I wrote a Christmas letter this year.  I never got around to printing it and sending it.  Part of me was too tired and part of me thought others would think I had lost my mind...maybe it was some of both. it is.

Growing up I had a mental image of family.  I guess you would say it was a traditional image.  In fact that image carried into my early adulthood.  Then God grabbed hold of my heart and family became something very different and something very wonderful.  This is us in 2014 and how we are blessed beyond measure.
Denise – I am the head of this crazy family.  I work full-time as a Commissioning Agent/Mechanical Engineer at LEO A DALY in Omaha.  I enjoy the work and they are so supportive of me.  I also volunteered at UNO in the Architectural Engineering department as a Freshman Professional Mentor and as a Mentor for the student competition project the master’s students are doing for their professional society.  This spring I watched the six girls from my small group graduate from high school.  I loved all four years of being their leader and miss them like crazy.  I continue to be a foster parent for the State of Nebraska and regularly get calls for placements.  In my “spare” time I am working on my dream of opening a trauma-informed charter school in Omaha.  The pieces are starting to become more real and I pray God will continue opening doors along the way.

Charlie (Middle Boy) – He started the year as a sophomore at Omaha Burke.  It quickly became apparent public high school was not for him.  After trying independent school through OPS we landed on online high school through the University of Nebraska.  I homeschool the math portion and anything else that comes up, but he is able to do the remainder of the work.  Charlie had a job as an assistant chef in an Alzheimer’s care facility and also as a camp counselor at the YMCA.  Right now he is not working in order to start devoting more time to school.  Charlie has started loving all things country, camoflauge, and anything having to do with big trucks.  His hobbies are working on the Dodge Dakota he bought and making music.

Will (Younger Boy) – Will is a freshman at Omaha Northwest.  He reportedly likes school.  He found his niche this year as part of JROTC.  He is part of both the drill team and the color guard.  He loved doing courtesy patrol at all of the home football games and proudly wears his uniform every Wednesday.  Will got braces this year and has grown over 6 inches.  He sings in the honor choir at school.  He loves youth group, playing with the dogs, and hanging out with Charlie and his friends.

Tyler (Boarder) – What started out as a month long “thing” has turned into over two years.  Tyler is our live-in “manny”.  He has been such a blessing to our family.  He is there when I travel out of town making it less stressful to travel for work.  Tyler recently quit college to join the management training program at QT.  He loves the boys and is like an older brother to them.  He is 25 years old and did I mention he is such a blessing?

Spencer, Aaron, and Cameron – All of these boys lived in our home for a couple of months this past year.  All for different reasons, but they were part of the family just the same. 

Donni (Older Boy) – I became the legal guardian of Will’s biological older brother in September.  He continues to live with the Johnson’s as his caregivers.  He will be 18 in January and is a junior at North Bend High School.  He works part time at Goodwill and is on the school show choir and bowling team.

Scott and Deb – The caregivers for three of Will’s biological siblings.  They have adopted Hayleigh and following some legal work in the spring I will become the legal guardian of the third sibling in their home, Paul.  Paul is medically fragile and there are a lot more details to work through than there were with Donni.  We are all a huge extended family.

Sophie - Sophie is a three-year old Dachshund.  We call her the diva, because she will not go outside if it is too hot, too cold, raining, or the grass touches her belly.  In all other circumstances she needs you to be outside with her and she only eats the light-colored pieces of dog food. 

Max – Max was a sixteen-month old Boxer Lab mix.  He died of a brain tumor this summer.  I miss that big guy every single day.

Si – Si is a 10-month old Westie.  He is quirky and funny.  Unfortunately he shreds and hides things.  He can jump on the counter from standing on the floor.  All qualities which are not becoming in a puppy.  Si loves us with everything he has and makes me smile every time I see him.

Sam – Sam joined the family about a month after Max passed away.  Sam is the calm to Si’s crazy.  He is a protector.  Sam is beautiful and we are anxiously awaiting the results of Sam’s DNA testing.  Right now the best guess is that he is an Australian Shepherd/Cattle Dog mix.  He is gentle and loves to be adored.

Josh – Charlie’s friend who is at our house about 75% of the waking hours he is not at work or in school.  His dad has actually asked for a child support bill.

My biological family – Everyone is well.  We are all getting together between Christmas and New Years.  As my parents wrote in their Christmas letter no one has changed jobs or moved this year.  No new kids either.  Just a pretty good year.

That’s us.  My family.  God has blessed me beyond measure.  We were able to have some great adventures this year.  We went to Chicago over spring break and met my sister and her family there.  We attended many KSU home football games.  I think one of the highlights was attending the Garth Brooks concert in Minneapolis this fall.  I have never seen “my fraternity” filled with so much joy. 
Middle Boy is a MASTER at manipulating situations where he has done something wrong to twist it around to be my fault.

We discussed his behavior of last night.  He thought it was justified, because he was "helping a friend" and that is the right thing to do.

I asked why he didn't AT A MINIMUM wake me to tell me he was leaving.  "Because I was sleeping soundly and he knew I had been exhausted."  Besides...he wasn't going to be gone long.  What?  You are SIXTEEN.  It is the MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT.  You MUST tell me where you are going.

In his opinion it is completely ridiculous that I want to know where he is at all times.  I am "over the top."

Then we were discussing the girl.  He kept insisting he told me what happened and the story wasn't going to change.  Never that the story was true...just that it wasn't going to change.

With him I have learned this means I am NOT getting the truth, but he will not budge.

He was also pulled over because I didn't tell him his tail lights were out.  Who cares that I didn't know they weren't out.  I should have known.  "I own the car."

I told him I would take some vacation time to go with him to get them fixed.  No...he'll fix them himself, besides "all I care about is the car anyway".


We ended on a neutral note.  These days that is kind of the best I can hope for.

So many things have happened in the last two months I don't even know where to start.

I have learned that writing is therapeutic for me.  I need to do it more often.  I typically don't let people know much of what is going on with us and in the past this was my outlet.  I have gotten away from it and I need to get back there.

I need God now more than ever.  Don't get me wrong...I have always needed God, but these days I honestly don't know if I am going to make it day to day without him.

I'm angry and I'm tired.  I'm not even sure in which order any more.

What I am going to say here isn't going to be pretty, but I promise you it will be transparent and real.

I am literally at wits end with Younger Boy.  About a month ago we stopped going to the Trauma Center for therapy, because after two years there is nothing they can do if he insists on not being an active participant in therapy.  I would venture to guess at that time he was "in the present" 70% of the time.  In the last month it has gotten a lot worse.  I would guess something like 90% these days of being consistently in his own little world.

I keep getting calls from the school, because they can't get through to him.  Well...NEITHER CAN I!!  I need them to stop calling.  I think it is me being prideful, but I feel like a failure and it makes me ANGRY.

I do have a meeting at the school tomorrow morning and Therapist C is going with me.  She is going to explain to them...YET AGAIN...that I can do nothing.  She is going to give them a behavioral modification plan for him for school and let them manage it.

Here's where we are therapeutically...we are going to try neurofeedback to see what is actually going on in his brain.  From the research I have done I suspect his brain is in the "under-aroused" category.  The hope is that neurofeedback will help.  If it doesn't then we are looking at a residential program.  I have it narrowed down to two should the time come.  I am cautiously optimistic about the neurofeedback, but the reality is that it only helps in about 50% of the cases.

I don't have the provision to send him to a residential program.  In my heart of hearts I know that is where he needs to be.  Both programs I am looking at with the help of his therapists are distant and one to two years long.

Saturday he called 911, because his brother wouldn't let him ride his bike when I wasn't home.  He hung up and didn't talk so we had two uniformed officers at the house which totally freaked out Middle Boy.

I know this...I can't continue living with him the way he is.

Middle Boy is another story all together.  Living with him is like being continually on a roller coaster.

Since the first of the year he has dropped out of high school and gotten a job.  He quit the job and got enrolled in indepedent studies through our school district.  He SWORE to me he would do this.  He would do everything they asked.   Well he is supposed to do a packet day.  We are on day seven and he is still working on the first packed.  He is supposed to do two hours of homework a day at home.  He isn't.  He wants to enroll in a dual college/high school program which has mandatory attendance requirements and requires four hours of study per day.  I won't agree to it if he can't manage the independent studies.  Of course, that means I think he is just a failure.

A week ago he ran away.  He was picking a fight with me and it escalated...exponentially.  I said some things I am not proud of at all, but I am human and when I am under attack for hours on end I snap.  I don't have a back-up.  I just have to take it...non-stop.  He was planning to move out permanently, but he "changed his mind".  It would be "too much for me" if he left.

He is signed up to go on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic.  We had an informational meeting yesterday.  He wants me to write the fund raising letter.  I'm not going on the trip...he'll have to either write and send the letter or come up with the money himself.

Last night after I fell asleep he snuck out of the house.  I got a call from the State Patrol at 2:40AM telling me that they had him and were giving him a ticket for violating his provisional drivers license.  They also told me he had a girl with him.  So...I called him.  He said he would be right home and would explain then.  Apparently I don't understand "right home" because he walked in the door at 5AM!  I am livid.  He says it is all my fault he was pulled over because I didn't tell him his taillights weren't working properly.  Allegedly he was taking a "friend" home from work, because she didn't have another way to get there.  Shockingly his facebook messages would tell a different story.

I'm at a loss.

I contacted a state worker to see what I need to do to relinquish my rights.  I am right there on the edge.  Done.

Pray for all of us.
Younger Boy had a med check today.

For weeks he has been trying to scheme his way out of taking his sleeping meds.  We talk about it at therapy.  Is it immoral?  Is it illegal?  Does it make you feel sick?  Does it do what it is intended to do?  Is it unsafe?  He just doesn't like to take them.

He told Psychiatrist he doesn't like to take them, because they make him sleep.  Her answer was simple, "Take the meds."  No argument....nothing.

She asked him about school.  Mostly to find out how the ADHD med is working.  The last time we were there we had just been to conferences when all of his teachers said he didn't use his time wisely.  He told her he was on the honor roll for first quarter.  She caught that and asked about second quarter.  He admitted he hadn't done well, because he wasn't doing his work.

She told him it is a shame that he isn't using his thinking ability.  She explained to him that if you do not continue learning throughout life you will start to digress.  She told him she thought eighth grade was awfully early to begin the digression.  Then she said...the next time I see you I expect you to be on the honor roll, because you are a smart boy.

Thank you, Dr. S.  While I don't always love you as a doctor, I do appreciate you.
Younger Boy is fitting the pieces together.

Tonight I had the MOST ADULT CONVERSATION with him I have ever had.

He asked if his mom was going to be here for the funeral.  I told him she is already here and that I had seen her.  I told him she is sad about her dad and that she wanted him to know she loved him.

He asked if I thought he was ready to see her.  I asked what he thought.  He doesn't know.  He decided he wants to ask his therapist what she thinks. 

He was completely present and his most adult self during the whole conversation.  I actually told him I was proud of him for being in the present.  Reinforced that this is how he could be the majority of the time if he did his therapeutic work.  I asked if he noticed the difference.

He did.  He was proud of himself.
It started while I was at work.

Middle Boy couldn't get his debit card to work.  It escalated quickly.  Very quickly. 

He was threatening.  He was angry.  He was mean.  He was talking about how I didn't give a s*** about the abuse he endured and how I thought it was a joke.  How I didn't know what he had gone through and I was a lying f***ing b****. 

It continued on for a couple of hours.

Then...just as quickly as it was over.

Draining for sure.  For both of us. 

Denise's how it started.

I first talked to Middle Boy about his sibling visit.  He is cautiously excited.  I reminded him his siblings are all adults.  They aren't the kids he remembers from seven to nine years ago when he last saw most of them.

Then I talked to him a little bit about what is going on in Younger Boy's biological family.  I told him first partially so that he would be more tolerant of the inevitable behaviors and partially because I knew Younger Boy would go to him and I wanted him to think about it.  He had some interesting perspectives.  His grandma died when he was in foster care and no one told him until weeks later. 

So here's how it went...

First I told Younger Boy that Middle Boy's siblings would be at our house on Friday.  Middle Boy is excited for them to meet him and that makes him happy that they are brothers.

Then I told him Older Sister was going to be in town for the next few weeks and he was going to get to see her.  I told him about the therapy and that he needed to participate.  How he had to do his part.  He was visibly excited. 

I then told him the reason she was in town was a sad one.  I told him about Grandpa.  He was stoic.  Almost emotionless.

I asked how he was feeling and then the tears started falling.  Middle Boy stepped in and said "it's okay to cry".  That opened the flood gates.  We talked about all of his memories of Grandpa.

He asked if he could see him.  I asked him if he thought he was ready for that.  He wanted to think about it.  We talked about how maybe the good memories would be the way to go.

Prayers for our next few days.  That they be days of healing and days of grace.