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

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Black Belt Test

One of my daughters tested for her third degree black belt today! I'm so proud of her!

My daughter is back row, second from the right

We have a couple of videos of her breaking double one inch boards. It's harder than you think to break those things doing a pop kick!

She did really well, considering the pain she's had in her knees and back lately. She pushed through the pain and completed the training and test. We'll find out the results later, but at least in my eyes, she did great. It is so good to see a young adult work hard to accomplish her goals with such a good attitude.

Friday, September 13, 2013


Today was my birthday.
Some of our family were able to go with me to dinner. Brewster even slept under the table while we ate. It was nice to have him come with us to a restaurant one more time. Even though a couple of the students in our family weren't able to make it, we still filled up a couple of tables. Taekwando daughter is going for her third degree black belt tomorrow. She was asked to only invite immediate family members, since space is limited. We laughed! If our whole family came to watch, we'll fill up a good part of the audience!

Near the end of our meal, a couple of the girls were texting and smiling to each other. They were taking pictures like crazy. I was wondering what was going on. When we got out of the restaurant, they told me. The conversation went something like this:

"Did you know that the local guy that was a finalist on American Idol a couple of seasons ago was in the restaurant?"
"Really? Who is it? Is he still there? Can we go back and see?"
"No, that would be so embarrassing! It was Deandre Something. I can't remember his name, but he used to go to high school near here.  He was sitting right behind you while we were eating."
"Did he sing Happy Birthday to me along with all the others in the room? That would have been cool."
"No. Right when everyone was singing, he ate something hot and was holding his hand to his mouth."

Wow! I almost had someone from American Idol sing Happy Birthday to me!

But what was even better, I was blessed by family and friends who actually know me, people who wished me well online, family who joined me for dinner. My in-laws and grandson gave me cards. An older son took Mr. I out this afternoon to get bike parts so I was able to rest. A daughter got a chocolate cream pie for my birthday. People I love have shown their love to me. I am so blessed!

Poor Puppy

Last night, as we were talking to some friends who were returning some coolers for the weekly food pickup, Ms. D came running out of the house with her pajamas on. She sprinted across the street barefoot and came back with a little dog. The neighbors had found the dog in their backyard. They couldn't keep it overnight because they have a big German Shepherd which would devour the little pup.

He was so sweet! But he was also dirty, full of fleas, and had some sores on his legs. It kind of looks like he was confined in a small space for a long time. Poor puppy! I hope he had been lost for awhile. No dog should ever be that neglected in someone's care. Ms. D cleaned him up, fed and watered him. Ms. D was up half the night because he didn't like to sleep in a crate, but I didn't want to risk getting Brewster sick just before he went to college.

We took him to the shelter first thing in the morning. Of course, the dog wasn't neutered and didn't have a collar or a chip. We will watch to see if he gets adopted. He's such a sweet dog, and will be a great pet for someone who will take care of him as he deserves.

It is so sad to see how some people treat their animals and children. Neglect this extreme should never happen, yet we've seen it before. We've seen the effects of abuse and neglect, and it breaks my heart.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Growing Up, the Nest Gets Emptier

In the next few weeks, Brewster, the guide dog puppy, and my two oldest daughters are going to be moving. Both are ready. Brewster is going to go to college at Guide Dogs for the Blind in just a few days. My daughters have applied to two rentals and will move into one of them in the next couple of weeks. It is very difficult to find affordable housing in the Bay Area. Many people live in their parents' houses well past the time that young adults in other parts of the country leave the nest. But my daughters were able to find something that fit their budget and are excited for this new chapter in their lives.

I am torn between being excited for my daughters' and Brewster's future, and a bit sad that they will be moving away. You'd think that I would have had plenty of practice with the empty nest time, since my oldest sons are already established in their new homes. It isn't like my nest is completely empty either, since the two youngest aren't going to leave us anytime soon. At least I hope not! But there is a bit of a loss when children move out, even adult children.

Brewster will be learning some awesome skills and hopefully be a blessing to someone who is blind. Yet he has been a blessing to Ms. D, and has helped her through a very rough time.

We will all miss the girls. We will miss Brewster. It won't be easy for the younger ones to adjust, and I'm sure we'll have plenty of tears. Hopefully we won't have any full blown meltdowns. But at the same time, there is cause for celebration. We have done a good job, and our daughters and puppy are ready to learn new things and experience life as adults. I am proud of them!

Monday, September 9, 2013

FASD Awareness Day

Today is FASD Awareness Day. The ninth day of the ninth month was chosen to remind women not to drink alcohol during the nine months of pregnancy.

This morning I am thinking of how fetal alcohol has affected my children, our family, and me. It is hard to imagine how a decade ago, I only knew a little of the effects of alcohol on a child. I didn't realize how much it affects every day of a person's life, and how much it affects others. Every day, we make adjustments to our lives. Every day is a bit of a struggle.

Sometimes the accommodations we make for our children's benefit become so much a part of our lives, we hardly notice them. The other day, as I was driving a friend home from a park, I took some side roads to avoid a traffic backup on the freeway. As I got into another lane, I explained to her why I was changing my route. My friend wondered why I bothered to tell her. I realized I need to explain any changes to our usual routes to my children with FASD, or they become very uncomfortable. Everything in life, schedules, car routes, people they meet, all need to be a routine, or my children can become dysregulated. Spontaneity does not work with people who have been affected by alcohol prenatally.

Every day, I have to make parenting decisions that take into consideration the effects of fetal alcohol. Can my daughter go to the park with a friend? Can she make a good decision if her ability to think is clouded? Will she make an impulsive decision that will hurt her the rest of her life? How much is her ability to grasp an academic problem affected by FASD?  How much freedom do I give her, and how much do we protect?

Our whole family has been affected by the choice of the birthmother to drink while pregnant. Sometimes I wish I could go back in the past and stop her from her from drinking and taking drugs while pregnant. It would have prevented so much suffering. Of course, in that case, we probably would not have had the children in our home, she would have been able to keep her children, and we never would have known them.

It is too late to prevent my children from being harmed by alcohol. But it isn't too late for others. It is my hope that someday, I won't have to tell people to not drink while pregnant. I hope that I won't have to educate police, psychologists, doctors, and educators about the effects of alcohol, because they already know. I hope that people will learn the effects so that others can be spared the heartache.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Catching Up

We've been home from vacation for over a week and a half, but I still feel like I'm falling behind faster than I'm catching up. I guess it usually does take just as long to recover after a vacation as it does to have one. Of course my expectations are always to get more done than humanly possible and that everyone will do as I wish. Isn't that what we all do to some extent? But some of us are much better at unrealistic expectations and insist on perfection from ourselves and our loved ones. You can imagine how well that works.

And if our own standards aren't high enough, we have the ability to look at the strengths of other people and compare them to our weaknesses. After all, if my friend can keep a clean house and have three special needs kids, I should be able to do it with only two special needs teens, right? It doesn't matter that I've just started the homeschooling year, have something in common with the woman who touched the hem of Jesus's garment and feel anemic and tired, am in the middle of a house project, am fifteen years older than my friend, have had extra doctor and psych appointments, have to comfort the family because our guide dog puppy is leaving, and am distracted by an adorable grandson, reading, and crocheting. The temptation is to cut out all the non essential tasks in order to catch up, yet I can't physically or emotionally keep up to a superwoman pace.

So I work a little, rest a little, and do what I can. I give myself the grace to be human and give others grace to be human also. I make mistakes and I am certainly not perfect.  I am not as good as some people at certain things, yet others probably look at me and wonder how I ever do what I do! Someday I'll be organized, someday my house will be spotless, but for right now, I'll need some help if it can be clean enough for church Saturday. What gets done will be enough.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sad Evening

Tonight we got the sad/good news that Brewster will be going to Guide Dogs for the Blind on the fifteenth. We knew the day would come when he would be going to college and we would have to say our goodbyes, but it is still hard on the kids. We've had tears and sadness at our home tonight. I know I will cry too, when the time comes. He's been such a great dog and has helped Ms. D get through some really tough times. We will certainly welcome him back if he fails the training, but on the other hand, we hope he does well and can bless a blind person.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Block Party!

Our street had its annual block party this evening. It almost didn't happen.

I normally plan it with the help of one or two other neighbors. If you know me, you understand that I've been a bit distracted this summer with teen drama, vacation, and a few other things. I kept forgetting to send out the invite to people. I was shocked Thursday when I realized that I had only a few days to prepare for our Labor Day party. It's Labor Day already?!!! I had to make a decision. Do we cancel the party this year, or should I go ahead and have it on such short notice? I was hoping that neighbors would remember that we have our party at the end of the street every year at the same time and would come.

And they did! Not everyone was able to make it, but about half of the neighbors attended, at least for a short time. We had good food, and great conversation. I am so blessed to have such great neighbors!

So how did an impromptu party work?

1. We do the same thing every year at the same time. People know what to expect.
2. People bring their own meat to grill or a main dish, chairs, and utensils.
3. We potluck the rest of the meal. This year was heavy on the desserts and fruit, but it was still yummy!
4. I tell people on the invitation what to bring. 
5. The party is at the end of our street, so if we forget anything, like wipes or aluminum foil, all we have to do is walk a few doors down to get what we need.
6. I have neighbors who bring out their grills, tables, and do things like collect garbage, so I don't have to provide or do everything.
7. The main event is to meet the neighbors. In the past, we invited the local firemen and some people opened their pools for swimming. But the favorite thing to do is talk and eat. And eat and talk. 

And with such awesome neighbors, our block party was bound to be a success!