Monday, December 31, 2007

From a Library Somewhere in MN

I'm heading to a court hearing -- left this morning and did a post-placement visit. I had started a long blog entry before leaving the house, but didn't finish it yet.

Didn't want you all to think we had died or something. I'm planning to blog more later.

How Accurate Was I?

Last year I was asked to predict what would happen with my children. Here is what I said.

Kyle will complete his Junior year of college and, after making all kinds of other plans and suggesting several ideas, will end up living at home for the summer. He will plan to save his money but he will spend it. He will return for his senior year, get a B average, and work a lot of hours at his on campus job. Regardless of my unending reminders to build his resume with leadership experiences, he will not see the need. He will watch between 47 and 57 movies in theatres and will watch 150 movies on DVD during 2007. He will wonder where his time and money have gone.

Well, this boy surprised me. He did complete his Junior year but did not live at home for the summer. And he almost got a 4.0 the first semester of his senior year. However, the rest is pretty accurate, although I think the movie count was higher than I predicted. He's seen 6 in theatres in the last week alone.

Rand will graduate from high school, having done fairly well. He will have made plans to leave home, but when it comes time to, probably won’t. He will spend a great deal of time lying around and spend most of his income on non-essentials (if he has a job). I will either choose not to intervene or to intervene, but either way it will take me to the next level of insanity.

I was right on target with this one. And I have chosen to intervene and I am at the next level of insanity.

Mike is the only one I cannot predict with any certainty whatsoever. WIll he serve time for stealing the car? Will he take off the day he turns 18? Will he graduate? Will he maintain a job? My only accurate predictions are that he will live in the moment, act impulsively, be confused a great deal of the time, and never be sure exactly how he has gotten himself into the current mess he is in.

Well, at least i didn't try to predict much with Mike. I can answer the questions. He went to CD treatment which was unsuccessful for stealing the car. He took off soon after he was 18. He didn't graduate. He never did get a job. And the rest, of course, was very very true.

John will not be allowed to return to our home. He won’t maintain his stay in foster care. He will be in a facility and may not earn the privilege of having contact with us that his social worker is stating he must earn. He will continue to be assaultive and angry and his mental illness will control him. UNLESS, which very well might happen, God intervenes in a major way and to this end we pray.

I was right about several things. John did not maintain his stay in foster care. He was in a facility but did earn the privilege of having contact with us. His mental illness has controlled him off and on. We hope that his new placement will be a part of God's intervention in his life.

Jimmy will take driver’s ed sometime during 2007. He will not pass his driver’s test the first time. He may not pass it at all, but he will be taught to drive. He may get his permit. He might possibly get his license. He will argue with me daily, torment his siblings, and yet at the same time be the most helpful kid in our home. He will charm the socks off of every adult that he meets outside of our home and he will push some of his teachers closer to retirement with his incessant naughtiness at school.

Wow, I was right on target with everything there. He has taken his permit test 4 times. He still hasn't past it. And the rest is exactly as I predicted.

Salinda will be best friends with several different girls and “go out” with several different guys. They will break up, make up, and argue. There will be a lot of drama. She will continue to get good grades and will excel in any sport she tries. She will find me tolerable 3 of every 7 days and maybe love me one out of every 10.

Got all that right -- but didn't predict all the rest of the junk that would happen with her -- breaking the law and most of our rules, changing schools, being in a residential setting and detention. Guess it is a good thing I didn't know that.

Ricardo will excel in soccer and football. He will continue to use his smile to attract every girl within a mile of him. He will refuse to try to read and finish the 5th grade as a 13 year old who reads at a second grade level. He will be sneaky as ever with his misdeeds and always be able to make me smile when his “mayan stoic look” bursts into a big grin.

Everything I predicted here is true -- except that I didn't predict his great success in wrestling, or that he would move up to 7th grade and become a varsity wrestler.

Mercedes will morph from her pleasant and mother-loving self into a teenager, leaving me behind in a myst of hormonal exhaust. She will test everything we say. She will begin to use makeup with our permission and will be drop dead gorgeous. She’ll start orthodontic work. She will (crossing my fingers here) remain thorough in getting her chores done and will save more money than she spends.

Well, she lost her chance to wear make-up in 2007 because of some choices she made, but the rest is exactly accurate. She's still sweet 80% of the time, but the other 20% leaves me shaking my head and trembling with frustration.

Tony will either realize how important it is that he modify his behavior or there will be some kind of upcoming changes for him which may include a psych hospitalization or something. He will go back and forth from being very defiant to very loving and tender hearted. He will confuse and frustrate us and yet somehow do things every once and a while that make us want to hang on.

Well, Tony hasn't changed much, but hasn't gotten worse either, so he remained at home. In fact, there are some days when we think he might be improving, but then we change our minds.

And Dominyk will make me laugh every day. He will say or do something hilarious and provide comic relief to our family. The medication he is on will continue to make him gain weight like Tim Allen in The Santa Clause until they switch him to something else and we go through another upheaval. The school will patiently work with him even though many will have either no or grey hair by the end of the year. He will remain our baby and still give me a hug every day even though he reminds me he is getting too big. And he insists he will be going through puberty.

Well, he hasn't made me laugh every day, but almost. His weight is leveling off, I think, and there have been no med changes because nothing else works. He is in a new school that is doing very well with him, and despite his predictions, he has not hit puberty.

And of course, I didn't predict Leon and Wilson's arrival, though it was about a year ago now that I saw their picture for the first time. Who would have known they would bring such joy.

And Bart and I? I predicted the truth --
that our big God would give us the strength we need, our friends would support us, and our kids would provide us with enough joy amidst the challenges to make it worthwhile.

And thus it came to pass...

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Again, Not Much to Report

Other than Salinda being a rediculous teenage girl for a few minutes today and sending me reeling in a few moments of anger and frustration, it's been a pretty mellow afternoon.

the Kari's were here for Sunday dinner today. We promised them ribs last night and they didn't get them because they weren't done so we ordered pizza.

I've been thinking about how lucky we are lately to have such good friends. Every adoptive family needs another family like them in their lives.

Tis true.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Joining In -- Not About Adoption

In the spirit of Fun and Games for Adoption Bloggers, I'm supposed to blog about something besides adoption.

Wow, tough to think of something since my life is so consumed by it both personally and professionally. And if I have to blog about something that doesn't include my children..... yikes. I'm having trouble coming up with something.

hmmmm. Wow, I'm really having a hard time with this. Want it to be creative...

OK, here goes. My most embarrassing moment.

I was 21 and I was working for the college I went to as a recruiter. We did 13 youth camps in 9 weeks, so I was always exhausted. We would do a week of camp, drive a day or two, and then start all over. I was taking an afternoon nap because of this exhaustion and when I awakened, I decided I needed to take a swim. Too late to I changed into my swimming suit on the top bunk and headed down to the pool.

I waved at several folks during the 1/4 mile walk. They looked at me strange, but I figured it was because i looked tired or something. When I got to the pool, several people tried to get my attention. I ignored them because I was hot and wanted to get in the pool.

I jumped in and when I came up for air I thought to myself, "Someone's UNDERWEAR is in this pool." I can still remember the feeling like it was yesterday when I realized that it was not someone's, but mine. Yellow, lace trim... floating.

I looked up and everyone was laughing so hard. I ended up throwing them at one of my friends because he would not stop laughing.

It turns out that I had on a two piece (not a bikini) and my underwear had gotten caught in the back of my bathing suit bottoms. I had walked all the way to the pool with them hanging out the back.

SO there you have it. SOmething that has nothing to do with my kids or adoption.

I remember those days, vaguely

And it All Comes to a Head

Last night all the days of being mellow and not doing much came to a head and we had a very wild last hour of the night with Tony and Dominyk. I confess to being too lazy and too tired to deal with them sometimes and thus they are often out of control. With their special needs, and the unsuccessful attempts we had in the past to try and curb John and Mike's issues and special needs, sometimes we wonder if it is worth it. And then the trouble comes.

I had asked them to go to bed because they were so wild that I knew when Bart came home he would not be happy. He had been to an intense movie with Kyle and I knew that coming home to an out of control house would be a big shock to his system. I made the mistake of offering them consequences the next day ... and they took me up on my offer and didn't go to bed.

I should have insisted.

But anyway our relative peace and calm exploded and resulted in tears and an early bedtime for two very hyper boys. I knew the peace wouldn't last forever.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Theory Most of You Won't Like

A few of the kids got fighting games for Christmas this year. In the past we have not allowed T-rated games, but since almost everyone is a teenager, we allowed some of them this year. A lot of them involve plots shooting and boxing and bad guys. They have some simulated violence and I had always heard that it was so bad for kids.

However, what if it has an opposite effect on kids with aggression issues? What if they are able to better with their aggression if they can box someone, wrestle someone, even shoot someone on a video game?

I have noticed that one of our sons has been much less aggressive since he started playing these games and I remember back to when Kyle first moved in. He purchased a few of these games for himself when he first moved in and was much less aggressive than some of our other kids who haven't been allowed to play them, even though he was just as angry or more angry.

I know I can't actually advocate the use of violent video games, but what is everyone else's experience with this?

If Things Keep Up, You're Going to Stop Reading

Things are so mellow here that if it keeps up, nobody is going to read my blog. Drama and stress usually draw readers. But we've been pretty drama free for days yet. Definitely the best Christmas vacation ever in regards to a lack of drama.

Today I'm taking Ricardo to wrestling practice, stopping to check clearance racks and spend a gift card, and then this afternoon we have a meeting with Salinda's P.O. and a post-placement visit for work.

ANd it was evening, and it was morning, another day.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Inlaws Coming and a House to Clean

I am not much of a cleaner. In fact, I'd rather do almost anything else. So, knowing that Bart's mom, aunt and sister are on their way, I know I SHOULD be rallying the troops to get things cleaned up around here. Instead I am beginning a huge project for work and widdling away at the many piles on my desk. I know what I SHOULD be doing. It's just doing it that is hard.

We have had some very mellow days around here. Much electronic stimulation and not a lot of fighting. Salinda on house arrest is nice because she isn't consistently asking to do things we won't give her permission to do. Kyle has been very patient. The other kids have been remarkably mellow.

I know it won't last too long... that we need to start structuring their days ... but it has been fun to have just a few days of quiet.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Ten Year Anniversary

Check Bart's blog to see how we're celebrating the 10th year anniversary of the day we flew out to meet Kyle and MIke.

Get More Sleep or Get Things Done

I woke up around 7 this morning and had a decision to make. Get mroe sleep while the kids are quiet, or get things done?

I got up. The house is too quiet for me to sacrifice that time sleeping. I'm working on cleaning off my desk, organizing things.

I must blog that Kyle has grown up. Major issues with holidays and gift giving from his past have caused stress for the last 8 Christmases. But yesterday he was perfectly appropriate. He was helpful. He was grateful. The gifts he purchased were sincere. He was more patient than I've ever seen him.

Ten years ago today we got on that airplane to fly out to Washington state and meet Kyle and Mike. We certainly had no idea what was going to happen or what our lives would hold. If you'd like to reminisce with us, you can read the chapter from our book about that meeting.

The book hasn't been proofread..... Just so you know.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

And Once Again, All is Well

The kids have gotten along amazingly well today. I believe it has been our least stressful Christmas as a married couple.

Right now I am sitting in the living room. The kids are all still up way too late. But they are playing happily together. I am using the massage chair Salinda bought me for Christmas on a day she loved me and eating truffles that Sadie got me for Christmas.

I'm playing a computer game and listening to music on the computer with headphones, blocking out just enough of the happy noises so that they aren't annoying.

There has been little conflict and a great amount of patience displayed by those with less special needs today and those who have them have done pretty well at holding it together.

And once again, all is well.

Christmas Dinner Interrupted

Bart spent most of the day preparing another feast. Turkey, Ham, and all the fixings. A huge meal. Delicious.

We all sat down to the meal, a packed table. Twelve of us and every inch of the table covered. Five minutes into it, Mike called asking again for his Christmas gifts. I didn't want to prolong the conversation and he sounded anything but sober so I simply said, "you have the IPod and the NIntendo D.S. Goodnight, Mike."

He called back. I didn't answer. He called back. I unplugged the phone.

I mentioned to Bart that I wasn't interested in listening to the message alone. While some of us were still sitting at the table, came down and listened to them. He mentioned I probably wouldn't want to hear them and that he was talking about mail.

I figured out immediately what he was assuming. In years past relatives have sent money to the kids for Christmas. He thought he had some here and he wanted it. Problem is, there isn't any here.

So Bart and I came and celebrating Christmas night by listening to Mike verbally abuse me on the answering machine. He was threatening me with a "federal offense" if I, the dumb s***, the stupid b****, opened his mail.

I should have taken the call the first time and saved myself the hassle. The only mail he has here is from his attorney and I haven't opened it.

But his timing was impeccable. ANy other time today and he could have called and only disturbed me. But instead he called in the middle of the meal and the whole family ate in trouble silence for several minutes before we could recover.

We have paperwork for a harassment restraining order. It's time to fill that out.

Christmas Shots

Dominyk at the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service

Kyle opening a Gift

Sadie who asked for Orange Stuff That's Cute

Bart Blogs, and We All Cry

Here's his latest entry called "Me, Too, Dominyk"

You're Ugly and I Hate You

Leon is 12. Historically I have not been able to do well with 12 year olds. When Kyle was that age we clashed like there was no tomorrow and Tony during his 12th year has nearly pushed me over the edge at least weekly.

But Leon. Wow does that kid make me smile. He is smart, witty, has a great sense of humor. And he has some of Kyle's personality quirks without the anger or the nasty moods that Kyle used to have. He is negative and picky about everything, but instead of letting that bother me, I just tease him.

And for some reason he is not morally opposed to having a mother who loves him. In fact, when I was explaining to Kyle that Leon kind of liked to stay around the house. Tony said he was a "mama's boy" and he didn't even disagree. I nearly fainted. He even gave me a card this morning -- first time I've ever gotten a Christmas card from one of my kids. He got Bart one too. It said, "For a special Mom at Christmas.... Thinking of the joy's you're brought, the nice things that you do. And hoping that your Christmas, Mom, is special -- just like you. Merry Christmas". And he signed it "from your handsom son Leon."

He sits next to me at the dinner table. It is a place reserved for the newest kid. And every day after we'd pray before a meal, holding hands as we always do, I would look at him and say "you're cute. I like you." And he would groan.

So after a few weeks of this I said, "would you rather have me say "You're ugly and I hate you?" And he said, "YES!" And I responded, "and you'll know what that means?" and he smiled.

So now, several times a day I'll say those words. And every time I do his eyes start twinkling and his dimple pops out in his left cheek. It's the same response every time and it's adorable.

Last night we got to church 15 minutes early and it was already packed. The front row was open though and I decided I would sit there with Dominyk when he arrived with Kyle. I gave instructions to the ushers to send him up there and invited anyone else who wanted to to come up with me. Only Leon came up front with me.

I glanced at him during the service, this new son of mine. So different than my 9 others. So calm, so collected, so obedient. Occasionally i reach over and rub his back and he doesn't resist. We light our Christmas Candles and we are standing there in the candlelight singing "Silent Night, Holy Night, All is Calm, All is Bright."

And I lean over and whisper to him, "You're Ugly Son, and I Hate you" and his bright almond eyes, glowing in the candlelight, look up at me, and slowly, the dimple appears, the smile widens, and he glances up at me with a look of affection.

And at that moment I knew that all was right with the world.

It's Over and We're All Alive

We finished unwrapping gifts in a record 90 minutes this morning. As the kids get older the ask for more expensive things, thus less gifts.

And, the fact that the wrapping paper was cleaned up within 10 minutes of unwrapping proves that our children are getting older. It's nice to not have a huge disaster to deal with. Some years it has been absolutely horrible. I have pictures to post, but I need to wait until I'm somewhere I can transfer them to the computer. Right now I'm trying to stay in public areas and out of my office.

Because we have so many teenagers who like to sleep, we make the little kids (who are getting less little all the time) wait until 8 a.m. to open gifts. Tony and Dominyk, the most difficult to keep calm, didn't get up until 7:30 so we had a break. Some years the have been up at 5:30. The combination of them being annoying and Sadie commenting on their behavior and Salinda commenting to Sadie that she needed to mind her own business would have pushed me over the edge on any other day.

Everyone seemed to be grateful and pleased with most of their gifts and were appropriately grateful (something that hardly ever happens in our house). Even though we missed Mike and John, we did not miss the stress they cause our family system.

Kyle has been especially mature and appropriate this week, a huge change from Christmas' past.

Things are calm. People are happy. The anxiety is over. We are glad.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Birthday Dear Wilson, Part 3

After arriving home from Chinese food, Wilson opened his presents. He was enjoying being the center of attention -- being silly and enjoying hearing us laugh at his jokes. He was pleased with his presents.... NEAT KID.

Happy Birthday, Dear Wilson Part 2

We had a wonderful Christmas eve service, packed to the gils (338 people) The first 7 minutes before Kyle arrived with Wilson, Jimmy and Dminyk I was panicking. Kyle hates to be late so I started thinking the worst. Imagining a car wreck and thinking about our lives without those four was very sobering. I was really grateful to see them arrive.

After church we headed out for Chinese food as our Christmas Eve tradition. Everyone was fairly appropriate at the restaurant and Wilson was especially thrilled. He loves Chinese and he loves shrimp and he got them both. He was the last one still eating after everyone else was done.

It was fun to be together in a relatively calm atmosphere. We enjoyed one another and everyone was pleasant. Nice.

Happy Birthday, Dear Wilson Part 1

God has an incredible sense of humor -- and knows just how to bless us. We had many people, including at least a couple of our own children, wondering why we wanted to add children. But Leon and Wilson have been such an incredible blessing to us. Wilson is one of the cutest things I have ever laid eyes on and, as I have mentioned, he is never hesistant to let me cuddle up with him, love on him, kiss him, and hug him. He's the best.

In addition to the blessing of Leon and Wilson, we have a lot of people being very generous to us this Christmas. People that we never expected to have given us gifts, gift cards, cash. It's been overwhelming.

Today one of our friends from church insisted on taking Wilson and I to lunch, along with Jimmy who had been helping her deliver Christmas to several families this morning. So the four of us went to Red Lobster because Wilson's favorite food. We had a lovely time. She is a fascinating person with all kinds of wonderful stories to tell.

And so, even though things are not perfect, there are evidence of God's goodness all around me. New children who are fitting in nicely, are very well behaved, and who we love so much already. We have generous friends, a wonderful church family, and family members who love us.

It's easy to focus on the hatred and the anger and the nastiness around us at all times lately, but I'm finding that there are many very good things in our lives as well.

In a couple hours we will file into a crowded church. We will be surrounded by families just like ours. As a pastor's family, we know people on a level that some others don't. As we are in that church we will be worshipping with people like us -- people who have experienced great joy in the past year combined with great sorrow. We will sit next to those who have had years worse than ours and those whose lives have been a little easier.

But for just that hour, we will remember something bigger than any of our trials. We will remember the plan of a God who loved us so much that he gave his only Son. A God, who knowing that we would reject Him, presented Him to the world in human form, knowing that the only way that He could reach us would be through the incarnation. The magic of that thought and the power of that gift will be our focus.

And it is my prayer that all of us will take time this year to let the Christ child and this gift of peace penetrate our hearts and pierce through any darkness that life's circumstances can bring. And may we look for the good and be grateful.

Well, At Least It's Over for Now

Bart was down in my office as I'm finishing up the Calendars and printing Christmas letters. He was getting ready to leave and I said, "Aren't you nervous that Mike is going to call?" No, he said. I said, "Because you think he won't?" "No," he said. Because if he does I'm not goign to get it bother me."

Not more than 3 minutes later he called and here is the conversation almost exactly.

Hey mom?


So, do you guys want me to come home for Christmas?

No, Mike. I'm sorry you can't come home. The kids are worried that if you know what they get you might steal it.

They would never think that if YOU didn't put that in their heads.

No, Mike, you've done it so many times now they are worried.

So, am I getting anything?

Well, Mike, I talked to Dad and he said that you have an IPod and a Nintendo DS for Christmas (things he stole from us).

(Bart walks in)

In fact, here's Dad. (I handed the phone to him knowing that he would handle it better than I). ANd MIke says


What do you mean, what?

You want to talk to me.

Well, I didn't say I wanted to necessarily, but I will.

Well if don't want to talk to me then "CLICK"

End of conversation

So, tell me how I should feel? Should I feel guilty? Sad? Grieving? Should I feel relieved that the call is over? Should I worry that he'll come anyway? What exactly should I feel?

Christmas Letter 2007

Click on each page for a larger version you can read.

Bouncing Back

My pity parties never last more than a day. I can't stand having one longer than that, and usually a good night's sleep gets me back on track. I got to have one last night and I'm feeling better about my day.

There are still anxiety issues in the back of my head. I keep wondering if MIke is just going to show up on our doorstep and force us to make him leave during Christmas gift opening or something like that. I am still a little nervous that Salinda will flip back to nasty (she flipped to nice by 8 p.m.). And I feel bad that John can't be with us and am struggling as to whether or not I should go visit him after Christmas.

BUT I'm going to rise above. I finally did finish the Christmas Calendar for the relatives. I also have our Christmas letter to upload today as well for your reading pleasure. But right now Blogger is being uncooperative.

I'll see what I can do later today.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Some Days I Just Don't Have it In Me

Today has been one of those days. One of those days when I just don't have what it takes to be me. Salinda carried on punishing me until about a half hour ago. Realizing the extent of the hatred she has for me is troubling, but I"m trying to remember much of what i've read from parents who have made it past these years with teenage girls.

Today I was just so depressed, which is not like me at all. I was crying at the drop of a hat and then I would start to tell myself that I really had nothing to be depressed about because so many people have it worse than me, but then that would make my cry harder knowing that I shouldn't be sad. I was pathetic.

Tony has been especially awful to me today, and that combined with Salinda's pure hatred has done a number on me.

But even when I am at my lowest, I only allow myself one day and then I am done. So tomorrow I will wake up determined that it will be better. I hope to get lots of sleep tonight and then awaken with a fresh start.

But dang that Salinda can be a punitive, cruel, mean little thing. Wow.

Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush

Last night I "ruined Salinda's night" by asking her to get off her friends cell phone after she slipped in a Saturday night sleepover (friend coming here) which we usually don't allow. She tried to walk away and refused to deal with something, which is her pattern, and I made the mistake of trying to stop her. Eventually, she ended up knocking me down and I was lying on the floor, not sure if I was hurt (I wasn't).

I was in the family room, most everyone else was in bed or heading there, Bart assumed we were talking. I just laid there, wondering how long I would lie like that if I really were hurt. I allowed myself to have a full blown sobbing pity party, which I hardly ever allow myself to do.

She's been home three days. She still has no regard for our most simple rules. THinks they are stupid so she shouldn't have to follow them. After begging to come home for weeks, she's now saying maybe she wants to go back, but that what she really wants is a foster home where there are no rules.

There is no way this girl would be having these thoughts had our sons, who could not live at home because of safety issues, had not been in and out of foster placements they could never maintain. She has seen this as an option.

The problem is, nobody believes that our family system is the issue here. They have heard our rules and do not believe they are unreasonable. They have watched us interact with her. Foster care, at least at this point, is not an option for her, but she doesn't know that.

She has so much potential. She does not have FASD, does not have any mental illness. She just is a rebellious teenager who sees that she has options of where to live because of the way her brothers have manipulated people over the past 3 years.

I hate to distance myself from her the way I have had to with the boys. It will be more difficult to do so because there were a lot of years where we got along well. But I have to figure out a way to stop obsessing about how I can parent in a way that will make her successful and just let her make her own choices.

The serenity prayer completely applies here.
Lord, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Overhearing a Conversation

Leon and Wilson have been talking to their birth siblings for the last hour. It's been fun to listen to the things WIlson's worth sharing.

1) We got a game system for Christmas.

2) Our dog bites people if you get by him when he is eating

3) Our church is fun and you know the pastor guy at churches? He's our dad.

4) One time I farted on mom at church. It was so funny. She didn't even smell

5) WE're going to eat Chinese on my birthday.

6) My brother stole my DS and he got kicked out of the house and now he is in jail.

7) That's my CHEEK pushing numbers (he's using my Iphone)

8) I had to go boo-boo real bad this morning (his words for pooping)

9) We have 16 days off of school.

10) Dominyk is 11 years old and he cries for a pop every day -- I mean soda -- but over here they call it pop as in popcycles

12) Probably when I'm nine I'l to bed at 10 (he says, grinning up at me and whispering, I said PROBABLY)

And Leon's comments:

1) They cut hair terrible up here.

2) My mom doesn't care if I talk to y'all. SHe's sitting right here.

3) Do you still have all those zits all over your face and that giant flat nose?

4) My nose is flat, but it isn't giant

5) No M games, just T and E.

Then they discover that the sibs (talking on their sister's cell phone) are at their birthdads. The conversation is telling.

And then Wilson with his b-dad:

I'll be nine. Next year I"ll be in third. I have two new teeth growing in. It just snowed and there is a lot of snow outside. Do you want to talk to my mom? (I overhear him say no!)

And now Leon talks to his birthdad -- first thing he says:

Give me a gift card with some money. and then, "I'm in wrestling." You're breath smells. I can smell it through the phone. Are you going to give me money? I'm bored. Games would be good. Rated T. Pokemon. Hang up first. Hang up. Hang up. Bye. Bye love you too.

Is it Starting Again?

Last night Salinda had been home for 2 days. Two days home from a residential setting and her behavior was perfect.

And then last night i caught her up in them middle of the night "sneaking TV." A couple hours before that we had had a less than ideal conversation. I don't understand why she needed to do that. If she would have asked, I would have let her watch it later than the normal limit. I always do.

So I have to wonder -- is this a slip up. Or is this the first step down a nasty road.

I'm hoping it's simple teenage stuff and that it all will pass.

My other dilemma of the day is a project i'm working on for Christmas gifts that i screwed up majorly last night. I do calendars and I was almost done and was deleting some stuff to make more room on my computer and ended up deleting the whole thing.

Now i can't figure out how to get the stuff I need, and they needed to be mailed today. Guess everyone's gifts will be late. There is nothing I can do about it.

Today the kids need to shop for each other. Ugh.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Can't even Make a Plan Around Here

This has been one of those days when you just can't make a plan. I don't even know if I have enough energy to blog all the different ways that schedules have been changed today. Every time I try to make a plan, someone changes theirs until I have finally decided that my plan for tonight is to not make one and not do anything. It has been an odd day, with many undercurrents of stress.

John called to apologize for the last time that we talked, said he knew what he did was wrong. Sometimes it almost seems as though he is reading a script he writes for himself when he apologizes. It doesn't always sound sincere and it is troubling.

He lied to me about his medication, but I didn't even bother to confront him on it. He must think I'm more stupid than I am, so he comes up with stories. I know what is going on with him. He doesn't think I do. Same story for years. I'm debating driving over to see him next week. But again, making plans is so complicated sometimes.


For the Last Time this Year

For the last time in 2007, I will begin the morning routine in 15 minutes. It varies only slightly this time, because Sadie gets her braces on this morning and after I take people to school then I will go to the coffee shop with a coworker.

We have had some fairly calm days here. But with the Christmas and two birthdays in the next four days, I'm knocking on every wood surface in the house as I say that.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Long Journeys

Several years ago I joined several list-servs for adoptive parents. On a few of the lists I think I have been on for at least 7 years. I don't read them like I used to, as blogging as replaced them as my main form of support, but they still come to my inbox in digest form every day and every once and a while, I will glance through the posts.

This morning there was a post from a woman who has been on one of my lists who has a child that has been seriously mentally ill for a long time. I can't imagine how difficult their lives have been. This morning the post indicated that he was in ICU having nearly succeeded in killing himself. She was asking for prayers and support.

None of us know the journey we will put ourselves on when we adopt children. Each of our children are different. This morning I sit in a home with two adult sons. Each of them came to us at 11. One came as an angry, defiant conduct disordered kid who had been abandoned by every family he ever dared to love. Attachment disordered and distant, he was not interested in anything more than being "normal" and making sure he had what he needed. Bart spent a great deal of his time and energy for years teaching Kyle that family meant more than material possessions.

Ten years later I think he's finally figuring some of it out. He's home for Christmas and 99% of the time is a delight. He's a good role model for his younger siblings. He has a trip to England for a class in January and then his student teaching left and then he'll graduate from a great Christian university with a degree in Elementary Ed, certified K-8. He's a poster child for older child adoption. The picture above was taken in his practicum classroom last week.

The other adult son in our home also came at age 11. Having survived 15 placements in 7 years in foster care and a disrupted adoption separating him from his birth siblings, he came to us having almost every diagnosis you can have. He also has FASD which was never diagnosed. He was in the most restrictive educational setting available in our state in 4th grade, and he was diagnosed, amongst everything else, with Pervasive Development Disorder. He moved into our home from Residential Treatment and began to settle in.

Huge food issues were his biggest challenge, but he began to slowly settle in and gradually has made progress since. By 8th grade he needed no EBD services in school. He graduated on the B honor roll. He is enrolled in college now in a technical college studying culinary arts. Lately, with the Christmas season, he has been working 30 hours a week. He still has some issues, but again, the person he is today is so far removed from the person he was 8 years ago. Nothing but steady progress on his part, good choices he's made, and our commitment to love him forever. Another success story.

And then there are Mike and John, who you read about too often here. Certainly dragging us through very very difficult days as juveniles, and now Mike as an adult. Our commitment to them remains as strong, whether they are safe to live here or not. And while we know that the story is not completely written, at this point we rationally don't see great hope.

So we never know when we start out where the road will end. But we don't know that about anything. People ask me about children they are considering adopting and I point out to them, asking me to predict how they will turn out. Not being God, I have no way of doing so. But I remind them that the most difficult file to read for us was Rand's -- we anticipated he would be our most challenging child-- and he has turned out to be one of the easiest. And John's was the easiest to read -- and he has been one of the most challenging.

So people take the plunge, commit to a kid for life, and then ride the roller coaster. And sometimes the ride goes better than you anticipated, and sometimes it's worse. But regardless of the outcome, the things that happen during the ride, the little moments of joy, make it all worthwhile.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Another Blog Entry

I thought the topic of warehousing kids belonged on the Everything Adoption blog.

And Now, for the Update on Salinda

Salinda didn't have a good start to her day. She got in trouble last night for being rude and so she lost her hygiene box for the morning. So she didn't shower and didn't have makeup to wear for court. She also ended up getting sent to school (we're still trying to figure out why, since court started at 10 and it is a 90 minute drive). So when Bart arrived to pick her up he had to go to the school with a staff member to get her out of class and then they couldn't find her hygiene box. So she had to return home with no makeup or perfume or anything else like that.

When we finally all got to court we had to sit an extra 30 minutes. She ended up receiving 30 days of House Arrest with yet another ankle bracelet, 30 hours on the juvenile work crew, and a list of things she can't do and has to do (like not break the law, take drugs, etc. and go to school, obey rules, etc). If she can complete this things and be law abiding for six months, then her record will be cleared (stay of adjudication). If she doesn't, she will go to trial and most likely lose her right to get a driver's license for a full year after her 16th birthday. Hopefully these consequences will be enough to keep her out of trouble.

Ironically, it was the same judge that was present when I wrote a long letter to be read in court for John last year. In that letter I articulated the following as part of my plea to not have John return to our hometown:

In addition, the sibling who is most influenced by John is having a very rough few months. She is trying to decide what kind of life she wants to live and is in a very precarious position. Because she is a birth sibling to John, she is very loyal to John and his values. John has glorified a lifestyle which has led her to make some very poor choices over the past few months. John's obsession over the past year about gangs and racism have had a very negative impact on her. Again, these two will connect as soon as they can and try to do so without us knowing about it.

I cannot blame John for Salinda's choices. But I did see how his coming back to our town would affect her a year ago. I stated it to the judge. I predicted further challenges. He returned to our town, did see her without our permission, and today she stood before the same judge.

I'm sure he didn't remember our family or the fact that I was worried about this very thing happening. But I did.

Now, at this volatile moment in her life, once again, John will be returning to our town. He will be attending the same school as Salinda. He is very nervous about the transition and is very good at messing up things he is nervous about. And on top of it all, he is not taking his medications, which makes him very agitated and unpredictable.

I have beat my head against the wall for a long time trying to create what we believe to be the best possible scenario for our son and our family, But the bottom line is that "the system" doesn't have the same agenda. They have policies, they have procedures, they have financial constraints. And if you happen to be a round peg, you might just fit in that round hole and get your needs met.

But what if you happen to be square?

Stuff I Learned This Morning that Adoptive Parents of Soon to Be Adults May Want to Know

I finally made it down to the police station to report the stolen IPod and Nintendo DS. I knew I had waited too long, but I wanted to hear what was being said. Here is what I was told by an officer in our city. Whether or not this is the law where you are, you may want to check, but if what I learned today is true, this information is something that we, as children of adult adopted children with FASD and RAD, really need to know.

Here is what I learned:

1) Don't wait more than 24 hours to report stolen items, regardless of who steals them. Police officers consider these "dead leads" and really don't focus on them when there are so many other more critical things to deal with.

2) If an adult child is living with you and you have problems with him/her, you cannot call the police if you ask them to leave and they won't. You have to go through formal eviction procedures.

3) If you give permission for an adult child to live in your home and that child steals from you, then it is not a criminal matter. It is a civil matter.

4) If an adult child is not living with you and you want to protect yourself and your possessions, you really should get an order for protection or a harrassment order completed.

I spoke to the officer for quite sometime and got a really factual lecture. He mentioned several times that we had done our duty to "king and country" and that now we needed to protect ourselves, our children and our property.

I know he's right. But it's still hard.

Who's the Rat?

Yesterday, in a fit of controlled anger, I had blogged about some stuff about John and how I am disagreeing with the decisions being made about him. But fortunately, I left out much of the details and a lot of my emotion. Before court for Salinda this morning, John's social worker came up to me and shook my hand. I jokingly said, "How can you even shake my hand when you know how pissed I am at you."

He responded, "Yeah, I guess. I read your blog last night."

"Really?" I was almost speechless. Apparently someone let the worker know that he was being "Dissed" on my blog. Fortunately, he didn't think it was "that bad." But now I'm wondering, who's the rat?

Actually, managing this blog is difficult. When I first started to blog, I was blogging for myself and for other adoptive parents across the country. This is still the audience I have in mind.

And yet locally more and people are starting to read the blog. Our neighbors, church members, kids teachers, and now social workers.

So I ask myself this question: Should I be more careful in what I write considering who my readers are? Should I risk offending them?

Fortunately, John's social worker is very self-differentiated and separates very well from the position. We have agreed to disagree often (ok, almost always). And, as I repeatedly point out, the day will come when the case will be closed for the social worker.

But the day will never come when the case is closed for us. John is our son. For better for worse. Til death.

The Same Exact Thing

OK, there is ONE reason why I am glad that Christmas break is coming up.

I am tired of the morning routine. It's the exact same thing, every single day. Of course, there are minor variations on the theme, but here is what it looks like.

Bart is up first and in the shower upstairs. I am up soon after and in the shower downstairs. Then Rand stumbles up the stairs forgetting either his towel or his boxers. He has to be reminded that he'll need them nearly every day. Then Jimmy is up next, also forgetting one or the other. (I've had to really monitor this or else their basement room ends up with 15-20 towels in it, all dirty, scattered here and there).

Meanwhile, I'm in my office, beginning my work day, getting a half our of stuff done before it's time for me to wake up the rest. I wake up Tony first -- he will say something rude within 3 minutes of waking up and announce that he is not going to do what I say. Then it's Leon -- who will lie in bed an extra 15 minutes no matter what, but is always ready on time.

Then I head upstairs and get Dominyk's medication, which he will refuse to take until he thoroughly stretches, resulting in me having to remind him of potential consequences. Then he'll lie back down and refuse to get into the shower until again potential consequences are mentioned, at which point he will scream "FINE" and stomp to the shower. Wilson will allow a few hugs and kisses as he sits crosslegged on his top bunk looking extremely cute and very sleepy.

Dominyk will arrive in my office after his shower, dressed but missing something -- his shoes, his backpack, his coat. Tony will be rude and obnoxious. jimmy will get consequenced for something and begin a long series of muttering backtalk

Ricardo and Sadie will both get themselves ready in the morning and show up 2-5 minutes later than they are supposed to, ready for school.

And because our neighbor across the street (my new best friend) takes JImmy and Tony to school) the ride will be pleasant, very different from the way it was before.

And tomorrow, I'll get up, and do it all again.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pushing Buttons

Is 13 a magic number? Because the past months since Sadie turned 13 she has pushed my buttons several times a week. Whenever she gets in trouble for something, and sometimes when she doesn't, she just begins pushing my buttons, saying everything she can think of. She attempts to escalate conversations even when I am resisting taking the bait.

When I have taken all I can take, I have to remove her from the situation so that I don't do and say things I will regret. I have some self control, but I know where my limit is. I just had to physically remove her from my office because she would not leave and she fought back, unusual for her. She then proceeded to put a hole in my office door, also unusual for her.

Since she frequently states "Salinda is on my side", dragging her sister into everything, I am reluctant to be too excited about Salinda's return when it comes to Sadie. I know it is going to be hard enough for Salinda without Sadie constantly dragging her into things. The two of them gang up on me and join together in pushing my buttons.

I'm sure some of the opposition is typical teenage stuff, but some of what she is acting on is her anxiety about Salinda's return and John's inability to come home for Christmas.

But she'll have to pay to have the door replaced. And she's not going to like that.

Court Paperwork

Finally charges are being pressed against Mike for stealing our vehicle. It happened a couple months ago but it has taken them a long time to press charges. We have to fill out a restitution form.

I need to go down to the police station in the morning and file charges for the stolen goods from our home as well.

Apparently his hearing is on January 7, 2007.

We'll see if he actually shows up for court. If he isn't in custody again by then.

Is This My Kid?

I'm not going to put things into detail here. But the bottom line is that I had several conversations with the people where John is yesterday about his transition and about us not allowing him to come for Christmas. I thought we were very clear.

This morning I got an email from John's social worker detailing the meeting yesterday. It was so much different than what we had talked about yesterday that I thought the email was about a different person.

So I called back the people today to make sure I had not been misunderstood. And no, I hadn't been. They weren't real sure where the social worker came up with his conclusions. I've decided that with all of these "misunderstandings" I need to just let go of the whole thing and let it play itself out. If I get too much in the middle, it will cause more trouble than it's worth. I started trying to piece together what everyone was saying about Salinda a couple months ago, and that didn't go well as I was accused of miscommunication.

So once again we are going to have to sit back and watch whatever happens happen. The unfortunate part of it all, is that when he hits 18, he will no longer be anyone's case.

But he will still be our son.

And the decisions that everyone else is making now will affect him, and affect us. But ultimately not affect all those "everyone elses" who have the power now.

Every morning, same thing.

I get busy on other things and my blog entry just doesn't happen like it used to.

Fairly uneventful evening last night. I actually had 2 hours home alone on a weeknight. Every single kid had plans. It was a nice break.

Today Bart is picking up Kyle to bring him home for Christmas.

On Sunday night, Wilson crashed our date again. Picture above is of my dates.

And last night Wilson went sledding. He calls this his puffy coat -- and his puffy pants. First time he's ever owned snowpants. He's so cute.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Bart Posted Again

and you can check it out here.

Troubling Conversations

This morning I had a couple of conversations about John. They are planning to move him back to our town on January 2nd, put him in foster care, and send him back to the school where Salinda is attending.

I had a better plan, but I needed more time to work out the details. Now if I try to stop this plan, there will be so much anger on John's part that it might not be worth it. So I will save my plan for when Plan A fails.

Now, you may suggest to me that my "when Plan A fails" attitude. And let me be clear . . . if Plan A does not fail, I will be thrilled. I will be so happy if he proves me wrong. But in my experience, regular foster care and public school have never been a good plan for John. His therapist doesn't think so, the people at the ranch where he is don't think so, we don't think so. But that is the plan, and nobody is going to listen to our opinions. That was proven a year ago. So I"m going to let it play itself out.

So this morning, as I was talking to the therapist, I learned that John has been refusing to take his medication. We had agreed, before this, to allow him to spend a couple days here at Christmas time, but knowing that he is not taking meds reminds us too much of the last time he lived with us and what happened when he stopped taking his medication.

So, I had to call the social worker and say that he can't come home for Christmas.

And he won't be happy. And to be honest, neither will we.

But we'll be safe. And sometimes safe is more important than happy.

Why I Do What I Do...

We had our staffing for Salinda today. It went OK. The report from the group home was kind of a mixed review. They indicated several issues that Salinda needs to work on. They showed test results, scores, and other written "proof" of her need for further mental health treatment. It was an assessment program, and they shared their assessment.

The P.O. and the social worker were there, along with Bart and I, the therapist's intern, and two people from the group home. I could give you lots of details, but I don't have the time or desire to rehash.

But the bottom line is this: last week the social worker told Salinda she could choose to come home on Monday or on Friday. Salinda thought long and hard, and decided that even though she was nervous about going to school, she would come home today.

Towards the end of the meeting, the social worker and probation officer told her the bad news. First, she was going to be on house arrest with a bracelet again for the next 30 days. If she had excellent behavior, she could be off it in 20. She would have to fulfill 30 hours of community service. THen, after six months of being law abiding, all the charges would be dropped. (A stay of adjudication). But then, the final blow. She had to go to court before she could come home. And court doesn't happen until Wednesday. Of course, when she heard this she began to sob. She was all packed and ready to come home.

I felt bad for her, but again, her choices landed her there. She will have two more days and then she will return to a committed family who loves her and have a fresh start.

But I do my job because there are so many kids like Salinda who are devastated often by oversights and mistakes that social workers make. I know that the social worker was not intentionally lying or trying to cause problems for Salinda. She most likely honestly forgot that there needed to be a hearing before discharge.

But for Salinda, this was devastating news.

And as she left the table sobbing, the P.O. and social worker were debating if they wanted Taco Johns or Subway.

And I couldn't help but think of kids who do not have parents who view the statements of social workers, staff members, probation officers, etc. as promises. These are their only hope. People who have a caselaod of other kids like them. And while most of these people are doing the best they can to help, they are not parents.

I am not a perfect parent. My husband is not a perfect parent. But we are parents. And we can help our kids to understand the actions of all the professionals in their lives if they ask us.

But what about the kids who don't have parents?

That is the question I ask myself after every group home staffing, after every court hearing, after every consultation with a social worker or probation officer.

And my only conclusion? I need to find parents for kids who don't have them.

Tried to Do Something Fun

Tried to upload a video, but it isn't ready yet and we need to leave.

Meeting about Salinda this morning. WE might be bringing her home.

More later!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Never Enough

I can't seem to find enough time to blog as much as I used to. I used to seem to get on four or five times a day and update everyone. Now sometimes the morning goes by and I don't even get it done.

Today was the Christmas program. I took many pictures but the lighting was terrible. I took some short movies to share with you, but it appears they need editing. I am working on Christmas calendars for relatives, but I still need a couple pictures i can't find. It seems everything is at a standstill. Every time I start to do something, there is a roadblock and I can't get passed it.

Everyone did very well today though with the program and it has been a pretty mellow day. In the morning we have our meeting with Salinda that may determine when she's coming home. Kyle should be home in day or two as well.

I think we're both recovering still from last weekend and our trip as Bart and I are both tired. Only one more week of school and then it is 16 straight days without it. That's half a month. Unbelievable. In some ways I am looking forward to the change in routine -- but in others, I'm not.

SO there you have it ... meaningless ramblings. But at least you can't say I didn't blog today.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Do It All Over Again?

I have read it twice today. Once in Kari's Christmas card and again on Cindy's blog. The same words. Knowing what we know now, all the good and all the bad, would we do it again? And the answer is yes.

And the answer is yes for me too. In fact, I had a dream last night that I had a choice to walk away from all this. And even though the offer was quite tempting, even in my dream, I chose to stay.

It may not be an easy road -- if you've followed our blogs for long you know that -- but it is definitely never boring.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Maybe My Only Role as a Blogger...

is to point you in the right direction to read my husband's articulate and amazing blog entries. This one is entitled Three Piles of Black Hair and the Whisper of God.

And it's Still Not Over

Sadie's fit continued into the morning. Her final hurrah after being in a constant argument with me throughout her special ride to school that she had to have because she missed her regular ride was to leave the door to the van open so I had to get out and walk around in the cold and shut it

I know that she will keep digging her heals in until I drop the whole thing, and as a therapeutic parent I would be able to lovingly respond to her anger, but today I'm not feeling like a therapeutic parent. I'm feeling like a tired old verbally abused HUMAN who doesn't want to take any more crap.

Maybe by the time she comes home I'll be feeling like a therapeutic parent.

High Numbers, Pathetic Blogging, and Way Too Much To Do

I have noticed that I have more visitors than usual lately and it is certainly not because of my good blogging. I haven't posted many pictures, I don't update as often as I should, and sometimes my entries are pathetic. But when our lives are more stressful, we seem to have more readers. regardless of blog entry quality.

Right now i am swamped. My work is somewhat caught up for my jobs, but family stuff is way behind. There are so many things that need to happen in regards to Christmas, schedules, special events, that I feel like I"m running in circles and I have the tendency to want to avoid everything I'm supposed to do instead of doing it.

For the last two weeks this 15 year old from one of Jimmy's classes has been calling here for MIke. He has been coming by the house, lying to us, showing up at the backdoor and calling Sadie names, etc. Every time we ask Mike to get rid of the kid he says "he's not my friend, he's Jimmy's.

Last night MIke calls and asks to talk to jimmy. When I ask him why, he says it is because he needs a phone number. I give the phone to JImmy and hear jimmy say that he doesn't have the number and asks me what to do. He gives the phone back to me and I gently remind Mike (and I'm actually NOT being sarcastic) that it is odd he is calling for the phone number of a kid he has denied having a relationship with for the past three weeks.

Our transition back home on Wednesday night was uneventful and I really thought we were going to have a smooth transition. But yesterday, it all came to a screeching halt. It turned out Rand had lied to his employer and not worked the whole time we were gone. I had to straighten that out and it did not go well -- BUT he eventually did what he was told.

Dominyk had it in his mind that he was going to get his allowance early. I have noticed a need for me to be more structured after reading a book (which I will share more about in another post) and so I wasn't going to budge on the "payday is Friday" fact. He had a major screaming, sobbing, convulsing meltdown that neither his PCA nor I could do anything about.

Sadie came home with homework and, if she is in the wrong mood, me helping it with her can really set her off. She began a literal 4 hour verbal fit that had some pauses in it -- and said as many evil things as she could think of. I had come back from the conference determined not to add further consequences when kids pushed my buttons, but she really gave me a run for my money. She hasn't ever pushed quite far before -- even wishing I was dead, or better yet, had never been born.

JImmy got in trouble at school again after holding it together for three days. Fortunately he had the sense to pay his consequences.

We ended the night by opening a very special gift early from our friend in LA ... and the kids were estatic. We waited until our prone-to-steal kid was gone so that he would not come back to get it.... The kids had a blast and I even did. THANKS SO MUCH MB!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hard, Worth it, or Both?

Bart blogged today about more on why it's hard and more on why it's been worth it.

Both tearjerkers in their own way.

I Wrote a Post Last Night....

but somehow it never published.

Mike called last night saying he wanted to come by and get some stuff. Ironically he was mellow, pleasant.. fine.

I told him that I wanted him to take everything -- that if he came in and out it was too disturbing because we never knew if he was going to steal something.

He took everything OK.

I had to follow him around making sure extras were not stolen.

The whole thing makes me sad.

But otherwise, things have gone well. A very smooth transition to being back together. Of course, none of the five kids we left here could touch the washing machine or dryer.... so I have mounds of laundry to do, but otherwise the house was clean for hte most part and there were no bad reports.

We're all back together again.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

We're Back and He's Out

Well, apparently last nights arrest resulted in today's discharge from jail once again for Mike. Heavy sigh.

However, it looks as though Salinda may be coming home on Monday. We have a meeting for her at 10:00 a.m.

We have been up, as you know, for a long time and we are both very tired. The kids are all back home -- at least hte ones who are supposed to be-- and were very glad to see us. I have a new computer keyboard so I'm excited about that...

Life just may be alright afterall.

Amazing what you can learn in a bathroom stall

When you have an Iphone.

I learned that by 6:40 last night Mike was back in jail. I'm relieved that our kids and possessions are safe, but I grieve for him and his future.

Safe in Dallas

I'm sitting across the business lounge in Dallas from Bart and we are IMing each other.

How funny is that?

Still up or Just Up?

I awakened at 3:30, knowing I had to get up at 4:25. Didn't really go to sleep after that.

When we arrived in New Orleans at 1:30 in the morning Monday morning (Sunday night) the night life was crazy. When we rode the shuttle to the airport this morning at 5, there were still many bars open and people still up.

Certainly not my lifestyle. The French Quarter where we were staying is certainly set up only for debauchery. It's now 6 a.m., we're at the airport and will be flying out in 40 minutes.

Long Layover in Dallas.... we have quite the day ahead.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Again, I Spoke Too SOon

Almost as soon as I hit publish, the phone started ringing. I saw it was a friend of Mike's. I didn't answer. They called again. And again. Finally, they left a message and it was not a friend of his, but Mike himself. "It's Mike. I'm coming to get my stuff."

He gets here. Yells down the stairs -- "I'm coming to get a set of clothes."

"Take all of it please. It's too stressful when you come and go."

"You mean you want me to take all of my SH**?"

"Wow, MIke, you can't even be appropriate for 30 seconds."

"Well, Yyou want me to take it all?"

"I just think it is too stressful for you to come in and out. WE don't know what all you'll take with you when you leave."

"Well, I need to get some help then.

His stuff was supposedly completely packed on Saturday night. But he and his friend have been upstairs for a good ten minutes. I'm staying completely away and letting calm Bart handle it until I see him ride away. I know my presence will only escalate things.


I got involved. I needed to supervise him as he started to roam around the house. To my surprise he was level headed and appropriate. I started trying to explain to him why I hadn't been buying him clothes (he asked the question) but I stopped myself and said, "You know, Mike, I'm not going to even bother to try to explain the whole thing to you again, because you're just not going to get it.....

Making me Cry

This video shot of Mike on Saturday and the music that Mike Benson chose for it made me cry.

The Johnsons-Christmas 2007

This is another great adoptive family and another specialist for Adopt America. You can just tell by looking at the video how much they love just being together as a family.

Handouts from the conference

As promised to those who attended our conference today, and as promised by Bart, link here for the handouts for our presentation Transitioning Kids from Residential Treatment to Home Settings

Bart's Out Being a Tourist

... and I'm trying to catch up on email. Though being completely alone is nice - no phone but the cell that nobody is calling and nobody is going to come in later.

We ahve a very long travel day tomorrow and then our trip will be over.

Bart is a much better tourist than I. He'll tell you about it here.


This morning my husband called me dopey. It had to do with the fact that I missed the bathroom door and hurt my shoulder. I was feeling a little dizzy and blamed it on still being so tired.

He said I was dopey sometimes. I disagreed. I went into the bathroom to prepare for my shower and realized that I was still quiet dizzy. Then I heard him chuckle.

Apparently I had been wearing his glasses.

No wonder my vision was blurry. And after that I didn't even try to defend the dopey allegation. Guilty as charged.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Disturbing News

My day in New Orleans has been not as pleasant as I had hoped. The internet in my room didn't work for over an hour as I messed with tech support, the front desk, the hotel engineers. I was exhausted. The desk chair in this room is the worst I've ever sat in. And I am not feeling like I"m learning as much as I'd like for multiple reasons.

But the worst part of the day was noticing that MIke has already been released from jail again. So much for their threats of two years in prison if he did one more thing.

I've been on the phone with the Mankato PD and with our PCA who is staying with the kids. But it makes me nervous that he is not in jail and that he will show up when we aren't home. Fortunately for the kids, he'll probably come when they are in school. Hope most of our stuff is still there when we get back....

OK, Finally, as Promised

I woke up on Saturday with four things planned. After those things were done I was going to help the kids decorate the tree. The four things were as follows: Finish and print handouts for the New Orleans Conference, Finish the powerpoint and Videos for church, pack for the trip, and work on Christmas letters. Little did I know that this day was going to be the vortex of multiple issues.

It started with Mike needing to meet the Mike he was going snowboarding with at 8:00. At 8:40 he called and said he would be right home. He didn't show up until 10:10 and by that point I was very stressed. They finally left around 10:30.

The backdrop of the day was "Mom, I don't feel so well." Dominyk had the 24 hour stomach flu and was obsessed with his physical condition. He literally spent the entire day either lying at my feet or Bart's moaning. "Oh, my stomach. It hurts. Oh my head." We gave him medication, hugs, and plenty of attention but the monologue went on all day long.

Tony had a major meltdown as well, but Bart handled most of that one.

Then Jimmy got in trouble after lunch and I told him he no longer had permission to go to the hockey game. He got stuck on stupid and began to ask, "Why can't I go to the game?" No matter how many times I explained it, he kept asking it over and over again.

For a while I tried to ignore both Dominyk and JImmy who were, at this point, not even waiting for attention from me but simply changing the mantra. So for 30 minutes I listened to "Ohhhhhh, my stomach. My stomach, it hurts" and "why can't I go to the game" simultaneously coming out of their mouths. I tried answering them, but then resorted to ignoring. I was working on something for church that required precision so even with headphones on trying to drown them out, I finally lost it and told Jimmy he had to get out of my office. When her refused to mvoe, I made the mistake of trying to make him move, which resulted in him throwing and breaking things and threatening to kill me. When I finally was ready to call the police, he went to his room.

Mercedes then showed up in my office to let me know that she had decided that was the day she was going to start wearing makeup. Since we had already set a different day based on some prior choices she had made, I wasn't going to negotiate or budge, sending her into her own stubborn seemingly endless meltdown.

About this time Mr. Rooter showed up (yes, that IS his name) to take care of a plumbing problem in the basement. He let me know that his initial fee was going to be $300 and something and kept having Jimmy come get me from the Mercedes Makeup Argument to sign things, agree to things, initial things -- all things I needed to check out with Bart by cell phone because he was not at home.

As I went back and forth from that situation to Sadie's room, Salinda got involved in the makeup discussion and Sadie said something that hurt her feelings and she started packing to leave. She was going back to the group home NOW. Kyle called and acted selfish and it annoyed Bart.

Eventually, everything resolved itself, except that stuff wasn't done. I did have the handouts done for the trip, but the rest of the stuff, I finally, at 9:30 p.m., decided I would help with the tree decorating. Jimmy had to be sent to bed early because when Leon said, "why do y'all do that" he made the comment, "Y'all? I don't understand you. I don't speak Chinese." We explained it was not appropriate for him to say that, that y'all was not Chinese, that Leon was not Chinese, and that Leon didn't even speak his parent's native language.

The whole tree decorating scene finished at 10:30 when the events Bart blogged about that night began.

They concluded and we discussed them until 1 a.m. I had to be up before seven to finish all the things from the day before that I had to do before we left.

Whew. Some days are just like this in our world. They don't happen very often any more, but when they do, it is quite shocking. It's as if everything comes piling on at once and it's marathon parenting coming at you all day long.

I'm still worn out just thinking about it.

So Tired!

We got to the hotel at 1:25. I was asleep by 1:40 but am exhuasted now and everything starts in ab out 45 minutes. I have gotten less than 12 hours of sleep in the last two nights combined and that starts to wear on me.

Shhhhhhhh ... don't tell anyone ...... but I might not make it to every session today. ;-)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

First Lag Over

We're in Dallas. It's 9:40 p.m. We're tired. And we still have the New Orleans flight to go. We won't get in to the airport until after midnight. We're tired. I don't have the emotional energy to replay yesterday yet. But it was such a doozie of a day. I promise I will soon.

Not a Spare Minute

Since I blogged this mornign I have not had a spare minute. We are at the MSP airport now, boarding soon.

We got everyone situated after really good services this morning and then we took Salinda back to her group home, picked up Kyle at his house near campus, and came to the airport.

So I won't be able to tell u the story of yesterday quite yet...

Oh My Goodness

It has been quite the 24 hours. I have several things I need to finish up before we leave for church where, upon attending services, we will leave for New Orleans.

Bart scooped me at midnight last night when I was too tired to blog. But the bottom line is that our son Mike is back on the County Jail Custody list and I must say I am relieved. Getting him there was a not so pleasant 90 minutes, but you can read about those minutes on Bart's blog.

If I have time this morning and everything else is done, I will tell you about my day yesterday. It was one of those days -- we don't have them very often -- where the stress was overwhelming, I was not pleased with my response to it, and there were moments when I wasn't sure I'd make it through.

And because of that, I have stuff for church yet undone. SO you'll have to, once again, wait for details.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A Couple More Great Entries

Bart blogged twice this morning. Once about why parents raising difficult children are heroes and again about why he's not feeling too guilty about telling MIke he has to find another place to live.

There is more to this story and again, one of us will give you more details as they come.

My Apologies

My post yesterday morning was not fair. I shouldn't have left you hanging.

Right before we left Texas with Napoleon and Wilson, you'll remember that I took them out to eat with their birth siblings. At that point, their sister gave Wilson a Nintendo DS ... a very nice, new one, that she had worked weeks to earn at some Chicken place at some strip mall in Ft. Worth.

You've already guessed. It's missing. But of course, according to Mike, he wouldn't ever do anything like that. Grrrrrr.

Little did Mike know, Bart was already planning to give him only a week to recover the IPod. So when he didn't, Bart was planning to ask him to leave, which he explains here.

I was just so angry and hurt yesterday that he continues to stoop to such a level. ANd I know that everyone is going to say "You shoulda kicked him out last week and Wilson's DS would still be here."

Well, that's easy for you to say.

Stay tuned and we'll let you know the latest. It's still unfolding.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Spoke too Soon

Something happened this morning that made me so stressed out and emotionally distraught that I am shaking. I can't post it yet, but I will let you know when it all shakes down.

Of course it has to do with mike...

It's Going to be a Great (But Long) Day

Going to be at my desk from 8-9:30, Christmas Shopping, Lunch with Friends, back at my desk, leaving at 3 to pick up Salinda, home by 6 for dinner with other friends. Whew.

Meanwhile Bart will be cooking and cleaning.

I like my day better.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

And you HAVE to read this:

Bart blogged this morning. He's such a good writer. Made me smile and tear up all at the same time.

Coffee Shop

At the coffee shop again working on a presentation for next week. Bart and I are speaking at the Child Welfare League of America national conference in New Orleans.

It's snowing outside, the both I'm sitting in is cold ... but I'm getting more done here than I have been at home.

Mike is driving me crazy, but I think I figured something out. I recently purchased a Mic to talk to people online and it can get choppy depending on the internet connection. I concluded recently that possibly this is what MIke's brain operates like. Bart mentioned this is his post yesterday which you should read if you haven't already. His ability to reason comes and goes.

It's like he is there is a stream of thoughts that are continuously running in normal brains. I can't touch that, it doesn't belong t me. It's snowing, I need a coat. It's time to take my shower now if I need to leave in 20 minutes. If it is 9:30 and I need to be back by ten, I shouldn't leave now. I can't wear that sweatshirt, it is not mine. That person is frowning. If I go too fast, I'll get a ticket. And on and on and on and on to the point that we don't hear them any more. We just do them.

But what happens if the voices cut in and out. The result is incredibly annoying to everyone else, but maybe you don't even realize it when your mic isn't working so everyone being so frustrated with you all the time might be a little discouraging.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Bart's Conversation with Mike

Bart's entry, the Chemically Affected Brain, tells about his lovely conversation with Mike last night.

Does sarcasm come through in written form? Lovely.

My Contest Haiku

Feeling confident after winning the I-Pod Nano in a mac contest, I decided to enter another mac contest and entered this poem in their Haiku Challenge.

Like the old lady who lived in the shoe
Mom of twelve didn't know what to do
Apple Mac on her desk
Shure 'phones block out the rest
and that's how she's surviving her zoo.

I told Bart all about it, so proud at how clever I was.

Until he pointed out it was a limerick.

Update on Everyone

Well, apparently Mike is avoiding us as much as possible. If he isn't home long enough to have a conversation with us about not being able to live here, I guess he thinks we can't kick him out. He disappeared at 9 last night and we haven't seen him.

Rand is doing well with his new job and appears to be handling school OK. He is very independent when it comes to his school work and hopefully his grades will be OK when his semester ends next week.

Kyle is overwhelmed and stressed out with the end of his first semester of his senior year of college. Bart and I both remember those days well -- he is all of the sudden unsure of everything.

We haven't heard from John since I confronted him about his lie over Thanksgiving. I'm waiting for him to contact us.

Jimmy is busy looking for a job since he turned 16. He is still growing and is probably about 6'1" now.

Salinda gets to come home this next weekend for the full weekend. Then it is just a week until the staffing for her that determines her future.

Ricardo has been moved up to varsity in wrestling which is quite impressive since he has never wrestled in his life and has only been in 7th grade for 2 weeks.

Mercedes is getting teeth pulled out this week, 3 Monday, 2 more today and will have braces put on in two weeks. Her social life isn't quite as demanding as it was before I grounded her for her quarter grades.

Tony had a Christmas concert last night and looks like he is doing well socially at school. I took pictures of him, but I can't seem to find them on the camera so I'm not sure if they didn't save or what. At his IEP meeting yesterday the teacher could not say enough about how nice and fun he is at school. Said she had a hard time getting mad at him because he was so pleasant. I offered to make her a video at home that might help her feel a little anger next time she needed to scold him. I'm very glad he is holding it together at school and occasionally we actually think he's doing better here as well.

Leon is fitting in so nicely into our family. He likes to complain and is very picky -- his senses work overtime. PIcky eater, everything smells bad, noises drive him crazy -- but overall he is very good natured. He says he hates school but seems to do what he needs to do. Wrestling isn't going as well for him, but he is still being a good sport and participating.

Dominyk remains a consistent challenge with his OCD/ADHD combination but is doing better in school than ever before. His obsession with pop (even caffeine free diet) nearly takes over his life some days. I don't know how long he's been this obsessed, but I do distinctly remember his obsession taking over our labor day picnic..

And Wilson. What can I say about Wilson other than that he is the most delightful eight year old we have ever parented. Funny, smart, calm, affectionate. He's just a doll and never tires of giving me hugs or getting them and lets me kiss on him whenever I want to. He consistently makes me smile.

Well, there you have it. Twelve kids, relatively few major issues at the time. And today I really need to start buying Christmas presents for this group.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Bart's Perspective on our Conundrum

It really is a difficult thing. Bart talks about it here.

So What are You Gonna Do?

Thank you for all your concern about the MIke situation. We have not decided exactly what to do yet. He didn't come home from yesterday's school day until 12:30 a.m. this morning and nearly drove me nuts this morning with not being ready on time. He intentionally did not get up until late (i reminded him several times) making all of us a little late this morning.

For all of you who are worrying about us, we are taking some precautions. Mike is not allowed here during times when neither Bart nor I are home. From now on, we will not leave young children here unsupervised. We are not done resolving the situation, but we are taking some steps toward it.

I debated for a long time whether or not I should even blog this, but I think that had we read a blog like this 8 years ago, maybe things would have gone differently. We are now taking steps with our younger kids to have services in place for them when they turn 18 so that this kind of situation does not reoccur.

Nobody wants to know this stuff when they are thinking about adopting, but the reality is that people need to know this stuff. It is better to be prepared. Trust me . . . we were clueless and could have done a much better job had we known.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Two Kids Home

Tonight was an odd night. We have 12 kids, but after supper only 2 were home. It was very quiet.

I am reading the comments about Mike and understand everyone's concern. It is my intention to blog more about that tomorrow if i have time.

When i just didn't think he could go any lower

OK, I'm finally ready to share what happened on Friday. I had decided to take the kids out to supper. I came home and Mike was here (which is always an uncertainty because he's so unpredictable....). He had someone's cell phone and was making calls but said he wanted to go with us. Sadie was in the bathtub and didn't want to go with us and since it was fast food I figured we'd only be gone 1/2 hour.... so I let her stay home alone, something I usually don't do.

We discovered later what had happened and Bart confronted Mike and he did not deny it. He set up people to come into the house while we were all gone except Sadie to steal Bart's IPod. They also took my iphone charger (which is not compatible to the Ipod).

Bart is the one person in this world who truly loves Mike unconditionally. I have been burned by him so many times that it is hard for me to reach out to him any more. And Bart loves that IPod. Falls asleep listening to it every night. Takes walks with it when he walks the dog. Listens to it on planes. It's probably his favorite possession.

Mike is obviously very desperate. He is messing with some very dangerous folks. He also doesn't connect things and I know that. FASD strikes again. BUT, he keeps taking things a step further.

Now we know how Cindy felt when her laptop was stolen. It is such a violation. And i do much better when the kids target me and my stuff than Bart because he really is the most incredibly patient father.

But we keep asking each other, "How can we throw him out? What would Jesus do? Are we putting ourselves in danger?"

I'm sure many of you will tell us to kick him out, but he really has no place to go.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Random Events and Thoughts from a Sunday

Bart is up talking to Mike about something important. I am down here stressing about it.

So, to take my mind off that, I figured I would share some random thoughts about today.

It's Jimmy's birthday so Bart is making homemade pizza (well, right now I guess Sadie is making it since Bart is talking). He is choosing to go to a pro hockey game sometime soon (was supposed to today but roads are icy) so he is not having presents. It should be a fun low key evening (if the thing with Mike is resolved).

This morning in church we were reading the story of the angel appearing to Mary. Mary asks, (in the message translation), "how can this be since I have not slept with a man?" Immediately Wilson turns around and says to me, accusatorily, "YOU HAVE!"

Nobody wanted to stay through both services this morning so it was stressful making them do so. In our former town we did it every week, but we've kind of gotten out of the habit, and now that both services are so different, we're trying to get back to the point where we all go to both. It's not going to be easy.

Yesterday was a LONG day

As you saw from yesterday's post, we started with Salinda's frustrations and accusations and Mike's sporadic behavior, but things got progressively worse.

I am hesitant to blog about it at this time because I don't have all the facts, but if things happened they way we think they did, then we are feeling hurt, violated and angry. The person who was most likely responsible for this disappeared yesterday afternoon and has not returned (giving you a big hint who that might be).

What apparently happened is so troubling that I had trouble falling asleep and awakened early once again unable to fall back asleep.

Heavy SIgh.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Disappointment, Anger, and I'm the Target

Of course we're snowed in and Salinda is stuck at her group home. Did I know she would be disappointed? Of course. I am too. Did I know she'd be angry? Definitely. Did I forget she would blame me for everything? Unfortunately.

Yeah, it was my fault. Like I'm God who controls the weather. I should have come yesterday. (We had meetings). I should have come earlier (I already planned to leave at 9). I should have planned differently. In essence, I should have stopped the storm.

And then Mike wants a ride home -- after partying in some fashion all night long. He calls and wants a ride in the blizzard. And of course, Dominyk has a dollar so he HAS to spend it. Ricardo wants a ride to Adams. So much for staying home.

Tony is at camp, giving us a break, but Dominyk is really on a role. Bored... wants stuff, wants trips, wants money, wants, wants, wants, wants, wants.

The pictures above are from when Sadie and Wilson entertained themselves last night by cross-dressing. We call him our third daughter when he does this.

Last night he shows me his painted fingernails -- Sadie's idea and says, "Tomorrow -- Finger polish gone. NO MORE THIRD SISTER!"

Friday, November 30, 2007


Sometimes the conversations we have in this house are unbelievable. I literally had the same conversation over and over again. It went something like this (and I had this SAME conversation FOUR times tonight)

We're going to Taco Bell.

Taco Johns?

No, Taco Bell.

The one by the mall?

We only have one Taco Bell in our town.

Then Mike, after he overhearing at least 3 of the 4 identical conversations, said, "Are we going to Taco Johns?"


Back at the Coffee Shop

Because Bart loves to be alone in the house and because I get so much more done here, I am at the coffee shop this morning. I have a meeting here at 9:30 but decided to spend my morning here and hopefully get more done.

I'll have lunch with Bart and then we'll have just a couple hours left until the weekend. If the weather does not prevent it, Salinda will be coming home for the weekend.

Our morning went well and I don't have a lot to report. And that, as always, is good news.