Sunday, December 29, 2013

In Our New Home

We now live on an island in the beautiful Northwest!


I love the home that Hubby picked out. The daylight basement makes it big enough for the teens, yet it won't feel overly large when the kids leave the nest. It is within walking distance to the ferry, only about a mile and a half. Hubby gets a boat ride to work every day! I was walking downtown on Christmas eve, and couldn't believe that I lived in such a nice place. People take vacations on our island, yet I get to live here!

We moved in a few days before Christmas, so things are pretty busy. I even drove down to San Jose and back during the past week to pick up some more of our belongings we stored at the older girls' place. In about forty-two hours, I drove for thirty one of them! No wonder I feel exhausted!

I'll write more later about the trip up here, spending time at the in-laws, Microbio Daughter's visit which helped the kids adjust, and celebrating Christmas in the middle of a move. But now it's time to get back to the job of unpacking and organizing.

Monday, December 9, 2013

So Proud of My Son

Yesterday I went to my oldest son's pinning ceremony.
What's a pinning ceremony? My son did a much better job explaining, but I am having a hard time figuring out how to upload the videos of the ceremony. But in a nutshell, it is a ceremony that welcomes nurses into the profession.



I was so proud of my son. He not only was asked to give a speech, but he worked hard in school.


He was a class representative, worked on the pinning committee, and maintained a 4.0 grade point average in an accelerated nursing program. He did all this while taking care of his family and working part time. Of course, he had the support of his family, which helped him through the tough year.


(I apologize for the sideways pictures, but I don't have the time to figure out how to flip them!)

My son won the Most Promising Student award. I wish you could hear all the nice things the faculty said about him.



My son worked hard and did well in school. He also already has a job lined up in San Diego!


I quit nursing school at the end of my junior year to have him and the other kids. I loved nursing and planned to return when the kids were older. But in my early forties, I made the choice to foster and adopt. I couldn't do both nursing and raising children from hard places. So I gave up my dream. But then my oldest son took up my dream and ran with it.

I would have made a good nurse. My son is becoming a great nurse.

Congratulations, Mr. Nurse!!!! I know you'll love it! You were made for nursing.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mr. I

Mr. I turned fourteen today. He's almost as tall as I am now. Where has the time gone?!

We weren't able to make a normal celebration tonight because of the move. Hubby will come down tomorrow for the birthdays and graduation, but couldn't be here on Mr. I's day. A few of our family and one of his friends did go out for a birthday dinner, and a couple more later joined us for ice cream and cake.

Mr. I kept saying that it didn't feel like a birthday, but we did what we could. Sometimes there is only so much you can do, especially with a December birthday in our house, since all my boys and my grandson have birthdays this month. Hopefully we will be able to give him a better Christmas celebration in our new home. He is an awesome young man, and I want him to know that he is loved.

Monday, December 2, 2013

We Are Stronger Than We Think

Hubby came home this past weekend.


We had a delightful Thanksgiving dinner on Friday at the older girls' apartment.


It was the last time this year, and maybe for awhile, that we were able to get the whole family together in one place at the same time.




Just before we ate, Ms. D and I walked to the store, since she can't eat mashed potatoes without sour cream. She held my hand and was very well attached. I think she really liked Dad being home, even for just a day or two.

While we were walking, Ms. D asked me if it's been hard on me to have Hubby gone for so long. I said, yes, I really missed him. But even though it's been a difficult month, I was, we all were, able to accomplish more than I ever thought possible. We did things that we thought we couldn't do. We are stronger than we think.

I told Ms. D that she is stronger than she thinks, too. We all are. When we have to, we can do more than we give ourselves credit. We were able to do get the house ready to sell while Hubby was in Seattle. As far as I know, the younger kids are adjusting to the idea of moving and are doing well. My older girls were able to have Thanksgiving dinner at their place, even though they have been so busy. Drumming Son and his family are almost done with the year long intensive nursing school adventure. I have three in our family who are doing well in college right now. I was able to drive solo 1,400 miles in two days in order to move some things up to the Northwest this weekend. Thats driving twelve to thirteen hours a day for two days in a row!

I'm not saying that everything has been perfect. There have been times when I was a puddle on the floor and really needed help. Sometimes life throws curveballs that are so hard, you're knocked off your feet. Life isn't always neat and pretty. I don't think the saying, "God only gives you what you can handle," is always true. Sometimes we are given much more than we can handle, that's why we need God and others.

But when the dust settles, and the crisis is over, you realized that you were able to accomplish much more than you realized you could do. You wonder how you did it. And then you realize that you are stronger than you think, much stronger!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Hubby is Almost Home!

After a month of living and working in another state, Hubby is coming home for Thanksgiving weekend!

I don't know how the kids will react to Daddy coming home. So far they are a little withdrawn, and maybe a tad bit bossy and cranky. But that's OK. Hubby is almost here!!!

I don't know how the families of soldiers and others who are gone for long periods of time do it. I am in awe of them. This past month has been very difficult for me and the kids. But of course it was difficult! We were selling our house, the kids have difficulties even in low stress times, and we still had to homeschool and maintain a home life without the presence of Hubby.

But we made it through! And Hubby is almost home!

I have so much to be thankful for this year. No, it hasn't been easy. There were situations that were beyond what I could handle. But we made it through. Sometimes making it through is reason enough to be grateful. But if I look a little harder, I see that I have so much more. I am blessed.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

When Mama is Sick

When Mama is sick, the kids get uneasy.
Children don't like it, when Mama is queasy.

I tell myself then, the kids used to be worse,
When tantrums happened, and they often would curse.

It is better now, though I fall to old ways.
I act like a cat, and pretend I'm OK.

I care for myself, when they aren't around.
But when they are here, I jump up with a bound.

As hard as it is, to be a good mama.
It's harder to be, a mama of trauma.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Brewster is Back!

We are now a two dog family! Brewster failed guide dog training for being over-exuberant in greeting. Guide Dogs for the Blind allow puppy raisers to keep the dogs who are career changed if they want. So Ms. D got her wish to get her beloved puppy back. We picked him up Friday afternoon.


I wish you could have been there when Brewster saw his girl for the first time in two months. I got a video of the first moments of the reunion.


Here he is ready to come home!


He loves his girl! And his girl loves him!


And now he has a playmate, Samurai!


 Samurai loves having another dog to play with.


We are so happy to have Brewster in our home again! Ms. D told me that now that she has Brewster, she is ready to move. He will be a help in the transition. He may have failed as a guide dog, but he is being a great therapy dog for my girl.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Breathe

I read an article the other day about "Email Apnea."

While reading it, I noticed that I was holding my breath. Again, when I was getting ready for an inspection on our house, I held my breath. And after I found out the inspection lasted over three hours, yes, you guessed, I held my breath again.

I've been holding my breath a lot lately, even when I'm trying to be more aware and stop doing it. It has become my go to response when stressed, and it can't be very healthy.

So I'm trying to be more deliberate in breathing. It may take awhile to break old habits, especially ones that are so second nature. But if I'm going to get through this time of single parenting while my husband is working in another state, am in the midst of selling a house, moving my family, homeschooling, navigating the coming holidays, birthdays, and graduations, and helping my two special needs kids in a time of transition, I'm going to have to lower my stress level.

I need to learn to breathe.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Connecting During Transitions

I realized around two in the morning last night that Mr. I was having a hard time with us selling our present house and buying another. He came in my room with a scrape on the top of his head. He must have been thrashing about in his sleep.

Because of this and a bit of an attitude this morning, I decided to try to connect with Mr. I and help him with the change. Change is hard enough as it is, but it's worse when kids come from difficult backgrounds. Connecting worked better than confronting.

We went to two different malls. If you know me, you know how much I hate those things. The first mall visit was cut short because I had to run back home to sign for our new house. Wow! It doesn't seem real that in a little over a month we will be living in a different state!

When I was done with the signing we went to the second mall. I was so hungry by then, but it was a good opportunity to talk to Mr. I about how low blood sugar and stress affect people. Even moms get hungry and anxious. I hope I modeled well how to dial down. No, more likely he just learned that mommies need some down time too. It didn't seem to matter how I was able to calm myself down, what mattered is that Mr. I and I were able to connect.

We all need to draw together in difficult times. Connecting needs to be a priority. We can't do this alone.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

We Have a Buyer!

We signed papers today to sell our house. We have a buyer. It doesn't quite seem real that in about a month we will be living in a different state.

I took Mr. I to the store to get him a warmer waterproof jacket for Northwest winters. I was surprised when he seemed disappointed that we will have to wait about a month to move. Change is normally very difficult for the kids, but they seem to be adjusting fairly well. Maybe it doesn't seem quite real to them either.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Not So Good Timing

The kids are sick today. The timing isn't the best. We had four people look at the house today, two of them for over forty-five minutes. Because of the sickness, we couldn't go to anyone's house. So I got the kids out of bed and into the van, along with the puppy and his crate, and waited on the side of the road until people left. It wasn't very comfortable, but Ms. D was able to sleep.

Later this evening, Microbio Daughter came by to check on us. She was able to pick up some hot and sour soup for the kids, which was so helpful. Ms. D was feeling pretty miserable by the evening, and didn't have much of an appetite. But she did eat the soup.

I'm hoping that I don't catch the same thing. There is too much to do. Hopefully we can sell the house quickly.

OK, it looks like I need to think of some things to be thankful. I can choose to dwell on the negative, or find something to be grateful for. One will bring me down, the other will lift me up. So here is the list:

1. There seems to be a lot of interest in the house.
2. The house looks nice. It is in better shape than ever.
3. The kids didn't get sick when we were trying to get the house painted and repaired.
4. So far I'm healthy.
5. The sickness is keeping the kids out of trouble in the neighborhood.
6. I have an awesome family that helps when things get rough.
7. I have friends who care for me and are an encouragement.
8. Hubby is meeting new people in Washington.
9. There are some pretty nice places that we can get once we sell our home here.
10. Technology makes it so I can keep in contact with Hubby.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Feeding Mama

The classes for adoption and foster care often encourage parents to practice self care. We were told to have respite lined up, to exercise, and eat well. I can't tell you how many times the example of the adult putting the oxygen on first, then the kid in an airline emergency is used to encourage us to take care of ourselves. Those of us embarking on the journey, even those of us who were already parents, tend to hear those words and nod. We agree that this advice makes sense, and we are doing many of these things already.

Then the kids come.

And we find that it is a lot more difficult to care for ourselves when we have children with such great needs.

But we survive somehow. We learn ways to feed ourselves in the midst of feeding our children.  We find another rhythm of going through each day until another crisis comes. Then we feel knocked off our feet for a bit, and taking care of ourselves gets pushed out of the way as we struggle to care for our children. And as we see the signs of stress in our bodies and minds, we realize that Mama needs to get some oxygen, or neither adult nor child will make it.

The past few weeks has been very stressful. Hubby is out of state, I worked hard to get the house ready to sell with the help of family and friends, the younger kids have been acting out, and now we have to leave the house at a moment's notice while people walk through our home. A week ago I was in a puddle on the floor, shaking with cold and anxiety. And even though losing ten pounds is welcome, doing it in three weeks can't be very healthy. The stress was getting to me, and it wasn't going to make me a better parent.

So this weekend I have been feeding mama. If I'm going to get through the next few weeks of transition and change, if I'm going to help my kids through it, I need to be in good shape.

So Friday evening I went out with my school friend and her husband. It was awesome that we were able to see each other twice in one year after so many years of being apart. We still marvel that we can be such good friends still. Most friendships cool as people change. Ours is perhaps even stronger, since we have years of adult perspective on life. She was able to detect a rising anxiety level in me as I was worrying about the move and the kids, even before I saw it in myself. Our lives have taken such different paths, so it is amazing how close we still are. It was so good to escape parenthood and house selling for a night, and enjoy good company with her and her husband. It was wonderful to see how happy my friend is, her awesome talents, and how blessed she's been.

Yesterday was a big day of house selling. There was an open house in the afternoon, so I let the kids go with friends and I went to my daughters' place and took a nap. I really needed the rest. Then in the evening I went to church without the kids.  We will work on church attendance later, but I needed to go. And even though Ms. D texted me in the middle of worship time with sore throat complaints, I still was able to participate.

Because I've been feeding myself for the past couple of days, I feel refreshed. Yes, I've let a few things slide with the kids, but I wasn't in any shape to help them before I lowered my anxiety level. I can better calm them by modeling peace and joy. But there isn't much peace or joy when mama is exhausted.

So Mama is fed. Mama is rested. And Mama is ready to take on another busy day!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Status Update

The house is cleaned and staged.




It looks great, but it isn't that practical. I'm more nervous with all the stuff laying around that isn't ours. It will be good to sell it as quickly as possible for so many reasons, especially since Hubby is already in Seattle.

We had a rough time with the kids last weekend, but now things seem to be calming down. Moving, stress, fetal alcohol, attachment disorders, etc. are not a good combination. It would have been hard enough to get the house ready, clean, and painted, without the added work of kids either shopping for other parents or acting out. I don't know how single adoptive parents do it. 

Mr. I had a hard time the other day. He was touching newly painted walls as he ran through the house. I was a wreck following around, telling him to calm down and stop running. There are too many breakable things here that don't belong to us, and he is not an old man that needs the support of the walls to hold himself up. I certainly didn't want to have to wash walls with my sore shoulder. He did calm down, but not until after Hubby did a video chat and assured him that our new place will be safe. I have to remember that some of the most annoying behaviors have reasons behind them. Messing the house and acting out of control is really missing dad and being afraid of the future. Too bad I'm so tired,  it's hard to think of all the motives and roots of behaviors.

Each day I think we are almost done with the work, and each day I find more to do. Yesterday I did a little more flooring, and installed two toilet seats and five smoke or CO2 detectors. All this was done with a sore shoulder and in the midst of other tasks, such as cleaning, paperwork, and driving across town to take my daughter to the car repair shop in rush hour. I also went to Grandson's house to drop of a small bookshelf and eat some yummy adult food! Squash soup and salmon are much better than fast food! It's too hard to cook with all the staging things on the counters. Real people don't live this way!


I lost another pound in the last two days, and am about nine pounds lighter than I was a few weeks ago, despite the poor diet. I hardly sit down at all. The uncomfortable staging furniture and work list ensures that!

Hopefully the house will sell quickly. It will be good to settle down and be done with it all. 

Now I'm off to make sure the kids' rooms are clean and do some more work!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Getting Ready to Sell

Hubby has been in the Seattle area this week starting his new job. The rest of the family is down here in San Jose, working hard to finish all the repairs, painting, gardening, and cleaning. It's a lot of hard work, but we are steadily getting things done. It actually looks pretty good now. Barring any last minute surprises, we can get everything we need to be done tomorrow.

Today the surprise was a broken wheel on a sliding glass door. The place where I got the part from before had gone out of business, so I had to get the part across town. The man at the parts and repair place couldn't find what I needed new, so he gave me an old one for five dollars which worked adequately. Drumming Son helped me get it on in just a few minutes. It took longer to get the part than it did to fix it.

I had a lot of help this past week. There is no way I could have been ready in time, if it weren't for awesome family and friends. I'm sore and tired, but I can't imagine what I'd be like without the help.

I'm falling asleep as I'm writing this, so I'd better finish this post up. Thanks to all who have helped! I am blessed!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Family Time

Moving is a lot of hard work. My body is exhausted from packing, carrying, cleaning, painting, and many other tasks that need to be done before we sell the house. But there is one good thing about moving...

Family time!


These two pictures were taken just before Hubby left for Seattle. If I was better at photoshop, I would have included everyone that was there in the picture. I'm not, so you get to see who took each photo!


I am so thankful for my family, who helped me with the moving sale Saturday. It was nice to let others run the sale so I could get more things done.




In the lull times, they were able to relax on the sofa on the sidewalk! I tried it. It was pretty nice.


I won't be able to do that in Seattle, at least not at the end of October!

There is so much to accomplish these next few days, but thanks to awesome family and friends, I think we can get the most important things done. I am blessed!

Grandson helping to pack the pod.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Receiving Help

I wrote about how difficult it was for me to receive help in my last post. Yesterday, I received it!

A friend came over. I almost turned her help away because Mr. I was complaining of a cold and I'm so bad at receiving. But she came anyway and helped me clean the ceilings, take down some shelves, and organize cabinets so I could get more things off the counters. I am so grateful for her help!

Then last night, the kids and Grandson came over to help with packing and to see Hubby for one last time before he left. We got some takeout Chinese food so that we could continue packing and moving. The pod is almost completely packed! It was so good to have everyone over.


We even had some fun!


Though the house looks a little chaotic now, I can see how we can get things done in time. I'm praying everyone stays healthy and safe, and that I'll ask for help when I need it. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Help

I have a hard time asking for help. I can be in a very difficult situation, and I can't bring myself to call my friends for assistance. I don't know if it is some kind of Midwest German work ethic, years of doing things frugally and independently, if I don't feel worthy of asking people to make time for me out of their busy schedules, or I'm so overwhelmed I don't know what to ask. I've been in situations where I've been over my head, yet still tell myself that I could do it if I just worked harder. Sometimes I am surprised that I could accomplish so much, but other times I fall on my face.

I am a bit envious of those who can ask for help and get it. I know one woman who is moving with her husband in a month or two and already has a paper shredding party scheduled. She is going to have movers, yet she doesn't hesitate to ask for help. I am in a much worse situation. Hubby is leaving in a few days, I have to get our house ready to sell in a week, painting, repairing, and cleaning. I have two kids at home who are a handful in normal circumstances, and we are packing ourselves to move out of state. Yet I freeze when someone asks me how they can help.

Fortunately, my older kids know me. They understand me well enough to just show up. Their help has been amazing!

When I'm not as busy, I'll have to figure out what is wrong with me that I find it easier to help others than to receive. But now I need to get a few more things done before I head to bed. It's been a tiring, but fruitful day.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Courageous Woman

I am so in awe with my friend D.

She went with her adult daughters to see their father while he was deathly ill this week. This same man abused my friend and her daughters before she left him years ago. The youngest daughter, not fully understanding the extent of the hurts this man had caused, wanted to have a relationship with him. I understand the draw, because my own children gravitate towards their birth family, despite the abuse and neglect they have suffered. It's hard to understand the pull, but it is real.

My friend could have said, "Good riddance!" My friend could have held onto the resentment and the hurt. But because she loved her daughters, she went with them to the hospital. It takes a lot of courage to look in the eyes of someone who has hurt you so deeply. It takes a move of God to have compassion on a sick and dying man who had caused so much grief. My friend had that supernatural compassion.

D is a courageous woman!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Why Does the Moon Have to be So Bright? II

The moon is too bright tonight. I had to put the visor down as Hubby drove me home.
The lights are too bright. My computer is too bright. 

I have a headache. 

I wrote a private post to process this evening.  It will stay private because I'm in a crummy mood and am stressed. And I have a headache. I'm sure I'll offend someone if I published what I wrote. Some things are best left unsaid, though writing them down is therapeutic.

There is a lot to do, and I have a lot to be thankful for. I'll feel much better in the morning, and this evening will be something to laugh about. It's just not funny yet. 

Sometimes you just have to get over things and move on. That's what Hubby said to me tonight. He's right. We'll make it through this week and the ones to come.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Pod Arrived...Let the Move Begin

The pod arrived today.


We plan to spend the next week packing the pod up with whatever we want to take to Seattle and don't need to use for the next couple of months. We've been sorting, purging, and giving away many of the things that we don't want to move. I find it's easier for me to give to someone than to think of selling or tossing. It's nice that our older children are just starting out and can use what we don't want to drag up with us.

Yesterday we signed papers to sell our house the first of next month. I was a little panicked last night when I realized just how much there needs to be done. I didn't sleep well, though laying awake worrying didn't help matters at all. Of course, when I woke up in the morning and started to work on things, the whole process seemed a lot more manageable than at midnight. You'd think I'd learn. I have awesome sons and daughters who are helping me and that I can call upon when needed. It's not like I have babies underfoot, though we do have a puppy! I have friends who have offered to help. We just need to empty the house, do a little painting, minor repairs, and cleaning and have over a week to do it all. I really don't have to worry!

The kids are more accepting that we are moving, and one is even a little excited. It really helped to have Mr. I look for new houses for us. Giving him the ability to tell us what he would like is making it easier for him to not worry. He can see we aren't going to stick him in a dangerous place, and who doesn't like a say in where you live? And today, Microbio Daughter, Ms. D, and I were talking about how many eighteen year old young adults move to college or for a job, and Ms. D is just doing it two and a half years early. I think she felt good about being able to do something an older girl would do.

There is a lot to do in the next week or so, but it will be easier now that the teens aren't as upset. Thanks to all who have been praying for us and to those who have helped. You are all so awesome!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fear and Trust

Our plans to move have been bringing up deep fears in some in our family. It's easy to say you trust God, or you trust your parents to care for you, or you trust your husband to make good choices. But faith and trust aren't real until they are tested. 

And we have been tested! 

There is so much to accomplish in the next few weeks. Hubby starts his new job in two weeks and will be moving ahead of us while we stay until the house is sold. We have to do some final minor repairs and paint, pack, make our house look like a showroom, look for a new place to live, teach the kids, move out of state, and start a new job. This would be a lot to handle, but I have also had the fear that the kids would somehow sabotage the process in the hope of staying in California. How will I be able to pack and keep the house clean while Hubby is in another state? Will there be any crises while he's gone? Will we all like the new home? 

I figured out that Mr. I's greatest objection to the move has been related to fear. Will we move to a high crime area? Will he be safe? Will his sister be safe? Will he be able to make friends?

To help Mr. I, we have been asking him to tell us what houses he likes. Sometimes having choices reduces fear. We also have been assuring him that we will only look in lower crime areas. So Mr. I hasn't been as fearful.

As for my own fears, everyone's prayers have helped. The kids are settling down. We are taking care of tasks, and things have been working out. I'm beginning to see some hope. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Church Meltdown!

Guess who had a meltdown at church?

The gathering was at our house. I was exhausted, since I couldn't sleep well last night, getting maybe four hours total. I had a busy day cleaning house and spending time with family, since I couldn't do a thing last night. No nap. We were wrapping up the evening with some sharing some really cool insights on a really difficult passage in Judges. Then a certain boy sits behind me and whispers in my ear, "I don't want to move. The crime rate is worse in Seattle than it is here. Why do we have to move? I don't want to move! I don't want to move..."

So who had the meltdown?
ME!

It was an awesome meltdown, one that could have been embarrassing, except our church is small and close knit. You can't hide much from a church like that. I told Mr. I loudly, in front of everyone, that I didn't want to here the phrase, I don't want to move, one more time! Then I jumped up and ran to the kitchen so that people didn't see me cry and fall apart. Cleaning the kitchen is my "go to" for releasing bad energy. If you know me, you would know that I must be at my limit, or even beyond, for me to choose to clean rather than socialize.

I understand that Mr. I is afraid. Moving will be a big change. But we aren't going to live in Seattle, but in some suburb near there. I looked up the crime rate and Seattle's is falling as San Jose's is rising, making the rate pretty close, so he really doesn't have to worry. The unknown is pretty frightening. But he doesn't know we will keep him safe. He doesn't trust that we will take care of him. His past trauma is stirred up by our moving, and it will be difficult to comfort him. My meltdown won't help him. Though I am hoping that he won't continue the dripping water torture of repeating the same phrase over and over. There is a lot to do in the next few weeks. I can't let him get to me.

So if you pray, please pray for peace. Pray for joy, for a sense of adventure. And most of all, pray for healing of hearts. I can't continue without God's help.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Big Change

We have had many changes the past few weeks, and now I can let others know the biggest change that I have been holding back until things were more sure.

We are planning to move to Seattle.

The teens have been freaking out, which was expected. I have been dreading this day for weeks. I just endured an evening of listening to the same line, "I don't want to move!" Add sobs, tears, f-bombs, threats, and hours long whining and it's no surprise that I'm in a numb state right now. It's a good thing I practiced ignoring loud crying years ago when my babies had colic and cried for hours on end. Fortunately, both kids are off to their friends houses for the night. I don't think I could have held it together much longer if I had to listen to it more. 

I knew moving would be difficult for the kids. Because of that, we haven't made the decision lightly. There are many reasons for our move. We will be in a better place financially because of the difference in the cost of living. Hubby will have a more secure job with better funding. We will be closer to our parents as they get older and near others in our extended families. We will be away from some of the negative influences here. It doesn't mean that the kids won't find trouble in the new place, but maybe it will slow things down. The University of Washington is in Seattle, which has been doing research and treatment for fetal alcohol since the 1970's. I have been so frustrated with the lack of resources and awareness of FASD in California.

We have to go through the transition time, which I don't expect to be easy. We not only have to get our house ready to sell, move out of state, and settle into a new place, but we will have to do it with two teens who are fearful of change. But not everything that is good is easy.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mommy Wars

I just read an encouraging blog post written by a dad and husband. It was encouraging to me, a stay at home mom, though I'm sure it would be the opposite for my friends who work outside the home. So read it at your own risk. Nothing can cause more division than the Mommy Wars.

We are all a bit insecure. We all have self doubts. Did I make the right decision to drop out of college, or quit my job to raise my kids? Would they have been better off if I had continued to work and be able to afford to send them to music camp, an SAT class, or a better college? Or are my kids and I missing out because I am working and someone else is seeing my baby's first steps, or keeping an eye on my teen after school?

Sometimes I talk to women and they start acting defensively, like I or those around them have been judging them for every little decision. They ask me where I work, which in the Silicon Valley is a pretty safe question since not many families can afford to live on one income. I tell them I stay home with the kids and sometimes add that I homeschool. If the woman works, she will typically start telling me how she can't imagine how anyone could afford to stay home, or that she doesn't have enough patience, or that she found a great nanny. If she stays home with her kids, she then tells me all the places she takes her child, every sports practice she attends, often in minute detail, as if she has to justify not working.

Those of us who have special needs kids have a different kind of Mommy War going on. I sometimes talk with people who have a child with autism, or cerebral palsy, or a learning disability, or whatever. When I tell them that my kids have FASD, I get some pretty interesting responses. I get an earful of this therapy, or that diet that changed their child's life and will definitely help my children too. It doesn't matter that my children have different conditions than theirs, or I may not have a few grand to spend on something that may or may not help. I don't mind getting some advice from others, but sometimes it seems like the other mom is trying more to defend her handling of the challenges of raising her child than to help others.

I am declaring a truce!

I honor all women that are trying to raise their kids. And to broaden it further, I honor all women who are trying to make this world a better place, whether or not they have children. I do not judge you for your decision to work outside the home, or not. I don't look down on anyone who sends their kids to school or teaches them at home. I don't really care if you feed your children gluten free food from Whole Foods, plant a garden, and are vegan. And I also don't care if you are seen in the drive through at McDonald's or feed your kids frozen pizza, especially after a hard day at the doctor's office. I think it's great if you choose to try every therapy around to help your child. But I also want to give a hug to the moms who have given up hope for a cure and are just trying to make it through the day.

Yes, I am still a bit judgmental towards those that abuse or seriously neglect their children. I am one of those moms who have to pick up the pieces after my kids' first mom permanently and continuously harm them. I have to practice forgiveness, and try to suppress my mama bear instincts, which isn't a bad thing. It is hard for me to honor an addict who abandons her kids, though I do have pity.

But for all the rest of you women, I salute you!

You may make different decisions than I do. You may have circumstances in your lives that I can't imagine. Or you may chose a different fork in the road, even though we started on a similar path. We have different strengths and weaknesses. Yes, we can give each other advice, but with humility, allowing others to take that advice or try something else. We are all weak in areas that we would love to be strong. We will all make mistakes or be so tired we don't do what we know we should. Other times we will stumble upon something brilliant. Good for you!

Life would be so much better if we stop our squabbling, our comparing, and our judging. We women need to stop the Mommy Wars and start supporting each other, rejoicing in the good times and lifting each other up in the hard seasons. We need each other, especially those who aren't like us. I need my women friends, those who have kids and those who don't, those who have a career, and those who homeschool, those who think like I do, and those who I can't understand.

I can't stop everyone from engaging in the Mommy Wars, but I can stop it in my own life. I need every one of you. Hugs and loves! You are awesome!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Girls Night Out to a Hockey Game!

My friend, K, took me to a hockey game last night!


It was my first one!


I haven't seen much hockey on TV. It's so hard to follow the game, the players and puck move so quickly. It was much easier to see the game in real life, and I learned so much.  I'll enjoy watching and listening to the games better, now that I can imagine what is going on.


Of course, there were some things that I couldn't experience at home. The NOISE! The crowds! The intro!


And of course, the Zambonis!


I got to eat an ice cream sandwich made with chocolate chip cookies after the second period. Yum!


It was an amazing game! I hope I don't get spoiled by the 9-2 win or the hat trick!

Cleaning the hats off the ice!

Yes, Hertl got a Hat Trick and ended up scoring four points in one game! I loved his smile and apparent awe of the whole experience. He looked so young! I told K he looked like a baby, and sure enough the smiling kid is still a teenager!


Yes, I think I was spoiled.

Thanks, K, for such a wonderful night!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

LOL! I'm Not as Forgetful as I Had Thought!

In my last post, I wrote about how I couldn't remember getting the yearbook I found sitting on a table the other day. I thought I was being very forgetful.

Well, the mystery is solved. I didn't remember buying the yearbook because Microbio Daughter bought it as a gift for me a year or two ago, knowing how much I wanted one. She found it while packing for her move and left it for me to see!

I wasn't going crazy or falling into dementia. No one was trying to gaslight me, though I think "Gaslight" is a great movie. I have been forgetting minor things lately, but that's one of my migraine symptoms. But I didn't forget about having a yearbook that I wished for in order to reminisce about some of my high school years and as I come in contact with more high school friends online. I can relax and enjoy the book!

On a similar note, I found a couple of videos from when I was in marching band. The quality of the videos aren't the best, but you can see how awesome our band was. We spent our summers practicing and marching, and you can see the results of hard work.

Summer 1977

Summer 1978

Friday, October 4, 2013

How am I Doing?

I had two people ask me how I am doing this week.

One was my dentist. She was able to tell by my x-rays that I clenched my teeth. I told her, "Of course I do!" Who wouldn't, if they lived my life the past few months? It hasn't been easy.

The other was my daughter's therapist. She knows more of the situation, though not of my anemia, hormones, and headaches. If she would have asked me in her office, I may have told her more. But I just told her, "It's been hard. I've had headaches because of it. But I knew from the beginning it wouldn't be easy and that we'd have rough patches."

I try to avoid crying in hallways. Or coffee shops. Or anywhere else in public. So when people ask how I'm doing, I admit that things have been tough, but then give myself and others a little pep talk. I'm trying to be strong. But there are cracks in my strength, which come out in odd ways.

I'd like to say that the major crises are over, and that I'm following my typical pattern of falling apart after the storm. Ms. D really is improving. At least I hope so. But there is more to come, more changes, more loss. I don't feel ready.

So how am I doing? I am not as patient with people. I say things I later regret. Some people hear too much at the wrong times, because I can't hold it in any longer.  Have you ever been in the middle of a sentence and think, "I can't believe I'm saying all this right now! How do I stop and change the subject?" I've thought this more than once the past few weeks. It is hard for me to pray, or worship, or be at peace. How can I concentrate? I don't get as much done, and feel like I spin my wheels. I procrastinate or avoid things that remind me of the trials of the past few months. I just sent out some paperwork that was due a few days ago, because I just could not bear to look at the different reports. Hopefully it was satisfactory, since I really don't want to repeat it. I found a yearbook on a table the other day and couldn't remember when I got it. That was pretty scary. I get tired but have a hard time sleeping at night. I've gained a few more pounds. I clench my teeth, at least that's what the dentist says.

So if I say something odd, look disinterested in what you are saying, or interrupt, please don't take it personally. I really do want to be a better listener, a better friend. I'm just trying to make it through a difficult time while things around me are so unsettled. But don't worry too much. Despite my anxiety, despite my exhaustion, I know that this is just a season, that there will be good times ahead. Life is good. It's hard sometimes, but good. I just need some hugs.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Daughters Moving Out

My oldest daughters are taking their next step in adulthood by moving out of our home and making a new one for themselves. This isn't the first time Microbio Daughter has lived on her own or with roommates, but the cost of living in our area and student loans have made it more difficult to be independent. The mother hen in me wants to continue to protect and shelter my daughters. But that would not be healthy for them. By moving out, they will learn and grow, and be more prepared to establish their own families someday. I'm proud of my girls!

My Daughters in Front of Their New Place

The whole family helped out on moving day. My oldest sons did most of the heavy lifting, which was very much appreciated. I hardly did any work at all, other than feeding people, carrying a few boxes, and taking care of my grandson! It was so nice that the siblings pitched in to help the girls move, especially since I had helped Hubby to put sod on our back lawn that morning while the girls were at church. Sod is really heavy!

Moving In

Since today was Microbio Daughter's birthday, we celebrated her birthday yesterday while everyone was here. It is such a blessing to have children that are growing to be such awesome adults. I am encouraged when I think of how well each one of them are doing. All of them are a blessing to their community and around the world.

Happy 26th Birthday

Microbio Daughter works at a biotech company which is doing some pretty cool research. She is the kind of person that quietly gets things done before you even realize there was a problem. I can't tell you of the many times that she has taken the younger kids under her wing, calmed them down, or did something fun with them. Her gentleness and steadiness are anchors when emotions are high. She has been a blessing to people wherever she goes. Since she isn't one to blow her own horn, I don't think the world knows just how awesome she is. But those who know her understand her gifts.

I love you, Daughter! Happy Birthday!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Plot Twists

Sometimes life seems like a novel or a movie, where the plot seems to go in one direction, only to completely turn directions the next. You think you know how things will end up, but then something comes up, out of the blue, and the novel ends in a completely different way. This makes for a good story, but it can be pretty unsettling in real life.

Our family has had quite a few of those kinds of plot twists lately. I can't write of all of them, but there have been so many changes my head is spinning.

We took Brewster to college, and had decided to wait until Ms. D was ready for a new puppy. After puppy sitting last week, she decided she was ready. And a day after letting our Guide Dog group leader we'd like another puppy, we had one in our arms.

Today, our older girls are moving out of our home into their own place. They are both in their mid-twenties, so the time is right, but the mom in me wants them to stay here. It's a good change, but a change.

We've been working on handling disappointments and change with Ms. D this summer. We talk about how to handle grief and loss. We have been figuring out ways to handle life's twists and turns in constructive, rather than destructive, ways.

I just didn't figure I'd have to use these same skills myself!


Friday, September 27, 2013

Introducing Samurai!

We got a new guide dog puppy, Samurai!


He is an eight week puppy from Guide Dogs for the Blind.


Isn't he cute? He has such a big name for such a little guy. One of his brothers is named Sheriff. Guide Dogs name the puppies. The names of the puppies in each litter start with the same letter of the alphabet.


We picked him up from the kennel at the Guide Dogs for the Blind headquarters in San Raphael.


Ms. D looks a bit serious in this picture. I think it was hard for her to be in the same place where she dropped off Brewster less than two weeks ago. We found out that Brewster is adjusting well to college. He'll start his training soon. Even though it was hard for Ms. D, she did well and fell in love with the new puppy right away. But what's not to love with such a sweet little butterball in your arms!


Samurai did well on the long ride home. It helped that we were also transporting a career changed dog to live with her puppy raiser. He loved snuggling with Nellie.


He got to play with the other guide dog puppies and career changed dogs when we dropped Nellie off. I was surprised that the dogs did so well together. Samurai had so much fun!


Samurai got lots of hugs from the girls when we came home!


He even got a picture taken in front of a kimono.
Welcome home, Samurai!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

After Thirty*cough*Somthing Years

I have a friend from childhood. We would do almost everything together. I taught her how to play saxophone, and she tried to teach me to play flute. We had sleepovers at her house. I thought my place was too chaotic and she was terrified of my collie. We played cards long into the night, and talked, and talked. She had a special place in my heart.

After high school, I moved away from the Midwest and we lost touch. But a few years ago, we found each other online.

Then last week, she told me she was going to be in our area. My friend and her husband had originally planned to go to Colorado, where there had been flooding, so they had to change their plans. And so we met yesterday and I saw her for the first time since high school. We went for a morning hike and had lunch.

I wondered how it would work out. Sometimes people grow so differently over the years, and there is too much awkwardness to continue a friendship. But it wasn't the case this time.

We hiked and talked, and talked. Our lives have taken us on different paths, but she is just as dear to me now as she was when I was young.  She teaches music and has focused her energy on her career and husband. I chose to stay home with a bunch of kids and only pick up my saxophone once in awhile. We both have good lives though, just different.  I am so happy for my friend. I was thrilled that she married a kind man who has been good to her. I am pleased that she is blessing her community with music.

As we talked, I realized I didn't remember some of the more difficult times in our lives. I didn't remember the time her dad's car broke down, and we had to run a mile and a half to the school with our  alto saxes. I don't remember the hard things, the tears and the fears. My memories of my childhood are rather sketchy. There was quite a bit of trauma, which has a way of messing with a person's mind. But I remember the fun times, the peaceful times, and what a good friend she was. And though I may think it is kind of strange to not remember much of my childhood, I am content to remember what is uplifting. I had a dear friend, and we are still friends today!

My Friend and Her Husband

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Grieving and Healing

I'm really proud of my kids. They are learning to grieve without acting out in destructive ways. I was really worried how Ms. D and Mr. I would handle having to give back our guide dog puppy so he could get his training at Guide Dogs for the Blind. I half expected Ms. D to run off with Brewster the night before we dropped him off, since he might not ever come back to our home and they had such a strong bond with each other. But she didn't. I expected some really extreme acting out afterwards. But she seems to be grieving in ways that are less destructive to herself and toward others.

Grief is so hard. A lot of adults have trouble with disappointments. They drink themselves to a stupor, overdose on drugs, drive too fast, or run off and have an affair. They do things that don't help the process of grief, but destroy their lives and cause new problems. And these are adults! But my daughter is a teen, a teen with all sorts of disorders that make it difficult to process grief. And she's handling her grief in a responsible way this week.

We've really worked hard on dealing with disappointments this summer. We have talked about how to grieve without hurting ourselves and others. We gave each other ideas to help deal with sadness. We have gone to therapy and gained some new tools to help get through the hard times in life.

Yes, we have had times of crying, times of not wanting to do anything, and times of minor acting out. But that's OK. That's normal. That's healthy. But we have also talked about missing Brewster, reminiscing about little things that we love about him, and how to handle our loss. We have talked about how blessed we were when people called or came to visit. We have given each other lots of hugs and sometimes given each other some space. My older sons and daughters have been a good support, and have modeled different ways of grieving that aren't harmful.

Yes, we've had times when we rub each other the wrong way, like his morning, when I was recovering from a medical procedure and anemia, and Mr. I had a sore throat. We annoyed each other and didn't treat each other well. But we were able to calm down, apologize, and give each other grace. It's hard, but we are learning. We are loving each other through a difficult time. We are healing as a family.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Brewster Goes to College, a Bittersweet Time

Ms. D is experiencing an empty nest. Her beloved guide dog puppy, Brewster, is now a college man.
We dropped him off yesterday at the Guide Dogs for the Blind headquarters so that he could receive then next level of training for his career.




Here he is getting his last meal before leaving our home:


After spending a little time with the family in the morning, we drove to San Raphael, about one and a half hours from our house.

We signed papers while Ms. D showed Brewster his "dorm," or the kennel. We posed for pictures.



Then it was time for us to go to his dorm room.

Peaking through the door to the kennel
Brewster liked the other dogs. His room was between two of his brothers. After the health check today, he will have a kennel with another dog who is matched with his personality. He was so excited about the toys in his room. When the little door was opened to go outside, he tried to take the hanging ones out with him. It just wouldn't work! Then he spotted a Nylabone on the floor and took it outside. The people at Guide Dogs do a lot of things to make the transition better for the dogs. I was impressed on the good care they give to each of them. They will work and learn, but they will also have time to play.

The hardest part was saying goodbye.

Ms. D hugging Brewster
We won't be able to see Brewster until graduation day when he is about to go with his new person, or if he is removed from the program and comes back to us. I hope he passes, but on the other hand, I also hope he can come back. Either way, he will be a blessing.
But for now, we are grieving. We miss Brewster!

Brewster's new collar