Our New Year's Eve was pretty low key.  Unfortunately the boys are too old to pretend anything other than midnight is the turn of the year.

We all put on our pajamas and we played the card game "trash" which was new to me.

We watched the ball drop in New York City on TV and talked about how glad we were we weren't there. 

We drank sparkling cider and toasted the new year.  We thanked God for the blessings of the past year.

Nothing too kind of New Year's Eve.
The boys and I talked a lot about New Year's resolutions this evening.

Here is what we each came up with...

Younger Boy
  1. Stop lying.
  2. Pay attention in school.
  3. Exercise and eat healthy.
  4. Do a daily devotional as a family.

Middle Boy
  1. Do better in school.
  2. Be more respectful at home.
  3. Exercise and eat healthy.
  4. Do a daily devotional as a family.
  1. Spend less money on and more time with the boys.
  2. Eat at home more often.
  3. Plan meals, price match, and use coupons.
  4. Exercise and eat healthy.
  5. Do a daily devotional as a family.
  1. Get fully potty trained.
  2. Stop chewing up everything in sight.
We prayed about the resolutions and God giving us strength and desire to see them through.
Middle Boy wanted to talk tonight.  Actually he wanted to have a heart to heart.

We talked about a lot of things.  He has an off and on girlfriend who he is back on with.  He wanted to talk about her and about their relationship.  He wanted to know if I would be willing to meet her parents and if he could go over to her house.

He wanted to talk about their relationship honoring God and asked if I would hold him accountable to that. 

He wanted to tell me he is finally starting to get it.  That he isn't leaving and it is time to step up and be the person he can be and leave the past behind.  He wanted to talk about school and about how he knows he can do better.

We talked about therapy homework and just buckling down and finishing up therapy.  We talked about how the therapy is hard, because it makes him think about past trauma that he has closed off and not dealt with.

He talked about how he thinks he needs to find different friends, because while some of them are good and people he wants to be around others are "pill poppers and weed smokers".  He is adamant this he will never do those things, because he saw first hand how it can impact not only your life, but the lives of others.  He asked if I thought some of the boys in his youth group small group would want to be his friend.  He told me he doesn't know how to be friends with people who do the right thing, because no one has ever expected him to do the right thing.

I wanted to cry tears of joy after our conversation.  We ended it by praying about all of the things we had talked about and by thanking God for allowing us to both be comfortable having the conversations.  I am so proud of this boy for the level of maturity he showed during the conversation and for his desire to truly become a man of God.
Younger Boy has spent the majority of the last few months without one sort of electronic device or another.  This is largely in part due to the fact that he sneaks them into his room and plays them all night.

Today I decided we would start anew with those items.  He can have access to them again, but if the boundaries are crossed he will lose them.

They will all be "checked in" to me each night at 9PM.  I will charge them in my room and return them the next day after homework has been completed.  He will take his cell phone with him to school, but not call me to tell me things like "I am going to take the bus home."  That is the given.  Only call when you are doing something DIFFERENT.  Call when you get home.

So....I have shown him grace and given him another chance.  He would say second chance.  I would say more like one hundred and forty-seventh chance.

Prayers for responsible use of his items.
Sophie had a vet appointment this morning to get an updated vaccination.

She also got her nails trimmed.

She LOVES going to the vet.  LOVES IT.  They are so kind to her and all of the technicians there cuddle her and give her kisses.  She always gets a treat.

I asked about the potty training.  The vet said she is smart enough to get it, but offered some suggestions for us.

I also asked about the anxiety and shaking.  He said this is a common trait in dachshunds and as long as she is eating and drinking they don't typically treat it.

So...she had a clean bill of health and is up to date on her vaccinations.  She got some love from the workers and was good to go.
Work continues on the basement arena.

It is basically a large padded area.

I watched blanket after blanket be transported downstairs.

I had to say absolutely not to the bed out of the spare bedroom making the trip...absolutely not.
I sat down in a recliner this afternoon to take a quick nap, because I was tired.

I guess I was more tired than I thought, because I woke up FOUR HOURS later.

Thank you boys for just letting me sleep and maintaining a semblance of order in the house and your relationship while I did.
This morning we got up and went to the second service of church. 

It was nice to be there and to be able to talk to so many of our friends.

The service was about resolutions and Psalm 1.  It sparked some interesting discussion in the car on the way home.

Praises for having a wonderful church home and family.
Niece I loves to pretend she is a doctor. 

So tonight as the boys finished their game of Risk with Uncle G, I was her patient.

She had me lay down on the couch and asked me if I needed a blanket.  Of course, that would be nice.  So she covered me up. 

She asked what was wrong.  I said "I have an ear ache."  She replied, "Lady, I am sorry.  I just opened this clinic and I don't know how to deal with those yet."

So, I told her I had a headache.  She knew what to do for that.  It was kind of an "alternative" treatment though.  It involved going and getting a plastic toy from the freezer.  (Not sure why it was there.)  Then the toy was placed on my forehead.  Following about five minutes of having this frozen toy on my forehead I actually did have a headache, but I didn't say anything to my health care provider.

Soon after I was pronounced cured.

It was fun to see her imagination and listen to her talk to me about providing care.
We opened our gifts during a break in the action of the Risk game and after Niece C woke from her nap.

The gifts we received were quite generous and much appreciated.

It was by far the most fun to watch Nephew W open his gifts, because he LOVED everything.

The girls got Stompeez from my boys and they were super excited.  They wore them around until their feet began to sweat.

We are so blessed as a very blessed.
Uncle G asked if the boys know how to play Risk.  He had been wanting to play.  Youngest Sister likes to play, but with four kids age seven and younger it is tough for them to play.

So...Uncle G, the boys and I played Risk.  We had one observer, Nephew W, and two cheerleaders for my team, Niece A and Niece I.

At one point my nieces got all of their small dolls and toys and lined them up on both sides of the board so that I could see the support of my cheerleaders.  They DESPERATELY wanted me to gain control of Great Britain so they could be the princesses, but it wasn't meant to be.

I got out after about three hours...much to the disappointment of my "team".  The game continued on for a couple of more hours.  Honestly I am not sure who the final winner was.  I know it wasn't Middle Boy.

I think we will buy the game.  The boys really enjoyed it.  I did, too.

Thanks for asking us to play Uncle G.
Both boys have a couple of "not so secret admirer" at Youngest Sister's house.

From the moment they walk in the door Niece A and Niece I are calling their names over and over.  Trying to get them to play.  Trying to wrestle with them and basically just annoying them.

This time was no different.  Maybe more intense since it had been a while since we had seen them.

The boys handle it surprisingly well and are very nice to them and play with them.

Middle Boy teases them like a big brother would.  At one point Grandpa said to Niece I "come here so I can annoy you for a little while like you are annoying Middle Boy".  Of course he was teasing.

They want to sit by them at all meals.  They get mad if they can't.

I love how my nieces embrace the boys as part of the family.
The drive to Youngest Sister's was relatively uneventful.  She only lives an hour away.

Middle Boy was having trouble with both his cell phone and his iPod.  One was freezing up and the other not maintaining a good signal.  So he did what any "rational" person would do.  He beat the associated electronic device on the dash of the car.  I'm 99% certain that is what the manufacturer's recommend as the first course of action when you are experiencing trouble.

This led to what seems like our daily discussion about how sometimes you just have to have patience with things.  Electronics don't always work perfectly...nothing does.  It isn't the end of the world or even really that big of a deal if you can't use them for a while.  This is not always (or hardly ever) received with a kind response, but I figure if I say it enough it will begin to sink in eventually.

Younger Boy slept the entire trip...not surprised.

Prayers for a good visit with family and wisdom in helping the boys through their need for everything to be immediate.
Mid-morning we were going to leave for Youngest Sister's for our family Christmas celebration.

I woke the boys and got ready.  Middle boy came downstairs and we had the pill incident.

I asked him if he had seen Younger Boy.  He said "No, I thought he was down here with you."

So...he set off to find Younger Boy.  During the time I woke him and the time Middle Boy went looking for him he had forgotten we were going to Youngest Sister's for the day.

He had gotten out of bed to get dressed and got distracted by some legos.  Next thing he knew he was building the project with his new set.

This is the new Younger Boy.  Partial pre-teen boy and partial new normal with his ADHD/trauma.

Prayers for wisdom in how to deal with this new distractedness.  I'm not sure who will lose it or Middle Boy.
Middle Boy is the king of disrespectful responses to questions.  The KING.

I can probably count on one hand the number of times he has just answered one of my questions with the right answer and moved on.  It is usually some absurd answer or a non-answer.

Today it was about meds.  I had put his meds on the table for him and asked him to take them.

About five minutes later I asked if he had taken his meds.  His response "maybe, maybe not".

I came unglued.  Just answer my question.  Just once...answer the question with the answer.
Because there was still a pillow in the kitchen and because he doesn't always think things through, Younger Boy decided to swing a pillow back and forth through the kitchen and dining room on the way to putting it away in the family room.

He made it about five feet before he hit a glass drinking glass and shattered it into about a MILLION pieces.

They were EVERYWHERE.  They were stuck in the pillow.  They were on the table.  On the counter.  On the chairs.  On the floor.  In the carpet.  EVERYWHERE.

This was a trigger for Younger Boy.  Screaming "I f*** everything up.  I don't deserve a family."  Stomping.  Punching his mattress. 

It is a broken glass.  He didn't burn the house down.  Even if he did...he still deserves a family.

It was a mess.  He was a mess.  Middle Boy was a mess, because he HATES when Younger Boy says those things (even though he says them himself).  Sophie was a mess, because we had to put her in her kennel until we got it all cleaned up.

Another reminder triggers are EVERYWHERE and there is still a lot of healing left to do.
Our basement is completely unfinished.  So the most "logical" thing to do if you are going to have pillow fights, nerf gun fights and wrestle is to build an "arena" in the basement.

I told the boys to come up with a plan and let me know what they were going to do.  I did not intend to buy anything to furnish the arena nor did I want anything to be permanently affixed to the floors or walls.

They set off to plan which gave me some peace and quiet...for a moment.
The boys and Boarder decided to have a pillow fight in the family room.

Not really a big deal, but also something I would prefer happened the basement.

They figure out the best way to move it to the basement.

Praises for fun.  Prayers for good judgment.
Today I came home from work and while our kitchen was completely clean when I left this morning it was a complete disaster when I returned home.  It was so bad that had CPS come in they would have removed the boys.

Seriously...I was gone for nine hours.  That's it.

I should have taken a picture, but it was COMPLETELY ABSURD and I was irritated.

I vowed to not take care of it.  I didn't make the mess.  I assigned a deadline.

It got cleaned up...sort of.  At least there wasn't trash and leftover food and dirty plates and half full milk glasses all over anymore.

Prayers for my patience regarding these things.
Right now I am praying for all of those kiddos who are in the Russian orphanages.  With the ban on US adoptions from Russian there are so many people who are going to be hurting.

I'm certain that there are many families who have been in "the process" for a long time only to have this law stop them from bringing a child home.  There are siblings of children already adopted here who will not be allowed into the same families as their loved ones.

Father...I pray for these orphans and for their safety and that they would feel your loving arms around them.  I pray for the families who were hoping to take them in that they would see your work in all of this.  Take care of all of them.  Amen
Over the past year I have become friends with a foster mama JA.  I have known of JA for YEARS, because her foster/adoptive daughter A has been coming to camp the entire time I have.  Her daughter is likely in the TOP FIVE of toughest kiddos who have ever come through camp.

What amazes me about JA is that she also has five other foster girls right now.  They are from multiple families and in multiple stages in the system.  I think one is close to termination of parental rights while others have just come in to her home.

This is what JA did for Christmas.  She prayed about how to give these girls what they needed for Christmas and the answer she got was "meet them where they are".  So JA invited ALL of the biological parents of her foster kiddos over for Christmas dinner.  At least three sets of parents.

She was apprehensive, but she just continued to them where they are.

The afternoon turned our WONDERFULLY and they are all getting together on New Years Eve. amaze me.  Your willingness to listen to God and to help these families all the while parenting a really tough kiddo yourself.

I am glad God introduced us, friend.
At 1AM Sophie was barking.  This usually means someone is transitioning somewhere else in the house or someone has left their room.  She is a pretty good indicator (tattle tale) of what is going on.

About five minutes later Middle Boy came in to tell me it was him and that he had gone into the bathroom, because his finger had cracked open and was bleeding.

Why I needed this information at 1AM I am unsure.  I suspect it was because he couldn't sleep and had been picking at the skin on his fingers.  It is a nervous, anxious habit of his and they frequently bleed from it.

So...another night of interrupted sleep.  Luckily I was only up for about 90 minutes after being woken up.  Another tired day.
Today I got an email from the state about a program we are eligible for one year after the adoption. 

It is an aftercare program to help us through this "transitional" time and make sure all of our needs are being met.

I got the email today.  The adoptions were in September. 

Apparently we were deemed by someone (no idea who) to have "no transitional needs".  Who could judge that better than I can?  I'm guessing someone who had never met us, because that is how everything else seems to work.

Where was our aftercare specialist when I had to pay retail on prescriptions, because the old insurance was stopped and the new hadn't started?

Where was our aftercare specialist when I was calling insurance companies to tell them of the adoption so we could continue COURT ORDERED therapy?

The list could go on and on.

At this point the person who evaluated our family is probably transitional needs.  BECAUSE THEY HAVE ALL BEEN TAKEN CARE OF.

I am crafting an email in return and to my new friends the "State Inspector General" and the Director of Health and Human Services to explain how "helpful" this service has been.

Pray for wisdom in my communications.
Younger Boy has started speaking so quickly that you can't really understand him.  It is almost like he is slurring his words together, but I can't really tell.

I feel like I say a million times a day "you have to slow down, because I can't understand what you are saying".  I don't get it.  This is new within the last month or so.  I don't know if it is getting worse or I am getting less patient...maybe a combination of the two.

We're going to have to work on it.
Middle Boy is really into making his own music.  He loves to write and perform songs and he is really pretty good.

One of the things I got him for Christmas was music software and an editing program.

He played around with it the majority of the evening.  Some interesting creations.  One sounded like it could be the soundtrack of a horror film.  One sounded like some sort of tribal war dance and another sounded like something you would hear at a square dance.

He is totally enjoying doing this and it is so good to see him doing something he loves.
Boarder and Middle Boy made dinner tonight.  We had tacos.  It was nice to have them take care of dinner.  Cleaning up after dinner was another story, but step at a time, right?

Boarder, Middle Boy and Younger Boy were upstairs playing video games this evening. 

Boarder and Middle Boy came downstairs and were starting to get dinner ready.  They had turned off the video game upstairs and Younger Boy was just sitting there when they came down.

He came down 15 minutes later and asked when they left and who had turned off the game. 

Is he really that checked out of reality right now?  I am going to have to call his therapy team tomorrow to see what they think and more importantly what we need to do.
The boys both moved into my home with MULTIPLE types of toy guns.  They have also gotten one each since they have lived with me.

There is no shooting these guns in our house or at each other.

I also said we are NOT BUYING anymore guns....NONE.

I came home today to find the boys had gone to Walmart with Boarder and had each purchased a new nerf gun.

Apparently I wasn't clear enough when I said NO GUNS.
Over the lunch hour today I got a message from Middle Boy.

A gentleman had been driving by and noticed water shooting out of the side of our house right above our gas meter.  He stopped and rang the doorbell to let us know.

He asked the boys if they knew what to do and they did not.  So...the boys and boarder let the nice gentleman into the house to help find the source of the water shooting out of the house.

They couldn't really describe it to me, but from the information I was able to get it sounds like a hose bibb that didn't drain down properly.

So...luckily it had a shut off valve and they were able to locate it.  They shut it off and once it starts to thaw we will need to have the line replaced and verify that it is a freeze-proof hydrant.  I am guessing...NO.

AARGH.  I know it isn't our sprinkler, because that was professionally drained down.

Stuff like this makes me crazy.  I am glad that the gentleman stopped and told us before we incurred a HUGE water bill.

Thank you God for this angel to help us in our time of need.
I woke up around 1AM to use the restroom so I decided to check on the boys.

Middle Boy was sleeping soundly in his room.  Didn't even move when I opened the door.

Younger Boy...completely different story.  He was sitting on his floor wrapping rubber bands around a walkie talkie.

His claim was that he "couldn't sleep".  My thought is that he hadn't yet tried.  He was still fully clothed and was sitting on the floor.  The lights were fully on.

My patience with this is wearing thin.  I want to show mercy, because I really don't know why it is happening, but it is SO HARD.
Boarder is back "home". 

He is really like a big brother to the boys and Sophie was so excited to see him.  That makes my heart smile.

He played video games with the boys and took them out for Chinese dinner with the gift cards they bought him for Christmas.

I'm glad he's around to spend the days with the boys right now.  Less time with just the two of them.
The boys always tell me that my rules surrounding EVERYTHING are ridiculous and unfair.

So today I asked them to make a list of the rules they think they should have surrounding their electronic devices...screen time.

I told them the rules were due by 7PM and then we could discuss.  If they didn't finish by 7PM then I would simply make the rules and there would be no negotiating.

They finished the rules.  They are more strict than what I would have come up with.  They even outlined the associated consequences.

There you have it...screen time rules...made by the boys.  There should be no complaining.
Younger Boy called his older sister this afternoon.

He didn't really want to on Christmas day when he called his other siblings, but he must have been mulling it over for the last 24 hours and decided to call.

They talked for a little while.

She was talking to him about her brother she lives with.  (Who the heck is that?)  I'm super confused.  I am going to have to call Mom J and see if she knows what she was talking about.

We had to run a couple of errands today otherwise we stayed home for the majority of the day.

It was nice to really have "not much" to do.  Sure, there were plenty of things that could have been done, but nothing that "had" to be done.

The errands weren't even "must do" things and honestly it made them much more enjoyable.

Thank you God for the peace of this day.  For the chance to rejuvenate just a little bit.
I was awoken at 3:20AM by a noise.

I went to check on it and BOTH BOYS were messing around with electronics in Middle Boy's room.

This is after MULTIPLE discussions on this topic for weeks.  I was FURIOUS.

They claimed they couldn't sleep. 3:20AM all electronics became my property.  I will decide when and if I return them.

Yup...don't mess with me in the middle of the night!
The boys spent the evening playing with their gifts. 

I was tired and I went to bed...a big mistake.
Julia (that's what her blog name will be) is a fascinating woman.  She grew up in Afghanistan.  We talked for quite a while.  I admire her.

She came to the United States in 1998.  She was educated in Afghanistan before the Taliban regime.  Her father was an engineer and died in a bombing.  She didn't mention her mother.

She talked a lot about education and how she came here to become more educated.  She talked about politics.  Her thoughts...who cares about Democrat or Republican...let's follow the constitution and not enter war.  She has seen enough of war.

She recently became a Christian from Muslim and her family is rejecting her.  She is reading all of the Christian materials she can get her hands on that are written in Farsi.  She just finished "Purpose Driven Life".  Her church is looking for a translator for her so she can take more classes.

She asked to make "an appointment" with me in the future.  That means get together and chat.  I would like that so very much!!

Thank you God for bringing this fascinating woman into my life.
I brought three gingerbread house kits to the Christmas dinner.  My boys and Southern Belle were in charge of the teams and they could each pick a partner.

Middle Boy picked me.  Southern Belle picked K's friend from Bible study, and Younger Boy picked the college age son of J's friends.  The woman from Afghanistan joined the last team.

What a mess.  The icing was like glue.

We laughed a lot.  They turned out marginal, but everyone had a good time...even the observers.
Christmas dinner at K's was nice.  The meal was INCREDIBLE.  Partially because it was really good and partially because I didn't have to make it.

I think there were seventeen people there.  A really eclectic group.

Three single men from J and K's church who are friends of J's.

Our friend, J, and Southern Belle.

A friend of K's from Bible study and her mother.

A family who are friends of J before he was married.

A lady who has recently converted to Christianity from Muslim and has been basically cutoff from her family.


Interesting group.  Hodge podge of people intersecting through the will of God.
I can't help but wonder if Middle Boy was wishing he could talk to some of his biological family. 

We have contact information for one sister (out of eight kids) and his mom.  I KNOW he doesn't want to talk to his mom.  I couldn't decide whether to mention calling sister or not.

I decided to hold off.

Prayers that was the right thing to do.
I talked to everyone in my immediate family today.  I started with Grandma and Grandpa.  Then came Middle Sister and her family and next was Younger Sister and her family.

I also talked to Mom J.  It was an interesting conversation.  They recently ran into Older Boy's bio dad.  Dad J handled it well.  Out of it came some information.  Dad J and I are going to meet with him in the next couple of weeks.  He has some missing pieces of information about our kiddos which may help us to piece together some of the trauma these kiddos have endured.

We were always told he had abandoned Older Boy at the psychiatric hospital.  That isn't what happened.  He was TOLD by the state that the only way to get help was to leave him there under the safe haven law.  He cried and cried when Dad J told him that isn't what the records show at all.  He wants to see his son.

They are going to work toward it through therapy...if the state will permit it...right now it is looking marginal.

He was around when these kiddos were little.  He knows what was going on.  He might be able to tell us if we are dealing with FAS/FAE or not.  Up until now we haven't been able to confirm.

Younger Boy talked to his biological siblings that live with Mom and Dad J.

It was a good morning of family conversation.
Hearing from Younger Boy's bio mom prompted me to also reach out to Middle Boy's bio mom.

We had "chatted" once before.

Here is what we talked about...

Merry Christmas. I just wanted you to know Middle Boy is loved and doing well. I adopted him in September. I think of you often and will write more later. Have a blessed day.

Here's her reply...

Merry Christmas to you and Middle Boy.  Thank you for taking in your home and loving him please tell him i love him with all my heart and please tell him i miss him so much . I wish he would talk to me. I'm glad to hear he's okay.
Middle Boy had asked about baby pictures, I have a lot from his newborn and up I don't know if you want to meet and copy some for him.  Some I have enough copies of to just give you a copy. Several were taken while we were still in TX.  So just let me know.
Another door opened.  I will meet this woman.  Middle Boy doesn't want to talk to her, but he wants me to.  I think that way feels the most "safe" for him.
Prayers for this mama.

    This morning as I was waiting for the boys to get up I was on Facebook and saw this post by Younger Boy's bio mom.

    "There are 4 young people that I would love to be spending my holiday with but can't and I'm ok with that because I know where they are right now they are having an excellent Christmas with families that love them as much as I ever could and for that I want to say THANK YOU to those families and I love you just as much as those 4 kids. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!!!!! Thank You once again for your love and devotion to them!!!"

    I decided to send her a message.  So this is what I sent...

    Thank you so much for the post about Younger Boy. It brought tears to my eyes. I apologize for not having reached out sooner.  He is doing well. He is in seventh grade this year. He's not a big fan of school. He plays football and baseball. He is on the leadership team of our church youth group. He is a generous, kind, compassionate boy who cares about others.

    I will send more later.

    Merry Christmas!

    A little awkward...obviously not sure what to say...but she responded with this...

    Thank You so much for that you have just put the biggest smile on my face. I completely understand the hesitation and I am just so grateful for you and your family to love him like I do and you are angle just like his. I know you probably don't want to say anything to him about me but if you could just give him a big hug and kiss and say I love you I would be even more grateful and you don't even have to say its from me or even say a word about me. Thank You for your love for my son!!!!

    My response...

    I can do that. One day I hope he is in a place where talking to you isn't so confusing to him. Know this...he still loves you deeply. I can say that without pause.

    Now the lines of communication are open.  I don't know what will come of it and for now Younger Boy doesn't need to know.
    Originally we were just going to open a single gift tonight...but then I realized that if we opened the majority of them tonight perhaps I could sleep in tomorrow.


    We opened most of them tonight.  The boys were completely surprised by their gifts.  They had been SURE they knew EXACTLY what I had gotten for them.  They each knew ONE THING.

    I loved the surprise and the gratitude.  I felt completely blessed at the end of a crazy LONG day...blessed.
    Tonight my sister's and I all sent texts of our kiddos in the Christmas outfits standing (or sitting) by the tree.

    Middle Sister's photo came first.  Wait...when did they get a dog?

    Younger Sister's photo came next.  Three sisters all together and brother off to the side.  Probably the best you can do with a 7, 5, 3, and 1 year old.

    Next came a photo of Niece A's letter to Santa.

    "Dear Santa,  My mom messed up the cookies.  Enjoy.  Love, A"

    Made me smile!!
    I really liked our church's Christmas Eve service...except the music.  I was really disappointed by the lack of traditional Christmas carols.  I missed that...A LOT.
    A couple of weeks ago we volunteered to do child care for the early Christmas Eve service at church.  In hindsight not sure it was a good idea, but Middle Boy really wanted to help out.

    We were assigned to Room Three.  This is the room assigned to kids twelve to eighteen months.  Not necessarily what I would consider our forte.

    There were six of them.  We had another adult with us.  Two little girls, a set of twin boys and two other boys.

    It was interesting to watch my boys with them.  It was pretty obvious Middle Boy hadn't really held kiddos that age before, because what he was doing really looked awkward.  He was GREAT at playing with them though.  Really great.

    Younger Boy was so tired it was hard to tell if he was connecting with them.  There was one little girl who kept dancing so he spent the majority of the hour singing and dancing with her.

    It was a good volunteer opportunity for us as a family.  Not sure I would want to do it very often, but it was nice.

    Honestly I don't feel like taking Younger Boy to church with us tonight.  How's that for a good mom on Christmas?

    I don't feel like dealing with him sleeping through it and acting like a toddler.  Not one bit.  I would much rather stay home.  Actually that isn't true...I would much rather leave him at home and go to church with Middle Boy.

    I told Younger Boy we were NOT going to church unless he took a nap for TWO HOURS.

    Luckily he complied.  It wasn't like it was difficult for him to fall asleep...he is exhausted.  It also gave me a two hour break from his escalating behaviors.

    Praises for the nap.  Praises for Middle Boy understanding that I needed a few minutes.
    Younger Boy stayed up until 3AM this morning.

    Today he is like a two-year old.  We have a lot to do and I am NOT HAPPY.

    Imagine dragging a two-year old in a twelve-year old body everywhere you need to go...on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.  Imagine the same child sticking to you like glue everywhere you your personal space.  Imagine said child throwing himself on the floor in a store, because he isn't getting something he wants. 

    Then imagine you are able to diffuse the toddler-like temper tantrum, but it is exchanged for being in his own little world.  Standing in the middle of aisles and oblivious to everything around him.  Completely checked out.  Imagine every time you move in the store having to remind him to follow you.

    Middle Boy was losing his patience.  Admittedly...mine was completely gone. 

    I can't do this anymore...not today...not ever. 
    For the last three or four weeks I have been up multiple times during the night.  We are not talking one or two.  We are talking seven or eight.  Sometimes I will be up for a couple of hours.

    I am exhausted.  Why am I waking up so much?  I am having crazy dreams.  My mind is really working overtime.

    I just want some really good, really restful sleep.  SOON.
    Tonight I played monopoly with the boys.

    Middle Boy and I are both SUPER competitive so it was pretty much a war from the beginning with both of us trying to get Younger Boy to help us out.

    Along the way there were many life lessons about idols, being entrusted with much and humility and it opened up a lot of good dialogue.

    It was a wonderful evening.  We really need to do it more often.
    I have spent DAYS pre-teaching our holiday plans.  DAYS.

    Today as I was once again explaining our plans for the holidays Middle Boy stopped me.

    This was the first time he "heard" (not was told) we would be going to K's for Christmas dinner.  He was POSITIVE that every time before that I had told him we were going on Christmas Eve.

    Nope I never said that, because I have always known we were going on Christmas Day.  This started him balking at the plan.  Allegedly Christmas Day is for family.  Yes, I agree, but it is also for friends who are like family.

    I asked him repeatedly what he thought Christmas Day should look like.  I explained I can't meet his expectations of it if I don't know what they are.  Saying it is for family doesn't help me.

    He never did really come up with anything.  I don't really know what he was envisioning.  I am hoping whatever it is doesn't cause big feelings or big behaviors when we actually get to Christmas Day.
    Today we spent the majority of the day cleaning out house.  I cleaned upstairs and did laundry while the boys cleaned downstairs.

    I should say Middle Boy cleaned downstairs.  Younger Boy spent the majority of the day in his own little world.  Middle Boy probably did a better job of keeping him on task than I would have.  Probably because he knew otherwise he would be doing all of the work himself.

    They did a good job.  A really good job.  I am proud of them.

    This own little world thing is tiring.  Middle Boy probably said the words "come on now" to him a thousand times today.

    What is it?  What is causing it?
    We have decided to have a comedy movie marathon.  There are SO MANY funny movies the boys haven't seen.

    It started with a poll of family members and grew to a Facebook poll of which movies were the funniest.

    We have watched Tommy Boy and Three Amigos.  We also have a list of about twenty more to watch.

    That should take care of the break!!
    I'm going to start by saying this...the thought of wrapping a SINGLE GIFT is a daunting task to me.  I just don't enjoy doing it.

    I like to wait until the last possible minute and then sometimes just stuff it in a bag.  Not a gift bag...a grocery store bag or something like that. have your tree look like you just ran errands and couldn't carry the bags any further is ridiculous so I decided to suck it up and wrap the gifts.

    It wasn't horrible.  It was kind of peaceful.  I feel blessed to be able to buy gifts and give gifts.

    I shouldn't complain.
    This was Middle Boy's last group therapy session of the year. 

    Today we found out insurance is starting to cancel these therapy sessions for these kids, because they are deemed "unnecessary".  THEY ARE COURT ORDERED.  How can they be unnecessary?

    Therapist L is fighting the system like crazy on this one.  She is so angry.  She said she is doing everything she can on her end, but parents may need to start getting involved.

    She was so apologetic.  It isn't her fault.  It is yet another adventure in the state system.

    Prayers this can be easily straightened out.

    Younger Boy stayed up ALL NIGHT last night.  ALL NIGHT.

    He is a complete mess.  We are so busy today and I have nearly had it with this lack of sleep thing.

    It is really getting old!!
    The boys got a monopoly game for an adoption gift from one of our state senators.

    Tonight they decided to play each other.  I opted out since I was exhausted and needed to wrap gifts.

    They played for quite a while.  I am not entirely sure Younger Boy knew how to play and I believe he may have been cheated on multiple occassions.  In the end Middle Boy owned nearly every property.

    They didn't fight or even argue so I am all for more games of monopoly in the future.
    The boys had never seen the movie Christmas Vacation and the cleaned up version was on ABC Family we watched it.

    The boys thought it was really funny.  They laughed and laughed.

    It was a really good time.

    Maybe a tradition?
    While shopping with C an interesting thing happened.

    Both boys decided to get themselves a gift.  This is not the interesting part.  I could have guessed this.

    What is interesting is that they were shopping independently yet picked out the exact same thing for themselves.

    It is a ring that when read one direction says "Jesus" and the other "Saves".  It is a really cool ring, but I am a little surprised that they both got themselves a ring and that it was the same one.

    C took both boys shopping for Christmas gifts for me and to give me a MUCH NEEDED break.

    She said the boys did fine.  She observed that both boys are very generous, especially Younger Boy, and that Younger Boy is COMPLETELY in his own little world these days.

    I don't know where they went.  At least not exactly.  The boys did get themselves each a gift so I have a small clue.

    I am so blessed by C and her friendship.  Even more blessed by her willingness to take the boys on her own to do things.

    Thank you God for C.
    Today I didn't have anyone who could pick up Middle Boy from school so the responsibility fell to me.

    Let's just say it didn't go well.

    School gets out at 2:40PM.  So I left work at 2:30PM to go get him, take him home and come back to work.

    I get to the front of the pick up line in the normal place he is picked up.  He is there, but I can't get his attention, because he is tackling some kid in the snow.  Repeatedly. 

    I call and text.  I don't honk the horn, because I am trying not to embarrass him.

    I go and park in the parking lot and continue calling and texting.  He finally answers a call, but says he can't hear me and hangs up.  Doesn't call back just hangs up.

    Finally I talk to him and tell him I am in the parking lot STRAIGHT OUT from where he is.  In fact, I can see him talking to me.  I tell him he has two minutes and I am LEAVING, because I have now been at the school for 30 minutes.

    He FINALLY comes to the car and I am LIVID.  By the time I get him home my work day is done.  There is no point in going back.  Two more vacation hours WASTED.

    This is going to be a long upcoming semester if I have to pick him up every day.
    For those of you who don't actually "know" me.  I do work outside of the home.

    Today was a big day for me.  I met spent part of the morning meeting with our business development department strategizing our new market I will be leading.  In the next three months I will be doing about 100 presentations.  First to all of our offices...all 33, but no overseas travel.  Those will be done by video conference.

    We have gotten around $500,000 in contracts for this market in the last two months, so things are looking pretty strong considering everything has been word of mouth until now.

    So...praying for work.  Praying work and home don't been simultaneously stressful.

    This morning on the way to school Middle Boy and I witnessed two separate accidents.  At one point he asked if it really made sense to be having school that day.  Roads were pretty slick and we got a call that buses were running at least an hour late. 

    The high schools were having finals so I'm sure that was why.  They were single day finals.  All eight in one day.  YUCK!!

    Younger Boy went to bed at his actual bedtime tonight...8:30PM.  He did really well at pretending to sleep.

    He got up out of bed at 10:30PM.  Unfortunately for him I was still awake and busted him.

    I suspect this is the nightly routine.  He was MAD I made him go back to bed.  He tried again about 11PM.

    Caught again.  Plan foiled.

    This could go on all night.  I'm ready!!
    It was a pretty peaceful evening.  I finished up our family Christmas cards and packed up all of the Christmas cookies we had made in the past few days.

    The boys watched TV with Boarder and rested from their shoveling.

    It was just a nice relaxing evening.
    When Sophie shakes and pretends she can't go outside in fifty degree weather I am going to call her on it.

    She blew her cover today.  Sophie played outside in the snow for almost an hour.

    She was fun to watch.  In most places it was taller than she was, but she rolled around making her own form of snow angels and burrowing into piles of snow.

    Sophie we caught more pretending you can't go outside in the cold.
    The boys and Boarder shoveled for about three hours.  We have a really large driveway and live on a corner lot so there is a lot of shoveling to be done.

    The took a lunch break in the middle.

    Boarder was good about keeping them focused, but also making it fun for them. 

    They all worked REALLY hard.  I am proud of them and super thankful for Boarder.
    Lots of people in the metro area are without power.  Luckily we still have power.  We can see houses in our neighborhood who do not.

    We are praying for those without power that they have somewhere warm to go and are safe.
    It snowed about a foot...I think.  The wind was really howling as well.  In fact there was a thunderstorm during the snow with lots of thunder and lightning.  It was pretty cool actually.

    Since we don't have many houses around us we have a LOT of drifts around us.  Our back yard is probably five or six feet.

    Right in front of the garage...the same.

    It looks beautiful out...for now.
    When I got home about three hours having left work (it is normally a 20 minute trip) I was pretty tense.

    I was irritated when the boys decided to pretend they were sleeping and didn't help bring in the groceries or acknowledge I was home. 

    I needed some time.  A break.  Tough to get with these boys so...since they were pretending to be sleeping.  I just let them pretend and went upstairs and hung out for a while.
    While on my way home I called the boys to tell them I was going to stop at the store and asked them to look around and see what we might need during the storm in case we were snowed in.

    I already knew we needed milk since we go through eight gallons per week.  I also knew we needed bread.

    The list they called back with had just one thing....frozen pizza.

    Seriously, that is the only thing we need?  If that is it then I don't need to stop at the store.

    I set out from work at 4:30PM tonight to head home.  It was really snowing, but wasn't cold enough to be sticking to the ground yet.

    Didn't matter.

    After two hours I was barely halfway home.


    So for TWO DAYS we have been talking about the snow coming.  How it is going to be REALLY WINDY and like a BLIZZARD starting today and continuing tomorrow.

    We have talked about how there might be a snow day from school tomorrow if the weatherman is right.

    Last night we picked out warm clothes for Younger Boy to wear to school and put them on his dresser to wear today.  We talked about why he needed to wear them, because he will be at the bus stop and have to walk home from the bus stop after school.  It's about a block and a half.

    This morning he comes out of his room in a t-shirt, shorts and FLIP FLOPS.  What?  Where are the clothes we put out last night and talked about?

    Four year old Younger Boy said he didn't know it was supposed to snow.  He doesn't have any clean clothes.  No one told him he needed to dress warmly.  He is just going to wear this.  His teacher told him it isn't going to snow.

    I explained he COULD NOT go to school unless he was dressed appropriately for the weather.  This caused crying and a lay-on-the-floor tantrum.

    I asked if he was trying to not go to school.  No...he REALLY WANTS to go to school.  Then get up and put on pants.

    With less than a minute to spare he was ready for the bus. 

    Why?  What was this all about?

    Middle Boy just needed reassurance from his mom that Sophie was going to be alright. 3:15AM I sat on his bed holding Sophie and rubbing his back until he could relax enough to sleep.

    I hate watching him sleep.  He is hyper vigilant even in sleep.  This was a rough sleep.  He was moving all over.  He was moaning, almost crying.  He would tense up and then relax for a minute.  He would almost drift off and then his mind would realize it and he would be tensed back up again and awake.

    I sat there for over an hour.  Just quietly rubbing his back.  Tears running down my face.  He never did get to a point where his breathing was deep or relaxed. 

    I can't help but wonder all that has happened to this boy.  He has needed a mommy for a long time.  He still needs a mommy.

    Sleep well, my sweet boy.  I love you.
    Both boys went to bed at a reasonable time last night.  I was so thrilled.  Finally a good night's sleep.

    I celebrated a little early though.

    At 2AM Middle Boy came in with Sophie.  She was panting and whining and he was VERY worried.  He was carrying her around.  He took her outside and when he came back in he said "she peed twice her body weight".  Hmmm...could be why she was whining.  She was really weird acting making him freaked out.

    While we were up managing Sophie Younger Boy got up to go to the restroom.  In the time he was there Sophie went in his room and stole his glasses and hid under my bed with them.  No amount of coaxing was getting her out.  So...we tried to get the glasses for about five minutes.  Finally Middle Boy got them.

    Right after that Younger Boy was in the restroom...vomiting.  Good grief.

    I got him settled in bed and asleep.  Middle Boy was still following Sophie around and watching her like a hawk. we went to his room.
    During the baking session Sophie was a thief.  Younger Boy walked away from the table to get a glass of water and in that time Sophie was on the chair by the table and had eaten THREE unbaked peanut butter blossoms.  THREE.  Not much we can do about that.

    She continued her milling around the kitchen hoping for more Christmas goodies.  A peppermint cookie fell on the floor and before we could catch her...GONE.

    Okay have now eaten your body weight in Christmas cookies. 

    Younger Boy kept saying "I hope she pukes".  Not helpful, but likely.

    Sophie, Sophie, Sophie.
    We did more baking tonight.

    Here's what I have LOVED about the baking.  We had some really good bonding time with Boarder.  He has helped with the baking and around the house.  He did everything he was asked with the baking.  He was a good sport.

    Tonight he and Younger Boy frosted peppermint chocolate cookies and put crushed candy canes on them.  When they started Younger Boy told him he had never frosted cookies before.  So, it became a lesson.  Watching them was so sweet.

    They were talking about girlfriends and girls and God and loving Jesus. 

    At one point Younger Boy asked Boarder if he wanted to just stay with us for Christmas.  Boarder said "My own family probably wants to see me and I want to see them.  I am here with you now and I will be back after, because you are my other family now."

    I think about how Boarder ended up at our house in the first place.  To the outsider I KNOW it seems completely random.  To God...HIS PLAN...HIS PERFECT PLAN.
    Middle Boy and Mentor L went out for their every other week mentoring session tonight.  They went to a local restaurant that is kind of like a Chuck E Cheese for adults. 

    They both had an AWESOME time.  They came back laughing and talking about how they spent the majority of the time at the shooting arcade game.  They claimed you didn't win any tickets for it, but maybe they just weren't very good!!

    Middle Boy loves hanging out with Mentor L.  He really respects his opinions.  I am grateful for the good Christian male influence in his life that is consistent.

    Praises for Mentor L and his willingness to be involved.
    Today Middle Boy and his "girlfriend" broke up.  He really liked her.  He was excited about giving her gifts for her birthday tomorrow and for Christmas.

    He called her this afternoon and she told him she never really liked him.  She just thought he was cute, but she still "loved" her ex-boyfriend so she was going to "go after" him.

    He is trying really hard to prove to me he isn't hurt by all of this, but he is.  I'm trying to explain to him it is okay...truly okay to be sad.

    You couldn't pay me enough money to be in high school again.
    From now on I am going to react to the little Younger Boy with the following words.  "Please use your Big Boy Words and Feelings to tell me what you need".

    It isn't going unnoticed on me that many people use this with their toddlers.  That is where we are.

    Stomping...what is that feeling?
    Crying...what is that feeling?
    Helplessness...what is the feeling?

    What do you need?  Use words not behaviors.

    If we can get past this...AND WE CAN...this will be HUGE.

    Pray for us.
    Result of brainstorming....

    Younger Boy has an "addiction" to being the victim and receiving attention in that way.  When he acts like he is helpless he gets attention.  They surmise that the first time he EVER received positive nurturing was when he was in the hospital having the gash on his head repaired.  He was cuddled and comforted.

    That scar and talk of that scar still get a similar reaction.

    Acting much younger than your age and helpless USED TO get you the attention you are craving...much like an addict, but it isn't working anymore.  In many ways it backfires.

    We talked to him about it.  I think he sort of gets are going to practice other ways.
    Little Younger Boy has been with us the majority of the last couple of weeks.  Over and over.

    The issue has grown to include his time with Mentor R as well.  That is puzzling to his therapists.  They brainstormed between sessions.

    I completely AGREE with their thoughts...we are going to try it.
    Therapy with Younger Boy was FASCINATING this morning.

    Here is one thing that became VERY APPARENT.  He has NO TOLERANCE for not knowing what comes next.  NONE.

    Preteaching is something I try to do.  He usually gets mad though.  I am going to have to pray about this.

    Middle Boy told me this morning he thinks he is getting really good at being respectful and following directions.  I would agree that he is improving, but getting really good?  Maybe a stretch.

    He said he is even respecting my wishes.  He asked if there were any he needed to improve on.  When I pointed out the one that I would love for him to work on was bedtime he told me I am UNFAIR.  That one is TOO HARD.  He can't do it.

    So much for respecting wishes.
    If I ask you to go to bed the appropriate response should always be something like "my science teacher said we don't need much sleep" or stomping around the house.

    This is what I "endured" for about 30 minutes last night.

    Stomping and lying...the perfect end to the evening!!
    Boarder and the boys were going to put up the tree tonight a little later.  Middle Boy decided he would just do it...couldn't wait for anyone else.

    I asked him repeatedly to just wait.  Furniture needed to be moved.  Putting the tree together is a two person job.  There was NO WAITING to be done.  So as a result we have an arm chair on top of a sofa (why not?) and one in front of the front door (hope no one comes over).

    We have a tree with no top section (can't reach it) and the lights don't work (can't find all the connection points).

    Middle Boy is done though.  He can't do it.  Someone else can just take care of it or we will leave it.

    I HATE looking at that tree.  It represents how frustrating life is right now.
    We haven't done much of anything to get ready for the holidays except buy baking supplies.  So tonight we baked.

    We made peppermint chocolate cookies and pistachio cranberry cookies.  We crushed potato chips for chocolate covered potato chips.  We also made a small batch of peanut clusters.

    It was a good time...for the most part.  We still had some frustrations along the way.  Any time Middle Boy is given a suggestion of a way to do something he immediately assumes he is stupid and yells "I am not perfect."  He also questions EVERYTHING.  Recipe says one cup...surely that is wrong.  One stick of butter...doesn't seem like enough.  He made cookies once before and they had oil...surely these need oil.  Doesn't say it in the recipe?  Doesn't matter...still needs oil.

    We were able to get past it though and had a nice a family.  Sophie even ate some flour that spilled on the floor.  So...she had a role.

    Tonight my LifeGroup was meeting for the last time before the holidays.  We haven't met for a couple of weeks due to various illnesses and other commitments.  These are my ladies.  This is the place I can go every week and just be an adult.  I can be prayed over and I can be heard.

    I didn't get to go to LifeGroup tonight.  Not because I didn't want to.  I didn't have child care.  Babysitter J and Babysitter M have already headed home for Christmas.  Babysitter JP was at a wrestling meet and Boarder had to work.  Out of options.

    I wish I could leave these two home for a little while by themselves.  I used to be able to.  Now I can't.  Middle Boy can be home alone, but he can't manage 4 year-old Younger Boy.  It isn't fair to ask him, because he doesn't get it.  He sees the younger behaviors and they frustrate him, but I can't have him manage them for an evening...SO...we are going to make the best of it...even if it is a change in routine.
    So...I have this weird thing going on with my leg.  I decided today would be a good day to self-diagnose.

    Here is my symptom.  The outside of my right calf randomly gets hot.  Just the sensation of hot.  Not hot to touch.  Not red.  Doesn't hurt.  Just the sensation of hot.  It mainly happens when I am sitting, but occasionally when laying down.  It stays "hot" for two or three minutes and then it goes away.  Happens a number of times during the day.

    Here's what I found...and the one I am going is a neurological condition caused by stress.  All of the rest of the scenarios seemed unrealistic.  I don't have any stress in my life (wink, wink), but this seems the most likely.

    It's annoying.  Pray for less stress...maybe even peace.
    This WAS our holiday plans:

    Get together with all of my family from Friday the 28th through the following Sunday or Monday.  Everyone was going to have dinner at our home on Friday night and then Nephews JD and JJ were going to stay with us while everyone else went back to Lincoln.  We would go to Lincoln the following morning and join everyone else and spend the night there on Saturday night.

    Since these plans were made Nephew JJ now has to have his tonsils out on December 27 and will be out of commission.   We are disappointed, but TOTALLY get why the surgery is when it is.  We would do the same thing.

    Middle Sister has decided to do this THIS:

    Drive part way here on Friday night.  Saturday stop at our house for a little while and then all of us go to Younger Sister's later in the evening.  She has to work until 6PM on Saturday night.  We may or may not be able to spend the night on Saturday, because we are signed up to help in the nursery at church on Sunday morning.

    The boys can't handle this change.  We talked about it this morning and they don't get it.  They have NO ABILITY to roll with the punches.

    I can't decide if we should try it or forget it.  Middle Sister is doing this partially for them and we do want to see them.  Maybe if we keep talking about it between then and now we can get to a place of acceptance of the new plan.

    Middle Boy also has therapy on the morning of Christmas Eve.  We have talked about it MORE THAN ONCE.  Today he asked how many more times he has therapy before the break.  When I said three he couldn't deal with it.  No one told him.  I reminded him of our conversation.  Then he told me Therapist L didn't tell him so I was probably wrong.

    I am hoping we can keep the remainder of our next couple of weeks fairly "regular", because otherwise it isn't going to be pretty...not pretty at all.
    The emotional tidal wave constantly moving through this house is EXHAUSTING.  I grew up in a family where emotion wasn't discussed...still isn't.  This is uncomfortable for me.

    I can't sleep tonight.  I want to help these boys.  I want them to heal.  I want them to experience the life that they should have had.

    I grieve for them.  For the boys they should be without all of this "junk".

    My mind is racing.  I just keep praying...over and over praying.
    It all started with Younger Boy leaving Middle Boy's door open.  Was it intentional?  I think so.  Can I prove that?  Nope.

    Sophie chewed up his headphones.  He was FURIOUS....disproportionately furious.

    This turned into a barrage of screaming at me for everything he is "sure" I say to him.  How he doesn't do anything right.  How he doesn't help around the house.  How he is a horrible son.  How he is a failure, because he is the one who volunteered to train Sophie.  I think he should be perfect.  He is never going to amount to anything.  He should just die.  He doesn't deserve a family.  Everyone hates him.  He is doing his best and it is never good enough.  He ruins everything.  If he could go back to when he was a child he wishes he could have died during the abuse.  If I expect him to become vulnerable I can just forget it.

    It was a 40 minutes tirade.  I didn't say a word.  I can't anymore.  My words get twisted and used against me and it is easier to simply ride the wave.

    I can always tell when the rage is ending, because his body language changes.  He sat down next to me.  He just wanted me to hug him and scratch his back.  To reconnect.  To tell him he is safe and he isn't going anywhere.  That I love him.

    It is hard to do.  Every ounce of my being wants to leave the room...walk away when he is like this.  I know (from all of my classes and research) this is the most damaging.  That in times like this I have to do EVERYTHING in my power to reconnect.  Doesn't make it easy.

    I rocked Middle Boy to sleep while quietly singing to him.
    In the wake of the school shooting this past week in Connecticut there has been much published about the shooter and gun control and mental illness.

    This article struck close to home.

    Now...I have to include that I am not afraid of either of my boys.  I don't believe they would physically hurt me.

    We have been to the psychiatric emergency room.  More times than anyone should ever go.  Middle Boy once "lived there" when he was seven...for about three weeks.  He doesn't know why.  The thing she described about the kid being "fine" in the ER and then being sent home, because he wasn't an imminent danger to self or others has happened to us.  Three times to be exact.  Twice with Older Boy when he was with us and once with Younger Boy.  As a mom I can't describe the frustration associated with it.

    The pants episode she describes has happened at our house minus the death threats.

    We keep all of our sharp objects locked in a tupperware.  I don't keep it with me.

    We keep all of our meds locked in a closet.

    My heart breaks for this mom.  I get it.  I wish I didn't, but I do.  It strikes a nerve with me.

    Before foster care I NEVER knew this world of childhood mental illness existed.  Let's talk about it.  Let's help these kids.  Locking them up...NOT THE ANSWER.

    Pray for all kiddos with mental health issues, foster or not.  Pray for their families...families who are doing the best they can...EVERY DAY...with the limited resources available to them.  Pray for a solution.  Until then...offer grace.  Give understand.  Lend a helping hand.  Work to understand.
    Tonight Mentor R and his family brought pizza over.  Originally we were going to go out for dinner, but they had a long day at a basketball tournament.

    It turned out nice.  They were able to meet Boarder.  Mentor R fixed the broken closet door.  We all chatted.

    We don't see them often enough.  I was glad they came over.
    While Younger Boy was at youth group Middle Boy and I did some shopping and went to lunch.

    When Middle Boy is in his most adult self and not struggling I enjoy him immensely.  He is funny and kind.

    We bought a new sweater for Sophie that is easier to put on when she goes outside.  She will freeze if she doesn't wear one.  We debated and laughed about the down coats they have for dogs and how if we got it for her she would have the nicest coat in the family.  In the end she got a fleece jacket with a hood.  I wanted pink and Middle Boy wanted black.  She got blue.

    Our lunch was actually delightful.  We chatted about what we want to make our Christmas "traditions" and the fact that we still don't have our tree up.  We will make it yet if it kills us (and it might).

    We had a nice time together.  We enjoyed each others company.  It was time well spent.
    Younger Boy wants to be on the leadership team for youth group.

    He has had the application for about four weeks now.  I have reminded him every day about getting it filled out.  For a while it was lost.  For a while he couldn't find a pen.  For a while he didn't know there was an application.

    Today I told him that he has to get the application done or he can't be a part of the leadership team until next year.

    Here's the thing...he is spending so much time in his four-year old self that he can't fill out the application.  He has no business being on the leadership team.  He will be a distraction at best.

    He didn't get it filled out.  He can't find it.  (It is in the car on his seat and he sits on it every time he is in the car.)  I told him where it is.  He still can't find it.

    Pray for me to give him grace.
    Middle Boy's friend, Z, is spending the night.  He is the son of a family from church, a former foster kid, and now has permanency.

    When the two of them are together behavior reverts to seven year-olds.

    We had to run some errands.  (What was I thinking?)  They were both REALLY irritated with me after they raced through a parking lot to the car and I made them go all the way back to the store and redo it.  I wouldn't unlock the doors until it happened.  They were STEAMING.

    For the most part they did pretty well.  There was a lot of "one upsmanship" of foster care stories.  Lots of "well this is what happened to me".

    They were respectful (for teens) and picked up after themselves (they were threatened).

    I don't mind having him here.  Generally speaking he is a nice kid.
    Usually I send out my Christmas cards the first Monday in December. 

    I am still working on my Christmas cards.  I did finish the Christmas cards for all of the is a new thing this year.

    It took me FOREVER to figure out what to write in my Christmas letter...there was so much that happened, but some of it was hard to write about.

    So...they are addressed.  The cards are written in.  Some have stamps.  Some do not (Sophie ate some of the stamps).  The letters just need to be folded and the envelopes sealed.

    Middle Boy sealed all of the camp Christmas cards, but I am guessing he won't be up for this since he paper cut his tongue four times with the other cards.

    So...if you USUALLY get a card from is coming.  Really, it is!!
    God loves to show me my support system when I least expect it.

    Ms. R...the lady who did respite for us when Grandpa was in the hospital now has a foster son who is in Middle Boy's group therapy.  As a result I get to spend an hour with Ms. R every Saturday morning...just chatting and laughing.

    I appreciate her.  While I am not thrilled that Middle Boy is still in the therapy the chance to get to spend time with Ms. R every week is refreshing to me.

    She has shown up in SO MANY random spots recently.  I know God is putting her there to remind me that she is available to help.

    Thank you God for Ms. R and for your constant reminder YOU are there.
    All the way home on the drive both boys kept talking about how they were going "right to bed"  since it was late.

    That was my intent and, honestly, I don't stay up with them anymore.  It is too exhausting and is just plain frustrating for me.

    Middle Boy ended up going to bed about 45 minutes after we got home.  Around the same time I did.  That is usually how long it takes me to wind down after getting home.

    Younger Boy was up for FOUR MORE HOURS.  He accidentally woke me just after 3AM and I sent him to bed and sat in his doorway until he was asleep.

    All things considered we had a surprisingly good evening.

    We tried to go to a couple of restaurants downtown, but the wait was over an hour which would have made us late for the show.  We'll have to try the restaurant they were both wanting to go to another time.

    Younger Boy was entranced by the show.  He had never been to a Broadway musical before and he REALLY liked it.  Middle Boy did, too.  I was a little surprised at this.  He was pretty into it.

    Our next tickets in our season tickets are to the Lion King.  They will LOVE it.

    We enjoyed each others company this evening.  It was nice.
    Today I have almost no energy.

    I am dreading our evening plans with every ounce of my being.  We have tickets to Beauty and the Beast at our local theater.  We are going to dinner beforehand. 

    It is going to be busy and we are going to have to wait to eat.  Middle Boy almost cannot physically do this. 

    Younger Boy is still four.  He hasn't really kicked out of it for a couple of days now. 

    Pray we can get through this evening and enjoy it...and each other.
    This morning on the way to work I was praying for encouragement to get through my day.  I was frustrated by the events of the morning and I was wondering how and even if I would make it through the day.

    That is when this BRAND NEW song by Tenth Avenue North came on the radio.  God played it just for me...

    I'm tired, I'm worn
    My heart is heavy
    From the work it takes to keep on breathing
    I've made mistakes
    I've let my hope fail
    My soul feels crushed by the weight of this world
    And I know that you can give me rest
    So I cry out with all that I have left
    Let me see redemption win
    Let me know how the struggle ends
    That you can mend a heart that's frail and torn
    I wanna know the sun can rise from the ashes of a broken life
    And all that's dead inside can be reborn
    Cause I'm worn
    I  know I need to lift my eyes up
    But I'm just too weak
    Life just won't let up
    And I know that you can give me rest
    So I cry out with all that I have left
    Let me see redemption win
    Let me know how the struggle ends
    that you can mend a heart that's frail and torn
    I wanna know the sun can rise from the ashes of a broken life
    and all that's dead inside can be reborn
    Cause I'm worn
    My prayers are wearing thin and I'm worn
    Even before the days begins
    I'm worn
    I've lost my will to fight
    I'm worn
    Heaven come and flood my eyes
    Let me see redemption win
    Let me know how the struggle ends
    That you can mend a heart that's frail and torn
    I wanna know the sun can rise from the ashes of a broken life
    And all that's dead inside can be reborn
    Though I'm worn
    Yeah I'm worn
    After the concert I took the boys and Boarder out for dinner.  The irony of it is that I am just old enough to be Boarder's mom. 

    We had a good time at dinner.  We laughed a lot.  Boarder told us his review of the concert.  He couldn't critique Younger Boy's individual performance, because from his seat the teacher blocked his view of Younger Boy.

    Younger Boy told us how he had taken his Bible to read during the break time and how ELEVEN kids listened to him read out loud from it while the eighth graders were performing.  He thought that was pretty cool.  He shared with them Genesis 1:1 and Philippians 4:13.  He also read the Christmas story.  This boy, without a doubt, has the spiritual gift of evangelism.

    It was a nice evening.

    Younger Boy had a choir concert tonight.  Unfortunately it conflicted with Middle Boy's therapy so I couldn't go.

    Boarder filled in for me at the concert.  He couldn't take Middle Boy to therapy, because he didn't get off work in time.  Mentor R and his wife, J, went, too.

    I wish I could have been there, but I tried to find rides for Middle just wasn't meant to be.

    Praises for others in his life who will encourage him and lift him up.
    Coach of the best friends I could ask for.  A real, transparent friend.

    Today on our way home we talked on the phone.  We talked about our life frustrations right now.  We talked about the things where we know we are being ridiculous, but we can't shake it.  We talked about how we wished we could hang out more.  How this friendship is real and transparent and God given, because "on paper" we have no business being friends.

    I told her how I am sad about Christmas.  Sad that my family isn't getting together and that Christmas will be just me and the boys.  Feeling selfish that there will be NOTHING under the tree for me to open.  Feeling ridiculous, because that isn't even what Christmas is about.

    How I am to the core tired.  How the boys tell me they don't get any free time and every time they say it I want to explode and scream....I work through lunch every day, because you make me late and I NEVER get a break, because neither of you sleep.

    These are the things Coach Z doesn't judge.  She just listens.  She encourages.  We laughed.  I didn't know until after we talked how much God had timed that call...for both of us.

    God...thank you for Coach Z...for all that she is in my life and for her heart.
    This morning I cried all of the way to work.  I am SO OVERWHELMED right now.  I am having a HUGE pity party and all I can think about it the things that stink in life.

    Tears...all the way to work. 
    Tonight I really wanted to go to youth group.

    Here was the catch...Younger Boy woke up and we couldn't shake his four-year old self.  A four-year old has no business at a middle school youth group.

    Middle Boy was too busy telling me about how it wasn't his fault Younger Boy was so tired.  I never said it was.  You asked why he was sleeping....I told you.

    The majority of our caregivers weren't available or already volunteer at church on Wednesday so I stayed home...with both boys.

    Middle Boy and I worked on Christmas cards and Younger Boy slept.
    This morning I got a call from Younger Boy's school at 8:15AM.  They start at 7:40AM.  This couldn't be good.

    Can I come and get him?  They have had to wake him FIVE times already this morning.

    I got to the school to pick him up and the nurse asked about his sleeping habits.  I nearly lost it. 

    I said this "Younger Boy was sexually and physically abused in multiple homes during the course of the night.  He is hyper vigilant.  He sleeps with his glasses and shoes on...EVERY case he has to get out in a hurry.  It has taken TWO YEARS to get to that point.  Before he wouldn't be under the covers and the window had to be open.  He fights sleep with every ounce of his being.  He is taking medication for sleep, but it doesn't really work.  There are other classifications of sleeping meds, but they are all habit forming so we aren't going to do that to him.  We are working on it in therapy...that is how we can close the window now." much does he sleep you ask?  Hardly ANY.  How much did he sleep last night?  I have NO IDEA.  Why?  Because I am so EXHAUSTED that I can't stay up with him every single night.

    Do I think it would help to tell his teachers? whatever you want.

    I took him home and he slept almost straight through until Thursday morning...almost.
    Tonight was AWFUL....100% AWFUL.

    What started as a simple conversation over dinner EXPLODED.

    Middle Boy and I were talking about him getting caught up in Spanish.  I suggested that he take 30 minutes a day over the break to get himself caught up.  Nope...he is ENTITLED to a break.  I told him I didn't think 30 minutes a day were unreasonable considering he would be free to do pretty much whatever within reason the remainder of the day.

    This is when he started SCREAMING that I am an unreasonable parent and I do NOT listen...just interrupt.  Never want to hear his side of the story.  When I don't say anything it continues to escalate to degrading of me as a person.  I am stupid.  I don't deserve to have kids.  I am the worst parent he has ever lived with.

    I told him I needed a break from the screaming or I was going to lose it.  I went in the other room.  He followed me screaming "you're just like everyone else...abandoning me.  Go ahead, call 911.  Maybe they can get me out of this f****** home.  You don't want me in this family anyway.  All you do is threaten to make me leave.  You are a f****** b**** anyway.  You want ugly disrespectful behavior, here you go b****".

    I didn't say a word.  Honestly it takes EVERY OUNCE of strength I have to not fight back.  To not SCREAM. 

    He started screaming "Go ahead, tell me I am abusive.  Tell me you are scared of me.  I dare you."

    This went on for more than an hour.  At one point I had to just mentally check out.  If I cry at all he screams that I am so weak.

    Later...when we got to the remorseful/reconnection phase he was able to cognitively tell me that my leaving the room trigger him and that he thought I was going to leave forever.  He also said he wants to stop.  He doesn't want to yell at me like that.  He knows that he is abusing me verbally, but he doesn't know how to be appropriately mad (his words, not mine).

    Pray for our family.  I wish I could say this kind of thing doesn't happen often, but it does. 
    Today I had another call with the State Inspector General.  She is researching my case and needed some more information from me.

    She told me that the deeper she gets into it the more improprieties she uncovers.  AARGH.  What started as me simply wanting to understand the ruling is now big...very big.

    She wants to meet some time in the next week.

    Prayers for wisdom in this situation.  There are so many directions this could go.
    Today both boys had dentist appointments.  On the way there I was talking about what they might expect while they were at the dentist.  Younger Boy was going for a check-up and since it was a new to him dentist Middle Boy would be doing a full initial appointment.

    Of course this was not okay with Middle Boy.  Why didn't Younger Boy have to get the full work-up?  When I said they would probably do xrays and it wouldn't hurt or really be a big deal Middle Boy flipped out.  I should have told him sooner.  What was I thinking telling him on the way to the dentist.  I should know that he needs to know sooner.

    Good grief...I can't win for trying.  I just wanted to pre-teach.  I don't have enough energy to pre-teach weeks in advance.  Neither boy would remember what I said anyway.

    Younger Boy has three cavities, but they are all in baby teeth so they aren't going to do anything about it.  He told the dentist he hasn't brushed his teeth since July.  Seriously?  That isn't even true so why?

    Middle Boy had a cavity.  It is not in a baby tooth so it will need to be filled.  They are going to fill it with a material that will match his tooth.  Good thing, because he told them if they used something else he would have to pull the whole tooth out with a pliers.  Irrational?  Yup.

    So...on the way home (because it was the first I knew it was going to need to happen) I was talking to Middle Boy about what they do when they do fillings.  He stopped me...why am I telling him this now?  The appointment isn't for a month.

    My head might explode...literally.

    Prayers for good oral hygiene.  Seems like a weird prayer, but honestly both boys struggle with is a part of self image.
    Today was Younger Boy's therapy.  Therapist C and Therapist D decided to turn up the heat on him regarding homework.  We played "detective" and finally figured out that Younger Boy doesn't want to be responsible for anything.

    In his own words he said "it is too hard living at this house and having responsibility" and "he would rather be a foster child".  He also said that he wishes he were just four.

    That is the age he has been reverting to on a more and more increasing basis.  At this point in time it is difficult to tell whether he is in control of when it happens or if he isn't.  This is two VERY different diagnosis.  If he isn't this is the first signs of dissociative personality disorder.  Basically multiple personalities which in your mind allow you to meet your needs.  If it isn't that it is conduct disorder which is basically manipulating all situations to meet your needs and showing no remorse.  We are going to behave right now like it is dissociative disorder.  I am going to ask questions like "who is here with is 4 year old Younger Boy or 12 year old Younger Boy?"

    Honestly 99% of the time I can tell which one is there.  There is a tone of voice and a look in the eyes that is dissociative.

    He is spending the majority of the time as a 4 year old right now.  Studies would show that this could be good, because it could be the beginning of healing.  It is when his "major" trauma took place and where his physical needs may not have been met.

    I can tell you is hard.  It is frustrating and it is exhausting.  I can't even out guess which Younger Boy I will get in any situation and there have been a number of times lately when it wasn't appropriate to have a four-year old there so we have just stayed home.

    Pray for healing.  Pray for rest.  Pray the rest of the people in our lives would offer us grace.
    As I was driving home from work tonight I started getting texts from both boys. 

    Middle Boy basically said that if Younger Boy is going to be a part of this family he wants no part of it.  Younger Boy said that Middle Boy expects him to do EVERYTHING around the house.

    The texts just kept coming...what on earth is going on there?

    When I got home I asked both boys to give me EVERY detail of the story separately and then I had them sit together and give them to me.  It is funny how being together to tell the story makes you have a slightly different perspective.

    Apparently Middle Boy wanted Younger Boy to pick up his trash from eating a snack.  Not sure why this was important to him, because he doesn't do it with his own snacks, but I digress.

    Younger Boy decided not to, but instead to stand and scream in Middle Boy's face...six inches from his face.  Why?  No idea.

    Middle Boy pushed him out of the way.  I wasn't traumatized as a child and I, too, might have considered this an appropriate action.

    That is when Younger Boy screamed "you are scaring me" and Middle Boy decided to quit the family. 

    Younger Boy knows that statement is a trigger for Middle Boy and he chooses to use it often.

    I just wanted a semblance of order when I got home...guess that will have to wait until another day.
    Tonight at 9:30PM the boys wanted to know if they could buy "The Avengers" on pay per view. 

    Um..NO.  It is currently after your bedtime.  You are in your rooms and now is when you want to buy a pay per view movie.  Are you kidding me? are not buying it. 
    I am SO THANKFUL C was able to help Younger Boy with his digital media homework.  I had tried, but creating websites is just not my thing.  I tried really had to follow the directions given by the teacher, but in my opinion they were not that good.

    C...she stuck it out and helped him get it spite of  the fact Younger Boy FORGOT to bring the directions to her house.

    I am so thankful for so very many ways.

    Today at the high school youth group lunch they did a questionnaire about themselves.  About the qualities and characteristics they thought they had and the ones they wished they had.

    Middle Boy was really eager to read them to me and tell me his answers.

    Honestly I was a surprised at how truly self aware he is.  There was only one thing that I disagreed with him on.  It was also interesting to hear those things he wished were different about himself.

    What is interesting is that the same things he says about himself are the things I would say about myself...almost without a single change.

    It was a great conversation....really great.
    Middle Boy was dropped off back at church for his youth group meeting while Younger Boy and I went to lunch.

    It was a nice lunch.  We had a pleasant conversation about the sermon and school and things that are going on in his life.

    We came home really quick to get his digital media assignment and head over to C's so she could help him.  I had NO IDEA how to complete the assignment!!

    Middle Boy and I did a little bit of Christmas shopping while Younger Boy was at youth group.

    He wanted to get a present for his "girlfriend". 

    He decided on a necklace, but he wouldn't ask the cashier if he could see it.  He wanted me to.  I told him that if he couldn't ask the cashier to see the necklace then he wasn't mature enough to be buying it.  Of course, that is just ridiculous..completely stupid.

    Finally he chose to ask about the necklace.  After I said it was time to leave.

    So...there is a nice necklace...age appropriate for his "girlfriend". 

    I am keeping track of it, because "what is he going to do with it until Christmas".

    We haven't made it to church in a couple of weeks.  Today we did.  It felt good to be there.

    I enjoyed the sermon very much.  I loved the worship music.

    It was just nice to be worshipping God in our church home.
    In public settings Middle Boy's behavior becomes VERY YOUNG.

    At the pool party he was fine.  At the dinner afterward he was throwing pens, running, tackling other kids, and yelling.

    Really?  How many other kids are doing that?  Oh...just you and the one you instigated into it?  Hmmm...that's odd.

    On the way home we talked about it.  We talked about how that isn't appropriate.  It isn't appropriate indoors.  It isn't appropriate in a public setting.  It isn't appropriate when you are his age.  It isn't appropriate...period. 

    His least I waited until some of the people had left.  No...INAPPROPRIATE....ALWAYS.

    He doesn't get it.  We are going to have to address it again.
    This afternoon I needed to get away from Middle Boy.  I was so sick of arguing with him.

    He was invited to a pool party for camp.  He wasn't going unless his friend was going.  He would just stay home.  In the next breath though he was complaining about how he "never" gets to do anything and all I want him to do is stay home.

    Next he was angry, because I wanted him to eat a sandwich before going to the party.  They were having dinner at the party...not lunch.  The idea of a sandwich...ludicrous.

    On the way to the party he was complaining over and over about how the whole thing was going to be stupid....completely stupid and what was the point.

    I couldn't wait to get in the water park...and a break from him.

    My last FACT class.  I was able to get the handouts for all of the classes today.  When I have a moment I will recap my notes from the last two classes.

    This one was about consequences for kids from hard places.

    This one was how consequences and rewards are ineffective.

    This one provided me with some strategies that made me think.

    I am so thankful I live in a city where these classes are offered.

    Praises for the ability to learn and to grow.
    This afternoon was a dream afternoon.  It is Friday after all, but really that had nothing to do with it.

    By the time I got home...
    1. Middle Boy was done with his homework.
    2. Younger Boy was working on his homework.
    3. Younger Boy had emptied the dishwasher.
    4. Middle Boy had cleaned up the mud room.
    5. Both boys had their laundry in the laundry room and ready to go.
    6. Sophie had been walked and all of her toys put away from her day home alone.
    It was peaceful.  There was no deceit or frustration.

    Middle Boy commented on how it felt good to not have homework looming over his head for the entire weekend.

    Praises for ONE GOOD DAY.
    Here is what I can say about my foster care license today.

    It has been exposed that HHS obtained information from sealed files and sent information to my agency that was not truthful.

    Another attorney on board as of this morning after the discovery of the obtained information.

    I prayed about being an agent of change.  Not sure this is what I had in mind, but God had other plans.
    For the last two days I have been in Biloxi, Mississippi, for work.

    Babysitter J stayed with the boys.  For the most part things went pretty well.

    I came home to a house that was a disaster, but it was mostly a disaster when I left so I can't really be irritated about that.

    Tuesday night they had a little bit of trouble with anger management.  Younger Boy had "borrowed" something of Middle Boy's and not put it away.  Sophie chewed it up.

    I am VERY PROUD of Middle Boy because he followed his safety plan pretty closely.  The only thing he didn't do was to let Babysitter J know that he was leaving to take a walk to cool down.  Otherwise he did EXACTLY what he should have done.

    Homework didn't really get caught up.  Allegedly it was getting done.  I am a bit skeptical.

    Praying for things to go well.