Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Harvest, Service, and Preparation

We had a busy day with my baby grandson and daughter in law visiting today.  I did some gardening, gathering some blackberries with thorns and feeding them to the bunnies.  I don't know if you would consider weeds fed to bunnies as a harvest, but the bunnies sure do!
I also got four Anaheim peppers, four eggs, and my daughter in law harvested some rosemary to dry and use in her cooking tonight.  Yesterday we got two eggs.

Another thing I've been doing this week is a bit of hedge trimming and car cleaning for the neighbors.  They only asked us to watch the house, collect the mail, and watch the dog for a few days until the relatives can pick her up, but their yard has been driving me nuts.  They've been too busy to do much yard work this summer because she went to Ethiopia and he put in new floors while she was gone.  Now that they are on a family vacation, it's been working for me to snip a little here and there each day while my kids do the house sitting part.  It's beginning to look better.

We also are getting ready to send off hubby to Nicaragua for three weeks.  The suitcases are open in the dining room, and tomorrow we shuffle things around to get two 50 lb. bags of medicines, birthing kits, Bibles, videos, tooth brushes and toothpaste, first aid kits, computers, etc. to the people in remote areas in Nicaragua and Honduras.  Hopefully it will all go well.

Girls Night Out

Last night I had a Girls Night Out with two dear friends.  One has stage 4 cancer, the other is moving across the country in three weeks.  We chatted over a too expensive but really good meal about  family, friends, gardening, helping others, bees, missions trips, cancer, thankfulness, homeschooling, the difficulty of moms receiving help from others, and life.  It was wonderful.  It was upbeat.  We stayed up much too late, but it was worth it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Backyard Harvest

Sometimes I think I don't get much harvest from our small, San Jose backyard.  Well, I have to include the chickens in the side yard, and the front yard which has herbs, citrus, and various other plants that we eat.  Oh, and our new rooftop pots of veggies and our two new beehives.  But when you add it all together, we are getting quite a harvest out of our share of dirt, water, and sunlight.

We just started out with two new bee hives this spring.  They are quite healthy, especially the bees we bought, but hubby doesn't think we'll get honey this year.  He wants to make sure that the little girls have enough food to last the winter.  Hubby used to have about 30 hives when he was a teen in the Midwest, and winters are pretty brutal there.  But maybe our bees will make enough for us to taste just a little.  We'll see.

We have six chickens in the side yard.  That's the max allowed in our city.  One is a few years old and not laying very well, three are two years old and are on the decline, and two are new this year and have just started laying.  I love my chickens.  We used to have more when we lived in the country in Oregon. I didn't think I could have them here at all until we started fostering.  Mr. I was going to a preschool and there were chickens and roosters right next to the parking lot.  I looked it up, and found that I could have chickens in the city, though roosters are off limits.  I wouldn't want a rooster anyway.  We had a couple roosters before.  One was friendly and the kids carried him around, but the other was so mean!  Anyway,  I guess now I am an urban chicken raiser.

I also had a hard time figuring out how to find a new spot for my tomatoes.  It isn't good to plant the same kind of plant in the same place, and I planted them in the same bed in the front yard for two years in a row.  The back yard faces northeast and so it doesn't get enough sun.  I was trying to figure it out, when I realized we could plant them in pots on the flat roofed part of the house.  So now we have four large pots of tomatoes, peppers, squash, and cucumbers.  Watering is a bit of a pain until we get some drip irrigation going, but the plants are thriving!

I don't always realize all that we harvest so I think I'll start to jot them down.  I know I'll miss the berries, oranges, and lemons that the kids pick themselves to eat off the plants, but I can write down what I harvest myself.

So today I got about a pint of blackberries and two eggs.

Spills and FASD

Last night I washed the floor as I was waiting for the chicken to grill.  This morning I woke to a sticky floor.  Sometime in 12 hours, someone spilled something and didn't clean it up.

I noticed times when my two kids with FASD would spill things like a child half their age. They may  not realize they were holding their cup at an angle.  One doesn't put tops completely back on after using them. They bump into things often.  Balance and coordination can be affected by a prenatal exposure to alcohol.  They have broken things.  Towel holders, toilet paper holders, glasses, plates, toys, etc.  Some of the clumsiness could be attributed to RAD.  But as they heal from the RAD, some of the clumsiness stays.  The more alcohol affected of the two can barely ride a bike at 13.  She just says she doesn't like it. She couldn't walk on a low balance beam at 5 even though her little brother was able to run across it.  It's kind of sad.

It doesn't help to ask who spilled, dropped, or broke it.  They will deny something even when you catch them in the act.  If it was unintentional, they think they didn't do it, or they just don't notice.

I do have them clean their messes.  When they ask why I am making them wash the floor, I don't tell them it was because they dripped their smoothie.  I just tell them they need to help me out and the floor needs washing.

I still wash my floors a lot.  But they don't look like it.  We replaced a lot of things in our house, not because of rages, but because of clumsiness, which is a plus.

The county people try to prepare you for things to expect when you foster kids.  They didn't tell me I'd have to daily wash my kitchen floor but it would never be clean for long.  But really, the kids are more important than a sparkling floor.  And mopping is a good workout.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Why we haven't been to Disneyland yet.

I took my neighbors to the airport this morning.  They are on their way to Disney World right now.  They go often to any Disney thing they can do, and even worked for Disney for a few months.

My little kids, however, have never been to Disneyland.  They are 11 and 13 years old. We live in California.  The closest we've been was on I-5 passing through Southern California.

Why not?

A friend asked me that the other day.  The answer is simple.  My kids have sensory issues that make happy exciting things turn into either meltdowns or disassociated behaviors.  Yes, the problems are less common now than in the first few years, but they still happen.  When things get loud, bright, stimulating, out of the ordinary, or just plain exciting, their brains, crippled by FASD, trauma, PTSD, etc., just can't handle it.  Disneyland is bright, stimulating, out of the ordinary, and *very* exciting.  Adding to the stimulation, one of them mixes up feelings.  He will say he's bored when he's hungry, hungry when he's overstimulated, tired when he needs to go to the bathroom,  etc.  The other will stare like a deer in the headlights and not be able to say her name if she is overwhelmed.

There are things we do to help with the sensory issues.  Sunglasses, I pods with earbuds, limited time being stimulated followed by a decompression in a quiet place are things that we have done that have helped. The kids can handle about two hours of excitement, but not much more.  We have amusement parks in the area.  Some years we get a pass so that we can leave after a couple of hours.  Unfortunately, if I pay more for a day in Disneyland than for a year pass somewhere else, I'd want to stay the whole day. And it would be difficult to find a quiet place in a small area filled with thousands of people and rides.

Maybe the kids will heal enough to go someday, but they aren't quite there.  And you know what, they really haven't asked to go.  Maybe they understand their limits more than I think.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Family Pics!

This is my first attempt at posting pictures!

Here's a pic of some of our family when the grandparents came in June.  Grandma and Grandpa are on the left, my hubby, me, Mr. I, Ms. Blackbelt, my grandson and his daddy, my photographer son's in-laws, and on the bottom, my photographer son.

It's really hard to get a picture of all of the kids together, now that the oldest two are married and the older girls are adults.

I'll work on more pictures later!

Quilting fun!

Enough of the serious stuff!

Now it's time to take a break, recharge, and quilt!

Quilting, sewing, knitting, and crocheting are my therapies!  I can't tell you how many blankets, scarves, hats, and clothes I've made since we got our younger kids, but the repetitive movement is calming.  And moms of kids from trauma places need calming! Right now I'm hand quilting a quilt for Ms. D.  It has cute dogs all over it.  I'll post some pictures later when I figure out how to upload them.

One of my favorite places to get my quilting materials is
Not only do they have cute fabrics for less $, but they also treat you like a friend who shares a passion. And they put in a nice note and a few goodies with your order.  Oh, and they ship out so quickly! The shipping is free or really inexpensive, depending on how much you order.  I've received my order in just a few days, and they are across the country from me! And did I say the fabric was cute?  And they have a lot of Moda fabrics!

Shawna, from 1choice4quilting, is actually the one who got me to finally start blogging through her blog.  Thanks Shawna!

Adoption and Birth Family, Part 2

We found out that the kids were in contact with their birth family without our knowledge, but now we had to find out what kind of contact, do they know where we live, and is the family safer than when we last saw them.  The way they found each other had to be a God thing.  The kids had recently been allowed to play with friends in a nearby park.  Our neighbors were tired of the kids playing at the end of our street and were starting to chase the kids away.  So after a few times of checking up on the kids and seeing that they were playing baseball, frisbee, or walking dogs like they said they would be doing, I let them have my phone and play away, occasionally checking on them.

One day, Ms. D was talking to a neighbor girl.  The girl got a call from her boyfriend from another part of town.  The boy asked the neighbor girl what she was doing, and the girl answered that she was talking to a girl named D.  Now Ms. D has a very unusual name.  I've heard it only a few times in the Hispanic community, but it doesn't show up on your average 80,000 baby names site.  The girl told her Ms. D has a brother named I. and the boyfriend realized that Ms. D. and Mr. I were his little brother and sister.  So anyway they talked, and over the next few weeks, met a couple of times at the park with the kids and their birth sister.  Mr. I wanted to tell us, but Ms. D threatened him to not say anything.  She also was making plans to run away and live with the birth family. Only after this happened did we find out.

Within a few days, we talked to the birth mom and arranged for a meeting in the park.  The visit went really well.  And so began a really interesting relationship with a group of people that we would never be in contact with unless we had our kids.  We had two of the birth siblings, mom, and an uncle and his family over to our house for Ms. D's birthday.  Some have come to church with us.  We've had a brother and some cousins stay at our house overnight.

Here are a couple of pictures from Ms. D's birthday party with the relatives at our house. Mr. I is opening the present. Ms. D is holding her birth cousin.  The kids' brother, H, is on the right.  The young woman in blue is my oldest daughter, and the curly haired guy is another cousin.  My hubby is peaking out behind H.

This picture is Ms. D's birth mom giving her a big hug.  This was Birth Mom's first time at our house and the second or third time to see Ms. D in about 7 years.  They are so happy!

All this is faster than what I would have liked.  I am pretty cautious because of the history of the family, and also because of things that are occurring now.  One brother is in the midst of a trial.  Another looks like he is in a gang pretty heavily and the 15 yo dresses the part. They all live in a bad part of town in a small duplex.  It's pretty scary to hang out over there, though my hubby enjoys it.  We are concerned about negative influences, encouragement to join a gang, attitudes, and faith.  The kids are in a pretty rocky age, even without the influence of a family with police records, teen pregnancies, dependence on welfare, etc.

On the other hand, birth mom is working on getting her life together and is supportive of us raising Ms. D and Mr. I.  Now that she realizes that we want her to keep in contact with the kids, she has relaxed and can focus on other areas of her life. The kids are more attached to us and Ms. D, after really looking at the lifestyle of the birth family, realizes that she is better off here.  I explained to her that just like I have enough room in my heart for all six kids, she has room in her heart for two mommies.  After that, Ms. D started to be able to understand that her loyalties don't have to go one way or the other, but she can love both families. And as long as people behave themselves and the kids are safe, I really think that contact with the birth family will be a good thing.

 It is a real faith walk for me.  I've been stretched.  We all have been stretched.  But God is in this.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Adoption and Birth Family, Part 1

About 8 1/2 years ago we welcomed Ms. D and Mr. I to our home as foster children.  They were tiny little kids, both under 40 lbs. at 3 and 4 1/2 years old.  I won't go into it in detail now, but when they came to our family, they were VERY troubled.  As time went on we discovered there were good reasons why they were taken from their birth family, though we never were told all.  They had visits with the mom and two of the birth siblings that were in the area the first year and a half or so.  The other two birth brothers were out of state, taken illegally by their father who had lost his parental rights a couple of years earlier.  The visits stopped when the birth mom had a felony warrant out for her arrest, so she feared that she would be arrested if she showed up to visits or court appointments.  So she lost her parental rights eventually and we were able to adopt Ms. D and Mr. I after about three years in our home.  We had minimal written contact for the next year or two, but it was spotty since the birth mom moved often and didn't leave a forwarding address.  Then there wasn't any contact at all.

Ms. D and Mr. I had healed tremendously over the years.  Four years of therapy, time, a lot of work by them and our family, and a permanent home helped. To the untrained eye, they were like normal kids.  They still had FASD and a few attachment issues, but with calm, consistent, routine care, they were thriving.

Until this spring.

Ms. D., now nearly a teenager, started to flinch and draw back when we tried to give her a hug.  She stopped talking to us.  She stopped eating much.  She withdrew from friends and family.  She couldn't concentrate on her homeschool work.  She kept using my phone and then erasing messages.

Mr. I, at 11 years old, started having more outbursts, tantrums, and picked fights with his sister.  He ate too much.  He would cling to me like something was scaring him at times.

I couldn't figure out what was going on!  I seriously considered taking them back to their therapist, but she had retired, so I had to do some research on finding another good one who understood attachment and adoption issues.  I thought maybe the weird regression was because Ms. D was turning 13 and needed to work through adoption and her identity at another stage of development.

Well, there were adoption issues.  The birth family had come back to their lives and I didn't even know it!

One day, my phone charger broke and I told Ms. D I'd have to get another.  When I told her I didn't want to go to the store that day and I would get the charger the next time I went in a few days, she started to cry.  And cry. And cry.  We didn't understand!  Why don't we have visits with the birth family?  She doesn't belong here!  More crying.  For three hours.  I stayed by her side except for a minute here and there to check on Mr. I and get more tissues.  While I was in the room with Ms. D., I asked one of my other daughters to see if Mr. I could tell her what was up.  He told her that they were in contact with the birth family.  So knowing what was up, I told Ms. D. there is is something she wasn't telling me.  That whatever it was, it made a wall between us.  That she needed to tell me what it was so we can have a better relationship.  So she finally confessed.  Jim had come home early and so we all hugged and reassured her that we understood her need to be in contact, but this was something that we should have known from the beginning to keep them safe and to be a part of as a family.

But now that that door was open, what should we do?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Busy Weekend! But aren't they all?

Friday night I lay awake, unable to figure out how we could possibly do all that was scheduled.  My sister was down here for a visit from Seattle.  And since I hadn't seen her since last fall, I really wanted a time to chat face to face.  We got a call from one of the kids' birth family who needed help moving and needed muscles and our van. And our son needed to pick up that same van to use for a photo shoot for his business, One of my daughters had a college entrance writing test in the morning. And Jim had promised the kids' birth mother that he would take her to church with us.   All this in one day.  How can it work?

But it worked out beautifully!

I dropped my daughter off at the college while Jim took the van to the birth uncle's house.  While Jim was helping with the move, I was making calls to all the kids, with the plan of meeting around noon with my sister and her husband.  Jim was finished with the move and drove up just a few minutes before my sister.  We visited, then all met for pizza and then bowling.  Ezra was done with his first photo shoot in time to pick up the van at the bowling alley and was able to visit with my sis.  We had an awesome time visiting, playing, and talking. My sister was able to see her great nephew for the first time.  And finally, after everyone was tired and had enough visiting, Jim picked up a few of the birth family for church and we met there.

It was one of those times when things look impossible, but God worked things out.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Second day of blogging (I think!)

I'd like to learn some more things about blogging, but it's been such a busy day, I can't think.  And since my ungeeky mind can't handle extra geek info when it's overloaded, I'll forget about adding more until another time.  It's been one of those days when I had so much planned, but only got a little done.  It started out fine.  Of course Ms. D, my 13 yo, was at a good friend's house last night.  But I did have an extra 12 yo who slept over with Mr. I.  (I'll figure out cute nicknames for the two of them later, but, like I said, my brain is full.)  Mr. I was a bit out of it today because his friend had a birthday party.  It's interesting how kids with FASD, RAD, etc. just can't handle changes to routine.  Routine has been essential, even though it goes against how I flow.  But without it, the two of them get all whacked out.

 It's better than it used to be. When they were little, they hit, swore, and had awesome tantrums, even in public.  But now it's more subtle.  For example, Ms. D. giggled uncontrollably and kept putting her feet on the chair in front of us at the movies Monday, only to fall asleep 5 minutes into the movie.  Weird.  Especially for a 13 yo.  Well, none of my first four kids did things like that at that age.  But I knew that a number of triggers were making Ms. D get a bit dysregulated.  She was on the final day of antibiotics for tonsillitis which made her stomach feel bad.  Her brother and dad were out in the wilderness backpacking.  We had a girls night out with the older sisters and me.  She wasn't getting along with a neighbor girl.  Any of these things alone could send a kid with past trauma and prenatal exposure over the edge.  She had a few.  So of course she acted strangely.

So today, it was Mr. I's turn.  He wasn't so bad off, but he had his moments.  Times when he was pushy or demanding.  Times when he couldn't settle down.  Times when he would change his mind repeatedly, or talk to much.  Things that are signs of a child who is in danger of a melt down.  And he needed a bit of help to calm himself down.  So I sat next to him and watched a Numb3rs episode with him, helping him to get back into a calm place in his mind.  I tried to make time to help him to calm down.  He used to not be able to calm himself down, but now he is learning.  Maybe some day he will be able to calm himself down more consistently. But for now, he needs a little help.  Not as much as before, but still a little.  Hopefully the birthday party is going well.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Learning how to do this blog thing!

I've been wanting to blog for quite a while, since I have received so much encouragement from others because of what they have written. I figure, maybe in some way, I can be an encouragement to someone else.  Because we all need encouragement sometimes, to step out and do something we've never done before, to finish up a project that's been sitting around for ages, to hang on when we think we can't deal with something one more minute.  We need it when we think we're not doing a good enough job, or not as good as the person next to us.  It's something I want to do more of.  Because when we are staring at the things that seem impossible, a little encouragement goes a long way.

Since I'm still learning this blog thing, it doesn't look pretty or unique yet.  I like pretty.  I certainly like unique.  This is neither yet!  But that's OK.  I'll work on it!

Let's test this bad boy out!

This is our first blog post.  I want to test it out!!