Monday, March 31, 2008

Time to Whine

Well, here we are. March 31st. Tomorrow April begins and the snow just keeps falling and falling and falling.

My desk is stacked high, my motivation is low, and I'm supposed to a couple home visits an hour from here today. I'm not looking forward to driving through the storm.

And Bart is leaving tomorrow for five days straight. That hasn't happened for a long time. I"m sure it will be fine, but I'm not looking forward to him being gone.

So I guess I'm just going to whine a little. And now, I've done that, I guess I'll get on with my day.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sadie and Wilson's Program

I was having a hard time not laughing out loud and the differences between Sadie and Wilson and their response to my camera at the program this morning.

Sadie was watching for the camera all the time. Every chance she had she glanced over to see if I was looking at her and then posed, smiled, over-acted, waiting for me to take the shot.

Wilson hid. Behind his hands, behind the big kids next to got to be a game that was almost more entertaining than the program.

But I did sneak in a few.

Sadie had a solo and several speaking parts and did very well. Wilson sang a few of the songs. But as he has said before, "You can make me go to choir but you can't make me sing."

It's fun being part of a church that does such a quality performance once or twice a year.

Have I mentioned that Wilson is one of the cutest kids I have ever ever seen? Every time I look at him I am overwhelmed that I'm lucky enough to be his mom.

Big Laps

It's a good thing that Bart and I both have big laps... because most of our kids are getting much bigger and they need more space. And it is seldom when we are sitting and not working on our laptops that we don't have at least one or two kids trying to find a spot on us to sit.

Yesterday was a pretty good day. By 12:15 I had finally gotten the internet up and working in the whole house. Bart's mom and her sister arrived mid-afternoon and we visited while Bart made dinner. After supper everyone was off doing multiple things, and we were in bed early enough and at peace.

Today is Sadie and Wilson have their program at church and later today Bart will take three kids with him to visit John. I have another work project I need to complete today. I keep telling myself not to let things pile up, but they seem to and I end up at the computer most days I should be taking a break.

It looks like the snow has finally all melted. Maybe Spring will actually show up around here. I look forward to no snow, but I don't like nice weather -- kids are out and about more --not my kids, but their friends, and the temptation to spend time "hanging out" on the streets dressed in not-so-appropriate clothing is too great. PLus there is that "no school for three months" thing.

I can already feel my blood pressure going up just thinking about it.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Tech Support Nightmare Week Not Improving

Wow, I love technology. When it is working properly. I mean seriously, I love nothing more than technology. The newest, best, coolest -- I want it (If it is mac compatible -- otherwise, not cool). But when something isn't working, then I can't do much else.

The last 48 hours have been a technological nightmare and I can't seem to stop myself from obsessing about having everything fixed again. Which basically means hours of hold music and several attempts to reconfigure things.

In addition to the wireless network being down in the house, which has lasted almost 48 hours, I got completely fed up with Rand yesterday afternoon and asked for his cell phone. (Background: He is not paying rent. He is not working. He doesn't have any money. He is supposed to work for us in exchange for rent. He isn't doing what he is supposed to be doing. He is paying his cell phone bill with the last of his student loan, but he won't stop going over his text messaging limits and we end up stuck with the bill. Ok, you get the idea).

Anyway, since he had a huge toddler meltdown (which is not fun to watch in a 350+, 6'6" 19 year old body) when I asked him to refold the towels he had folded wrong, I asked for his cell phone. When he refused to hand it to me, I called Alltel to ask them to take texting off his cell phone. I would have shut off the phone, but one of the things Rand is very good about doing for us most of the time is taxi driving, and he needs to have a cell phone because people's plans change so much.

So, I ask for the cell (intending to keep it only for a few hours until he finished his work) but he refused so I called Alltel. 75 minutes later, text messaging was turned off. It's actually kind of a funny story, but it is so long and drawn out that it would take a long time to type it all. Let's just say that I practically built a relationship with the 20 something kid who was doing tech support and I made him laugh so much that he actually confessed (on a recorded for customer service purposes message) that he was keeping me on the phone longer just because he didn't want me to hang up).

I must digress and share a personal philosophy. I always vow to be the one person in a person's day who does phone support that they don't forget. It's a mission for me. I usually succeed.

Then last night I wanted to give myself a break and play a computer game, and the game kept crashing and then I'd have to restart my computer. It was very annoying.

This morning I have been on the phone or on hold for a solid 2 hours trying to get this problem ironed out. Currently my Iphone says that I have been holding for 30 minutes and 54 seconds on the most recent call.

Fortunately for me, I have internet access now and can work while I wait. Earlier I was waiting without the access. THAT was even more annoying.

And I know, you didn't want to know any of what i just wrote. OH well. This blog is about me, didn't you know that? Everything is. Everywhere. All about me.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Nothing Spins me Out of Control More

than losing internet. I know, you'd think with the stresses of my life, that internet wouldn't be my number one need, nor the one thing that could push me over the edge. But I need it for almost everything any more, and I can't do my two jobs without it.

Yesterday morning I got fed up with the signal -- it kept cutting in and out, and so I called the company and they sent out a couple of very nice young men who switched out my modem. My internet was working fine. All was well until Bart came home and we realized that the wireless network was not working. SO, from 4:00 yesterday afternoon until I went to bed at almost 10 I was trying to figure out how to fix things. And to make matters worse, my day today is full of various appointments that are going to make it difficult for me to have time to focus on it today either.

And somehow I spaced out the fact that my Mother-In-Law is coming tomorrow with her sister, which is fine, I just budgeted way too much weekend time to get things like taxes and a major work project and now I'm behind farther than ever.

if you would like to send prayers for miraculous internet recovery our way it sure would save me hours of my day!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

What is a PCA?

In Minnesota, a PCA is a Personal Care Attendant. Paid for by Medical Assistance, these individuals are hired to work with children with either physical, mental, behavioral or emotional disabilities (as documented by a physician, psychologist, or psychiatrist). Our county health nurse does an assessment and each child qualifies for a certain number of units per day (one unit is 15 minutes).

We use a program called PCA choice where I am able to hire my own employees and do my own training and supervision. I schedule and then turn in time sheets.

The program has been a lifesaver for us. The four boys who have qualified for PCAs in the past have been so draining that even a break from them for an hour or two a day has sustained us in parenting them over the long haul.

Maybe some of you from other states who have something similar could briefly explain the process to acquire these services.

Leaving Kids Home Alone

This is a question asked in a comment yesterday:

I actually wondered, it seems as though you leave the kids at home alone at least on occasion. I find myself unable to do that with my 14 y.o. son, as he's gotten into stuff when left alone, that I am terrified to come back to a burned down house or something along those lines. Do you hire babysitters or do you just count on the other kids that you trust more? How do you do it??

We haven't always been able to do it. In fact, when Mike and John were home, we never did. Now we still can't leave everyone home, but if a couple key people are removed, depending on the day, those that remain can do an hour or two alone. We also have PCA services, so sometimes the children with the highest special needs are not here, but with PCAs.

In our home we have instigators and responders, as I'm sure most everyone does. Here if we can strategically remove two of the instigators everyone else does fairly well.

That is not to say that nobody has ever gotten into a fight while we're not here, or that no minor damages have occurred, but nothing major has happened. We don't do it often, and usually not for more than an hour or two.

We are also blessed to have a great tattle network, and if something is happening that is in appropriate we get a call immediately (or two or three) to let us know. We do have 3 or 4 kids who are relatively sane and can tell what is appropriate and what is not appropriate and they can provide guidance to the ones who don't.

I hope that answers your question. But there have been many times in our history that we haven't been able to leave them for even five minutes.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Losing My Mind

I'm sure that someone is going to find a way to also connect this topic with menopause as well. BUt watch it. I might get crabby too. Which also might be something you could link to menopause. ;-)

I am really losing it. Well, actually, losing cards seems to be my thing lately. Cash cards, YMCA cards, credit cards. I've lost 1 debit card once, a second debit card twice, my Y card once, and a credit card. ALl but one of those has been found. But it has been a crazy two weeks.

And I am having this thing with ditches. Last Wednesday, I was heading to therapy with Salinda and Dominyk and we got a call saying that therapy had been cancelled. So we were heading back home and the roads were dry and we were zipping around a corner when all the sudden there was a huge section of black ice. I completely lost control of the van and we end up turned around about 270 degrees with the back of the van deep in the ditch. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, the van was fine, and I was able to drive out of the ditch. Salinda screamed and Dominyk did not speak a word to anyone for the next 10 minutes.

Then today I took a wrong turn. I decided to pull into some shipping company to turn around, but went a little too far in my three point turn and ended up with the front tires in a small ditch. So I started to back up the van, but the tires were stuck. NOt realizing that the ditch had muddy water in it, I decided to gun it. It worked, but not until the van was sprayed with mud and dirty water.

Then this afternoon I was pulling out of the driveway and ran over the recycling bin which was in the driveway (no, I don't know why. Either the kids or the "recycling guys"). So, in my attempts, with Dominyk's help, to get it unstuck I got over into the grass where there was some mud and this time managed to get the whole windshield.

Dominyk tried to get some good shots, but it isn't easy to see in these pictures just want a wonderful job I did in covering the van with mud not once, but twice.

I'd get the van washed, but it's supposed to snow tonight. (Yes, snow.) So I'll wait until that storm is over. Maybe the snow will wash the van clean.

But sometimes I feel like I"m really losing it. I just can't seem to put it all together lately and I seem to keep having these weird things happen that make me feel like I"m a losing my mind.

Of course, I'm not. We all know that.. Don't we?

Wilson and I at the Movie

Yesterday I decided that I had spent enough of Easter break working and not enough time with the kids. So I offered to take all the kids to a movie. It sounded like a fun time -- the older kids could choose between two showing at the same time (G or PG-13), and the younger kids could see the G movie. This is how it went:

Rand and Jimmy decided not to go.

Dominyk refused to go when I announced there would be no snacks provided.

Salinda was in the tub and decided she didn't want to go.

Sadie was excited to go, but then she didn't get ready in time because she fiddled around until Salinda was in the bedroom getting dressed (don't ask me why they can't both be in there at the same time ... I have no idea)

So, that left me with Tony, Ricardo and Leon, all who wanted to watch the PG-13 movie, which I was planning to see. SO, I changed my mind, not wanting Wilson to go to see Horton Hears a Who alone.

So he and I went together. He commented that the chair "always does this thing" which is pretty much suck him down inside it because he's so small. Above shows him being swallowed by the seat - but the lighting is not good, and no matter how much I tried to fix it, cell phone pictures in the dark are really not very clear.

But we had a great time together. It was fun to listen to him giggle and the movie was cute -- a nice story, as you know, about commitment, follow through, and courage.

I meant what I said and I said what I meant, an elephant is faithful, 100 percent.

Thank You for Your Comments

Well, it looks like I have lots of new readers I haven't known about yet, which is very cool.

What is not so cool is that it is possible that the consensus is that I might be beginning menopause, which makes me feel older than I want to. ;-)

I also thought it was interesting that so many of us are in the same boat in regards to sleeping and stress. Last night I went to bed quite early, and was up and leaving for the Y by 5:10. It's hard going to sleep knowing that there are kids still awake, but the older ones seem to be getting themselves to bed well lately.

I have no appointments until 1:30 so I am hoping to accomplish much before I run out of steam.

Welcome, new readers, and thanks for your comments. I know that my blog hasn't been as informative as it has been in the past. Maybe if someone has something they'd like my opinion on (I have a zillion) you could leave a comment and I could try and respond to those -- spur me on to something more interesting than my sleep patterns or my to do list for the day...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sleeping Enough or Stress?

OK, here is an interactive blog post, something I hardly ever do. But I'm curious.

How many of you out there have trouble sleeping? I don't mean trouble falling asleep, I mean trouble sleeping as long as you used to?

Over the past several months I have been waking up a couple hours earlier than I have to get up. This is very new for me, and has never happened before in all of my 44 years. For a while I was convinced that it had something to do with the stress level in my life, and I could always point at something that was causing the stress. But lately, I've not felt very stressed and still, like this morning, I'm wide awake at 4:45 unable to go back to sleep. I finally get up and get started working because I figure that I might as well be productive.

So, here is where I would like your comments. First of all, do you share my problem? And secondly, if so, do you think it is because we need less sleep -- that we are getting enough sleep -- and that is why we wake up? Or is it stress?

It would be fun to hear from some of you lurkers out there. This is a pretty non-threatening question, isn't it? What do you think?

Monday, March 24, 2008

A Good Night's Sleep

Slept 8 hours last night. Needed it. Went to the Y this morning. Could have done without that. ;-)

Both girls at friends houses, Rand at school. Tony shopping for shoes for tennis with Bart. Rest of the kids busy quiet and apparently content. I'm working on our taxes and processing work email.

Right now, things are good.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Took a Fall at Mile 23

Well, this marathon was about over, or so I thought. I had one more important thing to do -- get Salinda and Sadie down for a visit to see John. Salinda's friend had been here since Saturday morning, and needed to go home. So, as we're walking out the door, Salinda says, "Mom, you know _____ lives in _______, right?" Of course, I didn't know. I had never picked her up before and she goes to school in town, so I had budged plenty of time to take her home HERE IN TOWN. We left hurriedly because I figured we had time to get there and back. Already feeling the stress, the girls decided that this would be a good time to discuss how they didn't like their middle names that we gave them and other such issues which further annoyed me because I didn't have time to discuss anything important in great detail.

Well my mistake was assuming that she lived on the closer side of town, but she didn't, and so we ended up leaving her house with me knowing that we were going to be very late. I did a great job of holding in my frustration until Salinda decided to tell me that my decision about which way to get back to the highway (which I knew was the fastest) was going to make us late. Even though I had sworn to myself that I didn't need to say anything (she already knew her oversight was making us late) I lost it at this point and had to yell a bit. It didn't make me feel better. Or her either. I apologized after 15 minutes of stony silence, but I wasn't making much progress.

So, knowing we need to make up time to get there so that we can see John, I go a bit too fast coming out of a small town and get pulled over and get a nice ticket. At this point in time I felt like I had skidded across the ground on my face a few miles away from the finish line of a 26.2 mile marathon, with a sprained ankle. Emotionally I just wanted to lie down and give up.

But as you all know, giving up is not an option. I was 20 miles from where John is currently living, and we needed to see him. Fortunately, the speeding ticket lightened up the mood a bit (oddly) and from then on the trip got better. John was happy to see us, the visit went well, and I bought the girls ice cream on the way home.

I came home, however, to news that Tony and Jimmy had had another fight and to an update on Dominyk's obsession. Apparently, the combination of his strep throat and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder was not a good combination. He somehow got it in his head that he needed to have his epiglottis removed. No matter how many times we have explained it to him today, he did not understand it's purpose and kept asking for us to take him to the doctor to have it taken out. Bart said that he spent the majority of the afternoon touching it and making himself gag.

Finally, I came downstairs with him to show him on the internet that the epiglottis is an important body part and that he really needed to have one. "Well," he responded, "can I get a different one? I think I need a transplant."

But it looks like I'm going to make it. Only a couple more hours until bedtime and then Easter weekend 2008 will be history. We still have two more days without school, but at least all the stress of Holy Week and Easter and Kyle's girlfriend visiting and special meals and ties and white shirts will be put to rest at last.

I bet I am one of very few mothers in the world whose child asked for an epiglottis transplant tonight. Quite possibly the only one.

The Marathon is Almost Over

Wow. Yesterday was quite a day. Kyle's girlfriend was here from about 1:00 to about 9 p.m. We really like her -- she's personable, friendly, and gives Kyle a hassle, so we like that. Bart made banana bread and monster cookies in the morning, homemade pizza for lunch, and delicious pasta (Hay and Straw) for supper. In the midst of that, I finished purchasing, washed, and ironed 7 of the boys shirts, found dress pants and matching ties. Since Tony and Dominyk were toddlers, our boys have always worn ties and white shirts for Easter, except Kyle who always manages to skirt that in some way to prove that he is a non-conformist. At least this year he did bring dress clothes -- the last couple years he forgot and wore holy jeans and a t-shirt.

During lunch I made the mistake of asking Kyle and his girlfriend if they were interested in participating in our strange version of an Easter egg hunt. They respectfully declined, but then both Tony and Dominyk got it in their heads that they were going to do it yesterday. I tried to convince them to wait until today, thinking that it might stop snowing, but once they had decided it was time to do it, there was no peace until they got it done. I slip a $5.00 bill in one hollow egg, and then each child has a color. The oldest five children hide for the youngest five. Then they go out and look for the eggs. This year, it was in the snow, of course, but they seemed to have fun. And then, with their obsessive personalities, I knew it would just be easier for me to take them directly to the store, which I did. Whew.

Last night after all the preparations were complete for this morning, we fell into bed exhausted. Up again by 5:15 this morning, Bart began his marathon morning and I showered, put on MAKE UP (shock shock shock -- only happens about twice a year), and the proceeded to get everyone up and help them get ready -- tying and straightening ties, etc.

Pictures were a little hard to get everyone to cooperate for -- I did take a couple with just the girls, but they didn't turn out well, so the one above is with Salinda's friend who has been here since yesterday morning. No, we didn't adopt again.

The sunrise service this morning was put on by the youth. Salinda did a great job with her Scripture reading, and Leon, though he wasn't happy about it, did well in his skit. Ricardo was supposed to be the apostle John, pulling the lame man (Tony) to his feet, but he forgot to do so, so instead of waiting for him, Tony jumped up alone. His rendition of "running and leaping and praising God" was actually fairly hilarious. Dominyk is recovering from strep throat and was convinced that his tie, combined with his large tonsils, were cutting off his air supply and that he was going to stop breathing. Fortunately (or unfortunately) he is feeling so bad that he didn't have the energy to act horrible while obsessing about dying from lack of oxygen.

It was a proud day for me. My children looked and acted appropriately. There were no major upheavals this morning, everyone was nice to one another and for the most part, to me. My husband sang the communion liturgy with his beautiful voice and preached a power sermon entitled, 'When Jesus Speaks Your Name."

After the service, one of our parishioners leaned over and asked me, "How did we get so lucky to get Bart?" and I responded, "I ask myself that all the time," to which she said, "I bet you do."

I love him so much I'm actually heading to the kitchen soon (ick ick ick, I hate the kitchen) to finish preparing the meal that he almost has completely in the oven while he does yet another service, so that we can eat soon after he arrives home.

For me, Easter is huge -- bigger than anything else-- a time to celebrate together with Christians all over the world -- a holiday that began it all, a holiday that ties together my life, all 44 of the Easter's I've celebrated, and a holiday that joins us together as Christians.

Even though it continues to snow, one cannot help but experience joy, knowing that God loved us enough to sent His Son, who came to live and die for us, rising again to conquer death, so that we can live forever. This truth is at the root of my being, defining who I have been, who I am today, and who I always will be.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Busy Morning

We've been busting our butts this morning to clean and prepare for "the girlfriend." She is almost here. Bart has been busy cooking and the kids have been cleaning.

And an FYI -- the house across the street that was in my picture earlier? It got TPd last night. I wondered why it looked especially snowy through my screen this morning.

Sometimes I'm really a dork.

The View Out My Window

I realize that Easter is early. I know that, of all the men in the world, I chose to marry a MInnesotan, which was really, smart in every way except his choice of a place to live. And I am very aware of the fact that there are worse things than a light spring snow shower. You can't see it because of the screen, but the slow is slowly drifting down, accumulating more and more each moment. Actually, a pretty beautiful sight if you can pretend like it's Christmas.

But come ON! Tomorrow is EASTER and we're supposed to be wearing frilly easter dresses and our legs are supposed to be showing and we're supposed to think about sunshine and bunnies and eggs (an Easter Egg hunt in the snow)?

Sigh. There are so many other places in the world to live.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Nice Excursion

This morning I left the house with Leon, Wilson and Ricardo to do some spring sports and birthday shopping and then to meet Bart and Dominyk for Leon's birthday lunch. He had selected the Olive Garden and had chosen these three brothers to go along because last weekend they missed out on a meal out that.

We had a perfectly fine time. These three boys made shopping fun. They accepted my limits. They did not argue. They were grateful. They were pleasant. I haven't had that much fun shopping in a long time.

And then, after a trip to the Dr. to find out that Dominyk has strep throat, I ended up with a short trip into Walmart with only Wilson. He is just so incredibly cute.

I know I stink as a photographer, but here are pictures of the shopping trips and the birthday luncheon. I just wish that once and a while I would take the time to take GOOD pictures.

So, that portion of my Easter clothing and birthday/spring sports shopping was delightful. Of course, I saved the hard kids for last so tomorrow may not be quite as enjoyable.

Frightening List

When I started writing down the things I need to accomplish in these three days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) I began to panic. I know that they will get done, but it is going to be a marathon to accomplish them all. And, of course, I'm trying to squeeze in something else in the midst of it all as well -- a project for work that is due Tuesday, that I would really love to have done so that I'm not trying to do it on Monday when the kids are home. Of course, the kids are home everyday, but on weekends I'm not getting 4-5 emails a minute all day long that need attention.

Today is Leon's 13th birthday -- making me the proud parent of 9 teenagers simultaneously, which really would not constitute proper planning on the part of anyone. But most of them are doing very well and it isn't nearly as overwhelming as one might thing from the outside. Sure, the 2 that have tested us to the limit have provided lots of stress, and we have a couple more that border on heading that direction, but the rest are doing quite well.

So, we have a birthday to celebrate, spring sports to buy shoes and equipment for, and Easter clothing to either buy or wash and iron.

And here's some big news if I haven't shared it already.... Kyle has a girlfriend and she's coming to meet us tomorrow. This is the first time that he has ever had a girlfriend to whom he is wanting to introduce us, so this is a HUGE deal. She'll spend the day with us and then have supper.

So, while the kids are asleep I'm going to tackle this big project from work and see how far I get...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

What Wondrous Love is This

Tonight we had a wonderful Maundy Thursday service. Seven of our twelve children were there and they all behaved perfectly.

It is such a wonderful feeling to be at peace, surrounded by children who are acting appropriately, singing:

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down
Beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb,
Who is the great I AM,
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
While millions join the theme, I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free
I’ll sing His love for me,
And through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And through eternity I’ll sing on.

Things Don't Always (OK, they Seldom) Go as Planned

My plan this morning was to go to the Y at six instead of five since the kids are home from school and have been sleeping until 9 or 10 lately when they don't have school.

But Tony, the most volatile of the bunch, was up at six, so my plans were cancelled. Right now he is occupying himself and Rand (who who does have classes) has left. The others are still sleeping.

But my plan to get a lot done this morning ... including exercise -- was zapped in a moment. There is no way I can leave him here with as much fighting he's been doing lately. The risk is too great. If a kid woke up and did something to irk him, there would be nobody to break up the fight...

I have so much to do over the next few days and it will be very difficult with everyone home. It's all I can seem to think about, making my blog BORING.

Guess I should stop writing boring things and actually start working on the stuff I need to do.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Last Day Alone for a While

After taking two kids to therapy this morning, i will have the rest of my day alone. And then it will not happen again for a full week. Easter/Spring Break is here.

Changes to schedules are never easy for our kids. They tend to flip out. Last night, Mike, usually known as half of Mike and Kari, came over to fix the washer... and the dryer... and the railing .. and I finally had to encourage him to go home because it was almost 10:00 and there are enough things to fix in the house that he could have been here all night long.

While he was here, Dominyk decided to "take a poop" in the downstairs bathroom, which took forever and messed up the shower schedule. Jimmy and Tony got into a huge fist fight, resulting in Jimmy getting stuck on stupid to the point of meltdown as he threw items against the family room door. I was trying to manage the whole mess while MIke quietly fixed our appliances. At one point I asked him if he'd like to move into our house. He respectfully declined.

So transition is underway and everyone has to freak out. I hope that last night was the worst of it and they are ready to settle down. JImmy and Tony have really been clashing lately and Jimmy plays off Tony's anger to the point one of them just may get hurt. I stepped between them on Monday and that settled them down, fortunately, but that might not be a great plan as a general rule.

Enough things I need to do to keep me busy until I'm 116... if I live that long.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sadie's Essay

Sadie wrote this essay for a contest at school:

Right and Wrong

I thought and thought about choosing between right and wrong and I think that I got it now. I live in a family of 14 and some people in my family did some bad things. In making my own decisions about right and wrong, I do not want to follow my siblings who made bad choices.

There are a few of my brothers who have not done very many good things. Like for example, one of my brothers has stolen a car , given tattoos, gone drinking and, trust me, a lot more. Then I have another brother that has done not so good things like drinking, breaking our windows, and threatening other people. But you know what? They get help and right now one is in jail and the other one is in a detention facility. Both of them try but they have hard times too. I know that they can do anything that they put their minds to. Although they might not be able to come back home, I still love them as no other person. I know that people are not the same but in some ways we are and we have to live with the mistakes we make but my brothers do that if they are in jail or a detention facility. They know what they did and they want to change. And I know that no matter how many times they make mistakes, they can still change if they want to just like we all can.

So I think that by me telling a few of the things that a couple of my brothers did I think that maybe I could change my life by not going down that road and going on the right road. I don’t want to go down the wrong road. I think that we can all change our lives and we can all make a difference no matter how bad it gets because God will always forgive us.

Those Moments

Tonight I went to a routine wrestling "banquet" held at a local pizza place. Ricardo went with me, but of course, did not sit with me. I didn't mind though. I was enjoying my evening of relative peace and my diet coke.

As you will recall, Ricardo has never once wrestled. He started this year as a sixth grader, and was moved to the Jr. high because of his age at the end of first quarter. By the 2nd week of his Jr. High Wrestling season, the varsity coaches had asked him to wrestle varsity.

Tonight I was both shocked and VERY proud to sit there as he was given a letter (he lettered as a 7th grader who had NEVER wrestled before) AND to watch him receive a plaque. His team mates had all voted on the best new wrestler and he received the award. His grin when I told him how proud I was of him as we walked to the van was priceless.

There are lots of moments in parenting -- the not so great ones, and the great ones.

And this one, was one of those great moments. And the memory will never go away for either of us, regardless of what the future holds.

The Many Purposes of a Blog

I am sure if I asked you to think of the purposes of a blog, you would mention supporting others, venting feelings, connecting with people, showing off pictures ... the list goes on and on.

But today I am glad I have a blog because I will need it in preparing our taxes. And in a few weeks it will become important as we testify in court.

Mileage for things like going to Chemical Dependency Treatment Family Week are tax deductible... so I have been going back through blogs to get dates for those kinds of trips. And my list is a long one. ;-)

And then, since MIke is pleading not guilty for stealing our car and we have been subpoenaed to appear in court and testify on behalf of the county attorney, I will go back and read all the details of that week before I testify, knowing that I reported them accurately.

One other purpose of a blog is to point people's attention to other things that, in my opinion, are important. And today there is such a thing.

About 11 years ago I met someone online. She and I and one other woman here in MN became instant online friends through an old AOL adoption message board. We were all in the process of finishing our home studies to adopt waiting children. And, within the next 21 months our three families together would adopt 21 children. At that point in time we thought that would be a wonderful slogan for a show on Oprah where she might give us washers and dryers or something, but it never happened.

Fast forward several more years and I think we are at 32 kids between the 3 families. We have kept in touch over the years and seen each other off and on. And now, finally, one of these friends is being nominated for something and needs to win! Not only does she deserve it, but her winning this award would spread awareness throughout our state about older child adoption. And, in addition, the charity that she has selected to receive a donation is MOFAS -- the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

On a personal note, the story you will read on the website for the Woman of the Year is more than accurate, even though it was written by her mom (mother's can be biased). But she does not exaggerate the sacrifices that Michele has made over the years. So, if I don't have you convinced yet, head to the website and read her story and vote for her ... today and every day until the contest is over. I'd love to post here in a few weeks that she has won!

And, if you would like to share this site on your blog or among your friends that would be great too!

Way to go, Michele for making the top ten!!!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Rambling (but not very deep) Thoughts

Cindy's post last night was so honest -- such pure emotion. I've been there. Her last line is something I've thought to myself more than once. You'll have to go there to read it.

I didn't make it to the YMCA this morning. When Bart isn't here I don't sleep well, and last night was no exception. The thing most frustrating is that everything in my world was perfectly fine. I just couldn't sleep. And so, about midnight, after lying there for two hours, i decided that it might be better if I changed the alarm that was set for 5 a.m.

Bart is picking up Kyle to spend the night tonight. I haven't seen him for a while. It's nice to be at a point where I actually look forward to seeing him. Raising him was SO hard for me. He was our first older child and really didn't want a mom. He spent years triangulating and trying to cause friction between Bart and I, so there was lots of conflict surrounding him. I don't think we had even a conversation that wasn't an argument from the ages of 11-14.

Fortunately for Tony, we raised Kyle first. He is ten times more oppositional (which we did not believe possible) and also whines and cries (which Kyle never did). He is much more volatile and has a quicker temper. Last night I did not handle him well and my trip to the mall (where I hate going anyway) resulted in no purchases because I just couldn't stand the constant arguing and begging and whispering under his breath. Sadie went with us and didn't have fun anyway. I think she was just feeling sorry for me most of the time and wanted it all to be over as soon as possible.

I will parent alone again today as Bart is out of town until 10 tonight. I'm glad it's a school day. There is a sports meeting tonight that I have to attend as well. Soccer practice for Ricardo begins tonight -- and then other sports start soon. And of course, spring break is coming up. No school Thurdsay, Friday, Monday or Tuesday.

Busy days ahead.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Psychic Space and the Giggles

Having Jimmy and Salinda gone this weekend has provided me with some much needed psychic space. Jimmy usually has several demands and a meltdown or two a weekend, and Salinda's social life keeps us reeling giving her rides here and there and everywhere else. In addition her unpredictable moods always affect the family. They'll be home at 3:00 today and I'm planning to be gone for several hours after that.

Last night, Bart came down and asked me if I wanted to sneak out of the house and get a treat. Now, I was more than willing to sneak out, but the treat wasn't the reason as I ended up with sugar free frozen custard, which really defeats the whole point, but I digress. I bet you figured that I had given up on this fitness thing, but I haven't! I have just not taken time to blog about it, but I did this morning.

Anyway, last night we were discussing whether or not we could actually sneak out. The kids were all very occupied -- most of htem watching a movie that had just started. But Bart went ON and ON about how it might be impossible for us to sneak out because I'm such a LOUD person. I would probably trip, or step on the dog, or fall off the steps. He kept teasing me relentlessly about how the neighbors can hear my voice when I talk and how there's no way I could be quiet for the three minutes it took to get us out to the new car (pictured above and purchased yesterday so that Kyle can buy the PT Cruiser from us. And, just so you know, it's a lot older than it looks and we paid less than you'd think. He got a REALLY good deal on it.)

So, we decide to risk it and I make it all the way up the stairs and out the door without a sound. We think we have it made until Bart reaches for his keys to autostart the car and hits the panic button instead. At which point, I could not help but burst out laughing. I giggled off and on for blocks.....

Saturday, March 15, 2008

What Is the Point?

Twelve years ago when we started out this journey we had certain ideas of how it would turn out. They were, of course, naive ones -- we were going to take in the poor, sad foster children, fill them so full of love that they could not contain it, teach them right from wrong, be good role models to them, and they would soak it up like a sponge. They would be grateful for all that we did for them and within months, or maybe in extreme cases, a couple years, they would be just like other kids, whole and healed.

Fast forward twelve years. Twelve years of difficult parenting. Twelve years of being threatened, cussed at, lied to, stolen from, manipulated, and physically hurt. Twelve years of psych hospitals, police stations, psychiatrist offices, court rooms, therapists offices, child protective services investigations, and visits with school principals. Twelve years of tears, frustration, long arguments and conversations, and emotional pain.

(Now let me point out that that is the bad side. There are many good things I could be writing, but all of the things above apply and are helping me lead somewhere. Just wanted you to realize that I do see many positives as well. In addition, i am going to point out some of the negatives in our kids -- but that does NOT mean they aren't positives. again leading to a point.)

Twelve years later and what do we have: an oldest child who though he will graduate from college soon, may very well choose, once he is no longer receiving our financial support. to move on and not speak to us for months at a time. He is a taker -- and when he has taken all he can he may move on.

We have a 19 year old son who is finishing his first year of college but who cannot find a job, spends hours doing absolutely nothing, and has poor hygiene.

We have another 19 year old son who has 15 different legal situations he is involved in in the first year of adulthood, including seven felony charges. He is sitting in the county jail awaiting a trial that we have to testify at (because he stole our car).

We have a 17 year old son who is locked up in a juvenile detention facility because there is a lack of a better place for him as he is in county custody. He is refusing to take medication that helps him control aggression as he is convinced he doesn't need it.

We have a 16 year old son whose high grade is a D+. He has been stealing cash from every setting imaginable. He doesn't have friends among his peers and bumbles along socially.

We have a 15 year old daughter who is on probation and facing court hearings for several small legal charges. She has many marginal friends and is having major struggles with identity.

And I am not going to continue because you're getting the picture. Some of the younger kids are doing better, but they haven't hit the age yet where things have historically turned negative for our kids. And some of them are very difficult to parent.

So we didn't end up where we dreamed. Not only did the kids not get better after a few years, but most of them got worse the older they got.

As a person who likes to see results, I ask myself "what's the point?"

And then I remind myself that all I can control are the things I can control. I can control whether or not I do the right thing. I can control whether or not I do things with the right motivation. I can control how much I choose to love them. I can control what I give, how I respond, who I am.

But what I cannot control is how they respond to what I give. That is their choice (if, considering their histories, IQs, mental illness, organic brain damage, etc.) they actually can choose.

And the point is that each day I do what I am called to do, that I do the right things. That I love unselfishly and unconditionally, that I respond with patience and kindness under pressure, that I give all I can give, that I be the best person I can be.

And then I let go of my need for an appropriate response. I stop expecting that they will give in return, be grateful, give back. I realize that in this case, it's about me -- and what I do.

Easier said than done, as you can see in Cindy's blog. When you give as much as we do, to receive anger and hatred in return is mind-boggling and sometimes blood-boiling.

But all that I can control is me and so today I will continue to give knowing that the results may not be what I hope, but also knowing that I cannot control those results. All I can control is me. And maybe, just maybe, the changes that have occurred in me are why God asked me to do this anyway.

But I still hold out hope that someday, we'll see that it had something to do with them as well.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

After School When there are No PCAs

All our PCAs are on Spring Break. Dominyk has come home each night this week so that we can enjoy a meltdown together. Often he has one after school, but I usually am off giving a ride to other kids and i miss it because the PCA is here.

The meltdowns consist of him asking me for something he can't have or obsessing about something. Last night I made the mistake of telling him that we were going out for pizza at 5:15. So, from 4:00 until we left, while I was attempting to get something done, he sat in my office asking if we could leave now. We had a very pathetic routine going on. He would ask me the same questions over and over, "What time is it? When are we leaving? How much longer is it? Can we go NOW?" And I would patiently respond, give him answer, and remind him that we were meeting Mike and Kari and their kids and we wanted to get there at the same time. i would respond patiently for about 5-7 minutes. And then I would get frustrated and stern (especially if the project I was working on wasn't going well or something else was annoying me and I would raise my voice and say something horrible like, "DOMINYK ... you are going to HAVE to find SOMETHING else to DO until we leave. At which point he would scream, burst into tears and throw himself to the floor sobbing. "You don't have to yell at me!". And I would apologize and remind him that there were many other things he could be doing with his time besides sitting in my office asking me what time it was. He would finally calm himself, self-regulate, and then sit back in the chair in front of me and say, "What time is it? Can we leave now?"

The cycle repeated itself for 75 minutes.

Now, I am sure that you are asking yourself, "Why didn't this stupid woman just get up from her desk and spend time entertaining the child and save herself from all that hassle?"

And in retrospect I agree with you. But that was way to smart of an idea -- and I was trying to get a project done.

Maybe next time it happens . . . like TODAY . . . I will figure it out and leave the office with him.

Interestingly, though, once we did get to the pizza place, he spent most of the meal having similar discussions with me about other obsessions -- wanting a third glass of pop, wanting dessert when he hadn't had his pizza, etc. etc. etc.

During the meal I said to him, "You can ask me 3,000 times and I will say no every time. Because we are with Mike and Kari, and even if you throw a huge fit they are still going to be our friends."

And a few minutes later he had had enough, stomped out of the room, throwing 3 chairs to the ground and screaming, I'm sure with a few curse words added, "I don't care about you people. You're just trying to starve me." (or something similar).

And Kari turned to me and smiled and said, "We'll still your friends."

Ah the joys...

Coffee Shops, Court Hearings, and Setting Goals

I'm heading to the coffee shop again this morning to meet with a coworker who is going on maternity leave. She has to get me up to speed on her cases so that I can take over for her when the baby comes.

While we were at Salinda's court hearing, Bart checked Mike's status. Apparently he is pleading "not guilty" to stealing our car and has asked that it go to a trial. The hearing is in April. The public defender may get him off on a technicality since the police officers did hand the car over to him and he didn't drive it. However, he did joy ride it all over the state and refuse to return it.

But as soon as he is tried for that offense, even if he is found not-guilty, he will immediately be arrested and taken to another county to be charged with five felonies.

I have set some goals for myself this morning. Thought that might help me stay motivated. We'll see.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Vehicle of LIfe

Big relief. New hearing on April 2nd. Salinda plead guilty to disorderly conduct instead of domestic assault.

It's a little unnerving when the bailiff recognizes you so well and you see lots of people you know well when you are in that setting.

We were a little amused at the attorney's words when he told Salinda she was a "vehicle of life."

Court and Post Traumatic Stress

We have yet another court hearing. It seems as though the last four years have been filled with consistent court hearings, many of them really not pleasant at all. They have at times shaken me to the very core. At times the spoken words have been very difficult to handle, but the unspoken ones have been worse. The amount of stress that is involved in the whole legal process, especially in regards to a CHIPS (Child in Need of Protection or Services) case, with us on the "abusive or neglectful parents" side of things, is beyond anything I'd ever experienced before.

Salinda has court this afternoon for her "domestic assault" charges from two weeks ago when she punched me. it is going to mess up her "stay of adjudication" and now she will have a trial for stealing the car. I am still battling feeling guilty for calling 911 even though I know I shouldn't. It could easily mess up her future. But then I remind myself that she is making her own choices.

Interestingly, her behavior has been nearly perfect since that incident. At least she appears to be from the outside. And the inside we'll deal with as we go along. It's so very hard to watch someone

Even though court will not be geared at us and should be fairly uneventful, I am still stressed about it. Going just brings back lots of memories that are unpleasant. I do not look forward to today.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Beginning the Day Tired

I do not enjoy beginning my day feeling tired. Last night I could not fall asleep. Had that unsettled feeling that something was wrong, but everything here is fine. I tossed and turned for hours and this was the morning that I had determined I was going to head back to the YMCA. So I got up early and went and now I'm feeling really tired.

There is a late school start today so even though it's 8;30, the kids are still sleeping and fairly quiet. I will get them up soon and we'll start the morning routine.

Be sure to scroll down and look at the pictures from the past couple days that Blogger finally let me post...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Spaghetti and Big Dreams

Tony's Boy Scout Troop had a spaghetti dinner last night. Ever seen a cuter spaghetti eater?

And tonight he was talking to me about the plans he has for the future. "I'm not goin ta college?" he remarked.

I replied, "I thought you wanted to be the President of the United States?"

He said, "Yup!"

I said, "Well, you can't be the president without going to college."

"OK, I'll go" he replied.

Stress Free Weekend

A few pictures from Saturday night -- we had 23 people here for dinner. With the camera angle and where I was sitting I didn't get everyone in the shot, but we had some fun times (just don't look at the faces in the pictures above to determine how much fun). And of course, the food was great. Bart was amazing as always and Kari's fruit salad and Sue's cherry chocolate cake were amazing (even though I only had a very small slice of cake, oh dieting police out there).

We had a really good weekend. There was very little stress here, and yesterday we saw a movie and ate out together for lunch -- all 11 of us plus a friend of Salinda's... lots of good stuff. Everyone seemed fairly happy and content. Salinda had plans here in town all weekend, which is really good. She's not been doing that for the past several weeks and has made herself miserable wishing she was somewhere else.

And now we're back to the activities of a busy week. The schedule is going to start filling up again with 4 kids in spring sports and other things happening here.

The transition from weekend to weekdays, especially with daylight savings time, should be interesting.

Oh Jimmy

Yesterday Bart asked the congregation, 'If everyone who had been in church at least twice in the last year were here at the same time, how many would that be?"

Someone guessed, "400." Bart said, "No, that's low."

So Jimmy, in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, yelled out "200???"

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Solemn Visit with John and a Great Poem

Recovering from a morning of housework, she loads three of her twelve children into the dirty van. She's tired, but in a great mood, feeling fulfilled and content. She takes a look at her children. The 16 year old, jobless, high grade a D+, glasses on crooked, and hair too long looks over at her from the front seat. He looks at her with the glazed look and the goofy grin that characterize him and she makes a mental note that she better keep reminding him to brush his teeth as they look like they haven't been touched in weeks.

The middle seat holds a 13 year old daughter, full of energy and life, already singing to the radio -- loudly and off tune, though she doesn't ever realize it. Her brothers do, but this day they choose to let her belt it out without comment. They are all feeling good, so why ruin the moment?

The backseat holds one of our two newest sons. Not very motivated, often bored, she smiles at him because, even though he is a bit lazy, he is cooperative and kind. She is amazed that she can love a child this much having only known him for 4 months.

Outside the air is cold. Dirty snow on the ground, little flurries in the air. But the inside of the van it is warm and she cranks the CD as she and her daughter begin to sing. They smile their way through "Bubbly", joke about how Hakunah Matata is about farting, and sing one of their very favorite songs at full blast.

They enjoy it so much, they rewind it and sing it again while the boys roll their eyes at the racket. The mood in the car is upbeat, loud, and everyone is glad that Mom is happy and acting crazy.

The van pulls up and after several mishaps -- wrong door, no answer, second door, no answer, waiting, "don't touch this bar", "oh no, Jimmy, you touched the bar" alarm goes off, run-away drill instituted among 100 residents, staff glaring -- this interesting partial family enters the facility. They check in and wait in an old school cafeteria with a few other families visiting their sons.

Then the moment comes and her son, a skinny eight year old when she met him, now a stocky 240 pounds of muscle, walks in the room. He needs a haircut, he's wearing "weekend uniform" -- sweats and a t-shirt. Long hugs for everyone.

And they sit for 90 minutes and talk. He pours out his frustrations that he is sitting there, making no progress, with his 18th birthday rapidly approaching. No job, no money, no plan. He talks about his desire to connect with his birthmom to ask her why she never did what it took to get him back.

She watches her near grown man cry. She holds his hand. She wipes away his tears. She assures him that no matter how old he is, that she and his dad will always be there for him. She mentions that he might wait to confront birth family until he is emotionally stable and has some success under his belt, not the day he turns 18. She tells him that they will help him figure it out. He weeps silently. He is scared.

She is scared too. What will become of him? Will he make good choices? Or will she be visiting him in a prison facility several months down the road? Will he accept his parents guidance or make choices that head him down a road from which he can never return?

He hands her a note addressed to Mom and Dad. It's a poem that he found that he has changed some. Here is what it says:

My past will always haunt me
a past that will always be
but I am a better person now
having learned the better part of me.

With my arms open wide
and a heart full of pride
I can now express to you
Just what i feel inside.

You tried to lead the way
yet I went astray
and of course, I then became
more stubborn, just the same.

Though you felt I was a rebel
I know that you could tell
I was only trying to find where I belong
Just wanting to sing my very own song.

But know that you were always there
so please put away all despair
for you always mattered
and I always did care.

Believe me when I say "I love you"
Because it's so very true
I know how much you love me
I've learned of love because of you."

She read the note. And she shed a tear. And he shed another. And for just that moment they both knew that everything that had happened in the past, and with everything that will happen in the future, that there is always love.

The visit is over and the family heads back into the crisp cold air. Shivering, they turn on the heat, and a CD, much more mellow this time, plays in the background. Subdued by the somber visit, everyone is quiet now, each thinking, nobody talking.

And as she returns home, the highs and lows of the last nine years come pouring through her mind. And she is both sad for the losses and grateful for the opportunity to have known, raised and loved this troubled boy/man.

And at the end of the quiet ride they arrive home, ready to enter chaos again, knowing somehow, that how they have chosen to live their lives really does matter.

This is my day, our life, our gift from God.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

At This Moment

All is perfectly right in my world. I am sitting in my office alone, early on a Saturday morning, and nobody but Bart is awake. He is off doing housework which should make me feel guilty, but actually at this moment, makes me feel lucky and blessed. I am going to join him soon and help because I worked late yesterday afternoon and evening and got a LOT done. I am not caught up, but I am very close to having my inbox empty for the first time in I don't know how long. I know that it was before October 4th because my oldest email was from that date.

Yesterday, the biggest news I could blog about was Wilson's trip to the doctor for an pre-finalization physical which was uneventful and very fun. We had a wonderful time, he and I -- and he charmed the examining physician's assistant continuously. He was adorable. As you can see. In the first picture above he was pointing out all the different fish to me on the ceiling light overhead (It's really cool -- like an aquarium, hard to explain).

It's nice to have nothing disastrous to report from yesterday.

Last night Salinda spent the night at a girlfriends house and Jimmy spent some time at the YMCA. The other kids were here, quietly electronically stimulating themselves while Bart took a couple of kids to the grocery store. The night was peaceful and calm.

I woke up this morning knowing that Tony will be gone at Saturday school all morning, as will as Ricardo. Salinda will be gone most of the day. Leon, Jimmy, Sadie and I are heading to see John this afternoon and Mike and Kari and their family -- as well as our friends, Tim, Sue and Sarah -- are coming over for dinner.

So at this moment -- with a good yesterday, a peaceful and productive last night, and a day of activities I look forward to -- I feel great. It's been a long time since I have had this feeling, and I guess that without the contrast of the feelings of the past few weeks, i wouldn't understand just how good this feels -- just to feel OK. Giving thanks, i guess, that life has peaks and valleys, because without one, we wouldn't recognize the other.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Jr. High Music Concerts

Last night Bart and I both went to Tony's concert. As I sat there for almost 90 minutes I had many things going through my mind.

1) Who would ever want to be a middle schooler? I was remembering my years as I watched the gawky, self-conscious boys and the silly equally or maybe more so self-conscious girls and was so glad I never had to do that again. Awful years for me. For everyone I think.

2) Only a complete saint could be a Jr. High Teacher. Ick. Right now we have 3 seventh grade boys and that is more than enough. I cannot imagine standing in front of 30 or 40 of them all day long. Torture if you ask me.

3) My kid fit in. Which is pretty scary. But I think that school events provide good perspective. Sometimes when our kids are annoying we tend to forget that all kids their age are fairly annoying. As I watched all the kids I realized that they all are pretty much acting the same way -- at least in that setting.

4) Bleachers are horribly uncomfortable, especially when you already have cramps and a back ache.

5) It takes a long time to provide a concert when you have to switch back and forth between different choirs. I think we spent half of the concert watching kids move from one set of chairs to another.

6) There are a lot of people who were not raised the way my mama raised me. I could not believe the number of people who just stood up and left when their son/daughter was done with their part of the program. I understand that some of those people might have valid reasons... but it couldn't be that ALL of them had plans at 8:15 on a Thursday night. I was taught that the polite thing to do is to wait until the concert is OVER before you walk out.

7) Tony was glad we were both there. He couldn't say that, of course, but the smile of recognition when I sat down next to Bart and looked up at him was enough. He's on the end in the picture above.

So, #7 makes up for the frustrations of #s 1-6. It was cold out last night and I had to park ... oh it felt like 13 miles from the entrance ... but his smile made it worth the trip. And even though as soon as we got home he started telling me how awful I was, I know that for a couple seconds, I made him smile, just by showing up. And that might just be enough.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Birthdays, Being Wrong and Being Right

(Picture has nothing to do with post -- girls in August of 2002)

Last night I had a dream that Mike got out of jail and moved home. It was a bad dream because Bart and I were in disagreement over how to handle the situation and Bart was very angry with me. It left me with an unsettled feeling. And then this morning had an email from some networking site that Mike had me join a while back that tomorrow is his birthday. Yes, I knew that. He will be turning 19 from jail. Bart wrote him a letter, which is not in violation of the harassment restraining order, but otherwise there will be no contact. It's sad really -- that in order to keep our other kids and our possessions safe that we can't have contact with him.

Last night Bart found himself in the nasty predicament of needing to confront me about some of the ways I parent. Confronting me is no treat. I'm not exactly a gracious receiver of criticism. Especially when it is coming one of THOSE people. You've met them, right? One of those people who is so smart and has such a wonderful personality that they seldom do anything wrong AND they are usually right about other people too. By the end of the conversation, I realized he was right and had to admit that I was wrong and could improve. Ick. Gotta hate it when that happens.

I did have a situation though where I did the right thing. My oldest daughter came up with another ridiculous - not well thought out - plan. When she presented it to me, I was frustrated. It made no sense. And when I explained to her why it wasn't going to work she, of course, was angry with ME. Hey now, I wanted to say, Don't shoot the messenger.

I didn't respond perfectly at first -- typical back and forth teenage girl and her stupid mother thing -- and she stormed out. I spent a few minutes getting myself back on track and then later headed up to talk to her. Last week, I avoided her when she was angry and things kept escalating, so I was determined not to go down that road. By the time I got back to talk to her she had given up her plan. I told her that I was sorry that she might not get to do exactly what she had planned. And I reminded her again, that none of it was really my fault. I asked her to please be ready on time for church -- and she was, and she acted appropriately the rest of the night.

Sometimes this journey in parenting is difficult and I don't do a very good job at it. But like I told Bart, if I can make a little change every day, if I improve just a tiny bit, every single day, maybe by the time the kids are grown and out of the house, I'll actually be a good parent.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Aggression and the Closet Dweller

Our first child, arriving at 20 months of age is now 13. Tony has been a constant spokesperson, unknowingly, for the "heredity" portion of the "heredity vs. environment" argument. Since he was our foster son, we met his birthmom and got to know her over the years. His personality is so similar to hers, along with other things, and even though he has lived with us for most of his 13 years, our environment hasn't seemed to impact him much. He is volatile, has an incredibly low fuse, a strong temper, and is getting more aggressive by the day. He is hard to redirect and he has this little magnet inside him that is attracted to conflict and stress and is drawn, as if not by choice, into a heated situation.

For example, my office is the "talking place" when someone gets in trouble. There are two chairs in here that face my desk and while we have more good talks than bad talks, many of the children have been interrogated and consequenced in that chair. Many children have had that chair as their home base for a meltdown and a few of them have been "stuck on stupid" in that very chair. When a child is in the office and the door is shut, nobody is supposed to come in. But it is as though Tony can hear my office door shut from anywhere in the house and makes his way down here quickly to open the door if it isn't locked, or bang on it if it is. And in the middle of a stressful argument, the last thing that we need is Tony's 2 cents, which is usually more like $2.00.

As long as this was contained in the house, Tony was doing OK. But lately it is spreading to other settings. If there is roughhousing at school or church he makes a beeline to the center of it. And then he takes things too far, resulting in him being asked to stay home from youth group this next week and having in school suspension in school on Monday. But he doesn't learn -- as yesterday he came home reporting some scuffle where someone's head was getting shoved into a locker but "nobody saw Mom." Grrr.

Dominyk was our youngest for 11 years and if you have followed my blog very long you have read many stories about this interesting kid. But his new habit is very interesting indeed. After supper, around 7 he disappears and without a word to anyone goes to sleep in the closet of his bedroom and stays there until morning. He likes it in there, he says, and we don't really care where he sleeps if he is quiet, sleeping, safe and in his room. it's just a little odd and hard to get used to, and sometimes it makes me forget his evening medication.

I was dragging out some old pictures the other night (much easier now that you just have to drag them with a mouse click) and thought it would be fun to put some pictures here of the kids before I started blogging. These pics are of Tony and Dominyk at Halloween in 2002 -- when Tony was 7 and Dominyk was 6.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Had to Try It

Kari started this this morning and I had to take the test. I'm not sure it's completely accurate, but those of you who know me well will probably see a couple things you think are true:

You Are a Colon

You are very orderly and fact driven.

You aren't concerned much with theories or dreams... only what's true or untrue.

You are brilliant and incredibly learned. Anything you know is well researched.

You like to make lists and sort through things step by step. You aren't subject to whim or emotions.

Your friends see you as a constant source of knowledge and advice.

(But they are a little sick of you being right all of the time!)

You excel in: Leadership positions

You get along best with: The Semi-Colon

The Little Things

At 3:30 a.m. we had no running water. At 5:15 we still didn't have running water. Not good. I spent some time looking at the City Website and trying to figure out who to call to no avail. Dialed some numbers but they weren't the right numbers. Then I just spent some time lying in bed envisioning our morning with no water. I wasn't having a good day dream at that point... i could picture the girls declaring they could not go to school like THIS -- and the full toilets and everyone with dirty teeth and our smelliest boys, who shower in the morning, not showering. I was stressing myself out.

So, I prayed. I said, "God, I know this is a little thing in the midst of the universe, but it would sure be great if You could just step in and do this one little favor for us. It would make our morning so much more pleasant."

And then I couldn't lie there any more. I had to go test it. And sure enough, there was water.

Now, all of you who want to can just go ahead and come up with some nice conclusion that has nothing to do with God -- the guys from the city were working on it, the timing was coincidental, whatever you want to conclude.

But to me, it's those little things that I have seen since I was a small child, that convince me that there is a God out there who cares about me and the little things in my life. And knowing that makes relying on God for the big things all the easier.

Monday, March 03, 2008

A New Week Ahead

It's good that life is a cycle. Every day is a new day, every week and new week, every month a new month, every year a new year. In fact, if you think about it, every day is New Year's Day because today begins a 12 month period that will end on this day a year from now.

The word new is a good one because it means that we can change some things to make it different than it was before. Today, this week, this month, this year don't have to be the same as the last one if we don't want them to be.

Now, obviously, there are many things we can't change. I can't, for example, wake up this morning and say, "I'm going to do something new. I'm going to stop being a mother." Nor, can I move to a new town all the sudden .. well, you get the picture.

But today I can change one thing to make this new day a better one that yesterday. Maybe I decide to try, for one day, to not raise my voice once (a pretty significant challenge for me). Or maybe I can determine that each of my kids, even the most prickly, is going to get a good hug today -- that would be different from yesterday. Or perhaps, I could determine that I want to have a clean desk this week ... and clean it first thing.

The point I'm making is that we are not powerless to change things. Or maybe I just need to personalize it more and say that I am not powerless to change things I don't like. There is always something I can do to make things better than they were. The possibilities are endless. The only key is believing that I can change them, and taking steps forward to do so.

And so I'm thinking this morning, about one thing i can do this week to make things better than they were last week. I'm not sure yet what that might be, but the fact that I'm thinking about it takes me a lot farther towards change than the weeks I spent in a semi-depression thinking nothing would ever get better.

So, what are YOU going to change?

Sunday, March 02, 2008


Yesterday in the van, Wilson farted. As you can imagine, having as many teen and preteen boys as we do, farting is a topic of many of our conversations.

So yesterday Wilson farted and I jokingly scolded him, "WILSON"

"I have to warm up my seat" he said.

So today at the dinner table, where all farts must be discussed at great length and with great detail, we mentioned Wilson farting to warm his seat in the van.

and his ever so cute response

"Well y'all keep that van so freezing. I have to do SOMETHING to defend myself from the cold!"

Dang, I love that kid.

It's Sunday Morning Once Again

Almost everyone is still asleep and I am up at my desk. The stacks of stuff here are a constant reminder that I am getting farther and farther behind, but I have a long list of things to do today that will keep me away from the things that need to be done here.

There has been almost zero stress here this weekend. The kids even left Bart and I alone last night for almost 2 hours to watch a movie, which hardly ever happens. We watched Pan's Labyrinth, Spanish movie with English subtitles. It was a bit gory, and not my kind of movie at all, but the ending made it worth watching. A real redemption theme and a story about making the right choice in the middle of horrific circumstances. The willingness to sacrifice happiness for that of someone else was a powerful statement.

Today's agenda after church, may, or may not include, another video, a trip to the store with a couple of kids who want to go, a trip to return Salinda's boyfriend home (a three hour adventure) and possibly some time to get things done at my desk,

It's funny to hear about y'all down south with your 70 degree weather doing outside chores. We still have a foot or more of dirty snow on the ground that's been accumulating since November. But we do have a high of 37 for today. I'm sure my kids will be wearing shorts. It is, after all, above freezing!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Preaching to Myself

I spoke at an adoption orientation at a Christian agency this afternoon. There are times when I speak and I can take it or leave it. Mediocre at best. And then there are times when the audience is amazingly receptive and the message is crystal clear. Today was one of those days when the connection was palpable and people were laughing when they were supposed to laugh and crying when they were supposed to cry and I almost choked myself up.

Here were three of my most significant points:

1) We do not know the end from the beginning. When we start any journey that God calls us to, we begin only knowing the first step.. We may be naive or frightened of the unknown, but like Abraham, God tells us move forward to an unknown land. The adoption journey is seldom an easy one. Even with infant adoption of healthy infants, there is often a great number of valleys, very low ones. Disappointments are a part of the journey. God calls us to obey and he often does not tell us what will come our way. But he promises to go with us. And that's all we need to know.

2) Being the adoptive parent of tough kids is one of the most revealing journeys into the heart of God. God takes us, as His children, and calls us his own. He claims us and says "You are my child." He wraps his arms around us and says, "I will never let you go. You are mine." And then God holds on while we reject Him, while we don't believe He is our Parent, when we rebel, and run away, and fight Him, kicking and screaming. We go through those "teenage years" of our faith journey struggling with who we are and who we want to be. We walk away from God sometimes, reject Him, are spiteful and angry and rude. And yet like us as adoptive parents, He still reminds His children that they belong to HIm.

3) I have mentioned being envious of those who have chosen an "easier" road. I wonder sometimes what it would be like to sit back in a near perfect world that I had created for myself where risks were calculated, danger was always avoided, and life was neat and tidy. But today, when I was looking out at all these couples getting ready to begin the adoption journey I realized that they had a choice to make. Which life were they going to choose? And while either choice is perfectly fine, I KNOW which one is what God called me to do. I looked up this post from almost exactly 2 years ago and it still fits so amazingly well.

I drove away knowing that a message had been delivered and received. But more interestingly, I realized I had been preaching to myself. It was me who needed to remember that God was going with me. And it was I who needed to hear again the message of claiming my children, like God claims me, grabbing hold, enveloping them in my arms, and saying, "You're my child, I'll never let you go." And finally, I realized that regardless of the times when I long for that neat safe predictable existence that so many people crave, that in reality, it's the wild ride I want.

A big bonus was that the four children I brought with me, all adopted through this agency, were perfectly well behaved, cute, and charming. They sat with me in front of the group as I told their stories. They made me proud. And our new boys got to see the Jolly Green Giant for the first time. ;-)

And on my ride home I had a "soul deep sense of being at home in this world despite it's dangers." It was reaffirmed that God is with me, that I'm doing what I want to do, and that I need to keep holding on to my kids, no matter what, just like God does for me.

Pretty good use of 4 hours on a Saturday I'd say.

Beat Me To It

I was going to Blog about our lunch with Mike and Kari yesterday, but Kari beat me to it.. In fact, my post was going to be very similar to hers, but a little different.

Yesterday we had a couple of pretty profound moments as we shared about our struggles. We have hard lives. We get tired. We don't do our best. We feel discouraged. But being surrounded by people who "get it" is the best comfort ever.

I have also been encouraged lately by the support of those who may not "get it" the way that other adoptive parents do, but who are willing to try and be supportive. Our church family has been incredible lately, as have others. As we have shared our pain, they have stepped forward and said "we care about you".

I used to lie to myself and say that the only people who could truly help were those who had been through what we've been through. And although I must confess that there is a kindred spirit between us adoptive parents who have kids with serious issues, it is not fair to suggest that the love, support and prayers of those with lives very different from ours doesn't count.

And during these very difficult past weeks, we have seen people who may not understand what it is like to be us, go out of their way to send emails, cards and notes, to call, to offer a hug or a handshake. And I'm finding that the fact that they are willing to "get their hands dirty" by learning about us and attempting to understand our lives means way more than I realized.

So to those of you who "get it" and those of you who care enough to try to, thank you. Your support is amazing. And, since Kari already profoundly blogged about the topic, I'll just quote her and agree that it's great to know "we've got people."