Tuesday, July 31, 2007

My Mistake and Dealing with Hers

I made a mistake. The bike I thought Mike stole someone else had moved around the side of the house. Nobody will admit to doing it, but I had to formerly apologize to Mike on his my space where I had left a message accusing him of taking it.

Many people who have been following our blogs have lots of ideas about what we should do about Mike -- that we can't just say he can't live with us and then not offer him anything else. But I must remind everyone, or at least I feel like I must, that we cannot offer him help if 1) we can't find him; and 2) He is not open to receiving our help. We are willing to help him, but he has to want the help and he has to be willing to have some accountability in his life. It isn't about us not being willing to develop a plan with him but his unwillingness to work with us.

Salinda returned home late this afternoon. I was fairly proud of how calmly I handled things. I was factual, I was firm. I stated how I felt and I stated the direction she was heading in. I've given her the opportunity to spend time writing about everything that she did in the last week and why she did it. She does much better when she can pour her feelings out on paper, and it helps me to understand her better when i read it. (I often talk too much when she and I try to communicate -- I know those of you who know me are shocked).

(This was supposed to be posted Tuesday night at 9:30.... but I never hit publish

A Discovery While in The Shower

I finally did shower and dress and I was actually alert and coherent in the shower, which doesn't happen often when I shower first thing,

This is my discovery "The longer you have a child, the harder it is when they head down the wrong path."

I've talked to lots of pre-adoptive parents who say, "I need to get the child when they are as young as possible so that build a relationship with them and have those positive memories." I agree with that idea in principle, but here is where it stops.

It stops when you have those years (Salinda came at six). We had 7 really great years with Salinda. She was bonded to us. She had no special needs and was a delight for seven years. The one child I could always trust, the most pleasant, the most helpful.

So now, when she is heading down a path that I know from experience I can not stop her from without her cooperation, the pain is deeper than it was with children who came older and who had lots of special needs. I feel more responsible (after all, we've had her all those years and she came young) and I feel more fear for her, and I have less resources because she has no mental illness and no special needs, and feel more trapped.

If she was moving in as a 14 year old, I would expect this kind of crap -- the defiance, the rule-breaking, the running -- and I would deal with it. But now that she is 14, the fact that she came at six doesn't give me more good memories to fall back on -- it gives me guilt that I couldn't be what she needed and do for her what she needed in order to keep her from making these mistakes.

Before I get too many comments, just let me say this -- I know that my feelings are just that -- feelings -- and not based on anything rational. I know that her teenage struggles and rebellion are not my fault.

But it occurred to me that the length of time a child lives with you before they rebel, at least in my case, does not make it easier to deal with, but harder.

On a Lighter Note: Working in my Jammies

This is the first time ever that I have done this, but it is often listed by those who work from home, as one of the perks of their job. Usually I like to get right into the shower and be done with it, but most of my clothes were dirty from the trip and since we arrived home to only enough detergent for Bart to wash his before he left again, I waited until this morning to do laundry.

So, I'm sitting in my PJs at the computer and actually getting quite a bit done. When my clothes are dry, I'll head to the shower.

i probably won't do this again, though. It just plain feels weird to be participating in IM messages professionally without proper clothing. Dont' even bother to form a mental picture.

It's Days Like This When I Wish I Didn't Blog

Salinda decided to take off last night and didn't come home. I figured, after having already been through this with two kids, that it would get easier, but it isn't. And her being a girl doesn't help.

In addition, we are realizing that we definitely have to do something about Mike.

I wish I could report that I am handling all this very well and that I am feeling victorious and on top of things, but I've not yet lied in any of my 2612 posts, so why would I start now?

She left a note saying she knew she shouldn't go, she was confused and trying to decide who she wanted to be, that she would call later, that she was fine and I shouldn't worry, and that she loved me lots.

Haven't heard from her in almost 12 hours.

I guess my frustratoin is that no matter how many times this kind of thing happens, I just am not to the point yet where I can chalk it up to the teenage angst and not get overly stressed. Maybe the reason it is harder is that I have seen where two of our boys have ended up because they started heading down a path by doing what she is doing and I so don't want that for her.

Heavy, heavy sigh.

And so today, for some reason, I feel as though I'm a failure. And having this blog and NOT telling you about something this significant would somehow take away from the honesty of the whole endeavor. But having to admit to you that we have a third child who has decided that they will not be grounded, but will run, makes me less than enthusiastic to post.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Mix of Emotions

I have a lot of emotions right now and none of them are positive.

From September until January we had every one of our bike's stolen but one -- by MIke. I didn't replace them until we were sure that Mike was not going to be in town.

He's been out of jail for 4 days and the nicest bike in the garage is gone.

I had spent my day thinking of ways that maybe we could help him. He had told the kids when he stayed here the other night that he really doesn't want to go back to jail. He was sounding so sincere and I was feeling so much like we needed to do something to help him.

But crap like this just makes me ill. Up until this last weekend, he had respected our wishes to stay away from the house. But now he is coming in to spend the night and stealing bikes.

Now I suppose that there is some small chance that a stranger did it, but it seems odd that nobody has messed with anything in our garage for all this time....

In addition, Salinda has decided to really take things to the next level with her nastiness. I am supposed to leave in 20 minutes for a meeting and I'm not sure if I should stay or go. I was trying to give her a way out of all of the problems she had created for herself, but she didn't take my offer and now things are worse for her and she is taking them out on me.

I didn't sleep enough last night and Bart is gone and I'm very very tired and the last thing I want to do is to have stuff stolen and be cussed out.

What was I saying about how I loved my life? I must not have been home. ;-)

Trying to Listen

Today, after returning from a refreshing NACAC conference refreshed and feeling like a better parent, I decided to simply talk to Salinda about her experience this weekend. I did a lot of listening without judgment. The whole situation is difficult at best and I really am not sure exactly what to do.

There is a whole population of kids in this town who are on the fringes and this is the group of people that my daugher seems to have chosen to hang out with. They act as if they do not need help, but they do and I"m not sure how best to help them. Our son Mike is a part of that group.

So, I listened to Salinda for a while and she had some interesting things to say. And it was good to listen to her, and I was feeling positive about our connection. I dropped her off for an event.

Two hours later I picked up a completely different person. Unreasonable, uncommunicative, on the verge of mean....

So I decided to remember the feelings I got form person number one and pretend like person number two was only a temporary visitor, and that person number one would return soon.

Unfortunately, person number two is usually the one I deal with.

Quiet but not Rested

I finally got Salinda home at 12:30 last night and our troubling conversation kept me up until 2. Bart was up before 7 this morning, getting ready to take Rand, Jimmy, and Dominyk up to visit his mother, where Tony is, and his sister, who is leaving tomorrow.

I had a wonderful time with my husband all to myself this week and I miss him already.

I have a lot of work to catch up on this morning, so I better get moving...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Home and Cranky

Arrived home to find out that Mike did indeed spend the whole night here even after Rand told him he couldn't he other night -- broke into, or snuck into (not sure if all doors were indeed locked) the house even when he wasn't supposed to.

Also arrived home to find that the parents at the place where Salinda has been staying have been given a run for their money. She and Salinda have been leaving without permission and are in fact, at this time, missing. This means that I am going to have to go to bed knowing that I will be awakened at some time to go get her.

I'm old, and selfish, and tired tonight and I don't want to have to get up in the night and go pick her up. But it doesn't look like I have a choice.

However, the other 5 of our children who are here are doing great. Ricardo won his game today, 7-1, and he scored 4 of the 7 goals. We were able to see part of the game and watch him score a goal. Our meal with Ricardo and Kyle was good and when we got home the four kids who were here had thoroughly cleaned the house and it looked great.

So it's not all bad.... it's unfortunate that the bad has to make me crabby enough that I can't appreciate fully the good.

From The Tampa International Airport

We've had brunch out this morning and are now at the airport a little over 90 minutes before boarding. Again we've found a nice spot and are thrilled to see that the airport has free wireless internet. My battery has plenty of life. It doesn't get a lot better.

In fact, it wouldn't be better UNLESS we were headed away from home instead of towards home. We miss the kids and will be happy to see them, but we return to a world of teens and preteens where there is always stress, always testing, always arguing, always upsetting events. This would be true even if none of them had special needs, but when you add that to it all, it seems that it pushes it to a whole new level.

It's interesting though. This morning, post convention, when most people have left and I remain observing others, I have one main theme in my thoughts. Last night, Bart blogged his thoughts about seeing the people around him and I have been since watching the people around me. And I've come to a conclusion.

I don't want anyone elses life. I am sure, that in turn, nobody wants mine either, but when I see other people I'm not envious. In fact, I can find many things wrong with them. I look around. There is a family with an infant. Oh my goodness. I remember the days -- stroller, diaper bag, endless need meeting, crying. It's not necessarily easier than raising teenagers, but in many ways I prefer the emotional stress instead of the physical inconvenience.

There is a guy sitting here. I know nothing about him except that he has a PC laptop. That alone is enough to make me not envy him.

There is an older couple, obviously enjoying an early retirement, very tan, obviously empty nesters with money. Nope, not interested in that right now. Seems almost boring.

So I am content with my life. I'm experiencing a little bit of a downer as we head back to the real world and enmesh ourselves into the daily grind once again. I feel a little tired just thinking about it.

But I'm also energized by the task at hand, and once we go through readjustment, I'm excited to get back to matching kids, recruiting families, connecting with folks I met at the conference, and working once again to find families for children.

Well, It Hadn't Quite Ended Yet When I Wrote Last Night's Post

I thought the night had ended well, but then I was online and saw some things that disappointed us about one of our children. How's that for vague? But it's an ongoing issue with this particular child, so we had a lengthy discussion about it and thus went to bed later than planned. Combined with this and the fact that Mike has also seen Salinda, in addition to his confrontation with Rand, bring us back into reality.

Not only so, but we began a series of lasts. Last time we woulc go to sleep together without kids to put to bed first for quite some time. Last time I could lie in bed until I wanted to get up for months probably. We're getting ready to have brunch out alone, another one that won't happen again for who knows how long.

And we aren't going to be in church this morning -- which is something that happens once every 4 or 5 years... trying to balance the guilt with the logistics ... I don't know how some people simply choose not to go some weeks. I'm feeling like maybe we should have looked until we found a very early service ...

We'll be heading for brunch out and the airport soon. It's been a great trip.

Last night we heard from Kyle that Ricardo lost their first state tournament soccer game. The second is tonight and we're hoping to make it to at least part of the game after we fly in.

So, we're on the downside of the trip, facing the challenges that lie at home. We're grateful that to nothing too horrible has happened, at least that we know about, and we're looking forward to getting back into routine again. We now face a full month with nothing scheduled except getting ready to go back to school and the beginning of tennis practice for Salinda, possibly some soccer or football for Ricardo... It's going to be a long month.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

And the evening ends well

Pat O'Brien of You Gotta Believe invited us to go out for dinner with the NACAC staff tonight. it was their celebratory "the conference is over" meal, and it was fun to be with them. Many of them are folks that I used to work with for several years and it was fun to see them again.

After supper a few of us hung out outside for a while... doing what 40 and 50 year olds do when the hang out -- make fun of people half our age. Watch them, wonder about them... and of course, we talked adoption.

A fulfilling nend to the conference. Bart extended his walk and is enjoying the Tampa sunset. I'm checking email and blogging and looking forward to a good nights sleep before we go back to face the real world tomorrow.

It's gone by fast, but it's been a great four days.

Over for Another Year

A panel of teens, including Ashley, who we have heard a lot about at the conference helped end the conference as usual. It is always motivating to see how kids present themselves and discuss their perception of how important it is to have a family.

We've been invited to go out to supper with several others, and we'll probably do that to end our time in Tampa. We fly back home tomorrow.

How's NACAC, Year Three

Two years ago I blogged about NACAC while in Pittsburg.

Last year I blogged abou NACAC while we were in Long Beach.

So I guess this year, I have to offer a different perspective. The first year I wrote from the perspective of a parent. The second year, from the perspective of a professional, and now I'd like to the issue of "support from the past and future" Just having returned from the Award's Breakfast, this is perfect timing.

So here goes, "How's NACAC, Year Three"

NACAC is a place where folks from every step in the process can see roll models of those who have gone before. It's a magical place of connection where the present can hear about the past and see the future.

A person who just had their home study complete can sit in the same room with people who have fostered the kind of children they are hoping to parent;

A person who is matched with a child who is bipolar can sit in a presentation with a presenter who is discussing their journey of parenting a child from age 3 to 23 who is bipolar;

A brand new social worker can sit in an awards breakfast, and hear a worker reflect on her 30 years of experience;

Those who are parenting delightful loving 8 year olds can talk with parents who warn them that adolescence is coming;

Perspectives change with time. Those of us who were new and naive parents 10 years ago recognize how naive we were and realize that in 10 more years we will see ourselves today as still being naive;

Professionals who feel like we have a brand new idea, are humbled to meet those who thought of the same thing years ago.

So you ask, "What is NACAC?"

NACAC is a beautiful blend of the energetic, the excited, the green, the naive and the seasoned, the almost jaded, the near cynical, and the older but still passionate. It is people passing on wisdom, stories, successes, failures. It is those who have gone before warning folks of what is to come expecting to be ignored, to a certain extent, because they, too, ignored some of the warnings that were given to them.

NACAC is having lunch with someone who sees you in either their past or their future. It is being with the person that you used to be, or the person who you aspire to become.

NACAC is listening to someone comment in a seminar and remembering how you used to feel that way, and though smiling at the simplicity and passion of a new parent, you borrow from their enthusiasm and feel hope and promise once again.

NACAC is sitting in awe listening to the war stories of those who have parented to adulthood several difficult children and are still alive. It is laughing with them as they tell about all the funny things that have happened to them, it is being suprised by their response, respectful of their decisions, and empowered by their courage and tenacity.

But most importantly, NACAC is the incredible power created by this blend of new and old, of naive and experienced, of hopeful without reason and tested through fire, of knowing it can be done, and showing that it has been that moves us forward. It is this interaction that helps bind us together, knowing that we can parent difficult children, we can influence legislators, we can find homes for teenagers, we can support parents, we can provide therapy to children with multiple diagnosis, we can make a difference in the system, we can influence the lives of "one child, every child."

And after every NACAC conference we return home changed people. Changed because we have seen our future, and we have seen our past. Changed because we are reminded that it is not about us -- that it always has been, always will be, and is today about the children. It is about one fact, and one fact alone -- that everyone needs a parent and that in finding or being that parent for a child, we will change not only that person, but their children, and their childrens' children for generations to come.

NACAC is not a place where we talk about how we WILL change the world, but a place where we rejoice in the fact that it has already been changed. And this blending of the past and the future, which is the vortex of all our experiences, becomes the launching pad for another year of doing what we all have done, are doing, and will be doing as long a we are able -- changing the world, one child at a time.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Our 4 Hour Vacation

We had a lovely evening. We left here around 5:30 and drove quite a ways to the beach, stopping at a Bahama Breeze restaurant for a declicious supper. We then headed to the Honeymoon Island state park and got there 30 minutes before it closed. The ocean was beautiful, the water warm (all I did was wade in it, but it felt nice), the view beautiful. I found several very pretty shells and let the waves lap at my feet and felt quite content. We then hopped into the car and drove back to the hotel.

It was kind of like a date. Really it was. And it was fun. I've had a great time with my husband -- every day that goes by I am more and more convinced that God allowed me to find the perfect man for me.

We're tired and heading to bed.

And Kari, this is the closest thing you're going to get to me in a bikini -- me "doin the Sadie" (a little pose I learned from my drama queen 12 year old daughter).

I mentioned to Bart that I was surprised that the sky turned out so blue in the pictures when it was really kinda grey and he mentioned it must come from my incredible glow.

Think he was being serious or sarcastic?

Finished that First Presentation

And it all went fairly well. Lots of discussion, which was hard to moderate, but it was a goo dsessiona nd I was glad to help out. Most of what I covered can be found in this series that I wrote for the Everything Adoption Blog in case you feel like you missed something.

Tomorrow I will present my blogging seminar which I hope will lead to others joining us in blogging. I've had lots of folks tell me that they plan to attend. I look forward to presenting.

Now Bart and I are heading to the beach. I'm looking forward to spending some guilt free hours with him as there is nothing scheduled.

We're still reeling with the news that Mike is out of jail and that he actually came to the house, but I have a lot of confidence in the PCA who is staying with the kids and do not worry too much about what will happen.

It seems though, that we can never have too many easy days in a row.

Bart Blogged Twice Today

While I was doing what I was supposed to be doing (manning my booth and attending sessions) Bart was here blogging about his walk and then again sharing our bad news before I had a chance to.

Now I'm off to another seminar...

Please Check Out This Blog

i am not going to go into detail at this point (or possibly ever) about exactly how we are connected, but if you would like to read a blog that focuses from a stay-at-home-dad of a large adoptive family who likes to cook, you definitely need to Check out Eric's Blog. It is fairly new, but I know that theirs is going to be a fascinating journey to follow.

Day Two of the Conference

We discussed a trip to the beach this morning, but I simply felt too guilty. I am already going to be late to the first session because we spent too much time discussing whether or not I could go to the beach today. You'll crack up when you realize what was the clincher in making the decision....

If I went, I couldn't blog it.

Tomorrow I am going to be doing a workshop on Blogging and how could I have people looking at my blog and having one of the first things they find a whole blog about how I skipped the sessions I was supposed to attend in order to go to the beach? How could they find pictures of Bart picking up shells or me wading in the ocean, when I supposed to be a dedicated adoption parent and professional rapidly taking notes?

But how could I possibly go to the beach in Florida and not tell you??????

So, I'm going to the sessions, and we're going to the beach tonight. I'll be presenting this afternoon, and afterwards when I have no further responsibilities, I will head there.

Last night after supper we went to the showing of the video that Kari, Bart and I are all featured in. Afterwards we hung around talking with Mary Keane, who I mentioned last night, Pat O'Brien, and Kim Stevens, who is an employee of NACAC that I've known as an acquaintance for several years. Time slipped by as we told funny stores about our kids, discussed how you know you're "done adopting", and discussed the risks of getting too involved with teens who need to be adopted when you have a personality that will lead them to bring them home yourself.

We have unlimited phone calls in our room (came with the internet access for over $10 a day) so we called home and everything was fine. Salinda had even called just to see how we were doing. I returned her call and she was pleasant.

All's good and today I'm going to do the right thing. I'll attend the sessions, sit at the booth, and then wait until tonight to go to the beach. Then I can tell you all about it.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Supper Out and A Different Lifestyle

Bart and I had supper tonight with Pat O'Brien and one of his staff members and her daughter. Just a Sport's Bar, nothing fancy, but the food was good and, as imagined, the conversation was fascinating.

We first went to part of Pat's workshop on Humor (or, as he pronounces it, Yuma) and did some laughing, and some thinking, and some listening....

Then supper we shared about our lives, got caught up to date, and listened to a little of his staff member, Mary's, story. Mary does foster care for much older teens 16-21 and makes a permanent commitment to them. She was telling us about an article in the paper about her and how she allowed her address to be printed.

A result of the article was a letter that was she received from a boy in jail. A 16 year old, he wrote to her and said, "I know you usually take gay and lesbian kids, and I'm not either one, but I think I'd like to live at your house." He invited her to visit him in jail and she agreed. When his sentence is over, she plans to invite him to live with her.

"Have you always been the kind of person who would have no fear in letting your address be published in the paper or letting a kid move into your house straight from jail, or have you evolved into that kind of person?"

The result of the question was a discussion about how we all are unsure of what we handle until something comes into our lives. We then discussed how knowing then what we do now about what the future would hold, might have us chicken out before we started.

But the bottom line is there is an incredible resiliency in the human spirit and we CAN and DO face many things that we were not formerly sure we could handle. But the more we are able to handle, by God's grace, the more we realize we can do.

On of my missions is to recruit families who are willing to life through the horrors to end up to be resilient people of faith who will take on the harder things. As Bart said, quoting Jaiya John this morning, "what we currently have in our country is not a "child welfare" system, but a "help parents get the child they want" system, when it comes to adoption."

What we need to be doing is looking at the kind of kids that are out there. In 2005, 48,853 children were adopted out of foster care. Of this number, 41,117 were age 11 or under. Only 7736 children were 12 or older when they were adopted.

Does this mean that there were no teenagers in foster care who were free for adoption? Of course not. In studying this report., where I'm getting my statistics, you will see that there were a great number of children who were in foster care and legaly free. In fact, in that year alone, over 24,000 of them were emancipated as adults from the foster care system.

But what do we continue to do? We continue to recruit families who want to take children under 6. We spend a lot of money, time and energy to recruit and train these families so that they can jump into competition with other families just like them who want a child or children to meet their need to parent.

Obviously, we still need to do this. But do children under 6 each need 100 families all wanting that same child? I realize that I am probably going to make all kinds of people mad in saying this, but are we not focusing our energies, as Dr. John accuses us, on meeting the needs of the families wanting children instead of the children themselves.

If we were looking at the issue of waiting children in foster care, we would be recruiting families for teens with on probation with an array of mental illnesses. We would be looking for families willing to take large sibling groups. We would be looking for parents willing to parent children with FASD or RAD or sexual acting out or the dreaded "fire-setters."

But the answer we always receive is, "I could never do that."

If you asked me 10 years ago, I would have said the same thing. But you know what? We've done it. We're doing it. We're living out some of our worst nightmares, and not only are we OK, but we love our lives and we'd do it again. In fact, we will.

Wow, I'm getting carried away. But it is true. The kids that are out there, the ones aging out this year, or next year, or five years down the road, are the ones who need us the most. The families that will take a 5 year old with no issues are a dime a dozen.

We need to find those who will willingly do something harder. But there are few takers, and it's an impossible sell.

No Fair, He Got Here First

I came in from my time at the exhibit to find Bart blogging and it turns out that he said a bunch of stuff I was going to say. Maybe I'll blog about it in greater detail later.

Off to another session...

Long, Good, Restful Night

Well, i wasn't in bed by 8, but I was by 8:30 MN time and I slept a long good night.

We're up and ready to spend the day learning and meeting folk.

Four of the people I know who were coming to the conference are no longer coming, and three of them have asked me to fill in for them. Thus I am speaking one once, instead of with someone else, manning the exhibit table, doing an extra presentation that was unexpected, and most likely shipping the exhibit stuff back on Saturday.

They are all not coming because of family emergencies... so maybe I"m hoarding all the good luck... things are going so well for me.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Nearly Seamless Day

Everything has just been working like clockwork today. We seem to be walking into perfect situations, timing has been just right.

I'm quite tired.... almost asleep but it is only 6:45 MN Time. We just had an incredible meal at Tinatapas. I had always been fascinated by the idea of the Tapa Bars in Spain, and this one, though not in Spain was terrific. Great food, awesome atmosphere. I ate way too much but hey, it's vacation, right?

We then took a trolley ride through Tampa and now Bart is walking alone -- I'm just too tired and it is too hot and he walks three times as fast as I so I just slow him down and it's no fun for him to walk with me.

Exactly how pathetic would I be to go to bed at 8:00 p.m. while on vacation? Or is that what vacation is about?

Heading to Florida in July to Cool Off

We've arrived safely in Tampa. It's only 77 here and it was a heat index of 99 in Minnesota.

The ironies of life.

I know it is annoying...

For me to post every time Bart does, but he's so good I'd hate to have you miss a single post.

Funny thing is, I was standing right behind him and didn't even know that that this happened until he sat across from me blogging, and I read it sitting right here..

Greetings from MSP Gate G-13

Bart and I are both sitting at a table at the gate online, processing email. I mentioned when we left that I was used to leaving for the NACAC convention feeling very upset and stressed about the kids and returning feeling much better about them. This year, I am feeling very good about them when I leave, so I wonder how I'll returned.

We had a great evening last night. I took Salinda to her friends' and she hugged me and told me she loved me. She is very proud of herself that she has made it 9 days without getting in major trouble. I'm proud of her too. It's the best week she's had in the last 3 months for sure.

Sadie wrote a very cute note, which I will type here later. She gave us long hugs and told us she loved us.

Rand and Jimmy both said goodnight and good-bye and said they would miss us. I think they are excited about us being gone. They are somewhat independent this week and I know they are planning on doing severely naughty things (from their perspective) this week like watching TV after ten or something equally as sinful. Dominyk's PCA will be spending the night, but during the day they will be on their own.

Ricardo came with us and we left at 5:50 a.m. He slept most of the trip up and Bart and I had a nice, relaxed conversation about basically nothing -- the kind of conversations we never get to have at home because we are interrupted so much. When we are home, conversation time has to be reserved for serious important stuff.

Ricardo dropped his stuff off at Kyle's house and we picked up Kyle and came to the airport. He'll take care of making sure that Ricardo is at both of his state tournament soccer games this weekend in exchange for usage of our car for the next four days... Ricardo idolizes Kyle and is very excited.

Check in was painless, the security line short, and the gate only a half mile from the entrance instead of 3. I rememberd to go to the library and have four mindless novels to read. WE got a table to sit at, the wireless works fine, and I'll have enough battery power to get me until we board.

life doesn't get much better than this

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bra Straps and Boxers

So, can some body please tell me why it is imperative for the youth of today to show the world their undergarments? I am constantly telling some of the boys to pull up their pants, and I guess the only way to be in style these days is to have at least 6 bra straps showing which, would have been unheard of back in the day -- first of all, because it was improper, and secondly, because we ONLY WORE ONE BRA. (I know, I know, don't even bother to explain to me that some of them are tank tops, yada yada, because I already know it all and have heard it again... and again... and again.

I will not explain further except to say that my daughter just pushed me beyond the limit through an ongoing fit about a tank top. I have pieces of the lace in my teeth and the ripped up tank is in the trash.

I'm not sure if I should be ashamed or proud.

Ever had pieces of tank top stuck in your teeth?

Nothing is Happening

What kind of good news is that? Nothing is happening. I have nothing to report. Nothing.

I'm busy getting ready for our trip to the conference. Things are very calm here. Bart blogged this morning but I forgot to.

That hasn't happened in a long time.

But everything is fine here, very fine. So fine, that I forgot to blog.

Bart does mention in his blog that I dreamed we were adopting a sibling group of five that had two girls in it. Ain't gonna happen in anythihng but a dream, but in the dream I figured out where we could put them all. Don't know how I managed to do that.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Looks Like We Agree

It's not often that Bart and I both feel great at the same time.

First to Blog This Monring

Of all of the blog I read, I am the first to update this morning, which is quite unusual. And this is an unusual morning. I only have to get 2 kids off to summer school. Tony is at boy scout camp and Jimmy's class isn't meeting this week, so I just need to get Dominyk and Sadie ready this morning.

I have a realtively easy day ahead and I am looking forward to it... It was a great weekend and I'm hoping all will continue well

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A Great Time

We certainly had a wonderful time with Mike Benson. I won't make a huge deal out of how impressed we were with his sincerity, his authenticity, his dedication to the cause, or his openmindedness as he attempts to understand us and our children because that might embarrass him.

Thanks, Mike, for all you're doing!

A Strange Sense of Purpose

Sometimes life just all comes together and makes sense and you get that "soul deep sense of being at home in the world despite it's dangers". (a quote I memorized long ago from Parker Palmer). This morning was one of those times for me.

I had said goodbye to Tony and Bart got him off to boy scouts. It's great to know he is going to be with quality people doing something that will build character. And I have to confess that it feels good not to have to worry about him for a few weeks.

I was sitting in church this morning next to Kim and our "grandkids". I was also with three of my kids who were being especially well behaved. Salinda has had the best week in months, so it was fun to see her there, feeling part of things and somewhat happy.

Behind me were seated two friends of ours who I helped match with a couple of girls who will be moving here in about a month. A lot of satisfaction is involved in this istuation and having been a part of it as their new kdis are 16 and 10 and I know they are going to a great home.

My incredible husband, who is an excellent preacher, was speaking. The church was full of great people, including the Kari's who visited our church for the first time today. Mike Benson was there filming Bart and it was great being part of his project

Kyle has been home this weekend and it's been fun to have him here.

Everything seemed to fall together and it just seemed right. Like I was doing what I was supposed to do with my life, that I married the best guy fo rme, that my kids are supposed to be mine, and that God was pleased.

And what more coudl I ask for?

VIdeo in the Making

Yesterday was filled with the video taping for the FASD documentary. We concluded the night with a picnic with 3 other familes who have at least one child with FASD. These kind of events make me feel relieved as I blogged about FASD camp last fall. Being with people who are not judgmental, who enjoy the differences of the children without criticism, is enjoyable and relaxing.

Today the videographer is going to come to our house to shoot some more B- Roll (how's that for learning, Mr. Benson). The girls ahve been up early cleaning to prepare. We're anticipating a fun day.

Bart blogged quite articulately about the picnic. It would behoove you to check it out.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Overheard at Our Supper Table

Jimmy: If you commit suicide, they send you to jail.

Rand: No they don't. If you commit suicide, they send you to the mental hospital.

Tony (noticing that Bart and I are are snickering and screams in his own special way:) WHEN YOU COMMIT SUICIDE YOU"RE DEAD!!!!!

Only at our table would this have to be clarified.

And yet another picture -- John and Ricardo

A Question For Today

For all of you who either do foster care or have adopted, I thought I'd start helping us all to get to know each other and also help those who are thinking about doing what we consider our passion.

I thought I'd pose a question for you to answer.

You can either answer it on your own blog and I will link it, or you can answer in the comments section.

Looking back on your adoption journey, what is one thing you would do differently? (Or, if you can't narrow it down to one, write the top five, or top three, or top two... or whatever.)

If you could start over, what would you do differently?

I did this in regards to one of my children a few months back and it was helpful to me and hopefully to others.

So, give it a go .... as they would say in some other country.

Sharing a Few PIctures

Our Trip to Visit John

John's Birthday Luncheon

Incredibly Beautiful

What the Fletchers Are Doing Today

For the first time since March, I forgot about Ricardo's soccer practice. I just completely spaced it off. He's still sleeping and will not be happy when he wakes up. But he's 13 and has an alarm clock in his room. Maybe he'll start realizing he can't rely on me for absolutely everything. I am still shaking my head at myself that I forgot.

If you have followed my blog for a while, you will remember a commentor named Mike Benson. Turns out he is a videographer from LA who is doing a documentary on FASD. You can check out some of his work on this website. Anyway, he has come to Minnesota an will be interviewing me this morning (after taking me out to lunch) and then will spend the afternoon with Kari. Tonight we're having a picnic to allow him to meet some other famileis with kids with FASD. Bart is busy making a new red potato salad, complete with small pieces of disgusting celery. I"m enjoying some time with my laptop in the recliner in our bedroom.

We are also getting Tony ready for boyscout camp which starts tomorrow morning. It will be followed by two weeks with Bart's mom so he will have a 3 week break from us and we from him. Everyone needs it and he is very excited.

Kyle is home for the weekend and all engrossed in the new Harry Potter book. He seems very settled at this point in his life -- he used to be such a frantic person, always wanting more and enver satisfied, so it is nice to see him a little more relaxed.

Tommorrow Mike Benson is interviewing Bart and either Bart or I will take Kyle back to St. Paul.

We are also preparing for our trip to the NACAC conference which we leave for on Wednesday.

I have a raspy cough and am tired a lot lately. But I have 4 of the 6 projects I needed to complete before I leave done, and my inbox is below 10, so I'm feeling better about my work life.

At this moment, life is good. Very good.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Unilateral Commitment

Again quoting Pat O'Brien,

A parent is a person who makes a unilateral commitment to unconditionally commit to a child for a lifetime.

I blogged about this quote back in October as I was talking about why I would adopt again.

But I have been reminded of these words again and again in the past few weeks as I have been helping individuals with new adoptive placements navagate their way through difficult behaviors and inducement.

Yesterday I was talking to a family who said, "I just don't think he wants to be here. He is not invested at all emotionally in our family." And they are exactly right.

And that is where I come to the idea of a unilateral commitment. I am attempting lately to get new adoptive parents to view their newly placed child as an infant. Parents of birth children when their infant turned two months old would never report, "I just don't think our child is investing anything in this relationship. He gives nothing back. He's very selfish."

Exactly. And he isn't going to. For a long time. Maybe ever.

But who wants to hear this? Who wants to make a completely unselfish choice to love a child -- ONE SIDEDLY-- for a lifetime regardless of whether or not that child ever gives back?

Almost nobody.

And that is exactly why 4.9% of all children in foster care are going to age out without a family. It is true that the system failing them in their ability to be accountable for the children while they are in care. However, in addition there are so few indidivuals who are willing to make that kind of a commitment that might make life hard.

When I talk to people about adoption I often use the phrase, "Willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause" as I feel this is a very accurate descriptor.

A unilateral commitment to love a child for a lifetime does not mean allowing a child to forever take advantage of you. It does not mean always letting them live with you. But it does mean loving them for a lifetime and never giving up, regardless of that child's behavior.

It isn't always easy, or fun to do. But everyone needs someone who loves them like that. Everyone.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Gotta Do Better Than This

If you have a while, read this report about Aging out of Foster Care. It was most disturbing. The one statisti that is most troubling for me is that since the beginning of the collection of statistics in 1998, the percentage of children aging out of foster care without a family has gradually increased. In 1998 the percentage was 3.1. By 2005, the last year that statistics have been processed, the percentage was 4.9.

To tell you the truth, I was shocked. With the addition of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 2007 I was hoping that statistics would have been reversed. But this is not the case. Instead, the percentage of kids aging out has grown.

We have to do better than this. We have to find families for children -- even the most disturbed ones --that will make that commitment to kids that they need, regardless of the behavior of the child. States need to provide assurance that families will not come to financial or social ruin if their children need residential treatment or congregate care. Because whether a teenager is living in a family setting or in a facility, they still need advocates.

We're doing our best, but statistics are showing that our best isn't good enough and we have to do better because statistics are so troubling. I quote from the article:

Many studies have documented that the outlook for foster youth who age out is often grim:

• One in four will be incarcerated within the first two years after they leave the system.

• Over one-fifth will become homeless at some time after age 18.

• Approximately 58 percent had a high school degree at age 19, compared to 87 percent of a national comparison group of non-foster youth.

• Of youth who aged out of foster care and are over the age of 25, less than 3 percent earned their college degrees5, compared with 28 percent of the general population.

It's a national issue and one that so few know about, but it affects every facet of our society. What more can you do? What more can I do? We all need to ask ourself that question.

Disjointed Morning

I left with a coworker this morning to head to the airport to sign placement paperwork for a sibling group arriving from another state. We got 20 miles out of town to only be called and told that they had missed their flight. Now it is inconvenient for me to have to head home for 3 hours only to head back to the airport, but I tell you what, I'd rather be me than that social worker stuck in an airport for an extra 4 hours wth five kids under 10.... but anyway.

We have found Mike, and since Bart always tells things best, and this time was here to write it first, you can read about it here.

In contemplating our journey with MIke, I am satisfied with only one thing. We never gave up. When so many families are choosing disruption as their option of choice, we hung in there. We may have not done things well or right, but he is not aging out of the system without anyone who loves him. WIthin minutes of finding out where he was, Bart had already written him a long letter. He is sending an envelope and paper and a stamp so Mike can write back. He will probably visit him and eventually maybe even I will. I will write to him as well. Our commitment to him did not stop when he turned 18, but we now have to protect ourselves and our other children. OUr commitment will have to be from afar, but it will still be there.

When I look at some of our other friends who are parenting young children with FASD, I both envy them and mourn for them. I envy them because they have more knowledge, more training, and more support than we did. I envy them because they know to focus on attachment more than behavior, so when their child is in trouble they will listen to them. But I mourn for them, because the future, no matter how hard they work at it, is bleak at best. I am not being a pessimist, that isn't my nature, but I am being realistic.

So when Mike is safe in jail, that is comforting, in an odd sort of way. And we will hope and pray for miracles. But whether or not they come, he is still our son.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sharing the Same Fear

Bart and I have talked about this a lot and he has been the first to blog lately about the fear we share.

A Glimpse of Humanity

Our trip actually was pretty good. Salinda treated me like a human all day long and even thanked me for taking her and told me she had a good time. Gave me an unsolicited hug. Lately I have to work hard to contain my shock and surprise and to keep from fainting when she acts almost human. It's so rare.

I have nothing much to say this morning. Working at getting things done -- we have just a week before we leave for the NACAC conference in Tampa. Still have to finish my presentation and my handouts as well as many other work related things.

Guess I should start doing them instead of talking about doing them...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

And the question is, Just How Pathetic Am I

If you saw me right now you might laugh, or you might just conclude that I am one of the most pathetic people you have ever encountered in your life.

As you know, we are visiting with John today. His idea of a fun time is walking through the mall looking for guetto clothing, hats, and jewelry. My idea of good time is not walking through the mall looking for guetto clothing, hats, and jewelry. I’d rather do almost anything but shop – except, of course, run a marathon. I think I’d rather even ride an exercise bike than shop.

So I was in the food court – very uncomfortable chairs – and I was going to work a while – and low and behold, surprise surprise, there was wireless internet. I was quite excited until I realized that I only had 11 minutes of battery power left on my laptop.

So I looked for a plug in and the closest one was in the bathroom where, fortunately there are very comfortable chairs – much more comfortable than the mall food court chairs which, in this particular mall, are most hideous. But the internet signal does not reach the bathroom, so I am typing this blog entry while my laptop charges to transfer after I walk back out to the food court.

The day is going well, although I am always annoyed by many of the conversations my teens have with one another. I am probably a typical mother in this respect, but I find a lot of what they do and say most frustrating. This led my brain onto another topic that I have been thinking about today, which is spiritual formation of people adopted as older children.

My spiritual formation began at conception. I was living inside of a woman who prayed at 4:30 a.m. every day, and read her Bible daily, journaling her thoughts. The sounds outside of my womb were ones of hymns and spiritual songs, preaching more than once a week, Christian radio, and my parents praying aloud together and reading the Bible. I was born on a Saturday, and so I was not in a church service until I was 8 days old, but I probably have not missed more than 15 Sundays of church in 43 years.

My parents ingrained Scripture and biblical principles into my head from the time I was a small child and I knew very little else for years. By the time I headed into adolescence, I had made up my mind about my faith.

Contrast this experience to the experience of my children. While in the womb they heard arguing, fighting and partying. Drugs and alcohol entered their blood stream in the womb. Domestic violence was part of their pre-birth experience, and the sounds outside of the womb were frightening ones. When living with their birth parents they most likely never attended a church service.

Fast forward 6 or 8 or 11 years later and they are thrust into a pastor’s family. And a few years after that they reach adolescence and they begin to determine exactly who they want to be. Some of them conclude that Christianity is 1) White; 2) Middle Class, and 3) a value of their parents. They conclude that they are not like their parents and do not want to be. Plus, using God, or their rejection of God, as a punishment to us, especially considering that their Dad is a pastor, they are not open to anything resembling spirituality.

When you factor in FASD, it complicates things even further. Isn’t our idea of Christianity based on the idea of rewards and consequences for behavior? Be holy, follow the ten commandments, accept Christ as Savior and by God’s grace you’ll get into heaven. Don’t do those things, and there are consequences.

What if I don’t understand consequences? What if I cannot control my impulses? What if my disability prevents me from being able to make good choices?

I do not have all the answers. I struggle daily with how, and how much, I should attempt to communicate spiritual truths to my children. I see them headed down paths that are not only harmful to their bodies and their minds, but also to their souls and I never really know exactly how to approach it. I learned early on after my brothers, raised just like I was, “turned out” completely different, that parents cannot necessarily take away freedom of choice.

I do have this one answer: that God’s grace is bigger than I imagined, and that this grace will sustain me and my children during the years ahead. I will be faithful to instruct, to preach when necessary, and to pray and trust God for the rest. It’s not only all I can do, it is all I’m being asked to do, and it is enough. My actions, not the results of them, are all I am responsible for. The results I will leave with God, and trust that Galatians 6:9 is truth: “So do not grow weary in well-doing, for in due time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up.”

Aother Day Away

Ricardo, Salinda and one of her friends are heading with us to see John for his 17th birthday, which, since it is today, is his golden birthday. I have business in that part of the state today, so it will work well for us to go and Salinda has not seen John for almost a year.

I could spend an hour blogging the dynamics of their relationships and its history, but you would most likely end up bored by the end and I don't have the time. But that sibling "bond" is going to make this, in someways, an unpleasant day. I let her bring a friend so there would be a buffer and ease some of the intensity.

Already had a verbal brawl with Tony this morning and a tough time getting Dominyk out of bed. In a few minutes we'll head out the door and hopefully the day will go fairly well. The Red Box at McDonalds is going to help us for a dollar.

I'm fairly swamped with many work related things, so taking a whole day is going to cost me, but I usually am able to let myself relax and enjoy what I can of trips with my kids in the car.

And now that I've sufficiently disappointed you and bored you to tears, I'll get myself ready to go.

Monday, July 16, 2007

They Keep You Up at Night until they Get Older and Then They Do It Again

Oh those days with babies -- so long ago -- when we got woken up in the night -- bad dreams, wet diapers, hunger, thirst, whatever it might be -- those days are long gone. They grew up and started sleeping through the night so you could too.

And then ten years later the cycle repeats itself. Curfews for teens later than their bedtimes, friends over giggling into the night, friends who can't respect the "no calls after 10 rule", sneaking out and sneaking kids in, music too high, voices too loud, and above all, the need to go out in the night and pick someone up.

I'm staying up so that I can go get Rand from his missions trip and they are arriving 2 hours later than planned, so I'm having to stay up 2 hours later than planned.

Some day, when I'm old, I'm going to go to bed at 8:00 if I want.

Saving me with Four Words Twice

Ricardo is a man of few words. He seldom speaks.

A few months ago, I was heading into the bathroom at Walmart -- the men's bathroom -- and Ricardo saved me with four short words -- Mom, Dat's da Boys.

Today, he did it again. He said to me, "Mom, take dat out!" as I was heading out the door with my skirt safetly tucked into my underwear.

Time Keeps on Tickin....

This morning I was in my office by 7:30 and began my constant barrage of IMs phone calls emails and assignments from various places and boom... it's 10:30 and I've not yet blogged.

Fortunately, for your reading pleasure, Bart has written a post about expectations of birth and adoptive parents and again about our mission as adoptive parents for your reading pleasure.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Kids with Food Issues

Continuing in my series on my other blog, I wrote about kids who are hungry. If you have kids with food issues, you might want to check it out.

Sometimes it's just a bag of Funyons

I have a daughter who hasn't willingly spoken a kind word to me for a week. This morning, after a service about the Good Samaritan, I stopped for gas and saw a bag of funyons by the cash register -- her favorite.

I bought them and gave them to her. She was quite shocked. But she spoke to me civilly. She thanked me. Showed me Tony's new fish she is caring for. Thanked me again.

And to think, a kind word only cost me 99 cents.

When You're in Love with a Blogging Woman

When I threatened to rewrite this song, Bart remarked to our friends, "Yeah, I never knew I was sleeping with a court reporter."

Modified from the song "When you're in love with a beautiful woman" by Dr Hook

When you're in love with a blogging woman
It's hard
When you're in love with a blogging woman
You know it's hard
Everybody knows her
Everybody reads her
Everybody wants to know your secrets today...

When you're in love with a blogging woman
You watch that blog
When you're in love with a blogging woman
It never ends
You know that it's crazy
You want to feel right
Then somebody reads it and has something to say
When you're in love with a blogging woman
It makes you nuts

Maybe it's just her ego problem
Problem is, Iv'e been shamed before
By fair weathered friends and faint hearted readers
And everytime it happens
It just convinces me more

When you're in love with a bloging woman
You read her blog
When you're in love with a beautiful woman
You look watch for your name
Everything you do
Everything you say
Ends up on her blog on the very next day

When you're in love with a blogging woman
You watch what you say
When you're in love with a blogging woman
You watch what you do
When you're in love with a blogging woman
You watch where you go
When you're in love with a blogging woman
You keep checking the blog...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

We Have Come to the End of Yet Another Day

And yes, parts of it were very boring. Just as I predcited.

I did a lot of laundry that will have to be done again. I did dishes that will bget dirty again right away. And I went through another round of nasty teenage girl attitude that hasn't resolved and that will have to be revisited tomorrow.

I keep reminding myself that if I ignore a bad mood long enough it changes into a better one, that it is difficult to behavior modify a bad attitude, that if I get into a control battle I lose, that I shouldn't let it get to me, but every time I feel the same annoyance.

And now, each time I see an adult woman I realize that she is a miracle -- she lived through the teenage years without her parents killing her.

Pre-Teen Humor

We had some friviolity tonight ... had company over and Sadie and Tony entertained us with 5th and 6th grade jokes like "what did the elephant say to the naked man?" and "What did the fly say when he fell off the toilet seat" and "why did the chicken cross the road."

It was tampered only by incessant Tony, who insisted on getting out my computer to make these photobooth shots. And even us adults had to get in on some of the fun.

Living the Boredom

Today I am feeling bored with things and really concluding that most of life really isn't exciting. It's the same cycle of things over and over and over. You wear your clothes, you get your clothes to the washer, you wash the clothes, you let them sit in baskets for a while, you finally put them away, and then you get them out and where them again to start the cycle.

Or you get out food. You cook some of it, or heat it up, or eat it cold. You put it on a dish. You put the food away. you put the dish somewhere. You then wash that dish and put it away in order to get it out again.

You get up and you are dirty. You get in the shower, you wash yourself, you wash your hair, brush your teeth, etc. only to find that several hours later you have to do it all over again.

Or you wake a child up and go through the whole day only to find that you have to put them to bed and wake them up again.

You go around the argument cycle with a teenager. You think you resolve something, but then you end right back where you started, and you feel like no progress has been made.

you clean things so they become messy, you fill up the gas tank so it can get empty again, you eat so you can be hungry once more.

you get paperwork done so more can appear, you pay bills so more can arrive and on and on and on

and sometimes




Friday, July 13, 2007

My Dreams

Last night I dreamed that I was having a lengthy conversation with Scott Kelby about his faith and his photography. I was then attempting to get him to the airport, but there were several roadblocks in the process. I had many children in the vehicle, I needed to ge to the airport too and needed to pick up my stuff. It was very fun to meet Scott in my dream as I have blogged in the past about why he is my idol.

But the rest of the dream was pure stress and it made me start my day tired.... and it has continued to get worse.

If you Didn't Check it Today...

Bart has blogged once again.

Made it Through Today

Well, it's 8:30 p.m. Looks like we may have all made it through our day.

My day was long and I didn't feel very good for half of it. Doing training always reminds me of how I could have/should have done things differently and is a constant reminder of the ways I am not doing things the way I could/should. I almost have to choke out some of the stuff that I know is best because I do such a poor job if that it seems almost hypocritcal for me to even tell people to do stuff that I myself can't/won't/haven't done.

In an hour or so I am hoping I will be able to go to bed and rest. I've been working too much and I feel it. I need to find some time to relax.

No Wonder they Can't Stand Having Me For a Mother

I'm SOOO ugly and I've ALWAYS got my eye on them.

Last Night vs. This Morning

Right before bed last night, I showed Tony the application "Photo Booth" on my MacBook Pro and all that it can do with the built in camera. We had a great time. He's loud laugh was contagious and I felt like a naughty child giggling with him as we disturbed his father who was trying to concentrate.

This morning he woke up with the same "I'M NOT GOING" mantra as he does every time we have no other plans for him than to participate in an actvity. Bart's Fletcher Fabulous Fun Day activity is already underway and it's only 8 a.m.

I am going to be working doing a training all day long and then have to provide ride for someone later tonight, so I will be working about 12 hours tody. Not exactly a Fabulous Fun Day for me, but I'll not get started on another whine fest.

I have many things I could blog, but don't have the time this morning, so I'll just post these silly pictures and get on with my day.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dealing with the Tough Issues

My husband's blog entry this morning addressses some of the toughest issues we face as people.

Mentally Carry Yourself to the Worst Possible Outcome

This morning Cindy posted a very helpful post about the severely disturbed older adopted children. It reminded me of some new words that I've started to say lately to parents who are thinking of adopting children.

When they state their fears, I ask them to go down the road of that fear and ask themselves if they will survive. Everyone's fears are different -- fear of a child ending up in jail, or of a child dying, or of a child growing up to return to their birth parents. Or maybe the fear is that they will raise a child who will become pregnant as an unwed teen or "come out of the closet" as an adult. Whatever our worst fears are, we have to face them.

I guess my worst fear would be that one of our children would kill Bart or I. Certainly carrying myself down that mental road is not something that I like to do often, but sometimes I let myself and I realize that even so, it would eventually be OK. The person killed (the lucky one) would be in heaven, enjoying a stress free eternity with God. The person left would eventually be OK. I have a big faith in a bigger God and I know that God's love and strength would sustain me, that forgiveness would not be easy, but would come, and that in the end, after it was all over, we would be OK.

One of Kyle's turning points was the first time he threatened to kill Bart. In a sinister voice, very sinister for an 11 year old, he angrily said to Bart, "Some day I might have to kill you." To which Bart responded, "and if you do so son, I will die loving you." I don't think he ever seriously threatened to do it again.

Part of the reason we have arrived at this point may come from the fact that some of our biggest fears have already come to pass. We have already had a child in prison, two different children in the psych hospital, and a "Child in Need of Protection or Services" Petition filed against us. Our children have accused us of abuse, we have had our lives threatened. Many of our fears have come to pass and ... we're OK.

Pre-adoptive parents often want a crystal ball. They want the child's file, or the caseworkers, or the therapist, or a teacher to tell their fortune and promise them that everything is going to be OK. That none of their worse fears will come to pass.

But the truth about life is that we do not know the future and we can't know it. Every day, every step is a risk. I learned from the rebellious choices of my brothers that even when parents do everything right from conception to age 18, each person's freedom of choice determines their future.

So now when I go through paperwork with a family who is considering a child, I tell them to expect the worse. I suggest to them that there is no way to predict the outcome of any human life, but that they should expect life to be hard. I tell them about the behaviors they can expect.

I am completely convinced that any person can parent any child -- they just have to be willing and decide how much of their quality of life they are willing to give to the cause.

I quote Pat O'Brien

I often get asked the question “what kind of people will offer their home permanently to a teenager?” My answer is always the same. I always say “any and all kinds of people who, after a good preparation experience, are willing to unconditionally commit themselves to a child no matter what behavior that child might ultimately exhibit.” Teenagers need first and foremost at least one adult who will unconditionally commit to and claim the teen as their own. Any thing less is an artificial relationship. Teenagers need unconditional commitment before anything else constructive can happen.

This is the key. Claiming the child and knowing that you will never give up on them. They might not always be able to live with you, but regardless of what happens, they will never cease being your child. And if you can make this commitment, which you can, you can keep it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Auction Ads

On my sidebar you'll see a box with Auction Ads on it. The beginning of May I stuck it there and forgot about it. Since most of my other ads only bring me a few cents a day, I didn't figure I'd earn much of anything from this program. I hadn't heard about it -- it certainly isn't one of the more popular programs.

So, i was a little shocked to see that I've earned $30 in three months without doing a single thing -- without even checking it. I would encourage you to click on it and sign up. It's definitely worth sticking on your blog. And they aren't paying me to tell you this. But of course, if you do sign up, then I do get a little kick back.

But if you're looking for ways to make a little extra with very little effort. I have google ads on multiple pages of every site I use, and I have made just a couple bucks more than that since February first.

Just a little heads up for any of you who might care. Click on it and sign up today and see how you do. Make sure you click on the little line that says "Ads by Auction Ads" and not the ad itself.

If My Blog Serves as Nothing Else....

it is worth existing just to let you all know when my articulate and gifted husband updates his..

My Day In The Van

Well, not really. In and out of the van.

Bart took a kid to therapy this morning so I could get everyone off to summer school. Then I had a meeting from 11:15 to one.

Bart did 1:00 drop offs. I am doing 1:45 pickups and 2:00 dropoffs.

Then I am doing a 3:00 meet and drop off.

Then a 3:45 pickup, a 4:00 drop off, a 4:15 meeting to last until 4:45 drop offs and 5:00 pickups, all which need to be done by me, because the 3:00 meet and drop off involves dropping off the car and we're down to one decent vehicle.

Guess we missed Rand's willingness to serve as a taxi more than we thought. It will be nice to have him back in town.

And for now, All Is Well

Salinda's back on level ground and not punishing us. Ricardo has forgiven me. Everyone else is at summer school or out of stte (Rand in NC at a youth convention). I'm trying to get as much done as I can while it is quiet.

And it goes round and round and round and round and round.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I screw up...

and Bart turns it into a blog entry..

Around and Around We Go

Last night around 9:30, Salinda forgot she was incredibly angry with me. This is after she refused to come to supper (Giving Bart the opportunity to explain the concept of hunger strike to the remaining children at the table) and was nasty mean to me for the WHOLE DAY, she all the sudden forgot she was playing that game and everything was fine.

When I woke Sadie up for summer school this morning, she rolled over, and said, "hi mom" with as close to a smile as I've seen in a while and my brain started to swirl. Keeping up with her moods is difficult, even for someone who is emotionally pretty fit (as opposed to physically).

So we'll start the day on a different note, for which I am relieved, and we'll take another ride around the carousel, or, if it is like yesterday, a screaming roller coaster ride....

But we'll keep riding.... because the alternative is unthinkable.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Warms My Heart

If you know me, and you know Dominyk, you'll understand why reading Bart's blog tonight warms my heart.

An Endurance Test

Parenting teenage girls is an endurance test. One long hilly marathon with impossible stretches where you feel like your legs are giving out and your lungs are going to collapse and you're just not going to be able to make it. And when you are climbing up yet another hill and you're questioning your ability to make it, you can scarsely remember the great views you've seen during the run, or the times when the road was flat, or the ocassions when you're enjoyed the scenery.

Right now I'm having a hard time remembering anything positive about this particular run. I haven't been able to breathe any oxygen today as she has sucked it out of the air. I'm tired of being mistreated when she screws up and I've been the only one home all day, thus I'm the only one she can take everything out on. I feel sorry for the rest of the family who will return soon and be attacked. She could rival Cindy's daughter who she has called Viper Girl with the nastiness she is going to poor out on all of her siblings as soon as she can.

I determined this morning that i was not going to get into it with her today. I stated her consequences, and went about my business. But boy is she setting out to punish me. Rude as she can be in every way she can be. But as always, I'll survive.

Great Illustration

If you don't usually read Kari's blog, there's a great story in it that she blogged this morning about how we can change the world..

Back into a Routine

Last week was a VERY long week. With four kids starting the week at camp, our trip to Sioux Falls to see John, and no summer school or PCAs all week, it was disjointed, chaotic, and exhausting. Today we get back into a routine. I have not blogged in detail the escapades of our oldest daughter because she does not want me to mention her here. She could care less if what I write helps other adoptive parents or if it serves a purpose in the world. If it embarassses her, then of course, since the world revolves around her, it should not be in print.

My advice to her, if she should stumble across this, is to stop doing things that embarass you and I'll have nothign to write.

Last night I caught her climbing out of her window at 11:00, which resulted in her taking off down the street. She came back to report that she would be back at 3:00 a.m. I threatened her with enough consequences to convince her to at least pretend to come back in and go to bed. She's probably been doing this more often than I think and the adrenaline that pumps through my body after trying to reason with her hateful and spiteful self in the middle of the night keeps me awake long after she's settled down.

Her situation is a tricky one. I'm not sure how to best consequence her to get her in line without pushing her so far that she thinks she has no choice but to rebel. But right now the whole thing is nothing but exhausting.

When we moved here, we knew she would be the one to suffer the worst -- moving a girl between seventh and eighth grade is bound to induce some trauma. But we really didn't know how how bad it would get. Right now, God's intervention seems to be the only thing that will turn this around, because I've tried everything I can think of.

So to that end we pray.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Confessing to Worry, Though I Try Hard Not To

We have not heard a word about or from Mike in 3 weeks, other than the notice of his arrest and court hearing that we got in the mail. He has not called and nobody has told us they have seen him. I'm starting to worry about him. He doesn't carry identification, so if something happened to him, they wouldn't know who to contact.

More than likely he is out having a grand time, purposefully not calling us so that we will worry, or possibly not even remembering that we exist. He is most probably breaking the law and still unemployed.

So I do worry. I try not to, but I do. Always in the back of my mind is a running current of concern for him, prayer for him, and worry. I do not worry so much about John and Kyle as I know they are in good places. Kyle is beyond needing constant supervision and John is getting it, but Mike is truly out there on his own, with the common sense of a 6 year old in an 18 year old body.

So while I may not appear to be worrying much, you can believe that I am. Every moment of every day in the back of my mind.

The Downside (as if there were an Upside) to a Thimble Sized Bladder

I get up several times during the night. If I can keep my mind from thinking too much, I can go right back to sleep. But if I get stuck on something, I can't go back to sleep. I start to think about it and then it takes forever. That happened to me several times last night.

I thought about a child in placement that needs respite and where I was going to find it. I thought about a placement that is supposed to happen that probably won't. I was thinking about several of my kids and what to do about their behaviors. Each time I woke up I obsessed about a different thing.

And since were in in the heat all day and I drank tons of water, I got up many times.

And when I was sleeping, lots of dreams invaded my rest. Dreams of kids getting beat up and my trips getting postponed and on we went.




PIllow Talk

Last night, right before we went to sleep, I rolled over and Bart grunted extra loud.

What? I asked.

You're making me car sick.

I'm so going to blog that.

Do you have to blog EVERYTHING I say?

I'm blogging that too.

Another TearJerker

Bart blogged twice last night, and the second one brought tears to my eyes.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Quite the Blogging Family Today

Bart updated his blog tonight as well.

Sadie's the Cooking Show Girl

One of Sadie's goals is to have her own cooking show. She's started to add a recipe a day to her blog. It's pretty cute. And she is going to be thrilled with the clicks....

Check it out.

Sometimes I Feel like Lemony Snicket

Today we went to the longest parade ever. I mean ever. Two hours and fifteen minutes, nearly 100 floats. And that part was great. Some friends of ours let us sit in their yard on the parade route in the shades. They provided snacks on their porch and a bathrrom which of course I used twice. It was fun to see them and another friend we hadn't seen in a while.

Dominyk and Ricardo were the only ones there and they made me so proud of them. We have been to our fair share of horrible parade experiences... from the times Mike and Kyle were 11 and 8 and literally would wrestle each other for a piece of candy out in the middle of the street to the days when Dominyk was an unmedicated severe ADHD 3 year old darting in front of big trucks... but today those two boys made me very proud in very different ways.

Ricardo did not enjoy the parade. He did not want any candy, he was tired from soccer practice, and he is starting to get a little too old for the whole parade scene anyway. There were not enough chairs left for him to sit in. He wanted a shower. But he sat for the whole two hours and fifteen minutes without complaining, without asking for anything. Stoic and tough and proud.

Dominyk was the opposite -- unbridled thrill and enthusiasm to the point he could hardly contain himself. He wanted every piece of candy and every toy they were giving away. But he was surrounded by smaller children and he did an excellent job of making sure that every time he shared. If he got two of something, he gave the other one away. He had access to lots of snacks, but was very appropriate in his choices. It was really fun to see him being so mature and watching out for the little kids around him.

So, up to this point, i was feeling quite blessed. But then we decided to try to eat out. Culver's kids meals are cheap and you get a lot of food, so we decided to head there and the series of unfortunate events began. The first culver's was packed. So we went to a different one, also packed. But we found a couple tables and thought we had gotten a good deal. Until we realized there was something wrong with the air and it was incredibly hot in there. It took 45 minutes for us to get our food. We were there for over an hour and 15 minutes in the unbearable heat.

When we came home for an hour before we had to leave for a church picnic, it became even more unbearable as both Tony and Dominyk each had a meltdown and the older boys were either refusing to do what they were supposed to or taunting the others.

So once again we have the good with the bad. Just like I blogged about this morning.


Having teenagers of any kind is a roller coaster. Add mental illness, organic brain damage due to substance abuse, and emotional behavioral disorders, and it becomes a zoo. One minute your proud beyond belief of accomplishments made, and then next minute your shaking your head in disgust at their poor choices. And when you have a lot of them -- as in six like we do now -- it's a crazy ride.

We have created a life of peaks and valleys. The stress we live under is of our own choosing and we know this. When we started out our marriage we wanted our lives to mean something. And so we sought meaning, and our life is bursting to the seams with meaning. Maybe too much sometimes.

Bart has a meaningful job. He is dealing with the spirtual lives of hundreds of people, responsible to care for them spiritually and emotionally during the best and worse times of their lives. He marries them . . . and he buries them. He baptizes their children and then confirms their teenagers. He is there when they are sick, when their marriages fall apart, when they get their Boy Scout Eagle badges, when they get engaged, when they are diagnosed with a life threatening disease. A job filled with people, and with meaning.

I have two meaningful jobs. Adoption is one of the most personal journeys that anyone can take and I am involved with people from the minute they start thinking about adopting until long after they finalize their adoption. People tell me of their most significant personal struggles and I help them work through the difficult times. Again, I am riding their roller coaster with them, just as Bart is doing so with his parishioners. They tell me of the joy when they first hear the word "Mom" or "Dad" after waiting for years . . . and I hear about it when a child is expelled from school, sent to juvenile detention, or attemps to commit suicide. It's intense.

And then we have our parenting, which is definitely full of meaning. Ten lives, all different, all from various backgrounds, all with their own personalities and their own needs. Every moment is a challenge. Always attempting to determine the best ways in which to deal with behaviors, how to teach values, how to keep things steady and sane.

And so, with all this meaning, we attempt to make the best decisions as to how our time and money should be best spent. We have very little of either to spare. Yesterday I spent a full hour trying to get into Salinda's head and figure out what is going on with her lately. I had many other more pleasant options of how I could spend my time, but that is what was needed at the moment.

Today there is a parade in our area and we have a wild morning ahead of responsibilities and expectations. Rand is helping with the food stand and float at the church. Ricardo is at soccer. Jimmy's job has a float, so he is going there. The boy scouts also have a float, so Tony will be there. The rest of us will be watching the parade and hanging out with friends and some will be gathering candy.

For right now Bart is upstairs entertaining the children. I just heard a snippet of the conversation, so typical of his annoying pre-teen age group.

"Hey Dad, I know Dominyk's cell phone number -- 1-800-Dominyk's a Fag". And now Bart is having to do the "you know that is not appropriate" speech. But when you're a boy, and heading into 7th grade, the last thing in the world you want to be is appropriate.

And so, packed into the meaning of it all, is the rediculousness of it all -- the sillyness of preteen boys, the moodiness of teenage girls, the patheticness of "man-boys" who though they are of the age where they are supposed to be making it on their own, they certainly aren't.

And at the end of each day, we go to bed shaking our heads at the wonder of it all, exhausted, but knowing we'll get up tomorrow and do it all again.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Too Proud

Jimmy got his first paycheck and wanted to buy himself a new outfit that he picked out with his Dad. Apparently I'm no fashion queen because it was imperative that his father help him buy them.

He made a really nice choice and looks very handsome. It was so fun to see him proud of earning his own money and picking his own outfit. He just beemed with accomplishment.

Too Much Fun

Our kids are getting tired and cranky. They have been having too much fun -- too many outings, not enough down time I suppose. Bart has planned another Friday Fun Day and the kids are having the hardest time getting up and gettin ready to go. Not doing any planning whatsoever and knowing that the plan is to leave at 8:50, 5 of the kids got up at 8:30 expecting a shower. Since nobody told me last night if they were planning to go, I didn't know who was going and didn't wake them up. Now nobody can find anything they need to where.

Sounds like we've been gone too much to get laundry done -- but it doesn't help that nobody brings their clothes to the washer and I have to search all over the house for them.

Several of them just want to stay home and I'll probably end up with all the hardest kids staying here and the helpful ones going and me getting nothing done.

Wow, don't I sound like an optimist?

Today on my docket I have to look forward to another round with a teenage daughter in regards to another stupid decision, clenaing up a dirty house, doing laundry, and spending the evening with everyone but Tony while Tony and Bart does the boy scout beef stand or something like that.

And not working on email for a couple days has been swamped with work. Yup, cheerful cheerful....

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Collage

Click for a larger image.

Sadie Started a Blog

It's really quite cute and nice. She makes me laugh with her kind words and perspective on life. You should check it out and to really thrill her, click on the ad I helped her put on there and she'll earn a few cents. Check out her new blog here and read about her perspective of the trip.

We had a really good trip. It was, as Cindy described her day yesterday, A Walt Disney World Day in Adoption as the children were so appropriate and fun. Other than typical sibling rivalry, the whole 28 hours we were gone everyone was very appropriate. They were grateful, they were fun, they were engaging. It was a really good time. I think John appreciated our efforts and we had a great time with him as well.