Student Driver

So Levi's been hanging out a lot at the shop the last couple years at Alchemy Arts, working on welding and tinkering and building - super creative stuff.  He absolutely loves his shop time and comes home exhausted and dirty and happy.  What an experience!  He's feeling pretty grown up because he can ride his bike there and back, gaining a little independence from the Mama taxi.

An opportunity came up for us to buy a little truck - local seller, impulse buy but surely a project for Levi to work on.  He couldn't be more proud!  It's a little '88 Mitsubishi Mighty Max.  It has ZERO bells and whistles and needs some work done before it's drivable.  I figure with it being such a bare bones truck, he will get a chance to learn the engine and how it works and gain some very useful mechanics skills in the process.  He has already started working to pay it off, so it can be his officially.

It's fun to watch him be excited for this project.  He's ready to pound out the dents, clean it up head to toe and is even thinking about repainting it with a cool artistic design of his own creation.  He's got 3 years before he can drive it and a lot of work to put into it, but I can't wait to see what it's going to look like when he's finished.

This Guy

We got an email last week asking Trey to a callback for a Seattle theater company I had never heard of.  I was confused, at first, because it was a part he had never auditioned for in the first place but I assume it was because he made a positive impression on someone when he auditioned for the role at the Seattle Rep.
I'm a proud mama here, but also realistic.  I knew when we walked into the Rep that he most likely wasn't going to get the role of the son in Raisin in the Sun, not because he isn't fabulous, it was just clear that in Seattle he doesn't really fit as an "African American" boy.
  Yes, I know I am totally biased, but I think the kid has talent!  When he is onstage, you can just tell that he loves being there.  He's working hard, he's focused and he has the most amazing memory of anyone I know.  He reads through his lines and he's basically got them down.  That was NOT my experience w when I did BPA as a kid - it was hard work for me!  It just comes so easily to him.  He's also had amazing people to work with, both with BPA and Ovation! and has learned so much over the years.
One of the biggest parts about it for Trey is that he is such a people person.   There are tears at the end of every show, knowing that those same people will never all be together again.  It's hard.
He most recently got to see how things worked behind the camera as part of a cookbook promotional video.  Will be fun to see how that comes out, but a few minutes of actual footage took about 3 1/2 hours to tape.  That was a new experience for him!
Opportunities are popping up for Trey and I'm excited to see what his future holds.
We head off to an audition in Seattle today, next week is an audition for BPA's Christmas Story and later in the month is Ovation's Annie.
 I believe that any audition is a great experience and if this is truly what he loves to do, we will give him every opportunity we can to follow his dreams.  The future is bright, Trey Cameron!

Sending Prayers

 There are some people who come into your life when you are young and awkward and have no idea who you are.  Some you never see again, some stick with you through the thick and thin.  Steve and Mary have been there for the long haul.  We have shared good times and bad, but when we see them, we know it will be a good day.  Big hugs, belly laughs and great, easy conversation.
My heart is aching right now, as Steve and Mary are going through a horrible time and I can't be there to give them support.  What I can do, is put it out in the universe and ask for prayers and love to be sent their way.
Mary is currently in the ICU after taking a terrible fall and hitting her head.  Steve is by her side and her kids are there also.  It is a waiting game right now, but she is honestly the strongest woman I know, if anyone can get through this, she can.
So please send out all the healing, positive energy to Mary and their entire family.  Can't wait to see that smile and give them both a gigantic hug.  Know you are loved with our entire hearts and our whole family looks forward to your next visit and pizza dinner.  Will be the biggest hugs yet.

Life can change in an instant, hug your people and tell them you love them.  All the time.

Weekend From Hell

So we haven't really gone on "vacation" this summer, just a hotel stay here and there when there is an amazing deal or a soccer tournament.
We thought it would be fun to have one last little getaway before school started and take the kids overnight to a hotel w a pool and then back to school shopping.
Now, there's a lot of work involved in us leaving town even for a night (especially when we are trying to make it a surprise).  The babies need coverage, the dog needs coverage and just getting 6 people packed and out the door takes work.

I guess I should have known how it would go from the start...we thought we were leaving after Trey did a blacksmithing class (auction item invite from a friend) but then he ended up getting invited to film a little cooking show segment after,  so we didn't get to leave until the 8:10 boat.  The kids were all in the car, made a quick stop for some food for the ferry and catch the boat, all the while the kids complaining about one thing after another.  We got to the hotel just as the pool was closing and decided sleep was the best option.  Figured out who was sleeping where, settled in and kind of slept.  Carlos was completely on me the entire night, the room was hotter than Hades and I think Levi was a kicking machine, so poor Dee and Erin were awake a lot also.  Dee also woke up covered in flea bites.  YUCK!  Needless to say, we woke up super chipper and ready to SHOP!  This would also be a good time to note that we forgot to pack ADHD meds for one...doesn't help w coping skills!
The goal was to pack up, eat and get to the Outlet Collection Seattle Mall (formerly known as the Super Mall) when it opened at 10am.  That meant we didn't get a chance to swim in the pool, boo we are such mean parents, I know.  Anyhow, goal accomplished but we got there and there were NO cars in the lot.  Had Carlos run and check the times and they didn't open until 11am on Sundays.  Cue the whining kids "we could have gone to the pool!"  "are you serious?" "this is the worst day ever"   Luckily the Evil Empire was close and open so we started our adventure there.
I am thankful that our boys are pretty easy when it comes to clothes - one is always sport shorts and a white t-shirt, one wants mostly black and comfortable and the other is a clothes hoarder but doesn't really care.  Erin is not like that, she wants matching outfits that are girly.  Anyhow, the Evil Empire got a LOT done for the boys - essentials like t-shirts and socks and underwear plus the few remaining school supplies and lunch boxes for all.  It was 11am by the time we left there, got coffee (thank God) and hit the Super Mall.
Child without meds refuses to get out of the car, stating he doesn't need anything.  Then proceeds to inform us that he will just wait at the entrance until we are done.  We start to walk off (knowing he will follow) and he yells "are you kidding me?  What kind of parents are you just leaving your kid behind?"  Yup...that kind of day.
Started at the shoe department of Burlington Coat Factory.  Just walking in there, oh wow, it's like Costco of clothes.  Finally found the shoes and asked the boys to see what they liked - boy w drama talks back to me and I see a young mom holding toddler size shoes roll her eyes.  I smile and say "they all grow up" and she says, "My kid wouldn't have teeth if they talked to me like that"  So I just smile again and walk away.  You just have to pick your battles - I knew it was going to be a long day so that wasn't one I was planning to start.
Levi found a sweatshirt he loved that wasn't black - so we stood in a long line (tons of shoppers, one register open) and then hit the mall.  Trey found some horribly green reflective Barkley's at the Nike store that he loved, so those went on hold.  We struck out at Vans and Converse (only got their feet measured there) and had success at Adidas!  Stopped for a bite to eat and finished up strong, picking up our hold items and finding a cute dress for Erin at Tommy Hilfiger.
Got back to the car, took this classic family photo and headed home.  One last stop at Target for a few essentials and dinner and then back to home sweet home.
I wouldn't wish this trip on anyone - but am always thankful for core family time, no matter how stressful it is.

This Summer

This summer we have done so much less, which has resulted in having the time to be spontaneous and having more family time.  I am not going to lie, all this together time has had it's moments of drama and there was one point where I couldn't stand the bickering and couldn't wait for them to be back in school.  I have NEVER said that before, I always dread the first day of school because I miss them terribly.
That feeling passed quickly and now I am back to dreading next week when 2 of my boys hop on the bus and are gone for the day, and the week following, my other two will be gone.
I will miss the noise they fill the house with, maybe not the bickering so much but just their presence.  I really do feel so grateful for the time in the car to chat, or the times sitting quietly and one of the kids comes and snuggles up and we don't even have to talk.  Even the times I feel like I'm fighting the bed sheets, only to turn over and see that one of my big guys has snuck into our bed.
The kids are growing up fast, my time with them is limited and I sit here so incredibly proud of the people they are becoming.  They each see the world in their own way, often times so differently then my view point.
This is the beginning;  the time where they start to break away.  I am trying hard to find the balance between holding them close and letting them do their own thing - where I can forsee when they will soar and when they will crash and burn.  I can't always catch them when they fall, only be here to love them unconditionally.  It's a tough place to be, they are babies no more.

Mama K's Summer School

Every year, about this time, for as long as I can remember...I start preparing for Mama K's Summer School.  The kids usually get a week off just to relax, then we start in.  In the car yesterday, Carlos asked me if we were going to be doing it again this year.  Yes!  Then he asked why.  That's easy, for us, it's about routine and not getting out of the practice of working the brain.  It's easy to get out of practice.  It's not about us teaching new things, just keeping up with the skills they already have.
Here's what we do - each child has a folder with 2-3 workbook pages in it that they need to complete each day.  They also have a journal that they do a page in, it could be a daily "what's happening" type thing or a story, whatever they want.  Last is the reading, we do 30 minutes.
As much as I love the routine of the school year, I LOVE summer.  I love the time with my kids, love reconnecting with them on a daily basis and just knowing them better as people, love the weather, the fun outings, all of it.  I know it's getting close, I've done my part, the folders are ready and I'm counting down the days...yay summer!



You have read for 30 minutes

You have written a page in your journal

You have done your worksheets

You have done 20 minutes of Khan Academy

You have completed 1 chore

Growing Up

Carlos left on a trip to Eastern Washington on Wednesday with his 5th grade class.  It's an amazing trip where they tour the Wild Horse Wind Farm, a potato farm and the Grand Coulee Damn.
A friend sent me this picture of him w his buddies at the dam.  It absolutely made my day.  It's not just a picture of my boy, who I miss terribly.  It's so much more.  That smile, that genuine "I'm happy" smile.   I needed to see that.
I think back to Carlos' first field trip to Seattle without his mama.  He was so scared and we tried to make it better by me drawing a heart on his hand so he could look down and know I loved him and was thinking about him, even
 while he wasn't with me.  It seemed to help and we did it every field trip from there on.  Even this year, on the way to the ferry, he asked me to draw him a little heart.  This time, small so nobody would see it but he would know it was there.
So, this picture that came yesterday really let me know that my little boy is growing up.  He's about to change schools and be in a bigger pond.  The Island School has been such an incredibly supportive place for him to grow up, he's become such a confident young man.  He's ready for this.

So Proud

   I couldn't be more proud of my boy - Trey worked hard and got the part of Flounder in Bainbridge Performing Art's production of The Little Mermaid.  He has a pretty big role, lots of dancing and even a solo.  He is the only kid in the whole cast!   I just love watching him do what he loves to do.
   I have to say, my favorite part of it is that he once again shares the stage with Myriah Riedel (she was Peter Pan and he a Lost Boy and now she is Ariel).  He absolutely adores her and it is perfect for Flounder's relationship with Ariel.  I think the audience can really feel how much he cares.  It's very sweet.  Ah, to be 10 with a crush.
It's a super fun show - the bright costumes and catchy songs.  I've been singing them in my head for weeks now.  It runs through Memorial Day weekend (Friday and Saturdays at 7:30 and Sundays at 3 plus a bonus show Monday, May 23rd at 7:30).  I will be ushering this weekend and would love to have company, plus Trey loves seeing people he knows at the show!  It's great for kids, too!
Tickets are available at the Bainbridge Performing Arts website.

Here's his bio!
TREY FIELD BENNETT (FLOUNDER) Trey is delighted to return to the BPA stage and thrilled to be cast as Flounder. He was previously seen
in Ovation!’s Oliver!, as Mote in BPA’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Nibs the Lost Boy in Ovation!’s Peter Pan, the Mayor of Whoville in BPA’s Seussical Jr., and numerous other BPA Theater School productions. Trey is a 4th grader at The Island School. When he is not on stage, he enjoys learning about Greek Mythology, playing the drums, and hanging out with his friends.


I'm a pretty positive person, but this week has kicked my backside...a big part of it is that we haven't had much time as a whole family, and when we do we are out of sync and it ends with the kids just bickering.  We have forced the time we have together to be hand held electronics free, spending evenings coloring or watching a family show.  They always end up having fun but getting into the groove of it again is painful (and truth be told, disappointing to me - kind of not the "family time" image I have, but then again those moments are truly few and far between)

I need to vent here so bear with me....

So yesterday I was doing a little Amazon shopping and a couple orders went through and one special offer they had said my payment was declined.  Odd, I thought, but figured the special offer was over or something.  Then went to get a few things at Safeway and went to use my card and it was declined.  Now there are times when I would lower my head and slink out of the store knowing I had nothing in my account, but I knew there was plenty so no reason to have the card declined.  I was pissed more than embarrassed, but after a wander around the store looking for my mother (yes, she had been shopping there, too) I went off to the car to get my checkbook and on the way out a friend said she had paid for the groceries.  What a saint!  I was so relieved.  Got the groceries and spent the next half hour in the car trying to figure out what was going on with my account - apparently someone in California was trying to check into multiple hotels.  Luckily my bank caught it and froze my account, but would have been nice to have that information so I wouldn't be trying to use my card.  So today in all my spare time, I had to go get a temporary card to use (which worked the first time, but didn't work the second time I tried to use it!!!).

It jut gets, we just got over a week of living out of coolers because our fridge was on the fritz, we defrosted it and got it working again (per the appliance company's advice) and this morning woke up to the fridge almost warm again.  Called the appliance people again and they said they would order the parts and come out but in reality we are looking at another  7-14 days without a fridge.  It just plain sucks.  I try to spin my positive attitude and pretend like we are camping, but my little Eeyore reminded me that "no it's not like camping at all, there are no s'mores, no tents, no fun all we have is wet food and that's the bad part of camping"   I give up, it's really no fun.

All in all we are happy and healthy and life goes on.  But really I would just love to have a little break from the b.s. here.  Not asking a lot, just a little.

Are You Doing Your Best?

   I'm reading "Rising Strong" by Brene Brown for a book group, well truth be told they are way ahead of me in reading but I do enjoy the discussion.  Anyhow, it talks about the belief that everybody is doing the best they can.  I'm struggling with that.  I do believe people aren't intentionally doing awful things and that people are inherently good.  I also know that I'm not doing my best.  Not even close.  I think best is what you save for when you go above and beyond.  If I were to try to live being my best every minute of every day, I'd collapse.
  I know this has driven my parents crazy for years, and now that I'm a parent with a kid who is laid back and does things half-assed it drives me insane also.  There was a time in high school that my mom sat me down and said "you are smart, don't you want to rise above getting Bs and aim for the honor roll?  You could have your name in the paper and it would be great!"  My focus was sports, so I did what I needed to do to get Bs and get by, nothing more.  I agreed to show her that yes, I could do it, and in between soccer and softball seasons I made the honor roll.  Then I went back to getting Bs.  I am fairly certain it drove my parents insane.  The thing is, there was never a question in my mind that I could do it, I just didn't want to.
   When Carlos goes out on the soccer pitch, I always tell him to have fun and play hard.  I try not to say "play your best" because if he played his best every minute of the game, he would be running around like a lunatic after the ball.  Playing hard, he knows that there are times when he may be jogging back into position or even standing and waiting but doing your best, to me, means giving 110% all the time.
   What does it mean to you?  Do you think everybody is doing the best they can all the time?  I think feel they are doing what's right in the moment and their best when the occasion calls for it.  Maybe I need different wording but struggling to find it.

Starting Over

   For as long as I can remember, I have been big.  Always the tall girl and, in my mind, always overweight.  I recently went through a box of memorabilia and was looking back on pictures from middle school and high school and thinking back to how I felt heavy then.  Believe me, I wasn't skinny, but I also wasn't as big as I thought I was.  Funny how your mind plays that trick an it becomes a self fulfilling thing.
   So after being tired of being fat, Dee and I found the Dukan Diet (basically lean protein and veggies) and lost a bunch of weight really fairly easily and quickly.  Did you know you can lose weight without working out!?  You totally can.  I know I've written about this before and if you really want to read more you can go back to when I was gung ho on that "lifestyle change" and go from there.  It did work, but after we started to add in carbs and fruit the weight started creeping back on.
   I can't tell you how extremely frustrating it is to be down 65 pounds and then watch as it starts to come back.  I jumped in to Weight Watchers and the "No S" diet (I really wanted that one to work!) and back to no carbs and so on and so on.  Nothing seemed to work anymore.  Even back on Dukan for awhile and that didn't work anymore either.  So, while it was great to lose all that, it messed up my body and it is basically trying to get back to the weight it was before.  That sucks!  It's disappointing, it seems like there is no way to win.  It is constantly on my mind and if I hadn't seen someone for awhile, they always seem to look at me funny, as if to say "whoa, what happened!?" and that feels crappy.  I don't know if that's what they are really thinking but that's where my mind goes.  I even had one person come up and ask if I was going to go back on that diet that worked so well - really!?!
   I was about to jump on the no gluten/dairy/soy/sugar bandwagon again, I actually did it for 3 awful days, and then talked with a friend who has counseled a lot of women who have gone through the same thing.  All with the same, frustrating results.  We have talked about this before, many times, and I do respect her advice - just in the past I had something that was working so well so I didn't stop and listen when she told me it wouldn't last.  How could it not!?  We are all looking for that miracle weight loss and I had found it, but I realize now that it's not just about will power and eating healthy.  There is truly one proven, scientific way to lose weight and it's slow.
   So, today I start fresh.  Headed on a long, slow journey that I will stick with and will pay off.  I will change my thinking from "all carbs are bad" to a basic "you get this many calories each day" approach.    I started with where you put in height, weight, age, gender and activity level and it calculates how many calories you get each day if you want to lose a pound/week (and other options).  I also found a great app (Nutracheck) that will keep track of my foods, basically an online food journal and keep me accountable to myself.  From just starting it this morning, I realize that a lot of my calories came from my morning latte.  Even without the sugar it was 90 calories!
   Here's to the tortoise - slow and steady!


Another Way to See Things

Like I said before, we have been listening to a lot of music lately - in the car the other day, one of the boys was asking about what the lyrics of the Indigo Girls song "Galileo" meant.  We talked about reincarnation and how some people believe that what you come back as in your next life depends on how you lived this one.
I had NO clue this chat would go this way - he burst into tears, begged me to never play that song again, ever ever ever.  I pried a little, curious as how he felt so strongly about reincarnation.  He said "if we come back as someone else, I can't handle that.  I would miss my family terribly."
Ah, my sweet, sweet boy.  Yes, death and what happens after is hard. But what if, after you die, you go to heaven and meet up with all of your loved ones?
The last week has been a reminder for me of loved ones lost.
The first was Spencer Reilly, a young man I used to nanny for,  that lost his battle with addiction.  So sad, one of my very favorite kids of all time and so talented.  He recorded this a month ago.
The next was Grandma Pat, who brought so much love into this world.  I got to know her when her grandson was in my 2nd grade class at Island School and she continued to come and read to kids at the Island School long after he had graduated.  She always had a huge smile and a bear hug when you saw her.  She made a beautiful blanket for Erin and God boxes for all our boys (that they still use to put the worries that are too big for them to handle on their own).
Both will truly be missed by all who got the gift of knowing them.

Yesterday It Was My Birthday

"Yesterday it was my birthday
I hung one more year on the line
I should be depressed, my life's a mess
But I'm havin a good time"
     - Paul Simon

I truly can't complain - yes, there are things in my life that are hard, stressful and just daily annoyances.  But overall, life is sweet and I'm having a good time.

So, yesterday WAS my birthday...and while I'm SUPER excited to have been given awesome gifts (I'm going to the Peter Gabriel/Sting concert, going shopping for jeans that fit, got beautiful earrings and get to go pick out some great new books and can't wait to play my new game) it was an incredible day for the non-material gifts I was given.

First, I got to have coffee and catch up with a dear friend, I got a video of Carlos from speech saying "Happy Birthday" and he nailed his R!, got a call from my brother and also from little Lilly that made my day, found out that a friend's cancer has NOT progressed further, read a ton of messages from friends on Facebook and then got to spend the evening with those closest to me with a delicious dinner and my favorite ice cream cake.

Hot Chocolate 5k

A couple of months ago, Carlos was nearing the end of soccer season and trying to figure out what to do to stay fit and active in the off season.  He said he wanted to train for another 5k with me, which is funny because he could go out and sprint a 5k any time he wanted to, no training needed.  When we trained for our last 5k I was considerably lighter and it felt good to get out and jog.  When the 5k came around I was ready for it and felt really excited.
I signed us up for the Hot Chocolate 5k, figuring chocolate would be a great incentive to run even if I wasn't super jazzed about running in the first place.  I had a 5 weeks to train, so the couch to 5k program was going to be kicked into high gear and modified down a week.  That was the plan, but my out of shape body had other plans.  I could see that this time was going to be different.  My couple outings on the road left my body so sore, shin splints and aching.  We got a treadmill from a friend and that really helped.  I actually enjoyed it and was feeling good about getting on every other day or so and sweating.  Then along came plantar fasciitis - that bites!  Dee had dealt with it before, but I didn't realize just how painful it can be.  Think of basically feeling like the bottom of your foot is being ripped apart every step you take.  Super fun.  So, I got a pressurized sock, insoles for my shoes, new tennis shoes and do stretching exercises to help - also had to take a week off of jogging.
Not sure what tomorrow's 5k will bring, but I am excited to be with Carlos, Mary and Alice and even if I'm the slowest on the course and can't walk the next day...I will have done it.

Indigo Girls

So Dee and I actually went out last week - I know!  We really never go out, it's rare.  The logistics of us both leaving the house are insane since we have 7 kids, but for the Indigo Girls concert we made it happen and it was SO worth it!  A night filled with friends and great music, couldn't be better.
These ladies have been a part of my life for a long time now, seems they have a song for everything and the meaning is deep and I can sing shamelessly along with them and feel as if we are truly singing together.  Sappy, I know, but I realized at this concert that I wasn't the only one who felt this connection with them.  There were smiles and tears and so much love!
They didn't play my new favorite song (Elizabeth - take a listen!) but they rocked it!
What I left with, besides a full heart really to take on life, was a rekindled love of music.  We always listen in the car, a lot of pop that the kids like with a few classics thrown in, but there was music lacking in our home.  That is not the case anymore.  Allison Krauss while making dinner, Adele in the morning at breakfast, James Taylor while I feed the baby, and of course the Indigo Girls!

I found this You Tube video of the concert we were at - love that the audience was really the stars of the show.  I think so many left with their hearts full!

Indigo Girls Concert

The lyrics to Closer to Fine stand out for that night as well....although I didn't end up at a bar, per se, and I think I left with the clarity I was seeking.

"I stopped by the bar at 3 a.m.
To seek solace in a bottle or possibly a friend
I woke up with a headache like my head against a board
Twice as cloudy as I'd been the night before
I went in seeking clarity. "

Will It Be Easy?

We have been foster parents for about 13 years now.  We have had many different kids come through our door, their stories may be similar but they are all unique little people.  They immediately bond with certain members of the family, differs every time and after 58 kids I see no pattern in how that works.  Everyone has their "special" little ones that come through.  
The calls we get in the middle of the night, and the calls for the kids who have experienced abuse and are literally broken are the ones that we just can't say no to.  It's a wake up call for any drama going on in our lives...we have it pretty damn good.  There is NOTHING that compares to having a worker show up at midnight with a sleepy child, who is scared and really not wanting to be passed off to another adult saying that they are now going to be safe.  They have just lost everything familiar to them, no matter how scary or abusive it was.  It was home, it was what they knew.
I think about the note I write if our kids are with a babysitter - how much/what they eat, how often, if they prefer a back rub at bedtime or to be put in bed with a story and a sippy cup of water, do they take a pacifier? or have a nickname? The list is long...and when kids come to us, we get their name and birth day and sometimes even that isn't right!  We do a lot of guessing and get many "are you crazy?" looks when we try what the norm is for our kids.  We once had a little girl who only ate things that came out of packages.  We learned this quickly - and put carrots into mini chip bags and as long as it came out of a package she was good.  After about a week of her being at our house, we drove through McDonalds for a quick dinner and she was so excited, bounced up and down in the backseat yelling "yay, food!"  In her mind, we were finally feeding her!
Daily life is so different, depending on the family.  I think we are pretty typical, but I am told so often that we aren't.  I keep going back to the saying, "Will it be easy? Nope.  Worth it? Absolutely."

Hard to Say Goodbye

We have been blessed.  I know that.  We have had 57 little people come into our lives that have changed us for the better.  We may have had them for a couple of days or a couple of years, but each one is different and it is always hard when they move on.  And besides our 4 adopted kids, they always do move on.  In a perfect world, we stay in touch.  Whether it be through Facebook or still getting to see them, watching them grow up is a gift.  The others we have faith that things went well, we have to believe that.
The one thing people always say about why they can't be a foster parent is that they could never give them up.  But you cherish the time you have with them and know that you were a safe place for them to be when they needed it most.   Another child comes and life moves on, but the grieving still happens and the pain and loss is still felt.   
We have had people say "oh, you must get used to it" but it's never easier.  I can't begin to explain how heartbreaking it is to watch your 11 year old son sobbing and begging that his "brother" not leave, or watch a child you have loved as your own for almost 3 years wipe away your wife's tears on her last night in your home.  This is hard stuff.
The last couple weeks have been exceptionally tough on our family, even to the point of questioning if fostering is the right thing to do.  We will get through it, it will strengthen us as people and bring us closer as a family and we will be better for having loved these amazing kids.  We will always be here for them if they need us and we will always love them as our own.

Trip of a Lifetime

It's been over a month now since this amazing trip, I can hardly believe it.  Doesn't even seem real.
Here are some pictures of our amazing adventure!
My brother is an amazing teacher and guide and took Dee, Mary and I on a trip down the San Juan River by raft.  There we learned about Anasazi history, saw ruins of small villages and held ancient pottery.  We sat by campfire and reminisced and listened to great music.  We saw nature (even caught a little lizard!) and the scenery was absolutely breathtaking and changed at every bend in the river.  I missed the kids terribly, but the adult time with Dee, Mary and my brother was just what I needed.  We hardly ever get a chance to talk without someone interrupting so 6 days was indulgent.  Hoping to make a slideshow of all the pictures, but this is a little glimpse.

Tales of a Soccer Mom

There are times when you see you child step into an activity and their whole being lights up.  That would be soccer for Carlos.  As a former player, I have to say this makes me incredibly happy.  I love soccer.  The excitement, the camaraderie, the action.  Good people play soccer.  It's a great game.  I hate to miss a game, it's fun to watch and now that they are at the "not a blob running around a ball" stage, it makes it even better.  They are actually playing intense, good games.
Last weekend, Azzuri was ranked #6 in the league and playing against the #3 team.  It was an intense game, very evenly matched teams.  Things started to go downhill when a mom stepped onto the field and kicked a ball (in her defense, she thought it had gone out but then had a TON of attitude about it).    We were leading 2-0 and the other team started to panic.  The play started to get much more physical, the refs weren't calling much of anything.  At one point, our goalie went up to grab a ball and got elbowed in the chest.  He had to leave the game.  No call.  Play got even more rough, and as one of their players were near the sideline, he told another teammate to take out the new goalie.  There was a cleats up slide into goal and still no call.
  Where I'm going with this is that Carlos was defending the biggest, roughest kid as well as the one who said to take out the goalie.  Mama Bear came out in me and I watched a bit more closely.   Watching my son was out there getting elbowed and pushed down and manhandled a bit, I was curious how he was going to react.  I am proud to say, he raised up his game and met the challenge.  He is a physical player already, but his intensity tripled and he did it in a fair way.  There were no dirty hits or attempts to hurt anyone, he just played good, clean, tough soccer.
   Not sure how the other player's parents felt about how that game went, I think they were upset about the loss.  There was so much more going on, encouraging kids to play nasty,  the part of youth sports that I hate.   Way to go Azzuri, you played with honor and heart and pulled out the win.

5am in the Hotel Lobby

I had thought it would be funny to mess with Dee and bit last night and switch sides of the bed.  She is such a creature of habit, this wasn't easy for her to accept but I insisted.  I mean, we are in a hotel for 2 nights and why not?  Live a little!  Well, my little scheme brought a couple of laughs from the kids as Dee tried her best to negotiate changing back but in the end the joke was on me.  Woke up bright eyed at 4am and Dee was still sleeping peacefully on my side of the bed.
This little joke backfiring has led me to find out that there are interesting discussions to be had in the hotel lobby at 5:30am.  It's the time before the breakfast buffet starts, there is CNN streaming with news of the Paris attacks and a 40 something man came up to ask me if there had been any updates.  I told him what I had read this morning and he said, "you know, this is why I don't want grandchildren"  I immediately thought he meant that the world was such a horrible place that he wouldn't want his grandchildren to live in it, but no...I asked him why he thought that and he continued on to say that he loves his kids and all, but that he worries about them all the time and he knows he would add that same worry about grandkids and he doesn't want to go through that.  He also loves his kids so much he doesn't want them to have to feel that.  So selfish yet with deep love.
It's interesting, because you do worry about your children in a way that a non-parent just can't understand but I would never let that worry stop me from experiencing the love that comes with being a parent.  It's pure, it's deep, it's something you also can't explain to someone who has never been a parent.
Parenting isn't easy, it's not always fun but the rewards are incredible.  Does the love outweigh the worry?  For me, it does.  Apparently not for all.  Food for thought for the day.

FUD Public Service Announcement

Ok, so Dee, Mary and I are headed off to Colorado tomorrow to go rafting with my brother (YAY!).  We will be out in the middle of nowhere on the San Juan River, with no access to cell phones or bathrooms.  This got me thinking that maybe we ought to get a FUD (Feminine Urinating Device) to make the whole bathroom situation a little easier.
Jumped online and saw that the Evil Empire had the Go Girl so last night I grabbed Levi and headed over to get one to surprise Mary and Dee.  The sales clerk, who was a little socially awkward, showed me where they would be on the shelf but they were sold out.  I asked if he could call to the Bremerton store to check if they had any and he reluctantly made the call.  That was awkward.  They were sold out as well and this sweet man was trying hard to give me other options.  I told him we couldn't order online because we were leaving in a day, he asked if we could stop at a Walmart in Seattle or perhaps drive around and hit Cabella's and get one.  Or maybe we could get one at the place where we were flying into.  As he was listing off my options, and I kept gracefully trying to get out of the conversation, I realized he was truly horrified and worried.  I told him it wasn't a huge deal if I didn't get one and he said, "Well, I would hate for you to not be able to pee for 4 days."  Seriously?!  Did he think I wasn't going to pee for 4 days?!  I told him not to stress, that I had managed for 43 years to pee when I needed to.
Oh and don't forget that all this time, poor Levi was standing there absolutely mortified that I was talking about bathroom stuff with this man in the middle of a store. Ha ha ha, I know.  What 12 year old boy wants to hear that #1 their mom uses the bathroom  #2 is talking about it in public!
We left Walmart and headed to Big 5, where Levi's embarrassment continued.  The clerks there tried to help but their only solutions were me taking a portable toilet on the plane (nope but tempted) and these weird bag things that catch the pee (hell no)
I had called REI earlier in the day and they, of course, didn't hesitate to tell me they had Freshette in stock.  Levi and I headed there to get it.  He fell in love with REI and almost forgot why we were there.  I discreetly found what I was looking for plus a few extras, paid and as we were headed out he offered to carry the sack.  I was about to hand it to him when he reeled back and said "Holy cow, no way, I almost forgot what was in that thing!"
I haven't laughed that hard in a long time.  My sweet boy.  We talked a little about it on the car ride home and he was perplexed about why on Earth I would even want such a product.   I told him how it worked and he said "I could have saved you a lot of money there, mom, and got you a funnel"  His other main concern was that we would want to start using the men's bathrooms.  Yuck, no.
So now we have our FUD and are packed and ready for the trip.  Not sure how it will work, but glad it provided some comic relief and a nice bonding time with my oldest boy.
If you want to read more about FUDs, click this link!

Liar Liar

One of my BIGGEST pet peeves is lying.  I seriously hate it.  We tell our kids "Truth Builds Trust" and live by that.  They ask us hard questions, we tell them the truth.  It may be padded a bit to be age appropriate, but never a lie. (well, besides Santa and all but that doesn't really count).  If you tell the truth the first time, no consequence.  If you fess up after a bit then a lesser consequence.  If you never do, ya it's not good.
This morning, I put bread into the toaster and let everyone know that they could grab their piece and make it as part of their breakfast while I got other things done.  Things got busy, of course, and Dee asked who hadn't eaten.  I had seen two kids sit down at the table with me, the other I hadn't seen.  I asked him point blank "did you eat breakfast?"  The answer was "yes, I had toast with jam on it.  I remember because I spilled jam down the front of my shirt."  Too many details, this kid was lying!  I asked again with the same response.  I asked him to please go get the shirt that was covered in jelly as proof of his story.  He came down with the shirt he had been wearing the night before, with a big water spot on it.   I then asked, "So, I'm supposed to believe that you ate the toast, spilled jam on the shirt and then CLEANED the shirt?" The answer this time was, ""ok, I didn't want toast for breakfast so I made all that up" UGH!