Thursday, February 26, 2009

Quick construction update.....

Weldon has made great progress on the bathroom this week. The tile will all be in tomorrow and I think he may even get to start grouting. It's amazing to see the change. This is the view of the nasty set of pipes. They are now a nice architectural element......

Today we tried out the new sink so we could determine a good tile height. It's such a tiny space that everything is a puzzle. Just the thing to keep us occupied on a February day with 8 inches or so of new snow!

This is the complete shower wall. I think the new tub will fit right in with the classic tile look.

Construction has left the kids much more free time than usual.
John has taken up reading to the three little girls. Everyone but daddy has fleecy jammies and stays in them as long as possible in the morning. Even me. : )

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Painfull parenting....when you don't 'feel' love for a child.

The phone rings, my email fills, a friend approaches and time after time moms with breaking hearts, confess to me that they don't 'love' their difficult children as much as they wish they did. I can see it coming, it's harder to talk about than dealing with lying and stealing. It's more burdensome than feeding the family when dad is laid off and it's more exhausting to consider than all the other things we fail at as keepers in our homes.

It's hard to hear the reasons why moms feel this way. Pre-teens who spew hate and destroy parental property. Grade school kids who throw entire households into chaos and disorder. And toddlers who regularly turn away from their mothers with screaming fits and only want to be with the father. I listen and grieve the loss of innocence with each mom. No longer can that mom say that "Love is enough." Because something changed along their path and the sweet, simple and natural fellowship that they visualized is gone.

When we talk further it usually comes down to them finding a new foundation for their relationship with the child. One based on the belief that God built the family on purpose, that this is no mistake and that emotional abandonment is not an option. From there they look into their own hearts and see the space between where they want to be and where they are. It's a hard place and not one that we go into willingly. After all, how many of us secretly think that our kids are here to meet our own emotional needs? To build us up and sustain our fragile adult egos by returning our investment with a sweet and docile obedience. And if they don't..... we retract our love, restrict our involvement and begin to separate ourselves from them emotionally. I've done it - I admit it and I confess it. There came a day when I needed to change from considering my first difficult child my adversary and move into the seat beside him as his best and most faithful supporter.

It wasn't me against him - it was us against all the challenges he was going to face in life and no feelings of 'love' were deep enough to keep me faithful. I'm not that strong. I get frustrated and tired. Disappointed and selfish and I hate to have a negative light cast on me by his behavior. I needed a different type of love that wasn't based on how I 'felt' but on what I believe. I have found that and want to share it with other moms who discover that they really don't have the strength to keep the feeling of love alive. Because we can't.

So how do I answer my friends when they get down to the nasty fact that they don't feel very much love toward a particular child? I encourage them that it's normal, and that they don't have to feel it every day - but that they have to live it 100%, and that they are in good company (myself included) when they have to face the awful truth that they are only offering conditional love to the children in their homes when we need to go further and love them with the unconditional love of Christ.

And that's the end of it. I can't love my children with my feelings - it's not enough. But I trust and claim the love of Christ over us all and from there I see a future that isn't filled with angry guilt over my failures and frustration over the children not meeting my needs. It's filled with hope and the promise that our families are built on purpose and that I do not stand alone - regardless of how I feel in a particular moment.

It's ok to say you don't feel very loving - in fact I think it's a great place to begin looking at relationships and testing to see what they are based on. Is the foundation feelings which are as changing as the wind? Or truths established long before any of us was even born?

Hugs to all you failing moms - I love you unconditionally - because Christ first loved me.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pain in the parenting of kids with hidden disabilities...

Life can be very wearing when you are living with children who have disabilities. Many things that come naturally to other kids seem impossible. From understanding two part instructions to following through on the most basic self care tasks (like pulling up their pants), the smallest part of a day can become a raging battle or weeping failure. And then there are the unpredictable, out of left field things that happen in life that leave you reeling.

Last weekend I had a near-encounter with one of those events. After karate I took the oldest 5 kids to do the major COSTCO run - we filled three carts and were settling down for a hot dog and soda reward when a mom and her teen son asked if they could share our table. Sure, no problem. We spent a few minutes chatting about the weather and general things and then turned back to our own lunch partners. I was next to the mom and her son was across the table next to my boys. Our table mates were engaged in a serious and sort of unhappy discussion about a boy in his English class who was highly disruptive, smelled bad and just ruined everything for the others. My mommy radar flew into high gear when he explained that the boy had Asperger's and that's just the way 'they' were. WAIT! STOP! You sitting next to my very tender son who also has those tendencies (we still haven't 'officially' diagnosed him) and you are ripping on a group of people that includes him!

Thankfully we were almost done with our meal and my kids were more focused on who was going to get the last sip of their shared sodas to pay much attention. But it gave me an insight into how it might feel to walk around in life with a hidden disability - always vulnerable to the unknown (but still cutting) barbs of other peoples comments. Always needing to be just a little bit on guard because the pain is real, whether it is intentionally or innocently inflicted.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Photos salvaged from the sad camera......

Here are a few photos I managed to salvage from the camera. It's not totally broken but it has a nasty new issue with it's focusing, or actually not focusing capabilities.

This Friday marks a month of Weldon and Patty's amazing blessing to our family as he has torn out and is now rebuilding our main bathroom.

The tub unwrapped and chilling in the garage. It's going to take a few good friends to get this cast-iron baby into the house. :)

The background tiles for the inset shelves went up today.

The new tile floor is in! It's so clean and level it seems strange after the old one.

Weldon with Lily sneaking in the back door to help him tape the joints. Good thing he is used to little ones!

14 year anniversary tulips from Robert.

10 kids in 14 years almost sounds possible.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Monday morning laugh for all of reason God seems to keep us in the entertain the neighbors!

Sunday night and I should be upstairs heading toward bed. But it's quiet down here and still, and I'm running on a bit of a high from putting that scrap-book project in the done pile. Here is the laugh of the day............

I dress fairly conservatively, especially on Sundays I combine function with the reality of many little people so my clothing tends toward black (goes with anything and I never get to think about what I am wearing so that helps.) Today I was in the process of changing from the black calf length boots and long dress pants into my freshly washed favorite jeans when a neighbor called in a panic. "Dorothy!!! (she said) There is something wrong at Dennie's house. The door is open and there was a light on inside last night. Go check it out!"

Now Dennis was a bachelor neighbor who she watched over for several years and he died almost exactly a year ago. His house has been vacant since then and we think that it has gone into foreclosure - it's hard for her to let go of the thought that it's 'Dennie's house!' and we should be protecting it for him. Anyway...I didn't have any good options for what to wear as the little ones were all asleep upstairs and my jeans were the only things in the basement - that's what I get for putting my laundry away! So I, um....squoze into my jeans that had spent a little too much time in the dryer, zipped into my calf high black boots because they were the only shoes that were not put away in my closet (and they had to go over the pants because they are a narrow leg) grabbed the only coat that was clean as my usual North Face parka was in the washer. No mirror to check, but it was a little form fitting, a tad fashionable and not my usual, "go check out the strange situation" attire at all!

Covered for the season(in a, fashion error - hope no one has a camera, sort of way), I darted between the houses and Pam's girls (who know my usually conservative outfits) see me in this Friday night - bar hopping like attire and do what teen and pre-teen girls do - they noticed! No hoots and hollers - they saved the teasing for later on but I sure gave them a good laugh as I slid across their back yard to go investigate.

Good thing I checked, Joyce was right and the house was filling up with water from either a burst pipe or stolen copper. The basement was totally filled and it sounded like the first floor was deep also. I did the necessary calls, to 911 in case they wanted to be involved and the city emergency water number to request they turn it off at the street. Then I stood out on the sidewalk, at two on a Sunday afternoon, looking like I was waiting to get picked up for a date, which I sort of was, but I was waiting for the cops to come so that I could go home and get out of this outfit! Of course I did have to walk past Pam's windows again...and bring those smiles back to all the girls faces.

Happy Monday! I'm posting from the road as the fashion police are still hot on my trail!

Caught up on one thing!

Yeah! Wahoo! Mommy Happy dance going on here! I just finished catching up on the big kids scrap books - the oldest 5 are updated now to October 2008. The younger 5 are still in baby books and they are a breeze compared to the gathering/sorting/managing that the older ones need. Once a year in January I order all the photos, sort all the 'saved things' and dive into creating order from chaos.The littles books are this weeks project and that feels SO manageable with the older ones out of the way!

(We do simple Anne Geddes baby books for the first 5 years and then start keeping scrapbooks for the school aged ones - 4 pages per year max. At least that's been the plan so far. :)

Toto Toilet details (because they were requested!)

The Toto that we purchased is their 'low end' gravity assisted "Drake" series through Performance Toilets (that's really their name!) There are two versions - on with tank lid locks and one without. I think that I will buy the one with locks for the first floor if I choose to put another one in that bathroom, because the lid doesn't have much lip to it so it may fall casualty to little curious hands. It's cost was $248.50 with free shipping and it came in a week.

If you are interested in how much these can flush without clogging (how much is 1000 grams in real life?)there are U Tube videos out there as well as clips on the Performance Toilets site. There are even more high-power ones we could have bought but they all use technology that makes them much noisier then a regular toilet and I didn't want to think about repairing them when I looked at the mechanisms.

So far I am very happy with this choice - I will be sure to let you know if anything changes in my opinion!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Dorothy and Toto...?

You can tell how tired I am when I start dredging up the jokes from my childhood. As a Dorothy in the 70's there were plenty of Oz comments flying around my social circle. Yesterday, after almost 41 years of waiting my Toto finally arrived.

It's sure not a dog (John is fairly allergic to things with hair so that's not going to happen) and it came via UPS. Not a very happy UPS man, since it took two of us to get the thing into the house. So what is my Toto? It's a super capacity, plumber recommended, almost impossible to plug, toilet for our second floor bathroom. Hu? Second floor? Oh yes. As we so clearly demonstrated to Weldon last week by sending toilet water down into the basement, remodeling the first floor bathroom isn't going to last long if we are flooding the walls and ceiling regularly from above. So I did the research, ordered the best gravity assisted toilet I could find, and prayed that we would make it without another 'incident' until it arrived.

It did, we didn't and Weldon very graciously installed it on Thursday night. Wow...there is no swirling in the bowl it goes ....."swurp" like a straw and then is gone. No double flushing and no question about the water backing up. All for about $100 more than a cheap toilet at Home Depot - it seems like cheap insurance in our world of questionable flushers!

The 'in-home' delivery team did a good job moving it from the front door to the kitchen.

At which point the inspector checked the packages thoroughly and found them complete.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Deliveries and photos of life.....

The bathtub came yesterday. It was impressive to watch this large truck navigate our narrow city alley. The tub was so well crated that it looked like a coffin - and in our old Italian neighborhood there were a few jokes about Uncle Eddie being delivered.

I was really glad that Weldon was here to help the driver get it situated in the garage and it was fun to unscrew the top and inspect it for damage (there was none.)

The pipes are gone - forever!

And this cool built in shelf has emerged from a dead end wall.....

Joe and Jerry love all things they are sorting and stirring the boxes of screws.

The sink came also this week - here is a similar one at the local tile shop..

I went shopping over the is what the basement paper goods look like when we throw them all over the gate for mommy to stash in the store room. It felt good to be ahead of the game rather than one step behind for the first time since Jerry came home.

Everyone has gotten into the construction mood. I have a crew of happy helpers who don't mind the dirt and chaos.

Even Lily has taken on a nurturing role...she's telling Joe the Car's story and they both loved the snuggle. (Lilly is 3 Joe is almost 2)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Closed adoption - is it still possible?

As an adoptive mom who has had many strange things go awry in our placements and post placement situations, I don't believe that a truly closed adoption is possible anymore. I know a lot of people don't agree and that's fine, but if a family is banking on an adoption truly being 'closed' they should know where things might just break down. Mistakes happen - crazy ones that you don't think are even possible and that there is no way to prevent. Things that a family might never know about until the day a note arrives in their mailbox or a message comes through on Face Book. In a moment, a confidence that was held about a door being tightly closed is gone and uncharted ground lies ahead.

(Side note: As I type there is a good chance that one or more of our children's families are going to be reading this. Not that I know they are, but if so, it's fine with us and it's OK to either keep lurking or to chime in on the conversation. We wont freak.)

The reality is that if you search 'Dorothy 10 kids' on the Internet you are going to find out an awful lot about me. It doesn't even have to be that specific. Simply searching 'Dorothy Robert adopt' will bring up links to an announcement made years ago when we adopted our 6th child - not hard to find us once you know his profession, position and where he worked in 2003. Not hard at all.

Most birth moms today are looking at profile books to choose a family for their child and in the front of them is a letter from the prospective parents - with the parents first names at the bottom. Within the body of the letter is usually enough detail to figure out what region of the country if not what state the family lives in, what any other children's names are, what professions the parents are involved in and so on....unwittingly families are providing enough information to track them down if a birth relation ever really wants to. Those are the things we control. We don't control human error by social workers. Post-it notes on the outside of files that state things like 'call Miller's' or mailing envelopes paper clipped to notes from the adopting agency with return address labels. And then there is my personal favorite....check out the back of your photos that you have sent for updates. Depending on where you upload, sort and organize your digital photos I have had some with my last name printed on them in that identifying code -so many ways that information gets out.

Those are not even the strange ones. We have had the state send one child's revised birth certificate (with her new adoptive name and all of our information on it) to her birth mothers address, another state revised the birth certificate but kept both the birth mothers name and mine on it along with the birth moms address (it was a home birth.) We had a judge at finalization state "This child's original parents were....and ....from...." all information that we had no clue of before he told us. And then he (the judge) handed us the entire court file and asked us to take it down to the first floor clerk of court. ACK! That was one of our more 'closed' adoptions, until the court decided to ignore it's own rules.

Usually the slip-ups are simple, missed names or birth dates on 'sanitized' paperwork or additional things included in a file at the last minute. I have to assume that since we know so much about all of our birth mothers that was not meant to be shared, that they also have much more about us then we know about.

So how do we deal with that? To be honest, as moms we automatically jump to the worst case scenario where the child is snatched out of our front yard by some desperate and dangerous biological relation, never to be seen again. Nasty thought isn't it? Not very helpful in the whole adoption discussion either.

Over the years I've had reoccurring nightmares that run along those lines, I have lived through the court struggles when biological family members have come out of the woodwork months after a child has been placed in our home and I have at times wished we lived a more private life so that we would not be so easy to find.

But God has dealt with each of those fears very specifically. We have been called to live in a neighborhood with all sorts of people: sex offenders, drug dealers, seriously ill mental health patients, the homeless and who knows what else. So living where we do, why would I be more worried about a birth family that chose adoption over abortion, trying to harm my child, than I would about the neighbors?

My bad dreams are always a good reminder to trust and pray. And the court battles have strengthened our commitment to the particular child - through disabilities and challenges our roots of faith ran deeper when we had to wait and pray to keep her. Our public life has encouraged many families to adopt and we have been blessed with the opportunity to partner is some truly amazing situations as God brings beauty out of ashes.

To date, we haven't had a birth family show up on our doorstep, but it might happen. I haven't had any strange emails or letters through the post. But if they do come we know that the same strong God who built our family can see the end from the beginning and will never leave us nor forsake us. If that day comes we will deal with it because we know that no door is ever truly 'closed' unless the Lord seals it and that the Bible promises that all things work together for the good of those who love Him. We love Him and so we trust in Him.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Praise God for longer days in February!

It's 5:25pm and my kiddos are all out playing in the DAYLIGHT in the melting snow. I suppose it's more like twilight, but it isn't pitch dark! There are even enough neighborhood kids out that we haven't met that we will need to review the rules for our family and paying attention to the signs of danger.

Spring is coming - I have hope again.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Does anyone toothbrush holder?

As I look around the new bathroom I doubt that there is going to be a place for my cool toothbrush holder from Lakeshore anymore. I love it but it's time to share it forward. It's main drawback is that is it too short for adult sized toothbrushes. Our solution was to either use the shorter child sized ones or to cut the long ones down with a hack saw. If you would like it let me know......quick before I get weepy over the days when everyone was small and no one needed deodorant!

Adoption Questions and a few thoughts.........

Below I have copied a few questions that came out of a post I wrote last week after our trip to the Fetal Exposure Clinic at the UM. I will try to answer them as an adoptive mom and advocate for those who are without homes........ but remember! I am in no way anything but a stay at home mom with a a whole pack of kids.

"We would love to foster/adopt, but sometimes I wonder if we would be up to the challenge. Did you ever feel that way? We are already seasoned parents and have the compassion for these special children, yet I wonder if love is enough. I don't feel that a day goes by without my heart aching for children that need a safe home and loving parents.I have a couple of questions, if I may.

What would you say are important qualities of parents who want to foster/adopt these special kids?My husband and I only have high school diplomas, and all of these challenging "diagnosis" are intimidating. I ask myself, will we be up to the challenge....will love be enough?

We've dealt with ODD with our teenage daughter, OCD with two of our other children, all of which we've sought professional help, so we've had only a small taste of the challenges special kids have.How do your other children manage with the behavior/needs of your special kids? How do you support them? We have two young sons at home (7 & 10) and while they are very compassionate, I am certain that having special needs kids would be challenging to them and we would need to know how to best meet their needs also.God bless you guys :o)Joanne"

Dear Joanne,

I don't struggle with the question of begin able to parent these kids in my own strength any more. I am 100% sure that I can't. I have a bad temper, a selfish nature, I am prone to pity parties and I don't even like babies! That being said, I trust that the God who called me to live a life that is so different from what I expected won't leave me adrift and alone.

You are right to wonder about love. Love isn't enough (though it is an essential thing) I think that more than the feeling of love - commitment is the thing that holds the family together on the hard days. We are committed. Come horrible days and sleepless nights I don't have to 'feel' love for my children, but I must be committed to living their lives with them 24/7 and suffering with them as they face their own challenges. Adding that to the rock solid assurance that God, not me, built this family, I can face the next thing without thinking about failure or plotting ways to escape.

Adopting special needs kids is a family commitment and not something that a college education really helps with. As the parent or foster parent to a kid with challenges you know you will become the expert advocate for them. Thank God for the Internet and Google!

You have a heart of compassion for those without families. As I type I am praying that God would show you what part of the adoption circle you are are being drawn toward. Adoption, foster, advocate, outreach, respite care, prayer partner or something else.....every piece of the cycle is important. Finding your place in it can be so much fun!

Blessings on your family - let me know where you end up!

What's been going on besides the flu this week......

John and I spent a good amount of time working on his Science Fair project. He had three total failures and needed to modify his testing procedures. What saved the day? One of my mom's wedding presents that she passed on to me a few years ago (thanks mom!) - a metric scale with heavy lead weights from the 60's. We needed the density + size of those weights to test the firmness of dried beans soaked in various test solutions.
Here is the happy boy with his research plan, entry form and abstract ready to mail - with a day to spare.

Construction has been flying past as we are limping along. The bathroom is wired and insulated, the fan duct is installed and Weldon started handing sheet rock yesterday. Today I should see the last of those pipes....the end of a season in my life for sure! This is the view from my kitchen - total intrigue for the kids. "What is he doing up there? What's that noise? Can I help?" We have the gate up but that doesn't stop them from sneaking in or looking for excuses to climb over. :)

Last night I picked up the floor and accent tiles - the tun, sink, toilet and other pieces should start arriving next week....this is an amazing process. I regularly stand and look at the changes that Weldon is making , understanding that this is not something we could have done outside of he and Patty following the Lords leading in their lives. Sacrifice for the sake of the body, joyful giving in the face of a recession.

Pastor John preached on this topic this weekend - offering another way to think about the shift in the US economy - He identified 5 things that God may be doing through this change and helped us to consider ways we can react not in fear but in hope. This is a paradigm shifting sermon in my life - the link is here.

This photo is the Ergo ad for the week - too bad I don't look like a fashion model. When two little boys are sick there is only so long that they can allow themselves to be comforted by the older kids. Eventually they both want their mommy and it's usually right in the middle of dinner prep.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Free antique tub....any takers?

Updating our 1900 era house always leaves a confusing pile of 'leftovers' to be shared, sold or taken to the dump. This weeks project is to find a home for the 1929, 5 foot long cast iron bathtub that is currently lounging in my garage. If you (or anyone you know) might want it is here for the taking. Double apron, really good shape and I even have the cool faucet and standing waste drain that goes with it (in reasonable shape.) Free...the market on these things is slow right now and I refuse to send it to the dump. It will become a fish pond in the yard long before that would happen!

Sea Turtle hatching vicariously through my cousins blog.......

Winter in the Midwest seems to go on for much longer than necessary, at least according to my coastal-raised, temperate zone loving, heart. My cousin Natalie is providing a much needed break from the reality of ice and snow this year by journaling her travels and adventures through the Middle East on her blog "Sand in My Latte.." Today's post on watching the sea turtles lay eggs and the hatchlings emerge is particularly fun.

Large Family Rule # 2 - Beware a jealous diaper genie....

Yesterdays special offering to the laundry god caused a backlash with the diaper genie. Not one to be neglected or short changed he (the diaper genie) pushed the boundaries of probability and the action with the sick little ones suddenly shifted from the top to the bottom end. 20 stinky diaper changes in one day is a record for me, and that isn't counting the ones that were just wet or that daddy did before or after hours.

Doughnuts don't help this situation much...but thank you God for Auntie Carrie's special homemade apple sauce that I have been saving in the freezer for such a time as this!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Large Family Rule #1 - Never turn your back on the laundry gods....

Tuesday morning, 5:30am, two below zero and I am headed out to the store in my fuzzy jammies to purchase the required offering to the laundry gods - industrial sized laundry detergent.

Don't feel bad for me, I did it to myself. Yesterday I said (out loud and in front of witnesses) "I'm taking the day off of laundry!" Followed by a foolish smirk and sassy toss of my non-laundry bearing arms.

Not a problem in itself, except that I had taken much of the weekend off also so I was already 7 loads behind......midnight came and one child threw up in their pile of winter blankets, which added two and a half more loads. Five o'clock came and a second child joined the fun..throwing up all over their bed and blankets and pillows. By 5:15am I realized that my supply of laundry soap was not going to tackle 12 loads of laundry (plus whatever else the day might bring) and that my planned COSTCO trip for the day was cancelled. The laundry gods won. at 5:45am I was back in line, both with my attitude and my physical self- standing at Rainbow with laundry soap, a cup of coffee and a box of 16 doughnuts to feed the kids who are not sick. Two points for the laundry gods, one point for mommy for making the best of it and thrilling the other 8 with unexpected treats.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Tax wrap up..........

We've been having a touch of trouble with the electronic filing options at Turbo Tax this year but I have a few answers to share.....if you are filing a MN return using Turbotax it may lockup on the 'you must provide a licence number for your daycare provider" edit test. Funny thing is that many of us who have been wrestling with this block don't have and never have had day care providers. The answer for now seems to be to enter 7 zeros (0000000) and it accepts it. Turbotax is going to fix it (so we are told) but the state has been accepting forms with these numbers on them - I will let you know if mine bounces back.

The other issue that friends have been having is with 'another' program that stated the adoption tax forms were not available yet. They are out at the IRS site and TurboTax has them functioning so I would be wary of whatever program that was that said they weren't out yet.

In the end, we used $297 of our $57,000 that we have in adoption tax credits. I wish we could donate those credits to families who could use them - wouldn't that be fun?!