Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Our Blah Humbug Christmas Year

Perhaps it had been our unseasonably warm weather.  Perhaps it had been all the writing with the book and NaNoWriMo and having something that was all my own to focus on.  Perhaps it was the intense heaviness and grief I was carrying about the Sandy Hook tragedy.  Perhaps it was dealing with the all-too-expected-yet-still-unpleasant-and-difficult-to-handle emotional dysregulation of Miles and Keenan caused by the efficient and brutal succession of Thanksgiving/St. Nick/Keenan's birthday/impending holiday gifts.  Perhaps it was all the stress in handling my extended family, many of whom are dealing with personal difficulties of their own extenuating life circumstances.

Whatever the causes, I can honestly say that I had a very, very difficult time getting into the holiday spirit this year.

A public school snow day and 8 inches of the fluffy white stuff falling in a huge storm helped chip away at those Blah Humbug feelings of mine last Thursday.   The kids and I frosted 6 dozen cut out cookies, listened to holiday music, played in the snow, drank hot chocolate, and watched a Christmas movie.

I went to bed happy, knowing that Christmas would indeed here- both in my mindset and in days to come.

* Insert ominous sound here *

I've been flat out sick in bed since Friday.  4 days of fevers up to 103.5 degrees.  Achiness.  Chills that were indescribable.  Crazy dizzy and monster headaches.  And now a cough that has taken over everything else.  No appetite whatsoever.

I have had zero desire to read, knit, watch tv, nada.   I have just shivered and hacked up bits of lung in bed, feeling. . . sick.

By Sunday, Hatfield had come down with what I have, and just as severe.  By Monday morning, it was apparent that Paloma had become infected as well.

The Mister and the boys went off to my Mom's for the family Christmas Eve celebration, and the girls and I stayed home, bundled up in my bed, too sick to eat, too tired to care, and too exhausted to focus on the movie the Mister rented for us.

The only silver lining in it all were that the girls were so sick they couldn't even really feel upset that they were missing Christmas Eve.

I've been up a bit here and now, to help the Mister put name tags on Santa gifts, and to watch the kids open their presents.  Otherwise, he's been the Man in Charge, and I've been the Mom in Bed.

I'm not really sure what the purpose of this post is, or if there is some happy and positive message to end with.  But I guess what I'm trying to do is just document this life.  Give my kids something to look back on and know that they were little once, that they were loved, that they have a story.

And that this year, 2012, their Christmas story is that Mom and Hattie and Paloma were sick in bed. 

That Dad persevered and kept everyone alive- watering and feeding the crew- comforting and medicating and spoiling the sickies-- throwing in a load of laundry or ten - assembling a dozen new toys-  ringleading the Cirque d' Cruz.  

That the Grande Christmas Feast consisted of Dad throwing in a few frozen pizzas and setting out the two leftover platters of cookies while announcing "pizza and ALL the cookies that you can or want to eat!" 

That Christmas Day which was heralded in with a chorus of coughing and Paloma's squeal of joy that she can now live her dream and dine at The Chocolate Fountain Restaurant because she got a gift card to The Golden Corral.

And looking back at it, a day later, you know, beyond the whole intensely sick thing, it wasn't a bad Christmas Day at all, after all.

Merry, Merry Christmas, from Our Family to Yours!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hatfield's Newest Sunday Night Dance Video

Yesterday was our first snowy day this winter, so last night I had two friends and their kids over for a "Soup-er Sunday Supper" (all the teens LOVED IT when I was so darn punny!)

Hattie couldn't resist the challenge of choreographing 10 crazy kids in one music video. 


Wednesday, December 05, 2012

So What's Next?

Last month, I completed a 54,000 word first draft of a novel.

So what now?

To put it in a nutshell, I have 3 (Big and Substantial) things left to do:  Decisions, Research and Re-Writing.

Decisions:  I need to decide once and for all exactly what genre my book falls under.

Different types of writing have different expectations that publishers want to see.  Romance writing differs from suspense writing which differs from crime writing.  So it's imperative to decide what my first book is fall under, so that I can appropriately direct my re-writing and novel elements, thus increasing the likelihood of publication. 

The Mister and I went on a looooonnnngg walk on Sunday, and I detailed my book for him. This was the first time I had told anyone in detail about my book, and I was quite nervous and scared to do so.  What if it was garbage? Or he laughed? Or he said it would likely be best if I just scrapped the whole deal.

Fortunately, none of those things happened and the conversation left me feeling energized and happily optimistic.  He asked great questions, brainstormed plot details with me (his creativity is far zanier than mine, so I found brainstorming with him much more successful than just by myself) and offered feedback (funny, but once I got over my initial fear and just shared it, I didn't feel overly sensitive or worried anymore)

Lesson #1:  Every author needs to find people great at brainstorming and asking the right sort of questions.  Just don't let your fear of embarrassment hold you back.

I have also spent the last week or so reading different books and researching different writing genres.

I've come to the conclusion that my book is a Romantic Suspense.

With the first draft complete, I'm at a point where I with the next draft, I could turn the book into a Romantic Suspense, or a Suspense/Thriller.

After a lot of thought and reserach, I've decided that my book is a Romantic Suspense.  One, because the book is essentially a love story (all romances have a Central Love Story and an emotionally satisfying ending) with a mystery as an integral part of the plot. 

In turning it to a Suspense, I would have had to lessen the love story and beef up the mystery part.  Both of which I do not feel I want to do with this particular story.  That can be another book for another day, but this one just isn't it.  I really like my characters in this book, and I love the whole process of them falling in love.  

Lesson #2:  After your first draft, there is an entire "business" side to polishing your work to make it suitable for publication.   I learned the hard way that spending an entire morning and early afternoo on the computer researching can make you feel utterly overwhelmed and defeated.  Best to learn a little and process it, bit by bit, no despondency required. 
So, that was very exciting(!!!) to decide on a genre.  Out of my three things left to do (and ooohhh, if they were only three simple things!), I can put a big Check next to Decisions.

Now that I've done that (Check!), I'm moving to the Research and Re-Write/Editing stage.

 I need to research several details within my novel, like a characters' career, a university degree path and finalize some details to ensure consistency through out the book.

Armed with the research, I then need to re-write, re-organize and edit.    With a genre in hand, I need to make sure my book moves along and contains the elements that publishers want to see (I need to crank up the heat a bit, since it's a romance!).  I also have a lot of cleaning up, smoothing out and tying together to do.

At times it seems very overwhelming, but you can only eat an elephant a bite at a time (does that analogy creep anyone else out as much as me?  I just wanted to write it down to see if I could feel okay with it being in my work. . ahhhh. .  nope!)

I don't have any idea if this book will be publishable material, and honestly, I'm okay with that.  I am very much enjoying the entire process.  Someday, yes, maybe something will be published-- this or something entirely different.  But each step is a step in the right direction, and I intend on making the most of it.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Winterbourne vs. Summerbourne

Several years ago, the Mister and I realized that we needed to work on reconnecting throughout the week.

All because at some point, unbeknowst to us, our toddlers grew into kids and developed lives and schedules of their own.  It snuck up on us, but it was undeniable:  we reached a point where our 24/7's were taken up by jobs and kids and schoolwork and housework and carpooling and email and pets and grocery store runs for one item and individual hobbies and bedtime routines where at least one of us fell asleep with the kids due to sheer exhaustion.

We realized that we needed some "us" time and some "thing" that was ours alone to share (beyond the obvious.  Sheesh.)

Our list of "Our Thing" qualifications:  it had to be free-ish, it had to be something we could do at home, and it had to mutually agreed upon (I'm neither going to take up UFC watching, nor is the Mister gonna pick up knitting needles.)

Enter the Trashy Cable Series, which we could watch in succession at our leisure.   In our home.  At little expense.  That we both enjoyed.  With no kids (who are tucked in bed.)


We've been doing this for 2 years now, and it's been a great thing.  We've run through Breaking Bad, some of The Sopranos, True Blood,  The Walking Dead, and now we're through Season 2 of Justified (and for the love of God, will one of you girls please watch this show so we can gush about Timothy Olyphant together?  Because gushing about him to the Mister just isn't working for me!)

It's been a great time for us.

Granted, we've had our Hits and Misses with this endeavor.

Like the time when we were drinking wine while watching The Walking Dead, and we were like, "Hey! Let's play a game like Strip Poker, but instead we strip an article of clothing each time a zombie gets killed!"

Sure, it's all fun and games until you find yourself completely naked about 4 minutes into the show because there's that much zombie killing.

And then you realize there's 41 minutes of show left to watch.  I don't know about you, but watching all that zombie killing while naked just didn't do it for me.  Go figure.

One series that has been a total "Hit" for us has been The Game of Thrones.

We didn't start off with the tv show as our introduction to this series.  A while back, the Mister and I started reading George R. R. Martin's novel The Game of Thrones, which is the first book in his Fire and Ice Series.

Which, Holy Hell, this book series is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.  Abso-freaking-lutely Epic.

A funny side story:  We had checked out one copy from the library, which we shared and co-read.

How does sharing and co-reading work as a married couple?  Like this:

The Mister's Turn:  Reads at the kitchen table while eating a meal (multi-tasking) with his wife pacing behind him saying, "Are you done yet? Can you read any faster?  Don't tell me what happens?  Does so-and-so die? No, don't tell me?  Can't you hurry up?  Your dinner can wait you know!"

My Turn:  Takes the book, runs a bubble bath, locks the door and leaves the children and the dishes for the Mister.

Seriously, why the Mister puts up with me, I don't know.  I'm horrible!  (But I suspect it has something to do with my willingness to play Strip Zombie Killing after a glass of cheap wine on a Tuesday evening.)

Anyway, side story aside, after we finished Book 1, we decided to watch The Game of Thrones cable tv series.

Seeing the characters come to life has been awesome, and now has given us a whole new "us" thing to share.

 *** Side Note:  I think every couple should have fun "us" things to share with one another to make everyday life more enjoyable.  One example I've blogged about before is the important role Chuck Norris plays in our marriage. 

Lots of side notes in this post.  I have a wandering sort of mine, today. ***

If you are unfamiliar with the Game of Thrones, it is an epic tale of a land in (maybe) medieval times.  Martin deftly and beautifully weaves a tale of three principal families and the land that they live in.

Of the three principal families, one is of the North (the Starks) one of the South (the Lannisters/Baratheons) and one is near-extinction, outcast to an outside land (the Tagaryens).  That's the simplest way I can put it.

I love the the northern family, The Starks.  Their family motto is:  Winter is Coming.  They are a strong, honorable, noble, hard-working and rugged.

The more Southerly family, the Lannisters and the Baratheons, well, they are more refined.  Beautiful, devious and dastardly, the men are a bit on the . . . I guess if there were such a thing as a metrosexual male at this point in time, that's what they would be.    They value possession, cunning, luxury and power. 

Within my own marriage, I am the Stark (northerner.)    I was born on January 25th in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The average temperatures on January 25th in this part of the world are a high of 24 degrees F, and a low of 9 degrees F, wind chill not applied.

Hence, I am Winterbourne.  I made up that title and gave it to myself.  Fancy, huh?

Now, if I, the northerner, is Winterbourne, you can imagine what the Mister is.

For background, my Mister was born on January 8th in Tamuning, Guam, where on such a day, the average high temperature is 85 degrees and the average low temperature is 75 degrees, and where there is no such thing as a wind chill.

Hence, he is Summerbourne.

We now have this huge running joke whenever the subject of cold weather or general heartiness applies:  the Mister will tease me that I'm a Stark.  Although I don't really take it as an insult, because to me, the Starks are all pretty bad-ass.

For instance, every morning, regardless of the weather, I take the dogs for a walk.  Earlier this week, it was quite cold around the 20 degree mark, and the Mister, on his way to work, pulled over, unrolled his window and announced loudly:  "Good Lord, it's snowing out.  You Stark Women are batty!"

(Really, he means:  You are a bad-ass northern woman! Whoohooo!  I wish I could be as tough and awesome as you!   He just might not know that's what he means, but I can decipher the code.)

Whenever he acts, well, not Winterbourne, I tease him that he is Renley Baratheon, who is a bit of a dandy.

An example:

The Mister:  I really wish sock suspenders would make a comeback.  Now that's style!
Me:   Whatever, Renly!

For the record, I'm not joking.  The Mister has declared this, and often, throughout our marriage. 

Yet, alas, the poor unfortunate soul known as the Mister somehow got trapped in a cruel twist of fate, and married a Winterbourne maiden.

He held out hope against hope that his children, who so clearly were born of his Summerbourne looks, would also be the bearers of  some Summerbourne tendencies.

But look at that Mini-Mister!
Is it a photo from Cliff's childhood,
 or is it Atticus?  
Hint:  If the person in the photo is having fun in the snow, 
it's Atticus!

Winterbournes let their babies play in the snow,
to the shock and disdain of Summerbournes.

He further held out hope that his sons born of Haiti, a Summerland, would be Summerbourne in character.  Yet fate dealt another blow.

Winterbournes at heart.

A man as refined as the Mister could trust that a petite, dainty canine creature like a papillon named Trixie d'Belle would surely be a Summerbourne dog?

Fierce and Winterbourne. 
A direwolf in disguise, I do believe.

Poor, poor Mister.  It looks like he and his friend Colonel Sanders are the only Summerbourne people around up here in our neck of the Great North Woods.

Yet one would think that if he can't beat them, he could join them?  Certainly a solid dozen years in the Frozen Tundra turn this warm Summer spirit into a hearty Northern Soul.

  One would think. . .

 Summerbourne to the core.  
Perhaps another dozen years will see progress. . . 

PS to the Mister:  Renley would like to know
where you got your dashing sweater and matching cap.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

NaNoWriMo Winner!

Did you see my NaNoWriM Counter over to your right?  Take a peek.

See it now?  See what it says?

It say's Winner!
(Please note that "winning" NaNoWriMo is very much like completing a marathon.  It does not matter who got it done first, or who wrote the best story out of all of the stories written.  It's personal.  Finishing a marathon is Winning in and of itself.   NaNoWriMo is very much the same thing-- "Winning" = "Finishing.")

So, I did it!  I won!  I finished! 

I wrote a novel this month.

I actually typed in the words, The End.

My word count is currently at 52,730.

I am crazy, giddy, happy.

I feel like I should have an Academy Award speech.  Essie suggested this one:

"I'd like to thank the Academy and the Public Schools of America" for educating my children and giving me uninterrupted hours of peace and quiet each morning to write.

It's so true.

As sappy and formulaic as this might sound, this entire process has resulted in so much more than just writing an entire novel.

I'm not sure if people who have not been a stay at home mom or who do not parent a small army of children will understand this, but I know for certain that those of us who find themselves in this role can understand this. 

For years, I have put pretty much ALL of me into raising my family.  Which is something I wholeheartedly love and have chosen to do.

Looking back, I would not have done any of it differently.  I love being a Mom.  I don't feel like I was robbed or cheated of myself in those early years.  I mean, a lot of those hours were spent merely keeping the little rugrats alive (especially Paloma!  Man, that kid had a wild streak and seemed like she was born with the tattoo "Death Wish" written over her fearless little heart.)  I certainly don't regret those keeping-'em-alive hours I gave.

I loved the hours spent nurturing my children into the people they are today.  In turning my house into a home. I don't regret those hours either.  Truth be told, I don't even mind when I think of all those house I spent in doing the unglamorous work of cleaning up after sick kids,  healthy kids, kids-who-could-turn-out-dirty-laundry-like-they-were-Oompa-Loompas-churning-chocolate.

It's all part of the Motherhood territory.  And I'm okay with that.

As my children age, and need my immediate supervision less and less, and demand so much less of me on a day-by-day basis (oh the joy of children who got their own snowpants on going out to play in the snow!),  I find that I now have things within me to fill.  I have time to work on myself.

When I put my children in public school this year, a huge part of my intent was two-fold:  One) I needed time to rest and heal my battered self from the summer and life as a trauma mama.  Because, the honest-to-goodness truth of it is that parenting children with trauma and attachment issues takes a HUGE toll on a mother.


Two) I needed to Reclaim Myself, both as a woman whose children are growing and becoming adults who now is finding time and freedom, and as a woman who has had trauma (not my children, mind you, but the actual toll that comes from living with severe trauma around the clock) has done to chip away at my self.

Writing a novel, 'winning' NaNoWriMo, has awarded me with something far bigger than a novel:  this process has been about me Reclaiming Myself.

My brain.
My creative energies.
Parts of me that I did not connect with or utilize for years now.

I feel so very alive.  I feel the electric charge that one feels when they are surrounding themselves with their creative powers.

This has been a marathon of sorts for my spirit.  To know that I can stick with it, keep going, try new things.  Work through the 'stuck times.'  It's all been good.

So very, very good. 

Monday, November 12, 2012


My "official" word count at close of day yesterday, Sunday, was 21,022.

I am finding this entire experience to be exhilarating.  And challenging.  And framework-changing.

The strongest feeling and thought I have at this point in the novel-writing process is this: 

I never should have been afraid to just jump in and write down the story.

Yet, for years, I was.  Doubt always ate away any potential inkling that maybe I should write it down.

For years, I've imagined up scenarios with this character, but in my head, those story lines never seemed very developed.    Each morning I take the dogs for a walk, and in my head, I would think out llittle plots and details.

Those walks are an hour tops and well, I felt there was only so much I can do, in my head, in an hour. Especially when I have to focus on the important stuff like crossing busy streets, or visiting with the occassional fellow dog walker, or picking up doggie doo without getting it on my mittens.

Namely, I felt like I was not creating enough in my head during that time to give it any merit.

So, for years, I've been hesitant to put the story down.  For lack of developed plot, lack of interesting characters, or enough characters.  For fear of having an inauthentic voice in the creation of characters who think things and have careers outside the realm of my daily life.

Now I feel silly for letting all of those fears dictate me.  Chalk this up to a Big Life Lesson that I am so glad I have learned now, before another year goes by.

What I'm learning is that as I immerse myself into this world of writing a novel, my characters are coming to life.  My plot is deepening, growing, twisting and turning.

I mean, 7 days in for me, and I know how my novel is going to end!  I was so worried that I would have no idea how to end it.  I was unsure if there was even enough of a story to actually have an ending.

I still have the same routine of sorts.  I get up, get the the kids ready for school, and we walk the dogs with us on the way there.  I kiss my babies good-bye, then continue my walk with my canine companions for another half hour or so.  I give that time to thinking about my story.

I arrive back home, pour a cup of coffee, and sit down to write.

I'm learning to trust in the process.  That, like millions of writers before me have learned, that you sit and you put words on paper and you get that first draft down, quality and inner editor be damned.  I am reading the pep talks from other NaNoWriMo writers and I'm taking them as truth.  I am trusting in the same process that they trusted in.

I'm going to have a lot of work, post-first draft.

But I am SO very excited for that work.

I need to deepen my characters.  Work on building relationships with one another.  Deal with some quirky plot inconsistencies. 

I need to research certain careers.  I really need to look at a map or two and read some restaurant reviews.

It's gonna be fun. For real.  I'm not being facetious.  I'm so amped by this whole process.  Parts of my brain that haven't been used for years are being put into use again, being challenged and stretched.

When first beginning, I was mortified at the thought of having someone else read my work.  Not anymore.  That no longer scares me.  The draft will be there.  To be challenged, changed, improved.  After all the work that has gone into it, I no longer feel uncomfortable with the thought of letting someone else read it.

21,022 words.  Words that were non-existent before 7 days ago.  28,798 delicious words to go.

I am doing this.  And it feels good. 

Tuesday, November 06, 2012


I'm doing it.

NaNoWriMo  (National Novel Writing Month)

I'm going to write a novel.  In a month.  50,000 words is my goal.  Roughly 1,600 words a day.

I'm a bit behind, because I started 5 days late, but that's okay.  But I should be caught up by Days 10 or 11.

A huge coping mechanism from trauma parenting/life's issues for me (beyond Bones and trashy cable series-- Justified anyone?  OMG is it gooooo----oooooddd!), is having little stories going on in my head.  Alternative realities, if you will.  I think them up when I walk the dog, when I'm vegging out in a waiting room, etc.  I rather enjoy living vicariously through the people I create.

So, I'm taking one that I've had in my head for years running and I'm writing it down.

It won't be the "oh you've been through so much you should really write a book" book that people so often tell me to write.

Because, honestly, I don't know what I'd write about that just yet.

I don't doubt people when they tell me that.  There has to be a story to be told somewhere in the midst of all that's going on.  But the problem, for me, right now, is that I'm in the midst of it.  I find myself living in a huge metamorphosis where everything I know-- my definitions of love, trust, family, parenthood, friendship-- is being challenged and restructured.

I trust that the book inside me, about all of that, will come later.  

But, the caveat is that I have to start somewhere.  And later, I will have to get in the habit of writing.  But for now?

I just have to begin.

Writing is basically labor-intensive.  Someone on the NaNoWriMo blog labelled it "blue collar work" and I am finding it to be quite true.

NaNoWriMo sends out little "pep talks" each morning in the inbox they give you.

I like that.

This morning, Gennifer Albin sent out the message (and wow!  look at her blog!  Now I very much want Hatfield and I to read her book.)   Which basically boiled down to this:   Go through the process.  Write.  To be a writer, you have to believe it and you have to get it written down.

So I did what she told me:  I wrote on a sticky pad:

I will be a writer.
I will write books.
Starting this very month.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Thankful #2

Hatfield Louise is feeling VERY thankful this month, as yesterday morning she got her braces off!
Photo: Look who got her braces off this morning!!!
And 8 months ahead of schedule, too :)

I suppose I should say that I'm thankful we're not going to the orthodontist office once a month, but truthfully, I loved those appointments.  They meant quiet,uninterrupted knitting time for me.

 Oh well, 4 more kids' worth of Ortho Knitting time ahead of me.  If that's not a silver lining, I don't know what is ;)

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Dad/Daughter Duo

Later on this month (on Thanksgiving, actually), the Mister and I will celebrate 12 years of marriage. 

Yet, our marriage was not the only thing that came out of that little elopement ceremony in a tiny little chapel on Capital Hill in Seattle.  An equally important union created that day: the creation of our family.  The Mister not only became a husband, but a father.

I am a very lucky woman to have married a man who so willingly, happily and openly welcomed Hatfield into his heart and his life.  Especially when we live at a time where society kind of turns a blind eye to "deadbeat dads" or dads who bring a ton of toxicity and poor relationships into their children's lives.  She was not his "burden to bear," yet, he never looked at her as a burden, but only as a joy.

Cliff has always put Hatfield and her happiness and her best interest first in his life.  He has never felt threatened by or stepped in the way of her relationship with her bio dad.  Last year, the Mister bought Hatfield and I plane tickets to Washington so she could see her birth grandparents and birth dad and his family as her 13th birthday present.  And this past May, when Hatfield's bio dad came out to visit, Cliff went for a 6-mile run with him one morning, just the two of them.  I am so grateful for my husband's ability to always, always take the high road and show his love for his girl.

Every day, I marvel at the close and wonderful relationship these two people have with one another.  "Experts" say that one of the greatest indicators as to whether a teen girl will be "successful" (as in, graduate high school, not get pregnant, go to college, have healthy relationships with teachers and peers) is whether or not she has a healthy relationship with her father.

Now, Hatfield is a great person.  She's been a delight to raise.  Those years when it was just her and I (and Ernie) are among the absolute happiest of my life.  I'm sure Hatfield would have turned out just fine had it been her and I.

But, her relationship with her Dad is phenomenal, and I think that has added so much more into the person she has become.
Hattie cracking up at Dad's attempt to make a scary face

Cliff is great at talking to her when I am bent out of shape, at working things out through emotional or horror-monal times.  He is always happy and willing to drive carpool, do late night dance pick ups, or get his girl ice cream at the end of a long day.

My mother once commented how she loves to see Hatfield jump into the front seat of Cliff's car and watch them laugh as they share a joke or try to find a mutually agreed upon song on the radio.

Hatfield has loooongggg loved all things scary.  She certainly shares that with her Dad, as he has introduced her to the likes of The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock, M. Night Shyamalan, and all sorts of other creepy things  (my list is poor because I DO NOT LIKE SCARY!)  When her birth dad visited in May, she watched The Woman in Black with her Dad and her birth dad.  Clearly, scary runs on the paternal side in Hattie, as both her Dads like scary (and I DO NOT LIKE SCARY!!)

This year, we found out that a local haunted house  operates with volunteers, and that the minimum volunteer age is 14.  Meaning, Hatfield is old enough to work at the haunted house.

Most of the people working it are 15-25, so no way were we going to send Hatfield there by herself.  So the Mister made sure she was able to work there by volunteering and going along with her.

Case in point as to why we didn't let her go alone:  One day while standing in make-up line, a 21-year old guy chatted it up with Cliff.  Then he noticed Hatfield standing behind Cliff, and clearly didn't make the connection (people don't often assume that the lily white blond girl is the Asian guy's daughter.)    He side-stepped Cliff and approached Hatfield.

"Hi, I'm Robert, but all my friends call me Mac."  Puts his hand out for Hatfield to shake.  "And you are?"

Hatfield blankly stared at him.  "Okay." she responded, and turned around to talk to the person behind her.

"Dude, she's my daughter," Cliff informed his new friend "Mac."

And "Mac" went and found a new spot in line.  Imagine that.

Never mind the fact that her Dad was the oldest fellow in the joint, or that she was pretty much the only one with her parent there.  Hatfield couldn't have cared less.  She happily went each week with the Mister, showing up at 4 to stand in line for up to 2 hours for costumes and make up, and then working until 1 am.

They had a blast.

They came home each night looking creepified beyond belief.  I would usually fall asleep on the couch (watching Bones-- made it to Season 6!  NO SPOILERS in the comments!)  Upon their arrival home, the dogs going bonkers would jar me awake.  Half awake and jittery from the beserk dogs, I would go to the front door, terrified out of my mind, because I never knew what faces would greet me.

Faces like this:

That pic still makes me shudder :)

So as we approach our anniversary, in this Month of Thanksgiving, I can't help but to reflect on the things for which I am thankful.   And this relationship between my husband and my eldest daughter is definitely one of the things that I am most thankful for.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tik Tok

The Haitian Sensations have a cute little morning routine when they brush their teeth.

Keenan:  "I wake up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy." 

Miles: "Before I leave brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack."

Brushing then commences.

This morning, I stuck my head into the bathroom and said, "Hey, what's a bottle of Jack?"

They both gave each other a look, which instantly made me worried and suspicious.

Both of naught, as I soon realized the look was along the lines of:  Whoa, our mom is DENSE.

"This," Miles held up the toothpaste.  "You know, this is a bottle of Jack Frost snow, but really, it just means toothpaste.  Cause you use it to brush your teeth."

Why yes, that's exactly what it means.

* * * * * * *

While I find Ke$ha (which I always say:  "Kay-Ee-Dollar Sign- Ha" just like the principal on Glee) to be pretty much abhorrent, I'll be damned if her music isn't catchy.

This song is my newest on the iPod, and I love it.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Good Dog Gone

When I go back to the very beginning of my 5FC blog, it's quite evident to me that it's main purpose has always been a recording of our lives.   Many times I have blogged a sweet or funny moment with the family, only to forget, only to then have my blog help me remember.

Then the Haitian Sensations came home, and the entire experience of parenting PTSD/Attachment-challenged kids turned my life upside down, my blog kind of shifted.  I had zero energy for blogging many of the good moments because I was trying to just survive the rest of the time.  My blog was my way to reach out and find a community to help me get through these dark moments.

But now, having found such a community in my real, day-to-day life, I find that my use of my blog is shifting once again, back to a means of recording my family's life and times--our history, if you will.

So, a very sad event for us this past May was the passing of our beloved, 3-legged wonder Ernie.

It was time.  We knew it was coming for some time, and eventually, all too soon, it was very evident that the time was upon us.

I adopted Ernie in 1999, when he was about 7 months old, and when it was just Hatfield and myself.  Ernie made us a family of 3.  Ernie was three-legged even then, having had been beaten by a group of teens as a stray puppy.  He had been at the Humane Society for about 2 months when Hatfield and I went in one day and fell in love with his sweet spirit.

But man, though, was he a pain in the keester, as many good dogs can be.  He was a pain to house train.  He was a pain because he had the escape artistry skills of a canine Houdini.  And he was a pain because his very unique Beagle Bay seemed otherworldly.

But he was ours.  And we loved him.  And even though he had a horrible start to life, and I wouldn't have blamed him one bit never to trust a human again, that dog, he loved us.

He loved his girl Hattie Lou most of all.

A house full of kids and dogs and cats is not everyone's idea of a great life, but it is for me.   For me, it's everything.

I remember winter days when I would load little Hattie Lou up in her sled to for walks with Ernie.  Hatfield and I would stick to the shoveled sidewalks, but not Ernie.

He would bound--fly, really-- through those snow banks.  Floppy beagle ears flapping behind him.  Leaping like a jack rabbit, crazy-eyed with glee.  Those walks were delightful and amazing.

One of our favorite Ernie stories is that he caused us to nearly miss our wedding! Well, not literally our wedding, but I nearly missed the plane I was flying out on to Seattle so I could elope with the Mister.

I had put Ernie in our fenced backyard while I was loading up the car with luggage.  I had to drive Hatfield and I three hours south to Chicago's O'Hare airport, and I needed to get on the road, and quickly.

I went back to the fence to retrieve Ernie when I discovered him missing.  5 minutes he had been gone, tops, but as far as Beagle on the Loose time goes, he could gain a lot of blocks in 5 minutes.

Frantic, I searched the blocks up and down.  No luck there.  I strapped Hatfield into her carseat and drove up and down the streets, window open, because with Ernie I knew it was more likely that I would hear him before I could see him.

Finally, I gave p and headed home.  Sick to my stomach, there was no way that I could leave Green Bay without knowing Ernie was safe at home.

I unloaded Hatfield and went inside the house, picking up the phone to call my stepdad to enlist his help.

About 2 minutes into that call, I saw my neighbor and hero Glen carrying Ernie up the front steps.

Muddy and covered in compost, smiling ear to ear, tongue flopping and panting.

Ernie (not Glen.  Well, Glen was muddy and covered in compost, but I promise you he was neither smiling nor had his tongue flopping about.)

I made that plane, barely, and 12 years later, the Mister and I are still married.
In my mind's eye, he is in our backyard, sprawled through the grass, smiling in the sunshine, sniffing the air.

Man, I loved that dog.  We all did.

For me, this loss compounded my feelings of sadness that time is passing by so quickly.  I adopted Ernie when Hatfield was just a tot, and they grew up together.  Losing Ernie makes me realize all the more at how quickly Hatfield is growing up, and soon enough she'll be leaving and going off into the world.  What I wouldn't give to have my Hattie and Ernie little again.

Like with the passing of so many aged pets, a relief factor is present.  It was a relief to not have to wonder just how much discomfort he was in.  It was a relief to no longer have to worry that he would try getting down off the couch or attempt some stairs by himself when we were not home to help him.  It was a relief not to be woken up 3 times each night by his sharp barks calling us, to help him get off the couch, or go outside, or be carried upstairs to sleep on his doggie pillow next to our bed.

Yet every one of those worries, every one of those discomforts, every one of those times when we had to chase him down from 3 blocks over because he was on a wild squirrel chase. . . every one of those times was worth it.

Several times now since his passing, I have been awoken in the middle of the night by a single, loud, sharp Beagle Bark.  I'm pretty sure his presence is still here with us, and I think it will be for some time.  Not all of his kids are grown, and he spent many hours on the couch, just smiling and watching the busy, crazy life around him.

It hurts so much when we lose our most beloved of beloved pets.  But they make life so much lovelier, so much fuller, and so much more enjoyable.

We love you Ernie, and we miss you terribly.  
Bark and all.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

School daze

Atticus is my "homegrown homeschool" kid who is experiencing the public school system for the first time in his life, at the age of 10/grade 4.

Each day, he comes home and spends a long time (like basically every chance he gets to talk about it)  telling me about his classes, recesses, kids at school.

I love it.  And I'm thankful he is loving his first year in a public school.    Among this first month's moments:

*  My little guy is sweet-natured and easy-going, but sensitive.  The first few days of school he would still be awake at 9:30 pm, crying and worried that he missed something his teacher said.

It's okay, we explained.  Your teacher doesn't expect you to hear everything.  You're human.  Just like in homeschool, you're going to miss some of the stuff your teacher says.  Sometimes it might be a big deal, but usually it won't be.  Just relax and try not to sweat it if you don't catch everything.  No one can.

Within a week, he realized that this is indeed true, and his anxiety is gone.

*He thinks Gym/Phy Ed is just about the coolest thing ever.  I inadvertently scheduled our flu shots during his Gym class, and he was so crestfallen that I rescheduled them.'

* He is horrified by school hot lunch.  Horrified.  As is Paloma.  My Haitian Sensations, not so much.  You put food in front of them and they will eat it gladly and with gusto.  Music to this Mama's heart.  But my homegrown ones?  A little more discerning with their food selections.

Last week, the Mister was in Dallas all week for work, and by Friday morning I was wiped out and slept in a bit.  In a frantic rush to get everyone up and out the door, I mentioned that maybe I would have the kids take hot lunch for the day.

Waking up for school can be hard to do some mornings.

My two froze.  "NOOOOOO!!!" they wailed.  "Mom, really, I'll eat a peanut butter sandwich-- please!"  Atticus does NOT like peanut butter, so I knew this was serious.  So I slapped together some quesadillas, threw in the last of the apples and grapes, and sent them on their merry, cold lunch-toting way.

* Our school is just over 50% Hispanic, and Atticus' particular class is about 75% Hispanic.  Atticus both looks Hispanic and has a Hispanic surname (although it comes by way of Spain and not Latin America.)  The first week of school, none of the kids believed Atticus when he told them he doesn't speak Spanish.  And no one really knew of a place called Guam so his explanation did not gel with the class.

"They think I'm playing a game and pretending I can't speak it," he said.  "Those kids need a SERIOUS geography lesson.  This is the problem with American education.  Geography does not begin or end with America."

I can't tell you just how much I love discovering that my kids listened to me in homeschool :)

* This week they had WKCE/State testing.  They were given a prep test so the kids could understand what was going on and prepare themselves for a day of testing.

Atticus, on his walk home:  "Mom, do you know that they have tests where you have to choose A, B, C or D?"

"I do."

"And did you know that you don't circle the letters?  I thought you had to circle them.  But did you know that instead you have to fill them in real tiny like with a pencil?"

That made me smile, and still smile when I think of it.  How these experiences are so new to him.  "I had to do that when I was young and in public school."

"It's kind of crazy.  And very inefficient.  And you know if you can explain something or write about it, that's really the best way to show what you know."

Ah yes, my boy, I do know that.    And I'm proud that you know that, too.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Reason #37,392 Why the Mister Makes Me Laugh

I love my husband. 

I'm not the best at showing it or professing it publicly,  But I do love him, very much so.  I love how he makes me laugh.  I love the enthusiasm in which he approaches life, and the way he demonstrates that zeal to his kids.

My husband is employed in the sales industry.  A career which is considerably far outside my comfort zone, I completely respect his ability to get up each and every day to put himself out there, facing rejection and sometimes being treated rather shabbily.

Yet he does it each and every day with an energy and flair that my husband possesses.  The truth is that Paloma has so much pizazz because she is the Mister's daughter.

Before you go and think I'm being sappy or dramatic, hold your horses.  Today I come bearing proof of that flair and pizazz.

His company recently had a Send Us Your Karaoke Video contest for their reps as a way to hype up a new product they are getting ready to launch.   The Mister received several emails from coworkers with comments like, "You were born to win this contest!"  which was all the prompting his Salesman Ego (I'm not being mean-- all good sales people need to have a delicate balance of humility and ego to keep moving forward while convincing people to buy whatever it is they are peddling) needed to try and go Over.The.Top.

Hatfield jumped at the chance to help him with his video as director and videographer.  He got all the kids involved, and one afternoon last week they all jumped in Cliff's car and drove about Green Bay, filming and dancing.

And here's the end result.    Enjoy!

Monday, October 08, 2012

Hitting Home

This past weekend I was reduced to tears and inspired Allison Tate's essay "The Mom Stays in the Picture." You can read it here.

Within my family, I am notorious for never wanting my picture taken.  I will balk, hide, or beg offer to take the photo-- anything to get out of actually being in a photo.   Every year, for our family Christmas card, I have to search high and low to find a photo with me in it to put on our card. Every year I'm tempted to let the fact that I wrote the Christmas newsletter lie alone as proof of my continued existence.

I think this article has changed that forever. Miss Po is always begging to have our picture taken together. She loves the iPhone, and the girl knows how to use it.  I enjoy improving my photos on Instagram, and sharing them with distance family and friends. But I never put up pictures with me in it.

Well, no longer. I'm going to start sharing.  Even if it means ignoring that icky feeling I have in my stomach at putting these less-than-flattering photos of myself up.  But I love my kids enough to want to leave them photos of me to look at when they are grown.

Because truth me told, I love and cherish all the photos I have of me with my parents as a child.  Especially with my Dad gone 21 years, I get how important this can be.

So here's my start. 

Paloma and I at Kelly Lake.

Paloma and I cuddling in the living room.
The Mister and I enjoying a child-free getaway this past July in Marquette, Michigan.

K-man and I on the train at Bay Beach.
Mr. Miles and Manmi.
Being silly.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hey Ho

Can't get enough of this little tune. . .

Enjoy your Thursday!  It's sunny here, and for the first time in weeks, I woke up and felt like doing something other than lying about, coughing up a lung or two.

I'm going to light a candle, open up some windowns, enjoy making my house a home again today, all while humming this tune.

I belong with you, you belong with me, you're my sweetheart. . .

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Powerful Words: This is Not about Me

Many years ago, my mother had stuck a photocopied article up on her fridge.  Which I promptly took down, photocopied and stuck up on my fridge.

Where it still hangs.

The article has had a profound impact on me.  It's a short, two-column essay written by a woman who was sharing how she got through her darkest days.

Long story short, while married, her husband had left her and their young son for his dentist's attractive, young assistant.

After spending countless months lamenting that she did the wrong things, agonizingly evaluating it over and over again to determine what she did wrong, she received the advice: There is nothing personal going on here.  

Her husband was writing his story. He had his set of experiences in his life, created his path, made his choices.  All of his bad choices were a culmination of those experiences and framework.

Not hers.  It was his story.   His bad choices were about him.  She had her own framework, her own story, her own choices to make.

Her own story.  His needing to feel virile, sexy, powerful was not about her.

This resounded with me hugely.  Not because the Mister has left me for our dental assistant (he hasn't), but because I realized that, up to that point, I had spent an inordinate amount of my life beating myself up about choices that, simply put, were not made by me and were never mind to make.

Shortly after reading that, This is Not about Me became my personal mantra.

Living with traumatized, attachment-challenged children, I see a lot of big feelings being acted out, most often directed at me.

I get it, but it doesn't make it any easier, both at the moment of the behavior, and when, day after day, it all adds up until a huge blanket of negativity.

For the most part, I find I am hyper-sensitive, prone to over-reaction and feeling much more hurt that I should.

So many times, the phrase This is Not about Me has helped me move forward in these tough times.

I have written it on pages and pages in a journal.  I have tapped it.  Spoken it, hummed it, screamed it.
When one of my boys shows me his "big feeling" in actions designed to anger, humiliate, alienate me, I say, "This is NOT about me."

My boys have tough early chapters in their lives.  Really tough chapters.

Chapters I had no hand in penning.

I am not responsible for that trauma.  And when that trauma rises up and acts out in actions designed to anger, humiliate, or alienate me, I have to continually remind myself , "This is NOT about me."

I am a good mama.  I have 3 children I have grown and raised.  They are growing up into good people.

This is NOT about me helps me put my own reactions into perspectives.  It helps me gain empathy for my boys while detaching myself from the emotional powder keg I often find myself in.

I have been a safe, loving Mama to my Haitian Sensations.  I take responsibility for my behaviors from the moment we brought them home. That's my part of the story.

But so much of their acting out: It's not about me. 

Even if it feels like it is.

We are all writing our own stories here.  Mine is that of adding these boys in, and helping them work through their feelings and grow.

 Theirs is of making their way through a life that began in the worst of all possible ways.

This is NOT about me helps me deal with adults in my life.

So often, because of my hyper-sensitivity, I find myself over-reading situations until I realize that it is likely not about me and I am able to reign myself back in.

And in cases where I am not being hyper-sensitive and someone is indeed being an asshat, it helps me work through my feelings and move forward without being held back.

It's been a good mantra to have in these tough times.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Momentum, Interrupted

It's funny out the best-laid plans can be completely waysided.

Having hours, in a row, alone in my house (not truly alone, as Hatfield is here with me.  But she's a young adult, completely enjoyable, great self-starter and never a saboteur) for the first time in 14 years, I couldn't help but make giddy plans to Get. Things. Done.

Gardening.  Canning.  Painting.  Organizing.  Donating goods and purging garbage.

Ooooooo, the plans I had.

Well, plans for after taking that first week to sit on the couch and stare at the walls.  And nap.  Because the summer wore this Mama plum out.

But wouldn't you know it, about a week and a half ago, just when I am raring to go, I get the flu.  Badly.

I force manage recovery in order to attend Paloma's First Packer Game.

Every year Atticus receives four tickets from Uncle Fred.

The first year he took Cliff, Miles and Keenan.

The second year he took Cliff, Hatfield and her friend Hayley.

The third year-- this year-- he took Cliff, myself and Paloma.

Paloma waited 3 years for this moment!  And wouldn't you know it but the munchkin scored herself BOTH the Bears game and a nighttime game.

But the game did me in. I came home and within a day I had a fever, head and chest cold.

A week and a half later, and I am still not recovered anywhere near the extent that I would like to be.

But, the house hasn't gone anywhere for the past how many years, and it's not going to go anywhere now.  So the projects can wait.

In the meantime, I have become completely hooked on the tv series Bones.  Have you seen this?

One day this summer, at Kelly Lake, my mother was lamenting that she left her Kindle at home and she had nothing to read.  I went through some magazines I had stashed in our trailer, but it turned out that they were all magazines she had passed on to me.

We went for a walk-- lo and behold!-- we found a large box of paperback books with a "Free for the Taking!" sign on it.   Unbought leftovers from a garage sale, I'm guessing.

And one of Kathy Reich's Temperance Brennan novels was in that box.  I read the book in 2 days flat, and then found out that the books were the inspiration for the show Bones.

Seriously, could Seely Booth be any more attractive?  I don't think so!

Bones is on Netflix.  Watching really good series all at once it is the way to go, especially for obsessive/compulsive series watchers/readers like myself :)  Nothing makes me happier than finding a great series of books or tv to dig into, especially at the start of Autumn.

But I'm only on Season 2, Epidsode 5, so NO spoilers :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


It's been awhile.

A loooonggg while.

Summer was busy, and wonderful, and terrible, and fun, and miserable, and exhausting.

Last week I was so overly emotional that I wanted to post, but couldn't.

This summer, we hit the three year mark of having our Haitian Sensations home, and while I know that we have come sooooo far, I also find myself struggling with the realization that some of these really difficult behaviors aren't going anywhere, anytime soon.

I feel like such a weenie half the time, but the drip-drip-drip of behaviors, with an occasional tsunami to mix it up, of day-in, day-out behaviors has finally rubbed my nerves completely raw.

I know the behaviors aren't about me.  My little guys have had an incredibly tough start in life, a beginning which colors the way they see and interact with the world.

But the difficult behaviors are directed at me.  Me and pretty much only me.

Summer has also brought with it the usual unpleasantries like trying to figure out how to have family fun when you have children who are being heinous.  How to make sure the kids who are maintaining are not suffering by the antics of those who are not maintaining.   And how to deal with other adults who have "hurting hearts" because they are uncomfortable seeing some of the kids have fun while others sit, sullen and unwilling to interact with the world. 

It's an exhausting, lonely, tough and often maddening place to be.

One in which I feel like, to quote the brilliant Essie, I had the nothing sucked out of me. 

Well before summer was even over, I found myself teetering on complete emotional bankruptcy.  Basically, I knew I had nothing left to give. 

Not only do I have nothing left to give, I'm sadly at the point where anytime I have any negativity thrown my way, including by my husband and the other kids (who have every right to be human and make mistakes), I nearly always over-react, am over-sensitive, and can't work through it logically anymore.

This is what trauma does.  When you live with it, day in, day out, you eventually can become one pulsating, never-healing wound whose scab is constantly picked off by any errant mood thrown your way.

All summer long, I've been silently dreading the start of the school year, knowing I had to somehow muster up the energy and momentum for homeschool.

Energy and momentum that I just don't have.  

This year, I have sent all the younger four children to our local public school.  Miss Hatfield is in 8th grade and home with me, enrolled in a public online school.

The decision was both devastating, and yet a complete no-brainer.

This year in homeschool was big-- Paloma is in 1st/2nd grade. Writing abounds, reading skills are solidified and grow.  Atticus is now in 4th/5th grade, a time where the quality and quantity of work matures, where critical thinking skills are expanded.

We've always said that we talk schooling year by year, kid by kid.  And that our goal is the best education possible.

When I am fully charged, when I am "on,"  (I'm gonna toot my own horn here), I am a Kick Ass Homeschool Mom.

But this fall, on every possible level,  I know that there was no way I could flip the switch to "on."  Some mornings with the boys can be so difficult that I can be sucked dry before I even get them out the door to school.  Those mornings I find it nearly impossible to pull it together to homeschool the others, even when I am at the top of my game.

So this year, I am dedicating it to self care.  Healing.  Strengthening.  Letting go of past guilt, anger and wounds.

To trying to figure out a way for my family to Grow, Move Forward, Laugh and Enjoy itself with trauma children in the house.

To figure out what is important to me.  To throw away my old set of expectations and honestly evaluate what I should, and shouldn't be expecting and hoping from this world.

To create a set of healthy parameters in which to live.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Weekend Grocery Shopping

Life with kids certainly changes once you have a child old enough (and responsible enough) to babysit your other children. 

"Freedom" (within reason) is the word that comes to my mind.

Freedom from having to pack up all the kids when running to a dance lesson, music lesson, and my personal favorite new-found freedom:  Not having to take small children to the grocery store.

Hell yeah.

So, over time, the Mister and I have fallen into the habit of doing our family grocery shopping on a weekend morning. 

We like to think of it as a sort of Date Night, only it's in the morning.

At the grocery store.

And no wine is involved.

Which, wow, when I write all that down, it sounds like that pretty much sucks.   But it doesn't.  We grab a coffee on the way there, we take our time perusing items in the asian and health food aisles, and we rarely, if ever, have to scold each other about being careful around a tottering display of glass pickle jars.

I bet you're jealous of our totally exotic lifestyle, no?

And the coolest thing of all is that we never have to worry or wonder what our darling children are up to whilst we toil away at the grocers, because there is always evidence upon our homecoming.

Miss Hatfield rounds them all up, Atticus helps choreograph, and a different music video is shot every weekend, courtesy of Hatfield's iPad skills.

Exhibit A, for you viewing pleasure.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Summer heat-- bring it!

I've said it before and I've said it again, but I am of the belief that you may complain about one and only one season per year.

Mine is winter, because I can't grow anything out in my gardens during those loooooonnnnngggg months here in the Frozen Tundra.

I LOVE summer.  Love, love, luv, luv, LOVE summer. I was so bummed that is was the 4th of July yesterday because June went by way too quickly.

So look at this!  High 100, heat index with humidity is 110. 

That's some heat!

We're going to hit the library this morning once we shake off our post-4th fireworks sleepiness, spend the mid-day in the basement with good books, and then hit Jimmy's pool for a splash and dine evening before bedtime.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Failure to Thrive

Last week, I took Keenan in to meet with a local PhD/psych in regards to the fact that, nearly 3 years after homecoming, this child is still an enigma to us in so many ways.

After a bit of pleasant chit chat (his wife, a family doctor, delivered my Miss Hattie Lou 14 years ago), he looked from me, to Keenan, and back to me and said, "So, what brings you here?"

Kerplunk went the legal pad of my notes and reminders hitting the top of his desk.  "How much time did you give us?" I asked.

I began by explaining that, bringing it down to basics, that something doesn't seem to be gelling and that I am fearful we are missing something in the bigger picture.  We have so many things floating about that I can't begin to separate it all.  And I explained my fear that if I don't look into all that I can know, we will be making adolescence and teen years all that much more difficult. 

Systematically, I went through Keen's behaviors and coping mechanisms.  His inability to determine how he feels both physically and emotionally.  His educational history, including the entire IEP fiasco.  His medical history, including tapeworms, parasites, and nonexistent iron stores.  His path of regression, not progression.

At then end of it, the doctor sat, reviewing his notes, circling the occasional line, thinking.  Finally, he looked up at me and said, point blank, "I don't think there's a needle in this haystack."

I blinked.  I was not expecting that response.  At all.

I had to give that a moment to soak in.  Hell, I've had to give it a week to soak in.

The doctor went over his impressions with me.  Nothing Keenan has screams anything specific.  He's not on the ODD scale.  He's not aggressive, he's not violent.  He can be very compliant.  He's not RAD, although he likely has anxious or insecure attachment.  He's had some medical hiccoughs, but given his years in an orphanage, in Haiti, nothing that seems outside a "likely scenario" type of situation.  Difficult and frustrating, yes, but nothing that screams a large, systemic sort of problem responsible for it all.

He shared with me an analogy about a kitten.  If you take a baby kitten, or even a 3-month old kitten, and you put a blindfold over its eyes for an extended amount of time, then remove the blindfold, the kitten will have very undeveloped vision, if it is not in fact blind.

Retinas and corneas need visual stimulation, light/darkness, variations in movement, in order to grow and develop.

Infants and young children are the same way.  Some children, in an orphanage setting from a young age, when not receiving the stimulation/care that they need, will have developmental deficits.

Developmental deficits that may or may not be diagnosable.  Deficits that are not grandscale, but that are a constant presence, lying just under the surface of a child who can seem overwhelmingly normal at times, and overwhelmingly abnormal at other times.

 Just an overall sort of "failure to thrive," due to early life circumstances.

Some children shut down, both to themselves and the outside world.  Some to the outside world.  Some to themselves.

Keenan is pretty shut down to himself.  He wants to interact in the outside world.  He loves attention, can play organized sports with no problems, is learning in school.

But, something in him just kind of shut down.  He did not develop the ability to know what part of his body hurts or how it may feel off.  He does not have a natural ability to express emotion.

As he grows and the world around him expects a growing and maturing child (school work becomes more advanced; society expects age appropriate behaviors; peers begin noticing that the child is a bit "off" in ways), the "shut down" nature of his personhood will become increasingly apparent.

Additionally, this sort of shut down can be compounded by the fact that children learn very early on whether or not they should trust their world or whether they should distrust their world.

Clearly, Keenan's is compounded by a sense of distrust.  He trusts that he will be cared for here.  But he distrusts where his place is (meaning, how important he is) and whether he is special.  So much of his behaviors, particularly the attention-seeking and lack of impulse behaviors, come from this place of distrust.

The doctor commented that while we live in a world of diagnoses and treatment plans, sometimes, what we need is just time and patience.

A LOT of time.

A LOT of patience.

Keenan may have some processing needs which we can look into (we're testing next month), but really, we're just doing that as a double check because no one really sees consistent deficits.  We can keep up with the EMDR/trauma/Play therapies, continuing to model behaviors/concepts that are not ingrained in an orphanage-raised brain.

But in the end, Keenan may be a more passive person.  He may be a person who is not comfortable with feelings or expression.  Truth be told, I know lots of adults like this.

But what we need to do is accept the fact that time is needed.  

Having a highly regarded, very experienced professional listen to everything and say, Look, I think you've done all the right things.  I'm impressed with the resources you have utilized and your dedication to advocating for your son.  And I agree- he's a child who, wow, that's a lot to handle and sort through.  But I really think that it just is an assortment of things that are just there; that aren't connected to a central cause, other than that he lived in an orphanage, and that slowed down a lot of emotional growth and development.

The words sit right with me.  I'm a bit surprised that they do.  We live in a day and an age where we so want to assign a diagnosis to things.  To develop a plan for repairing, healing, growth and learning.

Initially, that's so what I wanted for Keenan.  I so wanted to have something put on paper, be told what resources to hunt down and utilize, and put together a plan of action to do so.  I so wanted to kick some ass for my boy, so that he can maybe have a chance to be the boy that he's somehow not.

But, at the end of the day, some children are diagnosable; some are not.    It can be okay either way.
I feel relief.  I feel peace in knowing that, as far as the professional eye can see, we really aren't missing anything.  That we have a little boy who is struggling with the growing process because of his early childhood history.

That he may be able to shed a lot of the things holding him back and grow a ton.

Or, that he may be able to only grow in little bits, here and there.  That life may be more of a struggle for him.

That we can now set aside this drive to see if there is something we are missing.  We now know what we have.

We have a need time, and patience, consistency and therapy.

Those are things I can give him.  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

New Word Submission

While I'm pretty darn positive that Paloma is my daughter (I was there, after all), I'm also sure that she is gunning to be our dear Essie Why's verbal prodigy.

Tonight she came up with a new bit of terminology that I am hereby submitting to the, ahem:

Essie Why's Dictionary of Anatomically Incorrect Terms

Front Ass:    [fruhnt] [as]


1. a male's genitalia on the front part of his body.  As in:  "Paloma, why is that little boy who were you playing Tag with on the ground crying?"  Answer:  "He ran into a pole and hurt his front ass."

6 year old English-Frozen Chamorro.  June, 2012, Green Bay, Wisconsin. 

  Pea Finger

Front Butt (feminine use only) 

         *   *   *   *   *  *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *  

 I will let you know Essie's decision as to submission as soon as I have it.  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Just Dance!

 Finally!  It's here!

I was SO unbelievably excited to find that the kids' dance studio's Finale Video was put on YouTube! 

This is a crazy-amazing group of talented kids!  Every year, BCFD hires Haley Mac to come out for a weekend and choreograph their production line number (referred to as "Finale," since it is the finale of all of the spring recitals.)

This year, Haley Mac completely outdid herself.  This dance is amazing.  So amazing, in fact, that I have NO idea how she is ever going to top it.  Rest assured, she will, but the creative talent there boggles my mind.

Atticus is the littlest boy in Finale this year.  He comes onstage during "Friday" at 1:51.  Then again at the end at 4:29, and he's front/center at the very end.

Hatfield's group wears the hats and knee-highs.  She comes on during Swizz Beat at 2:38, and again at the end at 4:29.

Every time I watch this, I get chills.  Especially the boys' team!  Amazing!  The come in at 3:35 and the spin at 3:48 is  . . . wow.

I'll stop and let the video speak for itself :)  I'm just SO proud of all of the kids and staff and hard work that went into the making of this.

Sunday, June 24, 2012


My baby girl turned 14 this past week.


It is very hard for me to put my love and adoration for my girl into words without sounding cheesy or insincere.   So, I'm just going to jump into her birthday :)

For the past year and a half, Hatfield has taken to wearing mis-matched flip flops.  I believe it started after we saw Wicked, when she started wearing one green and one pink flip flop.  It has since evolved and given that she has about a zillion pairs of flip flops, she has a near infinite number of combinations.

(Side note:  it looks very cute and charming on my 14-year old daughter.  I, however, share the same shoe size as Hatfield, and I must confess that mismatched flip flops on a 37-year old Mom? Not very charming.)

So, what better than a MisMatched Flip Flop cake to start off her birthday?
Our girl may be a teenager who looks great in a cowgirl sunhat, but she still has enough of a kid side to want to hit Bay Beach Amusement Park on her birthday for some Scrambler, Tilt-a-Whirl, Scat and Zippin' Pippin' action.
Plus, at 14, she's past the "I'm too old to ride the kiddie train" and into the "I'm old enough to be riding the train with my little sis because I'm an awesome big sister" sort of cool.

(Although, as a mother, I LOVE the fact that she LOVES the Harry Potter '07 shirt that the Mister brought home for her from Universal Studios last week.)

 Hatfield is a wonderful daughter, great big sister and, for lack of more inventive vocabulary, a really neat person.

Hatfield is the type of girl who takes her papillon kayaking.

That is definitely something only done by a neat person :)

 I still can't believe that she is 14.  Where did the years go?

Back when my girl was a wee tot, the thought of having a teenager would leave me hyperventilating and panicked.

But here we are: 14.  2 more years until driving.  4 more until 18.  5 until college (Hatfield will turn 19 the summer she graduates high school.)

No hyperventilating here.

Instead, I'm excited.  I'm so excited to see how my girl is maturing and growing.  I'm excited by just how many opportunities she has before her.  She's an accomplished pianist, an amazing dancer, a solid athlete, a creative artist, an animal lover, and an aspiring author.

(Hatfield took this photo during last week's Strawberry Picking)

I'm proud of how many opportunities she is willing to take, even if they are scary at first.

This summer, we signed her up for U-15 soccer (girls, ages 12, 13 & 14.)  We arrive to the first practice to find out they have 27 girls and 1 coach, which meant that she'd be lucky if she could get on the field for even 40% of a game.

However, they asked the girls to consider bumping up to U-19 (girls, ages 15, 16, 17 & 18), because that team was short on players.

Hatfield went.  She was a bit worried at first, but we had a great talk about opportunity and how sometimes, we grow the most as people when we are willing to step outside of our comfort zone.

So she went for it. All the girls play high school soccer, which is way more aggressive than the middle school level, but she jumped right in.   And she's doing great.  She's had two goal attempts (both sailed over the net), but she's holding her own really well, and you'd never know she was the youngest on the team.

Well, you could probably figure it out if you realized that most of the girls drive themselves to the games, whereas she gets dropped off in Mom's (ad)Venture.

(Okay, that makes me hyperventilate a little bit.  But not too much. ;-)

Hatfield has been one of the absolute greatest joys of our lives.   If I could, I would happily spend these 14 years over again, just to experience her childhood all over again.

  (Hatfield and BCFD's Advanced Line Lyrical Performance.)

I LOVED this costume.  You can see a bit of the top in this photo.
The girls looked like woodland faeries floating across the stage.)

We love you, Hattie Lou!   We can't wait to see all the wonderful things life has in store for you!