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Monday, February 28, 2011

Winning, Losing and Everything In Between

This weekend was full. Full of all that life has to offer. It was a weekend full of possibilities and pitfalls. This weekend left me wishing for another weekend so I could recover but I enjoyed every second of it. Time is going too fast and the more full our weekends are the faster they go.

Claire's swim meet was the first event on our agenda. She had six events at a championship meet in Manassas, which is about an hour and half away from here. She and I went alone and it was some fabulous time to spend with my daughter. I don't often get to drive her to events outside of Richmond. It was the best. Some good ol' Mom and Claire time...just what the doctor ordered. Claire did great in her swim meet! While she didn't achieve the coveted "A" time she dropped time in every event in which she compteted. She came away from her swim meet proud of her achievements and looking forward to improving more and more. Neither she, nor I can ask for more than that.

Zach had a packed weekend as well. Lacrosse tryouts followed by a semi-final hockey game. (His hockey team was playing for a chance at the title in their hockey league.) Tryouts went well, so I was told. The semi-final game went well, so I saw. They won and advanced to the championship game. So far in this weekend we have seen a lot of winning. Here is where some losing comes into the story. Zach's team lost the championship game in an ugly game. They did not play well together. Pass, shoot, score ~ it did not happen. Zach took the first penalty less than a minute into the game. The refs called him for "boarding." Zach called it "checking." Zach plays a BIG game. He likes to be physical. He likes to hit. Not to hurt, just to do his job and knock the opponent off of the puck. When the refs take away the ability for him to hit he doesn't do his job. Zach and the rest of his team played a tentative game, not wanting to get called for stupid penalties but they got the penalty calls anyway. The league title was not to be for them this year. Damn. I hate that for them! Zach spent the remainder of the day waiting for the results of lacrosse tryouts. I think making his high school lacrosse team took a little of the sting out of losing the league title. Not all of the sting, but a little. There was a simmering anger eminating from him as he read the list of team mates. Some of his friends did not make the team. Anger rising at the thought of good kids being cut from the lacrosse team. Zach had quite a full weekend.

Jan made the tennis team and I couldn't be happier for him. Our high school tennis team is a highly ranked team and Jan made it! He asked if I would come watch him play if his match is at home. How could I not? I will be at as many of his matches as I can. I already have the schedule on the calendar! I will be there cheering him on!

Lucas was just along for the ride this weekend. His story was the "everything in between." He was our party boy this weekend. Thank goodness for Lucas. He kept the winning and the losing all in perspective.

As full as the weekend was with winning, losing and everything in between I wouldn't have had it any other way. I posted something on my Facebook wall about the weekend's schedule and one of my friends reminded to enjoy because this time is gone so soon. I know the kids will be gone before I know it. This weekend made me think of the line from the movie "Love Actually" when Colin Firth's character, Jamie, is driving Aurelia home and he says "It's my favorite time of day. Driving you." Aurelia responds, in Portuguese, "It is the saddest part of my day. Leaving you." It will undoubtedly be the saddest part of my day when my kids leave. So for now, I will selfishly enjoy every minute of and try to complain infrequently. For the love of my children...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The weekend!

Oooof! My brain is mush...you don't want to read anything I have to say tonight! I will write tomorrow when I am FRESH...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Letters

Last week I shared the story I wrote for our parish newspaper. Today I will share a little of how I was able to write the story. This is the letter I wrote when I found my biological mother. I have her permission to use all of the letters we wrote to one another. My intention is to someday write a book about my experience looking for, finding and meeting my biological mother. I need to find the courage to get there. Someday I will get there. But for now, here is my letter followed by her response.

Dear Denise,

I have thought a thousand times how to begin this letter and still haven't come up with anything great. You might want to sit down and get comfortable or you might want to throw this letter away before even starting. It is your choice. You might have guessed by now I am your long ago child. I am writing for three reasons and my husband suggested a letter as the way you might feel least ambushed. I hope it is true.

My first reason for writing is to say something I have needed to say for about 20 years. THANK YOU! Your act of selflessness put into motions so many events you can never even imagine. I was rasised well in a house of love with every opportunity available to me. I was adopted into a family with one older brother. My father was a dentist in the Army and a Major at the time. My mother is a nurse. My father stayed in the Army for 30 years and made it to the rank of Colonel before retiring. I was raised as an Army Brat. I loved every minute of it. I have a wonderful life because of you and your decision. I don't know how you did it! So again, thank you!

My second reason for writing is to tell you a story and I hope you find some peace in it. It is a long story but I will give you the condensed version. I have a friend whose hobby is helping people with adoption searches. She offered to help me and we found you. In the couse of our search we found many coincidences and I would like to share them with you. My parents are great people named Frank and Denise. They passed the name Denise on to me in my middle name, Jennifer Denise. My parents never knew your name. It was quite a surprise to me to find that I carry the name of both of my mothers! Years passed and I met and married the man of my dreams. We have an awesome life together. In two weeks we will have been married for 10 years. We have three beautiful children. Zachary Paul, age 7 & 1/2. Lucas Ford, age 5 and Claire Denise almost 3. I received the packet of information containing all family names in September of this year. I couldn't believe my daughter caries so much history with her names and through sheer coincidence! I am sorry to hear you own Claire has passed away. But I hope the legacy of my Claire gives you some peace, if you need it. I don't pretend to know you or your life, but from the information I received surrounding my adoption I thought you would like to know my story.

My third reason for writing to you is to let you know I wish you every happiness in the world. You did something in your life that few people are willing to do anymore. You are a courageous woman. I use us as an example to others who are considering adoption. I hope your decision led to happiness in your life. I hope raising your son and daughter gave you as much joy and happiness as my own three are giving me. I know form the paperwork your decision was not easy and you worried about my quick placement. I was placed very quickly and by six months old my adoption was complete. I hope knowing this helps ease a burdens (if ever there was one) and gives you some happiness.

You may know some of this information. You may know all of it or this may be the first you know of any of it. My 35th birthday is tomorrow and I felt a need to share this with you on a milestone year ( I am now officially mid-30's!). I hope I haven't taken you too off guard or upset your life too much. You are free to do with this letter what you wish. I just needed to share this with you. If you choose to respond to my letter and do know my information, please respect me as I am trying to respect you and write back to my P.O. Box. I need to set some parameters and I need you to respect that, please. I have too many people depending on my to throw all caution to the wind. If you would like to know more about me or start some communication I need it to be through the mail.

So with that, I leave you to your thoughts and memories. I wish you much peace and happiness in you your life. I just wanted you to know the rest of the story...

Sincerely,
Jennifer

From this letter you may have figured out Denise's (my biological mother) mother's name was Claire. So my Claire carries the names of two grandmothers and one great-grandmother. Denise's Claire passed away from cancer at the age of 68.

Here is Denise's response.

Dear Jennifer,

Today I received the most beautiful letter anyone could hope to have in her possession. My life is now complete knowing you are so happy and content in your life. The decision made 35 years ago was, without a doubt, one of the most difficult one I have known, and now, the regrets are diminished...never a day has gone by that I have not thought of you and how life was for you. Thank you for your understanding and the courage to write me. Michael (my husband) knows I've been looking for you, and has encouraged me, but had I found you, I'm not certain I could have followed through...thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I will write more when my head has cleared, but for now I just wanted you to know how very happy you have made me. I have much to tell you just not the clarity of thought to do so at the moment. Again, I thank you.

Always,
Denise

The search for Denise was done to give myself some peace. I found the courage to search through the love of my children...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Am Not Like Other Mothers

15 years ago Zach came flying into this world and I do mean FLYING! He was anxious to be born. He tried to come 10 weeks early but we kept him cooking another five weeks...he was five weeks early. He was done being in the womb. Watch out world, here comes Zach! From the second he was born he made sure I, and the world, never forgot about him. He screamed, he fussed, he made noise - constantly. He still makes sure I don't forget about him. He is loud. He is crazy. He is also a delightful and loving young man. I couldn't be more in awe of him as he grows up.

A few years ago I wrote little books for all of the kids. I started with Zach's book because I embarrassed him in front of his friends and it got me thinking. He needed to know, in no uncertain terms, I was not like other mothers. I even titled the book "I Am NOT Like Other Mother's" and here is what I wrote...

I am not like other mothers as you plainly see -
And with that you must agree

Sometimes I am a goof, shooting through the roof.

Sometimes I am a clown and nothing can get me down.

Sometimes I am kooky and that can be quite spooky.
But all of this is OK with me!

I am not like other mothers, as everybody knows.
I like to dance and skip and prance.
I keep you on your toes.

I am not like other mothers as Dad can surely tell.
But I am pretty sure he thinks I am just plain swell.

I am not like other mothers as you have seen yourself.
I have chased you around.
Tickled you 'til you fell down.
And I'm OK with that myself.

I am not like other mothers.
I made it my job to embarrass you in front of others.

I like to have fun and run and play around.
I have been told I am quite a clown.

But I am not like other mothers because of one big reason.
YOU!
I was chosen to be your mother through all of your growing seasons.

I am not like other mothers because I am the luckiest mom of all.
You have been the light of my life since you were very small.

I am not like other mothers for all those other reasons, too.
But I am not like other mothers because I have YOU!

I am happy to say I am still not like other mothers. I like it this way. I will continue to not be like other mothers for the love of my children...

Happy 15th Birthday, Zach!

No Regrets

This is how I want to live my life with our kids. I don't want to have many regrets when they leave home. I know I will have some regrets about losing my temper or making the wrong decision here or there but I don't want to regret not doing enough or being there enough for them. I want to be the Vince Lombardi of mamas. I want to make sure I "leave no regrets on the field."

There are times when I want to give up. I get tired. I get cranky. I want to abdicate my authority. "Just do whatever you want," I sometimes feel like saying. There are times when I want to run away. Life becomes tricky and the kids gets nasty. The Bahamas sound great! When is the next flight out? I know these times are going to become more and more frequent as Lucas and then Claire become teenagers. Zach is already a teenager and while he is a fairly mellow kid, at this point, I know we will have tough times ahead. It is part of the growing up process. All kids need to establish independence from their parents. It will be these upcoming times when I will need to buckle down even harder and reinforce to myself my No Regrets way of living my life. It is when the kids are getting ready to spread their wings I will need to be there even more. It will be these times they remember as they leave home. Their memories of being rocked, read to and soothed will be replaced by whatever choices I make in these next vital years. I can't give into wanting to give up. I can't run away.

I love Vince Lombardi's book "What It Takes To Be Number One." I can apply it to so many areas of life. I can apply it to my kids and help them see with hard work, perseverance and a positive attitude they can be or do whatever they want in life. In his book he says "You've got to be smart to be number one in any business. But more importantly, you've got to play with your heart, with every fiber of your body. If you're lucky enough to find a guy with a lot of head and a lot of heart, he's never going to come off the field second." This is what I want my kids to understand. I want them to play through life with every fiber of their bodies. I can also apply his nuggets of wisdom to myself as well. Lombardi's book helps me remember to leave no regrets, not just in being a mama but in all aspects of my life. I can open his book and immediately find something to inspire me. One of my favorite lines of Lombardi's is "If you don't think you are a winner, you don't belong here."

With this in mind I am off to leave no regrets. I am off to be the Vince Lombardi of Mamas...for the love of my children!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Oh, For the Love of....My Children: The O Word

Oh, For the Love of....My Children: The O Word

Tryouts

I understand the need for tryouts but part of me hates tryouts. Another part of me despises tryouts. Right now, Jan and Zach are in the midst of tryouts at school. Jan is trying out for their high school tennis team and Zach is tryout for their lacrosse team. Both boys are working hard and doing their best. My problem with tryouts is what if their best isn't good enough? That is what I hate about tryouts.

I know both boys are nervous. There is a nervous energy flowing through the house. Both boys are busting on each other. Jan wrote on the chalkboard wall in the kitchen "Deep Run LAX sucks." Zach responded with "Tennis tryouts are cancelled today because it is too cold. LAX is on for today cause we can take the cold." (Jan's tennis tryouts were cancelled yesterday due to the cold. Zach told him tennis players are a bunch of wimps!) I will be so glad when the nervous energy is out of the house...with both boys (hopefully) having made their respective teams.

I know tryouts are a part of life. I know not every kid can play every sport at school. I know all of this but it still doesn't help quell the nervousness I have for the boys. As Zach started his first day of tryouts he texted me to let me know he would be finished much later than we originally thought. I responded with this text "...Good Luck! Play hard, show what you've got and have fun!!" I think when the kids are having fun in their chosen sport they are much more able to "show what they've got." Hopefully, the character building experience of tryouts will be outweighed by the joy they both have for their sports.

Even though I hate tryouts I will support and encourage them through this (and any) tryout process and beyound because to do otherwise would be shortchanging them in the future. I will do this for the love of my children...

The O Word

I've never heard either of them say it. I've noticed over the years a gradual changing in both of them but last night my father made it official. He said he is getting Old. I cringed when I heard him say it. It sucks watching your parents age. When I was a little girl my dad was the strongest man in the world to me. He used to joke when I would touch his arm to be very careful not to break my fingers because his arm was made of pure steel. Now, he says he is old. That sucks.

I know aging is a part of life but watching the aging process in your parents is not comfortable. It is a comfort, though, to know they are moving here to be a part of our daily life. The kids are getting to know my parents on a much different level. They are getting to know them in a way where we can joke around about some of their personality quirks and traits. Zach and I will give each other a quick glance every time my dad gives his short, little bark of a laugh. Zach loves hearing him laugh like that. The kids are so comfortable having them here. I am so very thankful my kids will have time with my parents getting to know them on a daily basis. The memories we will all carry with us will ease the discomfort of watching my parents age.

My kids are fortunate to have this opportunity to get to know my parents. There is not the same kind of relationship to be had by visiting grandparents. I had one visiting grandfather and I was always envious of the relationship he had with my cousins. He lived with them and there was an ease to their relationship. With visiting grandparents there is always an element of maintaining your best behavior, wanting to make the best impression possible in the short time the grandparents are visiting. My kids will get to know my parents and my parents will get to know my kids...the good, the bad and the ugly.

Watching my parents age is going to suck but I am thankful my parents are going to be around us. It is going to be messy at times, perfect at other times but this whole package is for the love of my children...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Doing too much?

As I was finishing up my chauffeur duties for today I was reminded of my favorite next door neighbor in Louisville. Weezie finished raising her kids long before we moved next door, she was well into her 70's. Her kids were our ages and she was now onto the grandkids. Weezie and her first husband raised six kids, all born within eight years (they had one set of twins). She would joke that it took having five babies to figure out what was causing all of the kids. Weezie would also tell stories of her dinner hour martinis and how she would fix herself a drink while fixing a bottle for one of the babies. She would nurse her martini while the babies nursed on their bottles. Her way of raising kids was as foreign to me as our way of raising our kids was to Weezie.

Weezie is one of my all time favorite people. She is one of the most generous, warm people you could ever hope to meet in your life. She included us in many of their family gatherings. I remember feeling down because we didn't have any family close by ~ Weezie and Craig to the rescue. We were included in a family Derby Party. We were included in a family Christmas party. We were invited to their 10 year anniversary party. I couldn't have ever hoped for more kind and generous neighbors. When we were living next door to her I asked her what she would like our children to call her, "I don't care what they call me, as long as they call me," she said. All of us have many fond memories of Weezie and Craig.

Weezie taught me a lot about being a Mama. She taught me not to take things so seriously. She taught me motherhood is great and rewards are eventually reaped. She taught me to give selflessly but also remember myself. She never directly said any of these things she just imparted this knowledge to me. I just got it.

One area where we differed wildly was in how much Mamas of today do for their kids. Weezie told me she never would have been able to make every one of her kids' practices, games or theatre events. Parents did things much differently back then. Mamas weren't the beck and call mamas of today. They didn't wear chauffeur hats from the time the kids got out school each day until the kid went to bed. They weren't as involved as parents are now. Sometimes I think that is a good thing and sometimes I think it is a great thing. Sometimes, I think we are overly involved in our kids lives. We are helicopter parents. We do too much. Maybe parents before our time did too little. Who knows? I do know we are vastly different from parents of yesteryear.

I think I have tried to find a balance in what I do for my kids. I wear the chauffeur hat but I don't "helicopter" around their school work. I make sure the kids understand the work but I don't get the assignments off of the website or, like other parents I know, do the work for them. I am not sure where the fine line is between doing too little or being a helicopter parent but I am hopeful I took Weezie's lessons to heart and do a little more than parents of yesteryear but not as much as a helicopter parent. I do what I do for the love of my children...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A House Full of Children

THIS is what life with kids is all about. I have seven kids in my house for the night. I love it. I am home, not driving all over Virginia and back. I am relaxed, I had a 2 hour nap after all of the weekend's activities. I am enjoying all of these kids ~ each and every one is a true delight.

We have another exchange student in for the weekend. He and Jan met when they were at orientation in New York last summer. Attila lives a half an hour away from us and this is the second time we have had the pleasure of his company. The exchange program has been nothing short of amazing. These kids are phenomenal. They are interesting, well mannered and so much fun to be around. They are interested in sharing their stories and interested in learning about our country. I can't imagine life without a little inter-cultural diversity.


Both Zach and Claire are having sleepovers as well. Fun for everyone...although, Lucas is feeling a little left out. He had a sleevover this weekend so I don't have too much sympathy. Zach has a hockey buddy over for the night and Claire has our next door neighbor over. They are all great kids. I am so content, being home with all of these kids.

Now, tomorrow's breakfast may be a challenge but I think a huge stack of pancakes with bacon and oj should hit the spot. Then I will need to regroup for breakfast on Tuesday. The kids have tomorrow off otherwise we wouldn't be have ANY sleepovers tonight. I am happy about a iittle break tomorrow. I feel like I haven't had a weekend yet. I am looking forward to sleeping in and fixing breakfast for the masses.

I love having a house full of kids. I know where my kids are. I know exactly what is going on. I know they aren't out doing something they shouldn't be doing. They are here with me. I love it. I will continue having sleepovers, always...for the love of my children!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Oh Dear

I think I have walked into a strip club. There are young girls gyrating on the stage as I enter the auditorium where Claire and her dance team are experiencing their first dance competition. I was expecting to see some inappropriate acts but to walk in on girls ranging in age from 8 to 15 gyrating, bumping, grinding and dancing in a thoroughly inappropriate manner was a shock to my system and caused me to pause for a minute.

On the flip side I can tell which girls belong to the studio where our girls take their dance classes. They stand out in a very positive way. Their hair, make-up, costumes and dances are all completely age appropriate. Our girls all have their hair in buns. Their make-up is enough to show up on stage but we haven't "bedazzled" their faces with jewels coming out of the corners of their eyes. Their costumes are sharp and classy. Their dance routines are crisp, clean and totally free of bumping, grinding and any hint of pole dancing. Thank heavens or Claire would be whipped out of dance class so fast her head would spin.

I have talked before about my feelings of ambiguity with Claire dancing and this experience has reinforced these feelings but in a different way. After seeing our girls perform I am comfortable with Claire's choice to dance. What I am unsure about is how much this pushes girls to grow up before they need to. For dance, our girls do get made up and are careful about their appearances. Do 10 and 11 year old girls really need this kind of pressure? Is there any way to encourage the art of dancing without having to push them to grow up so fast? I don't if there is a right or wrong answer but there has to be a good answer to keep our girls from having to grow up too quickly.  

Watching the various performances has been interesting. It is an eclectic mix of dances. Some dances have been classy and impressive. Some of these dancers are incredibly talented and it has been a pleasure to watch the joy on the faces of the dancers as they perform for us. Some of the routines have bordered on just plain weird...maybe I am not artsy enough for this envriroment. I sit watching a group right now who are doing some kind of an interpretive dance and it is one of the oddest "dances" I have ever seen. The girls fall on the floor at seemingly random intervals. The music is a mix of techno/disco combined with some kind of futuristic beat. The dancers are good, I think, but all of the strangeness of the dance over shadows what the dancers are trying to convey. Then there are the mortifying dances. The dances where the girls gyrate all over a chair, the floor or each other. I feel like I should be stuffing dollar bills into their costumes. It is sad. These girls are being taught from an early age that "selling" their bodies for a cheering of the crowd is a good thing. Where are the parents of these girls? What parent would think that kind of dance would be the right thing to let their daughters do? These are the acts that make me want to pull Claire from this world of dance. I will be interested to see how the "hoochie mama" routines are rewarded. I will be sorely disappointed to see these acts rewarded.

Clarie loves this world of dance. I have to say that I so enjoy watching all of the girls from her studio. Some of their routines are so good it gives me chills to watch them. I will continue to watch them with amazement. I will continue to try and protect my daughter from growing up too fast. I will continue to say "Oh Dear..." when there are acts that make me cringe. I will continue all of this for the love of my daughter....

Friday, February 18, 2011

Ah, Tennis!

I have missed tennis so much. Our team plays together through November and then we meet back up again after the holidays. When we take time off I feel out of sorts and funky. When I am playing I feel so much more put together. Ah tennis...how I love it!

So today was a rare treat. The temperatures were in the mid 70's and a few of us got together and played tennis outside. Talk about feeling put together. I couldn't be more put together if I tried today. I think as Mama's we neglect ourselves too much and we need to make sure to take care of ourselves because when we take care of ourselves we take better care of our families. I came off the courts today in a great mood and ready to tackle all of the challenges of being a beck and call mama. I am on top of the world today!

We mamas have to find what have to find some outlet, some way to take care of ourselves so we can be the best mamas we can be. Mamas are kind of like tea cups. Gorgeous to look at, wonderful to hold, warm when full and sweet as sweet can be when sipped. When our cups are empty we can't fill anyone elses. When our cups are empty they are in jeopardy of cracking. We need to make sure to keep our cups filled so we don't crack and we can always fill others cups. My outlet for keeping my cup full is playing tennis.

I play tennis for the love of my children...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Adoption...

I read the tragic story today of the family in Florida who adopted the twins and ended up abusing them with the father murdering the daughter and trying to kill the son. This is the second, sad story in two weeks about adopted children. Stories of adoptions, adoptees and their families hit me hard. I am an adoptee. When I hear stories of adoptees being abused it breaks my heart. A story of any child being abused is heartbreaking but stories of adoptees suffering strikes me at my core.

I can't think of any bigger to gift to receive than my adoption. My story is the opposite tale of the children in the news these past two weeks. While my story has ups and downs, happiness and sadness it is ultimately a story of hope. My adoption story is still not finished, I don't think it ever will be finished. It will be my ongoing story forever. I would like to share with you part of my story. I wrote this years ago for our parish newspaper. This story is based on faith and steeped in hope. It is the opposite of the news stories, I think. This is a direct reprint of my story from 2005.

"My husband and I recently joined a small faith sharing group. We just started a new book on the Acts of the Apostles. In our last meeting we talked about the writings in the Acts of the Apostles being inclusive of people and working to spread the word of Jesus. The conversation turned into a discussion about how difficult it is to break from what is comfortable for us and bring new people into our own inner circles. This got me thinking about our Church and our Parish and how this relates to all of us.

As I was sitting listening to everyone talk about wanting to get out there and spread the words and deeds of the Bilble something inside of me started churning. I couldn't put my finger on it until we left. As Stan and I were driving home I started talking about my story and how it relates to this topic. As a newcomer to this group, I chose to sit back and watch the interaction between all of those who were together for a long time. I was hesitant to jump in and share my opinion. But the more I thought about my story, the more I understood why.

I am an adoptee. I was as adopted when I was 21 days old. All my life I have searched for something; a place to fit in, some place to truly call my own. Recently I have was blessed with the answers to my search. I found my biological family.

After many months of communication with my biological mother through letters and a few phone calls we decided it was time to meet. We decided to meet over the next holiday weekend. Labor Day weekend loomed out there like a tropical storm waiting to come ashore. My anxiety level was at an all time high. Stan drove me to the airport and walked me in. I have never felt so sick in all my life. I wanted to throw up. I wanted to run home and hide in my closet. I didn't want to go. I kept Stan's hand locked in a death grip and asked him to come with me. I cried as he left me at the security gate. I wanted this all of my life but I was leaving the comfort and security of of something I had and was going out into the unknown to meet the woman who gave birth to me but gave me up so I could have a better life.

There were so many unknowns. Would I like her? Would she like me? Would we get along? Would we have anything in common? Most importantly, to me, by putting myself out there would I get hurt? Right then, I didn't want to know the answers to these questions. I wanted to stay safe and secure in my little world. But Stan had other plans. He left me at the security gate telling me he loved me and everything would be OK.

I landed early at the Atlanta Airport and started to make my way to baggage claim. I walked from my terminal to baggage claim trying to buy a little more time before my complete immersion in the unknown ~ for those of you have been to the Atlanta Airport you know it is a LONG walk. I found my bag and waited for the call. Finally, my phone rang. It was the moment of truth. My biological mother was on the other end asking "Where are you?" She made her way to baggage claim and found me. We hugged and she cried a little. She told me she thought I was beautiful and I had her eye color. She also said when she called and asked where I was it was the same question she had asked over and over again for 35 years and it was finally answered. I was there with her.

We ended up having a wonderful weekend. Sure, there were times of awkwardness. There were differences in our lives and backgrounds. But there was also a familiarity and similarity between us. We talked, asked questions and were open and honest with each other. It was a meeting of strangers joined by the bond of biology. By the end of the weekend we were friends.

I realized so many things during the weekend. I realized how powerful it is to have a strong foundation but just as powerful is the addition of a new friend. I realized I was always right where I belonged. I realized how lucky I am. I realized I missed my parents so much at some points it hurt. And I realized I stepped out of my comfort zone and not only survived but came out on top of the world. I made a new friend. I found many additions to my family. And I survived. Was it hard? It was the most difficult thing I have ever done. Was it worth it? You bet. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

Just think of the impact we could have on our parish community if each one of us reached out to just one person outside of our circle. The ripple effect would be amazing. We would be doing and following in the footsteps of those who walked before us and gave of themselves to build the foundation of our Church. What a tremendous impact we could have on that one soul who is searching for a place to call home.

The weekend of meeting my biological mother had a tremedous impact on me. It made realize the good things can come when you reach out and do something you you don't really want to do. It brought me a new found peace and it brought me many new friends and family members I never would have it I hadn't been forced out of my comfort zone. Just think what a huge difference we could all make if we stepped outside of our comfort zones and gave of ourselves to someone we never would have met by staying in our safe and secure little worlds. Where would we all be if Jesus and the Disciples kept to themselves? Would we all be here worshipping together? I doubt it. I would like my story to be a gift to you all. We feel so safe among those who know us and love us best but who among us couldn't use more friends? Jesus could. How about you?"

I will continue to tell my story so I can spread the hope and promise of adoption. Hope is for the love of my children...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

They don't know how good they have it

Wow! I am constantly amazed to realize my kids have no idea how good they have it in this house. I guess it is my fault for giving them so much. I am not talking about material stuff. I am talking about what I do for for them.

Every morning I wake them up. Zach says he can't stand waking up to an alarm clock. It is too jarring for him. Poor baby. This morning was the last straw waking him up. His bedroom is on the third floor (Richmond's version of a basement). We have an intercom system up to the third floor so we can call them down when they are all holed up. Every morning I call up to him in his room "Zach it's time to get up," and then I push the call button to make sure my voice has penetrated his sleepy brain. Usually, he responds fairly quickly with a short return push of the call button to let me know his feet are on the floor and he is headed to the shower. This morning he didn't respond, didn't respond, didn't respond. So I stood at the intercom with my finger on the call button. It is not a pleasant sound. It is loud and shrill. It sounds like a whistle mated with a smoke alarm. Think that was a nice and gentle wake up for him? I think it was nice and jarring! I would rather wake up to an alarm clock. I can choose a radio station and push the snooze button until the very last second. I would rather wake myself up than wake up to the intercom call button.

Every morning I fix them breakfast ~ a nice big breakfast. Claire gets a small omelet and a cup of milk. She usually takes her lunch so I pack it for her. The boys get a huge breakfast. The boys' breakfast menu is three scrambled eggs with ham and cheese and a smoothie with banana, frozen berries, milk and kefir. The boys' breakfast is big for two reasons. The first reason I fix them such a large breakfast is Lucas doesn't eat much lunch because of his medicine so I want to make sure he has something in his belly to sustain him through the day. The second reason is Zach would spend $10 a day on lunch if I didn't fill him up at breakfast. I know I do a lot for them in the morning but I like fixing them breakfast in the morning. I know they are starting the day right.

What I don't like is their assumption that I am here to do their bidding. "Ah, I don't have to hurry," they think, "Mom will drive me if I miss the bus." No. No I won't drive them. It's not that I don't have time to drive them it's the principle of the thing. They are so laxidaisical in their approach to getting themselves out the door. It drives me insane! I am constantly on them with a time check. "It's 7:53. It's 7:57. It's 8 o'clock time to get your butts out the door!" Maybe I do too much for them. Maybe they are just a little too dependent on my constant harping. Maybe I need to back off. I am here to help them, for sure, but I don't think I need to be here to do their bidding.

It's a fine line between helping them grow up and hindering independence. I am not sure where I am on this fine line. What I am sure of is I do what I do for the love of my children...even though sometimes I know they have no idea how good they have it!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sandwiched

Well, it's official. My parents are homeowners in Richmond. They signed the paperwork this morning. Stan and I officially became part of the sandwich generation, caring for our kids and my parents, to a slight degree. Luckily, my parents are still able to care for themselves in most ways but there will be a period of dependency on us. They won't know a soul in Richmond, except us. We will be their social network ~ oh, interesting days ahead. It has been 15 years since we have been in the same town as my parents and the last time we were all together we each had our own social networks, overlapping occasionally. I have never been responsible for someone else's social network. We are officially sandwiched.

Don't misunderstand, I know this is the best thing for everyone. I am writing down my thoughts, not trying to be negative. The kids are beyond excited to have Nana and Granddad here. Zach thinks he is going to live with them during the summer. They have a clubhouse, pool, tennis courts and are within walking distance of a grocery store. They also are in a 55 year old and up community. I think Zach will spend many nights there, but LIVE there? I am not so sure he will think it is the grandest of ideas all of the time. But the timing of this move is, indeed, the best thing for all concerned.

I am very thankful for the fantastic relationship between the kids and my parents. Their relationship with each other didn't start out on the best footing. Neither of my parents are baby/toddler/little kid parents. (Babies aren't my favorite but give me a toddler or little kid any day!) My dad has never been terribly fond of boys either so for them to have such a good relationship with my kids, especially Zach and Lucas, is amazing.

I know I will enjoy being sandwiched once the transition period is over and everyone is settled. This move is for the love of my family...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day!

I love Valentine's Day. It may be commercialized and over hyped but I love it. I do enjoy it much more simply than how it is Out There. I ask only for a quiet evening with my love. I just want to savor a day filled with loving wishes. It is all I want for Valentine's Day.

For those of you who don't know the history of Valentine's Day, here is what I found when I was teaching religious ed the past three years. Every year I would read this story to the class and we would make Valentine's Day Cards...

"St. Valentine's Story
Let me introduce myself. My name is Valentine. I lived in Rome during the third century. That was long, long ago! At that time, Rome was ruled by an emperor named Claudius. I didn't like Emperor Claudius, and I wasn't the only one! A lot of people shared my feelings.
Claudius wanted to have a big army. He expected men to volunteer to join. Many men just did not want to fight in wars. They did not want to leave their wives and families. As you might have guessed, not many men signed up. This made Claudius furious. So what happened? He had a crazy idea. He thought that if men were not married, they would not mind joining the army. So Claudius decided not to allow any more marriages. Young people thought his new law was cruel. I thought it was preposterous! I certainly wasn't going to support that law!

Did I mention that I was a priest? One of my favourite activities was to marry couples. Even after Emperor Claudius passed his law, I kept on performing marriage ceremonies -- secretly, of course. It was really quite exciting. Imagine a small candlelit room with only the bride and groom and myself. We would whisper the words of the ceremony, listening all the while for the steps of soldiers.

One night, we did hear footsteps. It was scary! Thank goodness the couple I was marrying escaped in time. I was caught. (Not quite as light on my feet as I used to be, I guess.) I was thrown in jail and told that my punishment was death.

I tried to stay cheerful. And do you know what? Wonderful things happened. Many young people came to the jail to visit me. They threw flowers and notes up to my window. They wanted me to know that they, too, believed in love.

One of these young people was the daughter of the prison guard. Her father allowed her to visit me in the cell. Sometimes we would sit and talk for hours. She helped me to keep my spirits up. She agreed that I did the right thing by ignoring the Emperor and going ahead with the secret marriages. On the day I was to die, I left my friend a little note thanking her for her friendship and loyalty. I signed it, "Love from your Valentine."

I believe that note started the custom of exchanging love messages on Valentine's Day. It was written on the day I died, February 14, 269 A.D. Now, every year on this day, people remember. But most importantly, they think about love and friendship. And when they think of Emperor Claudius, they remember how he tried to stand in the way of love, and they laugh -- because they know that love can't be beaten!"

I wish each and every one a day filled with love, warm wishes and sunshine. Happy Valentine's Day and much love to you! For me Valentine's Day is for the love of my husband and children...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Family and Forgiveness

Merriam-Webster defines family as "a group of individuals living under one roof," or, "the basic unit in society traditionally consisting of two parents rearing their children." Those definitions seem vague and unemotional. I don't know about you, but when I think of family, I think of a Norman Rockwell painting and all of the feelings it evokes...the good and the bad feelings of family. I love the thought of family with all of the warmth and love that goes with it. I know it takes more than just love to make a family. It takes hard work, communication and understanding and from there comes the love. I live for building families..at least until recently. Recently, I screwed up the most important thing to me ~ my family.

I lived to build this family bigger, better, stronger. When I married Stan I was excited to be a part of something so much bigger than I was. He is the oldest of four boys. I had one, much older, brother. I always wanted to be in the middle of a big, giant family. It took me years to get there...years of work and tears and feeling on the outside. Finally, I made it through to the middle. I felt the love and had the big, warm family I always wanted. It was my heart's greatest desire. I had it and I threw it all away. Not intentionally but it's gone, just the same.

Last May was Claire's First Communion. We threw a party for her, inviting family and friends galore. It was our weekend to celebrate with her and celebrate her growing up just a little. She was in heaven. The day got even better for her when Stan's brother and his fiancee asked her to be a flower girl in their upcoming wedding. She was on cloud nine.

Stan's brother and his fiancee went on to ask all of the brothers and my two sons to be part of their wedding. Not me. I was the only one of the family, who was attending, not asked to be a part of their day. I was left out. I was on the outside, yet again, looking in. I was no longer in the middle, in the mix. I don't think I had ever experienced such feelings of hurt and betrayal. Maybe this sounds petty to you and maybe, it was. But the feelings were mine and they were real to me. I tried so hard to build this family big and strong. I tried to make everyone feel welcome in our house and our family. I left my daughter's party and went upstairs to try and sort out why I felt so hurt. I couldn't make sense of my feelings. I stayed away from Claire's party for the rest of the night. For me, the damage was done. Stan's brother and his fiancee left Richmond without saying good-bye to me. No explanations or apologies were given.

The date of the wedding approached. Initially, I said I wasn't going. I wasn't trying to act ugly or mean, just to keep myself from acting inappropriately. I should have followed my gut and stayed away. Instead, I went with anger, bitterness and ugliness inside my heart. I acted with these emotions. I let these emotions rule me during the weekend of the wedding. There is a lot about the wedding day I don't remember, which is another mistake. I can remember some things fairly clearly, when prompted and my behavior was beyond reprehensible, from what little I remember and from what I am told. I said and did things because of all of the nasty, bitter feelings I carried with me. I needed to go with forgiveness in my heart but I didn't. I failed. I failed Stan. I failed my kids and I failed the rest of my family during the weekend.

I would do anything to relive the day with forgiveness in my heart so things would be better for everyone else, especially Stan. He has paid the heftiest price. I have worked hard these past several months to forgive myself and forgive Stan's brother and his wife. I have apologized to everyone in the family, both in person and a written letter, but forgiveness is a fickle friend. I am not sure that I will ever be granted forgiveness from the entire outlying family. My immediate family has forgiven me. For that, I will be forever grateful. I have also forgiven myself. I had to. I had to let go so I could go back trying to be the best person I can be for Stan and our children. I want my behavior to be a lesson for my children...don't go anywhere with bitterness in your soul. You will lose, maybe not everything but you will lose.

I have lost a lot. But I have also gained. Stan stands beside me. I think all of us get stronger through adversity ~ Stan and I are strong. Ever since the beginning of our marriage whenever Stan leaves for a business trip he always leaves me a love note. The love note he left me after the weekend of the wedding brought me to my knees. He wrote down our wedding vows. "In sickness and health. For richer or poorer. For better or worse." This is "the worse" he said. I thank God every day for Stan. He is my gain, for better or worse ~ forever.

I was recently asked if I would forgive someone who wrote me a letter or sent some flowers as an apology. At this point in my life, I would have to say "Yes, I would." I learned (or relearned) so much in the past months. I learned life is too short to carry the heavy burden of guilt on your shoulders. I learned life is far too fleeting with those we love. I learned holding onto grudges does nothing to ease the pain of a wounded heart. I learned mistakes are part of living life but regrets go with you to your grave. I relearned power comes from true forgiveness. When you have hate, bitterness, ugliness in your soul you become lost and powerless. I read once that failing to forgive or let go of resentments is like swallowing poison and hoping the other person will die. It is when you can forgive that you are free.

My hope is, someday, to be able to sit down and talk openly about the hurt, anger and disappointment of last summer - to communicate openly with one another, but for now there is nothing more I can do. The ball is in their court. Stan's brother told me never to contact them again. I didn't listen. I sent my apology letter anyway. They returned it, unopened and unread. I don't think there is much hope for communication right now. But communication is the key to all of life's relationships. Without communication, there is no understanding. Without understanding, there are no lessons learned. Without lessons learned, there is no forgiveness. Without forgiveness, there is nothing.

Forgiveness is...for the love of my children.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Off and running

And so the weekend begins with hockey and more hockey! What a whirlwind of a day. This is my first opportunity to blog today because the day has been filled with HOCKEY and driving...I think they must go together!

Zach had his first post-cast hockey game. He was nervous going in but played a great game. He went into the boards a little funny in the second period and played a little tentatively afterward but all in all he played fast and strong. Zach's team won, which was a nice little notch in their belts heading into playoffs. Woohooo!

As soon as Zach's game was over I slipped back into the TRVLN ZU and headed to York, Virginia for Lucas' game. It was a zero/zero nail biter well into the second period when the opposing team ~ otherwise known as the "bad guys" pulled ahead with a nice five-hole goal. Our team fought back and got a goal to tie the score at 1-1. What was beautiful about this goal was the teamwork they employed to get the goal. One of our leading scorers passed the puck to the coach's son, who has not scored a goal all season and is the youngest player on the team. The coach's son catches the pass, shoots and scores! It was beautiful. Both teams are scrapping to win and the bad guys pull ahead again with two minutes left in the game. The clock is running. The game is going too long because of penalties and seconds are flying off the the clock. 40 seconds left in the game, 30, 20, at 10 seconds I bend down to collect my things only to hear our fans erupt cheering. Lucas scores the game tying goal with five seconds left on the clock! I can't believe I didn't see it go in the net! He was beyond estatic! I was so happy for him. Claire and I greeted him as he came out of the locker room and he was all smiles. We said our good-byes to him ~ he is staying overnight in York. Claire and I were headed home. But as we were leaving he hugged me and he hugged Claire and said "I love you" to Claire! That is what a good goal will do for a big brother, put a little love in their hearts!

The joy of hockey being in full swing. Jan has his game tomorrow morning and from there I leave with four smelly hockey players and one awesome hockey mom to head to Maryland for yet another hockey game! Ah, for the love of my children...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Single Momming It

Being a parent is a challenge. Being a single parent is brutal! I am only a single parent for 20 to 30 days a year with Stan's travel schedule. This weekend counts for four of those days. I can not imagine doing this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. This weekend is a a challenging exercise in organization and flexibility. It makes me wish I either had a clone or a wife.

Last night was the beginning of the craziness. Claire and her friend, Emma, had to be picked up from swim practice at 4. Zach had to be picked up from lacrosse conditioning at 5:15. Claire had Sock Hop at her school at 5:30. I had carpool duty with Lucas and one of his team mates for hockey practice at 7:30. Zach had to be at his hockey practice at 8. Luckily, Jan didn't have any type of practice last night. I finally got in the house at 9:20 last night and that was with Zach getting a ride home from his hockey practice. Whew, I feel like I am reliving it all over again. I am exhausted from just writing it down!

Mornings usually run pretty smoothly. I have the whole thing down to a science. Claire gets up first. I fix her breakfast and make her lunch. By the time I am finished with her it is on to the boys. A dozen cheesy, scrabbled eggs with fruit and yogurt smoothies gets them on their way. This morning was a little different. Lucas had to be at school at 8 to meet with his math teacher. So I had to drive him to school. The last thing I said to Zach and Jan was "Don't miss the bus. I am not driving you." Well, what do you know? My phone rings as I am dropping off Lucas. It is Zach telling me they missed the bus. "Start walking," I tell them. I could have strangled both of them at that moment. Zach said they were at the bus stop and the bus drove right by them. Really? Did the two knuckleheads just stand there and let the bus drive right on by? Likely story! Luckily, for them my neighbor had pity on them (or me) and drove them to school. This morning did not run smoothly. I don't like mornings like this.

The weekend should be interesting. Between the three boys there are six hockey games. Lucas' has three games in Yorktown. Zach has one game here and one game in Maryland. Jan's game is here. Claire's schedule is easy this weekend, thank goodness. This weekend is the first weekend in six weeks that Zach is back on the ice playing hockey. His cast came off on Tuesday. He will be in a splint but he will be playing. To say I am a little nervous is an understatement. I still haven't figured out how I am going to get everyone everywhere. We are lucky to have a hockey "village" to help get kids to and from games. But, right now I wouldn't mind that clone or wife! Interesting sums up the state of this upcoming weekend.

My parents also arrive in town this weekend. They fly in late tomorrow night so they won't be any help getting kids to and from games. They are coming in to finalize the purchase of their new house here in Richmond. Yep, they are leaving Manhattan, Kansas and moving to Richmond. Their house is on the market and they bought a house here. The kids are beyond excited to have Nana and Granddad close. They are at the perfect age to always remember having their grandparents close and part of their lives. It has been 15 years since we have lived in the same town as anyone from our family. There will be an adjustment period, to be sure, but it will be a good move for them and us.

This "single" mom is tired but so very thankful. I have a slew of friends to help get kids from point a to point b. I have a husband who works hard to be the best in everything for us and our kids. I have kids who may drive me crazy occassionally but who are terrific and loving always. So I will continue on with my single mom duties for the love of my children...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Power of No

No is a powerful word, especially when it comes to raising kids. It is also a hard word to say sometimes but it is a necessary word for more than just keeping kids in line. It also builds self confidence and character. Really, you think? And just how is it possible saying No can build self confidence? I will tell you my story...

I spent a long time afraid of the word no when. I hated to be told no so I lived life fearing the word no. Years ago, we were at a hockey game with my parents and old friends of my family's, from way back in the day when I was a kid, the Van Werts. Claire came running up to me asking for the 200th quarter of the day so she could play video games instead of watching her brother play hockey. I told her "No, no more quarters." Mrs. Van Wert looked at me dead in the eye and said "No, huh? That's a word YOU didn't hear much when you were growing up." I would like to think she was kidding but I believe she was completely serious. Looking back on my childhood I think I was something of a brat. Looking back on some of the ways I behaved I have to believe Mrs. Van Wert was serious. I didn't hear the word No often, until I grew up a little and then I heard it often from those outside my parents. I didn't know how to react to the word so I reacted with fear. I was unaccustomed to hearing "No" so I was afraid of it.

Who in life really wants to hear the word No? I don't know too many people who enjoy being told "No" but I know a fair number of people who work through the word to get to a yes. Lucas is one of these people. He will ask you the same question over and over and over again to get to a yes. Sometimes I call it persistence, sometimes I call it being a pain in the rear. But I wouldn't have it any other way because he is not afraid of the word No. He relishes the battle to get to a yes because he hears the word NO far more often than he hears the word Yes. He will succeed where others fail because he is not afraid of being told no.

I may not have heard no a lot when I was a kid but I am not afraid to apply it to my own kids. I sometimes wonder if my life would have taken a different path had I heard the word no more often...not that I want to change a thing in my life, I just wonder. I am also not being trying to be critical of my parents. They did a great job and I think I turned out OK in spite of the fear. I know when my kids get older they will wonder too about how different life would have been if only we'd done something different. But I won't regret having said no over and over and over again. I don't want them to fear the word no. I want them to be persistant and go further so they can get to the word yes, if they want to. When kids are not afraid their self confidence and character is stronger. They can go far with less fear.

I will say no a million times over for the love of my children...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Glad Game

This morning I was looking for some inspiration for today's blog. I asked Stan if he had any ideas. He had none. I had none. Was this the beginning of the end of my commitment to blog for the year about life and times with the kids? I couldn't let it happen. I made a commitment to myself and I plan to see it through. So, I picked up the cat, sat down in a comfy chair and began to think. The cat settled himself down nicely, purring contentedly. I was cozy and warm under a blanket with the cat all snuggled in. The only problem was I still had no inpsiration. I looked to the newspaper but it was too far out of reach and the cat doesn't like me reading the newspaper when he is on my lap. He gets freaky and jumpy and then he leaves. So I spied a book on the table next to the chair. This book has been display for a couple of years but I had never opened it. Inspiration.

The book is called "Learning to Dance in the Rain, The Power of Gratitude." The little nuggets of wisdom in the book were just what the doctor ordered...in more ways than one. Most of what is in this book I knew at one time but my memory has lapsed a little in the details. Life takes over and the important stuff is sometimes overlooked by the busy-ness of day to day life. I used to dance in the rain with the kids. I need to start doing that again.

Gratitude. What a powerful word. I need to use it more often. I need to post sticky notes all over my areas with "Gratitude." I have so many things for which to be grateful. In my past blogs I have talked about wanting to slow down life and pause the kids. It is my backward attempt at gratitude. I am so incredibly grateful for my family and my children. I, selfishly, want to keep them exactly as they are now. Claire recently asked me if I had the opportunity to freeze them at any age, which age would I choose? I told her I would choose to freeze them just as they are now. I love the ages of my kids right now. But the truth is, if she would have asked me this question two years ago my answer would have been exactly the same. I would have frozen them the ages they were two years ago. I loved the ages of my kids two years ago. I have loved every age of my kids while I was living it. I don't want to turn back the clock. I just want to pause time a little, to slow it down. My backward attempt at gratitude. I know growing up is an inevitability. I know I will love my kids ages as they grow up. I just don't want them to. I need to practice gratitude. I am thankful for my kids, now and always.

In the book there is a story about "The Glad Game." It also is means "Gratitude List." Whatever crappy thing is going on in your life right is countered by something else wonderful. I am going to play "The Glad Game" today.

I am glad I have my family.
I am glad for the sweet smell of spring I encountered last night.
I am glad for a purring kitty who helped bring inspiration to today's blog.
I am glad for the tightness of my teeth and the gap between my teeth. It means I am on my way to being pain free.
I am glad for six hockey games we have this weekend ~ it means the boys are out of casts and can play their game.
I am glad for the busy-ness of the day ~ it means I am surrounded by those I treasure.
I am glad for the love of my children...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I Love Elementary School

This is the title I planned last night and today the title fits even more so than last night. Last night, I planned to wax nostaligic about the simplicity of elementary school. Today, I will still wax nostalgic but I am also going to tell the story of what happens at elementary school if you don't know the rules.

Yesterday we had a parent/teacher conference with Zach's English teacher. It was at this conference I realized how wonderfully simple elementary school is. Zach has eight different teachers, so do Lucas and Jan. That is eight different sets of rules to learn, eight different personalities to get to know, eight different assignments to lose, eight different parent/teacher conferences and eight different ways to screw up in one day. This is eight ways to make life confusing, complex and real.

Elementary school. The kids have one main teacher with all of the speical area teachers sprinkled in. I love having one main teacher. I love that my kids get to know and love this one person. Zach's kindergarten teacher laid it out there for us when he started school. "Your child will now spend more of their awake hours with me than they will with you." It was kind of a kick in the gut but it was true. I am so very thankful for all of the wonderful teachers who have loved my children through the course of their school years. I love it when my kids call me by their teacher's name. To me, it means they have connected with their teacher and both respect and trust the other. Every year when Claire has to move up to the next grade I get tears from her. Her heart breaks every time she has to leave her beloved teacher. I love that she loves her teachers so deeply. I love the simplicity of elementary school.

Today elementary school got just a little complex. Today was donuts with Dad at Claire's school. It was also the day at the dentist for all three kids. Donuts with Dad went from 7:20-7:50. The dentist appointment was at 8. Perfect timing. The plan was I would take the boys to the dentist's office and Stan would bring Claire to the dentist's office after donuts with Dad. Perfect. All kids check ups were great - no cavities! Woooohoooo! I start the great kid drop off...three kids, three different schools. Zach was first because school hadn't started for him yet so he wouldn't be late. Claire was next. WOW! I walked into a firestorm! As soon as I walk into the main office the secretaries said "Claire gave us quite a scare this morning. We thought we lost her." Stan didn't know the rule. I didn't tell him that once a student is on school grounds the parent has to sign the student out in the front office so the school staff knows the whereabouts of the child during school hours. Stan didn't know this rule. He took Claire out of school without signing her out. The school had no idea where she was. I was on the receiving end of some "wrath" today.

I walked Claire down to her class room to apologize to her teacher. Poor Mrs. B. She thought she lost Claire. There was still a hint of panic in her eyes when I gave her a hug and apologized for the scare we created. Mrs. B said she saw Claire and Stan at donuts with Dad. When time ticked away after the tardy bell rang and there no sign of Claire a ball of fear started creeping up her chest. There was no record of her leaving. She didn't get signed out. Pairs of kids were dispatched all over the school to find Claire. They made a school wide announcement for Claire to come to the front office. Mrs. B was in tears thinking she lost my child and she said she went into a panic. She kept calling up to the front office to see if there was any word on where Claire was. They had no idea where she was because Stan didn't know the rule. I am incredibly thankful to incur "wrath" when it comes to protecting my children. Today I will bring treats to the all of those who whose "wrath" I incurred both as an apology for the scare we created and to offer my thanks for the fiercely protective environment the school provides for all of our children every day.


Next time Stan has donuts with Dad followed by a dentist appointment I will tell him to make sure to sign Claire out before he takes her off of school grounds. Elementary school may not be so simple all of the time. You have to know the rules or you risk being on the receiving end of someone's "wrath." But when you know the rules in elemetary school, life is good and simple. Elementary school is all about making sure our youngest learners are safe, nurtured and loved. It may not be the way the real world works with all of its confusion and complexity but I don't care. I love elementary school.

So bring on the "wrath" for the love of my children...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Driving

This morning Jan came downstairs and said the words every parent dreads. "A friend of mine passed away." He was driving and was killed in a car accident. I can't imagine the grief and pain the parents of the young man who was killed are going through. My heart breaks for them.

We are moving into the time in our lives where our kids will be starting to drive. I want to stop the clock. I want to push the pause button. I want to hold them back. I want to protect them a little longer. Today, I don't want them to ever drive a car. I want to drive them - everywhere.

Zach will be 15 in a few short weeks. This August he is eligible to get his learner's permit. 15 years and six months is the age the Commonwealth of Virginia has deemed appropriate for learning to drive. Six months is not that far away. I will blink and the time will be here with Zach chomping at the bit to go down to the DMV and get his learner's permit. I dread that day.

There is so much to learn in these next six months, for all of us. The most important thing for Zach to learn is trust is earned, not given. Trust takes a long time to build but seconds to tear down. I have to learn to trust in myself and Stan we have imparted some common sense in Zach but it won't be easy to let him take this step into independence. But, I have to do it for Zach, Lucas and Claire or I will end up like my mother who still tells me how to drive after having my license for 25 years. I hope Zach learns quickly what an enormous responsibility it is to have a driver's license. It is up to us to ensure he is a very quick study when it comes to the privilege of having his driver's license.

God help all of us parents as we learn to let go little by little. And may God watch over our kiddos as they take these steps to independence. I know it won't be easy to let them take these steps but I need to do it, for the love of my children...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Strange days

Indeed. It has been a strange weekend. Jan has been gone all weekend. He went to Nags Head with a group of exchange students. The dynamics in the house were all out of whack. Zach missed him, badly and was very vocal about it. He was so bored, he said, because Jan was not here. Lucas and Claire are no substitute, Zach said. They are boring according to Zach. This created a strange and not so subtle shift in the atmosphere in our house.

Lucas and Claire missed Jan as well but are better able to entertain themselves. They don't require the constant excitement Zach requires. Zach needs something to do, someone to hang out with or some way to stay out of trouble, constantly. It is because Lucas and Claire can entertain themselves Zach thinks they are boring.

I am also feeling out of sorts. But my out of sorts-ness has to do with the ever expanding gap between my front teeth and the constant change in pressure in my face. Spongebob Squarepants is officially in the house! I look fine until I open my mouth. Talking to new people has become a pretense of southern lady coy. The hand goes up in front of my teeth, hiding my close resembelance to Spongebob. To help me feel better today Stan decided I needed a little ride....to Wal-Mart. Just what every girl who looks like Spongebob wants to do, go to Wal-Mart. This week is the end of expanding. I can't wait.


Jan should be home soon, so normalcy will be restored. My expansion is nearly complete, which hopefully, will restore a little bit of normalcy to my head and mouth, although the gap will remain for a bit longer. Luckily, for me, Stan's been quite a trooper about having Spongebob living here!

I am not sure any of us, in this family, know what normal really is. I think our family is just a bit crazy and touched in the head but that's ok because being normal is overrated. Having strange days is normal and anything less, well that's just not normal. We have to stay just a little loony for the love of our children...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Continuing the challenges

I don't know if the "hot sauce" mom from my blog yesterday felt isolated and alone but I my guess is she was. Most moms don't reach out to television personalities if they are surrounded by a good support system. She needed help and she asked for it, in a very public way. I am not condoning her behavior, she screwed up. But I feel for her with her appeal for help. I think at some point, parenting a difficult child makes us all do things we regret. I think if mamas don't have a good support system they can crumble. Her appeal for help shows her regret and her lack of parenting skills dealing with a difficult child.

I talked yesterday about all of the good ways I came up with to help me parent difficult children. But there were many times I screwed up as well. I yelled, a lot, when the kids misbehaved. I slammed doors. I screwed up. I didn't "hot sauce" my kids or make them take cold showers but the harsh words, the yelling and slammed doors inflicted damage on my kids. Maybe as much as hot sauce in the mouth, but damage jet the same. I was not a particularly good mama sometimes, especially in my alone times. I was stressed out and freaked out. I didn't know how to parent a kid with ADHD. It was a stressful time. It was an alone time. It wasn't until I found several, precious friends in Louisville I felt I could open up about all of the trials and tribulations of life with Lucas (and Zach). It was then that the yelling began to subside and the slamming door stopped. Life became about mamas helping mamas. For me, it wasn't every mama for herself anymore. We shared what worked and what didn't. We talked, we laughed and we supported each other. I thank God every day for those precious friends. They helped me learn to better parent a difficult child...or two. The feeling of failing Lucas and failing as a parent went away.

I was able to talk to my friends about my decision to medicate Lucas. It wasn't an easy decision and we didn't take it lightly. Stan and I talked for hours about this decision but I needed more. The pediatrician gave me his take on medicating. The child psychologist gave me his take on medicating. But I needed my mamas. My mama friends lent their ears and their shoulders to cry on. Ultimately, the decision was ours and ours alone but it felt good to have a support system. That is what every mama needs...other mamas.

When we left Louisville and moved to Richmond I had to start all over again making those much needed connections. This time I was ready to reach out. I was not going parent alone. It is too hard and too stressful to have parenting struggles and be alone. I am so fortunate to have a number of other mamas to call and have a vent fest.

In leaving Louisville we left a school that was not a good fit for my boys. In the school system here they have thrived. I didn't go out of my way here to keep Lucas' ADHD a secret but I wasn't necessarily forthcoming...until I realized, it was OK. They weren't going to label Lucas. Lucas has thrived, Zach too. It is here we realized we were right, Zach does indeed have an attention disorder, he just doesn't have the hyperactive part. And it is here I realized my boys' attention disorders are nothing to be ashamed of, or any reason to feel I failed my kids. It is a disorder not a disability. It's not a label, it's a path to helping your child overcome adversity.

I hope the "hot sauce" mom gets whatever help she needs for herself and her son. Her son reminded me of Lucas when he was in kindergarten. My heart went out to that little boy. He doesn't seem to have any impulse control. He pulls cards instead of moving his car from green to yellow to red like Lucas did. He doesn't want to get in trouble but he has no idea how to avoid it. Lucas didn't want to get into trouble either but he did, often. It is up to the mom now to teach him impulse control by controlling her own impulses, finding mama friends who support her in a positive way and learning how to parent a challenging child.

She needs to do it for the love of her children...

Friday, February 4, 2011

The challenges of being a Mama

I was reading the news this morning and came across the article about little Russian twin boys. They were adopted by a couple in Alaska who have four biological children. The mom wrote to Dr. Phil asking for help with one of the twins. She was at her wit's end with him and sent in a video of how she disciplined him. When he acted inappropriately or lied he got hot sauce in the mouth and cold showers. The video showed it all. It was not a good depiction of this mother or her disciplinary techniques. It made me sad for her and sad for the child who was on the receiving end of her wrath.

I feel sadness for the mother because being a mother can be one of the most isolating times in a woman's life. Can be, not always. It can be isolating when there is a child in the family who presents challenges. We live in a world where are more transient in nature. Our natural family "village" is not necessarily there in our daily lives. In some instances this can be a good or even great thing. In other instances it is lucky to have that family "village" there to help mamas out with challenging children.


The video brought me back to the frustrations I had with my two boys when they were little. Zach was terror on two legs from the minute he came into the world. As an infant he screamed and fussed more than I could ever imagine. As he got older he became this rambunctious toddler who zoomed everywhere and was the best at being whatever bad attribute was associated with a particular age. I always felt I had to apologize for him because he was a BIG kid and people expected him to behave so much differently than he could. He had very little impulse control. I know most little kids don't have much impulse control to begin with, that's one of our jobs to teach them but he had virtually none. I remember my mounting frustration with him and my deep, burning desire to have an easier child.

On morning we were having a particularly rough time, Zach was about three and a half at the time. I kept yelling at him and yelling at him and yelling at him. The more I yelled the more he rebelled but I saw something that day I had never seen before. I watched in disbelief and horror as his shoulders slumped further and further every time I yelled at him. I don't know what made me do it, but the next time he misbehaved I picked him up, sat him on my lap, wrapped my arms around his arms and pinned him to me. I talked to him in a soothing voice and I said I wasn't letting him go until he calmed down. I called it a "big hug." He had to find a way to calm down or I wouldn't let him go. He kicked, he screamed, he fussed. And then he sobbed big, giant sobs like his heart was broken. I think it was. I kept my cool. I told him to take deep breaths with me, in and out. It worked! I think it took him about twenty minutes to calm down that first time. I was finally able to let him go. I turned him around and said "Zach, I love you but I can't let you behave like you were all morning. When you start behaving like that again I will put you in another 'big hug.'" We had many more "big hugs" and to this day Zach remembers them. He remembers the safety of the "big hug." There was no yelling on my part, no belitting, just a safe place to calm himself down.

Lucas was a sweet little baby who rarely fussed and was a true delight to be around until he turned two and a half. Then he became this wild, whirling dervish who could find trouble in places where I thought he was safe. He would also find ways to make himself unsafe. He would unlock the front door wander out side when I was upstairs nursing the baby. In his wanderings he would find unlocked cars in our cul-de-sac, climb in and pretend to drive. My neighbors would bring him home, ring my doorbell and let me know exactly what Lucas was doing. It was not safe, they would say. I knew it wasn't safe, it was Lucas. He lost all fear in the year he went from two to three. He was just plain fearless. A fearless child is a scary child. He was hard to control, but not in a mean-spirited way, just in the ability to control his impulses. There is the impulsivity rearing up again in a different, albeit sweet, child.

It was when Lucas went to school things got dramatically worse for him. At home, I knew his strengths and weaknesses. I knew how to work within his parameters and I knew how to work with him. We had a very structured life at the time. The schedule never varied. It was how I handled things, with structure. School was different. There was too much flexibility and variety for Lucas. It was the first time I heard the term ADHD mentioned in the same sentence with Lucas' name. I thought the school staff was crazy! Lucas is just a boy being a boy, I thought. He would come home after school, almost daily, with a report of getting his car moved from green to yellow and sometimes red. His teacher kept on me about having Lucas tested for ADHD. I wouldn't do it. Instead, I devised a reward plan. I put a "penny jar" into effect for Lucas. Everytime he came home with a good report for the day, he got to put pennies into the jar. When he reached 20 pennies he could go to the Dollar Store and pick out a treat for himself. It worked fairly well until the end of kindergarten. And then the boom fell. He couldn't control himself anymore and ended up failing 14 areas of social development. He still advanced to first grade.

It was during the summer in between kindergarten and first grade we found out he couldn't see, at all. We also found out his hearing was affected by all of his ear infections. I thought the combination of not hearing and not seeing would be the culprit for his impulsive behavior. His behavior did not improve much in first grade, even after glasses. I decided to have Lucas tested for ADHD. Failing 14 areas of social development was a red flad and I needed to rule it out. Stan and I filled out all of the forms and as we were filling them out we both had the same thought. "This isn't Lucas, this is Zach!" The child psychologist treating Lucas wasn't worried about Zach. He had friends and he was doing well in school. Lucas didn't have friends and wasn't doing well in school. The psychologist said, in all of his 13 years administering this test, he had never seen a child test off the charts in every area of the ADHD scale as he saw with Lucas. It was confirmed. Lucas had ADHD. The reason we could control things at home is because of the intensely structured environment we had. The school didn't have the ability to structure things like I did at home.

This was a very tough and isolating time for me. I looked around at all of my friends with "perfect" kids. My child had a "disability" he would have to work through for his entire life. I didn't tell anyone. I felt I failed my child. Stan and I went back and forth about medication. Sometimes he was for medicating Lucas and sometimes I was for medicating Lucas. But we were never on the same page when it came to medication so we just continued to bumble along. Finally, we reached a breaking point. The school and the teacher were calling for meetings regarding Lucas' behavior. I called the pediatrician and he gave me an hour of his time going through the good, the bad and the ugly of medicating a child with ADHD. I cried big, ol' mama tears. I didn't want my child to have a "disability." It was a minor disability but to me it was still a disability for him. I didn't want him labeled. The labeling of children seems so cruel. I didn't want the school to know any of this. I didn't want anyone to know. I felt alone.

This is a long tale and there is still more to tell. I will come back tomorrow. This long tale is told for all mothers with challenging children and for the love of my own challenging children...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Memories

I wish I had one. That seemed to be the theme of yesterday. I can never seem to remember a gosh darn thing. Zach looks to be heading down the same path. And Jan...well, Jan couldn't remember how to speak English last night. It was quite an adventure, the three of us in the car doing the beck and call runs. None of us had a memory.

Our first order of business last night was to go to a meeting for the Marathon Dance at the boys' high school. Zach and I had everything timed, down to the minute. We didn't want to be late. We arrived at the high school, parked the car and the three of us walked into school. There was the hustle and bustle of all sorts of activities. We headed to the auditorium and were asked to pay $5 to enter and handed a program. "Uh, we are here for the Marathon Dance Meeting," I said. The man behind the table gave me a blank stare and told me we were in the wrong place. I thought, well maybe the meeting is in the library. I checked the email. The meeting is scheduled for February 3, it said. It was February 2...wrong date! DAMN!

In all of this confusion and walking around we are having little micro bursts of discussions. In our family conversation topics change faster than a squirrel can change direction. Zach likes single directional conversations but we are an omni-directional family. He kept trying to go back to a conversation we had minutes earlier to give another thought and he couldn't remember what the conversation was let alone another thought he wanted to add to it. He kept slapping his head in frustration lamenting the fact that he can't remember a gosh darn thing! Ah Zach, it only gets worse.

And then there was Jan. His English speaking skills have been very strong since the moment he stepped off of the plane from the Czech Republic. His wit is sharp and he gets little jokes. My first glimpse into his sense of humor came a few short weeks after his arrival. We were going into a store in the Outer Banks and there was a sign on the door that said "No Checks Allowed." Stan says to Jan with a completely straight face "Jan looks like you can't come in here...there are no Checks allowed." Jan gave a big belly laugh and joined in with the ribbing back and forth. Last night, he seems to have forgotten all the little words. We were passing a bird feeding store and Jan says "Willed Bird Store." Nope, that's Wild Bird Store, with a long i sound. Minutes later we are passing Silver Diner and Jan says "Silver Dinner." Nope that's Diner, again with a long i sound. The one though that was priceless is when we were standing in line at Trader Joe's. The big boys were pushing and shoving each other and I told them they were behaving like toddlers. Jan said "like Pot Roast?" Nope, again. Toddlers. You know, little kids? He accepted all of the grief we gave him with his wit in tact and lamented the fact that he truly had forgotten how to speak English.

Ah memories, I wish I had one. But at least I have these words all written down. For the love of my children...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Crank me before you leave?

That is what I have asked Stan every morning this week as he leaves for work. It works like a charm. His answer is always an enthusiastic "Yes!" and he does it every time I ask. Cranking my expander. The expander is doing it's job and the gap between my teeth is getting bigger and bigger. Over half way to full expansion now. My mouth is getting bigger and bigger as well. Some say I have a big enough mouth as it is. To you I say "I represent that remark!" Whether I have a big mouth is true or not, I will keep asking him to crank me before he leaves.

Some of you have asked what the hell I am doing to myself and WHY. My teeth were fairly straight (I had braces for four years when I was a kid, hence the fairly straight teeth.) Why would anyone do such extreme measures to correct fairly straight teeth, you ask? The pain I am putting myself through has very little to do with the cosmetics of my smile. It has everything to do with the pain in my jaw from years of TMJ. The pain was getting to be unbearable. I eat ibuprofen like it's candy...don't think they recommend that sort of thing in doctoring school. My jaw joint is so out of whack and bone is deteriorating so I thought I would do something to correct it as much as I can now. I would like to have use of both my jaw and my teeth when I am older. Stan says I am giving up the use of my jaw in my middle years so I can have it in my later years. Ha ha, very funny Stan. I am only temporarily giving up the use of my jaw and right now I am on the mend! I am eating macaroni and cheese for lunch and am actually chewing! Woooohoooo --- on the mend is GREAT!

What does any of this have do with "For the love of my children" you might ask? Everything, I say. When a mama doesn't take care of herself she runs the risk of not being able to be the very best mama she can be. So this mama will take care of herself, get cranked twice a day for the next week and do it all for the love of my children...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cray-zy!

So here we are again, in the throes of sporting events. I find that we are crazier than ever...literally crazy! I think we have lost our minds and I'll tell you why.

Lucas. His team has two games this upcoming weekend. Which, in theory is good, becacuse he had no games last weekend. In reality, it sucks! He has one game in Hagerstown, Maryland on Saturday at 10:30 and then his second game is Sunday at 2:30 in Frederick, Maryland. Yes, you read the times right. 10:30 and 2:30---on two different days! Does this make any sense to you? It doesn't make much sense to me. Especially, considering Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday and Frederick is three hours away. I don't know many men (or women for that matter)who are anxious to give up the Super Bowl to drive home three hours home (on I-95 no less) from a one hour hockey game! But we will drive 12 hours this weekend for two hours of hockey because we are CRAY-ZY! 12 hours of driving, you think to yourself? Yes, 12. Because the games are so spread apart, time wise, I don't see the wisdom to stay in Maryland over night...besides, I want to be home in my own bed with my hubby. Not in some hotel room with a bunch of stinky hockey gear and one smelly hockey player---alright Lucas probably won't be too stinky after his shower, but still!

Luckily for us the other two hockey players have games at home and at times that don't interfere with the Super Bowl...so at least we've got that going for us.

Yes, we are indeed CRAY-ZY but we must push through the craziness for the love of our children...