Friday, December 30, 2011

When Mommy Isn't Feeling Well


I was suddenly hit with a wave of nausea, dizziness, vision weirdness, and just plain feeling yucky this afternoon. It isn't pleasant. But do you know the worst part of being sick? It's having a child who can't handle a sick mom. Kids who have gone through trauma and neglect feel the pain of a parent who isn't all there so much more deeply. I know it's only a short illness that will probably be over in a day or so. To him, at least in the deepest part of his brain, I might be gone forever. Poor kid's crying and I feel too yucky to feed him and take care of him. He wants me to make him something special to eat, but my stomach turns at the thought of food. There is a refrigerator full of leftovers, a dad and two older sisters who have offered to make something for him, but it isn't the same. He needs a mom to take care of him, and it scares him to the core that I'm not able to do that right now. And I just don't know how I can make it better.

On the 12th Day of Silence...

It's been 12 days since the kids last heard from their birth mom and siblings. Complete Silence. 12 days. Days that included Christmas.  The last phone call was when Birthmom called to say goodnight after seeing them in church a couple of Sundays ago. Since then there have been no calls, no texts, no answers to calls from us. I know that the birth family is being evicted this week. I know holidays are probably tough on them too. I know Birthmom is struggling with alcohol addiction and maybe even illicit drugs. But I don't understand the silence. I don't understand why they don't just pick up their phones. And I don't think Mr. I or Ms. D do either. 

It hurts Ms. D the most. She's the one that is more attached to the birth family and initiates much of the contact. Mr. I is just scared and doesn't want to be near most of them. But I'm worried about Ms. D. She doesn't talk much and holds things in; that's why she had seizures. She's had to deal with abandonment before. And now she's having to deal with it again. 

Yesterday I thanked the birth dad, who lives in another state, for his calls to Ms. D after her hospitalization. I told him that it makes Ms. D feel loved. It really does. I pray that we can show her that she is loved in the way she can receive it and that we are here for her. I pray that God does the same. After all, He is love, and can show her His love when people fail.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Good Advice for the Holidays

Well, once again, science is proving the Bible right. Surprise, Surprise.

My oldest son posted this article today and it is so right on. There was also a link to greatergood.berkeley.edu. I think the reason I am doing as well as I am this December is because in the midst of difficulties, I am trying to focus on thankfulness and compassion. I'm not doing it perfectly, but it's a goal. And it works! Visiting a sick friend in the hospital, watching a neighbor's child, distributing food, spending time with family, and more have helped me to think of things in a better light.

And the more stressed I feel, the more I need to slow down, breathe, and think of things to be thankful for and how to bless others. Now that's something the Bible's been saying for a long time!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Family Time

With Hubby being home a second week for the holidays but being too sick to travel, we have been having a lot of family time. Hubby was able to do a few things around the house, including planting grapefruit and guava trees.

Hubby watering and cleaning up after planting the new trees

Grapefruit

Guava
This evening we had our oldest son and his family over to break in our new oven. Mr. I played with the baby so well! And that's after spending most of the afternoon entertaining the neighbors' 5 and 2 year old boys. I am amazed at how even after the trauma and neglect in their early lives, our younger kids are so good with young children and animals! Because of this, I have hope for their future!

Mr. I Playing With Grandson

Crawling Race!
This evening, after Grandson left, Microbio Daughter played a game with Mr. I.

At first, Mr. I was worried it was an educational game, but Microbio daughter assured him it was fun. He did have fun and not only played calmly, he helped Microbio Daughter clean up at the end!

While they were playing the game, Ms. D cleaned the kitchen. Without being asked. Ms. D doesn't clean for approval. She cleans when she is happy. I was kind of worried the past couple of months when she didn't clean. The last time she went through a spell like that, she was hiding her contact with the birth family. I am kind of worried that the only one of the birth family that has contacted her for two weeks was Bio Dad. He's been calling every couple of days to see how she is doing after her hospitalization. I am so thankful for this. I can tell it hurts her that Bio Mom and the siblings haven't returned her calls or messages. She doesn't understand that they are moving and going through a lot of stuff right now and don't have the capacity to show her love like she needs. But fortunately, my older kids have been showing extra care and love to Ms. D. So when Ms. D started cleaning last night, it was a sign to me that she feels loved and accepted at least by us. And it helps that Bio Dad is calling too.

Ms. D Cleaning
So now I'm going to join Ms. D and have some mother-daughter time. I love my family!

No More Booms in the Kitchen!

This morning my new range was delivered! I'm so excited!

The old oven made little explosions lately and sometimes didn't light at all. I had to go in with a long match to light it sometimes. When it would boom, I would call out one, two, or three as the oven burners lit so the kids wouldn't get frightened.  I don't think it was the safest thing, but with the busyness we had in December, I didn't have time to bring in a repair person.

There were other things that needed to be fixed also. I had to unplug it from time to time to reboot because the electronics would stop working.  I thought I couldn't use the oven at all for a few months a couple of years ago, but I found out about the rebooting one day when the power went out. After that, I would need to pull out the range to unplug it from time to time, but it was a good excuse to clean back there. I don't think the floor under the stove was ever as clean as it was the past two years!

Oh but there was more. Some of the plastic on the timer was warped from heat. Two of the burners didn't work on the stove. I became so adept at making do with all the little quirks, but the rest of the family began to tire of them. So anyway, the family got together and got me a new one for Christmas! Hubby went with me a couple of days ago to look at different models, and we settled on this one.


The kids immediately wanted me to cook them something for breakfast when it was delivered this morning. They are just as excited as I am, but they are doing it in their own way, nonstop talking and all.

My new range works wonderfully! It is so beautiful! But best of all, I don't have to have any more booms in the kitchen!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Two Hour Testing

Today Ms. D had two hours of cognitive testing to see what kind of therapy would best suit her. She did not want to go. At all. Of course, she was going to be with a stranger while we met with Dr. A. As she was going out the door, I noticed she was putting on a black jacket over her black shirt and had black pants on. I joked to her and told her if she wore any more black, they might think she was depressed and want her to go to more therapy. Ms. D immediately ran over to her room and put on another jacket. She has made up her mind that she doesn't want anyone else but Polly, her old therapist, who has retired. Hopefully she'll warm up to Dr. A like she warmed up to my daughters-in-law.

Hubby and I talked to Dr. A some more while Ms. D was being tested. We told of some more background, and she gave us a couple of things to do and to look for. One of the things was to note when Ms. D passes out, seizes, zones out, or sleeps around stressful events. Well, I have one now! Ms. D went to her bedroom and fell asleep as soon as we came home!

Blackbelt daughter did an awesome job with Mr. I while we were gone. They did art for about an hour, went shopping for a neighbor boy, and then went out for a smoothie. When I came back they were watching a movie together!  Because Mr. I tends to act strangely when stressed or tired, and he had two boys sleeping over here last night, I was pretty anxious about how it would all go. But Blackbelt daughter kept him busy and happy. Whoohooo!!!

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Christmas to Remember

Life comes with all sorts of things, bad, good, exciting, boring. Sometimes life is smooth and pleasant and other times we get a bunch of difficult things at once. This December was one of the latter! But even in the midst of difficulty I have choices. Do I focus on the bad things, or focus on how God and others came through. Do I wallow in depression and anger or maybe ignore it, or do get past it, heal, and become a better person.

Two people I admire this week are Kaveh and Peter. Neither had family to visit or places to go for Christmas. Kaveh decided to open his house for a Christmas party for others who were alone, and Peter was making plans to serve at a Christmas dinner for the homeless. I don't know how their Christmas went, or how it all worked out, but they chose to make lemonade out of lemons. I hope their Christmas was blessed.

Hubby and Ms. D both had health issues the past two weeks. I was overwhelmed with taking care of them, my battle with migraines, celebrating all the birthdays, gift making, teaching and taking care of two emotionally charged kids, Christmas celebrations, keeping the housework up with appliances that were breaking down and little time, and birth family drama. These things are difficult. I need to deal with what I can change, and prioritize so I don't wallow in too many problems at once, and to accept help when given. The the things I can't change I need to learn to accept, forget, or at least put them in a place that is not looming so large.

But the part I choose to remember this Christmas is how so many people have helped us, supported us, given us a meal, prayed for us. People have given us so much. Micro-bio daughter did last minute shopping for me and even did the little kids' stockings. I had forgotten all about them! God and a security guard protected me from potential muggers at the mall. Ms. D is now getting counseling which would have been harder to get paid for had she not had the seizures. Christmas dinner was wonderful! The adult kids threw me out of the kitchen and prepared a wonderful feast. I was able to finish knitting a scarf for a daughter-in-law while they cooked, cleaned, and set the table. Talk about last minute gift making! One daughter-in-law offered to clean and organize my kitchen for her gift to me. She also crocheted a cute headband for me too! Micro-bio Daughter printed out and put photos in albums which is a big job in our family.  Hubby got me a new sun oven so I can cook food outside! I loved my last one, but after a few years the weather got to it. But best of all, some of the kids and Hubby got together to get me a new range! Now if you know how my old one has been behaving, you'd see how special this gift is to me. The electronic part that controls the oven has to be rebooted from time to time by unplugging the cord. When I turn the oven on it makes two or three booms. I was making light of it by calling out, "One!", "Two! ", or "Three!" after each boom. That way people didn't have to worry if something else was wrong. Other times I had to manually light the burners in the oven and stove top. Also, two of the four burners weren't working and the other two were slowly getting worse. I was making do, but I think the family realized that it was on its last legs. I was expecting a microwave oven, since ours is sparking and needs replacing too. A range is more expensive and I thought I'd have to wait quite awhile for a new one. Here is what one of my daughters-in-law made to show me what the gift was for. Isn't it creative and beautiful?

I am so overwhelmed now, not with the troubles that have come our way this season, but with the love and care people have shown me. I am truly blessed! I will remember this Christmas forever.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Grandparents

This morning, on Christmas day, Mr. I was talking about how he'd rather visit the grandparents than get their money. Then he said, "Well, I'd like their tractor." One of the older girls asked him what he would do with a tractor; he can't drive it anywhere around here. He said he'd park it in the lawn. Now that would be a redneck lawn ornament!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Regalo por Abuelita

Black Belt Daughter is getting ready to go to her boyfriend's family's Christmas Eve Celebration. She dyed a silk scarf for his grandmother. It turned out beautifully.
Black Belt Daughter

Close Up of the Scarf

Another Close Up
Black Belt Daughter is practicing her Spanish so that she can talk to his grandma. There will be quite a few people at the party, though not all of the family will make it. I think Black Belt daughter said her boyfriend has about 100 cousins total! That's even more than I have, and my mom comes from a large family! It will be quite a cultural experience.

Talking about cultural experience, my oldest son is having a string of parties on his wife's Filipino side this weekend. It's a good thing he likes Filipino food, since there is a lot of it! I love to go to her family's events. Yum!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas, When We Need Each Other the Most

It seems like this Christmas is full of unexpected emergencies, illnesses, and stressors. Hubby has been to the emergency room lately, is still ill, and is awaiting surgery. Our daughter was in the hospital last week with non epileptic seizures caused by stress. We have birthdays galore and kids who have gone through trauma so they tend to not "do holidays" well.  Our kids' birth family have relatives in jail, eviction looming, and people who are struggling with addiction and gang related activity. And we aren't the only ones going through a difficult time! I have one friend that spent this morning in the emergency room for her son who had a horrible case of hives, and then took her baby and herself to urgent care to get care for sinus infections. I have friends who have cancer, a few friends whose husbands are out of work, friends with family in distress, illnesses, and other friends with children who are having a very difficult time right now. One neighbor friend has a father in the hospital because of amputation of his toes, children who are sick, one with an ear infection, and a grandmother who has been in and out of the emergency room the past two days with blood clots in her lungs. None of this would be welcome, but especially when we want to have a traditional Christmas with our families.

One thing I have learned through all these trials is how much we need each other. We can't possibly do it on our own. The meal our neighbor gave us when we came home from the hospital after days of little sleep, and the evening out last night that our son's family gave to Hubby and I were so appreciated and needed. The cookies and gifts friends and neighbors have given us have shown me love. The neighbor who has the father and grandmother who are ill and in the hospital dropped off their two year old the past two days at our house. Now you may think that we were the ones giving this time, but in reality we have received much more. Ms. D has taken care of the little guy almost exclusively, and it has shown her that she is needed and to not give up on life.  We all need each other so much! And even when we are on the side of giving, it brightens our days and gives meaning to our lives.

And so this Christmas I am learning how much we need each other. And even when our Christmas isn't a "traditional" one, we can still find the Spirit of Christmas every time someone is helped, encouraged, and blessed. The first Christmas didn't have a tree, lights, card, or a family meal, but it was the ultimate gift to mankind. And so with that in mind, I'm trying to see the blessings in the midst of trials and really appreciate those who are in our lives.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Responsible Adult? Where Will He Find One of Those?

Hubby got a packet of info about his surgery planned next month. In it there were pre-op appointments, instructions, and other info to make the day go by more smoothly. There was also a line that a responsible adult needs to take him home and stay with him for at least 24 hours following surgery. My first thought was where will he find one of those? I sure don't feel very responsible or adult at the moment. Or more accurately, I'm getting a little overwhelmed by being a responsible adult. It would be awesome to get a break! No responsibilities. No worries. Just live in the moment!

Today has been filled with activity. Last night Mr. I had a friend over. They were going to try to survive outside over night in the cold, but after all the preparations, they came in when they heard a raccoon! I wonder what Bear Grylls would have done? I went to the mall this morning, and probably just missed getting mugged, but the security guy was there keeping an eye out for people. A neighbor dropped her two year old off because she had to care for her father and grandmother who are in the hospital. Right after, another friend stopped by to chat with Hubby. I walked the dogs with Ms. D, and because someone forgot to take the pizzas out of the oven for lunch, I had to run out to get some more. Poor girl, she even dropped a plate that I had to clean up because I was the one wearing shoes. When I came back from the pizza place, another neighbor dropped off a little Christmas gift. A herd of boys is here, which explains why I would go out for more pizza. Ms. D is all excited because she thinks she recognized one of the ambulance drivers who were at a neighbor's house. I'm glad she didn't have another seizure, though she hasn't had any since the weekend. So anyway, I have a pile of laundry, a few more dishes, a messy house, some more Christmas gifts to make, and presents to wrap, yet all I'm doing is sitting at the computer and writing. What a responsible adult I am right now!

Just Another Day at the Mall!

I dislike malls. The crowds are stifling, the materialism is depressing, and it's even worse the week before Christmas. I usually avoid them if at all possible. I'll even send my older children there to pick up something I can only get at a mall. But today I didn't have a choice, so off I went to the place I'd rather not go!

I decided to park next to the stairs so that I could get a bit of exercise. At the bottom of the stairs, there were two workers taking a smoke break, which made me wonder if the exercise I got from walking down the stairs was negated by the smoke. But I'm glad the workers were there because they were able to point to one of the four unmarked doors to the mall entrance. I was amazed that the "mall experience" is so planned out, that if you change things around a little for your health, like walking down stairs, you can't even find your way in without help!

I got what I needed and of course a bit more. I was at the freezer aisle at Target, and was freaked out that the lights in the freezers would turn on when I passed by. I'm used to automatic doors, escalators, and price readers, but the clicking on and off of lights as I passed by was just plain weird!

When I couldn't hold any more bags, I decided I was at the mall a little too long, so I headed back to my car, this time taking the escalator because I forgot how to get through the maze that led back to the stairs. As I was heading toward my car, I noticed that there were two BIG guys arguing with a little hispanic security guard in a golf cart. I slowed down until it looked like the big guys were heading to the stairwell. But as soon as I got to my car, they turned around and headed back toward my way and their car, I didn't know which! I was pretty scared, since I've heard reports lately of men mugging women loaded with bags in mall parking lots. But I'm so thankful that the security man stayed nearby. The guys looked at me, looked at the security man talking on the radio, looked back at me, and then went into their car and left. Whew!

Sometimes we get a glimpse of how God is protecting us day to day. I don't always see it, but when I do, I am amazed and thankful for His protection! It makes me wonder of all the other times that things happen or things are prevented and we don't have a clue. Sometimes I think it might be better that we don't know! But when I do realize what could have happened but it turned out fine, I like to think of how God's with me all the time. He is in control.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

But is it Real?


Earlier today, Hubby showed me this picture of Saturn, with the small dot of Earth just above the main ring on the left side.


I was thinking about how I have seen many pictures of Saturn over the years, but it didn't seem totally real until last spring when I looked through a telescope and saw Saturn with my own eyes. I had a feeling of awe when I could see the rings, the moons, and its beauty. Then a friend who lives in Honduras told me just now that some of the teens there wondered if snow was real or just a Hollywood make believe thing. It seems so weird for me, who grew up in the Midwest, to think that something as real as snow would be thought fictitious by anyone! But for those in the tropics it is as unreal, and maybe more so, than my view of Saturn. Hey, I knew Saturn was real, but they are doubting snow!

And so now I'm thinking of how our experiences really affect our belief systems. To me, God is real, as real as what I see in front of me. I've seen Him work in so many ways over my life. I might question what He's doing and why, but I don't question His existence. I pray because I have seen God answer. But to others who haven't seen His works, He doesn't seem real. And so it doesn't make sense to pass judgement on them when they don't act like He exists. What I can do is pray that they will seek Him, and also that God will reveal to them, in His mercy and kindness, that He is.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Elf Girl is Two Presents Closer to Her Goal!

This year I had decided to make most of the Christmas gifts for our family. Mr. I is still at the age where he counts the presents under the tree, but the older kids all wanted to tone down the gift card exchange this year. One, it gets boring. Two, it's expensive. And three, what's the point? And they are also growing up to not see the holiday in a materialistic way, but to bless others. Wouldn't all the money we spend on things we don't need be better put to use feeding a child in Africa, or starting a business in Nicaragua? It really makes my heart feel good that my older kids have grown up to be loving people that care for others more than themselves.

On the other hand, I do like to show my love to my family with things I make with my own hands. When I make things for others, I am also reminded to pray for them. It means more to me to give something I made to another person rather than just pulling something off a store shelf in a mad rush to give them anything. And so I had a goal of making something for each one of the family, which with three sons, five daughters and daughters-in-law, and one grandson is a pretty big job. (Hubby says he doesn't want anything.)

So I had plans to sew, knit, and crochet gifts. And then life happened. Emergency room visits, hospitalization, illnesses, migraines, a birthday baby quilt that took a little longer than expected to make, and the busyness of life slowed me down. I was getting a little worried. But today I turned elf girl and made and wrapped two gifts! Of course, these were the fastest ones to make, but it's a start.

So often I get discouraged by the enormity of a task. I spend too much time dreading it, worrying about it, or just plain procrastinating. "Oh, I wonder if someone wrote on my Facebook page in the last hour?" "Oh I need to do some errands." But if the task is broken down into steps and the fastest things are done in the beginning, it seems to give me an extra push to do the rest. Sometimes when the to-do list is really long I'll prioritize, doing the most important things first. But one of the priorities is to do something early in the process that can be finished quickly and give me a sense of accomplishment.

So Elf Girl got out her sewing machine today and even though she broke three needles, she got two presents done. And tomorrow there will hopefully be more!

Monday, December 19, 2011

I Can Do Anything Better Than You! Really? So What?

The other day I was talking to a friend who apologized for her "messy" bedroom which really wasn't messy at all. I told her that I had clothes waiting for the family to pick up after I folded them on my bed (and actually, if the truth be told, after the past few weeks, my bedroom is really messy). She then went on about how another woman has trained her kids to fold the clothes. Of course, she's often talked about how wonderful that family is, how neat, sweet, polite, hard working...yada, yada, yada. She seems to almost worship the ground the family walks on, so her comment really shouldn't have bothered me, but it did. You see, at the age the other woman was training her kids to fold clothes, I was training my kids not to kick, hit, or swear at me. While her kids were born into a Christian family, mine have gone through trauma I can't even imagine and at the same time have to deal with FASD, PTSD, and multiple placements. If they fold clothes and help with housework, great, but sometimes there are much bigger things to deal with, like not having seizures every time Ms. D gets excited or stressed. So I really can't compare how my children behave to theirs, but I did. And it was pretty depressing.

This morning I woke up remembering how, years ago, I took a class called Women in Ministry. Actually, it wasn't about women in ministry, other than women's and children's ministry, but how to introduce our husbands when they preach, keep a clean house, and put on the perfect Christian woman facade. Looking back, I see that it was pretty destructive. One day we learned how to decrease our sleep by a half hour each day until we hit our barely functional level so that we had more time to keep a perfect house, have perfect hair, nails, and clothes, have perfect children, be a support to our perfect husband, and reach out to other women so that they can learn to be just as perfect as they were. It's no wonder those who strived for that works driven Christian womanhood tended to burn out, run off with some biker dude, or have a nervous breakdown. I pretty much failed at the "perfect Christian life" as was sold to me, yet I still feel the sting of failure when someone tells me someone else does things better. I feel shamed when my children are a bad influence on other kids. I spend more time spinning my wheels trying to measure up to an artificial goal, and not God's plan for my life. And that's just not right.

You see, when I'm feeling bad because I'm measuring myself with man's yardstick, I'm not receiving God's forgiveness and grace. When I am so busy trying to be perfect according to man's standards, I'm forgetting to look to God to see what He really wants me to do with my time, my energy, and the gifts He has given me. When I'm comparing my weaknesses to other's strengths, I become covetous of what they have, if not their possessions, their life. When I'm feeling shamed because of unrealistic expectations of how my family acts, or their friends, or their birth family, I am not loving them as God would want me to love them. And when I can't forgive myself for not being perfect, I stop being close to God and worshipping him.

I need to let go of whatever is a burden. I need to let go of control of others. And I need to stop pushing God and others away until I could become perfect, and receive the love now. True Love isn't earned. It is given and received.

So no more comparing. I won't be like Annie in Annie Get Your Gun. I will not get into a competition of who has the best Christmas lights, the best cooking, the smartest kids, the cutest clothes, the most scripture memorized, the most outreaches, the best career, the nicest house, the most expensive car, the busiest schedule, the most money, the most relaxing vacations, the most languages learned, the best singing, the longest quiet time, the best marriage, or anything else. Anything good is a gift from God, and I will be thankful for what I have. And I will drop the unrealistic expectations handed to me so that I can hold onto what is really good. Love.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sleeping Sitting Up

Sleeping sitting up, blathering, forgetting names, a migraine off and on, all these signs show me that I'm still running low on energy and am still stressed. I'm actually getting a little worried because people have come to me with pretty important things in their lives lately, and I can't quite remember what I said. Did I give good advice? Or did I drone on with nonsense? I don't know! I don't know how it came across. I find myself going away or setting down the phone wondering if I helped, or just plain messed up. I pray that God will speak to them directly because He's the only one that can ultimately help with some of these concerns anyway. 

Of course when someone is weak, the enemy comes barging in, spreading doubt, fear, and whatever else he can do to make us miserable. I see this in my life. I'm doubting myself and my ability to be a good parent. I see this in Birth Mom. She has had a tough time of it lately, trying to find housing with enough bedrooms to fit her family, seeing Ms. D seize in the hospital, and all the family drama that's going on right now. I was a bit worried for her this week when she disappeared for a couple of days, but she pulled it together enough to go to church with hubby and Ms. D this morning. She loved the church; it was perfect for her culture and where she is at in her life. People accepted her, prayed for her, and loved up on her. I could tell she was changed in some way because she called the kids this evening to say goodnight. I'm so happy she did that. I see a pattern with her, her family, and Ms. D of checking out, running away, and hiding from difficulties. I pray that we can teach Ms. D and be an example to the birth family of how to face our problems, fears, and trials rather than run away through seizures, drugs and alcohol, or breaking off relationships. I pray that I can be a good example.

In the meantime, I'm just telling people I'm not thinking clearly. I'm definitely depending on God more than ever because there's not much left of me to give to others. And maybe that's not a bad thing.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Christmas Letter...And the Real Story

Before I had a passel of kids and a bunch of December birthdays that took up a bunch of time, I used to send out Christmas cards to friends and relatives who lived far from us. In them I would add a letter telling them the highlights of the year. Of course, the letter was always sugar coated, with pictures of smiling faces and all the good news of the year. Here's how I would write this year's letter:

This year has been a good one for the G- household! Hubby is still working at the linear accelerator lab. It has been so good for him to work there. He also spent three weeks in August in Nicaragua, going all over the country, praying, speaking, teaching a computer class at a university, and even talking once on the radio. He also spent a few days in a remote part of Nicaragua which is only accessible by boat and is out of cell phone range. The people there treat him like family. He is working right now to establish small businesses in Nicaragua so that people are able to support themselves and serve their communities. If you want to know more, check out the website for his nonprofit at Progresstools.org.  We are thrilled to have Grandson in our lives. He's been growing so quickly. We just celebrated his first birthday and he has been such a joy! Oldest son is still working in administration at the rehab hospital and his wife stays home with the baby. I'm so glad they live near enough for me to spend time with them. I've been having a fun time making diapers and other things for him and am considering starting a business making baby things early next year. Photography son and his wife celebrated their first anniversary this year. His business is doing well and his wife started school so that she could work towards a respiratory therapy degree. They recently moved back to our city so it's good to see them more often. Microbio Daughter now has a job in a biotech place less than 15 minutes from our house. It is good experience for her and a chance to pay down the student loans. Black Belt Daughter is going to the university now and is studying child development with an emphasis on teaching. She hopes to get her teaching credential in a couple of years or so. She is still teaching at the Taekwando studio. She also went to Honduras in June to visit some missionary friends of ours, distribute food to the poor, and teach self defense to some of the local people. I am still homeschooling Ms. D and Mr. I. They came in contact with their birth family this year. It is going better than I had thought. We went to Oregon twice this year to visit family. The second time was in October when we surprised Hubby's dad on his 80th birthday. It was so good to see everyone!

I would probably end the letter with something about how God is the center of our lives and to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New year.

I would probably keep out the hard stuff. I wouldn't say anything about how our grandson was hospitalized because of a fever. I wouldn't say how the kids hid from us that they were in contact with the birth family for over a month, that Ms. D had plans to run away to them for awhile, that one of the birth brothers and cousins were awaiting trial for murder, that the mother is on a program in lieu of jail and is having difficulty keeping to the program, and oh, another birth brother and a cousin are in a gang. I wouldn't tell on the letter how much I have struggled with the decisions of how much and what kind of contact to have with the birth family and how it has been impacting the kids, of how we now have to be careful what colors my kids wear, and how much fear Mr. I has when he is near the birth family. I wouldn't mention that it took Microbio daughter nine months to find her job, because it's been difficult lately for any new grad to get a job in their field. I wouldn't talk about my fears when Hubby was on the Caribbean in a dugout canoe with a 15 hp motor during hurricane season and absolutely no contact with the outside world. I wouldn't talk about my disappointment of just missing my mother when we went to Oregon to visit. I wouldn't talk about how three of Ms. D's friends were shot, one fatally. I wouldn't talk about how one of my friends was diagnosed with stage four cancer, and another moved to another part of the country. It wouldn't include how I've had more migraines and trouble with asthma. I wouldn't talk about how hubby has a kidney problem that has decreased his energy, sent him to the emergency room a few times with horrific pain, and that he has surgery scheduled next month. I wouldn't talk about how Ms. D was in intensive care this week to figure out what kind of seizures she had, only to find out that they are caused by stress. Stress? In our lives this year? I wouldn't mention it!

But that's not even the real story. The real story would include how God has been helping us, guiding us, and coming through for us, even at the last minute. The story needs to include how people, our family, church, friends, and neighbors have helped us, supported us, prayed for us. It needs to say how Microbio daughter got her job right when the student loans were due, how I received money from my grandparents the week before the taxes were due and I couldn't figure out how I would pay them. It would have to tell of how, even through difficult times and hard decisions, we have been sustained by God and have had the ability to get through those times. It would have to include how our grown children have been supportive, caring, and even have offered to do most of our Christmas meal. How even during finals week our Blackbelt daughter and then Microbio daughter after she came home from work, had watched Mr. I while I was in the hospital with Ms. D. How a neighbor gave us a meal when we came home and I needed it more than I ever have before. It would also have to include doctors and psychologists who "get" fetal alcohol enough to finally do some testing and are taking it into consideration in therapy. I would also include how wonderful the people at Kaiser have been in giving us good care every time we've been in contact with them this year. It would have to include how loving, how caring, how supportive people have been, beyond what I had ever expected and just when I needed it the most.

You see, the real story is how blessed we really are, even in the midst of difficult situations. Our lives have not been the typical Christmas letter lives this year, but our lives have been so much better! Richer. I am so blessed to have God right here with us, leading us, alongside us, comforting us, sustaining us. I am so blessed to have people who are doing the same. We are not alone. God is with us. Emmanuel. And that's what Christmas is about.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

And How Do You Feel About That?

Yesterday we made an appointment at the Psychiatry clinic at Kaiser for Ms. D. She wasn't at all interested in going. I think she knew that she would be encouraged to do the very thing that she has been trying so hard not to do, which is to talk, especially to talk about her feelings.

Mr. I looked at her and asked her why didn't she want to go to see a therapist. He would love to go back to therapy. And then he acted out his impression of a therapist.

First he sat on a chair across from Ms. D. He leaned slightly forward with his hands softly on his lap, fingers touching, and put on his best therapist face, the concerned but kind look, the gentle smile, the relaxed features. And then he started gently talking:

Hello, Ms. D. What brings you here today? I hear you had a hard time at the hospital earlier this week. Would you like to talk about it? How do you feel about that? May I sit next to you? Let me give you a hug. Would you like to play with a choo choo train?

We all laughed so hard, he was so convincing! Even Ms. D cracked a smile. We decided that Mr. I would either make a good therapist or comedian!

Detective Work and Settling In

Today was a day to settle in and to do some detective work.

I was able to get some good sleep in last night which was so needed. I had enough energy to begin to do some housework, and though there is much more to do, I at least started the process. Mr. I is calming down and we were able to do a bit of schoolwork. Ms. D woke up to a few seizure like episodes and had a few small ones just before the psychiatry appointment, but even those were mild and decreasing. At least she can tell when they are going to start, so she can sit or lie down. Ms. D was also able to walk the dogs late this morning. She had a good time walking in the fresh air with a dog at the other end of the leash.

This afternoon, we went to the psychiatry appointment. Ms. D didn't want to talk to a new person. I hope she will open up to Dr. A. I think she might eventually, because Dr. A is a sweet young lady that I think Ms. D will open up to if she would give her a chance. I'm not concerned yet that Ms. D was so quiet because it takes her a bit to trust someone.  Though we can guess what is so troubling to Ms. D, eventually she will need to open up and to talk to people about how she feels. Because now it's coming out in not so helpful ways. We need to do some detective work to see what is causing the seizure like episodes and what would help Ms. D. On the way out, we saw one of our friends from our old church who works there. What a wonderful surprise!

After we got home and ate a late lunch, we got a call from one of Ms. D's biological aunts. We found out that one of her cousins and another relative also have had seizures brought on by stressful events. Ms. D's cousin started having staring spells, only to develop into full blown epilepsy after a difficult pregnancy. I'll have to let Ms. D's doctor know about this.

As we hung up the phone to the aunt, our Pastor from The Gathering by the Bay came by to talk to Ms. D and pray for her. He had just visited her brother this morning and told her that her brother was concerned for her. Our pastor also encouraged Ms. D to find someone that she could talk to. It was good for her to hear that from someone else. I don't know why she holds everything in, but I hope that soon she will be able to talk to someone about what is troubling her. At this age it is so hard for her to tell us parents, especially when she is sorting through all the adoption things. All of us need to talk to someone about our deepest things without fear. I know the times I don't have at least a few other women to talk to, the things of life get overwhelming and I get physical symptoms, migraines, asthma, cold sores, stomach problems, back aches. I still do if things are really piled on top of each other, but it isn't so bad as the times when I feel I can't talk to anyone. I hope she learns this lesson soon.

Our pastor then asked Ms. D if he could pray for her and she said YES! That is so good! I was expecting her to decline prayer, since she's done it before and had just said she didn't need prayer. But he was wise, told her everyone needs prayer, and then asked her a few minutes later. I'm so glad he didn't give up.

When our pastor left, Birth Mom called. It was so good to see Ms. D laugh while she was talking to her. I think it was good for Birth Mom to hear Ms. D's voice and to see for herself that Ms. D was better than when Birth Mom visited her a couple of days ago. Ms. D's hospitalization has been so hard on Birth Mom, especially piled on top of the housing problems and all the things going on with her sons. Hubby had told me that after the visit, Birth Mom asked to be left off at a liquor store. And today Birth Mom told Ms. D that she would go to church with her Sunday if she checked out clean for drugs and alcohol tomorrow for the program she is on in lieu of jail. But there is a chance she won't. I hope she doesn't have to go back to jail. I know she didn't follow the rules, but I know that she doesn't have the capacity to handle seeing her daughter convulsing in intensive care. There must be something better to help Birth Mom get back on her feet. I hope she finds it in a Christian community, because people need spiritual support get get through such difficult times.

While talking to her Birth Mom, Ms. D gave her bearded dragon a bath. Joking, I asked her, "Did you give him a warm towel like your warm blankets in the hospital?" And she said yes! She warmed his towel in the microwave!!! It was so sweet how she gave her "Liddo Burrito" something she enjoyed at the hospital! I love that girl!!!!

Ms. D and Spike, her liddo burrito

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Home!!!!

Home!
It's so good to be home!!

We found out that Ms. Ds seizure like episodes weren't true seizures which is so wonderful! Everything checked out fine. Of course, we need to figure out why she shakes and passes out, but the theory so far is that it is from stress, which she has had more than her fair share this year. Even good stressors, like a birthday party, a visit from her family, or even coming home today, sends her to shaking and sleeping. And she's certainly had big and small stressors much of this year. The shaking, eye movements, and passing out are scary to those around her, but she doesn't remember a thing during those times. It isn't the best way to handle stress, so we have an outpatient appointment scheduled for tomorrow with the psychiatry department. I hope she will be able to talk about all the things in her life instead of holding it in and coming out in physical ways.

So the highlights of today:

Ms. D had a visit from Santa and a bunch of police officers before we left the PICU. They gave her a little bear and she was all smiles.  Here is a picture of a few of them. They filled the room with uniforms and joy. Hubby commented later that Santa must have needed a bunch of bodyguards so the kids in PICU wouldn't mob him!


People have been so supportive. Many have offered to help. It is my oldest son's birthday and we had plans to have the family over. But because Ms. D was still having seizure like episodes from just the stress from going home, we had to cancel. It was so good that the family was understanding and willing to change plans for their little sister. They even helped me make decisions since my brain was so fuzzy I couldn't think straight. Black Belt Daughter watched a frightened Mr. I during finals week which is such a sacrifice, and Micro Bio Daughter pitched in when she got home. And the older boys and their families offered to help too. They are all so amazing!

We also are going to have a meal brought to us by a neighbor this evening. It will be such a blessing since I have been so sleep deprived, I shouldn't drive to the store. I was able to get a short nap, but because of phone calls and a worried little Mr. I, I don't think it was long enough to do much good. Black Belt Daughter told me to go to sleep early tonight and not publish what I write until after I could edit it after I get more rest. I guess I looked and talked "terribly" when I got home. I told her that I should just write it out for the world to see and then wonder who in the world hacked into my blog and wrote on it!

It is so good to be home. It is so good to know that Ms. D isn't terribly sick. And it is so good to have such a wonderful family and friends who have supported us through this time.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Day 2 at the PICU

Today was a day of tests for Ms. D. She had an MRI, an EEG, and blood work done. So far nothing has been found out of the ordinary, but she still has the shakes, followed by passing out. They've subsided a bit this evening, but earlier this afternoon they were frequent and strong. It was a bit disconcerting to some in the family. I hope she heals quickly and we can be done with them.

There were some highlights to the day though.

First, Ms. D had a visit by a service dog, Mulan. I now have a new favorite breed, a Portuguese Water Dog.



There were also visits by just about everyone in our family, the kids, Hubby, and the grandson!!! I miss everyone so much!


Also, Birth Mom and Brother H came to visit. Hubby picked them up. They came right when Ms. D was having her worst bout with shaking and passing out, but they got to see that she is well taken care of. It was such a small thing, but it meant a lot, when the nurse came in and told us of free food for families with kids in the hospital. Birth Mom was surprised and told Ms. D that she was treated like a queen here on this side of town. After that, Birth Mom was calmer and happier. Of course, she wants the best for Ms. D. And she was able to see with her own eyes that she is being well cared for. And that's what I had hoped would happen.

Ms D and Brother H
I am overwhelmed by the support and prayers from my family and friends. Though it's been a hard road, it has been more easily traveled because of those in our lives. I am so thankful for each and every one of them. I couldn't make it without the support and love that people are giving.

And finally, Ms. D has had such excellent care from all the doctors, nurses, and technicians at Kaiser in Sunnyvale. I couldn't ask for better.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Staying at the PICU

It's a good thing I had lots of prayer from my friends at church Saturday. I knew something was about to happen, but couldn't imagine that the something would be that Ms. D would have seizures today.

This morning she was a bit off. She slept in and was a bit spacey. Now it's not uncommon for Ms. D to act this way on a Monday morning, especially after a weekend of parties and excitement. She didn't have much of an appetite, which isn't uncommon either. So around noon, we went to walk the neighbor dogs. She suddenly slumped and twitched just a little. At first I thought she just fainted, and called Black Belt Daughter to come and pick Ms. D up, since she couldn't walk well. When I got home, I was on the phone to the advice nurse when Ms. D really had a seizure, so I had Black Belt Daughter carry her to the van and I drove to the emergency room where she had more seizures.

So after a ambulance ride to another hospital with a PICU for observation, we are spending the night. Ms. D has medication and she is resting. She'll have more tests and see a neurologist tomorrow. Hubby brought a computer, my phone charger and some food. Mr. I is upset, but he was able to see Ms. D here when she was more comfortable andMicro Bio Daughter is camping out with him tonight in the living room by the Christmas tree. It has been so good to have the support of all the kids. It's amazing how each one is thinking of things to help Ms. D, Mr. I, and me. I love my family!

So tomorrow, Hubby is planning on taking Birth Mom to visit Ms. D. Birth Mom is really upset and didn't understand what seizures were when I first texted her from the emergency room. It took a while to calm her down tonight. I'm praying it will go well because she can get pretty frightened by medical things. But I think it will be good for both Ms. D and Birth Mom to have a visit. At least she'll see that Ms. D is getting awesome care. Everyone has been so kind and competent. I have just enough medical background to see when something is not done well.

It will be interesting to see what the doctors come up with tomorrow. While I've been sitting around, I searched and found that people with FASD have an increased incidence of seizures. It makes sense. But now I need to try to get some sleep.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Birthday Weekend. Sunday

So this morning, Sunday, I took a walk with my walking buddy in the neighborhood. I also gave her some of the bread and fruit given to us at church to distribute to those we know who are in need. My walking buddy is the lunch lady at the neighborhood school, so she knows who could use it. We also gave some bread to one of our neighbors who has been unemployed for over a year and to another neighbor. I remember a vision Hubby had when we were thinking of moving to California. He saw me handing out bread to neighbors. Haha! I didn't think it would be so literal!

This morning I also baked a cake for Mr. I's kid birthday party and went to the store for some eggs for his and his friends' breakfast. Our chickens just couldn't keep up with all the baking I had been doing lately. It was fun to make a special breakfast for Mr. I. I also did a lot of dishes after House Church and the breakfast by hand. Not having a working dishwasher has added a lot of work to my days, but there is something soothing about doing them by hand. I actually kind of like it this way. 

We also sold the Tic-Tac! Tic-Tac is our little white Ford Aspire that just won't die. Our mechanic neighbor says it's because the small engine keeps it from straining all the other parts. It has been a good car for us to park at train parking lots, but nobody liked to drive it because of its little quirks. But now that we don't need it anymore, we sold it to a college age friend. I hope Tic-Tac is a good car for him too.

In the afternoon, I took Mr. I and two of his friends to Nickel City. Now I was really worried that the auditory and visual stimulation along with the excitement of a sleep over and birthday party would send Mr. I over the edge, but it didn't. He limited the friends to a couple of fairly calm guys without any encouragement from me. He knew what he could handle, and he self regulated!!!! After an hour and a half of playing there while I knitted near the front door, he told me they were done and could they please have some tacos because they were hungry. So we went to Taco Bell and all three thanked me. They were all so polite, I wondered if I brought the right kids home! Well, actually, they are all polite boys, but I didn't expect such behavior when they were so over stimulated. 
At the Taco Restaurant
After the boys ate, they needed to go home, so we ate the cake as a family. Now the cake was from a chocolate mousse cake mix. I couldn't find two cake pans so I baked it in one. Mr. I wanted the mousse in the center, so I had to figure out a way to cut it in half. I remembered Hubby's mom's trick of cutting angel food cake with a piece of thread and tried it with a regular cake. It worked. I should have taken a picture, but I'll try to explain it here. You need to place a piece of thread all the way around the cake where you want the cut to be. Cross the string, and pull. The string will cut the cake easily. 

This evening was spent listening to Black Belt daughter study out loud for finals, knitting, catching up on the blog and Facebook, and watching Micro Bio daughter play cards with Mr. I. For being such a busy weekend, I have been so peaceful today. It's been good.

Birthday Weekend! Saturday

This weekend revolved around Birthday Parties and church at our house. As you can imagine, I'm pretty tired from all the activity, but it all went surprisingly well.

Friday night was baking night, as Daughter-in-law wanted some snicker doodles for Grandson's first birthday party. I made a double batch, so it took until close to 11:00 at night to get it all done.

Saturday was clean, clean, clean, with a little break in the middle to go to Grandson's birthday party. With help from the family, I was able to get the Christmas boxes out of the house and get things to a halfway decent state. The house was pretty messy because of the emergency room visit, a sick Hubby and the news of surgery in January, birthdays, homeschool, general kid stuff, and because I had to finish Grandson's birthday quilt during the week and I wasn't feeling well the week before that.

I just added a border to a panel, hand quilted, and then added a binding. I finished the quilt right on Grandson's birthday.

So Saturday late morning, I packed the van up with a table, chairs, gifts, cookies, pizza, a few other things, and of course the kids and Hubby and went down to the other Grandma's house for the party. Now going to a Filipino home for a party is so good! They have the most amazing food! And lots of it! So we had both American food and Filipino food, and even had taro cake for one of the deserts. Grandson really liked his special Smash Cake! At first he wasn't so sure, but then he didn't want to stop eating it! So cute! Here is a picture of him with his mommy and daddy.

So after the party, we went back home to get ready for house church. I was so tired by the time everyone came, but I was happy to see everyone. It is so good to have a church where I can be real. It was also so good to hear how things went with our pastor's visit to the kids' birth brother in jail. I'm really praying that he will give his life to God and be all he can be. People prayed for me, which really helped. Mr. I had a couple of friends for a sleepover and I had no idea how I would do with the extra work, yet being so exhausted. But after the prayer, I have felt such a great peace! Things just didn't seem to be overwhelming from that point on.

Prayer really helps!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Unintended but Good in the End

Today I am thinking about how many things in life are unintended, but end up being good in the long run.

Some are things I can see the good right away. Today I took the kids to the library and ran across a friend I haven't seen in months. She lives in our neighborhood, home schools, and has adopted children who are adults now, so we have a lot in common. So it was good to chat. Of course we stayed in the library much longer than usual, the kids usually want to be in and out in 15 minutes, so it was a stretch for them, but it was good for me. Hey, even adults need socialization!!! 

Some things which are unintended are not serious, but can be annoying. Today, as I tried to move one of our cars out of the way of the street sweeper, I realized someone left the lights on and the battery was dead. Hubby was in bed resting from his illness and the kids and I couldn't push the car up the driveway in time for the street sweeper. It was an annoyance to me. Life is full of these type of things. The car dies, the food burns, the glass breaks, the computer freezes.  When these sort of things happen I have a choice. I can get angry or stressed, or I can let it go and move on. When my kids used to drop a plate, they would panic and run away. Well, they still do. And that's even after years of me smiling and saying, "That's OK. Let's just clean it up." Because of their reactions, and because they have broken so many things, they've taught me to hold onto things loosely, to make a priority in my life for people, not stuff. And when I see the fear in their eyes, I am reminded to not let such little things get to me. Now I'm not perfect, it takes a lot of practice, but I'm getting better at it. I need to remember that it's just a little thing, not a BIG thing.

Other things which are unintended are big things. Tragic. You wonder why. Miscarriages, murder, loss of jobs, divorce, loss of a child, serious illness, both physical and mental. The list goes on. My heart goes out to those I know who have gone through some of these things recently, because I have suffered also. Some of these things you can see the good coming from them after a while. When my kids came in contact with their birth family I was frightened, worried that my daughter had plans to run away to them, worried about the gang influence and the brother and cousins who were in jail for murder. But through the months I can see good coming from contact with them. The kids seem to appreciate us more. They know we love them. They know they are loved by both sides of the family. And maybe some will come to know Jesus better through this.  

But some difficult and unintended things happen that we can't see the good. During those times we need to not ask God why, but look to Him to comfort us, to hold us up, to bring us through. Because someway, somehow, God will carry us through those times if we look to Him. I want to remember this now when things are going relatively Ok. Because when I'm thrown off track by misfortune, I need to almost automatically turn to God and trust that somehow He'll work it all out for good in the end, even if the end is in heaven with Him.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Happy Birthday, Grandson!

Today is the second of our December birthdays. Happy 1st Birthday, Grandson!!!!

He and his parents stopped by today. We'll have his party at the other grandma's Saturday, so I'll have time to finish his birthday present. It's almost done, not even a half hour left! I'll show a picture soon.

On another note, the trial for the birth brother and cousins was to start today. One of the women in the trial refused to go out of her cell so the trial is been postponed to January. I think it is so odd that so many people, I think six, are being tried at the same time for murder. They weren't all involved in the same way. Yes, some fought, but some were just bystanders. The trial hasn't started, so until the tapes are shown, it's hard to judge. But I always assumed people were tried individually. I also think it's odd that it's taken so long to come to trial, over two years so far. It doesn't seem right to me. Aren't we supposed to have speedy trials? Hubby, who went to today's non event, said some of the relatives looked pretty scary. Birth brother was the least scary of all of them, and fits with how I remembered him when he was 14. So sad how lives are lost on both sides. One to death, and six to years in jail. What a waste! And it affects the whole extended family. There are kids who are being bounced from relative to relative because their parents are in jail. I hope my kids will never have to go through this.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Beef Stew

Today was another busy day, though not as unexpected like yesterday's 4 1/2 hour trip to the emergency room. Knowing it would be filled, I decided to pull out the crock pot and start supper (dinner for you West Coast people) in the morning. It is so simple and good on a cold winter day.


Here is the basic recipe:

Cut in about 1 inch pieces:

Beef roast
Carrots (If I'm really lazy, I'll use the peeled mini carrots.)
Peeled potatoes (though I've not peeled them before, especially using new potatoes, and it was OK.)

Add chopped:

onions
garlic

Add:

salt to taste
water to cover

Cook in covered crock pot all day

Easy! And it's a good way to use up really bad cuts of beef (or other meat).  The roast I used today was so tough when I was cutting it, I wondered if the kids would eat it at all. But the slow cooking tenderized it so much, the meat fell apart when I stirred it. I didn't put in amounts because that's how I roll, and you can vary the amounts quite a bit and it would still be good. Today I used about a two pound roast, about six medium potatoes, a pound of carrots, and two onions. I didn't have the garlic, but it still worked.

So after teaching, grocery shopping, dog walking, a homeschool Christmas party, and a trip to the dog shelter with Ms. D, I was able to come home to a ready cooked meal!

Empathy vs. Condemnation

I used to be one of those people who judged those who had kids that misbehaved a lot. I thought if you parent right, do the right things, have a good balance of love and structure, kids will respond and turn out well. Now I wasn't expecting complete perfection, I figured kids will misbehave sometimes, and some kids with obvious mental or physical disabilities couldn't be held to the same standards. But for the most part if the parents did their job, the kids would be obedient, respectful, fun to be around, and grow up to be productive adults. It worked for my four bio children, didn't it? I judged the parents of kids who acted horribly.

Until I got my youngest two.

I learned that I can't reverse the damage done to the brains of my kids because their birth mom drank and abused drugs. I can't completely erase the past trauma and neglect they had to endure when they were young and their brains were forming neural pathways. Now there are things I can do do lessen the behaviors and help them heal, but I can't grow new brain cells, I can't erase memories, especially emotional and preverbal memories. I am now the mom who can see looks in people's eyes when my children act odd, or dress inappropriately, or have a meltdown, or swear, or make wrong choices, or inappropriately touch someone. I know there are some that judge me. While some in one of my circles are discussing dating vs. courting, I'm getting the HPV immunization for my daughter because it wouldn't surprise me if she makes some bad decisions. While other parents are talking about their kids getting straight A's, I have to teach some things multiple times with kindness and without guilt because they have spotty memories.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm proud of my kids. They have worked so hard and have healed so much. They are actually doing really well for the hand they were dealt. But for the average bystander, they don't see the progress, they don't see the FASD, they don't see the things hidden.

So now, when I see articles like this, Ellie Gertz, Adopted Then Relinquished, Tore Families Apart, I understand. Not that my kids are as wounded and troubled as this girl, but I parent children with FASD and have had past trauma. So now, if I see a child who acts strangely or misbehaves, my first thought isn't about the parenting style, but I think to myself, "Is there something else going on here, autism, FASD, bipolar?" I know there are parents who raise their kids poorly, have no boundaries, or just don't care, but I don't assume that until I really know them.

One of the things we were encouraged to do last night at the Help One Child meeting, I can't remember if it was on the video, talked about in our discussion, or both, was to find other parents who are parenting kids from hard places. Like one woman said, "We really need each other because we can understand what we're going through. All children have tantrums, but not all children have them a thousand times a day like ours." Of course she was exaggerating, but it's so good get together with others who have fostered or adopted. We don't have to explain. We know what it's like because we're walking on the same path. We need each other. We give each other advice, a hug, a knowing look. We empathize, not condemn.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ok, Can I Breathe Now?

Today was a whirlwind of activity. It started this morning at four when Hubby woke up with a lot of pain. It isn't a serious condition, but it is extremely painful, so we ended up going to the emergency room later in the morning for about 4-5 hours. Because they really didn't want to wait around at a place that brings up all sorts of anxieties and because of the excitement of the day before, I gave the kids a choice. 1. Come with us to the hospital. 2. If you think you can not fight, be scared, or get into trouble, you can stay home alone for a little over an hour until your older sister comes home from college.

The hospital is about 2 miles away, we have trusted neighbors who are busy but home, and we were in constant contact by cell phone, so I wasn't worried to much about their safety, but I was worried about them emotionally during this time.  With our older kids who don't come from hard backgrounds, leaving a 12 and 13 year old would be a no brainer. Of course someone that old could be trusted to be alone for an hour or so under these circumstances! But with my kids it was a big deal.
A Really Big Deal!


And they did beautifully! They called or texted a few times to check in. Well, they checked in every 15 to 20 minutes under the guise of asking questions like, "What can we eat? How long does it take to boil water for noodles? Should we walk the neighbor's dogs when Black Belt Daughter comes home?" They actually held it together until their sister came home! After that, they kind of fell apart, but that's OK. They did it! They survived being apart from me for a little bit.

When we came home and got Hubby settled, I then took the kids to do a few errands. We stopped at In-and-Out on the way home since other than school time I hadn't been home a good part of the day. I was planning to make some cookies for a Christmas cookie exchange for our homeschool group tomorrow. But first I sat down for a few minutes to check my email but then realized that I forgot about a Help One Child support group. I had really wanted to go to it since they were showing a Dr. Karyn Purvis movie on raising kids from hard backgrounds. So off I went again! I'm so glad I went. Each time I go I am encouraged to work on something else. I'll write more on that later.

I had to pick up a few things at the store on the way home and realized I wouldn't have time to make the cookies this evening. But when I came home, Micro Bio Daughter and Ms. D were making snicker doodles! I'm so thankful for my family!

So now, after all the excitement today, I'm finding myself holding my breath or breathing shallowly. So I need to relax and breathe deep. And....Slow....Down.....

Monday, December 5, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mr. I!

Today Mr. I turned 12!


At first it was pretty rocky. Mr. I's birth dad called at 7:30 am to wish him a happy birthday. Because Birth Dad needed to get to work, I woke Mr. I up to talk to him. I had hoped to let Mr. I sleep in because with kids from trauma backgrounds, birthdays and holidays are rough. And today was no exception. Mr. I was pretty out of it all day but it got even worse when Ms. D woke up late stating she was sick. Of course, she wasn't sick, just didn't feel good inside because it was her brother's birthday. I knew she was fine when she was able to walk 1 2/3 mile at a quick pace as we walked the neighbor dogs. So during the day they took turns showing signs of distress.

For dinner we were able to get the whole family at the same time at the local Chinese restaurant. We not only needed the big table, but two smaller tables as well. The kids did pretty well! Mr. I was a bit shy when a priest who was at the next table asked to give him a blessing for his birthday. We all came back home for some ice cream and cake and Mr. I opened his presents. We tried to not go overboard this year on gifts because he had been getting kind of materialistic lately, especially wanting to collect hats and shoes. He noticed, but he needs to learn that people and experiences with others are more important than having more stuff. It's a lesson that is hard for many Americans, and especially for kids that are struggling with RAD. It's so hard to balance these kids' desire to be the focus of attention and their need for routine and peace. Birthdays and holidays can be full of meltdowns and dysregulation whether it's their birthday or someone else's. Parties have been pretty rocky in the past. But Mr. I made it through better than other times. He finally fell asleep pretty happy with how the day went, though it did take a while. And I am breathing a sigh of relief that we managed to get through another birthday relatively unscathed.

Now we have more birthday celebrations and Christmas is coming. We have birthdays every few days this month and it sometimes takes a week to recover from each one. I've noticed I've had a lot more migraines the past couple of weeks. I get them with stress, so I guess I need to get to the point where I don't worry or hold my fears in until they come out in migraines, or stomach problems, or asthma. It's a good thing I'm making Christmas presents because the creativity and hand work relieve some of the stress. I need to keep up with the exercising and eating right too, which will be a challenge with all the busyness and celebrations. But most of all, I need to spend quiet time with God, to give Him my fears, burdens, and sins, because He can handle them much better than I can!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas Decorations are Up....Mostly!

Well, today we got most of our Christmas lights up. Here's a picture:


A few of them are too dim for some reason, I'll have to figure that out, and we have a few more to put up. But even if this ends up being all we have time for, it will be good enough to impress our grandson and the neighbor kids. I actually climbed on the roof and put the lights on the edge. That's really impressive if you know that I have a big fear of heights! After doing the roof stuff, I had enough, so Micro Bio Daughter and Mr. I finished it off. They did a pretty good job! Mr. I said we have the third best lights on our block and that's just fine with me. I'll let the neighbors have their plastic blow up snowmen! I just can't get into fake snowmen in the front lawns next to palm trees and bougainvilleas!

Each year for the past few years I've been getting a few LED lights. I've pretty much completely changed over for the outside of the house. I can't stand the glare of those things on the inside. Maybe some day they'll come out with LEDs that aren't hard on the eyes, but until then, they'll do just fine outdoors, kind of like a barn cat.

Today I went out shopping, GASP! Tomorrow is Mr. I's 12th birthday and I realized that I needed to get something for him, so off I went. Aren't I a good planner? I did avoid the mall. You won't catch me there on a weekend in December! There was a problem though. A lady at the checkout was having a bit of a hard time with things and forgot to give me 20% off. When I reminded her, she had already pressed the button to complete the sale and couldn't fix it there. So I ended up in a loooooonnnng line at the back of the store in customer service. It wasn't too pleasant; it was very hot and stuffy back there, but I made the best of it by chatting with other women in line. We talked about kids, food, the difference between Vietnamese cooking and American cooking, Christmas food... Did I say we talked about food? You'd think I was hungry with all the food talk, but really I was just thirsty because of the stuffy heat! But in the end the time passed nicely because of the good conversation in line. I don't like to wait, and I especially don't like to wait in lines! I really need to turn those potentially unpleasant experiences to fun ones more often!

Oh, and back to the lights. Did you notice our front porch light is working again? I don't know how it happened but the lights at the front of the house, which hadn't been working for months, suddenly decided to work again. I have no idea why. But I'm glad, with it getting dark so early, that it's working now.

Some People Have a Great Sense of Humor!

I've been too serious lately. I guess that comes with not feeling well. So I thought I'd share a couple of things some friends of friends posted on Facebook.  I already posted these on my wall, but if reading these things can get me out of a funk, I'm sure you'd enjoy them too!

Posted on my sister's wall by her mother-in-law:

To help save the economy, The government will announce next month that the Immigration Department will start deporting seniors ( instead of illegals ) in order to lower social security and medcare costs . Older people are easier to catch and will not remember how to get back home . I started to cry when I thought of you .... Then it dawned on me ........Oh, great ,,,,, I'll see you on the bus!!!


And this is from a friend of a friend:


I was at a Walmart buying a bag of Purina dog chow for my dog in the check-out line when a woman behind me asked if I had a dog. Why else would I be buying dog chow? RIGHT??? So on impulse I told her that no, I didn't have a dog. I was starting the Purina Diet again, and that I probably shouldn't because I ended up in the hospital last time. But that I'd lost 50 pounds before I awakened in intensive care with tubes coming out of most of my orifices and IVs in both arms. I told her that it was essentially a perfect diet and all you do is load your pockets with Purina Nuggets and simply eat one or two every time you feel hungry. The food is nutritionally complete so it works well and I was going to try it again. (I have to mention here that practically everyone in line was now enthralled with my story.) Horrified, she asked if I ended up in intensive care because the dog food poisoned me. I told her no. I stepped off a curb to sniff a poodle's butt and a car hit me. I thought the guy behind her was going to have a heart attack, he was laughing so hard. Better watch what you ask me and be prepared for my answer. I have all the time in the world to think of crazy things to say....


Hope this brightens up your day!!!

Where is God in Troubled Water?

I've often wondered why it is that while we are going through life, trying to do God's will, that we end up going through some pretty tough times. You would think that if you are doing what you are supposed to do that things will be all smooth, the path will be clear, and that you wouldn't have any opposition. But thats not always what happens. Often before, during, or after some of the most fruitful or closest times I've had with God, I've had the toughest times. It doesn't seem like God is anywhere close by during those seasons. And it doesn't make sense to me, especially at that moment. Why did I end up in an abusive church and struggle for years healing from it when it was pretty clear God moved us to California? Why is it such a struggle to raise kids with FASD and past trauma, affecting our whole family, when we were clearly obeying God in bringing in two more kids? Why do we struggle financially when we have been faithful in giving and have been generous with what we have been given? And why did I have such a difficult week of headaches, exhaustion, and sickness right after including the birth family into our family's Thanksgiving? I don't know why. But these are just a few examples of when we felt God directing us, but the path was difficult and God seemed far away.

We are going through the book of John at our house church, The Gathering by the Bay. So last night we were at John 16:15-21. Jesus had just fed the 5,000 when he went to a quiet place to pray. In another book we see that he sent the disciples across the lake. After obeying Jesus and going across without him, a storm came up and almost killed them. They saw Jesus walking on the water, and when He came into the boat, the wind and waves were calmed.

We had a pretty good discussion about this passage. I'm so glad we can talk about what we have read. There were a lot of good points made by people. One of the things that hit me was that the disciples obeyed Jesus and left on their boats at night but the storm came anyway. And even though they didn't have him on the boat at first, Jesus was still there, walking on the water.

So when the storms of life come to me, I need to remember that God is still there. I shouldn't just immediately assume I am off course, or abandoned, or unworthy of His love. I want to be able to find God in the bad times in addition to the good times. It's been easy to thank God for the way he provided for me this week. But shouldn't I also thank Him for being with me through the bad times? I think so.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Getting a Coin Out of the Mouth of a Fish

In a few days we have to pay property taxes. Yes, the bill is due on the same month we have a bunch of birthdays and Christmas, which to me is pretty bad timing. I know we should save every month to save for the big tax bills in December and April, but this year has been a bit tight financially. We still are digging ourselves out of a hole that started when we had three in college and Hubby was out of work for a few months. Of course, we are doing much better than many. We didn't lose our house, we are able to pay our monthly bills, and we still are able to give to the people in Central America through my husband's nonprofit, Progress Tools.  I can see God's hand in providing for our needs throughout these past few years.

In the Bible, actually Matthew 17, the disciples are asked by the authorities to pay their taxes. Not having the money to pay, they asked Jesus what to do. Jesus told them to throw a line out, and the fish they would catch would have a coin in its mouth which would be enough to pay the taxes. Well I couldn't figure out how we were going to pay the few thousand dollar tax bill next week. The only way I could think of was to borrow. I was really not looking forward to that because I've been working hard to pay off debt and this would set us back. I was beginning to worry. But God had another idea.

Today I opened a card from my aunt and uncle. I actually had it for a couple of days, but was sick when it came, so I didn't open it right away. In it was some money from my Grandma who passed away. It was enough to pay the taxes for December plus some more! And even better, Hubby is working at home today so he was here when I saw God's provision. I sometimes need encouragement from others of God's goodness and provision because my default is to worry. I really need reminders. But God is good! His kindness is amazing! He provided abundantly!

Thank you, Grandma. Thank you, God.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mountain Lion Dream: A Little Reminder Not To Be a Control Freak

Image from National Geographic

The last few days have been pretty rough, physically, mentally, and spiritually. It's been really hard to hear God's still, small voice when I've been in such a funk. So last night Hubby prayed that God will speak to me in a dream. Now, sometimes speaking to me that way works because when I'm awake, my mind goes too fast, I have too many worries, and I push out the lessons and direction that God wants to give me. When I'm asleep, my defenses are down, so dreams can truly be a gift from Him. Now not every dream is God. Some are "pizza dreams", or "sick dreams", you know, dreams that make no sense but are because we ate too much rich food before bed or we are ill. I had first thought my dream last night was one of the silly ones, but now, after I've had time to read some things and sort things out, I'm beginning to think that there is more to it than I had thought.

In my dream, I was in my childhood home, and there was a mountain lion across the street. The next thing I knew was that while I was calling the authorities to get the lion, it had managed to get inside my house. So I began to try to round up that lion, chasing it throughout the house, trying to get it into an empty room so that someone could get it out of there. I finally cornered it into a bedroom, but when I was about to shut the door, I noticed that my daughter, Ms. D was asleep there. So armed with a kitchen towel, I moved between the lion and my daughter, woke her up and got her out of that room. Well, the lion followed us out into the hallway, and I tried to wave the towel to distract him. He was a bit annoyed, really for the first time showing any aggression, and scratched at the towel, but then I noticed the lion had a collar on. I grabbed the collar and we both calmly walked down the hallway. Then I woke up.

I didn't think much of the dream until later. First I read this blog, Columbian Brewed, Who Put THAT There?, written by another adoptive mom. I won't go into much about her post, since it would take time to develop the thought, but it revealed some things in my heart that need to be changed and adjusted.

I am seeing that the mountain lion dream really does have some meaning. I think the mountain lion represents God, just as the lion represented Jesus in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe  by CS Lewis. The lion, or God comes into my life, my whole life, represented by my childhood home. He goes all over the house, my life, going in every room whether I like it or not. He goes into Ms. D's room, but I tried to get him out of there, because I want to keep her safe. Is God trying to do something in Ms. D's life, but I'm doing things to keep Him away? Maybe. I'll have to pray about that. She doesn't know Him yet, though she is close. And finally, I grabbed the collar. At first I thought I was leading the lion, but now as I think about it, he was leading me!

I tend to have preconceived notions of how my life will work out. I want things my way, when I want them. But God is showing me that His way is the best. It may seem a little wild. It might be a little different than I had planned. It might not be in the same timing I'd prefer. But I can't be a control freak. He will work things out better than I could ever imagine. He loves me, my family, and every person here on earth. He wants to work in our lives. I need to be sensitive to Him and not hinder the process. And when it seems He is quiet, it might mean that I'm insisting on my own way, not His.

So as I've been writing this, my neighbor girl came here for some help with her homework. She was obviously sick, shivering and feverish. Instead of my first instinct to have her go straight back home, I asked God what I should do, and felt that I should help her. And after the ten minutes it took to help her, I prayed for her. May God heal her body, show her she is loved, and bring her to Himself.

Now bring out the Lysol!