Sleepy Saturday

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Sirius is ready to hibernate.

 

Sirius has the right idea. Baby, it’s cold outside, and I plan to stay in.

Yesterday, our grass was green and my children were outside playing, wearing light jackets and sneakers. Before the sun set, we dutifully scoured the yard to pick up anything that shouldn’t be there. Mostly that meant picking up random dog toys, balls, sticks, and socks. Lots and lots of socks. (I don’t know why my kids feel the compulsion to remove their socks as soon as they get outside, and I don’t have the energy to ask. Honestly, I don’t think they even know.)

This morning I woke up to a dusting of snow on the ground. But the warnings had been given, and as the day progressed, the snow continued to fall. My little area of the world is now covered in white.

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The snow as of earlier this afternoon.

 

I have a love/ hate relationship with winter. I do enjoy the coziness of a nice warm house with snow falling outside while cookies bake in the oven. It is fun to watch the little kids play in the snow, making snowmen and sledding down our hill. I also welcome any excuse to have another cup of coffee. But the joy is short lived. The kids spend less time outside than they do getting their gear on. Inevitably, a little one loses a mitten or a boot and comes in screaming with frozen fingers or toes. Snow ball fights end in hurt feelings and occasional bruises. Snowman wars end with dismembered snowfolks and whining children. And then when the outdoor fun is finished, they all come in and want hot cocoa. Do you know how big of a mess these kids can make with hot cocoa mix?

Already, I have piles of snowy boots, coats, mittens, and hats making puddles all over my house. The frantic search for matching mittens and boots has begun. Speaking of that, they lost one of MY boots! How do you lose one boot? And why the heck did they have mine?!? I spend a small fortune on winter gear every year. The only pile that comes close to my matchless mitten pile is my matchless sock pile. (In fairness, I seem to be the only person who cares if socks or mittens match, as the kids will wear anything that even comes close to fitting with no regard to color, style, size or texture. They torture me.)

Anyway, in an effort to make the best of the situation, we are starting our Christmas activities a little early. My tree won’t go up until after Thanksgiving, but the carols have been playing all day and now we are watching some of our favorite Christmas movies. Marie and SJ have begun to plan which cookies we should leave for Santa, even though there are no cookies in the house. My oven is warming- today is a good day to make brownies, I think. I’m determined to enjoy the winter, for now anyway. I have little ones that are full of excitement and wonder to enjoy it with.

Expect me to have cabin fever by February.

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Princess enjoying her first snowfall.

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Mike’s Day

20151117_130847282_iOSToday has been a big day for us. One that has been long awaited. This morning, the whole family piled into 4 vehicles and headed to the local county courthouse to take part in Mike’s adoption.

He’s ours! He’s finally ours! Forever!!!

It feels like I have been waiting for this day for ages; like Mike has always been mine and I have just been waiting for everyone else to realize it. This is the 4th adoption we have finalized. None have been easy. The adoption process is exhausting. Home studies are invasive. Foster parenting is tedious. But, oh my, this child is worth it. I love him. I always have. I always will. He is my son.

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Jimmy & Boris the Tortoise

Jimmy loves Boris.

Jimmy loves Boris.

If you came over to visit, you would notice that we have a lot of pets. I would totally buy a zoo if my husband would let me. For now, I am content begging him to buy me a farm – – just a little one. And of course, it would have to have a kennel and pond for our goldens. And I have to have chickens, maybe some goats, a dairy cow would be nice. But I digress.

Among our pets, we have a bale of turtles and a tortoise. Jimmy loves our tortoise. My guess is that if Jimmy had to pick his favorite animal, he wouldn’t have to think long before he answered with “Boris!”

Boris, our Russian Tortoise.

Boris, our Russian Tortoise.

It is not unusual for me to remind Jimmy that he needs to leave Boris and his tank alone. Several times a day, I find Jimmy staring into Boris’s habitat, talking to him and telling him all sorts of important stories, most of which I can’t understand. But Boris and Jimmy have a relationship. They are friends, and who am I to keep a boy separated from his tortoise pal? Though I do remove the toys and other paraphernalia that Jimmy sneaks into the tank on an almost daily basis.

A friendship like theirs does have its challenges — mostly for me, though Jimmy would insist that I just don’t understand. Last weekend I wrote down some of the things I actually said during a Jimmy and Boris play date.

Boris is our resident vegetarian, which is good because at least someone here will eat their veggies.

Boris is our resident vegetarian, which is good because at least someone here will eat some veggies.

“No! Don’t lick Boris! Oh, yuck!”

“No! Don’t write on Boris!” I don’t even know where the pen came from. I don’t think I looked away for a second.

“No! Don’t kiss Boris. Oh gross. Ok, whatever, kiss him, I’ll take a picture.”

“No! Don’t take Boris’s grapes, those are his grapes.”

“No! Don’t eat Boris’s lettuce, you don’t even like lettuce!”

“Put him down. No, you can’t hold him. Be careful!”

‘No! Don’t pour your orange juice on Boris. That’s not nice.”

“No! Don’t poke Boris.”

“No, you can’t give him a hug. We don’t hug tortoises. Oh, that was a nice hug.”

Jimmy trying to kiss Boris.

Jimmy trying to kiss Boris.

“Here, I think Boris wants to go back in his tank now. Say “Goodbye, Boris.'”

Actually, Boris didn’t seem to want to return to his tank at all. He was fine and seemed to enjoy the crazy antics of the 2 year old that loves him. But I couldn’t take anymore. Jimmy keeps me busy. He is fun and inquisitive and a joy to be around, but that kid can get into mischief as fast as any I’ve ever seen. Wish me and my little Russian tortoise friend luck. We need it.

Moments from My Week

Don't bother me, I'm concentrating.

Don’t bother me, I’m concentrating.

It’s been a busy week here, as usual. I thought it might be fun to post some moments, in photos and quotes, to give my readers a glimpse of what I hear and see in a normal week’s time. I hope you enjoy.

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Where’s Jimmy?

“Jimmy, GET OUT of the pantry!!!

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Let’s see if the Vaseline top will flush.

“Mom, he just flushed your good pen down the toilet.”

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Because there is no bad place for a monster truck.

“Give that to me! Do you want me to bite you?”

One tired Princess.

One tired Princess.

“Mom, my body and my brain don’t like my teachers. I like my teachers, but my body and brain don’t.”

What? I'm just reading a book.

What? I’m just reading a book.

“MOM, he’s in the dryer again.”

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Let’s hide the chips in the toy cabinet. Mom will never find them in there.

“I need more blood.” (Fake blood- that’s for a later post.)

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Quincy both resting in and chewing apart his toy bin.

“I got in trouble at school today because I burped in my friends’ faces.”

You mean it's not supposed to hang like that?

You mean it’s not supposed to hang like that?

“They locked us out!”

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Because you can’t have too much of a good thing.

“Night night, Grandma.”

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Jimmy couldn’t wait to try the zucchini. He didn’t like it.

“Mom, he put my toy in the tortoise tank!”

Because putting the toilet paper on the roll is just asking too much.

Because putting the toilet paper on the roll is just asking too much!”

“Mom, do you hate me now?”

“He wants to see you. He does not want to see his workers, but he wants to see you.”

“Mom, I’ll stay with her. You go rest on the couch and I’ll get you if I need you.”

“I love you, Mom.”

Loving My Littles

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Most mornings these days start with my little guy, James, rising before the sun. If he isn’t already in our bed, Jimmy climbs in, dragging his blankie behind him, and announces that he wants to go downstairs. This is my cue to get up and go because this kid is a bundle of energy and waking his siblings is the first thing on his agenda for the day. If he wakes his siblings, it is NOT a good day.

My granddaughter, Love.

My granddaughter, Love.

Introducing Love, my oldest granddaughter. Both she and Jimmy are 2 years old, and they are best friends and partners in crime. It doesn’t take long for Love to hear Jimmy’s antics and come down to join in.

Breakfast

Breakfast

“Wuv, do you wanna eat?” Jimmy asks. Then they both climb into their seats. We can’t put their seats too close to each other or there will be a battle, stolen food and sippy cups, dumped cereal, and a brawl.

Coffee, you complete me.

Coffee, you complete me.

Most mornings start off with a Leapfrog video while the littles eat breakfast. That’s how I get my coffee and quiet, well almost quiet, the two essential things I need before I can function.

My 2nd granddaughter, Princess.

My 2nd granddaughter, Princess.

Princess is my littlest little in the house. (I have another little grandson that is younger, but he hasn’t been here yet.) Princess brightens our days with sweet baby smiles and coos. She stole my heart the moment I laid eyes on her. Thankfully, she is an easy baby, because Jimmy and Love keep us busy.

Jimmy, Love, & SJ playing with water on the deck

Jimmy, Love, & SJ playing with water on the deck.

We try to have fun and keep the little ones busy. Pouring and stacking is one of their favorite activities, so I thought it would be fun to set up a water station the littles could stand at to play.

It's NOT a pool!

It’s NOT a pool! Get DOWN!

Jimmy had other plans. I can’t turn my head for a second with this kid.

One tired little boy.

One tired little boy.

The poor, sweet boy tired himself out. Doesn’t he look innocent? Adorable, even?

You're resting there?

You’re resting there?

And this is what he was really doing.

Jimmy opening the diaper rash ointment.

Jimmy opening the diaper rash ointment.

 And seconds later, he was into the ointment that was left on the table.

Jimmy warming his blankie in the dryer.

Jimmy warming his blankie in the dryer.

And then he decided to warm his blanket in the dryer.

I won’t show you the pictures of Jimmy in the dog’s crate, swinging on the stairway gate, undressing himself, and escaping up the stairs. He also had fun reading some of his favorite books, playing on SJ’s iPod, pouring Princess’s formula from her bottle into my Pepsi, feeding the dog from his plate at dinner, and throwing his sister’s iPod in the toilet. (Yes, this was all today.) Jimmy walks on the wild side.

Love and her Combos.

Love and her Combos.

Love usually just tags along behind Jimmy and watches. She doesn’t want to get in trouble, she’s a good girl. But don’t eat chips or snacks near her. She will give you big, sad eyes until you give her every last one.

Trying to get a picture of the three littles.

Trying to get a picture of the three littles.

These little ones certainly keep us busy. But oh, how we love our littles!

Poor Alex

Today is the big day. The day that Alex loses a part of himself. The day he becomes less than  he was. We knew this day was quickly approaching. This week at dog training, Alex lunged at another dog. Although he was immediately corrected, that behavior is never acceptable. Our trainer, Mrs. G, said, “Time to get him fixed.”

Mrs. G is a small woman, but boy does she carry a lot of authority. Mr. May’s response to her directive was, “If Mrs. G says it, then we do it.” (I am currently working on a list of things that I’m going to ask Mrs. G to tell Mr. May. Suggestions are welcome.)

Anyway, it’s been a rough couple of days for my poor naughty boy. The older boys in this house couldn’t walk past him without saying, “Snip, snip, Alex.”  He is at the vet’s now, and gets to come home later today. Hopefully, Alex will be a humble Alex, a small and sad Alex, and a “Oh, Mom, am I so glad to see you” Alex. “And it will take the bounces out of him.” (Rabbit is my BFF. Sorry, Winnie the Pooh.)


Alex, when he learned why he was at the vet this morning.

Enjoying the moment

IMG_5175 “Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”

Two years ago, our lives changed forever. Our Lu came down with strep throat and suddenly everything changed. Overnight, she went from a straight A Honor Roll student on track to attend a prestigious academic high school to a girl that could barely function, let alone concentrate on schoolwork. Her body has turned on itself and her immune system is attacking her brain. For the first few months we were just trying to get a diagnosis. Finally, we found a specialist that could give us answers. Our Lu has PANDAS, pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with strep throat. Thankfully, through a PANDAS parent site, we were directed to a wonderful neurologist that has become a PANDAS expert. But, even with months of treatment, our Lu still could not stabilize. That’s when we learned that she also has Lyme Disease. We are on a big learning curve. I am hoping to share what I am learning, but most of all, I want to say . . .

Find joy!

Look for small moments that make you smile. Hold on to these treasures, because in the end, these are the things that matter.

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Our Lu is finding joy. Last autumn, in a desperate search to find anything to help our girl, I contacted a service dog company. Miracles happened, and our daughter was matched with a dog immediately. Noel has been a life line to Lu, even in some very dark and scary places. The two are inseparable. Noel keeps Lu safe and gives her something to feel good about. See, Lu can’t go to school. She can’t be left unattended. She has seizures, memory loss, her eyes have trouble focusing and that’s not the half of it. But Lu is really good at training her Noel. So good, in fact, that we got two more puppies for Lu to train. She may not be able to go to the high school she had heart set on, but she is a darn good dog trainer. Right now, this is where she finds her joy. And watching Lu work magic with these dogs fills my heart to overflowing.

IMG_4256This evening, like most Wednesday evenings, we were at dog training class. Lu had a seizure and collapsed to the floor. Noel jumped into action doing exactly what she has been trained to do. Noel has a vest that she wears in public to identify her as a service dog. We all agree that her vest is really a cape because Noel is a super hero.

Just Keeping On . . . to whom I write

I write to parents, to encourage them to keep on, because this parenting thing is hard and we never know what is going to come our way.

I write to new parents that are just starting this adventure, to encourage them to keep on through the sleepless nights and the long days and let go of guilt and just enjoy this time while their little ones are still little.

I write to the parents of children with chronic disorders, to encourage them to keep on fighting for their kiddos, to do what it takes, though the battle is long.

I write to the parents who have adopted their children, and daily fight the monsters of trauma and loss, to encourage them to keep on helping their children to heal and become whole.

I write to the foster parents who are ready to take in a child at a moment’s notice, those that give their love, time, money, and resources to help a child in need, to encourage them to keep on though the road is rough and uncertain.

I write to the host parents of international exchange students who take in teens from a different culture and show them love and give them a family while they are away from everything they have ever known, to keep on loving, learning, and teaching.

I write to the parents of teens in difficult places, who know the feeling of helplessness when their children make decisions that hurt and destroy, to keep on loving through the pain.

I write to the parents of large families, whether biological, adopted, foster, host, or a mixture of any of these, to keep on smiling through the chaos that their lives bring.

I write to share my story so that I might encourage others to keep on, because I’m on the journey too.

A Day in the life . . .


In a busy house like ours, you never know what’s going to happen next. And, as every mom knows, the most likely time for catastrophe to strike is when she is taking a potty break.

True to form, I came out of the bathroom first thing this morning to find that my puppies, under the watchful eye of my husband, had chewed a good size hole in my leather couch. What was a small tear is now a gaping hole. They literally removed a chunk of leather, batting, and foam. It’s gone. How am I supposed to fix that? My husband patched it with duct tape.

After breakfast, when things were relatively calm, I started to clean the turtle tanks. Carefully, I set the pet supplies on the bench next to me. Wrong move. James, the two year old, reached over the couch, grabbed the container of fish food, uncapped the top, and poured flakes all over my newly ruined sofa. I ran over to stop the miscreant, grabbed some cloths and started cleaning the mess. James seized the moment. He and Alex, the one year old golden, were in cahoots. James ran to the front door, opened it, and charged outside, laughing the whole way. Alex followed.

Now, opening doors is a new trick for James and we are not used to it yet. I stood there dumbfounded for just a fraction of a second, still holding cleaning cloths laden with fish flakes. I considered the possibility of letting them both go find a new home to destroy, but the paperwork I’d have to fill out just isn’t worth it. I ran out and caught James pretty quickly. I’m still faster than he is. Unfortunately, that’s not true for Alex. The neighbor’s dog was outside and Alex has been waiting for the moment when his collar for our invisible fence would be off so he could go greet and intimidate this friend from across the street. He was running back and forth in our street, trying to decide on his approach when the neighbor came out and grabbed her dog. Seeing that the fun was over, Alex walked into another neighbor’s yard and pooped. With a satisfied grin, Alex returned home to spend the next hour in his crate. I had turtle tanks to clean.

The morning had been exciting enough for me, so I sent James upstairs to spend some quality time with Eddy, the 12 year old. Somehow James ended up in Eddy’s military backpack. They were both pleased with themselves, so all that was left was to take a picture.

This afternoon, I got word that our daughter and two granddaughters need a new place to stay. It looks like I will be spending the next few hours getting the basement room set up for them. This is how we live. We never know how many people will be staying here at any given time. Life is unpredictable. I can plan all I want, but only God knows what will happen from one moment to the next. I’m just trying my best to enjoy the ride.

It Begins

It’s almost quiet here tonight so I am taking this opportunity to get my first post in. Quiet doesn’t happen here often. Most of the kids are in bed. The big boys are downstairs watching TV. I’m stealing this moment. I should be in bed, but the idea of finally starting this blog is too tantalizing.

I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for a long time now. Many of my friends suggested I should. My story is a long one. I’m not sure how much I am ready to tell, but we will start here and see where we end up together, ok?

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First, a look into my life: My name is Mandy. I am a wife and mother. It’s that simple. I am married to Jeff. He’s an incredible man that keeps our family going. His passion is technology and he works as a computer programmer. The depth of his knowledge amazes me. He is a devoted husband and father and I am blessed to be his wife.

We have seven children living at home right now. That number can change at any given moment because we are foster parents. Our youngest is two years old. Our oldest living at home is sixteen. Our youngest is adopted. Our sixteen year old will be soon. There are four biological kids in the middle and one more adopted kiddo in the middle as well. Then we have three more adopted kids that live out on their own and one foster child that is currently out of our home, but we are hoping he can come home soon.

Then we have our five exchange students, two of whom still call our place home. They are from all over the globe, making our home multicultural and multilingual. And then there’s our baseball host sons and daughter that left us with a passion for baseball and a deep love for baseball players, especially the ones we call our own.

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I can’t forget to mention our furry family members. We have a slightly obsessive love for golden retrievers. There is a story behind that. We have three Goldens that share our home. We also have an old lab/ husky mix that keeps us safe from anyone that would dare to come to the front door.  Yes, that is four big dogs, if you were counting. I told you we have an obsession. Our dogs are kept amused by our three degus that occupy a large cage in a corner. Then we have our turtles and our tortoise. What can I say, we like animals.

That’s a quick overview of our family. I hope you enjoy getting to know us as I post more about each member of our family and our adventures together.