Saturday, December 31, 2011

More Gabby Pics from 2nd Birthday

Gabby's 2nd Birthday

Pictures, as promised. Dominyk, Leon and Wilson were also there but none of the pictures of them turned out well. Leon took most of these.

Slowly But Surely

I accomplished something this past week. I made it to the Y five days in a row. I pretty much didn't accomplish much else. I worked several hours, I guess, but less than usual as I had some vacation time to use up by the end of the year. But I ended up spending a lot of time basically just shooting angry birds or mindlessly skipping around the internet. I'm hoping my motivation returns.

I have been resting a lot too, trying not to overdo things at least until I meet with the cardiologist on Tuesday. Health issues are annoying to me -- a distraction, and I'm not happy to be having them.

We finally have some snow and ice in Minnesota after an unseasonably warm few months. I'm content to sit in my office and attempt to get organized for the year.

So... Happy new Year's Eve, everyone!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Some Anxiety Relief

SO, an update on yesterdays requests for prayer:

1) We wrote a letter trying to bring resolution. Having the letter written makes me feel a bit better, though the whole situation is troubling. Bart and I really are good people, and to be accused of being something less than that is very difficult for both of us.

2) We decided to wait until Spring to change rooms. Several decisions will have been made by then that might affect that and we agreed that we didn't need the stress.

3) Still can't talk about it and nothing has changed ;-)

My fourth day back at the Y with Kari. Part of my workout is painful and will be until I get some of this weight off, but I'm determined to keep going. My heart issue makes working out so much more difficult, but the doctor says I shouldn't stop. I have an appointment with a cardiologist on Tuesday.

I'm looking at my desk and sighing. So much to do. Nice thing is the kids are having are having a good break with very few behaviors....

One of my goals today is to post Gabby 2nd day birthday pics. She turns two today but we celebrated a couple days ago.

Have a great day everyone!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

If you are one who prays

Prayer may be the only solution for a couple things I'm anxious about today.

1) An estranged relationship that seems unresolvable between our family and someone outside of our family. I am not going to put details, but Bart and I have been very troubled by this for weeks now and there does not seem to be the possiblity for reconciliation.

2) Room changes. We really need to move rooms around and I am pretty sure that those who are going to have to move are going to be very unhappy. It seems obvious to me that the homeowners who pay the bills should be able to decide who sleeps in what room (and there will be some choices involved) but I am dreading the announcement that it is happening as it will undoubtedly bring about a bunch of nasty mouthy crabby behavior.

3) A completely unbloggable situation. And I have very few.

Those three things are stuck on the track going around my mind and I'm having a rough time getting through them. I feel like a hamster going around and around and around and making zero progress.

Our Christmas Letter as Promised

We have reached the finish line one more year....

Starting on November 4 is birthday season. It goes until December 29th and we have 9 birthdays. It starts with Kyle's wife Christy, and ends with Gabby. last night we celebrated Gabby's birthday... and thus concludes birthday season. It's not exactly the best time of year to have so many birthdays, but there isn't much we can do about it. Throw in Thanksgiving and Christmas and it's just a crazy time.

So last night Dominyk, Leon and Wilson were the ones who chose to join us and we drove up to meet Salinda, Henry and Gabby for dinner. It was a really nice time. I have many more pictures but they are on my camera and I am at the coffee shop, so they will have to wait until I get home.

She meticulously and carefully opened every picture and then said something that sounded like "Oh how cool" and then "oh how cute" and then "Oh my Gosh!". She was adorable. Watching her be so excited about the gifts we had chosen, getting hugs from her and hearing her say thank you, totally made the trip worthwhile.

Salinda is such an awesome mom. She is so attuned to Gabby and interacts so well with her. Even though Salinda's life is predictably unpredictable, she always puts Gabby first and makes choices that she knows are best for her. Salinda turned 19 on Christmas Day... hard to believe... she is getting more mature every day and our relationship is slowly improving -- although I haven't changed ;-)

Anxious about several things this morning, but trying to take one step at a time.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

One Step at a TIme

As you can see by the pictures, we had a good Christmas. It was fun seeing everyone and the kids seemed grateful enough. We still have two that cannot hold it together at all ... the cursing and the arguing is beyond annoying -- but most of the rest of the kids have gotten mature enough to respond appropriately.

Whenever I have a day or two off from work I find myself paying attention to the zillion projects that I should be doing around the house, with the kids, or in regards to my other endeavors that I don't have time for (bookkeeping for the company, book marketing and promotion, etc.)

I have started going back to the Y with Kari this week -- my health is at an all time low. I go back to the doctor today to see about the whole A-Fib thing. Hopefully we're going to come up with a better solution than the past few weeks.

I have to keep reminding myself that I need to just take one step at a time. Even though the Baby Steps Out blog has been up for two weeks now and I'm reminding folks every day to take things one step at a time, sometimes I forget to do so.

Today we are going up near where Salinda lives to take her and Gabby (and hopefully Henry) out to celebrate Gabby's birthday which is on Thursday. Hard to believe she is two already.

2012 is going to be quite the year for us. I need to take deep breaths and remind myself to take it one step at a time.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Good Day

We've had a good day. It was typical in many ways, but probably the best Christmas we've had.

Working on getting pictures ready to post... hopefully they will be here tomorrow.

Hope everyone had a blessed day!

Christmas Eve Recap

We began Christmas eve by celebrating Wilson's 13th birthday, leaving Bart and I childless after 15 years of parenting children. We now are officially only the parents of teenagers and children. We have brought everyone to their teen years, though some of them only lived with us for a year or two before they got here.

I then had these highlights for my evening:

1) Seeing all of my kids, my daughter-in-law, my grandson's mom, and both of my grandkids all on the same night -- just not at the same time. Gabby and Salinda arrived 45 minutes after Kyle and Christy left.

2) Having all of my children in church on the same night, though again not at the same time.

3) Seeing my grandchildren's faces, each in a different service, by candlelight for the first time as we sang "Silent Night." It was beautiful.

4) Hearing my husband preach twice and sing in a duet. He has a lovely voice.

5) Watching my grandson and a few of my kids open gifts that they seemed to appreciate and were appropriately grateful for.

6) Having the least amount of stress we have ever had on a Christmas Eve.

And I"m going to leave my post just like this without the things that trouble me.

Hope everyone has the merriest of Christmases.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve morning and I'm a big behind on the things I need to do this season. Usually everything is done by now, but I haven't wrapped gifts yet! I'm doing that this morning at 9:30.

My best laid plans are being switched around by everyone elses not so well laid plans, so I'm just trying to relax and go with the flow. Not exactly my area of expertise, but so far I'm alive and hanging in there. Of course, the day is young and nobody is awake yet except Dominyk who informed me first thing this morning that I have already ruined his f-ing day.

So, I'm off to gather the gifts from around the house to take them to be wrapped... and then we have Wilson's favorite meal for lunch to celebrate his birthday which is today. Tonight -- church, China Buffet with the kids who don't live here (minus Salinda who now is coming later and staying until tomorrow), and then a 10 p.m. service.

Tomorrow morning we are having chruch and then opening gifts and having our big dinner. ANd then, suddenly, it will all be over. Last year was the best year Christmas we had ever had. Maybe this year will be even better!

Happy Christmas Eve everyone!

Friday, December 23, 2011

"All I really Want for Christmas"

I posted the lyrics in 2005

Here's the YouTube:


Last night we watched Ricky and Leon wrestle. They are so gifted. Ricardo pinned his guy in the second period, but Leon lost. He said the guy was just a lot stronger than he was.

Afterwards four of us got something to eat (Dominyk, Wilson, Bart and I) and enjoyed Wilson's wit. At one point Dominyk was rubbing his fairly large belly and complaining of stomach pain and Wilson said, "Did your water break?"

When we got home we somehow had some uninterrupted time with just Leon and Wilson in our bedroom before bed. Leon wanted a back massage as he often has back pain after a match. We had a really nice time just chatting and laughing, but one important observation was made.

I grew up loving surprises. My mom always wanted to make sure that no matter what we asked for for Christmas there was something under the tree that we didn't know about because she wanted us to be surprised. We loved that and I've tried to carry on that tradition.

However my kids really don't want surprises. They almost place an order for their gifts and have for several years. The older they get the more specific they get. Tony was even telling me how he wanted his presents wrapped the other day. This takes away a lot of fun for me.

As we were talking last night Leon, the one who holds it together better than any of our kids, was asking me very specific questions about Christmas. I asked him, "Don't you want ANYTHING to be a surprise on Christmas?" And he said, "Mom, I'm almost 17?" I was having trouble putting it all together when once again my wise husband helped me out.

He said, "Maybe kids who grew up neglected or in chaos don't like suprises." And Leon said, "Yeh, maybe the surprise was getting smacked." I'm not sure he was referring to himself, but the whole concept is interesting.

Maybe my kids fear disappointment so much that they have to order exactly what they want for Christmas because they have had so many years in their past where Christmas wasn't the way TV said it was supposed to be. Maybe if they find a picture on line and text it to me (this has happened this year) then there is no way there will be disappointment.

So maybe my family of origin tradition is going to have to go. Maybe I should take a different approach and just make sure that we have a "no surprises" Christmas and that will make everyone a bit more relaxed.

I know that my kids don't know why they do some of the things they do. It's subconscious and most of the time they are not invested in ruining holidays or making others miserable. But anxiety peaks around holidays.

But maybe it is enough that even if I am imperfect and unable to give them something that looks just like the picture, or if we're not wealthy enough to give them everything their friends parents give them, that we can at least know that they have a family. I'm not sure that they all appreciate it, and at least one has made it very clear that he wishes he would have been adopted by someone else and has told us that now for 14 years since he came at 8. But at least we know that this Christmas they have us. They belong somewhere. This incredibly insightful post shows what could have happened to any of our kids without us and while I still don't think we have done enough and wish we had the capacity to help even more people, even the writer of this blog, I have to realize our limitations and that our family at this time would not be a soothing or therapuetic place for a new family member to heal.

So there are my thoughts on Christmas Eve Eve. I'm going to focus on the things this Christmas that we have done that are traditions every year and make sure those happen. And not worry so much that everyone has a surprise. Because that may have been a value that only I have had over the past 15 years of my Christmases as a mom.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nice Surprise

Yesterday while Bart and I were Christmas shopping Salinda called me several times about her financial aid situation. She and Henry are back together and so she has decided to attend college up by where he is. But she is having a hard time getting things set up and needs a lot of help. Her phone is messed up and she wants to wait until the upgrade to get a nicer phone without the buyout, so trying to talk and text was frustrating. So out of the blue she said she was just going to come and bring Gabby for a visit.

She and I ended up having a nice time together. Everyone else was busy -- Sadie was working, Leon with a friend, Wilson with a friend, Dominyk with Bart at the church, Ricardo (wrote Rand for some reason until the commenter caught that one!) out jogging, and the rest watching a game on TV or something. The house was quiet.

She got there as we were finishing supper, so I sat with her and Gabby as they ate -- Bart had to leave for his meeting. We talked about college. When everyone was asking whose night it was for dishes, I said "well, it was Salinda's but she doesn't live here any more" and she piped in and offered to do them anyway. So after she finished the dishes she and gabby came up to my bedroom and we watched the TV special and talked throughout it. She showed me the classes she will be taking and we enjoyed Gabby.

Gabby is SO fun lately. She is learning new words all the time. If someone calls her she replies, "Coming!" and she can say lots of names very clearly now. Grandma, Grandpa, Tony, Leon, Sadie, adn Gabby. And she calls Salinda Sally (the nickname they have for her at her boyfriends home) sometimes just to be funny. She now responds like she's having a conversation -- I'm not sure she understands every question, but she will respond with "mmm hmmm" or "yes" when asked a direct question.

There is even a possibility that she might be with us on Christmas morning, though I'm not crossing my fingers, but that would be so much fun.

Not sure why I woke up so whiny. ;-)

All I'd Really Like for Christmas I Can't Have

When I was growing up we would ask my mom "what do you want for Christmas" and she would say, with a smile, "Peace and Quiet." We were never able to do it.

Bart and I are currently having an online conversation about what to do about Christmas and I think that I'm in the same predicament. We are discussing how we are going to do Christmas this year and the ways in which some of our kids (adults and children) are responding to the holiday and how they are going to respond to us and what we do this Christmas.

I think that one of the biggest mistakes that we made as adoptive parents was to expect children who were grateful. In retrospect, that is hilarious. Now some of our kids are... but the others are not appropriately grateful. There is always something that has been done wrong on their behalf to mess up their lives in general, or their Christmas, and they let us know about it.

SO I made the statement to Bart that all I would like is to have one Christmas when all twelve of my children are appropriately grateful. I must say that it is really too bad that everyone doesn't have a Bart. He is so good at seeing through things and getting to the point.

I have to quote him so you can see why I'm blessed to be married to him. I am all wrapped up in how I am being treated after all my years of effort and attempts to make them happy and he says,

These kids have to find their way, and all we can do is model ours and love them in the process. Most of our years of trying to imprint on them are over, they either got it then or might someday but we are past the point of imprinting much. I'm trying to practice feigned indifference because the more I try to make someone like I want them to be the less likely it is going to happen. There's kind of a direct, inverse relationship with that. I fare much better by acting in ways that I want to see them act.

And that smacked me directly in the face in a loving sort of way. (As Dominyk would say, "I've been put on blast!) If I am grumbling around all week, ungrateful because I have ungrateful children, how is that going to add to a positive holiday season? I simply need to relax, enjoy my children and grandchildren, and model the grateful person that I want each of them to be. In my Baby Steps Out blog that I have recently started for people trying to dig themselves out of a difficult situation, the challenge for Day Five is about gratitude. I need to follow my own advice.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Last Day of School Before Break....

Today they are all going to school.... nobody stayed home sick.... and tomorrow nobody will go... and we will begin Christmas break.

I'm finishing up packages that go in the mail and Bart and I are going to try to finish up Christmas shopping.

I am feeling a bit less overwhelmed knowing that I will have several days to work when nobody else is doing much and maybe by the time the new year comes I'll be somewhat caught up....

SO, I guess I should get to it. I'm going to stop promising meaningful posts.... My head has been so full of details of things I need to do lately that I can barely form an intelligible thought.

Can thoughts be intelligible? Or are only words intelligible?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Keeping Kids Safe Against Internet Crimes

This is the January webinar for the MN ADOPT program. Details are here.

Home For the Holidays Tomorrow Night

And Suddenly There Are School Issues

For years we haven't had attendance issues at our house. Our kids know that if they stay home then they don't get to use electronics and they have to stay in their rooms except for meals. For fourteen years this has worked well. Until it isn't.

Suddenly one of our children has realized that we can't MAKE him go to school and that we can't really physically move his 300 pound body away from electronics. So he stays home "sick." Grant it, he may be sick some days, but often he is feeling well enough to go to school... he sure is feeling well enough to argue continuously about it. And now he has learned a new trick. If he doesn't want to go to school and we somehow can force him to, then he goes into the nurses office with complaints all day and they have to put up with him until they finally call and say he needs to come home.

The hard thing about 3 or 4 of our kids is that whether they are there or not they are failing. And if anyone out there is saying that you can MAKE a 15, 16, or 17 year old do well in school if they don't want to, please let me know your tricks. We have tried everything and if they want to fail there isn't anything parents can do.

Yesterday another child was too sick to go to school so we had two home, but at least that one followed the rules. And today it appears Dominyk is really sick... so he's home, but everyone else went, for now.

Until the nurse calls.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Not Quite Done....

The Christmas letter isn't quite done but just might be in a couple hours! I achieved most of my goals for the weekend, and now my dream for today is to keep going in the same direction. My list is long.

In response to a comment asking about brain neurobiology and what I felt I did wrong and what i could still do right, let me briefly answer that question.

1) I was not very attuned to my children when they came and didn't take time to establish that. Attunement involves really understanding your child and how they respond emotionally. For example, an attuned mother knows if a child's cry means that they just need to cry themself to sleep or if they have to be held. Achieving attunement with a child who is acting out and unattached is a difficult task and I should have worked harder to do that. Even now I would say that I am only "attuned" to a few of my children.

2) I did not do enough calm, repetitive, activities with my kids. Nurturing things they missed from their early childhood that promote brain growth were absent with my kids who came over the age of 8 -- and even some of the younger ones. For example, even though Dominyk came at nine months, as soon as he learned to walk on his first birthday he never stayed still. So those kind of brain-stimulating things were missed. Had I known how important they were I would have focused on them.

3) I spent way too much time (and still often do) having conversation that require the cortex portion of the brain (abstract thinking) with kids whose cortex's are unorganized at best. Reasoning, explaining, and attempting to argue rationally with my kids is always a mistake before their brains are organized and fully developed.

So, based on that, I can still work to be better attuned to the moods of my kids. I can think of some of the activities that would help younger kids and apply them to the ages of my kids now and things that would help.

If you are interested in this stuff, the Child Trauma Academy offers lots of resources. They helped to write the curriculum I helped teach on Friday and it was really interesting stuff.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Is the Weekend Over Already?

Wow, I just lose track of time these days. Yesterday was a fairly mellow day around here. Got some of the calendar done but then spent a portion of the day basically sitting in the recliner in the bedroom drooling on myself (ok, maybe not quite that bad, but close). It's almost as though my brain needs psychic space.

Today we had church and a potluck and then I came home and worked on calendars some more. Was so tired I had to nap and then have finished up most of them. Now it's time to write our Christmas letter at nearly nine p.m. on a Sunday night.

If I get it done I may just post it right here.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Perpetual Disappointments

Really busy times are over and things might just settle down -- except...

:-) Always an exception. Still a couple meetings this week but fortunately they are not more than 40 miles away from home and shouldn't last more than a couple hours a piece.

Today is a lazy day around here -- Bart and I are each doing things we love to do. He is in and out of the kitchen cooking and cleaning and I'm in my office working on creative photo things for Christmas gifts.

I have decided though that one of the things that my life is characterized by is perpetual disappointment. Little things -- times I've been lied to, mistreated, things happening behind my back. one after another I find out about them.... and it is draining.

yesterday I co-taught a class on neurobiology. It made me realize several things about my kids and ways that I haven't done what I should have done with them. It was both encouraging and discouraging -- encouraging to know that there are things that work better than others -- discouraging to know that I haven't done them. But maybe some of them can still be done.

So today I'm in photo land... I ahve 35,000 photos on my computer which never seem to get organized so sometimes my photo projects make me annoy myself.

In case you haven't heard, the "Baby Steps out" blog has started -- you can begin any time in climbing out of any hold of bitterness, resentment, illness, frustration or depression you might be in. Or, if you just want to do it for fun you're welcome to. It can be found here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Adoptees Have Answers December Newsletter

Check it out HERE

Beyond Consequences Training and Support in Minnesota

HEAL Family Services and MN ADOPT Presents Beyond Consequences Training & Support with Brenda Benning, MSW, LGSW

Presentation: This is a specialized training for families who are or may be parenting children with a traumatic history and/or attachment issues. It will provide hands on skills training based on Heather Forbes’s book, “Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control.” You will gain insight into your child’s behaviors and real life techniques to regulate the emotions driving those behaviors. Brenda Benning has trained with Heather Forbes and helps parents practice these techniques while building a support system with other families. Benning has her masters in Social Work and is parenting eight children, seven through adoption who have been diagnosed with trauma and attachment issues. See attached flyer for more information.

When: Ten Sessions on Thursday’s from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm
January 5, 12, 19, 26
February 2, 9, 16, 23
March 1 and 8

Where: 7301 Ohms Lane, Second Floor Meeting Room, Edina, MN 55439

Fee: All ten sessions: $200 per person; $350 per couple – fee includes the cost of the book which will be shipped prior to the training. Each individual session is $30 per person; $55 per couple CEUs are available for an additional $30. Certificates of Attendance will be distributed following the presentation.

To Register: Please go to to register online.

Zero Kids Waiting December 2011

This helpful MN electronic newsletter can be found here.

I did it

It is all set up! So, for those of you who have mentioned this would be helpful, let's get started!!!


A Funny Story and a Promise... well, maybe...

Yesterday Bart took me to lunch. It had been quite a long time since we were both free for lunch, so we added a little Christmas shopping before and had a nice time. After we got to the restaurant and ordered, as is my tradition, I went to the bathroom. Bart reported later that I was gone for an unusually long time.

I had pushed open the bathroom door and looked into the corner to see the handicapped stall that I always use. I went it, locked the door, and sat down to do my business. Now i'm sure that none of you have ever looked at your phone while peeing, but I did, and I found that I had an important email that needed answering. So I just sat there and finished the email.

Much to my surprise, when I opened the stall door, I was staring at 3 urinals. I quickly exited and turned around to see that yes, indeed, the door was marked Men. Fortunately for me, the restaurant was pretty empty -- because had there been a stream of men coming in and out, I would hve been stuck in the stall for who knows how long and that idea is simply not appealing.

It's my plan to start the Baby Steps Out blog today... for those of you have asked for it.

Right now, I am overhearing Dominyk, alone and unprovoked, using vulgar language in the shower. I wonder what he's doing to bother himself?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

No Appointments Today!!!

For the first time in ages I have no meetings all day. I don't have to get in the van except to take kids to school and possibly pick some up all the way until this evening!

Monday was a crazy day. I had a meeting 2 hours from here and 2 conference calls that I did -- stopped in towns along the way -- sitting in the van. Ended up being gone for 5 hours. Then worked at my desk until 10 trying to get a project done.

Yesterday was a 2 hour late start, followed breakfast with Kari and the mom of the Dynamic Duo. Then watched Isaac for 2 hours, attempted to get the same project done, and headed out of town for a home visit, after stopping by my office to get ready for the visit, work on files, etc. Jimmy came with me and helped me clean up from training on Friday and Saturday and then we had supper before my home visit. It's been a crazy few days.

I did attend a school meeting with a family and I have to be careful to be very anonymous here, but the school was attempting to expel a student because they were declaring that her anger outburst and the fact that she assaulted two other students were not directly nor substantially related to her diagnosis of RAD, PTSD, and ODD. REALLY PEOPLE???

The situation was muddied by many other factors, so I simply asked the team to clear their minds of all of the specifics of the people themselves and justify for me how anger outbursts and assaults were not directly or substantially related to those three diagnosis. They backed off, did not expel, and now will be providing services to the family. Had they been able to expel, one hour of home bound schooling was the only education the child would receive.

So sometimes I get a glimpse that all of my travel and the crazy schedule is worth it. I get a blog comment or an email or I meet with a family, or something happens that shows me that some of what I am doing matters.

One more positive note from my world.... Jimmy doesn't work again until January 6th because the university is on Christmas break. And he is SO helpful around the house that it is wonderful. He keeps things tidy in the kitchen, -- the most tidy of anyone else in the family -- keeps up with laundry, and makes sure that the living room is clean (which was Salinda's chore this month and she's not here). It's a joy to be home when he is here because he likes to be helpful and doesn't complain, needs no nagging, and does an excellent job.

I'm off to awaken the children and take them to school. Then I need to to tackle two desktops -- the one full of email and the "real" one full of papers, snail mail, and lots of junk!

A virtual hug to everyone -- they are the best you know. No risk of smelling bad or having bad breath!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Scales Have Been Officially Tipped

As of yesterday, Bart and I are now the parents of more adults than children. Ricardo turned 18, leaving us with only 5 "children" to be legally responsible for. We still have 8 or 9 on any given day living here, but we "only" have five kids. It is kind of nice to get over that hump.

It feels good to have my horribly busy six weeks behind me and be able to focus on some things at home. I really need to do that. I'm feeling very out of sync when my inbox is full and my desk is a mess. Maybe today we can get some of that taken care of. We are also thinking about decorating for Christmas, something that hasn't happened yet.

Everyone is slowly scurrying (can a person slowly scurry) to get ready for church and I have medicine to give Wilson. He had four wisdom teeth pulled on Friday and is very swollen. He has a high pain tolerance and is very brave -- but he totally looks like a chipmunk but is refusing to let anyone take pictures.

SO.... it's Sunday, people....... Enjoy your day!

Friday, December 09, 2011

Just Two More Days to Normal

On Wednesday, Bart and I had a meeting in the Twin Cities together, not arriving home until around 8 p.m.

On Thursday, I spoke at task force in St. Paul -- a gathering of public and private agency social workers who gather together to learn, network, and match kids. I was providing them with spirit lifting opportunities and making them laugh, according to the advertisements. It was a good morning - the crowd was spread out and small, so that makes "humor" a bit more difficult, but I think it went well.

Got home around 3:30 -- was really pretty out of it for the rest of the night, though I did get some emails caught up and catch up with Bart and the kids.

Apparently Salinda is leaving again -- they never did bring Gabby back -- so you can imagine how that has taken it's toll. However, she has handled it very well. We were supposed to have a meeting with a local college next week -- hopefully she'll still choose to do that.

In regards to the other blog, I appreciate those of you who have tried to convince me that I don't need to take on one more thing, but I think this one would be good for me. If you know me at all, you know that a new thing is inspiring and this would get me back on track, might also help some other people, and would only take me 5-10 minutes a day. So ... I'm thinking of starting it next week.

Today and tomorrow I do pre-adopt training for my Downey Side job 40 minutes from home, but then, other than a meeting on Monday a couple hours from home, things settle way down. At least compared to the last couple weeks.

Now... of to prepare and train new parents!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

I Have a Question for You -- Two Actaully

The past month or so I have felt more overwhelmed than I have in years. I feel sometimes like I am in the bottom of a big pit and that the journey up would be so hard that I shouldn't even attempt it. However, I know that that is "stinkin thinkin" and that I have to find a way to start climbing out of a hole that is, in part, of my own making.

So I had this idea of starting another blog -- maybe just for thirty or forty five days -- where each day I would think of a small thing that I could do to improve my life, building from day to day with more difficult tasks. I was thinking that it would be helpful to anyone who is trying to climb out of anything difficult -- illness, grief, addiction, a painful end to a relationship -- anyone who is trying to stop themselves from falling so deep into their hole of depression and anxiety that they wouldn't be able to get out.

Each day there would be an assignment that would not last more than 5 minutes and would be easy to do from the blog.

So, my two questions: 1) DO you think this would be helpful for you or someone you know; and 2) When do you think I should start? I was thinking that everyone would expect it to begin in January, but maybe a few things in December might get people ready to enjoy the holidays more or to tackle bigger things in January.

Am I explaining this well? (oh wait, that's a third question. Sorry. ;-)

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Literally Have Only 5 Minutes

SO, do I have a good excuse for not blogging? Here's quick summary for the last 46 hours.

Church, lunch after church -- fundraiser for kids next missions trip -- Isaac came over and I rocked him to sleep and then of course couldn't move for a while. ;-) Then had to find everything and pack which was slow going. Finally left at 5:45 -- I crashed when I arrived at 7:30 and then got up a little later to finish some emails, went back to bed. Got up at 6:15 as I had to be at the training I was doing at 7. Trained from then untikl we were done at 5:45. Then drove to take Kyle and CHristy to dinner, back to the hotel arriving here at 8:30. Crashed gain for an hour and got up to work for a couple, then back to bed.

Up now to drive 75 minutes to a meeting.

Things are going to slow down. They have to. This is nuts. But I have all this scheduled.... once I complete them I'm going to be much more careful with my scheduling.

i'm WAY too old for this. Hope everyone is ok -- haven't even had time to check your blogs!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

An Unusual Time to Blog

Typically I am teaching Sunday School right now, but this morning is a little unusual. For one thing, we got several inches of snow last night, which meant that I wasn't going to leave the responsibility of driving several teenagers to church to a teenager. Sadie had to work at 10:30, after first service, and I had to be there for choir at 8:30. Wilson, Dominyk and Tony are either in or helping with the Christmas program at 11:00, practice starting at 10, so they needed to be at first service. Bart, of course, goes early, and Rand and Jimmy went with him.

I ended up having to make two trips because Sadie wasn't ready -- a constant struggle in our home -- and so I was late to choir. I am back home after dropping her off at work to pick up Salinda, Ricardo, and Leon to take them to the 11:00 service. Gabby has still not come home but was apparently involved in a car accident last night -- an accident, nobody's fault, but it added to our stress and drama.

So now I"m back home waiting for the other two and thought I'd stop by and fill you in on the details.

I leave this afternoon again to train all day tomorrow, and then have a work meeting in St. Cloud on Tuesday. Then I'm home evenings but gone days until Saturday night when there is a light to the end of this tunnel.

A woman at church this morning who I didn't recognize remarked to me that my hair was a different color than the last time she saw me which is why she didn't recognize me. I laughed and told her that I never dye my hair so I wasn't sure why it was a different color. She went out of her way to make sure that I wasn't offended by her comment.

Made me think about how different people are from one another -- how some people are offensive, passive aggressive and down right mean, and others are nicer than they need to be. I probably fall into the offensive category when I don't engage the filter I actually do have in my head but often ignore, but I am careful to make sure that I watch people's reactions to make sure that I'm not bothering them -- at least I try to be. And I am never intentionally and directly mean.

It's too bad we can't take two people and combine them together to make one person who would be right in the middle :-)

SO I'm off to church again. I hear Wilson has one of the funniest lines in the program. That should be more than fun.... and I hear Isaac and his mom are coming to church. Yay! He was over last night for a while and is so much fun. He fell asleep in my lap -- such a nice thing -- but that was after several BUSY hours! He is into everything....

Saturday, December 03, 2011

People are Starting to Text....

So yes, I am fine. Let me tell you about my last two days:

I left Thursday morning at 7 to drive 5.5 hours to Detroit Lakes for the finalization of a couple of boys who a family on my caseload adopted. It was a very great day -- lunch together first, and then court with plenty of celebration. It was kind of fun driving up there because I was remembering so many people in my life as I drove through various towns and thought of people that I had known in other places in Minnesota.

I had to teach the Adoption Competency class on Friday all day, so I decided to stay in the Twin Cities over night. It took about 4 hours for me to get back to the Cities after court, getting me to the hotel around 7:30. I was so tired by then that I didn't have the energy to blog. Went to bed by 9 and then was up to drive a full hour to get the 17 miles to teach class.

After class I drove 2 hours home where I had exactly ten minutes to change before I went to speak at the Women's Christmas Banquet at NCWOC, a church in town. Kari went with me and so did both of my daughters. It was a great night -- until I found out that while we were eating, Salinda's bf had come and told Bart he had her permission to take Gabby, which wasn't true. It made me really sad to think that she can't even leave for a couple hours to do something positive without worrying that Gabby will be missing until she gets back.

So I made a couple phone calls about that around 10 and then went to sleep and slept a very long time but woke up still quite tired.

One of the things that I decided during my travels is that I am going to have to cut some things out of my life. I am way to tired and have no time for the things that I enjoy, which includes my kids and grandkids.

I know most of you are not in disagreement -- I really want to go back to bed right now but I have some projects that I really feel I must finish before I leave again tomorrow for a couple of days...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Contest Results for Part One


I think it is fair to say that there is a winner for the free book I offered to give away to the best comment. Heidi Ho won, in my opinion, because she not only is promoting the purchase of ONE of my books, but CRATES of them. And her line "nobody reads salt bags" made me laugh out loud.

Here is her comment:

You should get these books. Even people who don't read, cannot read, or have an irrational fear of reading should have these books. There are many reasons to own books.

If, for example, you owned an 1880s house in Minnesota, built by people with Inuit genes who never had the insight that some people's feet will never be warm, or they just had a mean-spirited sense of humor, you could line floor-to-ceiling bookcases with books to insulate. Home schoolers figured this out long ago. Of course, this doesn't solve your heat loss through the roof, but I am not here to solve ALL your problems.

If you own a rear-wheel drive vehicle and live in Minnesota, you could put cases of books in the back of the vehicle to provide traction. Some people you salt bags, but books can ALSO be read. Nobody reads salt bags.

If you own lots of books, you may present yourself as intelligent. This has not yet helped me, but maybe I just need more books.

If you scatter books all over your household, you may appear busy to the people who show up unannounced to chat. Unfortunately, the ones who show up unannounced are either blind, don't notice details like books scattered all over, or haven't figured out that is how to look busy. My children, however, seem to enjoy that excuse.

Books make excellent weights to secure blankets on tables when making blanket tents. In fact, if you own crates of Claudia's books, you could have tent parties. Just remember to have everybody bring their own blankets.

Or, if you want to do it the easy way, you could just read the books. could buy crates of her books, keep one of each title for reading, and do the above-mentioned ideas with the rest.

Yeah, that will work.

Now, I'm not absolutely positive who Heido Ho is -- but I'm guessing it someone I know who home schools, lives in a very old house, and has kids who make blankets out of tents. But you'll have to email me to confirm. ;-)

Remember, the rest of the contest lasts all through December and is for all three books. All you have to do to enter the drawing is to write a short blog post about one or more of my books and then give me the link to your blog post.... So far only one entry and she's hoping nobody else enters. So give the woman some competition already!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Extending Cyber Monday by a day

I have gotten some emails this morning extending Cyber Monday sales -- so I am extending that and my contest for one more day -- see details below!

Happy shopping!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thank You for Making My Black Friday Sale...

the least successful sale in the history of Black Friday.

Nobody bought anything.

So you not buying anything helped me break the all time low profit on Black Friday record.


Apparently, having a Black Friday sale that is successful requires a lot of advertising or something, because I made zero money on Black Friday? Who does that? Me apparently.

So, just so I can do better -- or break a record by having two failures in a row....

ANNOUNCING a CYBER MONDAY sale -- beginning now until 17 hours from now at our online store. (I forgot to set it early and a coupon has to be available for at least 17 hours, so you could actually participate in part of cyber tuesday, which doesn't exist). Use the coupon CYBERMONDAY even if it's Tuesday when you order it.

So, if you have any of the following people on your Christmas list, then you might want to buy one of my books:

1) A person who knows Bart (or me) and wants to hear about how we aquired twelve kids in twelve years. Our first book will tell them the story. We will autograph the book for them and say whatever you want us to say. I will pretend to love anyone for a buck.

2) A Christian woman. My second book is written for Christian women and I think it can hit the mark for nearly every Christian woman you might know. It's a nice touchy-feely book that talks about God's heart and it is so nice that Bart said he couldn't read it because it made him puke. Now that is brilliant marketing if I ever saw it.

3) A parent of any kind. The third book is about parenting -- all kinds of parenting. It is funny. Funnier than me. Maybe not funnier than me in person, but funnier than me on paper because it also includes my co-author Matt on paper, and he is funny too. I didn't say funnier than me. I said that he and I together are funnier than me alone. But he is not funnier than me. Just saying.

4) A person with a sense of humor. If you know anyone who likes to laugh, see above. Matt is funny. I am funny. Have I said something about being funny? I am funny. But at least I'm not repetitious or redundant and I never repeat myself.

5) A person who can read. If you have a person on your Christmas list who can read, then they should be reading more and watching less TV, but they can't do that if you don't give them a book, and if you have to give them a book, you might as well buy one of mine and help give my children a good Christmas. (OK, OK, so that went a bit too far. My kids will have a good Christmas whether you buy a book or not).

AND now, for those of you who have gotten this far.... here is a contest for you. If you can come up with the best (or funniest) reason why someone should order one of my books and put it in a comment, I will send you a free book of your choice.

And one more thing... Everyone who writes a post about my books on their blog during the month of December and links it here will be entered into a drawing for a package of all three books. I can't really believe I"m offering this, but hey, it's Christmas.

Oh wait, one more final final thing. If you don't have anyone on your list in one of the five categories above, you really need more friends.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Very Calm Sunday

Today has been a very calm day. We had what we call "cheap chinese" -- the cheapest good all-you-can-eat China Buffet has free drinks on Sunday. So for $5.65 each we can eat -- cheaper than fast food. We do it on days when we are wanting something fast and cheap.... today was one of those days.

Everyone was pretty mellow today -- we rested and then five of the kids went to a movie night at youth group -- leaving three very quiet ones here for a very mellow evening.

I sound like a frog and have not done much today but I'm trying to kick myself in gear to get back into the swing of things tomorrow.

We had our friends Mike and Kari over for dinner last night -- I wasn't as entertaining as usual but it was good to see them again. Their son is allergic to us though -- he always feels sick here and can't wait to go home.

I wonder how many of our other friends feel that way and just don't say anything. Wait. Do we have any other friends that we consider family enough to invite into our not so clean home? maybe not...

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Our thanksgiving meal was great. All twelve of our kids were at the house yesterday, just not all at the same time. But we did get a couple pictures. I lined those up hwo don't always live here for a picture alone so that I can take a picture today or tomorrow of those who do live here and use the two together to put in a Christmas letter.

Here are a couple shots of everyone trying to get food as well and one of Isaac, who sat next to me and shared my food -- and his mom's, and his dad's, and anyone else that would throw him something. Then we started to ignore him so he had to begin to disrobe to get attention.

it was a fun day.... tiring. Bart made an immense amount of food and the cleanup was perpetual for 3 days. But the kids had a great time reminiscing together. It was the first time all of the older kids had been home together in forever.