Brynne told me this morning that she wishes she was an only child.
“Because then we could go on trips together all alone and you would only pay attention to me.”
I told her how much she would miss her siblings. But as she shrugged and skipped downstairs I felt a little sad. This spunky, resilient little girl needs some one on one time where I sit down and look into her eyes and she doesn’t get interrupted by any other child so help me!
The opportunity came when Nelson called from school needing his play script. I saw it as fate. I lovingly brought it in (and announced to his English class, who loves you like I do? He blushed as his classmates waved, “Coach does!” I’m so embarrassing). His forgetfulness was the perfect opportunity to steal Brynne for lunch. We went to the local Pizza Chef for a half hour lunch and she felt mighty special.
Are you a middle child? I hope my girl feels special even though she’s not the only boy, the oldest child, or the baby.
I have been reminded.
This scene sends me into a tizzy. To me, it is the antithesis of family love. I try to be reasonable. But I am decidedly. Not.
Other news fronts: No-shave November is a way to show love. This is what the American Cancer Society website says:
No-Shave November is a unique way to raise cancer awareness. What better way to grow awareness than with some hair? Show your support and give back.
So the man shows some love! It begins as a little scruff
that begins to grow into a furry beast.
The goal of No-Shave November is to grow awareness by embracing our hair, which many cancer patients lose, and letting it grow wild and free. Donate the money you usually spend on shaving and grooming for a month to educate about cancer prevention, save lives, and aid those fighting the battle.
And then one day it turned into a mohawk. That’s the “wild and free” part. He left his mohawk in all night. The kids began to hop up and down. Who is this mohawk man in the house? Is that our father?
Mohawk man turned into Don Juan.
Participate by growing a beard, cultivating a mustache, letting those legs get mangly, and skipping that waxing appointment.
This website cracks me up. I think he’s going to skip that waxing appointment but those legs sure are mangly. Like, all the time. Maybe I should try it. Sexy.
Cope is most definitely not feeling the love. She has to go to school with her dad. They share the same campus. And while she appreciates many of his antics, her response to Don Juan was, “No. You are not going to school like that. No. That’s not okay.”
Which just makes us laugh.
“Seriously, Dad. You can’t do that. No.”
The more emphatic she became, the more we laughed. It’s really not funny. Poor girl.
I have to admit, I’ve always loved this particular part of my husband’s personality. The man comes across as so serious and professorial and then every once in awhile…Did he just do that???
Oh yes he did.
This morning he really did go to work as Don Juan. “Don’t you have some…important meetings or something?” I asked. “Probably,” he said. Whatevs.
It’s hard to even remember that clean-shaven man oh so twenty days ago…
His eldest daughter was so mad at him that she wouldn’t even look at him. And then somehow it was my fault. I am wondering how their time together on campus is going?
I’m laughing again just thinking about it.
Meanwhile, to feel greater family love we have started our Secret Santas a little early. Nelson says this is definitely not okay and when I played Christmas music on Saturday he gave a great protest and said this was not allowed until December 10th! Just this morning I read three great posts on love…Lindsey…and C.Jane… Lindsey quoted Ann Voscamp and her blog post, “The Real Truth About Boring Men – and the Women Who Live With Them: Redefining Boring.” I love it. It’s definitely worth reading. Even though I obviously don’t have me no boring man! I’ve got the Don Juan. Voscamp writes, “Let everyone do their talking about 50 shades of grey, but don’t let anyone talk you out of it: committment is pretty much black and white. Because the truth is, real love will always make you suffer. Simply commit: Who am I willing to suffer for?” The real romantics are the boring ones — they let another heart bore a hole deep into theirs.
Yes, family love can sometimes be boring and mundane. Our Love Story has involved wet beds, puke in cars, lice, and annoyed teenagers. I so hope it doesn’t involve Depends. But you never know, do you? And shhh, don’t tell him, but I secretly love those unpredictable, spicy Don Juan moments. Because every once in awhile, it’s good to try not to be so boring. Make the girl laugh, let her heart race a little (as long as you’re scrubbing the toilet.) And she’s yours forever.
Remember when you took a bath with your brother or sister?
When swimming around the bathtub actually felt spacious? Remember how the bubbles became your beard? The water became the vast ocean and you got in trouble for splashing all over the floor? And then you laughed because you were the wild things, because whatever mom, it was worth it! My boat ride was rad!
Remember all the messes you made together? Were you ever called a holy terror or hell on wheels? Were you the Master of Destruction? Or were you more of a tidy child? I don’t know what a tidy child looks like.
Remember all those hours spent watching those great 80’s shows? The Facts of Life, Silver Spoons, Night Rider, (you watched those, too, right?) Did you argue over who got the remote? Did you ever get kicked out of the house for being so obnoxious? Told not to come in until it was dark?
Remember the epic fights? The yelling, pinching, biting, wrestling, punching, screaming, I hate you moments?? Remember how UNFAIR it was!!???
Remember how cool you were? Did you ever sneak out of the house with an outfit your mother said made you look like a tramp? (ouch.) The too-much mascara, the stuffed training bra, and take-on-the-world attitude? Or maybe you carried a skateboard, flipped kids “the bird” and threw crab apples at cars just because you could.
Were you a licking family? Or is this just a strange genetic trait my family has?
When did you last run in the rain and didn’t care if your hair got wet or your nightgown was see-through?
Or rolled down a hill and didn’t care if you looked like a an idiot or screamed at the top of your lungs because you were so darn happy to be alive?
This is what my little family looked like, many years ago. I am on the left with that great haircut. This was before baby Patrick was born, when everyone thought Andrea and I were the twins, instead of Peter and I. This is when Peter refused to wear shoes for pictures.
I am older than my mother was in this picture. But I’m sure I wear the same dazed and confused expression. Gregor is older than my dad was in this picture. Is life really aging us? Can that be true? I feel like I’m still that girl in the picture. I’m still that young. Maybe a smidge older. Sometimes.
Did you ever really think that you’d grow up and not be within arm’s length of licking? How can there ever be that much distance between siblings? No, never.
And yet, here we are. We’ve grown up. I am the oldest. The shrimp.
My siblings and I get to see each other so rarely now. We are spread out all over the United States and a once-a-year-sighting is lucky.
But here is the important thing: We make it happen.
Every year we make new memories and revive the old ones. The dusty memories are forgotten unless you tell them over and over and over. Every single year. Like when we convinced little brother that the dog poop in the neighbor’s yard was a brownie. These things were so hilarious.
We parents shouldn’t be too offended if we are the target of sibling jokes and mimicry; this is how siblings bond: Making fun of ma and pa.
And isn’t it amazing, that when we finally reunite, it’s like we were never apart? We revert to our childhood ways. I mean, when’s the last time you did a cartwheel?
There are some things that will never change. This is one of them: Stealing giant spoonfuls of cookie dough.
We’ve had babies, lost babies, accepted jobs, lost employment, found peace, lost peace. We love our spouses, we struggle in marriage. We don’t know what to do with the stubborn 2-year-old, so we tell stories of how life gets better. This is how we get through things: Our siblings lift us, remind us that we used to wet the bed, but eventually stayed dry at night. I mean, if you have been accidentally, but repeatedly peed on by a sibling, that should count for a lot, don’t you think?
Somehow, the power of the pee sibling is an anchor. It’s so old, so solid, it transcends a fleeting today. It goes so far back that most all memories will include a sibling, emerging from the mind at the oddest of times.
We can rid ourselves of many relationships. But the brother? The sister? They’re for keeps. For better or for worse, we came together.
Sometimes from other countries, from different mothers and fathers.
But the word “brother” or “sister” bonds us for life.
And if you’re really lucky, those brothers and sisters will become like parents to your children. They will remind your kids how sweet and nice you really are, when your kids can’t possibly believe it’s true.
My husband and his brothers have decided that roasting a pig in the ground is bonding. While at first I turned up my nose, I realized, that it’s not really about the pig.
It’s about bringing up the body together. Because this is FUN.
It really doesn’t have to be a pig.
The pig was really about TIME. It’s spending hours on the phone, sending emails, snorting, planning, the strategy of the perfect bake. It’s gathering wood, researching fire techniques, digging a giant hole in the ground, debating, testing theories, and finding enough granite stone to make an outdoor oven. It’s dressing the pig in the kitchen together.
It’s laughing, making fun of each other, calling each other names, and finding compromise among strong-willed competitive boys.
It’s taking rotating shifts through the night and day to make sure piggy is cooking. Usually, in our family, it has something to do with eating. But it’s not really about the pig.
It could be a duck.
Or a goose.
Or none of these things at all.
Sometimes it’s just I don’t want to run in the middle of winter but fine! I’ll do it for you – only for you! Ah…don’t the awful, hard things make for the best of memories?
The satisfaction and bonding come with the time spent together.
It’s watching Glenn cook a Truduckin: Duck stuffed in chicken stuffed in turkey. (I hope I got that right.)
It’s triumph at setting out to do something together and having success! But even if you fail, that turns into a memory. Like the Hike From You Know Where. Which also involved Glenn. 🙂
Remember. It’s not about the pig.
It’s the time
If you don’t make it happen, who will?
Every year my family has a family reunion. My mother, tired of all the organizing, delegated the planning to her children. The siblings now rotate location and organization. We have about a week together. It requires a year of discussion. It requires hours of coordinating outfits for the family photo. It requires saving hundreds of dollars. It requires flight plans, changing flight plans, driving fatiguing distances, and watching your children light up at the chance to see their best beloved cousins.
And there’s never a question of whether it’s worth it or not.
We’ve started a new tradition. We have fun all day and night and then right before bed we have a devotional and spiritual thought for the day.
Our prayers make us realize it’s not just about us, but ALL of us. We pray for help, call down the power of heaven, for we know that God honors those who honor him. We’ve seen the miracles. We express thanks, for all the good things we have. This tradition has brought a spirit into the room that binds us even closer together. My brothers have become men.
My sisters have become women. There are no wimps allowed. It is the tender, nurturing, baby whispering warrior in my sisters that buoy up the warrior in me.
Through the years, we somehow look older.
If we take care of our relationships, we become great friends, not just brothers or sisters
Older siblings set powerful examples for the younger ones. It is within their power to teach us about love. And vice versa.
Yes, we are growing older, but we have our faces turned to the light. There is great hope ahead.
As we look to our own children.
This summer I spent much time thinking about siblings. I think of the children I am raising, of the relationships they have with each other. Have they learned what they need to? Will they be close or fall away from each other? There are only four summers left before the oldest leaves for college.
Instead of separating my children, keeping them apart, I only want to keep them together. I have to remind myself of the powerful lessons to be learned when they’re driving me crazy, squished together in a small car. When they must be banished outside until it’s dark. Together.
I wonder. Are they learning to leap? Are they doing hard things together? Are they each other’s biggest champions? Are they making enough memories? Will their childhood be a wonderful memory?
When time fades like a photograph
Will they remember hot summer nights laughing? And the time Cope had such a bad sunburn she couldn’t wear a proper shirt?
I hope so.
As a sibling, I know the power
Of a really heavy brother. But we carry them anyway. And tomorrow they’ll carry our tug-a-lugs.
Here is something I believe: As long as we’re alive, it’s never too late to reach out. Text, email, call. Or lick. It’s all good.
It’s a long post, (sorry!) but my looooove is long…
When I was younger, love was red roses, wild horses, and maybe a Ghost scene or two. You know, from the movie. It looked nothing like the VMAs. Don’t you love to people watch? Study relationships, analyze the way couples interact in public, then wonder if they’re really that nice or rude in private. I’m sure my discerning conclusions are always correct, but – maybe not. My father used to counsel many a married couple. He once told me, “You would be shocked at the number of people you only think are happily married.” “Who?!” I pounced. He shook his head. “You would be shocked.” Since that time, as a young lass, I’ve always been curious. Who is happy and who is not? And why? Last week was our 16th wedding anniversary, me and my honey lamb. There were no roses, wild horses, and sadly, there is no potter’s wheel sitting in the living room with a hunk of clay on top 🙂 We did go to a Red Sox game (that was a observation hoot!) and out to dinner, and it was grand. We decided not to exchange gifts; too many other shared, mundane expenses like braces for kids, an unexpected car repair, and too many gelato trips last month. But that morning I came home from an early run and the sun was just coming up, hitting the house. I noticed the fence. ***
When we first moved into our home we had a little wooden, split-rail fence, but sadly, it rotted and we had to throw the wood away.
For six years I talked about wanting another fence. Gregor did not want one.
Round and round we went. I wanted the fence. He did not.
Then, last May we were visiting Lowe’s and I saw the pieces of wood. Split rail – it was like a kit. A really easy kit you put together in two seconds.
“Look!” I said. “It’s our fence! Let’s get it.”
“No, no, no,” he said. “I don’t want a fence. It’s hard to mow around, I don’t like it, and we don’t need it.”
“I want it.”
“We have the trailer on the van right now – let’s get it now – it’s meant to be.”
“No, no, no, no.”
“I really, really want it and I’m not joking and I want it.” I was starting to feel hysterical. I really wanted that FENCE! Maybe I was going to cry.
“Well I really, really DON’T want it,” he said. He was not hysterical. He does not cry over fences.
I may have said some other things, but have blocked them from memory.
He wouldn’t budge.
We left without the fence. And I was mad.
Could he not see how much I needed this fence, how much it would complete my life? How much better the yard would look?
Life went on without the fence. Just like it had for the past five years. And since we had gone five years without a fence, it could very well be five more years. Oh well. It would be alright, I suppose. We give up wants for the ones we love.
Mother’s Day came.
It was a very busy weekend. He had no time to get a gift.
But that morning my children led me outside and there by the garage were ten pieces of wood. To build the fence.
Somehow, in his very busy day the day before, he made time to drive all the way to Lowe’s with the trailer on the van and picked out the ten pieces of wood, piled them by the garage in the dark, and went back to work. For his wife. Because she wanted the fence and he did not.
We built the fence together. It did not take two seconds. We had to dig. We had to dig into New England soil. Do you know why there are so many rock walls in New England? It wasn’t because the early settlers had nothing else to do – they just had to do something with the rocks! We had to dig faaaaarrrrr into the earth and had to use these special tools that left large gaping blisters on the man’s hands. For days I would frown at them and he’d say, “That’s true love.”
And I heartily agreed.
And didn’t say anymore bad things.
Everyday I walk outside and I see the fence.
Every time I come down the road and pull into the driveway or run past the house I see the fence.
And I’m reminded of the evidence of true love.
It’s a small thing in my yard, but a big thing.
And I feel more inclined to be nice 🙂
To say yes next time he asks me to help change the awful rubber tube on the lawn mower.
Compromise. Saying Yes when you want to say No. When you don’t want to.
It’s been 16 years of marriage. And that’s what I know from a wooden fence that sits on the front lawn.
It was late August, 1994. I was nineteen years old and headed to Idaho to try out for the college cross-country team.My life was shoved into a mustard-colored Nissan Sentra; mostly clothes, cheap jewelry, books and, of course – running shoes. On my lap I held a CD player and a green plant the entire 1000 miles.
My dad and I drove eight hours through Nebraska, the golden corn lined up in rows along the highway, and into the desert of Wyoming. I detested Wyoming at that time of day, in the middle of the afternoon when it was dry and pounding hot, along the highway with only semi-trucks and gas stations for miles around. “I hate Wyoming,” I said. At 3 in the afternoon it reminded me of serial killers and overheated cattle. But I could get over Wyoming – there was hope coming and I could see it. In the distance, as if a mirage with snowy white caps, the Rocky Mountains were coming into view, and my pulse quickened, began to rise and fall with each point and valley. “We’ll be there before the sun goes down,” my dad said.
Hours later we passed the Idaho state sign just as my father launched into singing. “And here we have Idaho, winning her way to fame…” The Idaho state song was a song all my siblings and I knew since our months in the womb and there was no way I would get away without joining in. So I sang and my dad laughed, and I looked out the window, at the ascension into what heaven would surely look like for me. The air thinned as we climbed the narrow twisting highway. The earth was golden; the sun hitting the burnt grass just the right way. The yellowed wheat and cattails were untouched. They covered every surface, interspersed with pine trees that climbed higher into the sky. It was dry and brown but began to turn greener the farther North we went.
We blasted Carly Simon’s, Let the River Run through the entire Bear Lake Canyon and to this day, that canyon will always be singing that song. Let the river run, let all the dreamers shake the nation…come…it’s asking for the taking…
My dad grinned at me, “Nervous?”
“A little bit.”
Actually, “A little bit” was a colossal understatement. I was a good runner in high school. Maybe even great. As a skinny little thing, the coach placed me on the JV team after taking one look at me. After I won the first race he grinned, “Looks like a varsity runner to me.” I made State as a sophomore and my coach began talking junior and senior year, and college offers. And then. Senior year I quit. To this day I can’t tell you exactly why except I was scared of a lot of things. And the thing about quitting, is that it feels rotton. I hated that piece of me; my lack of mental toughness. I avoided my coaches and teammates, dreaded their questions and my lack of answers. I hated that I couldn’t trust myself. I hated that I kept saying,”next year.” I hated that every time I looked at my parents I felt badly. Even then I sensed that most times you just can’t get back the things you give away. If there was one thing I could do differently in my life, that decision ranks #1.
I was so ashamed of the quitter.
Then, as a college freshman, I saw the cross-country team run. And it just so happened that there was a girl who lived across the lawn from my dorm. Her name was Tara. Tara was the first girl runner I saw spit while she ran.She was brave that way, I always thought. We had a small falling out over a boy, but that’s another story. We began to run in the early morning. This is where my obsession began: the 5:15 a.m. run in frigid Rexburg, Idaho. Every morning my alarm would go off. The quitter was still hanging around. Half the time I jumped out of bed, turned off the alarm, and jumped back into bed. But it ate at me. I could not be a quitter forever.
But slowly, over that year, I began to change. A resolve took root. There was a stirring in me. I knew that time was not standing still. If I wanted to run with a team, this was it – my last shot. And I finally wanted it. I wanted to run. I didn’t want to be the quitter. Fool. Talent thrown away. This was my chance at redemption. Many an afternoon I watched practice; the intervals, the sweat, the time trials. Later I moved to the bleachers and saw the bigger picture; the best runners, the strategy of a win, the kick at the end of a leg. At the end of the spring I gathered my courage and asked Coach for a try-out. He was skeptical of my story, skeptical that I was even a runner (runners don’t quit!!)
“You’ll be trying out with some of the best female runners in the country,” Coach said.He didn’t need to tell me; I knew they were All-Americans who competed nation wide.They were hard core.
But Coach studied me and finally said, “Come back in the fall to try-out.” He was giving me my last shot.
I went home to Omaha and trained all summer. I had no coach, no training plan. I just ran. My parents were ecstatic. Their daughter would be a college athlete.
When my dad and I got to campus we walked to the athletics department and through the gym, the spacious room reverently quiet. Our feet hit the wooden court, and I tried to tiptoe, not disturb the silence as my dad’s sneakers squished quietly across the entire court. Coach was there; a wiry, small-boned man typical of a cross-country runner obsessed with running.
The next day we were to come back at 5 a.m. for the official team try-out. My dad shook the coach’s hand; his dreams for me sealed with a handshake.
“Oh, Amy, I love to see you run,” my dad said on our way back to my apartment.
My stomach began to wind tight.
We went to bed early. I set the alarm for 4:30 and slept fitfully, jumping up with the alarm’s first beep. The desert always turned so cold at night and I shivered while peering outside into the darkness. Only the stars were awake, twinkling brightly over my head. I had slept in my try-out clothes, but before I laced up my shoes I dropped to the side of the bed and onto my knees. I clasped my hands together and half-whispered, half-thought a prayer, “Please Heavenly Father, please help me run fast. Please help me run my best…please.” Cause I truly believed he could hear me, that he wanted me to run. And if he wanted me to run, I might as well be fast.
I walked to the kitchen, my arms wound tightly around my skinny body and opened a can of Campbell’s Pork ‘n Beans, my new energy experiment specifically brought for this moment, hoping it was the perfect pre-race food.
I began to eat the beans cold, mentally going through the way I would start my run: go out fast but not too fast. Don’t need to be first but keep up with the top of the pack. To go out too fast would be a rookie mistake. This was intuitive to me; I had understood it even as a kid. I must be patient, show restraint. My final kick was my strength. Don’t let the first runner get so far ahead that you can’t catch up. Watch the front runner. It will take careful timing.
I could hear my dad in the other room. Drawers shutting, water running. I closed my eyes and hummed Carly Simon, “Let the river run…come, the new Jerusalem. It’s asking for the taking… runnin’ for the water…”
It’s asking for the taking. Take it.
*** This is not where the story ended, but since this is a blog, not a novel, I’ll fill you in with two words: I failed. It was extremely cold that morning, and my legs reacted like taut rubber bands. My time was off. In the end, my name wasn’t on the list. I suppose this sounds like a sad story. For awhile it was, and then it wasn’t. I didn’t make the team. But there are two parts of this story that are important. One is about making things right. The second is that although this is a story about running and quitting and trying, it’s also one of my favorite stories about my dad. My dad grew up a hard-working farm boy in Bear Lake, Idaho. He was a runner too. He loved that I ran; both my parents did. They’ve seen me fail a lot. But even though I’ve failed, I’ve never felt like a failure – at least not for long. I grew up with an unfailing knowledge that my dad believed in me; that with enough work, anything was possible. It is his belief in me, a comment he kept making over the years, that made me start writing; this story was one of them. It was my mother’s validation that has kept me at it. And though my dad lives too far away, I know he’s there. Still cheering. When I think of him I see the kindness in his eyes, the smile that always comes to his face. And every once in awhile he’ll say, “I’ll never forget that trip we took,” and then he’ll start singing Carly Simon. Not everyone is blessed to have a dad like mine, so today I’m grateful. So grateful. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
We love this guy. So much.
Grandpa Art, we love you.
Picture entitled, “She Thinks He Hung the Moon.”
I’ve heard it said that the greatest gift a father can give to to his children is to love their mother. My children are blessed beyond measure. I love this man and the good father he is.
And someday, after all the training and the talking and the wrestling and the cajoling and the farting and burping, and dirty socks and the wise cracks and the lessons, and the failing, my son will be a father. He’ll know what to do; he’s been given tremendous examples.
Today I am grateful for good fathers, and the great compliment they are to mothers.
Melanie and I grew up together in Omaha, Nebraska. Melanie is the youngest daughter in a family of five children. Her mother, Leslie, a child’s advocate and foster mother, remains one of my biggest heroes. I spent many hours with the Bartlett family; slumber parties, youth activities, swimming, dancing. I pierced my ear in their basement; you know, the usual. Melanie is the girl with a big heart, an infectious laugh, and indomitable spirit. Growing up, the Bartlett family always seemed to have a baby in the house. There were five naturally-born children, but they fostered newborns, becoming the bridge between birth mom and adoptive family. It was this example that paved the way for Melanie’s story and her path to motherhood. Melanie writes:
Since I was little, the only thing I ever wanted to be was a mom. Most of my youth leaders were young, married moms. So I thought that’s what would happen to me. I’d go to college, get married, be a stay-at-home mom. Anything else is un-Mormon, right? So when I graduated college and years went by, I thought there was something wrong with me. I referred back to my patriarchal blessing (a patriarchal blessing is a special and individualized blessing given within the LDS/Mormon faith) and pondered on how strangely worded the family part was. The Lord would provide a way for me to have a family. Like it wasn’t going to be the ‘typical’ way. And then we got the call for Nevaeh. From the beginning of this journey, I’ve always had the end goal of adoption. But in Nebraska, the goal is always reunification with birth family. So this is a tough road to become a parent.
Who is Nevaeh?
In December of 2007, my mom and I received a call from the state saying they had a little girl at Children’s hospital that needed a foster home. We were not a licensed foster home through Nebraska, but LDS family services was licensed. So they did a quick walk through of the house and we went up to meet Nevaeh. It was pretty much unheard of for the state to place a baby in a foster home not licensed through them. But, as I would come to learn, this one phone call set me on the path to adoption.
Nevaeh, heaven backwards, was born 3 1/2 months premature and only weighed 2 lbs 3 oz at birth. When I met her, she was almost 4 months old and was just over 7 lbs. She had a tracheostomy, and my mom and I had to learn all that went along with her care before we could bring her home. We had her in our home for two months. It was nerve-wracking to be responsible for a child with a compromised airway, and not a whole lot of sleeping went on in that time. But she became mine in that time, and I decided to try and adopt her. Her parents were teens and had all they could handle trying to stay out of jail. They would never have been able to care for her.
But, after 2 months, LDS family services was wondering when Nevaeh would be available for one of their famies to adopt. I don’t know if there was miscommunication or no communication on this point between the state and LDS f.s. But some frustration ensued and LDS f.s. told the state they were not going to use their foster home if adoption by one of their awaiting families was not the end goal. So after two months, and much to my dismay, Nevaeh was removed and taken to live at The Ambassador, a nursing home with a pediatric floor for very sick kids. We were devastated, and made the decision to start taking the classes through the state to become licensed foster parents, and get Nevaeh back.
We were still permitted to go see her whenever we wanted, which was all the time. 7 months after she left our home, we were done with the classes and awaiting the home study. On a Friday night, September 26, 2008, we received a phone call that
Nevaeh had pulled her trach out, and the nurses hadn’t gotten to her in time.We rushed to Children’s hospital, but Neveah died early the next morning, just 17 days after her first birthday. It was awful. Devastating. And we were numb for a week as we planned and carried out her funeral, all the while working with her birth family.
And then, my mom and I just looked at each other and said, this can’t have all been for nothing. So, I prayed and went to my patriarchal blessing, which promised The Lord would provide a way for me to have a family. I went to the Bishop and explained what I wanted to do. And he gave me his blessing. I was going to get the foster care license and foster to adopt.
Antonio was born healthy. At two months of age, he was severely shaken and beaten by his birth father-broken leg, skull fractures, retinal hemorrhages. He has some mid-brain and brain stem intact.
But basically, the majority of both hemispheres are dead. He’ll never walk, speak words, or eat normally. The pediatrician says he won’t live to be 60. Other than that, they really can’t say. But we will take every minute we can get.
Brooklynn was a little delayed developmentally. But with early intervention, she’s all caught up.
Antonio gets a sister
The court system is a mess. I had Brooklynn’s older sister for 14 months. Then we had a hearing to determine whether she would go to live with her very marginal dad who had been sporadic in his involvement with her. The judge, against the recommendations of the child’s guardian at litem (arguablythe most impartial person involved) placed her with her dad. I’ve had children in my home placed back with their parents, only to see them in a violent 10 o’clock news story. And the process of adoption is slow. Antonio was available for adoption 8 full months before the adoption was final. It’s frustrating and painstakingly slow. There’s also a term caseworkers use called ‘adequate enough.’ It’s how they measure if a child can return home. Is the home adequate enough. Low standards, especially when talking about children.
What is the hardest part of motherhood?
Not being able to be with them all the time. It’s hard to have to rely on others to help. And with Antonio, it’s difficult to deal with a system that is meant for healthy children. I have to fight for everything-proper health care and adequate therapy and my right to keep him out of a school where the the risk to his health outweighs any benefit he might get…Now that I see how hard you have to fight for everything for special needs kids, I have a new found respect.
What is your other full-time job?
I work as a juvenile probation officer.
My mom watches and cares for my dad (he had a stroke a couple of years ago that has left him incapacitated). As far as I’m concerned, she’s a saint and her mansion in heaven is the biggest. A lot of people called me selfish to ‘do this to my mom.’ But, as she’ll tell you, there’s not really much joy in caring for my dad. It’s work and unrewarding. But having the two kids around has blessed her life and helped her focus.
The biggest hurdle for me in this has been how members of the church sometimes don’t understand…Yes, ideally every child deserves to be raised by a mother and father in faith. But it’s just not reality for every child to have that opportunity. And I’m not asking everyone to do this. This is how God designed for my family to be. And I couldn’t be more thrilled to be Antonio and Brooklynn’s mommy.
What can we do?
The biggest thing is having common sense about kids in the system. Many of them are shuffled around way too much, and birth families are given way too many chances to change. I’m for reconciliation up to a point. But if you have children that you’ve lost custody of, and subsequent children are born with drugs in their systems, done! You should not be allowed the opportunity to raise that child. You’ve given up the right, as far as I’m concerned. I can be harsh, I know. But I speak from experience with a system that proclaims to honor the best interests of children, but act in the complete opposite.
As far as what people can do, just becoming aware of situations like this and of the laws in their states. I did have an attorney approach me about helping him write legislation for stronger sentencing in child abuse cases. (Antonio’s dad only received 15-20years, which in Nebraska amounts to 7.5-10). Not nearly enough for the damage done.
What is the best part of motherhood?
They make everything else go away. They give me an opportunity to serve and teach. They are pure joy.
Thank you, Melanie. I look at these pictures, and am so thankful for women like you. It reminds me that We Can Do Hard Things With Great Love. And be all the better for it. It also reminds me that every mother’s journey is different, and when the “typical” doesn’t happen the way we think it should, there is always a way to make a difference in the life of a child.
I never realized how much Darth Vader and I have in common. My children often view me as the evil empire. Me and Darth Vader, hand in hand to wonderland. It makes the heart sing, don’t it?
However, I’m trying to be less Darth and more Yoda-like. Wise. Fewer words. Calm. Perhaps short and bald with cute pointy ears, is my destiny?
The last few weeks I’ve been making an effort to bring out the love in this house.
And along comes Valentine’s and cupid to get us all in the mood for love. I love Valentine’s Day, even the tumultuous ones. Because love is hopeful, it can always be just around the corner no matter the circumstance.
I went to a beautiful funeral on Tuesday, for a really great man, Paul “Benny” Benson. Everyone loved him, and the biggest reason was this: He loved them first.
I want to be more like Benny.
Two days later was Valentine’s, and I thought of Benny’s widow. All day she came to my mind. “Widow” sounds like such an old woman’s word, doesn’t it? But Cindy is only 56, and that sounds might young to me now. She has many more Valentine’s days ahead of her.
It’s hard not to be with the one you love, the one you think you love, the one you lost, the one who doesn’t reciprocate, the one who “got away,” the one you haven’t even met yet.
And so we must feel lucky and wonderful to be with the ones we have. Husband has been trained to honor the “contrived holiday” of the money makers. Dearest husband.
Of course love does not need to be crafts or chocolate (thought that always brings out the love in this house).
I decided I would try one new valentine craft with the girls. ONE. Not TWO. NOT FIVE. For you see, I am reading Katrina Kenison’s Mitten Strings for God, Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry. Read it. It’s already changing me, helping me feel more love when I’m not so HURRIED. So on Valentine’s, it was one craft.
Even if you are not crafty, creating bootiful works of art with your children is quality time, I tell you. Glue on fingers, tissue paper squares, markers, and glitter. And the best thing is, whatever you make, they will think it simply the most amazingly beautiful thing they ever saw. And that will make you feel loved.
thesunnysideupblog will tell you how to make this. She had the patience to make 10. I had the patience for one.
I have to write myself notes so I won’t be a snapping beast. Love at home is not an accident. I don’t think it’s easy either.
I don’t know how this really happened but Paige’s 100 Day project left us with leftover dye. And opening your fridge in February to find Easter eggs makes winter feel lovely!
We had a family night where we talked about having more love for each other. This goal on the wall comes from Cope’s Young Women’s program where the girls work on qualities such as Divine Nature, Knowledge, Choice and Accountability. We made it into a poster and signed it if we agreed to participate. There were some pretty miraculous things that happened this week between the kids. It made my heart feel soft.
Brynne’s pot holder, made with love for her mother. I will love it forever 🙂
This was Paige’s first school valentine experience. It’s hard to write all those names. “I know how to spell FROM,” she now says.
Lot of red and blueberry fruits makes for a delicious valentine’s smoothie. The green is bonus.
Staying up late the night before Valentine’s left me thinking, “Amy this is overkill.” But the sugar cookie is just.so.mmmm.
Heart attacking each other all the way up the stairs helps remind us why we love each other.
Paige has learned how to spell Brynne. This is the first thing she has made at school that she didn’t make for M-O-M. It still melted my heart. to pieces.
Perhaps not specific, but I’ll take it over Nelson’s last year’s heart, “I like mom because she cooks good. sometimes.”
Today I am breaking my own blog rule. There is nothing healthy about what I’m about to reveal. But I do hope you’ll forgive me once you take a bite of this most decadent Valentine’s dessert.
Blessings and cursings to my friend, Kate, who introduced me to the chocolate-covered oreo truffle. Every time husband and I take a bite, we look at each other and say, “That’s sooo good.”
This year, instead of buying that processed candy in the store, you can make your own processed valentine gift with me! And then we shall run.
Ingredients: 1 package Oreos (generic works fine), 1 package cream cheese (generic and low-fat work fine), dark cocoa and/or white chocolate candy melts (can find in Wal-mart or craft store.) Strawberries optional, but give a beautiful Valentine red color!
Food process your oreos. I accidentally gave my food processer away, (losing it, I tell you,) so I used the Vitamix. Blend into a fine powder.
Looks like my beautiful compost dirt 🙂 Now pop that cream cheese on top.
Stir together. After a little while I used two butter knives to criss cross it all together. Post-Script: Kate tells me to use the Kitchen-aid and she’s right – dump crushed oreo and cream cheese in and let it swirl together. Works beautifully.
Take your cookie scooper (mine is a medium-sized pampered chef scooper I love) and drop on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper.
Using my scooper I got 28 truffles
Then roll into little balls with your hands (all of this goes very quickly.)
Cover with saran-wrap and pop in your cold garage or fridge while you melt your candy melts.
This can be done in the microwave but ours is broken. Yes, we’re having appliance issues. Melt candy melts over low heat and stir. Takes just a few minutes. This can be done using chocolate chips, but candy melts melt and stay melted much longer. Chocolate chips are thick and don’t give that nice lite candy-coating that you’re going to want.
Ready to roll. Pop two truffles at a time and flip once or twice to cover. One bag of candy melts was plenty to cover all 28 truffles and then some.
Oh no, now we’re in trouble….
We covered most in dark chocolate and a few in the white chocolate, sprinkled with chopped peppermint candy.
I’ve never used candy melt before. I shall never use anything else. It works wonderfully.
A neighbor gift for Mr. Goody who plows our driveway every time it snows
Bring this out for a late-night Valentine treat and your lover will swoon. It’s guaranteed.
That one is mine. Hands off.
A Lover’s Ultimate Valentine: Chocolate-Covered Oreo Truffle
1 package Oreos
1 8 ounce package Cream Cheese
1 package Dark Cocoa Candy Melts
1 package White Chocolate Candy Melts (optional)
Food process the oreos into fine dirt. Stir in cream cheese. Shape into balls. Refrigerate. Melt candy melt. Dip and roll. Let cool. Eat and swoon.
Have yourself a most Happy Valentine’s Day. And let me know if your treat works it’s intended magic.
Mr. Darcy and I have hit 15 years together. It’s a long time and it’s nothing. But a milestone. I’m so proud of it. In the beginning, the husband would say these milestone holidays were “contrived,” nothing more than us supporting profit-driven companies getting rich. Well. (insert Amy rolling eyes here.) We still celebrate. Since this was a big anniversary, I was thinking a two-day trip away to Ogunquit, Maine would be simply splendid. But husband had another idea.
Out in Arizona, he said he had a surprise for me. A Vitamix demo at Costco! He drove an hour with me tired and huffing, to get to this thing. We got kicked out once for not being members, and had to sneak back in past a very diligent Costco employee, until we were in front of the amazing Vitamix machine. Seriously? I asked. It’s a blender.
Well, let me tell you, after leaving this amazing Vitamix demonstration, I was a changed and repentant woman.
I am now a walking infomercial.
Our two-day getaway was traded faster than you can say, Vitamix! Yep, we could only have one. The fancy kitchen machine or the vacation. This “blender” is a bit pricey. Even the refurbished one that we went for. But wait, you can’t call it a “blender.” It’s far more than that.
In seconds, almonds turn to dust.
In minutes, water boils for a chicken/tortilla/black bean soup.
Ice-cream is easy.
Here we have ice, a tad bit sugar, peaches, and a drop of vanilla. Ta-da! Peach sorbet in mere minutes.
Now, every single morning, husband faithfully makes me the drink of all drinks. It is the post-drink of choice after a grueling hill run. It’s the go-to drink before I sit down to write. It’s the breakfast that fills me for the morning. It’s brain food. It’s disease prevention. I will never get sick again! Oh and guess what? There are no little parts to take apart and put back together. You put on, you take off. Yes, you see, it has changed my life. It’s loooove.
That days-old fruit that is half-price at the grocery store? It’s now in my freezer. Stocked up!
Those vegetables that no one likes to eat because they look a little icky? It’s in my breakfast smoothie!
This morning’s recipe:
1 whole carrot, unpeeled, uncut
4 apples, cut, not cored
1 handful of frozen spinach
1 handful of kale
1/2 an avocado
1 handful of blueberry/raspberry mix
1/4 cup of amaranth (grain of the Gods)
1 frozen banana
When I laugh and say, can you believe we got a Vitamix for our anniversary, husband smiles and says, “15 years of good health? 15 more to come!” Amen, brother.
But beware, I tell him. We ARE going to Spain for the big 20-year.
P.S. That Vitamix was supposed to be the only present. But then he also surprised me with a whopper of a camera. Don’t you just hate when people do that? I guess I’ll forgive him 🙂 Mr. Darcy, I love you. Are you so embarrassed? I just can’t think of anyone I like to embarrass more.
Once, when I was obsessively reading about Napoleon and his great love for Josephine, I read that he often wrote her love letters. When he was close to coming home after weeks away at battle, he would dispatch a letter telling his lady Josephine not to bathe. Why? Because he loved the way she smelled after weeks and weeks without a bath.
I have always found that tidbit rather fascinating.
At the time, my 15-year-old self swooned at the thought…the thought of my natural scent making a man weak in the knees…begging me not to bathe.
Let us fast forward to the present. I can’t recall my husband ever sending me such a letter or asking me not to bathe or shower. In fact, to make sure I knew him like I thought I did, I just asked. “Do you ever wish I wouldn’t shower?”
“What?” he yelled. “What goes through your mind, woman?” He really said that.
Of course, he’s a little fastidious when it comes to cleanliness. I’ve never known anyone who likes to shower as much as he does.
What happens to a dream deferred? Hmmm.
However. The other day Paige, sitting on my lap, began to climb all over me like a little monkey. She gazed at me with her soulful blueberry eyes. She studied my face, put her hands on my cheeks, kissed my lips, my cheeks. She wrapped her arms around me, snuggled her face into my neck. And inhaled. Her whole body went limp as she continued to breathe me in like I was the air she needed. Sniff, sniff all over my neck, face, behind my ears. People were looking at us. I almost laughed. She ran her fingers through my hair and smelled each strand. She inhaled my arms and came back to my neck, then opened my shirt while I tried to swat it shut, and inhaled the warmth coming from her mother’s chest.
I tell you, she was in total rapture.
Do you remember the smell of your mother? When I was young I loved sleeping in my mother’s bed because it smelled like her. She says I was not a cuddly baby but I have faint memory of inhaling the warm scent of Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion on her warm neck.
Though a man has never told me not to shower or bathe, my babies love the way I smell. Even when I smelled like old milk from nursing all day and night. Even when I was tired and couldn’t seem to fit in a quick shower. Even when I would rather lay down on my bed than be clean.
The moments are farther apart now, but there are still times they wrap their arms around me, can’t get enough. Because I know better now, I do not pry them off. Even when they lick. Okay, sometimes when they lick. But tell me, who else loves you like that? Enough to lick you? Who else sniffs you like a dog, inhales like you’re a cinnabon?
There is no one else, nothing better than their mother’s familiar scent.