and whine that he doesn’t have that.

So we have this battle. We know that we can’t protect him from making mistakes, but how much freedom do we allow him when he does have FASD. He is so sure that he can handle all the freedoms of a normal teenager, but we are not only trying to parent him, but trying to keep the people off our backs who are predicting his failure. These people believes he needs residential treatment and needs to be in a group home setting until he reaches adulthood. Treating him like a “normal teenager” is taking a huge risk in proving them right.

I think I am processing this all on paper right now, and I don’t know that there are clear answers. But it helps me to at least explain our conundrum.

Change in Plans

I had the whole day planned. Was going to take a few kids to visit my friend Michele, then do a home visit while they were there, go back and hang out with her for a while, and then come back home. Two hours each way, so the trip was going to take a day.

But the roads are icy and the family I was going to do a home visit for has a puking mom, so now the day is completely changed. The kids who were going with me have no plans and I have trouble getting work done surrounded by kids who have no plans, so I’m not sure what the day will hold. i would rather not try to spend the day here with each hour passing slowly, but with the roads the way they are, do I risk my sanity or my life?

John gets discharged today and we will begin a new era in our lives. In many ways I look forward to it, but I also am a little leary. Am not sure exactly how this is all going to play out and am not doing a very good job of living one day at a time like I told myself I would. I am concerned about each and every piece of it and can’t seem to calm myself.

I have got to change the tone of this blog lately. It’s whiny-ness is even starting to get to me.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Conundrums, Double Binds, and Being Broke

We are out of money. Now, as most middle class credit-card, line of credit folks, this doesn’t mean a lot. It just means that we don’t have money in checking. But we were surprised at how fast our money went.

Here’s the double bind that makes me crazy. We told Kyle that we were not going to be responsible for his clothing or personal items while we were paying for college. He has money every month that he can use for that. But whenever he comes home he always has some need, and, because we love him, we usually buy him the stuff he needs.

This Christmas he came home needing shoes and a coat. He did what he needed to do to convince us to agree to pay for them. Now today he’s off to buy an $800 snowboard. This annoys me, to use a nice word. It really makes me crazy that we can spend money for what he needs because he can’t afford what he needs, but then he can afford what he wants. And an $800 snowboard is so FAR away from the “good purchase at this point in your life” category that I’m seeing stars...

Lift tickets cost $20 bucks in Sioux Falls, SD.... which is probably the cheapest around. Others are $30 or $35 for a day. He has $100 a month spending money. He can’t stop himself from seeing at least a movie a weekend. And yet, somehow he NEEDS this snowboard. The chance of it paying for itself within the next five years even is slim to none. He’d have to go about 32 times to cover the cost of his snowboard. Isn’t going to happen.

And of course, Mike is complaining that we aren’t going to buy him a $150 pair of snowpants when there are snow pants lying around our house that might fit him and we offered to buy him a pair for $20, but that isn’t enough. And this is a kid who earned money at the group home and has already blown ALL of it in buying a skateboard deck. Even though on Monday he had over $100 he will be flat broke by tomorrow night.

Some people just cannot be satisfied and it is hard when we try to please them and can never do so.

Sleep does Wonders

I slept a LONG time last night. Took some cold medicine and laid down at nine. Didn’t sleep really well until 10:30 when I knew Bart had gotten everyone in bed. But i stayed in bed until 8:30 and today, and thus I feel much better emotionally. Plus, unlike most mornings, nothing has happened to make me angry.

in fact, I have received several encouraging emails this morning as I shared my blog address with several social workers who are giving me feedback. I love that.

John will be home tomorrow for good and I’m realizing that it will feel really weird to have weekends where we don’t have to go visit anyone and where we won’t be waiting for phone calls or having to write letters. Everyone will be right here. And that is a good thing.

School will start, as well, in just a few days and that, too is a good thing. Schedule, routine, constancy ... KEYS to parenting kids with a history of abuse and neglect.

Today Salinda gets her contacts and I get a perm and Bart is taking Kyle shopping (mike is going with). I have this outlandish goal of cleaning off my desk. I wonder how many times I have blogged that I’m going to get my desk cleaned off???

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Already Whining

Just three days ago MIke was in an RTC where he was petitioning for the next phase that would allow him to listen to the radio. Three days later, having been home and seen more movies in the past three days than he did in the past 2 weeks, he is whining that he doesn’t get to do anything because in our house R movies are for kids 17 and older. He wants to watch the R movie? Why can’t he? There’s NOTHING to do here.

This is a kid who two nights ago, stood two feet in front of his room door and out of habit said to Bart, “Permission to Enter?”

Unbelievable how quickly perspective changes. We’re trying to transition him slowly, but he is already wanting more than we’re allowing.

OK, feeling the need to justify the R movie thing. Kyle came to us at 11 already having viewed tons of R movies. We let him watch some after that but with our approval. Later we found out he was watching them anyway, and lying to us about it by omission. He is a chameleon and the media has completely defined what he believes is OK and not OK. He is still addicted to movies and TV and often makes very poor choices in what to watch.

We decided to have a different standard for everyone else. If you can watch R at 11, where do they go from there? If society and the media industry are saying that something is inappropriate for kids under 17, then why would we, as Christians have a lower standard? Having rights of passage in our family with this kind of thing has made a lot of sense. If kids have to wait until they are 13 to watch PG 13 movies (and yes, we sometimes make exceptions), then there are a whole lot of movies that they can watch when they hit 13. Then at 17, they can incorporate Rs and have lots to watch before they are yearning for NC-17 or M or X.

I’m sure many people won’t get this, but for us it has worked.

And Mike, who hasn’t seen more than 5 movies in the last year and a half, and hasn’t seen an R rated movie in 8 years, now is complaining that he can’t watch an R. It’s this kind of stuff that makes me shake my head and sigh.

But the bottom line is that I feel like crap, and everything today is going to make me shake my head and sigh. I sure hope I can get some sleep.

Somewhat Better...

I suppose things are a bit better today, though I am coming down with a cold/sore throat/headache thing that my kids have had and it doesn’t help that i am totally sleep deprived.

After blogging yesterday, I spent some time just chilling out. Then I headed upstairs to put kids to bed late, which we thought would be a nice treat, but ended up being disastrous. One of the kids, who I am sure wants to remain nameless, smeared feces and when confronted, lied to me for the 5th or 6th time and I was able to commit yet another parenting failure by losing it. I was exhausted and just couldn’t take it any more and my “calm is more important than anything” rule just went FLYING out the window.

Then this morning, Dominyk’s pills were missing and Salinda was snitty to me and I felt awful and I had to do things I didn’t want to do today.

But right now things are going fairly well. One of the nice things about my husband is that he seems to be able to step up to the plate and parent for both of us when I’m out of it.

So, day two of us all being together at home is much better than day one was...

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Utter Complete Draining Exhaustion

Tonight at this moment I feel like a miserable failure. Now, for all of those who want to start sending me encouraging emails telling me that I’m great, yada yada yada, you can if you want, but the truth is that tomorrow morning I will wake up feeling better. I always do. The verse, “Sorrow may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning” was totally written for/about me. No matter how bad things seem at night, by morning they always look better. “morning by morning new mercies I see.”

Our first full day together as a family and I feel like I screwed up bad. I am trying SO hard not to be a control freak and trying to give my teens more freedom, but I am caught up in this “gang wannabee” look that John says is his style and I just can’t make myself support it. The baggy pants, bandana in the pocket, hat turned sideways, rap-singer, gangsta look isn’t to me, just about taste. It’s about him putting himself in danger and giving himself an unnecessary bad reputation. In our small town, it is going to be hard for him to get a job or to get back into public school with that image. It just isn’t something that is tolerated much here. So, I have concluded that I will not prevent him from dressing that way, but I will not buy it. That was not good enough. I told him I would buy him a new pair of jeans today as he only has a couple pair. And the only ones in any store that he would settle for were 38 34s. Now, this kid is 5’5“ on a good day and Rand is 6’5” and Rand wears 32s. So there was no way in the world that the 38 34s were going to work. But he wouldn’t take no for an answer and it turned into a power struggle.

The picture above is EXACTLY how John wants to dress, (even the exact same hat), but he says it’s “his own personal style and look.” Very difficult for me to let go when he represents so much of what we don’t agree with.

He has also been told repeatedly, as have all of our children, that we can’t prevent them from listening to music that we don’t approve of, but that we don’t allow CDs with Parental Advisories in our house. Kyle learned the hard way when we threw away some that he sneakily bought when he was John’s age. But apparently, John feels that I should change the rules for him and that he should be able to keep the music that he somehow purchased or received at the Christian Boys Ranch.

This combined with the fact that John thinks that what we have done with MIke is totally unfair has put him in a horribly pouty mood, and of course, I am the target. It is too much to explain all of our reasoning for what we have done to John, but the fact is that John has never been in as restrictive of an environment as Mike was for 10 months for more than 2 weeks, and John needed it more than Mike, so we figure it would all turn out OK.

On top of it all, no social workers are working, I have several families that need answers from social workers who are on vacation, and I can’t get the information. I have too much work to do and not enough time. I am getting a cold, have a headache and sore throat, and haven’t gotten nearly enough sleep.

In addition I have several appointments tomorrow that I do not look forward to, and I still have bedtime tonight to deal with.

I guess my biggest frustration is that I knew this was going to be hard, but I figured we’d have a couple days of honeymoon, and the very first day has been OH SO HARD. It was tiring to be a control freak trying to prevent everyone from making mistakes that would hurt them, but it is taking me ten times more emotional energy not to be one. NO FAIR! NO FAIR!!!!

To Hear the Story the Right Way

To read about our Christmas the right way, you have to read it here.

Dominyk's Precocious Vocabulary

Dominyk, who is nine, is always coming up with something that makes us chuckle. He talks like he’s 30.

Last week Kyle was picking him up at school (Kyle is also his PCA) and asked him if he was still friends with one of the kids there and he responded, “Let’s just say we went our separate ways.”

It's 9:12 and I'm in Shock

It’s 9:12 and nobody is awake except Bart (who is already at the office) and I. Oops. I spoke to soon. I just heard rumblings. But these kids must have been VERY tired because I don’t remember the last time they were all still asleep at 9:12.

Kind of nice to get some rest.

I have a couple work projects that I need to try and get done while parenting this morning. If I get them done, I’m contemplating a clothes-shopping trip for Mike and John and Jimmy, who is down to 2 pair of church pants and no jeans.

Used to be we could hand down and hand down but after puberty everyone has a different waste size -- ranging from 30-42 so It’s tricky to hand down at that point. But we’ve spent so much money lately that we’re going to have to stop!

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Final Surprise

I have been away from blogging for 36 hours or so, which is really weird for me. It has been a long 36 hours.

Immediately following church yesterday, we ate something quick and were in the car/van by 1:00 to head to St. Cloud. We made excellent time and got to the group home a little after 4:30. When we arrived, Mike was waiting and they let us go back to the community room. Everyone was very appropriate and watched Mike open everything.

When he got to the final gift, it was an envelope. The envelope had a note saying, “Go pack your stuff and come to the hotel with us. We’re ready for you to be home and we believe you are ready to come home.

He was shocked but so excited. If you can peak under his hair here you can see a big smile.

As I mentioned in this post we are taking a huge risk. However, we decided that we have got to put our relationship with him first priority. He’s almost 17 and we’ve only got a limited time left.

We went back to the hotel to meet my mother-in-law and sister-in-law and ate at a ”slow food“ (as Dominyk calls it) restaurant. It took forever (I think we were there nearly 2 hours) and the menu was limited for Christmas day and spendy. There were only about 8 choices and we kept pretending to urge the children to try the Tuscany Duck, but they were not amused. The kids who had free kids meals coming wanted $17.95 steaks, and the kids too old for kids meals were wanting kids meals, but refused to trade. It was delightful.

As always we had meltdowns about having to go to bed too early (11:15) and arguments about silly things.. I’m sure they were typical of most families, but as parents sometimes we have mini-meltdowns too, and that doesn’t help. But as I have mentioned, we succeeded in running our kids completely ragged over the past 4 days.

We arrived home at 4:30 this afternoon. Dominyk and Bart are feeling sick and I’m tired as I drove all the way home. So far, everyone is doing OK considering we’re all in the same place for the first time in since October of 04. By the end of the week we should all be living here.

This is the beginning of a new era for us and I am going to have to cut back on work hours to accomplish it. I am really hoping that it doesn’t affect how many kids I can get home in 2006, but my kids have to be a priority. This is going to be a crucial year.

My plan for the reintegration of the boys is lots of communication and to stop trying to stop them from making mistakes. It only makes them want to do it more and makes them more sneaky. I spent a great deal of time and energy for years trying to think ahead and stop them from screwing up. They proved to me that no matter how hard I tried, they could still do it anyway. I really hope that I can back off an help them process decisions instead of jumping ahead and trying to prevent bad choices, but it’s a bad habit to break.

So, that’s the surprise and the update. We’re all tired and hoping to survive a week full of dentist, doctor, eye doctor, haircut and work appointments in the process of parenting lots of kids.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

I Have a Teenage Daughter

As of today, I am the mother of a teenage daughter. Today is Salinda’s 13th birthday. She was every mother’s dream child and I’m crossing my fingers about her being every mother’s dream teenager, but we’ll see. She is responsible, mature, beautiful, talented, and when she isn’t home she is kind, caring and considerate. She has her father’s personality, which is amazing since he had no genetic input.

I much prefer teenage boys, even though that may be odd for some to understand, but I’d rather be screamed at, cussed at, even threatened with violence, than to listen to the hurtful, spiteful, clever insults that a girl can come up with when angry. And the thought of some slimy teenage boy TOUCHING either of my girls makes me internally quiver. I just don’t think any one is going to be good enough for them.

Anyway, I digress, right now Salinda is trying to help me pack for the trip to see Mike. Bart decided that it was crazy for the whole family to go to 4 services in 16 hours, so he told me I should let the kids sleep in this morning. Our second service is casual, so that will keep us from all having to change clothes before hitting the road. It’s a pretty good plan, in some respects, but he is definitely getting the better deal. The idea of course, was that everyone would get more sleep. The truth was that they were up screaming by 8:30, only 30 minutes later than they would have gotten up on a normal day.

We really haven’t had a bad week. Tony and Dominyk are the only ones left who can’t hold it together, which gives us hope that some day they all will. I have had a hard time holding it together though -- the schedule we have thrown together for this family for the last few days until tomorrow is way too much. When I think it’s too much, then of course, it has to be way, way, way too much for my kids.

Saturday, December 24, 2005


Merry Christmas, she says with a sign. A long, exhausted sigh.

The morning began with 2 hours of dishes, as I whined about this morning. We waited for Bart and he got here so we could start at about 11:30. It only took us about 2 hours, which is really unusual for us. Typically it takes at least 3. Everyone is getting older, though, so that makes a difference.

We have carried on a few traditions from my family of origin. We open presents, one by one, starting with the youngest, and going to the oldest. Growing up there were five of us and it took a while. With 11 or 12 it takes a LONG while. But it’s fun to see what everyone is getting.

We also have the tradition that we started several years ago of naming our kids after reindeer. The first year we did it I think we had 8 reindeer. Since MIke wasn’t home, the 9 worked out fine this year. Next year I hope we have the problem of having to invent a reindeer name.

The gifts have only reindeer names on them so that nobody knows whose gift is whose. This keeps them from doing too much shaking and poking and prodding. When it is time to begin, we each have a paper or plastic sack to put gifts in after they are wrapped (also a tradition from my childhood). We start by having the newest reader read the Christmas story. However, today since everyone had already worked themselves into quite the frenzy by noon, I read it because I knew it would go fast. Then Bart prays. Then I announce which reindeer was which.

Here are the big surprise gifts that everyone got this year:

Kyle got the computer printer he decided not to ask for because he really wanted other stuff, so he got the other stuff and the printer.

Rand got a note saying his letter jacket he’s been “saving for” was ordered by us.

John and and Salinda got a note saying they have an appointment for contacts for this week, something they’ve long begged for.

Jimmy is getting his bike repair paid for, even though he is supposed to pay for it.

Ricardo got to open the family’s new 27“ TV...

Sadie got permission to wear earrings.

Tony got wrestling shoes.

and Dominyk got a very cool computer game.

Mike will find out tomorrow what he gets.

I think everyone was fairly pleased with their Christmas. However, poor Dominyk held it together perfectly all morning and most of the afternoon. He was thrilled with each gift and VERY grateful for everything he got. He sat still, which is hard for him, and made it through the gift wrapping without getting too distracted or bored. But by 6 things started to fall apart. We couldn’t get his rock tumbler to shut tightly and it started to leak. He got his video game stuck in the drive of the Imac that has a broken drive. And when I announced it was time to change clothes and get ready for church he just lost it. I really thought he was going to break a blood vessel in his face it was so read as he screamed and stomped and cussed and yelled and then sobbed again and again ”but I don’t WANT to go to church.“

Such a shame that our children get so spoiled by all the material goods that celebrating Jesus’ birthday means so little.

Church tonight was great, except that I messed up the sound on the multimedia presentation for one of the baptisms. Murphy’s law totally applies to technology in church -- the more people that are there, the less professional the sound/multimedia/video is. I have near perfect Sundays often when there are 30 or 40 people in attendance. It’s the 150+ weeks that I always mess it up.

There is another service at 11 that Dominyk and I will not be attending. He’s just had way too much stimulation today and his ADHD/OCD self is plumb at the end of his ability to function.

Tomorrow we have two more services and then we’re off to visit Mike.

Another Piece of the Conspiracy to Annoy US Parents

When you have to take two pictures to get all the presents in, there are either too many presents or too many kids, and since it is impossible to have too many kids....

As Mother Teresa said:

"How can you say there are too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers."

Anyway, on to THE SUBJECT at hand...

Being a pastor’s wife when Sunday is on Christmas in a mainline church is definitely causing me to experience part of the conspiracy.

We have services on Christmas Eve at 7:30 and 11 and on Sundays from 9 to 11. That means that my husband, who also is responsible for cooking Christmas Dinner, is responsible for 4 services in a 18 hour period. AND we are heading up to see Mike on Christmas night.

So we had a plan. The gifts would arrive from their hiding place on the night of the 23rd. Dinner would be ready by noon or 1, we would eat, open gifts, and get ready for the service. That plan was going well until we slept longer than planned and have blown two fuses in the last 3 hours. I spent 2 hours doing dishes -- I started with a pile that never got smaller because Bart kept using whatever I washed again and putting it back on the “to do” side of the sink. Then I had to go buy fuses and the ham is so huge it won’t be done until around 4.

So, now we have kids pacing, frantically complaining that we have to wait SO long to open our presents. Bart still has a couple presents to wrap and some last minute service preparation to do at the church. So I am left home alone with the whining, sobbing, pacing, frantic bunch of annoyed and annoying children. Actually, I’m exaggerating (a little bit).

Hopefully, Bart will get back and we will get them opened before dinner, but there is nothing more any of us can do but wait on Dad. Fortunately, I’m used to this style of living as my father ALWAYS had to decide to defecate right before we left on any family outing during my entire childhood, so I got used to sitting around waiting for Dad.

Last Nights Episode

Last night, after a HORRIFIC hour before dinner (I knew there wasn’t enough wood to knock on when I said “our kids are doing so well this Christmas”) we hurried through Chinese takeout and then headed to see Narnia as a family. (Powerful film, where the spiritual allegories cannot be misinterpreted). Kyle had parked the car behind the new van, so I had to resort to the old van.

So, we are heading home and I am deep in conversation/arguments with five boys about the movie. JImmy thought it was funny (I shake my head). Tony thought it was the best action movie he had ever seen. I was trying to draw spiritual analogies and should have known better, because I was not focusing on the road. A bright light shone round about me and I was sore afraid -- except that I thought it was Kyle or Bart in our car simply shining their brights telling me I was going to slow. We were on our street by this point, so I sped up... until I realized that it was the sheriff. Nobody in the vehicle has a seatbelt on. I am driving probably too fast, and my checkbook, along with license and insurance, is in the new van.

I’m sure the guy thought I was a lunatic. I opened the window and a barrage of words came pouring out of my mouth, without the benefit of having been guided by my brain. “I am so sorry. We just came from the movie here in town and this is our house right here and I don’t know what I was doing but I was having trouble focusing trying to explain the movie to them and we had to take the old van because the car was parked behind the new van and I thought you were my husband in the other vehicle and that is why I sped up and did I mention this is our house right here and I don’t even have my license because I always keep my checkbook in the new van but this is the old van....”

He finally interrupted me and said, “Did you know you have a tail light out? That is the only reason I stopped you. I said, ”oh, yes, it broke right before we bought the new van and we haven’t gotten it fixed.“ ”I’ll need you to see your license and insurance card.“ So I sent JImmy to get it.

The end result? A reminder to get the tail light fixed . . . and a story to be recorded in the annals of the Fletchers Christmas history.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Evil Twin

We used to tease Salinda about having an evil twin sister. Since Linda in spanish means beautiful, we called her evil twin Sa-Fea (fea means ugly). Whenever she would have a bad mood moment, little Safea would replace Salinda and we knew we were in for it.

Salinda and I had a wonderful time at her party (as you can see by the picture, her friends were pretty happy too). Salinda was fun, gracious, kind, and is drop-dead gorgeous in her bathing suit. However, the moment we walked into the house Salinda disappeared and Safea appeared.

Now, you have to understand that I was dealing with 8 kids who hadn’t seen me in 24 hours and they ALL wanted a piece of me. Salinda, however, wanted to see the pictures she took this morning and last night, and when she wasn’t getting priority attention, Safea took over. It was ugly.

We recovered from our homecoming but it took a while. LIterally people were running out to get something from me the second I drove into the driveway. “Mom, can you take me to the store? Mom, where’s the tape. Mom I don’t feel good. Etc. Etc. Etc. Sadie has a cold, Dominyk is getting sick and had a meltdown because the yo yo he got from his teacher wasn’t working and he was obsessing about it. Kyle wanted to get out the door with Dominyk to shop, Rand was in line to get yelled about almost getting fired, John just wanted a hug, Tony wanted to go to the store, Jimmy and Rand wanted permission to go with Kyle when they knew I had already said no . . . and so it went.

Within a couple days, all this frantic Christmas stuff will be over, and I’m not leaving overnight again for a few weeks, so hopefully things will mellow out!

A View from Dominyk's Pew

Found this picture today when I was going through the pictures from church last Sunday. I let Dominyk take some to keep him busy. He disappeared for a while, and I guess this was the results.

Battle Picking

I am currently at a hotel with Salinda for her 13th birthday party. This will be the only overnight-at-a-hotel birthday party of her life that we pay for because we seldom splurge like this. There are many reasons for this choice, first and foremost being that 95% of the time, regardless of her teenagerness, moodiness, and mouthiness when she is mad. She is the kind of daughter anyone would LOVE to have and sometimes I can't stop myself for rewarding her. Having Tony and Dominyk as little brothers and not killing them is something to be rewarded.

As I was sitting at the indoor water park a few minutes ago thinking back to when we were here five or six years ago. As a treat for labor day, we brought the family here overnight as a "gooodbye to summer." My vivid memory of the weekend was the stress of Kyle, then 13, not wanting to spend any time with us and wanting to be in the hotel room watching TV. Now my thinking was, "if we're paying all this money and you don't want to be with us, then stay home and watch TV." We tried to force him to join the other kids in the pool and join us in having "family fun" and it ruined the day. (well, it wasn't exactly destined to be that fun anyway -- Dominyk was 3 and running WILD all over the place, we had 4 kids under 6, and it was exhausting).

Thinking back to that now, I realize that I have gotten much better at picking my battles. I have let go of my visions of everyone having a good time. I am content to look for a moment or two of joy each day and be satisfied with that. I look more for improvement than perfection. I abandoned several of my expectations years ago and am content to find a few things that I can be proud of.

One of the things that I have realized as our children have grown, is that parenting is hard stuff. I think I even used that naughty word "sucks" to describe it. As kids hit their teens, regardless of if they are kids by birth or adoption, it is VERY difficult to control the decisions they make. When I compare some of our kids to their peers, good kids, raised in good homes, by good parents, my kids are not all THAT far behind them. Sure, they have different issues to deal with, but in many cases they are making better choices than the folks around them.

So as I age (and boy, am I aging) I'm seeing more and more how my parenting style is changing. I'm picking only the most serious battles, and those I am winning. The rest I'm letting go of and moving on. I could continue to site examples, but you're bright, you've figured it out by now.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Cool Balance and IQ testing

I'm "hosting" the 7th grade girl birthday party and am hoping to be able to stay awake long enough to supervise the girls. I'm trying to maintain the proper balance between actually being cool and trying to hard to be cool, making me uncool. So far so good.

Came across two online IQ tests tonight and actually scored really well on the first, and average on the second, even though they were only minutes apart. Sometimes I wonder about the accuracy of these tests as they have so much to do with the energy level and emotional state of the test taker.

I'll conclude, of course, that the test ranking me in the very superior range of intelligence was the accurate one. I was pleased to have done as well, even though the test may not be completely accurate. I'm sure it is much more accurate than the one that placed me smack dab at average...

New Blog is Now Up and Running

I have started a new blog to document my journey with lap band surgery.

Check out the Shrinking Slob here.

The Daily-Ness of it All

I was reminded today, after receiving a phone call about Rand, who I thought was doing magnificently, that this journey is such a long daily one. Each child needs years of patient coaching and nurturing and intervention to recover from their past and move into their future.

One of the things that has helped me to see how necessary this is is writing post-placement reports for other families. Each month I sit down the a parent or the parents and hear about the progress of the kids. From month to month it goes up and down. Each child deals with their issues in a different way. Since I placed 15 kids between June 1 and August 23, I have lots of these reports to write. I am able, because I am not their parents, to more rationally watch their progress. I have been struck with how slow the going is and how long it takes to see any progress.

I am not a great parent, but I am much better than I started out to be. When I started I had timetables and expectations and I concluded that if I worked hard enough, the kids would change. If I found the trick, read the book, did my homework, persisted long enough, they would overcome their past quickly.

Now I realize that I have very little control over how quickly they change and grow, and that some of them are going to simply take a long time to make progress. I can guide, I can suggest, I can be here to give feedback when it is requested, I can love them, and I can provide a place that is safe, consistent to the point of boring, and stable. I can protect them from some outside forces. But the bottom line is that I cannot force them to change.

I would much prefer a different approach. I like to MAKE things happen. But a slow, steady, calm presence day after day after day after week after week after week after month after month after month after year after year after year.

My husband knew this from day one, and he is excellent at it. I’m apparently not all that bright, because it has taken me about eight years to figure it out.

Last Half Day of Peace

Well, the kids are off for their last day of school before Christmas break. Kyle is sleeping and will be for a few hours. Then around 1, John will come home from the ranch. And a couple hours later everyone else will come home from school.

Tonight I am taking 3 7th grade girls for an overnight dream birthday party for Salinda’s 13th birthday, which is on Christmas Day. We are blessed with 5 of our 10 children having birthdays between November 15th and Christmas day. Obviously, I am being sarcastic, as it is the WORST time of year for birthdays, emotionally, not to mention financially.

I have been answering emails and Instant Messages and Phone calls and it has taken me almost two hours to blog this much. Guess I should give up...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Just goes to show

Anyone can adopt older waiting kids. It doesn't have to be the perfect situation:

Check out this article

What Did you Think?

Did you watch Home for the Holidays? If you did, then you see what my professional life and my personal passion is all about -- finding homes for THOSE kids.

What did you think? I always think there aren't enough stories and too many songs, that it is over too quickly, that they don't feature enough waiting kids, and that the kids that they feature aren't representative enough. BUT, I am not being critical. It is a class act, well done, and every year brings thousands of people up close and personal with the issue.

What did you think?

A Friendly Reminder

Since I forgot myself until just now, I don’t want anyone else to, so if you read this before 7 p.m. Central Time on Wednesday, December 21st, don’t forget about A Home for the Holidays.

The show is on CBS -- it’s a show with several performance, but usually has two or three good adoption stories in the midst of it -- and usually about waiting children adoption. I’m going to watch it and I hope you will too.

The Stress of the Season

I remember as a college student how I used to refer to the things that happened during the week before Christmas as being a part of the “stress of the season.” I had no clue just what “the stress of the season” really meant until we adopted.

Our first year of marriage we had one child at Christmas time.

Our second Christmas, we had two.

Our third Christmas, we had four.

Our fourth Christmas, we had eight.

Then we swore we would not double the number the next year and kept our promise to each other and the world.

However, Christmas number 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 were incredibly stressful. The kids could not handle the memory triggers of their past that holidays brought on. They were agitated, had frequent meltdowns, were ungrateful and complained about their gifts, and generally worked hard to push each other, and us as parents, over the edge.

Last year was much better and this year has been great, but now I am an adoption social worker with 15 kids placed with “my families” and 3 more placements pending and the kids are going bonkers. I try to reassure the parents that it will all pass, but kids are deciding not to be adopted, freaking out about being placed and messing up placement plans, getting in fights at school, getting suspended, vomiting on their mothers at inopportune times, fighting with their siblings, sexually acting out, getting detention and freaking out at school, and basically just losing it at home. I’m exhausted and they aren’t even my kids.

When I was in college, a friend of mine and I got into an argument and he blamed it on the stress of the season. He wrote in my Christmas card, sarcastically of course, “The stress of the season is over, thank God, and now we can lust after Claudia’s great bod.” (Sarcastic because even in college, though it was much more lust-worthy than now, my body was nothing to lust over).

However, the cadence of that whimsical poem he wrote exactly 20 years go this Christmas (oh crap, I am OLD) has stuck with me for all this time. And now, with all these kids in my house and in placement, I must remind all adoptive parents everywhere that in just two short weeks the children will be back in school and we can say...

“the stress of the season is over, Thank God!”

Going Against Professional Opinions

One of the things that I think is trickiest about parenting kids with issues is knowing when to listen to the “professionals” and when not to. We have spent about 18 months trying to get help from the professionals. Many, many, many times, in retrospect, they were wrong and we listened to them anyway.

Now we are going to do something that nobody agrees with. In a few days I will be able to share with the world what that is. However, they are all warning us that we are doing it without their approval.

Part of this is something that I previously ranted about. It is the tendency for everyone to cover their own butts. So if there is a risk, nobody is going to recommend it.

My question is this: If nobody ever risks anything, then nothing good ever happens. Sure, something bad can happen, but without the risk, nothing good can either.

I look at the situation with the four teenage girls I placed. Sure, it was a huge risk. Yes, now we’re dealing with the oldest one refusing to be adopted. However, the youngest three are going to have a family, not age out, and have a great future.

I know that I practice risky social work. I’m kind of into the thesaurus today, so let’s see the synonyms for risky:

chancy, delicate, dicey, endangered, fat chance, hairy, hazardous, hot potato, iffy, insecure, jeopardous, long shot, perilous, precarious, rocky, sensitive, speculative, ticklish, touch-and-go, touchy, treacherous, tricky, uncertain, unhealthy, unsafe, unsound, venturesome, wicked, wide open

I’ve also even thought that I have bordered on blitzkrieg social work, which is defined as: A swift, sudden military offensive.

My concern now, though, is whether I can do the same with my own children and my own life that I am encouraging others to do. Am I willing to be risky and go against professional opinion when MY reputation and my children’s future is at stake?

The answer is yes, but not without some trepidation (agitation, alarm, apprehension, blue funk, butterflies, cold feet, cold sweat, consternation, creeps, dismay, disquiet, disturbance, dread, emotion, excitement, fear, fright, goose bumps, heebie-jeebies, horror, jitters, nervousness, palpitation, panic, perturbation, shock, terror, trepidity, uneasiness, worriment, worry)

Wow, just reading all those synonyms makes it sound worse than it is!

Confusing the Claudias

New MSN came out for Mac yesterday and we can choose an icon. If you have MSN you could check me out -- I decided a picture of Claudia Schiffer would be appropriate. I mean a Claudia is a Claudia, right?

Emotional Buffoon

Recently someone close to me has indicated that he/she feels that I am an emotional buffoon.

Buffoon is defined as:

        1.        A clown; a jester: a court buffoon.
        2.        A person given to clowning and joking.
        3.        A ludicrous or bumbling person; a fool.

synonyms include antic, comedian, comic, droll, fool, harlequin, jester, joker, merry-andrew, wag, zany,  barbarian, bear, boob, brute, bumpkin, cad, chuff, churl, clodhopper, clown, countryman, hayseed, hick, hobnail, lout, lubber, lumpkin, mucker, oaf, peasant, philistine, rube, rustic, swain, vulgarian, yokel

Not only was the accusation that I am one, but that others see me as one.

Sad thing is, I’m not even offended.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

My Precocious 7th Grader

Salinda had to write her own Christmas letter as a project for school. I thought it was awesome, so I blogged it for her. You can read it here.

He Gets It -- or at least it looks that way for now

Therapist was great. Been doing this a LONG time, has a previous career in managing residential treatment centers, and does group therapy for sexual offenders as well as therapy. Thus, he is what I call “pulseless” -- one of those people who can calm him self down so much that it appears he has no buttons that can be pushed.

He has also dealt with “troubled” adolescents for many, many years, and is not reactionary at all. He was very good about talking with us and with John. He also is on board to help us with Mike whenever he transitions home. And he’s a United Methodist, so we can’t go wrong there, right? :-)

We are excited, and a little apprehensive, about having John home. He certainly has the ability in our family system to create chaos or create calm, and we know that he does and he knows that he does, so hopefully he will make good choices.

We did a little bit of shopping and ate out before coming home. When I arrived, I had to lie down for a while and when I awakened I had three or four of “my” families calling or emailing me needing to talk. When it rains it pours.

Finished one home visit, have another tonight....

Family Therapy

This morning Bart and I get to go to our first session of family therapy at the ranch with John. New therapists always make me nervous, because you never know what kind of therapist you’re going to get. You can get a “your parenting style is your kid’s problem” therapist or you can get a “I recognize that this child has been damaged by a different family system” therapist. If we get the former, it will make things much much worse. If we get the latter, more than likely we will have some help in the transition home and as issues arise.

John is an interesting kid, with multiple layers of issues. He has been, in the last year alone, in detention, in shelter care, in the psych hospital twice, in residential treatment, in two different foster homes, and at the ranch. He has had several therapists and staff members involved in helping him “deal with his past.” While I know that some of it was helpful, many times I think it just opened old wounds that will take a long time to heal.

He’ll be home for good in 10 days but that will not be the end, but the beginning...

Monday, December 19, 2005


I worked hard on my desk today. Actually got most of it done. But tonight I’m crotchety.

I find that if I work hard all day long then then by 7:00 or 7:30 I am just exhausted. I am in some kind of daze and I just sit around waiting for bedtime. I don’t want to do a THING.

I am working on a compilation of welcome videos to sell as a fundraiser for church. Each Sunday I put together a video of pictures from the last Sunday or two using this song.

If you read the lyrics you can see that they perfectly describe the way that a true community of faith should relate.

So tonight using IDVD I created a compilation and went to burn the DVD. I got one done and started the second. If you know anything about it, the encoding takes a couple hours. So encoded, burned one, and when I was getting ready to burn the second of 15 or so that I need to do, the program froze and I had to restart it. BOOM, there goes four hours of time. I have to redo all the encoding again.

So that, along with the fact that I didn’t get any of my work done today and the fact that we have family therapy with John for the first time with this therapist tomorrow and the fact that it’s so stinkin cold have made me crotchety. Last night I was so tired I went to bed before my children... just laid there waiting for them to go to bed. Nearly fell asleep while Dominyk was watching Jim Carey in the Grinch until Tony got out of the bathtub and came straight in and did something to make Dominyk jump and scream next to me, ending my brief nap. So, before I bore you more with all kinds of other stupid annoying crotchety comments, I’ll stop blogging for tonight. I’m sure that will make everyone happy.

Christmas program

Last night for the first time ever we had a Christmas program where we seemed downright NORMAL (except that we have 10 kids, which automatically makes us abnormal).

Bart and I sat in the 2nd row so I could take pictures. Rand sat with us and so did Kyle, and they seemed to enjoy the antics of their siblings without being too critical (a definite first). John sat a couple rows behind us with a Hispanic family that he is really identifying with right now. Salinda was the narrator and did an awesome job. She was so perfect and looked so beautiful. She acted like she was 25 instead of almost 13. Tony was a shepherd, Dominyk and Ricardo both had speaking parts, and Sadie was an Angel. They all did awesome. My battery ran out half way through, of course, and before Sadie had the angel costume on. Notice the nice Nike socks and Etnies shoes my shepherd is showing the crowd... (you gotta click on the picture to see it bigger)

Start of a New School Week

Wow, my topic titles are brilliant lately, huh?

A couple weeks ago I had “the Monday Morning from Hell” . This morning was the opposite. One of the reasons is that I let up on my “have to teach my kids responsibility” modus operandi.

Usually I want my kids to learn responsibility, so I don’t help them out much, especially as they get older. I don’t look for their stuff, I don’t pack their backpacks, I don’t check everything. Sometimes this leads to difficulty, but for the most part it has led to more responsible kids. However, it breaks down a little bit with kids who need meds and they haven’t kicked in yet.

So some mornings I just say to myself, “Forget responsibility -- I just want peace” like this morning. Bart was kind enough to get the first wave of kids out the door, and I just gathered Dominyk’s stuff myself. So, I gave myself some peace, and since it was 5 below, I gave them a ride and had them to school by 7:35.

Today I have finally reached the limit as to how much I can tolerate myself and HAVE to clean of this horrible desk. So that is my task for the next few hours, in addition to several family-related phone calls. I’ll get to my job after that (and hopefully get time to post some pictures, or blog some of the other topics I’ve been wanting to blog).

Sunday, December 18, 2005

A Good Day

Yesterday was a good day. I had Kyle as my captive audience for our four hour trip home, something that had never happened before. And I talked his ear off. I don’t really even think he enjoyed it much, but I think he felt he owed it to me since I had to come get him when he promised we wouldn’t.

When we got home I did mountains of dishes while Bart dried and the girls visited with us (boys went to the pool and fitness center with Kyle). Then I finished up the movies and announcements for church that I have to do every Saturday. I also had to do a baptism video for a baptism today. I tried to get it all done quickly so I could talk to Bart about doing stuff with the kids. He was content to just stay home. So I offered every child the option of a movie last night with dinner out or shopping after church on Sunday (I know, I know, desecrating the Sabbath, my parents would NOT approve). So, Rand, Jimmy, Ricardo, Tony, Dminyk and I saw the Legend of Zorro at the cheap theatre after dinner at La Fiesta. This restaurant is my all time favorite Mexican food because it is totally authentic -- like the food I ate in the country of Mexico, not Tex Mex, Taco Bell, or some other fake imitation. I have found their Tacos Al Carbon to be exactly like the tacos that I could purchase from street vendors in Mexico City. I close my eyes and the flavors take me back.

We got home fairly late and called it a day.

Lately I’m finding myself wanting to spend more time with my kids than I have time to spend. It’s weird, as I truly am a workaholic at heart, and for years some of them were so unpleasant that being with them was hard work. Now I’ve changed and they’ve changed and some days I just don’t have as much time to be with them as I wish I did. Odd, but cool.

Today the girls, John and Kyle if he wants to will go where we can have some lunch and they can finish up their Christmas shopping. Tonight is our church Christmas program and a taco feed afterwards.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Definition of Luxury

For a mother of ten, the definition of luxury is definitely different than that of a manhattan career woman, but I experienced 12 hours of luxury.

Here is how it is defined.

1) SIlence. I have not had the TV or the radio or the volume of my computer on at all since I got here. It has been completely silent.

2) Uninterrupted sleep. Nobody had a nightmare, nobody puked or peed the bed, nobody snuck out of their room or into mine, and nobody called to say that anyone had run away, nobody had to go the ER, in fact, nobody was even next to me that had to get up in the night and there was no dog that had to go out.

3) I woke up when I felt like it. I slept as long as I could and then laid there until I felt like getting up. Nobody made me get up nor asked me to get up.

4) I had unlimited bathroom time. This allowed me to shave my legs, which I haven't made time to do since I last wore shorts (don't even start thinking about it or it might gross you out). I also shaved into a tub that I am not going to have to feel guilty that Bart has to clean (he does bathrooms in our house) nor will I have to call the plummer if the trees that I chopped off clog up the drain.

5) I will leave the room and not think about it nor have to see it again. I will not have to come here tonight and realize that I really should organize my clothes or that I should have made the bed or that I should at least have taken my cup downstairs to the kitchen.

So, luxury it is. BUt now it is time to pack up and head out to get Kyle and go back to my house. He just Imd me to say he is ready.

John left me a cute cell phone message last night saying goodnight. Sweet.

Friday, December 16, 2005


As we prepare for john to come home, I've been thinking so much about how much my parenting has changed in the last year.

Albert Einstein said this: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

That is the way I parented for years. I figured that "normal" behavior modification techniques would eventually worked with my hurt and damanged children, and with most of them it never did. But I kept trying it thinking it would click. Some of the kids I tried it on are now 17 and 16. And it has never worked.

My friend Kari, in her blog pointed out that "If you tell a child something a thousand times and he still does not understand then it is not the child who is a slow learner."

I realize that over the past few years I have just not been creative enough in my parenting. I have learned so much in the last year and really hope that what I have learned is going to make things much better for John.

Now I really am going to go to bed early.

Blessed Quietness

I'm alone in a hotel room and it is perfectly quiet. It is also warm in here, which is a luxury, since my husband likes to set the heat at 42 in the winter and the air conditioning at 42 in the summer. Ok, so maybe I'm exagerrating. And since I can always put on more clothes, it doesn't sense for him to be hot as he can't take off any.

I wasn't really hungry tonight, which is a shame since I'm in the metro area where there is every restaurant you can think of. However, I thought of these Vietnamese egg rolls that Bart always gets when he comes here and then I was fixated. Had to call him on the cell to get the address and then went and got some.

You know, it's amazing how even the very very bright and educated can be real dorks. I ordered 4 egg rolls so I could take two back to bart (they are almost better the second day). Well, he gave me 4 egg rolls -- 4 orders. I wondered why they were so expensive, but since I had never ordered from there before I figured they were some kind of special egg rolls. So I walked out with 8 egg rolls -- a little too much for supper. Then I got to the hotel and couldn't get my door open because the lever is supposed to go up not down. So I had to walk down the stairs with my bag, and egg rolls, and computer to tell them I couldn't get in the door. She asked me if I had lifted the lever up. So I tried that and by the time Melvin the Maintenance Man (really his name) met me at the door, i had actually gotten it open.

Bart says everything is going perfectly at home. John announced that he'll be home in 2 weeks. Then Bart announced something that we're going to announce to the world in a week that nobody knows yet, and they are happy with that too. So, alls right in the world for the Fletchers tonight. Tomorrow morning I will pick up Kyle and head home.

Cindy is jealous of me tonight. She says that if she had to choose between a night in a hotel with George Clooney or a night in a hotel alone, she'd choose alone and just sit and listen to the silence and the novelty of going hours with nobody saying "Mom." Later she recanted and said she'd rather be with George for a half hour and then spend the rest of the night alone, but she's probably going to make me erase that part. At least I'm not putting what you said after that, girlfriend.

I'd rather be here all night with Bart, but since that isn't possible, alone is the next best thing. No interest whatsoever in George or any other studly actor...

I'm going to bed early. Ahhhhhh the silence.

How Cool is This?

I'm at the home visit I mentioned when blogging this morning. They have an AIrport hooked up (a mac wireless basestation) that my powerbook hooks right into the moment I walk in the door. The oldest of their children was suspended from school so the mom had to unexpectedly go pick him up and I am here waiting for them to arrive.

Anyway, that is cool, but not as cool as this:

When we got to the staffing for John this morning, he had more achievement points than we thought and they set a discharge date of the 30th of THIS MONTH. In two weeks, he will finally be home. He was surprised, but I think thrilled, and very nervous. He is not that nervous about reintegrating into our family -- he's had several home visits and has been home almost every weekend for the last 6 weeks. However, he is nervous about coming back into the community and who his friends will be.

Fortunately, everyone is in agreement that he can remain at the school at the ranch for the remainder of the school year. This should really help in his transition as he will still be connected to the people there, will not have to go back to public school, and will not have the before and after school temptations of earlier years.

He's home this weekend, then home again from the 22-27, and then we'll pick him up for good on the 30th. That's only two weeks away!! We're pretty excited.

Roads weren't bad and I'm half way through my driving task for today, which is a good thing. Sure am looking forward to a night alone!

Thanks, Bart for giving me this gift and being home with the 8 kids by yourself. You're the best!

Miscellaneous Gobbledygook

Remember the Conspiracy to Annoy US Parents? Well, this morning is another example. The weather is not bad. Snow is not blowing. We didn’t even bother to check the TV this morning, just got everyone up and ready to go until Salinda yells, “MOM! I just heard on the radio. School is two hours late!” Lucky us. Now everyone is up and they still have 2 hours before they can go to school.

This is combined with a couple of other pieces to the conspiracy. First of all, our oldest son who, and I quote, wrote this in his weekly email this past Sunday: “Anyway.. I still gotta find a ride, but don't worry you won't have to bring me back thats for sure” called last night to say he needs a ride. He’s four hours away and has to be out of the dorm by Saturday at noon. None of his friends from other schools are coming ho me until Sunday night. I suppose we could make him sleep out in the cold, but instead I’m going. In addition, I have a home visit which is half way there after school today, so I’m getting a night alone in a hotel and I get to sleep in until 8:30 ish before picking him up to come back here. That part is not the annoying piece -- the annoying piece is that I will be leaving 8 kids here alone with their dad, and who knows what could happen. Makes me nervous. Not because he is incapable, but because sometimes they are horrible for him and it makes me feel very, very guilty.

In addition, we have a meeting at the ranch (in the other direction from my appointment this afternoon) at 10 that one of is going to have to be late to, now that the kids are going to school late. During that meeting we will be getting a DISCHARGE DATE for John, which is very cool. We are ready to have him home and he is sure ready to be here.

Last night Dominyk got obsessed with one of the paraprofessionals at the school. He ranted for a good thirty minutes. “I am going to have to hurt _____”. She is SO annoying. She has been tormenting me since preschool. She always yells at me. She tells me I can CONTROL my behavior. Doesn’t she know I have ADHD (with the emphasis on the D). I’m going to sue her -- THAT will give her a taste of her own medicine.“ He went on and on until I finally found a topic that interested him and he could get his mind off of it.

Just now, he came walking down the stairs, singing a little tune he made up (and I am NOT kidding here, oh how I wish I was)

Who wants to see me crush your nuts, crush your nuts, crush your nuts
Who wants to see me crush your nuts?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Never Ending Milk Battle

Our kids get free breakfast and lunch at school. Long story. Boring. Not giving details.

Anyway, an extra milk costs a quarter. For four years now, the kids, without our permission, take an extra milk and we get charged for it. Here’s how it has gone every single year for for years.

Me: Extra milks are showing up on the bill. Are you having extra milks?

Kid: No, Mom, it’s not me. It’s ________ (fill in the blank with a name of a sibling).

Me; Well, you know I can call and find out.

Kid: Well, it’s not me.

Then I call the school after about 3 or 4 bucks get racked up, equalling 12 or 16 milks. The school tells me exactly who took each and every milk and can tell me which date if I need them too. So, the kid comes home, and I tell them.

Me: Well, it looks like you weren’t telling the truth about the milks.

Kid: What? I didn’t take any milk.

Me: The school says you had 6 (or 8 or 7 or 5 or whatever).

Kid: They DID? (Same surprised look EVERY SINGLE year).

Me: Yes, they keep track, remember?

Kid: Well, they must have made a mistake.

Me: I don’t think so. You’ll be paying me back from your allowance.

Kid: I didn’t take any extra milks.

Me: Yeah, whatever.

Conference Calls

Don’tcha hate them? They are usually about something important. There are too many people on them and you’re never sure when to talk and when to not talk. The people in the meeting are on speaker phone and it is cracking and popping and fuzzy and you can’t understand or hear. You have the phone pressed tightly to your ear until it hurts and you’re supposed to be acting like an intelligent professional when you just want to scream “THIS IS SO ANNOYING! SHUT UP ALL OF YOU! CAN”T WE DO THIS ANOTHER WAY.“

Obviously I just had this experience. I feel better now.

I am Not Crazy

I did not lose my mind. I did post about Judging Amy here. I just had assumed it was long before November, since I found out that the show was cancelled during the summer sometime.

Now I can breathe a sigh of relief and get back to the stuff I really am supposed to be doing . . . or not.

Morning in HTML land

I spent the morning in html land and now my book website is nearly the way I want it to be. Did I have time to do this you ask? No, of course I did not. But it is fun and takes my mind off all of the other things I am supposed to be doing right now that I don’t particularly want to do.

Check it out.


Last night I had three very distinct dreams.

1) We were going to adopt again. Three sibling groups of three were our choices. One of them was a group of a boy and two younger girls who were using walkers because they were amputees. Another was a group of 3 guatemalan kids from the orphanage, 2 girls and a boy. The third was a Hispanic group from Texas with one of my favorite workers there and she wasn’t going to choose us. This was two boys and a girl. We had it figured out how we were going to fit them in our 5 bedroom house, along with our ten other kids, but I don’t remember now how. The bottom line was though, that we were probably going to end up with none of the groups because no one would choose us.

2) Tom Cruise was in love with me. No kidding, he really was. It was a detailed dream full of hotel elevators, contests, challenges, etc., but don’t get any racy ideas -- we never ended up in a hotel room.

3) I figured out how to host my own blog using WordPress, something I battled with one weekend in real life and never accomplished.

One of the things I love about myself is my ability to dream. My dreams are nearly always interesting and entertaining, and never scary.

Don't you Wish you Had a Husband Like This?

Our conversation this morning immediately after I woke up and my dh came into the bedroom from the shower.

Bart: Your glowing radiance makes me tremble.

Me: Groan.

Bart: Your full lips, puffy from sleep.

Me: Louder groan.

Bart: Your ample nose, excellent for breathing.

Me: What did you say about my glowing radiance?

Bart: I don’t remember.

Me: Something about making you tremble.

Bart: I don’t think so . I think it was “your glowing radiance exhilirates me.”

Me: I don’t think so.

Bart: Don’t you love this? I can see your lips wanting to smile.

Me: I don’t think so.

Bart: I can see the rosy color rising to your cheeks.

Me: I am going to blog this.

Bart: What are you going to call it? A man for all seasons? A man OF all seasons? Oh, I know, “Don’t you Wish YOU had a husband like this?”

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Definitely Time to go to Bed

For some reason I am exhausted tonight and my kids are still raring to go. My husband has a meeting that will last until at least 10 and I just want to sleep. I wrapped all morning and then did 7 straight intense hours of statistics and follow-up at the computer, followed by dinner, Christmas cards, and rides home from the pool.

Now in my incredibly exhausted and overtired emotional state, I discover by surfing that 7th Heaven will be done at the end of last season. Now, I don’t watch much TV. I don’t have time for it. Last year I was down to 4 shows: Judging Amy, Everwood, 7th Heaven and an occassional ER. By the end of the year I was just too tired of ER after watching it for years, so I phased it out. Then they cancelled Judging Amy and I was down to two shows, Everwood and 7th heaven.

(I could have sworn that I blogged about them cancelling Judging, but I can’t find the blog entry and that troubles me -- just wasted ten minutes trying to find it).

At any rate, my kids won’t go to bed and now I’ll have to say goodbye to the Campdens, a family I have joined weekly for seven years -- the week that their twins were born, our 3 kids moved in and we both went to 7 kids on the same week... My friends will disappear from my life.

See, it’s defnitely time for me to go to bed.

Decisions on Picture-worthiness and Geography Study Session

Tonight we worked on Christmas cards. Got most of them done. Part of my task was deciding which 60 of the 140 people on our list were picture worthy. How do you narrow it down? Well, could tell you my criteria, but it would be boring, and since I’ve already been very boring many times today, I’ll just let it go. But if you got a Christmas letter and not a card, please don’t take it personally. It was based on lots of strange things.

I was helping Salinda and Jimmy study for a geography exam tonight and here was the question:

Name five of the negative impacts of population growth.

Jimmy’s answer, I kid you not: Less people.

See How Boring

My color coded chart didn’t even come through in my last post.

One of the things I meant to write is that follow up depresses me because so many of the children are still not matched, or matched and still not home after MONTHS and MONTHS and MONTHS.

Follow up

I am in the midst of trying to follow up on all of the homestudies I have had faxed in 2005. I keep track of each one so that I can follow up and make sure that the kids are matched.

Then I color code them. I have sent 990 studies so far in 2005. I am half way through with my follow up. Boring.

My blog is boring lately too. Maybe I am boring. Maybe everything is just plain boring. Maybe I’m too boring to even have a blog.

Family Ruled Out
Matched with another child
Family no Longer Registered
Family backed out
Foster Parents Adopting
Children on Hold – not recruiting att this time
No Longer Available for Adoption (NLA)
Matched but Fell Through

Really Done

A friend of mine helps me wrap presents each year. We visit and wrap and visit and wrap. It has made the experience so much more enjoyable for me as I used to just HATE the chore. Each year there are anywhere from 60 - 120 presents to wrap. This year it took two hours. Less presents than ever before, but we spent more money. Guess the kids are growing up.

But, anyway, when it comes to presents I’m really done.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Finally Ready

I think I’m finally ready to blog about my experience yesterday in watching Rent. I had seen the trailer for it back in June and blogged about it. I loved the trailer and the song from the trailer so much I have been wanting to see the movie for the past six months.

However, I didn’t really know what it was about and during different points in the movie i was wondering why I was watching it. So much of it was so much different than my life. However, to say that it wasn’t powerful would be a lie.

My definition of a good movie is when it sticks with you, for whatever reason. Some movies are just there and others touch your soul. Rent touches the soul on many levels. First of all, the music is incredible. The voices of the actors are awesome -- most of them were the original cast from the Broadway musical. Secondly, the lyrics to the songs are powerful. For example:
There's only us, There's only this, Forget regret, Or life is yours to miss No other road, No other way, No day but today.

Thirdly, it demonstrated some significant truths like:

1) It is possible to suck the marrow out of life even if life isn’t of highest quality;
2) Nothing replaces true friendship and community;
3) Life is short -- seize the day;
4) Don’t sell out.

Back in the 80s, when this play took place, we all were very concerned about not selling out. Being true to self was so significant. You hardly hear about it any more.

So, anyway, this is somewhat disjointed, but the movie is going to stick with me for a long time.

The Rest of the Story

Back in June I posted about a placement I facilitated. I’m trying not to let it get to me too much, but the 18 year old, 17 at placement, has decided she does not want to be adopted. She is choosing to refuse the gift of a family in exchange for her independence. The parents are taking it pretty well, maybe even better than I am. I am discouraged and disappointed and most of all, I’m tired.

Even the day that I placed them, I knew there was potential for things not to go perfectly, but it’s still hard to accept and hard not to wonder what I could have done differently.

As I mentioned this morning, several other things are going awry, and I would love to quit. But if people quit when it gets tough, the kids will be left to the system to be raised.

There are days when my job makes me feel great, and days when it doesn’t. This is definitely a “doesn’t feel so good” day.


As of this moment my Christmas shopping is done. Now we just have cards to get out with Christmas letter..

I’m plodding through my day, mood getting better with everything I cross off my to do list.... and the consistent trick to avoiding burnout, I have learned, is to focus on the right things. I have to focus on the kids and doing what I can to get them home. I can’t focus on the families, nor can I focus on the system. I have to reduce it all to one hurt child or sibling group and the way that providing them permanency can change their world and our world for generations to come. If I can do that, then I can keep going, not just as a parent, but as a social worker and adoption specialist.

One kid at a time, day by day, month by month...

as I wrote in June it's not about us.

Conflicting Emotions

All in all yesterday was a good day. It was much better than Paula's or Mary's.

Bart and I had a good time. We had a couple of tasty meals, we almost finished all of our shopping, and we saw a powerful movie, that I’m not sure how to blog about.

However, it was not a good day inside my computer. I came back to several discouraging emails from families wanting to adopt hurting kids, but having all kinds of struggles.

Sometimes I get so overwhelmed by it all. I am involved with 25 families who are waiting to bring home 54 children. I was also involved in matching 127 children in 54 families over the past 16 months. Many of these families email me when they are frustrated or when things are going wrong. Now, my guess is that if I am involved with only a total of 171 children and 79 families, that I am in a very small corner of this crazy adopting-from-foster-care world. I also was involved in watching 87 children who were matched NOT come home for one reason or another over the last year.

my question is this.

How much crap is really out there? Multiply what I deal with times what, a thousand, ten thousand, one hundred thousand, and we might know.

The most difficult piece of all of this is that every one of these journeys begins with something unthinkable: an innocent child being abused and neglected. It begins there and in the BEST CASE scenario, a kid ends up with lots of issues and adopted into a relatively healthy, and yet still imperfect, family that struggles to remain healthy until that child settles in, which sometimes takes them way beyond their 18th birthday.

The rest of the scenarios are less than ideal. The kids at John’s ranch, for example, who have no families don’t care this time of year. If their behavior is perfect or horrific they are still not going to get to go anywhere or have a family or get the nurture they need, so especially around the holidays they freak out. Their behavior stinks. Everyone tries to make up for it -- volunteers visit and buy them nice gifts. But regardless of everyone’s efforts, spending Christmas in a family that is not yours or in a group home is NOT a true Christmas, even if you get all of the material possessions you ask for.

So, while yesterday was a great day, and I am very grateful for it, I came home to be reminded of a less than perfect world, where babies are not nurtured, children are treated as punching bags, young preteen girls are raped by their mothers boyfriends, and teenage boys who have experienced all this stuff finally can’t handle the anger any more and get institutionalized. And in this less than perfect world, people are signing up to take on these kids and the system, as well as the unpredictability of these kids behaviors, causes them frustration and pain.

Hang in there with me. My mood will change....

Monday, December 12, 2005

This was SUPPOSED to be a day OFF

Once a year during December a couple of the nicest people in the world (I have a list in my head of the top ten nicest couples./people I know and they are officially on it) have all of our kids over for supper so that we can spend a day together -- Christmas shopping, eating out, seeing a movie. It’s a fun day for us, especially when we are on the ball and only have to finish the shopping...

Today is that day. It was supposed to be my day off.

But, this morning was Monday morning hell here and now I have a huge work assignment that I have to get done before I go.

But, I’m almost over the disastrous emotional upheaval of lost shoes, back packs stuffed with stolen items, and being cussed out and have completed the first part of the project and sent it off to be proofed and wait to be finished tonight.

I’m not going to organize us so that we know exactly what we need to get where and can have a less than stressful day.

And, by the way, my book’s rough draft is now in Bart’s hands and ready to go to the first editor when he is done. The Christmas calendars are completed. The Christmas letter is written. Progress is being made...

Sunday, December 11, 2005

New Ending to the Book

There is a new ending to the book. There is also a new title: 10 in 9 -- What we learned while acquiring ten children
during our first nine years as adoptive and foster parents.

I’m also working on getting it set up on a new website, but can’t decide on a format, so it may not happen. I mean really, why keep giving it to everyone for free when I can actually sell it soon.

Lessons from the Goblet of Fire

Last night we went to see Harry Potter with all of the kids to celebrate Ricardo’s birthday. There were a couple lines in the movie (and I don’t have direct quotes so don’t be correcting me) that were significant to me.

Before entering a large maze, the warning was “Be careful not only that you don’t get lost, but that you don’t lose yourself.” I found this a fair warning to anyone who is heading into the path of parenting hurt children. When I first started this journey, I was a fairly normal person -- good sense of humor, bright, fun and funny, and with a great deal of resiliency. After about 4 years of this I found myself at an all time low. I hardly recognized myself any more. I didn’t have much fun any more, I was angry and disappointed a great deal of the time, and I felt like a complete failure. It was at that point that I realized that not only had I gotten lost somewhere along the way, but more importantly, I had lost myself. It was at that point that I began my journey to return to some of who I was, though more mature and even more resilient than before.

The second line comes at the end of the movie when Professor Dumbledore is talking to Harry. He says to Harry, “Difficult days are ahead... days when we are going to have to decide between what is easy and what is right.”

I’ve blogged about this many times before, but so many people make decisions about doing things based on whether or not they will be hard. I try to make my decisions based on what is right, not on what is easy.

It is my hope that during the coming months I can always trust myself to decide to do what is right, not what is easy.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Tree or Me?

The tree decorating was so mellow this year. Salinda took over. I sat and watched -- de-nasty-songing the kids computer (erasing the songs they have put on there that have cuss words or disgusting lyrics). Since I wasn’t very involved and I didn’t try to make everyone be involved, it turned out pretty well.

Except that John insisted on putting his 210 pound body on my lap nearly crushing me to death and the fact that they decided that they needed to decorate me as well.


I realized today that everything in our life is a long story. The cashier asks, “Are you out Christmas shopping?”

Here is the answer.

Actually, no,we’re shopping for birthday presents for one of my ten children. Two of the children with me are my children. The third child with me is actually a mother herself. She’s the mother of two. Her first child is the one here with us in the cart and her other child she placed for adoption, which is why I’m taking her shopping to help her get back on her feet. She speaks Spanish. So does the baby. The two kids with me who are Hispanic do not speak Spanish, but I do. The child we are buying for speaks Spanish as well and so does one of his other brothers, who is not biologically related. The sister of the two kids who are with me is Hispanic also, but she doesn’t speak Spanish, even though she is Hispanic as well.

I am always tempted to answer unasked questions because people look so confused.

But I just said, “No, not Christmas shopping today.”

Anyway, I was so proud of our son John today. He is home from the ranch for the weekend and went with me to take the birthmom I’ve been working with for several months shopping for winter clothes. She had her first child with her. John was SO awesome with that baby. He was a true gentleman for the whole time. He open, shut, and held doors. He helped carry things. and he was SO gentle with the baby. He helped her take her coat off and helped her dip fries in her ketchup. It was so cool to watch him being so mature and so caring.

I have recently acquired a new joy for parenting teenagers. Several years ago I was perpetually asked if I ran a day care. Now that our youngest is almost 10, people inquire if I’m with a youth group. By Christmas I will have 6 teenagers. I am realizing that we are getting to a point with our kids that our purpose is helping them understand what they need to do to improve their lives, instead of trying to make them do what we think they need to. It’s a new way of life and I’m finding the new dynamic to be very fun.

Now that John is here for every weekend, I assigned him chores again. He has done them much better than he used to and with a lot less complaining. I’m thrilled with the changes.

If I died at this moment, I would be content with my world. However, we are probably putting up our tree (finally) this afternoon, and my guess is that my mood is bound to change.


This morning my husband was watching the “Food Neck-work” (as Dominyk calls it) and there was Rachel Ray. At some point over the last few months, Bart had revealed, jokingly I assume, to one of the children that he thought Rachel Ray was hot. Well, Dad saying someone is hot is pretty big news around here, so it travelled fast. Now they think it is hilarious to point out to me often that Dad thinks that Rachel Ray is hot.

I pointed out to him this morning that it matters very little how hot someone is if they are ANNOYING. I am sure he can’t possibly think she is as annoying as I do with her ever persistent perky happiness or he wouldn’t be able to watch her. So, this morning, for just a few minutes, I pretended to be Rachel Ray in personality. I flitted around the room using many hand gestures, exaggerated facial expressions, and a loud cheery voice to explain how I intended for my morning to go. And he pretended to love it and ask that I be that way all the time.

On Thurssay night at our staff christmas party for the church I was pretending to be a “good” pastor’s wife. I did all kinds of things that I never do. I stood right at his elbow. I smiled politely and spoke softly. I did exactly what I was supposed to do. After a while folks got suspicious and I explained to a few what I was trying to do. They found it amusing.

I have always been completely and totally me. I never really ever cared about what others thought of me (which is a good thing now that the world thinks I’m crazy, our retired neighbors think we’re an insult to their environment, and I’m a pastor’s wife who doesn’t work in the kitchen). I have always just been the genuine authentic me.

So, everyonceandawhile it’s fun to pretend, as long as I don’t have to do it for very long.

Friday, December 09, 2005

And one last final one...

And Yet Another

And another

(if you click on these pictures they get bigger and you can actually read/see stuff).

Last Year at This Time...

I discovered Digital Scrapbooking. I love it. It is a great way for me to scrapbook because it requires no materials. However, it is time consuming and I always want to do better than I do and I always need more time than I have to do it right.

But I thought I would post some digital designs from last Christmas for your viewing pleasure.