Saturday, January 26, 2008

On Comments

I've changed the preferences on my blog to allow anonymous comments again. I love all of the emails and myspace messages I've been getting in response to the blog, so I went ahead and changed it so that unregistered readers can comment. Comments make my day. I love knowing when someone reads me.
I am moderating all comments. If you want to post as anonymous because you're sharing something personal and don't want to be recognised, go for it. If you disagree with something that I write or say (which is entirely likely) I ask that you use your name. This blog is based on my being completely transparent and brutally honest. I'm seriously vulnerable here. Feel free to confront something I say 'face to face' or name to name, but if you hide behind the word 'anonymous' your comment will not be accepted.

So, go tell me what you think of my craziness!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Urine in Contacts = Not A Good Substitute for Saline

Yes, you read that right. Let me start a bit back...

Our sweet Jacob. He breaks my heart with his constant "Mommy, can I cuddle wif you." and "I want you to hold me." He's a sponge for affection and can just never get enough. His favorite thing to do at the moment is ask "Do you know what I love?" and after your obligatory "What?", he throws his warm little arms around you and cries "YOU!!!". And he'll do it over and over, even with someone he's just met. His heart is tender and wonderfully open.
Yet his body is sick, and we don't know why. He often cries at night that his bottom hurts, writhing in pain. Every week or so I will see blood on tissue when I help him wipe after using the toilet. It's terrifying. I've looked over and over, never to find where the blood could be coming from. He's been toilet trained since last spring, so it's certainly not a diaper rash and there is no visible irritation.
We've been at the doctor a good bit. I'm sure she sees paranoid parents often. The first time we redid the celiac testing, since our previous pediatrician botched the test. He neglected to tell us that Jake actually needed gluten in his system for it to be conclusive. So we fed him gluten and retested. Nothing. The next time it was a blood test for food allergies. Nothing. Then he seemed to stop complaining and life got busy with four of our birthdays and Jesus', too. He did well, but now we are back to complaining. It's more frequent and so are the bits of blood.
So last week we returned to the pediatrician and he was doing the writhing and fussing while we were there. He also went to the bathroom and she was able to see firsthand the little bit of blood. At least now it's validated. It's not in my head. Phew... So she did some swabs and we went back again later for some more blood work for I don't know what. Then I got Strep. Ugh.

The Dr ordered a barium enema to see what is going on in his intestines. My poor little guy! It was scheduled for today and, like I said, yesterday he was to have clear liquids only after 1pm. Coop started at 12:45 so I fed him lunch and geared up for the long haul. I let him choose juice and one of those Vitamin Water things. He chose the 'endurance' and hated it but Mommy liked it. May be a good thing. I feel that I could use some endurance right now. So he had his juice and jello for snack at Coop and did so well not wanting the other kids snacks. I heard he found a stray Cheerio and snarfed it down before his teacher could intercept. Such a sweet woman. Luckily the Cheerio caused no harm.
At 4pm I gave him a triple dose of Senecot as directed. For dinner he had 4 bowls of Jello. I can just see him in college (((shudder))). And then before bedtime, I was obligated to administer the dreaded Fleet Enema. Dear Lord this test better be worth it! Well, we did that and I laid on the bathroom floor with him waiting for it to work. I was starting to worry when it finally did it's thing and cleaned him out. Poor guy didn't know what was going on. I explained every step. "We're going to do this to clean out your bottom so the Dr can see what is wrong with it tomorrow." On a hunch I dug up an old Pull Up for him to wear overnight. Under protests of being a big boy already, I finally convinced him that 3 year old can wear Pull Ups on occasion. Thank God for those little hunches we mom's get. The little man woke up devastated because he had an accident in his sleep. I explained to him that the medicine was making his body do what it needed to do to clean out, and it didn't count as an accident. After all that, we had to do another Enema this morning. This test IS important, right? Sigh....
The morning was much harder as the other kids ate and Jacob couldn't. I sat Selah and Lucas down with breakfast and Jacob and I played with trains and his new wooden tool set. I had, of course, chosen to fast with him.
The whole morning I struggled to do anything amid the begging for food and fussing of his bottom hurting, and the jealousy of a little 18 month old who wandered shy he wasn't the one getting all of the attention. I held them both for most of the time and we all watched The Fox and The Hound. It took me awhile to realize that there is actually no 'Fox'. That the hot little girly pup is 'foxy' as in sexy.... thus a Fox. Even back then cartoons were really for parents, weren't they?
Carol was a divine angel, come to save me from the potential of taking all three children to Scottish Rite Children's Hospital. Looking back at my long day, I can see that it would have absolutely bankrupt my energy.
We arrived on time and walked in amid reflections from windows tinted in all shades of the rainbow. Jacob was captivated and took several minutes naming each color before he would agree to approach the registration desk. And that's where I became the hospital mother. Apparently every employee of the hospital believes that I am adopting them, no matter if they are even my senior. Because every where I went it was "Right here, Mom." "Mom, I need you to sign here." "Mom, here's your license back."... "Oh, thank you, Mom." I understand that it makes things easier for them, yet it felt quite odd. I was seriously tempted to respond with a "Yes, son?" to the worst offender but I decided against it. I still wasn't sure which of them was responsible for inserting things into my little boy and I didn't want to risk pissing anyone off.

We were in the room rather quickly, where my little guy refused to wear the medical gown. He was much more comfortable prancing around stark naked in only his socks, thank you. So that's what he did. The initial Xrays went quickly. I had to wear the lead jacket and they had this little square of lead that they laid over his tiny penis. My future grandchildren thank you. I held his hands and his trusty sheep lay right next to him to get his Xrays, too.
Then the Barium went in. He was such a trooper. He lay still just holding my hand and we talked about what we were going to go eat when we left. I told him we would have a date and he could choose. He was torn between scrambled eggs from Awful House of a Quesadilla from Taco Smell. It's not my fault, my husband teaches them these things! By the time they were ready to start the Xrays with the barium, the quesadilla had won out, and my son was fretful and uncomfortable. The radiologist rushed in and at that point I was asked to stand back and just watch. Two nurses flipped his body over into several poses as the radiologist called out... whatever it was he called out. I wasn't listening. All I could here was my little man crying and saying "Dat's enuf! Dat's Enuf! I'm all done." And eventually just crying because they weren't done yet. The last part he was on his back and could look at me so I swallowed my sick feeling and panic to tell him all those reassuring things you're supposed to. You're so brave! It's almost done! I'm so proud of you! Just a minute longer.
Finally done, They wrapped his tiny body in towels and handed him to me telling me to get him on the toilet immediately. The bag of barium that they pushed into his system was huge, and his belly was distended like a little starving boy from Africa. He sat on the toilet screaming that it hurt, so I bent down to rub his back and help him relax. That's when it happened. The poor little guy lost control and peed as all the barium came rushing out. Unfortunately he wasn't prepared to hold things down, so he peed right in my eye, down the left side of my face and in my hair. Luckily my contact started flipping out causing me to focus on not losing it, rather than the urge to hyperventilate and have a panic attack. My sweet son sat there with barium pouring out of him saying " Mommy, I sorry I peed on you!" I had to ask the nurse 5 times to find me some saline solution and if she told me ONE MORE TIME that the urine was sterile... oh never mind.
So after 15 minutes in the bathroom and an unbelievable amount of chalky white liquid coming out of my boy, we were able to go get the last set of xrays and then get dressed. I was impressed that Jacob wasn't traumatized by the whole thing and jumped right up for that last set. Kids truly are amazing.
As we were getting ready to leave the poor nurse brought out a cheep, ugly teddy bear and Jacob would have nothing to do with it. She tried several times to get him to take it, even asking if he could be Sheepy's friend. Not interested. Smart boy, saved mom a trip to Goodwill. It was a sweet gesture, of course. But yeah, no need for more teddys around here. Smart boy deserved TWO quesadillas!
So the whole ordeal was over. We drove through Taco Smell on the way home for his 'treat' of a Quesadilla. He was thrilled that I could roll down his window in the sliding door so he could order it. He's always begging for his window to open. Yet another feature I LOVE about the 2008!
We got home to the other two down for their nap and Carol relaxing with her daughter Zephora. Jacob finished his quesadilla and was off for nap time to. I chose to err on the side of good manners and spend some time with Carol (good decision, I got to know her a bit better.) But let me tell you I could hardly wait to wash my face again and wash my hair!



Thursday, January 24, 2008

Counting Blue Cars...

Yes, I'm going to use song titles for all my car posts. You know you like it!

This morning I woke the the sound of a a stampede down the hallway as Jacob rode his 'horse' in pursuit of a wild mountain lion named Selah. At 6:15am. Lucas was still out, so I took the rare opportunity to get some cutting done before I had to make breakfast. I threw together a batch of Jello to prepare for Jacob's 24 hour clear liquid fast. And of course, I confiscated the horse and the cheetah print sweater... Sleep is crucial when you're 18 months old.
I prepared for my Rethinking Reusables class by rummaging through my trash and recycling bin to find examples of all seven types of plastics . It was pretty simple to find the first 6, but try as I might, I couldn't find NUMBER SEVEN! It's the most toxic, I've heard, and ironically it's used to make those unbreakable water bottles like Nalgene bottles. Brilliant, huh?
I printed up my materials on how landfills work and had them ready to go. I packed snacks, backpacks and a laundry basket full of 'trash' for us to work with during class and off I went to pack it all into my lovely ride. The well in the back of the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan is huge. I fit everything in there nice and neat without a problem. As I loaded up the back I pushed the buttons for the side doors to open and by the time I was ready to buckle in the munchkins, the whole crew had climbed up and were ready to be restrained. Life can be so simple when the kids are latched down...
Before we headed to co-op we stopped off at our 'spiritual home' to visit at the mom's play group for a bit. I grabbed a cup of coffee and couldn't help sharing the van with some friends and showing them all of the cool features it has!
Kathrine, being 6'2" was just as excited about the button to adjust the height of the floor pedals as I was! Although for opposite reasons, since I'm only 5'4". It works for anyone's height to be comfortable! Do you know how many times I've gotten toe cramps, pressing the far-away pedals on road trips? Ugh..
Eventually I had no choice but to kick Kathrine and Harmony out of the van so that I wouldn't be late for out homeschool Coop. On the way there, enjoying the luxury of pedals I can reach, I decided to give the cruise control a shot. And it was good timing, considering that every time I looked down on the smooth ride up 75, I found that I was already going 80! So, although I was already on the freeway, I decided to go for it as a precautionary measure against a speeding ticket. I glanced down to find that the controls were completely different from my 2006. No worried though, just like everything else they were better. Simple to control without looking at the owner's manual. Once again, not having to stop what I'm doing to dig up instructions is always an extra perk.
I pulled up to Coop right on time and jumped out of the driver's seat as the doors were all doing their job and opening at the touch of a button. I popped open seat belts for little ones and grabbed my laundry basket out of the back. As we all walked away, I pressed the buttons again and all of the doors closed and locked. Ahhh... so simple. I suddenly realized that Dodge and I are in the same business! Finding ways to help moms without surgically attaching a third arm.
Coop went smoothly, although assembly cut my class time in half. We rushed through the seven types of plastics and talked about ways to recycle plastics. I ditched the landfill info to use next week. No worries we had a great class even if it was rushed. I taught all of the kids how to cut their plastic grocery bags and make them into PLARN, which we then braided so that next week we can coil them into bowls. It'll be great.
After class let out for break time I headed to the car with my basket and found a few guys from the upper grades who were most interested in checking out the stadium seating on the van.

Oh yeah. I think this van just gave me "Hey, Miss Talitha is cool!" status.

I headed back to what is called the 'Chit-Chat' room to get to know some of the other homeschool moms. I've always wondered how I would fit in with homeschool moms in general. I'm not the average one. you know. First of all, I was homeschooled my whole life, so I have a completely different outlook on it. Also, I do believe I'm the only one there who enjoys being a driven business woman, and loves tattoos and nose rings. I was worried that they wouldn't know what to do with me at first. Kind of like people who don't know what to do when a mother is sitting there breastfeeding in front of them. They get all fidgety and nervous, not knowing what to say or where to look. But I've realized that the discomfort is typically there when someone is putting forth an image, or a show. Mothers who are breastfeeding in public to make a point put out a vibe of challenge. The vibe is what makes people uncomfortable. I'm happy to say that I'm quite comfortable with my nose ring, and have no intention of giving off a vibe.The fact that I will openly speak of sex with moms who may have never said the word, only spell it is not a challenge. That's where they are at and I respect that. I don't have a mission to challenge them. It's ok. I'm happy to say that I feel like I fit in well, yet stand out all the same. I'm really enjoying my time with the homeschool moms.
Anyway, conversations turned to the van again so a few of us headed out so we could see how adults would feel in the back captains seats. Super comfortable of course, and thrilled that they're heated along with the front ones!

After the second hour of classes let out I wrangled some of my students together for a photo. Quick pop quiz...How many homeschoolers do you see in this van?

And just for kicks, and since I had the chance to not be behind the camera for a with me and a ridiculous amount of sun..

My kiddos got jealous of course, since it is their van, so they took a pic with some friends.

So, after a lovely day I headed home. I need to write about Jacob's testing. I'll get to that for tomorrow. For now let me say that keeping an active 3 year old on liquids only is a hard thing to do. Thank God for Jello.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Here Comes The Ride!

We made it through the morning of doctor and dentist visits. No signs of cavities in little teeth, although they were concerned at Selah's teeth being so spread and the callouses from how much she sucks her fingers. They are suggesting that we give it a good effort for a few months and then consider a permanent retainer that would inhibit the finger sucking. Unfortunately the retainer is NINE HUNDERED DOLLARS! (((faint))) Our cost would be $300 after insurance. We'll be working on other options first.

So back home we came and during naptime I awaited the delivery of 'the ride' while working on some Sugar Slings. All of the health issues of around here have gotten me a bit behind.

And at around 3:30 it came. It was a gorgeous color they call 'Modern Blue Pearl'. My first thought was that it must be a just a Caravan, because my Grand Caravan is quite noticeably longer. Nope, Grand Caravan it is and the differences between the two vans are night and day.

There's no way I can tell you about all of the features at once. Now I know why they gave me a whole 6 days with it! For today we just decided to take it out for a bit to get to know it. So I wrestled the car seats in and off we went to the post office. Putting the car seats was simple enough. I saw immediately that the swiveling captains seat were fabulous for helping Mom maneuver in the back seat. Jacob even got to sit in the back seat, which he was thrilled about, since I knew I would be able to reach back and buckle/unbuckle him easily. So, in they went and off to adventure...

Unfortunately, I left my camera at my parents house last week so I wasn't able to take photos. The drop off at the post office was quick and easy. I jumped back in the van and threw it in reverse. I was totally surprised to see the touchscreen in front of me suddenly change to show a clear view from the back of the van!!! No one told me about that one! I can't tell you haw many times I've thought of those stories where parents accidentally run over a child. Ugh. Yes, this is a good feature.

On to pick Travis up from the Marta Train station. Oh... his face when I drove up in my Pimpin' Mom-mobile! We headed up to Home Depot but decided we needed to measure some things before loading the van up. Not quite a waste of time, since we priced stuff. And we swung by Hannah and Dennis' apartment to pick up my camera!
We decided to let the kids try out the dual video screens so we popped them down easily and tuned to Serius TV Cartoons. They were mesmerized and Selah wanted so much to try out the wireless headphones. I figured we'd save that, since I wasn't quite sure what they were watching back there. Note to self, grab some DVDs.

This is almost as cool as those old conversion vans everyone raved about! Minus the tacky striping and oddly shaped windows. I much prefer the sleek sophisticated lines of the Dodge Grand Caravan, thank you very much! Travis was enjoying the smooth ride and commented more than once that it drove 'like a dang race car'. That's my southern boy :)
Of course, as an Audio Visual Engineer, he absolutely loved and appreciated all of the dodads and hooplah of the center console. He's always loved pushing buttons and this thing has ways to control everything you could ever want. Does everything but whip your, well, anyway...
We decided to think of a way to try out the table. I don't know why I'm so excited about that dang table. It's really not the most usable thing with how young my kiddos are. I suddenly had an 'Aha!!" moment. What better place than the Varsity!
We've lived a few miles from it for several years now and not gone once! There are good reasons for that, but overall it's an experience. We decided to brave it and have our food ordered from the van and brought to us to enjoy at our little table. So from the comfort of our plush leather seats, Travis made the order.
I must say the tray balanced perfectly on the do or. I wanted to roll down the window in the back doors and have the tray there. Trav wanted it all to himself so I acquiesced It was cold out anyway.
The kids thoroughly enjoyed the novel idea of dinner in the van without seatbelts. I sat in the back with them and it was seriously comfortable. I enjoyed being turned toward them and the table is at the perfect height. If only they were old enough to play poker we could have an amazing road trip!

And there was, of course, plenty of room to eat and play, regardless of it being shorter than my 2006
As is typical in this house, no pictures of me but the ones I take myself. But I have to say I love this one. The reason is that I was really not so sure that this van would be much better than mine, on the basics level. Sure all of the extra options are great but what if you're only interested in the basic? Well, this is a very simple basic feature but something that I have sorely missed in my 2006 Grand Caravan. The Oh Crap Handle is back!!! Yes!! I know I can't be the only woman who relies on this to keep my sanity when my husband drives.
Another favorite for today is how simple the LED touchscreen is to maneuver for a mom with no time to read a 900 page manual to learn now everything works.
So, with full bellies we had shy children ready to get out, even of this fabulous ride.
Through Atlanta we went, home again and ready for more adventuring tomorrow. Maybe we'll see how those headphones sound, or how many backpacks for coop can fit in the stow and go storage...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Who Likes Sex and Cars?

I'll have both today, thank you. I sound like a nympho and a maniac, huh? Well, I got accepted to do a trial survey on condoms. With Travis, obviously. Can't talk about details because it is confidential, but I just had to brag about getting paid for sex. I think we just became prostitutes. Can't wait!!

I also last week did a survey on our auto, and was one of 50 women selected for a 6 day test drive of a new 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan!! It comes tomorrow and I'm going to be in the van every minute!. Just kidding. Yes. we are testing the van and condoms... but never the twain shall meet... ahem...

Ok, so last week I never got around to telling you about Jacob. Never took the time to sit down until I got sick myself, I guess. It started over the weekend. He's been complaining off and on for months that his bottom hurts. I've checked it and it seems normal. No bowel issues to speak of. We took him to the pediatrician a few months ago and they redid the Celiac blood panel to be sure that it wasn't that. Sweet guy didn't' flinch when his blood was taken. Just said "Look momma, my blood is in my hand now! It's not in my poop any more." Sad reality of a little 3 year old. He did just as well last week when they took is blood for some more testing. And this time she ordered a barium enema at the Children's Hospital. I'm so not looking forward to taking him to this. How do I keep a 3 year old on liquids only for 24 hours beforehand? Ugh... And I'm so worried that he'll be traumatized. My little man.
Tonight as I was giving him his bath I just looked at his perfect little body. It's so painful to see him writhing in pain. It's terrifying to see blood coming from him and not being able to figure out why. It could be something so small, but what if it's a huge problem? I just need to know my baby is ok.
I noticed this afternoon that he also has a rash on his bottom and I'm wondering if maybe he has a yeast infection? Lucas has gotten those a few times, but from breastfeeding. I'd be so thrilled if it was such a simple answer. I'm taking Jake back to the pediatrician first thing in the morning so they can check it out.

So, not much interesting to report today. Tomorrow will be busy. I have the DR appointment at 8am. Dentist appointments for all 3 kids at 10:50 and then THE VAN!!! It should be delivered between 1 and 4. Busy day ahead, must.... go... sleep...

The Bitter Homeschooler

My Husband just emailed me this list and I couldn't stop laughing. Bitter, no... People are stupid and speak because they don't think. And I doubt this is a publication I would bother with...But yeah, I heard most of these growing up.


The Bitter Homeschooler's Wish List
By Deborah Markus, from Secular Homeschooling Magazine, Issue #1, Fall 2007

1 Please stop asking us if it's legal. If it is — and it is — it's insulting to imply that we're criminals. And if we were criminals, would we admit it?

2 Learn what the words "socialize" and "socialization" mean, and use the one you really mean instead of mixing them up the way you do now. Socializing means hanging out with other people for fun. Socialization means having acquired the skills necessary to do so successfully and pleasantly. If you're talking to me and my kids, that means that we do in fact go outside now and then to visit the other human beings on the planet, and you can safely assume that we've got a decent grasp of both concepts.

3 Quit interrupting my kid at her dance lesson, scout meeting, choir practice, baseball game, art class, field trip, park day, music class, 4H club, or soccer lesson to ask her if as a homeschooler she ever gets to socialize.

4 Don't assume that every homeschooler you meet is homeschooling for the same reasons and in the same way as that one homeschooler you know.

5 If that homeschooler you know is actually someone you saw on TV, either on the news or on a "reality" show, the above goes double.

6 Please stop telling us horror stories about the homeschoolers you know, know of, or think you might know who ruined their lives by homeschooling. You're probably the same little bluebird of happiness whose hobby is running up to pregnant women and inducing premature labor by telling them every ghastly birth story you've ever heard. We all hate you, so please go away.

7 We don't look horrified and start quizzing your kids when we hear they're in public school. Please stop drilling our children like potential oil fields to see if we're doing what you consider an adequate job of homeschooling.

8 Stop assuming all homeschoolers are religious.

9 Stop assuming that if we're religious, we must be homeschooling for religious reasons.

10 We didn't go through all the reading, learning, thinking, weighing of options, experimenting, and worrying that goes into homeschooling just to annoy you. Really. This was a deeply personal decision, tailored to the specifics of our family. Stop taking the bare fact of our being homeschoolers as either an affront or a judgment about your own educational decisions.

11 Please stop questioning my competency and demanding to see my credentials. I didn't have to complete a course in catering to successfully cook dinner for my family; I don't need a degree in teaching to educate my children. If spending at least twelve years in the kind of chew-it-up-and-spit-it-out educational facility we call public school left me with so little information in my memory banks that I can't teach the basics of an elementary education to my nearest and dearest, maybe there's a reason I'm so reluctant to send my child to school.

12 If my kid's only six and you ask me with a straight face how I can possibly teach him what he'd learn in school, please understand that you're calling me an idiot. Don't act shocked if I decide to respond in kind.
13 Stop assuming that because the word "home" is right there in "homeschool," we never leave the house. We're the ones who go to the amusement parks, museums, and zoos in the middle of the week and in the off-season and laugh at you because you have to go on weekends and holidays when it's crowded and icky.
14 Stop assuming that because the word "school" is right there in homeschool, we must sit around at a desk for six or eight hours every day, just like your kid does. Even if we're into the "school" side of education — and many of us prefer a more organic approach — we can burn through a lot of material a lot more efficiently, because we don't have to gear our lessons to the lowest common denominator.

15 Stop asking, "But what about the Prom?" Even if the idea that my kid might not be able to indulge in a night of over-hyped, over-priced revelry was enough to break my heart, plenty of kids who do go to school don't get to go to the Prom. For all you know, I'm one of them. I might still be bitter about it. So go be shallow somewhere else.
16 Don't ask my kid if she wouldn't rather go to school unless you don't mind if I ask your kid if he wouldn't rather stay home and get some sleep now and then.
17 Stop saying, "Oh, I could never homeschool!" Even if you think it's some kind of compliment, it sounds more like you're horrified. One of these days, I won't bother disagreeing with you any more.
18 If you can remember anything from chemistry or calculus class, you're allowed to ask how we'll teach these subjects to our kids. If you can't, thank you for the reassurance that we couldn't possibly do a worse job than your teachers did, and might even do a better one.
19 Stop asking about how hard it must be to be my child's teacher as well as her parent. I don't see much difference between bossing my kid around academically and bossing him around the way I do about everything else.
20 Stop saying that my kid is shy, outgoing, aggressive, anxious, quiet, boisterous, argumentative, pouty, fidgety, chatty, whiny, or loud because he's homeschooled. It's not fair that all the kids who go to school can be as annoying as they want to without being branded as representative of anything but childhood.
21 Quit assuming that my kid must be some kind of prodigy because she's homeschooled.
22 Quit assuming that I must be some kind of prodigy because I homeschool my kids.
23 Quit assuming that I must be some kind of saint because I homeschool my kids.
24 Stop talking about all the great childhood memories my kids won't get because they don't go to school, unless you want me to start asking about all the not-so-great childhood memories you have because you went to school.
25 Here's a thought: If you can't say something nice about homeschooling, shut up!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Free Sample- Quaker Simple Harvest

I'm a steel cut oats kinda girl, but I've heard this is really good. Just thought I would share the link to a free sample :)

Free Quaker Oats Simple Harvest Sample

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Daddy Dearest

I suppose it's apparent at this point, if you've read some of my older postings, that my family is quite dysfunctional. I say that with all honesty because I truly think every family is. If a family were to exist that was NOT dysfunctional, would that not be so far from normal as to qualify as dysfunctional after all?
I have a fun little way of describing my family. You have to start by closing your eyes and picturing My Big Fat Greek Wedding because, we're loud, obnoxious and shamelessly embarrassing. Now, I'm not done! You have to add a bit of The Royal Tennenbaums. All Fowlers are quite dramatic, extremely competitive, emotional and true geniuses (but only in our own minds) For example, me hacking away at this blog, pouring my thougths out for no one in particular. Is anyone reading this? Now, to top it all off you must include the odd dynamic we have of all trying to look perfectly happy, united, umm... and black. Therein lies the Cosby Show connection. Yes, yes... we all believe in some deep secret connection to Africa, hidden somewhere by racist relatives. It's the only way to describe your hair, our awesome big butts... and our jive...
So, as you can see, my family is quite complex and Multi-facetted. Add those three families together and you make it up to our count. Let's see there were 2 Portokalos children, 5 Huxtables and 3 Tennenbaums. Add 2 parents My mom would be a Portakalos, my dad a mix of all 3 fathers. There you have it, a family of 12. A complete mess of love and hate, joy and pain.

Way, way back I wrote about confronting my father on his anger. Kelly added a comment recently that had me thinking. That was 3 years ago and things have changed. Most of it you can see in my big ol' update from the beginning of the month, regarding my family over all.
But my father, I think he deserves honorable mention. That day I confronted him about Selah, something changed him. My dad crawls into a shell when confronted. And he isn't confronted often. I really believe he was unaware of his anger and just didn't get the effects of it. But since that time I've seen him struggle to restrain himself. He's screwed up a few times. He's also made me so proud when I've seen him walk away instead of rage, or tell the parents of a child if they needed discipline (instead of assume responsibility for it when it wasn't his).
I'm the big warrior in the family, if you haven't seen that already. I confront on everything, refusing to give up on our potential to grow. That's how I am in life. I don't pretend things are OK. I refuse to even keep rugs. No fake fronts to brush things under. What you see is what you get. No secrets here. So here I am the one, the only one, who has confronted him time and again, challenging who he is and begging him to be better. Writing him letters of painful memories, begging him to recognise the consequences of anger and abuse. I've long felt that he deserved to be honored for the changes he has made.
I know he feels that we all go to out mother for everything, that we love her more, that he's not important. He tried so hard to be fun and cool, not knowing how else to pursue relationships. He's too afraid of the 'deep'.
Well, me... not so much. I'm all about 'deep' and about sharing it. His 60th birthday was this weekend and I wrote him a long sappy letter.
Yes, I still have boundaries. My father never has and never will be left alone with my children. It's just as unfair to him as it would be to them. We will always be there, to be sure that nothing gets out of hand to scar innocent little hearts that see Pappaw as a hero. That's the way it should be, and I'm protecting him as much as them. They deserve a magical relationship. Yes, something could happen. Yes he could lose it. He could hurt my child's heart or at worst yank an arm and make it sore. Yes that sounds like a crazy risk. But I'll be there to call him on it however I have to. And my children are confident and strong. We can handle the risk. If at any point I don't feel that it's safe, I have no problem pulling the plug.

So, Kelly, here's how I feel about my dad now. Not a direct answer, but maybe helpful. The letter I gave my Dad. Grab a cup of coffee, it's long...

It’s amazing how uncreative I am when it comes to getting gifts for you. Completely incompetent. Mom is easy, books and girly stuff. Simple as pie. So then I thought…pie. Always pie for dad. Gooseberry pie, licorice or dark chocolate. Chocolate covered orange peels. All so boring and redundant. Why is it the only thing we can come up with for you are these few things to eat? And, in the end would you rather have the boring collection of ties for gifts?
So while this is an inexpensive gift, it doesn’t come cheaply. I’ve written you letters in the past that have been full of raw pain and disappointment. I remember the first time I wrote was to get permission to go to Magic Mountain with some silly boy when I was 14. A letter full of reasons why I was so mature and worthy of trust. You listened and allowed it. Ironically quite a miserable day and I still feel ashamed at times for breaking that little boy’s heart. I wrote to you when I slit my wrist, just after turning 15. That letter was thrown out before I ever let anyone see it. But most of the letters I wrote were full of hurts and painful memories, begging for validation.
In the past few years I’ve written you a few letters or been more bold in actually sitting and confronting the issues, now as a woman and a mother fighting for the hearts of her children. I’ve seen you differently over the past years, as you’ve sometimes cowered at my boldness yet other times looked me in the eye with tears and open brokenness. I see now what I couldn’t see through the anger and confusion of youth.

In this letter I again want to share my heart with you. Dredge up old memories, some painful and raw, but the purpose here is not the same. This is meant to be quite a different letter.
My earliest memories are all muddled together and I’m not sure which comes first.
I remember music. Stretched out on the floor on Sunday afternoons in a sun puddle from a nearby window, I soaked up the warmth and the sound of your guitar and voice at the same time. ‘Puff The Magic Dragon’ and ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone’ shaped my soul and my love for music. It drew me to a man whose heart beats to music. You taught me to soak in the music. Thank you!
Up the ladder I went at just 4 years old, driven and brave. Still, I can close my eyes and remember the confidence of knowing my dad was there in the deep end. Waiting to catch me as I went off the high dive. Four years old, unafraid. I dove right in. I believed you would catch me. I trusted. And I’m still always the one to dive right into things. Fearless. Thank you.
Marshmallows. I still love them, just for the memory. So many people see camping with young children as such a daunting task. Not you. I have countless memories of adventures in the woods. I was Pocahontas. I could take on the world. I could learn to put up the tents right there with the boys. I could learn to leave a trail with stacking stones. That’s the kind of girl who can grow up and live out of a tent in South America for a month with out batting an eye I could glory in adventure. I could be a part of God’s gorgeous nature. Thank you.
Many times I’ve seen men crumble in defeat and fear over the loss of a job. Not many men have to bear it for so long and with such intensity. And twice. I know you felt it. I can not imagine the pressure of providing for 10 mouths when there was nothing. The attack on the spirit of man created from his core to provide. You kept sending the . resumes, even after a year. You held, determined to see it through. You didn’t buckle or break. Thank you.
I remember the confusion and fear when we all could have died in the van accident in New Mexico. You weren’t there. The next day we rode the train to Los Angeles and there you were, finally. We all got in the car and you drove us through the city showing us beauty, making it all ok. Then for some reason a few weeks later I was allowed to ride back with you on the train to get the van. I felt like a princess. I think some of the other kids went too, but all I remember is you and me. I know that I got to ride in the front seat of the van back to Los Angeles. The weather was wretched in New Mexico, yet as we approached the border of California a miracle happened. I remember it as vivid as it was yesterday. Just as we got to the state line. There, running as far as I could see in either direction, parallel with the sign that welcomed us to California. The shadow of the clouds on the earth broke in a perfect line and there was only sunshine ahead. Sunshine and hope. A precious memory..
And it was all sunshine for awhile, until that company fell through, too. In that time I learned determination. I saw you take jobs I never knew you could do. Construction, painting, anything. I remember the awe of being able to ‘go out’ to Taco Bender and get a burrito because I was out working with you one day. Not even a McDonald’s visit in as long as I could remember. Who could afford to feed us all eating out, WITH a job even! It’s the best burrito I ever ate in my life. I still think about it. A special alone time with my dad.
Sacrifice came as things got worse. I remember Thursday morning as the food ministry, helping other needy families to the best of what was there first then taking home what we could. I remember being heartbroken when there was nothing left to do. I remember the look of defeat the day you came home with bandages on your arm and $20 to buy groceries. It’s the only time I remember you showing it so clearly. It shook me. That’s when I started leaving what little babysitting money I made on your dresser, or hiding it in mom’s purse. I could sacrifice for my family like my father. Again, humbly. Thank you.
And the night you came home to find me with bloody wrists. Tired of being torn between my age and my responsibility. Tired of being just one of ten, yet feeling like the only one of ten trying to do something about it. I was fine. I had ‘changed my mind’ and cleaned it up, not knowing that the neighbor was at the door and was going to tell you. You dragged me down stairs and yelled at me till 3am. Of all ironic things. You grounded me for the first time in my life! Crazy way to react to your 15 year old trying to end their life. But you know what’s crazier still? It gave me hope. From a man who didn’t show much emotion other than happy at church dad or extreme anger dad, I saw fear for me, I saw care for me. I saw you ready to as a warrior for me. I was more than just one of ten. It was almost instantly healing. I was ready to stand back up and fight some more. Thank you.

There’s so much more. I’m cutting myself off at the early years, only because I’ve sent you so many accusations from those same years. You are so much a part of who I am. In your mistakes and your triumphs you’ve taught me. I once heard someone say that true forgiveness is when you can look back over the pain and feel thankful for it. Thankful for the experiences that made you who you are. And, most important of all, not wanting to ever go back and change a thing. Like all parents, you’re flawed. It’s God’s plan. Dad I love the things I’ve learned from you. The good and the bad. All of it molded together to make me the woman God’s created me to be. And I couldn’t be without it, or without you.
So for your sixty years of life, I am ever thankful. I am thankful for amazing changes I’ve seen in your heart over the past few years. You blow me away. I love you. Thank you for the music, the fearlessness, the adventure, the determination, the hope, the sunshine, the time, the sacrifice, the warrior, and most of all the love and memories that sometimes I couldn’t understand.

Happy birthday, Dad.

I love you forever,

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Strep Throat Brings Beauty Full Circle

Hmm.... my dear husband is a wise man. To think if he hadn't insisted on my trip to the doctor, who would know that I had strep throat? I've never had it before and I will NEVER again look at someone who says "I had strep last week.' and assume it's no worse than a little cold.

And I'm convinced that there is a distinct purpose to my being sick and no coincidence that it's something quite contagious. I won't leave the house and I've stayed away from my own children. No martyr will risk someone else. I'm so predictable. God's such a genius when it comes to handling us. Due to the diagnosis I obeyed the husband's, ahem... I meant Doctor's order to stay in my room. I chose to read 'the book' I've been avoiding, like I said, for 3 years. Almost to the day, I suppose.

Three years ago I had a tiny little three week old Jacob. Travis was doing anything he could to find extra work and odd jobs, since he had lost his job. I was in constant pain both from my unexpected c-section and the car accident that had injured my back to cause the need for said c-section. Our relationship with his family was strained and painful. We felt very alone, yet were daily working out completely relinquishing our control and trusting God. Such a hard time, but I would go back and change it for anything.
My mother gave me the book Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge in a stack of books since I had asked her for something to read. Twice I tried to get through the first chapter only to crumble in tears and agony, my heart unable to take on the challenge to even consider such a possibility. Me... captivating...
You see, my husband was in a bitter battle over addiction to pornography. (go ahead and click the link. You KNOW I didn't put porn there!) The battle had been raging for years, but I had only known about it for a year at this point. I was so proud of him for his honesty, and the fact that he was stronger and winning! Yet, it was a bitter time in the struggle. And as much as I knew the truth that it had nothing to do with me, it wreaked havoc in the mirror and what I saw there. So, basically not a time that I really could imagine myself anything remotely resembling anything...captivating.
So there the book sat. I've let several people borrow it over the past 3 years, actually. I always tell them it's a great book and it will change their lives. I knew that from others, so I wasn't lying. I just couldn't ever find the energy to allow it back into my heart. I had to survive.
Well, to be honest I have another friend I want to lend the book to. This woman is precious. But she's broken and aching. She's so special to me and I know that God wants her heart. He had mine, and he hadn't complained much about the scars yet. I guess this time I felt like I should read the book before I give it out again. Which, to be honest, is why the book is still on the shelf when I meant to give it to her two months ago.
Finally under quarantine threats of idle hands, off the shelf it came. I mean, I was going to be miserable while sick, and I was acutely aware that I will be miserable wreck when I read this book. There goes Talitha. The unconventional multi-tasker takes on the two at once. ( and you thought I'd be knitting a sweater while I was sick) Why be miserable twice?
To be honest, I'm not going to write a full review. The book floored me. I cried in anguish, I reveled in peace. I ached in mourning. I sat in awe as it began to dawn on me. I blushed as I realized the truth. My heart raced as the truth set me free. My heart grew into something I've never known. No longer a cliche, the truth is about each of us.
I am beautiful, lovely to the core. I am cherished and precious. I'm a warrior, and a princess. My heart is of immeasurable value. No one has to tell me. I don't have to prove it or fake it.

I just AM captivating.

I can't imagine ever feeling the same again about myself. For the love of God, go! Get the book!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Misery Makes a Visit

I woke yesterday morning quite miserable. I was in no way interested in missing the first day of the winter quarter for our homeschool coop. I've been anticipating teaching my 'REsourceful REusables' class to the 3rd-5th graders for weeks. (I'll tell about it when I have the energy.) So, like the martyr that I always am, I went.
I made it through teaching my class, but just barely. Half way through I started feeling feverish and miserable. By the end of the class I just wanted to go home but I was waiting for a friend to meet me to pick up her Sugar Tai. So wait I did, as the misery spread. By the time I got home I had a fever over 102. Every inch of my body ached, down to my eyelashes. During the night I was wearing two long sleeved shirts, jeans, doubled up on socks and three quilts. Yet I was convulsing uncontrollably with shivers. I still felt chilled although I was drenched with sweat. At one point I distinctly remember thinking, half asleep, "How ironically stupid that I have waited until this week to apply for life insurance. I'm going to die and Travis will be broke." (don't worry, we already had him covered).
Today Travis actually stayed home to take care of the kids and I. I've NEVER asked him to do that EVER. To be quite honest, I didn't ask him today. He just stayed. My prince charming served me chicken broth and saltines and made lovely whole wheat pancakes for his children. He was a hero to more than just me, this morning. He called and made an appointment for me to see the doctor, knowing that I wouldn't do it myself. The appointment isn't until later today and I've been 'quarantined' to the peace and not so quiet of our room. I didn't leave the room, but ultimately there's no quite with all hardwood floors and 3 little ones locked in all day.
I'm taking the opportunity to finally read a book that, I'm ashamed to say, has sat on my shelf for 3 years. Maybe to the day, now that I think about it. Hmmm... off to sleep and read some more.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

For Christ's Flake..

I mean that in a good way, really. Last week, while lamenting over the missed chance to make Molasses Snow Candy while in Kansas (no recipe, unfortunately) Selah and I prayed a silly little "Dear Jesus, thanks for the rain last time we prayed. Now we want snow!"
Well here it is. The kids are napping. I've got Tori Amos playing and a big mug of organic Peruvian coffee from the Dekalb Farmer's Market. Outside my Studio window big gorgeous flakes of white are falling lazily to the ground, in hopes of finding a place to stick. Oh please stick! I'm so torn. I want to enjoy this momentary escape, yet I want to run in and wake up the kids to go see the awe on their faces! What to do... I'll finish my cup of Joe. Relaxing escape in a chipped red mug. After that we'll see where we stand.
So did you catch that? I called my office, workroom, studio. Everyone who comes over keeps calling it that, so I may as well give in. Travis is going to ream me, after all of the fun we've poked about people calling some closet they have their computer in a 'studio'. (don't be offended. You know I love you!) Well, it is what it is.
Wait, I hear little feet! Ah, Selah! Off to go twirl my little girl outside and convince her our house has been moved inside a giant snow globe........

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ahhh, The Things They Say

So, last night Selah and I were talking about days of the week as she was getting ready for bed. Now, keep in mind she had her most matter-of-fact, 'I'm a big girl' voice out, as if she were a teacher....
Selah: Mom, if today was Saturday, tomorrow is Sunday and we will go to church."
Me: Yes, you've got it. And what days come next?
Selah: Mom, this is crazy! There's Monday, then Tuesday,(her tone is getting a bit frantic at this point)
then Wednesday, then Thursday, then Friday. (now high pitched and distraught)
And then, Mom, it's just another Saturday! It's just a big circle (throwing her arms about in a circle, wild eyed) and we have to stop this! Somebody has GOT to make some more days, Mom!!!!!

So, um....yeah... More day's would be FABULOUS, darling. And a few extra hours a day would be a great touch, too.

Now, Jacob is a bit more whimsical with his thoughts this week. So as he was going potty the other afternoon...

Jacob: Momma, Does Popi have a penis?
Me: Yes, he does. He is a man.
Jacob: Momma, did you have a penis?
Me: No, my love. I am a woman. I have a vagina.
Jacob: (quite forlorn) I sorry, Momma. I LOVE my penis.
Me: Well, you're a boy, darling. You always will...

Sunday, January 6, 2008

No More Boob

It's official. My baby is no longer a baby. I feel so out of my element at the idea of no one else relying on my body for sustenance through either pregnancy or breastfeeding. I mean really. I am just 3 months shy of 6 years straight! My body is mine. What to do with that.
I'd like to find peace with myself. I look in the mirror and see features that are beautiful, but I doubt them. I look at my body and want to hide in shame. I have been told over and over that being a CONFIDENT heavy woman can be just as attractive. You know, I truly believe that, too. Maybe my problem isn't really with the way I look. Where is my shame coming from, then? Not that the image isn't involved but I know that's not all of it. I need to think on that for awhile. Maybe some revelation will come.
For now I’m happy to be embarking on a new phase of motherhood, reveling in the stages of discover and inquiry. I’m constantly amazed at the words that come out of their mouths. Priceless beautiful moments. Treasures for the taking. I would not trade them for the world.
But then sometimes I wonder how much I am trading it. I wonder if I’m stealing from my family. I love my business. I absolutely enjoy creating things, and I’m simply addicted fabric hunting. But is it a GOOD thing for my family? Is it a BAD thing? Sometimes it seems to be both. Am I selfish for wanting to do something? I love creating and designing things. I don’t know what I would do without that as an outlet. At times I doubt myself. I guess I tend to over analyze every thing and this isn’t an exception. I constantly question whether my business is a blessing or a curse. I guess ultimately it is both.
Despite attempts to find a business partner, seamstresses to hire and several other things. I can’t seem to get the business rolling smoothly. That is partially my fault. I do have one contracted seamstress working with me, if I haven’t completely blown it with her. All of the upheaval of the past month has uprooted any headway I’ve made as far as getting my business organized and running smoothly. I feel totally overwhelmed at the thought of pulling it back together.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Renewing The Committment

My kids are all napping at the moment. I have to count my blessings on that, since all three of them will still take a 2-3 hour nap together every afternoon. They'll wake before 6 ready for dinner and play time with Popi. I love life.
Today is really my New Year's Day. We spent 14 hours in the van yesterday. Travis' grandmother passed away on Andrea's (trav's sister) birthday. So we drove to Oklahoma on Selah's 5th birthday (27th) had the funeral on Trav's 3oth birthday (28th) spent some time with family and drove home on Jacob's birthday. Yes, I am one exhausted woman, slightly disappointed at being cheated out of making 3 birthday cakes, and not having the time to get a party planed or gifts prepared. All in all, the birthday crew was thrilled with the surprise of snowmen and sledding for birthday gifts. All is well.
Since today feels like the beginning of the New Year I've been evaluating the last year in my mind, amid unpacking and scrounging for something to feed 3 little hungry people all day when the fridge is empty. Last year Travis and I made a commitment to purge our lives, asking God to clear out what His plan for us and holding us back. You can read about it here .

" We want to get back to a minimalistic, basic lifestyle with a focus on God. We've made a plan and resolution for this year that EVERYTHING we do must be purposeful, working towards peace, health (emotionally, spiritually and physically), and security for us and our children. If anything works against it in any way at all, we have to reevaluate the action, relationship, item, event, etc. or rethink the purpose and realign what we're doing so there is integrity and wholeness."

I remember wondering what would happen and what it would feel like to be standing on the other end looking back. I can tell you it's not at all what I thought. While my hopes for the whole thing seemed lofty and dreamy then, I look back at it with a clarity and a smile at how narrow minded and naive our expectations were.

We wanted:

  1. a house of simplistic order
  2. to regain control of our finances
  3. to eat healthy and perfectly
  4. Deepen friendships and family relationships
  5. to finish work on our house to make it more livable

It truly is amazing how God gives you what you ask for in a completely different way than you expected. And if you aren't paying attention you'll almost miss the subtle changes that brought you to it.

1. In the last year I took at least 3 van loads full of things to the Salvation Army to donate, and was rid of about 3 van loads more in the 2 yard sales we had, one in the spring and one in the fall. So, we succeeded in having less and getting our home down to a more minimalistic type of living as we had hoped, but the bottom line is that we have 3 children. Life is full of unexpected chaos at every turn. So while the purging of things was a success, we've been shocked to find that it wasn't the real answer. Our 'simplistic order' has come from the blessing of a new job for Travis with a company that absolutely values their employee's home lives. A company that rewards his work with praise, respects his hours every week, invests in his education because they believe in him, and gives employees extra time off when they can, like the entire week between Christmas and new year paid off. I've learned to stay home and be still. Oh I'm still all over the place when I need to be, but it's not the same. God's given me a contentment with my house (although I'm still praying for that house not to sell, and it hasn't) and with what I have. I've come to enjoy less as more in the house, and in my 'free time' from the kids. I just don't feel this need to escape and prove that I'm still anything other than this. This is GOOD.

2.We were determined to get our money to behave. With his new job Travis is obviously making more money, and my little business that I started at the beginning of the year is taking off. But, as usual, with more money comes more reasons to spend. I have to say this Dave Ramsey Course has completely changed how we feel about money, and what it is for. Not to mention the fact that it's NOT EVEN OURS! It's God's money and we're responsible for being wise with it. I don't have this panicked feeling anymore. I thought we would have all of our debt paid off, our house built onto, our two good reliable cars.... We don't have all of the debt gone, but it's certainly going. The house is lovely the way it is. Contentment can be so much more fulfilling that more square footage, although I'm in love with my gorgeous new bathroom this year. We have only one car, the van, and I love that. It's streamlined our lives to keep us on track with our schedules. Travis rides his bike and the Marta train to work and can read his bible instead of fight traffic. Let me tell you, I have a much happier, peaceful man coming home to us every evening and I love it. I hope we never have to buy another car again!

3. Ugh, 'food' the beginning of last year was a pretty consuming topic. I was struggling to keep sugar-toxins-hormones-antibiotics-anything unnatural out, handle Jacob's allergies, try to lose weight for a wedding I thought I would be in. It took WAY too much of my time. In July, we had the typical 'Jacob' slip up during a family reunion. He ate something, somewhere and was covered with eczema and crying about his belly aching withing an hour. I broke. Whoever thinks I'm supermom must be out of their mind. I swear I was just ready to let the whole family starve rather than deal with cutting out all of the things he couldn't have. I buckled under the pressure and I was just DONE. So,not knowing what else to do, I prayed for deliverance, begging for him to be healed completely. Why hadn't I done this before? I don't know. I felt so guilty, knowing that some mothers have to deal with cancer and lifelong disorders for their children. These allergies seemed to small in comparison. How selfish of me not to simply handle it. How weak of me to not humbly bear the burden of something so simple as food allergies. Truly failed logic, I'm sure. Broken, I begged daily for deliverance for my son from the pain and for all of us from the overwhelmingness of it all. Withing a week Jacob was eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on regular wheat bread with a glass of milk. We even have blood work to prove that they are gone. I'm completely humbled by God's mercy in that, and overwhelmed that he found it a worthy request. For the record Jacob was allergic to dairy, wheat, soy, peanuts, baking soda, rye, tomato and yeast. It was a long 2 years. As far as eating all natural, I took a break from trying so hard and feel much more peaceful and less panicked about feeding my family. We'll slowly get back to eating more natural once all of our debt is cleared. And for the wedding, I was forced to take a stand that excluded me from participating. It was painful and devastating to lose a friendship so precious to me. I didn't think it would ever happen. That actually happened the same week as Jacob's allergies. I have callouses on my knees from how much they were used in prayer that week. I'm still the same size, as always. But I'm peaceful about it. I'm looking forward to spending some time on my health to be fit for when we are ready to add number 4 to the tribe.

4. Friendships. What a bittersweet subject. Family first. I started the year out very separated from my family. My parents were still not fully accepting responsibility for my youngest brother's actions with Selah. Hannah was pregnant with her dream little girl to name after my mother and, it felt, quite spiteful with it. Melissa couldn't acknowledge that she did anything wrong in attacking me while I was at the hospital with Lucas. It was all one big mess of pain.

So with my parents and Selah's therapist, we sat down to see if a discussion would open their eyes. Selah sat on the couch in my with her 4 year old heart open and told Grandma and Grandpa what Uncle Bobby did. I sat focusing on breathing so that I wouldn't vomit. Susan blinked repeatedly through tears as she smiled at Selah and praised her for being brave and talking. Travis' face was white yet strong. We all were moved. Yet my father sunk back like a deer in headlights and didn't way a word. My mother nodded and bobbed her head the whole time with a big grin at Selah and said "well, that was wrong, wasn't it? I'm sorry" as if reading it from a script she had planned in advance. It's funny, because it never occurred to me that I could just give up and and be done with them at that point. We could have. I just finally realized that I can't fix them. I looked at my father and saw the little boy who was beaten down with words and forced to perform and behave. He didn't have a clue how to deal with this. I saw in my mother the woman who spent every moment striving for the identity of perfect benevolence and all encompassing love to the point that she couldn't feel anger at anything evil or it would throw of everything she knew about who she was. She didn't know how else to respond. They just didn't get it. And I was shocked at the immediate feeling of empathy for them, making forgiveness and healing come quickly. The boundaries are another story, and will not be compromised. But for now, there is peace there.

Hannah and I could hardly speak to each other at the beginning of the year without a complete mess coming of it. There was so much misunderstanding and pain between us and so much comparison. I finally wrote her a letter stating that, short of counseling, I was not willing to continue a relationship that was so unhealthy. Even if we are sisters. I think it shocked her pants off. I met her and read the letter to her. She cried and I just told her that I was putting it in her hands to proceed. I've tried so many times to reconcile with her, and I'm not even sure what over. To my surprise I received a letter from her, in her own writing. I know what a huge effort that took, with the fear of writing she has from her dyslexia. I was moved. We went to counseling. I never thought it would happen. After all the times I told her we actually needed mediation to be sisters, she went for it. We still are very different. But I don't have the same sister I had a year ago and I'm so thankful. And to be honest, neither does she. I'm mush more understanding of who she is. I love her, Buckhead Betty and all.

I've chosen not to talk about the whole thing with Melissa. I feel like, once again, she has no idea how it feels. She was gone by the time hardships hit as kids. She was never forced to dig through boxes of rejected produce for food, or see my father come home with $20 for groceries because he sold his blood. She was able to make it untainted by any of the devestation. I love her and I forgive. Sometimes it pops into my head that she called me neglectful, not a christian, a bitch. It hurts. I know she snapped out of fear and shock. I just don't understand the stance she chose. And I don't have to. We don't agree, and we don't talk about it. I am completely confident that I did exactly the right thing for my child AND my brother, who desperately needed his life to change. I do have to say that it completely changed how I see her. We have so much in common, and I respect her in many ways. I enjoy our relationship. I suppose I just don't have that 'My big sister is so cool." feeling anymore. She's wonderfully human and fallible. I love her that way.

So, like I said I forgave. On the other hand I simply can't be at peace with how she would have handled the situation for Selah. She made it clear that she would have brushed it under the rug to protect my mother from trauma. My mother is not a martyr or a saint. She is a human that makes mistakes. Unfortunately SHE made a mistake and this happened. I will not let a 3 1/2 year old feel betrayed for telling the truth. And confused because nobody did anything. We handled it legally, yet appropriately to protect our daughter and for Robert to get the help he needed. She would not have done it. Her concern was for my mother feeling attacked, or being in question for her parenting. My concern was for the precious heart of a 3 year old, and the point of no return my brother was quickly approaching.

Painful as it was, Travis and I chose to have our wills rewritten to have the children go to some of our closest friends in the case of our death. Melissa and Cesar had been primary, but were removed completely as an option. I love all nine of my siblings, but I can't say with complete confidence that any of them would really have had the gutts to stand up against 'The Fam" and do what we did. Hopefully Travis and I will live and love long past the time where custody would be an issue. And our family will never have a reason to make decisions so severe again.

The house, well.. that goes back and forth. We had grandiose plans of doing so much this year, but we've done very little. Still I find myself becoming more and more content with what I have. We've redone the bathroom. Rearranged things over and over... I finally feel like it's at a place where I really enjoy my home. Things finally all seem to have a place. Children have learned to make their own beds, put away their clothes and they are still young enough to think it's fun... that won't last I'm sure. I'm still praying for the Niles Ave. house not to see, and it hasn't. But I'm not so anxious to move now. I'm more anxious to just be wise with what we have and wait on God to bring some great opportunity along.

So wow, that's an ungodly long post. But that's my year, in a nutshell. On to the next one. I'm renewing my commitment for growth, and praying that God gives me a year even fuller than the last.