Thursday, January 31, 2013

Happy Birthday, Hubby!

Today is Hubby's birthday!

Hubby and Nicaraguan Friends

I wish each of you could really get to know him. He's passionate about so many things, God, Central America, helping others, computer stuff I don't have a clue about, the outdoors, music, and more. It's so fun to see how his face lights up when he talks about what is on his mind. And a lot goes on in that brilliant mind. I can hardly keep up! Oh, there are times that I don't quite understand, but it's OK. His heart is in a good place. There are times he is braver than I am, yet I know God is in control and Hubby listens. He's the one that pushes me past my comfort zone. He makes life very interesting!

On a Little Bitty Boat on the Caribbean

Today our family went out for Chinese food. Hubby was still recovering from the illness, so we didn't do much. He normally doesn't want too big of a deal made about his birthday anyway. But I still want to shout from the rooftops what an awesome guy God gave me.

Happy Birthday, Hubby!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Keep 'Em Alive 'Til 25

Today I walked to the pet store with Hubby to get some worms for our bearded dragon. The day was beautiful, and our walk gave us a chance to talk without certain ears listening in. I talked about how the day went well, despite Mr. I's dysregulation. He really tried to push my buttons by trying to order me around, asking for food and then saying he wasn't hungry, and accusing me of not making school fun for him. But not matter how much he tried to make everyone around him feel as miserable as he felt, I didn't get drawn into it this time. Many times he's able to get some sort of negative response, but not today. I started the day listening to worship music. I'm over being mad at God for going through the trials the past few years. At least I hope I'm over it. I have a little better perspective of things now, and decided I was hurting myself by pushing God away. Hey! That's just what my kids do!

While Hubby and I were walking, I also told him how I was doing some research on FASD and teenagers. One article I read was Teens With FASD: What Makes Them Tick by Teresa Kellerman. There was a lot of helpful information. It always is good to hear from people who have walked a similar path ahead of us. And she has walked that path with her son and with some foster kids. One of the things that I told Hubby about the article was the pruning in the brain that happens in the teenage years. This pruning is a natural part of development, and explains why it is harder to learn a new language after puberty. It is a natural thing, yet for people who already have less brain cells because of FASD, it could cause problems. It explains why there is more risk taking, behavioral difficulties, and other problems in our kids, some of which get worse when the kids hit adolescence.

Another thing that Ms. Kellerman said was that her son, and many with FASD, tend to mellow out in their mid-twenties, especially when they have support. When I said that, Hubby looked at the vultures soaring over the track...
Those little black dots are vultures.
...He first cracked a joke about the vultures looking for joggers. Then he said about Ms. D and Mr. I, "So what we need to do is keep them alive 'til they're twenty-five!"

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What? Nothing Exciting Going On?

The past few days have been pretty uneventful. Selah.

I almost have to pinch myself. There's been no minor injury clinic visits, illnesses, police interactions, or people walking through our house doing a home appraisal. The house is still fairly clean. The kids are on their best behavior. I started crocheting a baby blanket. There was a beautiful sunset, a painting by God in the sky. I found eighteen eggs today, and they were all good. A test for freshness is to see if the eggs float. If they sink in water, they are still good. I had thought the chickens had stopped laying the past few days because of the cold and rain last week. Instead, they were picking up production. They just started laying their eggs in the nesting box instead of under the rabbit hutch. Imagine that! They used the nesting box that they've ignored for years! And guess what we had for dinner? Omelets!

Last week was like a set of crashing waves. This week is starting out calm. Because of the calm, I am able to catch my breath, to regroup, and to enjoy life. I am able to process some very deep things that affect the way I see myself and the way I interact with those around me. I found out last week that my grandmother had told my mom that the reason her dad left was because my mom was born a girl. How could that not affect my mom's view of herself? And how did that affect my own identity, my sisters' identity? I am realizing that it is easier for me to see myself as a servant of God, rather than a child of God. It's about time that the knowledge of my identity of Christ goes from my head to my heart. It takes time to change and heal. I'm hoping this time of rest will help me to be renewed.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


This weekend was one of recovery.

My favorite nursing student took my stitches out. When the doctor figured out that the stitches should be taken out Saturday, when the clinic would be busy, he told me off the record that I could take them out myself. He didn't know that I was a former nursing student and had done it before. It really isn't that difficult. But I thought I'd rather give another nursing student a chance to practice on me. He did a great job!

I was recovering from a cold this weekend.  I really think I had two colds back to back, so I was pretty sick Friday. I often get sick when things get stressful, and this week was one of the most stressful in awhile. The kids and I left the house for a couple of hours while the appraisal people came, but I pretty much stayed in the car. I skipped two memorial services and a homeschool event this weekend that I had planned to attend. Not much got done the past couple of days, but I was able to rest. I feel much better this evening.

I did go to church, though. Once a month our small churches get together near Santa Cruz. I almost didn't make the drive alone, but Hubby thought I needed it. While we ate, I was able to tell the story of the other night without the kids listening in. The singing afterwards softened my heart. My pastor talked about how God reveals Himself to people as they can understand, in ways they can understand, which encouraged me.  I have been so discouraged that Ms. D doesn't have as deep of a relationship with God that I would want. I've felt like a failure in that area, yet that's my impatience and insecurity showing. I can't make her or anyone else become a Christian, so why do I feel like such a failure? God will reveal Himself to her. My job is to love her, pray for her, and listen to God's leading.

At the end of the gathering, there was a time to talk and encourage each other. I told the story of the police and Ms. D to another friend.  She said something encouraging about God's protection on Ms. D that broke a dam of tears that I had been holding back for days. I had to leave the room, there were so many distractions, and went to another where I could cry and cry. I had been stuffing the emotions of that night because I was so busy and didn't want to break down when the kids were around. It was like I was running from all my fears, concern for the kids, and my feelings of inadequacy as a mother. After awhile my pastor came by and prayed for Ms. D and me. I was refreshed and encouraged. I needed to spend some time alone, to feel the emotions instead of stuffing them, and then get some prayer. I'm so glad that I went. It was a time of spiritual and emotional recovery.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Blessings That Don't Seem Like Blessings

I'm still recovering from the excitement the other night when Ms. D had her little interaction with the police. Well, I'm recovering from that, a cold that seems worse the forth day, and a whirlwind of cleaning for an appraisal this morning for a refi. I haven't had much of a chance to slow down until this afternoon, to think about the past few days and what plans to make to keep Ms. D safe.

I'm finding more details about Ms. D's midnight encounter. Ms. D is talking about it, which is good. Very good. I'm glad she is talking and not internalizing the experience. She had been crouching behind the van when she was spotted by the police. She showed me how she got up, and I'm not surprised that the officer not only drew out his gun, but cocked it. So scary! She also didn't follow their directions very well, struggled, and gave them bad looks. I understand those looks to be looks of fear, but to others, she looks stubborn, angry, and tough. That's why it's so hard for her to make friends. I understand her difficulty in following directions and giving wrong answers, like her year of birth, as her lower IQ and FAS. She just can't think when stressed. But the police didn't know that. They treated her like a little gang banger up to no good, though she really was a silly, intellectually challenged, teenaged girl that gave in to peer pressure.

There are some things that I'll need more wisdom than I have to help both of our kids, and even the neighbor girl. Of course, the other girl denies any involvement. I'll have to talk to her later, with Ms. D present, about the severity of what happened, owning up to our wrongs, and how to keep the girls safe.

Another thing that concerns me is that Ms. D and Mr. I are even more afraid of the police now. We went by the jail today, the same jail that their oldest brother is incarcerated, in order to help one of my older daughters get her fingerprints to work in schools. Both of the younger kids became dysregulated after seeing so many police. No matter how much I tell them that the police are there to keep us safe, they see the police as mean and scary. In a way, a little fear might keep the kids on the straight and narrow, but they have too much fear. It doesn't help that the birth family didn't like police and made their views known. So the attitude about police runs deeper than in most families. It also includes their relationship to the birth family, adoption, loyalty, who they are as people, and the trauma of being taken away from their birth parents and whatever else they experienced as little kids. My kids did play getting arrested, and Ms. D wanted to grow up to be a police dog, when they were preschoolers. Is all this bringing up traumatic memories from before they came to our house? Probably...Why else would Ms. D struggle and kick to stay out of the back of the squad car?

But through all this, I have to remember that the event the other night was really a blessing. It doesn't seem like a blessing at first, especially to Ms. D who prayed that she wouldn't be caught. Yet, the police kept Ms. D from perhaps a greater danger. Even if she got away with running about at midnight the other night, there could be something in the future that would be even more dangerous.  It is less likely that she will sneak out at night again. It is giving us an opportunity to talk about safety. It is giving Hubby and I an opening to show God's love and protection to kids that don't see it. Ms. D is learning to talk about her fears. And I am in awe that even when I'm not there to keep my kids safe, God is.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Handcuffs in the Night

Last night, about 12:30 am, I heard a loud rapping on our door. When I came into the living room, flashlights were shining in the window. The police were at our house.

At least a half dozen police cars were on our street. Our front sidewalk was filled with men in uniforms. And they asked for my youngest daughter's name. My heart sunk.

An officer asked me to describe my daughter. Hispanic, five feet, long, dark hair. They took me to the back of a squad car to identify her. Yes, that's my daughter.

We stepped away for a bit. The police were searching for two men seen breaking into cars. Ms. D was hiding between our cars in the driveway. After midnight. She was wearing a red belt. I had been easing up on the no gang colors rule lately, since we haven't had birth family contact and Ms. D doesn't go anywhere without me. At least I thought.

More police came. They cuffed her and put her in the back of a squad car. Then they knocked on our door to see if her story matched. "Is she our daughter?" "Yes." "Does she have a friend named M.?" "Yes." "Is M. a good influence?" "So, so. M. is Ms. D's only friend. We homeschool her. Ms. D is mentally retarded, even though she doesn't look it. She is very gullible. She has fetal alcohol."

The police were understanding. They explained that they technically couldn't book her, even for being out after curfew, since she was still on our property. They warned us about even having a red shoelace, since we are in Norteno territory. The police took her out of the squad car and walked her back to our house, where we were talking to other officers. They took the cuffs off Ms. D's arms. We hugged.

The story was that Ms. D's friend, M., had told Ms. D it would be fun to sneak out of the house at midnight. Ms. D was nervous about it. She had even told us before bed that she was stressed and was plucking her eyelashes. She put mascara on, explaining that that helped her from pulling them out. She wouldn't tell us what was bothering her. So we all went to bed. At midnight, she climbed out of her window. We have alarms on the doors, but we didn't put one on her window. Guess who's window is going to get one now? She waited for M. on our driveway, but the police found her first. They thought that she was a gang member because of the red belt, so they were stern with her, had her lean against the van while they cuffed her, and put her in the squad car. I thank God that they were there to keep her safe. A girl in our area has disappeared. There were burglars out. Our neighborhood is relatively safe, but a silly girl, even two silly girls out at night...Well, it can be a parent's nightmare.

After the police left, Hubby went to M.'s house. M.'s parents were concerned. M. was in her room, but had makeup on and was dressed to go outside. She has used Ms. D to meet up with boys at the park before. M. is the same age, is overweight and boy crazy. Ms. D attracts boys and doesn't pick up that she could be used by her friend like that. M's parents and we have restricted the girls' freedom, knowing that their judgement wasn't the best. We didn't suspect they would sneak out at night. Ms. D is normally afraid to go out after dark. But it doesn't surprise us at all. I am so thankful we got to identify her at the back of a squad car, instead of a morgue or jail. I pray she remembers this, and will ask us in the future if something doesn't seem right.

FAS affects people's judgement. There is a reason that most are in jail or have teen pregnancies. They need "external brains", people around them who can tell them if they are making good decisions or bad ones.

I am so glad for God's protection for my little girl. I'm thankful that the police found her before the burglars, some other criminals, or even boys. I'm thankful she got caught, and learned that sin will be exposed. I'm thankful that the police were a bit rough with her, thinking she might be a gang member at first, so that she will stop wearing red. And I'm thankful for this opportunity to show unconditional love and that we will do anything to keep her safe.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Minor Injury Clinic Visit

Today I went to the Minor Stupid Injury Clinic.

I got two stitches on my forehead for a 1.4 cm cut from a palm frond.

It was a beautiful day in the seventies. While the rest of the country is freezing, Hubby and I were washing the van, cleaning the yard, and doing a bit of cleanup in the garden. I thought it would be the perfect time to saw off a few of the Washingtonia palm branches. They have thorny spikes growing out of the stems. One of the fronds fell on me when it dropped.

Forehead injuries don't hurt much, but they bleed a lot. At first I grabbed a white towel, but then grabbed a red one so that I wouldn't freak people out. Hubby dropped me off at the hospital, which is only five minutes away. He would have stayed with me, but I had something cooking on the grill, the dog was in the backyard, and the kids were outside playing. Thankfully, he cleaned up the mess before the kids could come home to an empty house and blood all over the floor.

I was in and out of the clinic in less than half an hour. I was pretty cheerful through it all. The doctor liked it that I was laughing. But what else could I do? It was pretty stupid of me to cut those branches without a hat on. I knew they had spikes. I knew they could cut me. I just didn't bother. The day was so beautiful. I could only cut a few at a time and went back and forth between projects. I was having a great time working on the house near Hubby. I just wasn't thinking. But I guess most injuries are like that.

Hubby picked me up when I called and we stopped at the store on the way home. The younger kids didn't even notice I was gone for an hour. I was able to assure Mr. I that getting stitches isn't so bad and it didn't hurt. I hope he won't be quite so scared if he hurts himself again. The last time he was almost out of his mind with fear. We talked about it a couple of days ago. He couldn't remember that he swore when he heard me saying he might need stitches. The doctor didn't give him stitches, even though he should have had them, because Mr. I was so upset. It's interesting that we had that conversation about something that happened a couple of years ago, and I ended up having to have stitches right after we talked about it. The timing is interesting. And I may even have a certain nursing student help take the stitches out in five days. So maybe some good will come of all this.

I'm glad that God can make good things out of our stupid mistakes.

Forget the Beach! Let's Go to the Dump!

"Forget the beach! Let's go to the dump!" That's what Hubby said the seagulls were saying this morning as we took a bunch of garbage laying around our house and yard to the dump. The seagulls were circling in the bright blue sky in the place with one of the best views in town. Our dump has a better view of the valley than anyone else around. We don't have to fork over a few million to get a view! All we have to do is pay forty dollars and get rid of junk at the same time!

As we drove to the dump, Hubby and I talked about how nice it was to go to another house church last night. We were reminded of the goodness of God, which was just what I needed to hear. I've been so worn down by all the kid stuff, school stuff, house stuff, illness stuff, money stuff, and all the other stuff! It's been like going to the dump, but not looking at the view. I've been enduring, but not enjoying. Enduring is OK for awhile, but at some point I need to see the goodness of God in my life, instead of only the trials. I don't need to be in a different place to find happiness. Happiness is right here, even at the dump. The seagulls seem to agree!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Yes! He Took the Crusts Off!

The other day I was worried that Mr. I was having some sort of anxiety about money. He has been wanting to go to the store just about daily. I've been wondering if he needs some counseling because of past trauma or if I need to reassure him that he will be taken care of.  Do I work on attachment more? Is there something wrong?

Two things lead me to believe that he might be a perfectly normal teenaged boy.

1. He's discovered girls, which explains his obsession with matching clothes. He's even taking regular showers without being reminded.

2. He took the crusts off of his bread. I was hungry during certain parts of my growing up years, so I know if you are worried about when you'll eat your next meal, you don't pull the crusts off. You eat every single bite you can. I remember being almost shocked when a friend of mine cut off the bread at the end of her hot dog bun so each bite had hot dog in it. The wastefulness was beyond my comprehension. Now I rejoice when my kids do the same. Yes, it's weird. Yes, it's wasteful. But it means they don't fear hunger, which is so awesome!

Don't worry, all you frugal friends, our chickens love the crusts. Oh, and I ate part of a burger using some of his larger pieces of crust. Old habits die hard, and I still eat off other family member's plates, as long as they aren't sick. I guess I need more help than Mr. I when it comes to food and money anxiety!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I Found It!

Whoo Hoooo!
I found my hair cutting scissors!

I love these scissors. My sister, who is the hair artist, gave them to me about thirty years ago. They have just the right weight and action, and made cutting hair a breeze. I cut Hubby's and all my kids hair over the years...

...Until about a year ago, when I suddenly couldn't find them. No one took them out of the house, as far as I knew, and I was hoping no one threw them out by mistake. In the meantime, I had to use some cheap scissors that worked, but were a lot harder to use.

This evening, as I was cleaning the counter, I found them! I asked the kids where the scissors were hiding for so long. No one admitted, but Ms. D pointed to Mr. I, and he didn't deny. I don't think I'll ever know for sure where they went. Hopefully they won't mysteriously walk away again. I have an idea who to ask. In the meantime, they are back where they belong, waiting for the next haircut in my bathroom drawer.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Money Madness

When times are tough, it is so tempting to make financial decisions based on fear.

I have struggled with feelings from time to time that there won't be enough money to pay the bills, I'll go hungry again, and God won't take care of my needs. I find myself collecting food when I start to feel anxious about money. I get worried even when I don't need to be.

Others around me struggle too, especially during the past few years when the economy hasn't been doing as well as in the past.  I think it's even harder for those of us who grew up with financial troubles to overcome anxiety about money.

My younger kids, especially Mr. I, struggle with similar feelings. It comes out in an interesting way with him. I noticed that lately he has been asking to go shopping nearly every day. He's been obsessed with hats, shoes, hoodies, and clothes that need to all match. If he can't talk me into taking him shopping, he asks his sister.  He keeps asking to take more money out of his bank account to buy things he really doesn't need. He searches online for just the right clothes. This morning he asked me what we were going to do today. When I told him we were going to the library, he asked me if I was going to the store. I told him, no, we need to cut back on going to the store as often. He shouldn't have to go to the store every day. He then got a panicked look in his eyes and asked me if we were poor. I told him no, we just need to be wise with our money. I don't know how to get him out of having to buy stuff in order to feel happy or secure.

I know what works for me.

The more I give, the less hold the fear of not having enough has on me. The food distribution ministry has really helped me to break the fear that has been with me since I was a child. There's nothing like giving to break the spirit of fear.

It helps for me to be wise with money and be frugal, yet not to the point of fear. It's so tempting to procrastinate budgeting or paying bills when I am worried, yet that's when I make the most mistakes. That causes more fear and I end up in a fear spiral that gets me nowhere. I need to work on bills and budgeting a little each week, on a schedule. I can handle just about anything in little bits. When I can do things like cut Hubby's hair, do my own home repairs, or make food from scratch, I think of how much I'm saving. There is a lot I can do to make the household budget work. Active participation is a lot better than fretting and complaining.

Another thing that helps me is to be thankful and remember the times of blessing. We were able to keep making payments on our house a few years ago, even through Hubby's unemployment. And now, just when more taxes are being withheld each month, Hubby got a great annual review. His workplace couldn't give him much of a raise as they would have wanted, but it should be about the amount that will cover the extra taxes taken out of each paycheck. God has provided unexpected blessings at just the right time over and over again. This has happened for years. Someday, I hope to not get worried and learn that He'll take care of all my needs. God is so patient with me! I am blessed even more than I realize!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sacrifices for the Future

Today I am thankful for the sacrifices my family is making for each other and for the future.

My oldest son is studying to be a nurse in an accelerated program. It will be one tough year, especially since he has a wife and child. They will have to squeeze into smaller living quarters with family and sacrifice time and money in order to make a better future. Our whole family will need to help them out occasionally, and be an encouragement when times get tough.

My other adult kids are making or have made similar sacrifices to further their careers. Their lives are more difficult now, but they will hopefully reap the rewards of their hard work in the future.

I see a big difference between our kids and my youngest kids' birth family. There, the young adults in the teens and early twenties drop out of school, sleep through the afternoon, and play video games until it is late enough in the evening to do whatever illegal activities they do for extra cash. It's a little frustrating to know that one of their main sources of income is the government, which doesn't give incentives for the young people to get a real job. Why should they work, when they can live much better than my kids, and even us, by working the system?

But in the long run, our kids will be better off. They will know the satisfaction of doing a job well, of providing for their family, and have the joy of accomplishment. They help each other out, and give to others in our community and around the world, even when they have so little themselves. They put people ahead of material things, and know what is important in life. They have good relationships with others and with God.

They are blessed.

The Most Triumphant Meal

According to Mr. I, last nights meal was "the most triumphant." I'm so glad he liked it, but it wasn't the most time consuming meal I've made. In fact I was pretty busy with other things most of the late afternoon and evening. It wasn't the healthiest meal either, but it passed all the growing teenage boy requirements.

I had a busy day on the phone with the bank, school, sick family members, and walking dogs because Ms. D was one of those who were sick. I popped the ribs in the oven just before a neighbor girl came for tutoring. I am filling in for Black Belt Daughter while she teaches taekwando on Mondays. She can't tutor the girl then, yet there is so much homework to be done. It amazes me that a second grader has one to two hours of homework each night, even if she is on task. No wonder the poor girl is exhausted! Halfway into tutoring, I threw some yams in the oven too. When we finished the homework, the girl and I played an Uno card game as a treat for getting everything done. At six o'clock, Microbio daughter came home and I asked her to make some cornbread from a mix. I keep a few mixes in the cupboard for days like this. The girl's mom picked up the neighbor girl at 6:15, so I quickly cooked some snow peas with olive oil and vegetable seasoning on the stove, and grilled the ribs a bit. We set the table and I had five minutes to eat before I had to go to a homeschool meeting. But I made it in time, just before the other women came. Whew! The meeting went well, even though the main leader couldn't make it. I am so amazed by the quality of women who are in our group. I am so blessed!

So here is the most triumphant meal:

      Put either pork or beef ribs in an oven proof dish with at least 2 inch sides.
      Spread barbeque sauce over ribs.
      Put about an inch of water on the bottom of the dish
      Cover with aluminum foil
      Bake at 325 degrees for 2-3 hours until tender
      Remove ribs from dish and grill each side a few minutes, covering with more sauce

 Corn Bread:
      Better homemade, but Marie Callender's corn bread mix is fast and good. I should make up my own mix to save money in the future.

      Wash, pierce, and put them on a cookie sheet or dish so they don't get all over the bottom of the oven.
      Bake with the other things about an hour or so

Snow peas:
      Cook in some olive oil and vegetable seasoning until the desired tenderness. My family likes limp veggies, so I cover the pan for a bit.

Monday, January 14, 2013

And This is a Good Day?

I have two sickies in the house today.

I spent half the morning speaking to three different customer service reps, and waited on hold for too long because they couldn't figure out how to transfer me to a different department or handle my problem. I'll have to wait two to five business days for someone to investigate and correct a mistake made by the bank.

I had to teach the only child that is well on a Monday. This child doesn't like to do schoolwork on any day, but Mondays are even more difficult.

While on hold with the bank, I kept calling out to the sick child to get up in what I thought was a cheerful tone. "Come on! Time to get up!" It was past 10:30 and I didn't realize that child was sick. I couldn't distinguish between grunts of sickness and grunts of laziness. Then the child that wasn't sick told me that I was yelling. I can get a lot louder if I need to. Apparently, any voice over a whisper is yelling to a kid that has been mumbling to us since we got back from vacation.Yes, we've had the typical RAD mumbling and talking too fast for anyone to understand for the past few days. Fun, fun, fun!

I'll have to walk the neighbor dogs since the main dog walker is sick. I don't enjoy walking those dogs. Neither does the child who is well.  But he just reminded me that we need to walk them!

But despite all this, I'm having a good day. I can't quite figure it out, but I'm calm and cheerful. Have you ever had a day with a bunch of irritations, but feel like those problems just slip away without sticking? That's how I feel today, and for that, I'm so thankful!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

"It's So Much Nicer Doing Things With You"

Hubby and I are just about done with the bathroom repair project. We just have a few of things left to do, like paint the trim, refinish the bathtub, and put in a few tiles under the sink cabinet. Those things we will save for phase two. But we did a lot in phase one to make it look nicer.

Hubby put in a new ceiling and textured it. He is pretty handy with that kind of thing. We've had plenty of practice repairing drywall over the years, starting with our first house that we bought from a body builder in the middle of a nasty divorce.

We also painted the bathroom a green called Homestead Resort Spa Green. How can I go wrong with a color with a nice name like that? I'd buy it on just the name alone, but the color is pretty too. This time of year, I enjoy the green of the hills around us. I don't know if Homestead Resort Spa Green is one of the many colors of green in the hills, but if not, it should be.

Also our over the toilet shelf unit got a coat of black satin paint. The old silver finish was becoming discolored from moisture. The black, even though the paint was oil based and annoying to clean up, resists rust and makes the unit seem less flimsy. It's amazing what a coat of paint will do to make something look better.

We did the final repair of this phase of the bathroom makeover today. Hubby and I replaced the light switch and changed the outlet to a GFCI and child safe one. Changing the outlet and switch made such a difference in the look of the room. And even better, it will be a lot safer! 

It took a little over a week of sometimes hard work to finish this phase of the bathroom project. But through it, I rediscovered something I had almost forgot. Hubby said, "It's so much nicer doing things with you." He is right. We had been working on too many things apart lately and were starting to irritate each other. This project forced us to work together, even if it was to hold a flashlight or go to the store together to pick out paint. We found out that when we worked on something together, our attitudes toward each other improved. So when Hubby went out today to trim some branches, I went with him and the chore became easier and more fun. I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions, but I think I'm going to make a belated one this year. From now on, I resolve to work with Hubby more and do less on my own. If I see him doing something around the house, I plan to help him if I can. I think spending more time with him will help our relationship. We are, after all, more than roommates! And life is more fun when done with others.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Ms. D's Animal Rescue Service

Yes, it's been nearly a full week since Ms. D found an animal loose on the streets, so she was due to find another. 

This time it was a cute little poodle.

We took her to the shelter to see if it had a microchip. A cute, friendly little thing like that must have one right? Wrong. No chip, no collar, no tags. Hopefully the little dog's owner will come to claim her at the shelter, but if not, she'll make someone a good pet. Well, she'll make a good pet after a bath and grooming. She sure stunk on the ride there!

The woman at the desk asked us if we wanted to keep the dog. I told her no, since we have a guide dog puppy already. Ms. D doesn't normally like small dogs, but I could tell she was tempted. She told me that it was a good thing that we took the dog straight to the shelter because she would have become attached otherwise. I talked to her about how it is like when we did foster care. It is good to get attached, because then the child or the dog will learn that they are loved. And even though it is hard when they have to go somewhere else, it is a really good thing to love them anyway.

I wonder how soon Ms. D with find another stray animal? She has a knack for finding them. I told her she should become a animal control person someday. She can spot and approach animals like no one else I know!

Brewster's Bunny

Brewster found a bunny last week.

Ms. D let Brewster out to do his business early in the morning. It was dark and raining. Brewster would not come back in, which is odd, since he normally doesn't like it when it's wet. So Ms. D went to where he was staring and saw the bunny. At first she thought it was a skunk, so she was pretty brave. She woke up her siblings and they helped her get the indoor bunny cage and feed him.

Brewster liked the bunny and so did Ms. D. But because of allergies, we just couldn't keep him indoors, where he could stay tame. So we had to find either the bunny's home or someplace new. We put out signs, put up an ad, and asked most of the neighbors. There was no response, at least no legitimate responses. I did get three emails, one for a rabbit that was lost twenty miles from us, another with advice, and the final one was for a "business opportunity."

Ms. D had a hard time with it, but we found a good home for the bunny. In the meantime, she took care of Brewster and the bunny in her room. Because I was trying to stay away from rabbit dander, I didn't realize until after the bunny left that Ms. D had let the bunny loose with Brewster. What surprised me is that Brewster did really well with the bunny. The pictures and video were all made by Ms. D.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Paperwork Palpatations

If you know me, you'd understand how much I hate paperwork. I never really enjoyed paying bills, doing taxes, or filling out forms. But the past few years my dislike has morphed into slight anxiety attacks when I need to do paperwork for more than about fifteen minutes. Looking back, I think things have become worse since we began foster care about ten years ago. If you know anything about foster care and adoption, especially from the county, you know that nothing happens without some a lot of paperwork involved, before, during, and even after the whole process. Want to be a foster parent? There are stacks of paper that need to be read, signed, and cosigned. Adopt? Well, there is even more, sometimes the very same things you filled out a few months before for fostering. Give a child medication for a cold? You need a form filled out to visit the doctor, another form for a list of medications that are cleared by the doctor, and still another form filled out when you actually give the child the medication. And if the child needs the medication at school? Well there is another form to be filled out. Once I had a social worker tell me to write down every time one of the kids hit or kicked me. I looked at her and said, "If I do that, I would be constantly writing and have no time for the kids." I got out of that one. All that paperwork was overwhelming, and if you add the stress of the first year or so, it wouldn't surprise me if the paperwork subconsciously reminds me of a very difficult time. Can a person have PTSD about filling out forms?

But today I had a bit of a breakthrough. I worked nearly two hours on paperwork and didn't break a sweat! Oh, I was tempted to not fill out a monthly attendance report after paying bills, and to procrastinate going through mail that arrived during our vacation. But I overcame the temptation and got those things done! It felt so good to not give into fear and anxiety, but to work through it. It's funny how avoiding distasteful chores increases the anxiety, yet working through things that are unpleasant gives such a sense of accomplishment. I'll have to remember that the next time I am tempted to run away from what needs to be done.

OK! Now for the next chore, cleaning and organizing the house! My goal is to work on it for one hour this evening. Ready, set the timer, and go!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Good Day, Difficult Day

Today was good in some ways, but difficult in others. Even some of the events of the day had both good and bad aspects.

My oldest son started nursing school today! It will be a hard year for him and his family, since it is an accelerated course, but will be good in the long run. He'll make such a good nurse!

My nephew turned sixteen. Tomorrow he goes for his drivers license. It was good to get to see him last week. He is an awesome guy!

We started homeschool after a two week break. Mondays typically are difficult. Changes in schedules are upsetting to the kids. School in general is hard for the kids. Mr. I had a sore throat which made it even more difficult. The morning started our rough, but we were able to finish almost every subject.

We found a home for the bunny that Brewster found in the backyard the other day. No one responded to the signs or lost and found ads. Ms. D really wanted to keep the bunny, but I'm allergic to rabbits and we have too many pets already, including two other rabbits.  One more animal and we would be in danger of pet hoarding. When I told Ms. D we needed to take the bunny to the shelter, she found a home for him right away. The people have had rabbits before and will take good care of him. But Ms. D is pretty upset.

I have a backache and the bunny allergies are annoying. At least I don't have a migraine! The bathroom project mess is still all over the house, and I have a lot of cleaning and organizing to do after the vacation. But at least I have a home.

I read a post about a mother who lost her twelve year old son in a skiing accident, but she was comforted that he had become a Christian a year or so before he died. I'm thankful she had that comfort. Yet I started to think about Ms. D, who is pretty outspoken that she isn't a Christian, especially during times that she is angry or unattached. To me, having a relationship with God is the most important thing in the world. The kids know it, and sometimes use it to hurt me.  I have prepared myself to lose her to the birth family, yet to lose her to death would be even more painful. But God loved us, even when we were still in our sin, and I am called love Ms. D, even if she makes decisions that will hurt herself and me. It's easy to love those who love you back, but I've learned I'm learning to love those who fight back in their pain.

A number of my friends are struggling with relationships, jobs, health, surgery, kids in crisis, and difficult decisions. I wish I could encourage them better, help them, and know how to pray for their needs.

Yet I have so much to be thankful for. Hubby has a job. I have a roof over my head and food in my belly, well, too much food! My oldest kids are doing well, and are productive adults who are right with God. We get along well. When we visited a church during our vacation, a woman was there who understands FASD, and was able to draw Ms. D out by talking about dogs, hair, and makeup. She wasn't phased by the kids sulking and withdrawing. I can't tell you how good it is to talk to someone who understands.

I'm a bit weary and wish some things could be easier, but all in all, I'm blessed.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Brewster the Guide Dog Puppy

It's been awhile since I wrote about Brewster.
Ms. D and Brewster
 It's been a pretty eventful week or two for the little guy.

Sleeping with Kirby after a long day of playing.
He didn't go with us to Oregon, but stayed with a couple of puppy raiser families. He did pretty well and experienced some things he hasn't been exposed to in our home, like cats, movie theaters, and stores. Since he did well in those places, we decided to take him ourselves... the grocery store...

Brewster in front of Brewskies

... To church with Ms. D and Microbio Daughter...

...And this morning he went to his puppy class, where he met a new puppy sponsored by 49er cornerback, Chris Culliver.

Oh, and one more thing! This morning, Brewster found a bunny in our backyard. About 4:00 am, Ms. D let Brewster out to do his business but he strangely wouldn't come back in. He kept staring at something under the trampoline. When she went out to investigate, she found the little bunny in the cold rain. Brewster has been amazing with the little thing, licking it and being so gentle with it. We are trying to find where the bunny belongs since it is so tame, it has to be loved by somebody. 

Brewster is such a good dog! I hope he makes someone a fine guide dog someday.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Christmas, A Little Late, With Grandson

Grandson wasn't feeling well before we left on our vacation, so we had another little Christmas celebration today. We lit up the Christmas tree one last time and Grandson opened the last few gifts. We had pasta for lunch just after Hubby came back from delivering food. Then we took the lights and decorations down for the year.  It went really quickly with so many hands helping. Even Grandson helped organize the candy canes that were on the tree.

 I think his mommy is happy he hasn't figured out how tasty candy canes are yet!

Grandson also read a seed catalog on Hubby's lap while Grandson's mommy and I tried to trim his hair. Seed catalogs are fun to read, aren't they?

After Grandson and family left, Microbio Daughter and I went outside to take the lights down before it started raining again. Yes, I went on the roof with a skirt and boots. I didn't see any neighbors looking up. I was afraid that if they did, they may have had a show. There is so much to do after a vacation and I haven't had a chance to wash my jeans yet. Hubby is working on the bathroom ceiling, Microbio Daughter is packing up the last of the Christmas decorations. I am taking a bit of a break because I am really tired. I couldn't figure out why, until I remembered that the chickens woke me up at four this morning. I wasn't able to get much sleep after that. At least I know why I'm sleepy. I think I'll take a nap after we get some of the decorations in the attic. I'll be careful not to put a foot through Hubby's work!

It's been good to have Christmas spread out over two weeks. I can enjoy everyone more, it's better for the youngest kids, and we can flow with the older kids' in-laws' schedules and illnesses. It's hard to think that Monday, Hubby will go back to work and we will start school again. It's been a good Christmas season.

Friday, January 4, 2013

When Things Go Differently Than Planned, or How I Spent Our Christmas Vacation

No road trip is complete without a few mishaps or, rather, opportunities to tell a fine story someday. What vacation would be interesting without discovering a foot in a river while canoeing, finding the last open road home through a major winter storm, going out in the ocean during a storm in a dugout boat, or getting sick or injured while in another country? Vacations are life on steroids. Everything is felt more acutely, the good and the bad. This trip was no exception.

We planned to spend Christmas with Grandson at home and leave a couple of days later for Oregon. Unfortunately, Grandson got the stomach flu and we weren't able to see him. But on the day we had planned to travel, and also the whole week we were there, the weather cooperated. If we had planned to leave earlier, we would have had to contend with snow on the passes. Instead, we had clear roads.

The youngest kids behaved beautifully at times, but they also had meltdowns. I had meltdowns. I couldn't visit old friends and one of my nieces because Ms. D and Mr. I were so dysregulated. But on the other hand, I was able to slow down and enjoy the quiet of the berry farm.

I also got to have a nice dinner with my mom, visit with Hubby's family, and see one of my sisters at her work. My sister is a hair artist. She colored and cut my hair like no one has ever been able to do. I love it! The kids love having their hair done too, though Mr. I did get a bit bored near the end.

The kids managed to ditch us at the zoo, but we found them just in time to see the new baby elephant before they closed the doors for the day. Baby Lily was adorable, all three hundred pounds of her! She loved to run this way and that to play, and then back to her mom for a bit. She was quite attached to her mother, coming back for reassurance and then off to explore the world. If only my younger kids were that well adjusted!

We were all too tired on New Year's Eve to celebrate and the kids needed some down time to decompress after the zoo. But Hubby's sister and her family came the next day to the farm. We set off fireworks a day late, but they were just as good. Mr. I had even more fun, since he was able to drive the tractor, with a few people riding on the back, after dark to the back field.

I missed out on going to the mountains to play in the snow, because two certain young people decided to be at their worst behavior the night before we were to go. But the snow fell one morning at the farm. I was able to catch snowflakes with my tongue. Ms. D's friend and one of my daughters in law were able to see snow falling for the first time in their lives. Yes, there are people from California who only have seen snow on the ground in the mountains! This is so strange to me, a Midwestern raised girl!

 We were also able to stop on the pass on the way home. I ran up and sled down the hills like a little kid.

One of our daughters put a foot through our bathroom ceiling just before we left, while getting some suitcases for the kids in the attic. She fortunately didn't hurt herself, and the bathroom ceiling needed some work anyway. This just made it a priority. Today, Hubby got the drywall supplies out, we went to the lumber store for what we didn't have, and he went right to work. He's pretty good at it! I also get a good excuse for painting the room a different color!

So even though a few things didn't go as planned, we really had a good vacation. I think some people would have been upset about some of the things that happened. It really was difficult at times, and we had to be pretty flexible. But the good outweighed the bad by far. It was good to connect as a family, rest, talk, play some card games, eat too much food, and slow things down. And if nothing else, we'll have a few stories to tell each other someday.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Home Sweet Home!

Some of my family and I just returned home this evening from a week long road trip to Oregon to visit family. I'll save almost all of the details for later, since there is so much to do after being on the road. I came home to a week's worth of messages and mail and should really get settled a bit before I get some rest. My arm is a bit sore too. I'm not sure why it hurts, but I drove nine of the twelve hours it took to get home, moved some suitcases, and had fun sledding on the Siskiyou pass. I was like a little kid in the snow!

It's so good to be home!