Tuesday, April 30, 2013

If a 51 Year Old Grandma With a Broken Shoe Can Do It...

Last week we also went to Sedona, Arizona.


It was so beautiful! And no, I don't think I went to any of the vortexes, at least not on purpose. I can pray anywhere.


We went on a hike to Cathedral Rock.

First we played near the river for a bit. We crossed over the stream on stepping stones.


Brewster learned to swim and enjoy water.


Then we ditched the kids when Ms. D started to complain while hiking on the flat ground. They stayed at the river while we hiked ahead.

Soon after, the sole of my shoe started flopping.


Should I continue on? Well, I'll go as far as the steep part and wait for Hubby there.


Oh, but I'll go a little farther. It looks so fun!

I made it to the top!

With a broken shoe!


I didn't go near the edge like Hubby. I didn't want to risk tripping and falling over the side of the mountain!


I wondered how it would be to go down, but I did just fine!


I found out that I could do a lot more than I thought. I was sure my knees would hurt from the climb. If a fifty-one year old grandma could hike up Cathedral Rock with a broken shoe, just about anyone could do it!


Half His Age

Sometimes I forget that when there are transitions, like today when Hubby went back to work after a week long vacation, I have to change my expectations of my kids' abilities. I remember our therapist telling me that I need to halve my kids' chronological age to get their emotional age. It has helped me to lower my frustration level when they act much younger than they look. A thirteen year old boy is perfectly capable of reheating his own lunch, but a six year old boy sometimes needs his mommy to do it for him.

Monday, April 29, 2013

What is Best For Our Family

Today I acted on a decision I've been mulling over the past couple of months. It was a difficult decision, since it will affect other families. My plan was to do one thing that would make for a better transition. Yet as I was learning the extent of my children's behaviors, especially Ms. D's, and some coming big changes, that plan would have been a big sacrifice for our family. I am feeling the need to reevaluate every activity. It is a time to circle the wagons and only add outside involvements that have the most value. It is hard for me to quit something I am very passionate about, yet my ability to function in that role has not been at a level I would like.

On the other hand, I don't want to become isolated. There is a danger of letting shame creep into our family and have the desire to hide the messy parts of our lives from others. I can also be so self focused, I miss the opportunities to be salt and light to a hurting world. We are made to live in community and be a blessing to others.

There is a balance in reaching out and healing within. That balance is difficult to obtain, in our personal lives, in our families, our churches, and in our communities. We need God's wisdom, and the obedience to follow what He calls us to do at each period of our lives. But that balance is what is best for me and for my family. I just wish I knew what that balance is!

Hug a Saguaro and See a Chain Gang

While visiting Birth Dad near Tempe, AZ, we found a great campground, McDowell Mountain Regional Park. 
Hubby "Hugging" a Saguaro at Our Campsite
The campground was perfect for the kids' visit to their birth dad because it had "flushies" and showers. The kids were able to primp to their hearts' content before seeing their dad. I took advantage of the shower too, and was surprised that the desert air dried my hair in minutes. 


There were great hiking trails all throughout the park.  Hubby and I walked with Brewster in the morning, before the kids awoke and the weather got too hot. 


There were flowers and birds everywhere.  The birds, especially the quail, were pretty loud with their spring mating calls. The woodpeckers loved to bang on the metal on the electrical outlets at each campsite. At night we heard coyotes. The desert is a pretty active place this time of year!


 On the way out, we passed a Maricopa County chain gang. Some of the guards were sipping cold drinks while watching the women prisoners clean up on the side of the road. I sure wouldn't want to be working out in that heat in those outfits. I wonder if it deters crime? I know I'd think twice about breaking the law in that county!


Blooms in the Desert

I've dreamed of seeing the desert bloom, and our trip to Arizona did not disappoint!


The first flowers we saw were the ocotillo.


And then we saw the cacti.


And other plants.


We saw whole hillsides of yellows, oranges, pinks, and whites.


We even saw a few purples thrown in!


Sometimes I feel dry and prickly and wonder if any good can come from me. Sometimes I wonder if my kids could ever heal from the hurt in their hearts when they act in ways that aren't loving and kind. But if the desert can have so much beauty, why not myself? Why not others?


The beauty and the good can be discovered if I look for it at the right time and place, even in the midst of pain and suffering. The desert isn't always dead and hopeless, but it can be alive and fruitful.

There is a bird's nest made of cactus needles in this cactus!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Surprise for Birth Dad

When we were almost to Arizona, we asked the kids if they wanted to visit their birth dad who lives near Phoenix. When they said yes, we called him and arranged a visit later that day. It was a wonderful surprise for him!


I stayed behind with Brewster in the campground while Hubby took the kids to see their birth dad. The visit went very well. It was good for the kids to see their dad in his own environment. They walked around, ate dinner at a taco place in town, and went back to Birthdad's house to look at pictures.


We didn't have any pictures of Ms. D before she came to our home at four and a half years of age. It was always a little sad that Mr. I had a few baby pictures, but Ms. D had none. One of the hard things about adopting older kids is that they often don't have pictures of themselves as babies. This makes it harder for them to piece together their life story.


When Ms. D came back to camp, I saw the pictures that Ms. D took of the photos. I told her the girl looked just like her, thinking they were of a relative. She said, "They are me!" Now Ms. D has some photos of herself when she was little!


I am so glad that the kids were able to visit their birth dad. It would have been disappointing if we had travelled to the same state he lives in, yet didn't see him. I was thinking of letting the birth dad and kids know we might visit him before we left, but I didn't want the birth dad to get cold feet again, or have the kids get all excited, only to be disappointed by another no-show.

Waiting until the last minute to arrange the visit also prevented a difficult decision for us. We found out later that two of the brothers in San Jose had a "J ride", or stole a car, and were caught. The younger brother slept through a hearing and was in even bigger trouble. If we had told the family we were going to Arizona before we left, they would have asked us to take that younger brother with us to go to his father. While I know that the brother does much better with the guidance of his dad, I do not want to get mixed up in helping someone escape the consequences of his actions and the law. If we would have said no, then the birth family and our kids would have been pretty angry. Instead we were able to say sorry, we didn't know. I'm so glad we kept our vacation secret until we were well underway.

An interesting thing happened with the kids after the visit with their birth dad. They came back to camp happy and wanted a lot of hugs from both Hubby and me. It was as if taking them to visit the birth dad made them even more attached to us. This is really the first time something like this has happened. Before, it usually took the kids at least a few days to reattach to us after seeing someone in the birth family, like they could only be a part of one family at a time. It was good to see that they were able to receive love from both.


Camping in the Desert

We camped each night on our Arizona road trip. Hubby and I have camped on almost all our vacations, so we have the equipment and knowhow to have successful camping trips. We keep most of our supplies in large bins that are exclusively used for camping, so we rarely forget to bring things like a can opener or matches.

Brewster is waiting for the OK command so he can eat. The bins are in the back.
This trip was a bit more difficult, though, because we had Mr. I, Ms. D, and the puppy to contend with, yet we didn't have the older ones with us to moderate things.  Ms. D does not like to get dirty and she understandably hates pit toilets. She is a homebody and doesn't like to go to new places, even those she would normally enjoy after a time of adjustment. Because of this, we made our first and last camp of the trip at a familiar campground. We have camped at Rainbow Basin near Barstow, CA a number of times. It doesn't have "flushies", or flush toilets, but it is quiet, clean, and fairly close to town in case we forget anything. It is also about seven or eight hours from our home, a good driving distance for a long trip.


Our Campsite at Rainbow Basin
 Mr. I does great during the day. He loves to make fires and explore. Unfortunately, because of past trauma, he is pretty uneasy at night. This trip we had the kids sleep in the van with the dog, so Mr. I felt more comfortable. Unfortunately, the change in routine was too much for him, so he kept Ms. D awake the first night by picking fights with her. They kept waking me up with their shouting before they finally settled down. I'm glad we didn't have close neighbors. Fortunately, they both settled down after the first night so we all got more sleep. By the end of the trip they were great campers.


The people at the guide dog group weren't sure if they should let Brewster camp in the desert, but he did even better than the kids. He loved the new smells, being with the family in tight quarters in the van, and meeting new people. The weather for most of the trip was fairly cool, so we didn't have to worry much about him overheating. He was a happy camper!



Saturday, April 27, 2013

Road Trip!

I'm back!

Some of you may wonder why I've been so quiet here. The reason I haven't written is that Hubby, Ms. D, Mr. I, Brewster, and I went on a one week road trip to Arizona. Our two oldest daughters held down the fort while the rest of us had an adventure.


Since I drove about twelve hours yesterday and seven today, I'm pretty wiped out. Tonight is for unpacking, doing laundry, and visiting with Grandson! I enjoyed a nice warm shower, the first in days of sponge baths and cold water. I plan to go to sleep early, on my own soft bed instead of the thin pads in a tent. So this evening I won't write much about our trip. But starting tomorrow I'll write more of our adventures, including a visit with the kids' birth father near Phoenix, beautiful desert plants in bloom, climbing up a steep path in Sedona with a broken shoe, and seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. I'll write about camping with kids from hard places who don't enjoy camping, praying for flushies, meeting a friend in an out of state National Park, and how our ten month old guide dog puppy did in our travels.

We had a good trip, but it is great to be back home.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Beautiful Hike

Many of my friends in the Midwest are digging through snow or pumping rainwater from their basements. We are enjoying perfect weather here in California. Although I'd love to have a little snow every once in awhile, like on Christmas Day, the weather rarely cooperates with my wishes. So I prefer to live in a place with no snow than to have snow in April. April is for planting and mowing lawns, not shoveling sidewalks. Here in San Jose we only have three seasons. It's as if winter was cut out of the circle of seasons, spring and fall were joined, and summer stretched out. We have fall colors for Christmas instead of snow, and flowers bloom in January. And today we had dry summer weather for our homeschool hike in the hills above San Jose.

A Few of the Homeschoolers
Mr. I and Ms. D didn't go with me. They were coming down with colds and were grumpy.
I didn't know that Mr. I wasn't feeling well until he took a nap this evening after dinner. He never takes a nap unless he is sick, especially when he could be playing with friends. When he went to sleep, I realized where the grumpiness came from. I'm glad there was an explanation for the way he was acting. I was beginning to worry something else was up with him. I'm learning that if Ms. D and Mr. I behave badly there may be something important that they are hiding from me. I was beginning to worry this morning.

The kids don't normally like hiking, and so I was preparing myself for a lot of complaining. But they were grumpy even before they knew about the hike.  I wasn't up for a fight, so I told them they could stay home and do homework while I went myself. I'm glad I did!


It was a beautiful, warm day. It was actually a bit too warm, but there were places where the path was in the shade. I was glad to have been able to hike before all the grass turned brown.


We saw some wildflowers, a deer, and a hawk. We heard little animals scurrying in the grass and small birds in the trees.

Looking toward San Jose and San Fransisco Bay

 We hiked for about two hours to the top of a hill and back down again. We had beautiful views of the city.

Overlooking Our Neighborhood

I was able to talk with some of the moms, though I couldn't share all that has been going on because there were kids within earshot. It was good to enjoy the beauty around me with some friends.  I'll probably be sore tomorrow, and it was a bit odd to go without the kids, but I'm so glad I went on the homeschool hike. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Restoration

It took much of the day, but we got our kids back!

Neither child could look in my eyes or talk to me for the first half of the day. It was pretty rough, and I had tears rolling down my cheeks while I tried to teach them. It was so sad to see their anger.

Mr. I was upset because he thought Hubby took away his internet privileges because of what Ms. D did. I don't understand all the technical things, but I do know Hubby took everyone off and then slowly had to bring everyone online one by one. Mr. I also walked in yesterday to Ms. D's meltdown and seizure. He thought we must have done something really bad to Ms. D and was worried for her. He was able to express himself as time went on today, and we were able to reassure him.

Ms. D talked to her birth dad this afternoon. The talk was a good one. It sounded like she was not receptive at first, but slowly became less defensive. Birth Dad told her that he would be even stricter with her and reinforced what we were saying. After the phone call, she was able to talk to us about the conversation, give us hugs, and look into our eyes.

Microbio daughter is taking Ms. D out to pick up something from the store this evening. I think their relationship is being repaired also.

It's been an emotional roller coaster ride, but relationships are restored. There is peace in our home once again.

Deception and Drama

Yesterday, just after the terrible bombing in Boston, we had our own drama.

Ms. D had a friend, that I'll call Ms. M, over. Even though Ms. M has been enabling Ms. D's boyfriend encounters, I have been hesitant to keep them apart. Ms. D doesn't have many friends. So I've just kept an eye on them, or made sure Ms. M's parents were with them at all times.

Ms. D handed me her iPod to look at a picture of Ms. M's baby brother. I told her, "He's so cute, let me look at more pictures!" I already knew that she had pictures of her older "boyfriend" on her iPod and wanted to see what he looked like. A "little bird" told me that she not only had pictures of Xander, but of his car and house, yes, the house that this "seventeen" year old lives without his parents.

As soon as she saw what I was doing, Ms. D grabbed the iPod away. She quickly retreated into the kitchen with Ms. M. I followed, though I wasn't as quick as they were, and asked to see the pictures. Ms. D then ignored me, went into her room, and started throwing clothes about that were piled on her bed. She told me that she "lost" her iPod in the pile of clothes. Right. She continued to make a mess of her room, which she later blamed on us. I told her that I couldn't figure out why she was looking in her room when she didn't go there until after I told her I wanted to see her iPod. So she wandered around the kitchen. Meanwhile, her friend "had to go to the bathroom". Right. Ms. M was in the bathroom for over ten minutes, as Ms. D "looked all over for her iPod".

Can you guess when Ms. D found it? Yes! After Ms. M came back through the bedroom, Ms. D found the iPod on her floor! Wow! How did that happen?

And then, when I finally was able to look at the pictures, there was not one of Xander. There were a lot of pictures of dogs, there were pictures of babies, there were a few pictures of inappropriate memes. There were even a few pictures of cute boys the girls had seen at restaurants. But there was not one picture of Xander! Even if the "little bird" didn't tell me about the photos, I would have assumed that a boy crazy girl would have at least one picture of the guy she made out with on the side of a busy street!

Ms. D was angry! Ms. D had a nice long seizure! Ms. D wanted us to know that she wasn't too happy about us messing her room, or that she has to live with such awful parents! We are the worst parents in the world, you must know. We don't understand. We are unreasonable. Xander is a nice guy, just like pit bulls, even the ones being bred as fighting dogs at the birth mom's house, are adorable and friendly. We make too much out of such a small thing. She just snuck around because she knew we wouldn't approve. It's her life! Ms. D can't wait until she can leave and move in with her birth dad when she is eighteen.

So Hubby called Birth Dad last night when Ms. D talked to Blackbelt Daughter about her woes of being in such an awful place. Birth Dad agreed that Ms. D was making some bad decisions and hopefully he will call today.

I am so thankful for the support of my older kids, the birth dad, and of course, Hubby. This is a rough time for Ms. D and Mr. I, and I am exhausted. I could hardly sleep last night, and then got a back ache just from bending over to pick something up this morning. But thankfully, Ms. D was still in her bed, so my fears of her bolting last night didn't materialize. I hope and pray we will be able to navigate this next year successfully. I've never had to deal with this much deception and drama in teenagers before. It's not as fun to have teens as it used to be!

Monday, April 15, 2013

What to do?

What am I to do?

There are so many decisions to be made.

Hubby and I trailed Ms. D this weekend. If she had to walk a dog, we would walk with her. She had an extra job of watching some dogs while the neighbors were on vacation, so we went there often. If she wanted to go to a friend's house, we called the parents to make sure she was there. Ms. D was on a short leash, and it was exhausting! How do we balance the need for socialization, yet keep her safe?

Ms. D is not able to make good decisions about safe interactions with people she meets. If there is any doubt, she hides from us. She lies. I can't trust her. It's interesting how she doesn't even whine that we don't trust her. Isn't that normal teen behavior?

I also have to make some decisions about our homeschool group next year. Interest in our group is dropping off, our family is planning on making changes, and I don't feel right exposing my kids to other homeschool kids. Yes, our group extends grace to kids with special needs, but my family's special needs are over the top. When other parents in our group are dealing with things like autism or learning disabilities, I also have to deal with behavior problems. If the behavior problems were just things like meltdowns, it would be fine. But do I really want to expose their kids to the behaviors that Ms. D is exhibiting lately? There is a big difference between discussing courtship vs. dating, and discussing the fear that your girl will fall into drugs and sexual exploitation. Maybe it will be better to get my support from Help One Child or similar groups that won't shy away from the messiness of our lives. I certainly don't feel comfortable to lead a Christian homeschool group anymore.

There are many other decisions, but these are the top ones. I'm in a messy part of life. It's a good thing God isn't surprised by the messiness! I need His wisdom!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Inviting Him In

Walls

Walls keep the bad out, are protective; they keep people safe from the elements. There are good things about walls. But there is also bad. Walls in our hearts can protect us from harm, but get in the way when they are no longer needed.

My kids have walls around their hearts. Their walls had a purpose at one time, but now they keep my kids from receiving our love. Sometimes I can break through, but lately it has become more difficult to do so.

I have walls in my own heart. In my spiritual direction time this morning, I explained to my friend how I've recently discovered that my healing from a spiritually abusive church hasn't been as complete as I'd thought. I have forgiven, but I still have walls. I am gun shy about changes, in my relationships with others, especially other Christians, and in my relationship with God.

I have struggled to break down the walls in my heart. Instead, my spiritual director encouraged me to invite God into the walled in place, kind of like a secret garden. There was so much peace. I wondered if God would even want to go where I am so broken, yet I realized He voluntarily came to a messed up world. In time, I'll ask Him what he wants to do with the walls in my heart. But for now, I am at peace.


Afterwards, I spent some time at the beach. I rested. I walked in the sand with the sun on my face. Instead of fighting and pushing God away from the broken places in my heart, I rested in the knowledge that He wasn't afraid to go where I was afraid or ashamed.

When I came home, the kids were dysregulated. They had a hard time with me leaving for a half day, yet they pushed me away when I returned. I don't know how to break through their walls and help them accept love from others and from God. I don't know how to help them to be at peace. But I hope they learn as they see me learning. I pray that they invite God in the broken places in their hearts. I want to see them happy and unafraid.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Wheezing

I'm wheezing after running, walking, and sneaking behind a teen aged girl who has proven herself untrustworthy. I found out today that Ms. D has been seeing the guy in the car for nearly a year. She doesn't know much about him, yet she feels it's just fine to hug him. Her reasoning is if he hasn't done anything in a year, he should be pretty nice. And why shouldn't a seventeen year old live away from his parents? Because he's not really seventeen? 

So this afternoon, when Ms. D said she wanted to walk to the store with Ms. M, Hubby and I trailed behind them. Ms. D has to earn our trust back and until then, we will check up on every little thing she does. This parenting thing is harder this time around. But at least I'll get some exercise out of it!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Take Me Out to the Ball Game!

Today, some of our family went to the Giants game!


This is my second time to go to a major league game.

Grandson and Me

It was Ms. D's and Grandson's first time!


We had seats with a view of the bay and the ball field. Grandson liked to see the boats, especially the one that went round and round!


There were times that I could see the kids getting a little over stimulated, but they did really well.


I think it helped Ms. D to hold Grandson. It is interesting how she is able to regulate herself when she either has a dog or a baby to hold.


It was so good for me to do something fun with the family. We've had too much drama in our house lately. A day off of schoolwork on a beautiful, warm, sunny day was just what we needed!

Microbio Daughter and Grandson

I had a great time seeing the ones I love have fun.


Let's Go Giants! Let's Go!