Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Saying Goodbye to the Year

2008 has not been our worst by far... in fact it may have been the best of the last five. It obviously wasn't without struggles, but there have been a lot of positive things that have happened as well.

Tonight we had a wonderful meal that Bart prepared and then Mike and Kari came over with Adqam and Anna and we played games and had snacks. Now Dominyk and Wilson are watching a PG movie in our room, while everyone else is watching a PG-13 movie in the living room (minus Leon and Ricardo who left with Adam). Everyone seems to be content at the moment. We will stay up until the ball drops in NYC at 11 and then call it a night. It's been 2009 in China since ten this morning -- maybe we should have just gone with that and we could be in bed aready.

I had a surprise trip to pick up Salinda at her boyfriend's .... I still have not heard the whole story. She is sullen and quiet and I'm not going to pressure her to talk to me until she is ready. She was threatening to leave tonight, but she seems to have settled down.

Another year sounds good to me -- fresh starts are always good.

Kari and I were talking about how maybe we should have some contests in 2009 that our families could actually win. Most broken windows? most arrests? most psycho hospitalizations? Other ideas?

Since I Haven't Taken Time to Do It RIght

Let me direct you to Kari and her profound Prayer for New Year's Eve.


Remember the song from Annie where she and Daddy Warbucks are signing a duet and she sings, "Yesterday was plain awful," and he sings, "You can say that again!" and she sings, "Yesterday was plain awful, but that, was then."

Well, maybe not, but I remember it and there were about 3 hours yesterday where I was closer to pulling out every single one of my now suddenly greying hairs...

Tony and Dominyk were beyond horrible for some reason. They were hyper, would not go outside, were not going to do anything I suggested, and were fighting constantly. I was trying to get work done, which was obviously a mistake on my part.... because it wasn't going to happen. I should have just quit trying but I kept hoping that they were going to settle down....

They never did. Finally, after supper, everything calmed down and I was able to keep working for a while, but for those few hours I was really wondering if I was going to make it.....

Here's hoping that, just like Little Orphan Annie predicted, the sun will come up today. It hasn't yet, but I'm pretty sure it's going to.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

January Support Group Schedule

We'll be meeting every week in January on Wednesdays. Here's the link explaining when and where. Email us if you plan to attend...

This morning I was feeling sorry for myself

and then I had someone send me the link to this video. It won't let me embed it so you'll have to click -- but you really have to watch this.

So after a few tears, I'm ready to stop whining..... and if you are feeling sorry for yourself, you will be ready to stop whining as well after you see this. What an inspiration.

Worth the Wait

Last night I stayed up late waiting for Bart to finish this blog post.

I think it was worth the wait.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Working definition of Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Being stuck in the terrible twos for decades.

This definition was clearly demonstrated by three or our children in the last 15 minutes

If I would have wanted triplet toddlers i'd have gottn small ones. Not ones whose combined weight is over 800 pounds.

Another R-Rated Meal

Jimmy came home convinced that someone at school told him that he has a hawk. He thinks it is really funny and believes it is a naughty word "girls want to touch my hawk." We've asked him not to say it, but of course, that is like trying to stop the tide....

Anyway, tonight we were talking about how many boys we had at the table and i finally concluded the discussion by saying "well, Sadie and I are glad we don't have one."

JImmy, by this time, lost in the conversation, thought we were talking about the mini banana cream pies in front of him. "You and Sadie don't have one?" he asked innocently.

Fortunately, everyone helped him understand what was going on before he offered us one.

We would have declined anyway. Sadie and I prefer to be hawk-less.

He's Back

After not blogging for a month, Bart is back.

Never Enough

Bart preached a very good sermon yesterday about our responsibilities in church and at home .... what we needed to do and why. And I realized how much more I could be doing... or should be doing ... in so many areas of my life. And then I asked myself, "When is enough enough? When can I consider myself to be doing my part in society and in the world?"

And then I further asked myself how there can be adults who are watching 3-4 hours of TV on average a day? I do admit that I am on the computer too much and sometimes the things I am doing are fun, but a lot of the time I am working on something that I feel is going to impact the world or help other people.

So I don't have any answers, but it seems to me ironic that there are those who never seem to be able to do enough and those who don't feel compelled to do anything much..... a few bucks in the salvation army bucket at Christmas and they are good for another year.

20% of the people doing 80% of the work.

I just wish I could determine at what point I'm doing enough and should be satisfied with my contribution.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

In the Spirit of Talking about the Good Things

If you've followed our blog at all, you know that raising John was an incredible challenge -- one that involved 6 or 7 psych hospitalizations, residential treatment, juvenile detention facilities, the boys ranch, CHIPs petitions, and outbursts of violence that made him unsafe to live in our home. But to his credit, regardless of everything that happened, he never blamed us. He did his share of manipulating the system, but he never once made false allegations nor thought things were our fault.

He is currently doing so well it's amazing he's the same person. Now 18 he is living in a group home and finishing high school. He can come home to visit and never asks to do anything -- thus we never say no, which was his trigger. So we have no issues and he is helpful, pitches in to do housework without being asked, for example, and is very loving.

He too, had a Christmas poem that he either wrote or copied from somewhere that he put in a card for us. He also enclosed this picture of the three of them before they moved in and on the back wrote, "To you, Mom and Dad: I will always be this little boy inside of you and me.... Love always, John."

I love you two so much and I wanted to thank you for all you have done for me, good or bad. So here's a little something I put together for you two because this is a very happy day for all. So that's that -- take a look at the picture. Thank you for taking me in nine years ago.

My love's I have tried with all my being to find and have found.

A form comparable to thy own,
but nothing seems worthy, each facet of being
your being, whether it is physical or spiritual
for you two I will always admire
But I do not wish to release
I wish to stay entrapped forever with you for all eternity, our hearts always as one.

For you two I will always admire, always admire, always.

Love from your son John.

Mature Beyond His Years

Leon is such a great kid. Other than the fact that he is horribly unmotivated in school and achieves way below his ability level, there would be no complaints from me about anything about him. Unfortunately, I often forget to highlight good things in our blog, so before I filed this, I thought I'd share the card he bought Bart and I for Christmas:

For Very Special Parents with Thanks for All you Do

Until we're grown, we never know or fully realize
how wonderful our parents are, how gentle and how wise --
We simply take for granted, from day to passing day,
Each sacrifice they make for us in their own loving way...
But as we grow we finally learn, the way that children do,
how much their love has really meant, how thoughtful they've been, too...

And so this comes with all the thanks you both deserve and more,
For there are no dearer parents than the one's this greeting's for!

Merry Christmas with Love Always...

and he simply signed it, Love, Leon

And remember, he came at 12.

Case in Point

Last night we had Mike and Kari over and they brought supper. Now THOSE are the kind of friends to have. And Mike did some work in our house while they were here. You can't beat that

Later in the evening when Anna started to lose it as she does every night, Tony started to get more agitated and annoying. After being especially button-pushing for a while, Bart said, "Tony I'm worried you might be developing some antisocial behaviors" to which he replied . . .

"Screw You Bart."

But there is a good thing about kids turning 18

In reading Julie's comment, I remembered that I forgot to note that we still do look forward to that 18th birthday. Not because it gets easier, but because it is different. We are no longer legally responsible. It is such a freedom to know that there will be no more threats to our financial situation because of the behavior of our children. It's great realizing that the Child Protection System is not going to sweep in and blame us for what they have been doing. We are no longer required by law to feed or clothe them or let them live with us.

And so yes, that makes it a relief... it is different world when you don't have to worry about those things -- a kind of freedom -- but it also makes it morally ambiguous.

So 18 is not a solution, but it is a relief. So keep counting the days Julie. ;-)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Adult Children

Parenting our adult children sucks. Sorry, did i just say that? Well, yes, I did. And it does.

We have an agreement with Rand. Free room, board and transportation if he works 40 hours a week. If he doesn't work 40 a week, then he has to make up for it by working for us. And he doesn't want to. He argues and avoids and makes things so difficult. He's 20 and a half, and the way things are looking he will be living here for the rest of our lives. This morning Bart overheard him saying he "doesn't have to put up with this S***".

Well, listen buddy, you don't. Go on, move out. Take your stuff and walk somewhere. I told him this too. It's US who don't have to put up with it, not you. We're not the ones who are only making a hundred bucks a week. That's you. Frustrating.

And Kyle sometimes... well, let's just say he's often quite irritable with his father, to the point of making me want to scream.

Mike, of course, is in prison, but his antics as an adult have been troubling.

John to his credit is doing much better as an adult than he did as a teenager. He's downright fun to have around.....

But why I was thinking that parenting was going to end when these kids turned 18? It certainly hasn't -- in fact, sometimes it's harder.

I know we share the same plight as many do, but that still doesn't make it infuriating sometimes.

Friday, December 26, 2008

More Christmas Pics

Christmas Morning

Our Christmas tradition, after opening stockings, is to read the Christmas story and then pray. Following that, we start youngest to oldest and each open one present at a time. The oldest has the option of passing out gifts, and then it goes down the line. Kyle and Rand declined, so John was the gift deliverer. It only took us 90 minutes this year -- it has taken as long as three hours before.

After about an hour things started getting a little crazy with some wrapping paper balls being thrown, but overall it was a great morning.

Here are a few pictures.

Feeling Fortunate

I started blogging in 2005 when we were in the middle some really tough years as a family. After a year of blogging, Kari said,
"Your blog is like a serious car accident. You know you shouldn’t look, but you just can’t help yourself.”"
. And in a way it was.

But the last two days have been for our family about as normal of holidays as you could expect. Tony and Dominyk were both their worst selves, but all of the other kids were grateful and appropriate. Kyle's girlfriend, who we really like, was here with us and so were 11 of our 12 children. It was a very good two days.

Many of the other families who have large families like ours are not doing so well. Sounds like Cindy had a horrible day and even though I haven't heard from Paula, I know that life has been very troubling for their family. And even though Linda had a good day yesterday, they have had a real ride with their daughter the past months, year, decade? :-)

John has been home and 95% perfect. Salinda's attitude has not been better on her birthday in a few years, and she is back to her boyfriend's families for a few days with them. Kyle was appropriate and grateful and made a few unselfish decisions while he was home, which is a big step. Other than wishing that Tony and Dominyk's special needs didn't get magnified by 1000 on special days, it couldn't have been much better.

I have the upgrade to Photoshop and a book with lessons to go with it and I'm dying to use my day off today to work on a movie to promote the book which is rapidly moving toward editing completion. Now if I can keep myself from continuously wanting to work on email so I'm not so far behind next week, I'll be proud.....

Kids have gift cards to spend and we've talked about a family movie this weekend, so those are our big plans.....

And for those whose lives are so difficult at this time, we're praying for you!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Debut

My husband has a gorgeous voice, but he has never sung a solo or duet except when he does the communion liturgy. There is a woman in our church who has a wonderful and powerful voice and she has been asking him to sing with her for the last two and a half years. And he finally did last night.

As an introduction to the song, he asked the congregation at our 10:00 p.m. Christmas Eve service to think about children who may not be what we typically think of on Christmas morning. Children in foster care and those waiting to be adopted, children in Zimbabwe who are eating seed corn that falls off of trucks, and the many other children in our world who are hungry or hurting.

And so as I sat sandwiched between Leon and Wilson, both of them affectionate and loving, and my husband singing the duet, tears filled my eyes and I was completely content, knowing that we are doing what God calls us to do, hard as it is sometimes. And the song that they sung, written by Carlton Young, has become my prayer for everyone today:

“Star child, earth child, go-between of God;
love child, Christ child, heaven’s lightening rod.
This year, this year, let the day arrive;
when Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive.

Street child, beat child, no place left to go;
hurt child, used child, no one wants to know.
This year, this year, let the day arrive;
when Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive.

Grown child, old child, memory full of tears;
sad child, lost child, story told in years.
This year, this year, let the day arrive;
when Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive.

Spare child, spoiled child, having, wanting more;
wise child, faith child, knowing joy in store.
This year, this year, let the day arrive;
when Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive.

Hope for peace child, God’s stupendous sign,
down-to-earth child, star stars that shine.
This year, this year, let the day arrive;
when Christmas comes for everyone, everyone alive.”

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

We Can Really Pack it In

Yesterday afternoon was a blur with me making multiple trips to the mall without ever going in it. Several interesting stories there, but the kids had their ideas and I loved to see them being generous, so I was willing to facilitate that, being grateful they were old enough I did not have to go in. I then went to a wrestling match and watched Leon and Ricardo lose their first round. WE had supper, and then Bart went back to watch them both win. Leon by default and Ricardo with points, as mentioned in this article. He has made it into the newspaper this week and on TV twice!! He's feeling pretty cool.

Then today we celebrated two birthdays ... and tonight we'll have two services. Kyle and his girlfriend are here, as is John. Dominyk and Tony were horrible at lunch but we made it through that round and now we just have the services, dinner and Christmas morning before the high anxiety dies down. For some reason they (Tony and Dominyk) just go completely nuts on holidays -- their very worst behavior just pours out everywhere.

Salinda has been very appreciative and helpful and seems quite happy with her gifts, as does Wilson. He is beyond great. The lady at the supermarket today saw his candles and that they come in boxes of 6. "Are you turning 6 today? He looked at her and loudly said, "TEN!"

The other night he was sitting on Bart's lap, looking darling and I was getting ready to make a comment and as though he could read my mind he said, "I"m precious, OK. so DEAL with it!"

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ohhhhhh Seeeeeee Deeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!

Dominyk's OCD is about to push me over the edge. I am not kidding.

He is bored. There is nothing to do here. He doesn't have anything to do.

And now, "Why can't I open Christmas presents early."

And he has been going through all of the things that used to belong to him that someone else broke and demanding that they pay him for them.

He has a cold and doesn't feel well. So everything is multiplied. And to tell you the truth, between him and Tony today, i'm now

long long day

and I'm tired....

My Hero

Sadie is just being wonderful. Yesterday she worked so hard helping clean and do laundry. And today she started again being helpful right away when she woke up.

But she is my hero at the moment because Dominyk got bored and he just started to begin a major meltdown demanding things he can't have. She swept in, saw the situation, and offered to play the Wii with him. She hates the Wii.

i'm going to pay her even though she's not asking me to!

Tis the Season

Can you tell that I've been crazy distracted? No blog entry yesterday which is almost unheard of.

All the kids are home and now old enough that they want to do their own shopping and each of them have in mind exactly where they want to go and when. In addition, they have very specific ideas and I am required to get everyone where they need to be. Last night, we had a wrapping party at an undisclosed location (supposed to be a surprise for the kids) and you would be appalled at my lack of attention to detail. We wrapped a LOT of presents.

This morning, Bart is off to get John and bring him home. Kyle and his girlfriend will be here tonight. I'm picking up Salinda and bringing her home as well. Wilson had a friend spend the night, so he needs to be returned home as well.

Tomorrow we will finish celebrating the 6 birthdays that we have between November 15 and Christmas day with Wilson's and Salindas (his is Christmas Eve, hers is Christmas Day). There are two evening services tomorrow (for which I am doing the powerpoints) and Bart is actually singing a duet in one of them -- his debut in that arena.

So we have good but busy days ahead. Fortunately with Sadie's help yesterday (she wanted to earn more money to get more presents) we got a head start on the cleaning.

So, once again we're off and running. Sorry for neglecting to update everyone yesterday.

Have a great day! ;-)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Supreme Agitation

We're having one of those mornings when many people are quite agitated -- especially Dominyk and he is driving everyone nuts. Dominyk is not feeling well and so everything is making him burst into screaming tears. Tony of course, loves the invitation to make things worse and push him over the edge.

Nobody can find what they need and we need to leave for church soon. I am taking a time out before I explode completely and make it worse.

I'm glad it's going to be a full week before anyone needs to get up for anything again. I'm so tired of the morning routine!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Cabin Fever

It hasn't been a bad day but the kids have been fairly bored. The snow continues to fall ... has been falling all day long. The kids are tot he point now where they are quite restless. It may be a long few weeks for them.....

Wilson made this cute gingerbread house at school this week....

Friday, December 19, 2008

I know, it's just unheard of but...

I want Christmas break to be here. I'm just so tired of driving to school in the morning -- getting everyone up and winterized and then having to plow my way through all these streets. Of course we have to live in the hilliest town in the state it seems and in order to get all the kids to school I have to go up and down these kills too many times. The slick roads are driving me crazy.

Bart and I are heading out to finish up shopping today. Things are falling into place. Now we just have to get the kids where they need to be to shop.

Less than a week and Christmas will be over. But I'm ready to listen to the sounds of them sleeping at 7 a.m. for a couple weeks.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

On Mornings Like These....

I'm glad for 12 years of parenting experience because I am not suicidal afterwards and I do not need a stiff drink nor even a massage. However, four or five years ago I would be physically ill after a day like today. I think I'll attempt to tell the story as it has some humorous moments as well as hopefully providing some insight into my new approach to parenting teens.

Before I begin I should mention that most of our mornings go like clockwork around here. We have a good routine and generally it works. But on mornings like this morning, it is very apparent that we have several children. It's a series of unfortunate events, if you will, or a cosmic collision of special needs like the one last Friday. It's just overwhelming.

The bad morning started last night with two people going to bed very upset and I don't even want to bother with the details of that, but when I woke up they were both still very crabby, setting everyone on edge. I had a 7:45 meeting which meant that I needed to leave right on time. Leon couldn't find any jeans nor could he find his toothbrush. Dominyk's backpack was missing. The girls were nasty and rude in the brief moment I interacted with them. Tony didn't want to get up.... so we left seven minutes late. We got to the van and Dominyk fell in the sludge in the garage so I had to go back in the house and grab another pair of jeans. I know that if i would have sent him to school he would have obsessed about his pants tot he point the school would have called, so I just got that taken care of. And poor Leon, after all the stress of the morning, had to give me a grade sheet to sign showing three Fs. That's going to change.

On the way to school, our African friend with the handicap called, so I picked her up and she took a long time to get to the car. I was 15 minutes late for an IEP meeting which resulted in no IEP. They are still accessing Ricardo's difficulties as being related to his language acquisition and I am far from convinced. I checked that I did not agree with their conclusions, but it won't matter.

And then I was really late for the meeting about Sadie, which was eye opening as I found out her attitude has been nasty for weeks now at school and she's got herself backed into a corner (sort of like our friend the Black Night that I posted this morning). Hopefully she'll turn this around but if not, I'll ride the ride with her.

And I returned to recalcitrant Rand, who is refusing too cooperate.

And rumor has it there might be snow coming which might result in Christmas break starting earlier than planned.

And I'm actually fine. So I'm grateful for all these years of parenting experience....

and now, back to work.


It's a Miracle

How any teenage girl survives to adult hood with those nasty looks, the eye rolling, and the TONE it's amazing their mother's don't just completely lose it and go ballistic....

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Rated PG-13... but if you have a kid like this, you'll recognize it immediately

Yesterday at support group another adoptive mom (hi, Deb) mentioned that this video is one that her husband used often to describe their son. In watching it again (it has years since I've seen it) I just laughed because I have a few kids like this. They are going to fight until the very end in whatever ridiculous obstinate fit they are having regardless of whether or not it is rational to do so. No matter how many consequences are given, no matter what is taken away, and when they have clearly lost the battle, their mouths are still running. Borrowing a phrase from Cindy, they get stuck on stupid. Anyway, other than to point out that it is a little gory and has a naughty word so be prepared, I need say no more. If you have kids like this, you'll recognize them here:

Another Day Begins

Lots of snow, lots of cold, and lots of nasty little attitudes parading around my house this morning. What were we thinking with this teenager thing.

A lot of people love to adopt a bunch of little kids, and I don't blame them for thinking that if you get them younger it means they will be easier... but the problem isn't now when they are all little. It is in 10 years when they are all teens. TAKE IT FROM SOMEONE WHO KNOWS. Juggling preschool and elementary school schedules is much different than juggling middle and high school schedules, not to mention things like probation, court dates, out of home placements, yada yada yada.

So here we go ... of to deal with another day of 9 kids at home, 6 of them teenagers.... 4 of them in Jr. High... what were we thinking?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Support Group Tomorrow

We're planning on having support group tomorrow. We'd love to have anyone who can join us come and share ideas, etc. Email me if you're planning to attend.

Sometimes You Don't Even Want to Blog It

As of yesterday we had had four of our children get arrested. One was for something minor a few years ago and the fine was paid end of story. And then of course Mike, who has been perpetually arrested for various things for years. John was arrested in August of 06, followed by his birth sister in September of 07. And now, December of 08, the third in the sibling group has felt the need to learn the hard way.

For years I have been telling Sadie the same thing that Cindy tells her kids all the time. If you don't learn how to respect authority here, learning it the easy way, then you're' gonna be taught it out there.

Apparently, when there is a problem at school and you defy the Dean of Students, and then you defy the principal, and then when you are told by the Liaison Officer at the school that your choices are to walk down the hall to the in school suspension room or go to the county jail, you shouldn't talk back and say "You can't do that to me."

Yup, our "little girl" ended up at the police station with Disorderly Conduct and Obstructing Arrest charges, or something similar. I hate to even blog it because she's really a sweet thing 95% of the time, but she let things get out of hand. Already the rumors are flying around school because she was so defiant and fighting back with the officer so much that he had to cuff her to get her out of the building.

Heavy sigh. Of course she is repentant now but it all starts over with her. Fortunately she has a good relationship with us and is healthily attached, so this may be the wake up call she needs. And having gone through this many times before, my stress level hasn't been affected that much, sad to say. However, going to pick her up in a horrible snow storm, with rapidly falling flakes and slippery roads, did get my adrenaline pumping, especially since Salinda was riding along on the way commenting on how stupid the school is that they can't control a 7th grader. THAT racked up my stress a bit, but I'm all better now.

I don't know if it is genetic or what, this absolute refusal to submit to authority, but dang it's gonna cost her. And she takes it to an extreme when she gets stuck that is even more serious than her older brother and sister. I've been telling her for several years now on the rare occasion when she gets stubborn, that something bad was going to happen if she didn't figure out how to deal with it. Sometimes I'd like to be wrong.

So now she has a long road ahead. She will have court. She will be put on probation. She will have consequences. She will have to do whatever the court says. And she will have to face the kids at school, after she gets done with her out of school suspension. She will have consequences at home. And when it's all said and done she will either never learn (Mike), learn the hard way (John) or learn after a year (Salinda). Or perhaps, it will only take once for her. I certainly hope so.

But in the long run the one thing I have learned is that very little I do at this point will make the difference. It was her decisions, not mine, that got here where she is, so I will simply help her navigate the mess she's in and hopefully she'll figure it out somewhere along the way.

Shopping Day

Bart and I are taking part of the day today to get Christmas shopping done. I'm making a list -- fortunately everyone is asking for high priced items and spending our limit in one gift, meaning much less shopping.

Hopefully the things we need will be in the stores and we'll finish up quickly as I'm not one who enjoys shopping. And hopefully since it's still dark at 7:15 and it's -8 degrees everyone else will think it is way too cold to be shopping and the stores won't be crowded. It is, after all, a Tuesday.

So that's the plan for today...... more later.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Wow is it cold. It's very cold outside and it's even cold inside with the heat turned way up. You can feel the draft by my window in my office and I'm sitting in here with a sweatshirt on and almost shaking.

In addition to the cold weather we have cold attitudes from a teenage girl for no apparent reason and that just gets under my skin sometimes. Bart is headed to a meeting and I get to be here with the evil spread of estrogen seeping through the house.

Cold outside, cold inside, cold attitude. Mmmmm. What a lovely evening.

Slowly, Slowly Falling in Love

A year ago last summer I blogged about how after almost three years of being my son, Ricardo gave me my first kiss. Now, 18 months later, I'm finding myself completely taken by the young man he is becoming.

Because of his introverted personality and his slow language acquisition, it has taken him a while to blossom. He is an excellent athlete, so he keeps us hopping with those activities, but his personality has emerged very slowly.

Lately he is perfecting his gift of sarcasm and it's wonderful. For example, yesterday I was working on the calendars and Mercedes and Ricardo walked in and saw a picture that was clearly of Kyle on my computer desktop.

"Who is that?", Mercedes asked.

"George Bush," I responded.

"Wow, he looks just like our brother!" Ricardo said in mocked surprise.

He also has surprised me in many ways with the character he has. For example, before Thanksgiving at youth group a couple of the guys decided to sign a pledge that they wouldn't watch TV until New Year's Day. Ricardo LOVES TV and always has. But without telling either Bart or myself, he signed that pledge. And he just quietly stopped watching TV. It took me a week to notice, but when I brought it up he told me about it. I'm just amazed. Tony signed it too. Lasted less than a day for him. ;-)

Ricardo is also a talented artist who draws beautifully, and he's just a joy to have around.

When he smiles at me, I know I'm in love..... and I know it isn't supposed to happen this way -- People are supposed to fall in love with a small baby in their arms..... not with a 15 year old. But it has had to be in his timing -- in order for it to be reciprocal. I claimed him the day I set eyes on him when he was 7. He became my son legally when he was 11. He gave me my first kiss on the cheek at 13, and we are finally bonding at 15.

But it's working for HIM, and that's what matters.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Blogging Slackard

When things are going well, I sometimes forget to blog. And things have been going pretty well.....

This weekend was low key. Friday night I watched RIcardo and Leon wrestle in an away match. Yesterday Tony was gone in another wrestling match. I have been working on calendars for Christmas. WE celebrated Ricky's birthday last night and we had CHristmas Program for the kids at chruch. And tonight we watched a movie at church with the youth.

That's a very dull weekend at our house.

I have several pages of Christmas calendar done....

Here's hoping there is school today. It's very cold and snowing and blustery. WE almost didn't make it up the hill tonight.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Special Needs Collision

Sometimes in our house a whole bunch of individual special needs collide and we end up in a big mess. This morning was a perfect example.

We have several kids who do not understand boundaries whatsoever. And so we lock our bedroom door. If we don't we are in trouble because kids are in our room, taking our things, stealing our money, and basically just causing chaos in there. It's bad enough the chaos we create by having be that the last stop for many of the things in the house that need to be kept safe. And when we are in there we always have two or three or five or six kids in there with us. We don't need to have any more people in there when we aren't there. So our bedroom is locked and we each have a key on our key ring. So the special needs of several of our kids in regards to boundaries is issue number one.

We are down to two vehicles. This is due to the damage that incurred when Mike, 19, with FASD was given custody of the vehicle after Salinda, with whatever special needs she had/has at the time, stole it. He took a joy ride and basically destroyed the car and now the engine is dead.

Rand drives for us. He is 20. He has FASD. Since he now has to drive our vehicles he has to borrow our keys. HIs driving is pretty safe but he for the life of him he can't seem to keep the van key on the key ring after he uses it. He lays it wherever.

Dominyk has ADHD and is scattered. This morning I asked him to start the van. He took my keys. I didn't know the van key wasn't on the key ring. Dominyk was resourceful and found the van key in my bedroom but left the rest of the keys in the bedroom and went to start the van. And, since Bart was home this morning (his day off) you guessed it....

both sets of keys with the bedroom key on it were in the bedroom and some well meaning person, knowing our room should be locked, pulled the door shut.

Fortunately, Salinda also has experience breaking into our bedroom window. At first Wilson tried with Rand's help, but the window was frozen shut and he wasn't strong enough to get it open. We put in a manic call to Kari's husband Mike but before we needed him, Salinda figured out how to get the window open.

But during those few frustrating minutes I'm standing in the kitchen with everyone looking at me to solve the problem. And their special needs seemed to be just spilling all over me. Tony of course, whose biggest special need is that he can't keep his mouth shut, had to make a zillion comments. Dominyk was obsessively (OCD) apologizing over and over again. And I just stood there, caught in the cyclone of special needs.

And only now am I actually able to laugh.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

One More Insight into My Teenage Driver Analogy

Lately I have been viewing teenagers as the driver of their own life with parents riding along. Today when having lunch with Kari we were discussing this and I realized another important truth in regards to parenting these teens.

Metaphorically, the teenager insists on driving. They are going to be in charge of their own lives. And it is important for us to ride along. They need us -- our advice, our ideas, our driving experience. But just as when they have their learner's permit, they need us to provide this direction in a calm, non-threatening matter so they are not alarmed.

The problem is, they are not going to let us drive. And this is the insight I realized today. If we don't let them drive, they will get in someone else's car.

That person might be a peer or another adult. It would be nice if it were a good mentor, and sometimes it is, but often it becomes someone who will be a poor influence on them.

And therefore, I can't take the risk. I have learned from experience that if I don't let them drive, they're going to find another car.

And I really need them to be in my car.... but not as much as they need me in the passenger's seat.

Our Christmas Letter

Please check out our Christmas letter for 2008. If you're a faithful blog reader, you know it all anyway, but you might just want to have a look.

Or as some of the bumpkins from Minnesota say, have a looksy. Or is that a look-see?

I don't know, I never say that!

Parenting Parentified Children -- An AHA moment

Last night I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who teaches elementary school and many of these children are living in poverty. We were discussing the writing of Ruby Payne who Bart blogged about at one point and that he and I have discussed several times before. He had made several really good connections that made sense in helping us parent our children.

But last night I was thinking about the idea of parentified children. I had often thought of Kyle as parentified becuase he had been responsible for his younger siblings. For this reason, the term seemed to fit. But in the conversation I had last night, we discussed how many children living in poverty are parentified, even if they do not have younger siblings. THey are often made to be responsible for their birthparents. In some situations, the children are literate and their parents are not, making them have a role reversal. In other situations, the children are bilingual and parents are not, leaving the children in a role of translating for their parents. With these things happening it is obvious that the parent/child relationship is much different than the traditional situation that we are accustomed to.

The key, my friend the teacher mentioned, is not using a parental manner or voice with children in poverty, but responding to them as equals. This is not, of course, because the adult is equal to the child, but because the barriers that are erected by the child when they are talked to from that standpoint will stop all effective communication.

I see the situation of a child coming into the home of new parents or foster parents out of a life of poverty as being similar to a person moving to a new country. It has happened many many times in the history of the United States and is happening today. A very educated and intelligent person who has had a successful career as a doctor, attorney, or teacher comes to the U.S. and because of their limited English, they are forced to do other kinds of jobs. And they are treated as though they are unintelligent and incapable simply because of the language barrier.

When a child comes into our home having been the most responsible person in the family system for years, they are immediately placed into a position as "just one of the kids." Their voice is no longer considered to be the voice of the expert or to be the wisest in the family system. They are not viewed now as even equals to the parents, but suddenly instead of making all the decisions, they are in a normal family system where children's views may be valued, but where it is certainly not a democracy. The dynamic that follows is a constant struggle for the child to become accustomed to their new role.

Looking back, my insistence in being a parental figure and cracking the whip was NOT the right approach for very many of our children. In fact, it still isn't. Salinda for example, at age six, though not the oldest in her family system, has always been the one who carried the emotional responsibility for her parents and siblings. Is it any surprise that as an adolescent she asserted the independence that she had learned as a four year old and rebelled against our dictates?

So I have had an "aha" moment today. Too bad it is so many years into this journey. But what would have happened had I realized this when some of my children moved in and approached them as equals, giving them more opportunity to express opinions, guiding them with suggestions instead of forcing rules, walking along side them instead of ahead of them yelling for them to catch up, or behind cracking a whip?

Maybe things wouldn't have looked that much different, but I wonder if they might have. And even if the outcome would have been the same, I am convinced I would have been happier during the journey.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Being Set up to Fail

Anybody else have children who set you up to fail?

I have a couple kids who always do. If I talk to them I'm in their face and they want me to back off and leave them alone. If I don't talk to them, I should have asked them if they needed anything. If I come on time they don't want me waiting for them early but if I show up a minute late I'm inconveniencing them. If I ask about how things are going, I'm nosy and overbearing. If I don't ask, then I don't care and am distant and unloving.

Regardless of the situation, any conversation when I'm backed into a corner like that will not end well. My buttons get pushed too many times and even though I know better, the jack in the box pops up and then it's downhill from there.

Anybody else have kids who set you up to fail?

How Do We Teach Them

Sandy commented on my rant yesterday asking how we teach them ... how we educate people so that they will better understand us and our children. I haven't thought it through completely, but here are some ideas.

1) Slowly and kindly teach everyone during the moment. This is most difficult to do when comments are offensive or challenge us, but our attitude and response are crucial in changing the opinions of people around us. We have to explain, explain, explain and explain again.

2) This is sort of like the first one, but we have to keep our words void of defensiveness. We need to choose our words carefully and even when attacked not respond in a way that leads anyone to believe that we have any thing to hide or that we believe we are guilty as accused.

3) Write and or Blog. I thiink that books, magazine articles, and blogging are a great way for us to get out our message. Sure, it takes time and not everyone is a great writer, but even blogging a few times a week can increase awareness for the general public. People enter my blog for a variety of reasons (like googling Burger King Wi-Fi, for example) and yet if they stay just a few minutes they might learn something. Entering stories in writing contests is another way.

4) Share your story publically whenever you can. Speaking in churches, in front of civic organizations and in other places can educate people who might not otherwise hear the message.

and 5) Never lose your sense of humor about things. This is sometimes very difficult as we all get so flustered, but if we can see the humor in our lives and remember to smile when we are in the midst of things that don't make us smile we can survive a lot more.

ANy body else have other ideas?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Here's the Problem

Lately I have been thinking about the lives we have chosen here in the land of adopting and fostering troubled children -- especially those of us who have taken on the challenge of many children with multiple issues.

It's not the kids that are the problem. Yes, they are intensely challenging, difficult, infuriating, emotionally disturbed, almost impossible to live with, and sometimes even dangerous to us. But they are not the problem. Other people are the problem. And yes, I feel a rant coming on.

Here's the problem:

The problem is a neighbor who, when offered the opportunity to hear the story of one of my children who has a special need, says "I don't want to know anything about you, and I don't want to know anything about him. I just want you to keep him away from me."

The problem is a church member who explains to other children in a child's class that if the child with special needs really loved Jesus they would sit still and listen.

The problem is well meaning people who do not understand the system but think that they know what is going on in our homes and without confronting us, call and report us so that we can "get some help" not realizing what this might mean to us or to our already traumatized children.

The problem is people making decisions about how we should parent our children without hearing our story or living our lives and making comments or criticizing judgmentally.

The problem is group full of social workers who have been trained to examine the family system and look for ways to make parents the reason for our children's behaviors and then, when we dare to disagree, label us as combative, uncooperative and defensive.

The problem is a system that will not provide the services necessary for severely disturbed children (how many of us have gotten a call saying, "we can't control him in a residential setting, you have to take him home!)

So the problem is not the children. The problem is those around us who are willing to comment, criticize, and add to the problems without being part of their solutions.

Plain and simple.

Thing is, our family is fine at the moment. But there are many others who aren't. So I write for them. And hopefully I'll take some of the brunt from them as well if people are busy commenting on my blog instead of theirs. :-)

But it is really difficult with any integrity to suggest to parents that they might want to jump in and fight the world. Recuitin to parent the children is enough to ask, but the children aren't the problem. It's defending ourselves to the world that depletes of the energy we need to parent them.

A Confession and a Two Hour Late Start

Rand finally admitted that he hasn't been going to work when he says he has. Instead of the 30-40 hours he's been reported to be working, it's been more like 20, but he'll say he's at work and be other places doing other things. Not sure how he didn't think he'd get caught. That's what confuses me.


We had a two hour late start this morning and the kids were fairly well behaved. It is nice to have decent interractions with almost everyone.

Looks like today will be another snowy day....

Monday, December 08, 2008

Somethings Fishy

This is the kind of stuff that drives me nuts:

Rand got his check and every other time he has given me his check which ranges between $250 and $350. This week he handed me $163 in cash. He has supposedly been at work 30-35 hours a week the last two weeks.

He will not admit that he is lying about something. But he has to be. He either didn't work the hours OR he spent some of the money... or something.

ANd he won't back down.

I don't know why he doesn't realize that I KNOW he's lying. Either that or his job is screwing him over but it's a major grocery store chain so I don't think it's that.

But to be so arrogant as to act like I don't have a clue about what is happening and that I'm the one who is confused just about pushes me over to edge....

A Day WIthout Blogging quite unusual. But yesterday I just seemed to need a break from a lot of things and let myself play a computer game while in and out giving rides and running errands. Also picked up Salinda from her boyfriend's family last night which takes a couple hours.

On Saturday night we had a blast celebrating Jimmy's birthday. As Salinda pointed out, Jimmy invited our friends over, (meaning Bart and I), but we were fine with that.

Here's a few shots from that night. Is it obvious that Sadie loves to have her picture taken?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

My Husband is the GREATEST

You already know that. ANd so do I. But some days he has to take time to really prove it.

Last night we were able to make it to our District Christmas Party and the kids did fine with a little help from our neighbors across the street. It was fun to see him among his colleagues -- he's so personable and charming and witty. Not a "life of the party" kind of guy -- but the kind of guy everyone likes and enjoys talking to. He is kind to everyone and takes time to listen to them. He's a good mingler but not a slimy one, if that makes sense. HIs conversation is genuine and not manipulative. I enjoy watching him and smiling to myself because he's MINE. ;-)

Then this morning we had a not very fun task to accomplish. One of us had to get up and get Ricardo and Leon to the High School by 5:30 a.m. I always tell Bart that I will do something if he doesn't want to and I was preparing to get up on this snowy cold morning. But he agreed to do so and I got to sleep in.

So I'm reminded again of what an amazing man I am privileged

Friday, December 05, 2008

The First Big SIgh of Relief

I just submitted the last of my writing to the editor. He has been working hard on editing the first chapters, and I have completely finished the first draft of my writing. Now we start the excruciating editing process and the layout and design and all that. Hopefully once the book is actually available people are going to buy it! ;-)

Also, I created a new website to promote the training I did in Fort Worth in October. It really did turn out to be a valuable day for workers and the group helped me perfect the materials I had been using and gave excellent suggestions. The next time I give the presentation it will be even better.

If you know any social workers who have a part in matching, I'm hoping to schedule one of these events per month over the next year and the first 12 units who would like me to come and can cover expenses and a very small honorarium will be selected.

Feel free to forward the link on to anyone you know who might be interested. Here it is:

Matching Presentation

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Beginning and the Ending of a Day

This morning I wasn't feeling all that positive about things..... I was in my office avoiding the teenagers who are so crabby in the morning. But WIlson got done early and came in to visit with me. And after seeing him sitting there in the laundry basket it was hard to keep feeling negative.

Tonight was the Jr. High Concert and it was fun to see the kids dressed up, fitting in with their peers, and doing a nice job. Afterwards Leon got to select the after concert treat place and we went to Caribou Coffee.

It's nearly time for bed. It's been a very hectic day. But it began well, and it ended well, so the stuff in the middle doesn't seem to matter quite as much.

Classic Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Tony is one of the most oppositional human beings I have ever met, and he is our 6th son to be diagnosed with either ODD or Conduct Disorder which is ODD on steroids. He just cannot make himself be cooperative.

Here a couple of examples:

At Thanksgiving Kyle's girlfriend wanted to test him to see if it was by choice or not so she offered him 5 bucks to go an hour without saying anything negative. He was debating taking her up on the offer as we all stared at him waiting. He took a sigh, looked around, and his first words during his hour of no negativity were, "I HATE THIS" and then, as we laughed, he flipped me off.

Last night we were talking to him about an email from his teacher saying he was not being respectful at school.

His response, "I'm not doing NOTHING. I don't know what kind of S*** she's smoking."


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Getting to the Point Where you Just Have to Hang on for the Ride

Have been talking to a number of adoptive parents lately and read blogs of adoptive parents who have children in the transition phase -- from ages 16-30 or whatever -- who have been pulling their hair out watching these kids make all kinds of foolish choices. And, in the midst of the stupidity, the hatred and anger and blame is coming their way.

We're at a bit of a reprieve from all that as MIke is in prison where only letters can make it here and lately he wants something so they have not been angry or blaming. The others over 18 are not blaming us and are doing fairly well, though they still make choices we don't agree with or understand.

My newest philosophy is that by the time a kid is 13 or 14, if they haven't figured it out, they aren't going to for a long time. It's as though the brain's ability to function simply disappears when puberty sets in and it doesn't reappear until mid or late twenties. The additional stress of identity formation when a person is adopted and has a history of abuse and neglect or attachment issues seems to make them crazier and less able to make a healthy decision.

My previous method was to do my best to stop them from ruining their lives and to warn, cajole, threaten, and talk on and on about what they needed to do. But having done that for years and realizing that it hasn't made a bit of difference, I've finally decided to just approach it as though I'm going to come along for the ride.

There are times when I simply cannot keep my mouth shut. I am compelled to comment. But I am done thinking that any words I say are going to have any immediate affect. Years down the road, possibly, but not now.

It makes it a bit easier for me to take that pressure off myself. Instead of saying, "you are NOT going to run away" and doing everything I can to prevent it, I simply say, "I realize you are old enough and big enough to make your own choices. Here is what will happen if you do."

I can control my decisions not theirs. So I explain that if you are not living under my roof without my permission then you do not get my financial support. I explain if you choose to run away you won't have rides to work. I explain that if you are under 18 you will not have my permission to live somewhere else and if you leave I will report you missing.

But I cannot stop them from going nor can I stop them from a myriad of other bad choices they might make.

And coming to this conclusion has somehow freed me. I'm going to have to just ride along, comment once and a while, and shield myself from pain when they blame me.

But I'm not the one making bad choices.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Mark Your Calendars

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and Children's Action Network are pleased to present the tenth annual A Home for the Holidays television special on CBS, December 23, 2008 from 7:00-8pm.

Each December, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and Children's Action Network present A Home for the Holidays, a CBS network television special bringing together all-star talent to raise awareness for foster care adoption.

A Home for the Holidays shares, through the eyes of a child, the joy of having a family - not just for the holidays, but every day and forever.

In 2007, the celebrity line-up included Sheryl Crow, James Blunt, Karmina, Carole King, and Reba McEntire. David Krumholtz, comedian George Lopez and René Russo are among the celebrities that presented inspirational stories of extraordinary families who shared the joys found through foster care adoption.

This year's event features Faith Hill, Melissa Etheridge, Kristin Chenoweth and many others.

A Home for the Holidays is a nationally televised entertainment program designed to not only raise awareness about foster care adoption but to also enhance recruitment efforts nationwide. Its key objective is to promote a positive image of foster care adoption and the children who wait.

If previous shows are any indication, this year’s program is sure to make a difference in the lives of families and waiting children throughout the nation. Consider these impressive numbers:

· In nine years, thousands of viewers have called to inquire about adoption as a direct result of the show.

· Adoptions have occurred – directly attributed to A Home for the Holidays.

· A survey of A Home for the Holidays viewers reveals that nearly 85% had an improved opinion about children in foster care after watching the show. Nearly 96% of the viewers surveyed said that A Home for the Holidays increased their awareness about waiting children, and 76% believed the program helped them learn more about adoption.

So Not a Boy Scout Mom

We have allowed Tony to quit Boy Scouts and allowed Dominyk to join. This has been a good thing in some ways, but the difference between the two is very interesting.

Tony never kept details straight. He was always very caught up in the social aspect of being a scout, but he was never interested in badges or achievement or the uniform or anything. Dominyk, with his OCD, is very much the opposite. He knows exactly what he needs to wear and spends time preparing it. Yesterday I had to switch a patch. Now you'd think it wouldn't be that difficult, but I was doing it while I was trying to do several other things and wasn't paying attention. I got a phone call that it was time to go and do a placement right in the middle of the project so I hurried to get it done and it didn't look half bad.

I went up to Bart to hand it to him, feeling quite proud of myself, until he mentioned that I had simply sewed the same patch back on that I had just laboriously removed. He had to redo my work while I left the house realizing that I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a "Boy Scout Mom."

Monday, December 01, 2008

Support Group on Wednesday

If you live within an hour of Mankato and can get away during the day, it would be great to have you join us for Spiritually Supported Adoptions on Wednesday. Please email me to let me know if you'll be coming so we can make plans.

A Sigh of Relief...

School has started once again. We survived yet another Thanksgiving break and everyone is alive, well, (expect Sadie who is home with some stomach bug) and acting decent for now.

It was nice to get them back to school. The amount of emotional energy it has taken to make it through the stress has been incredible. But now it's done and I'm glad.

Now back to work..... Lots to do today to catch up!