Wednesday, October 16, 2019

When you refuse to brush your teeth...

I have this dwarf, and he refuses to brush his teeth.  I can't recall exactly when it started, however he has had, for at least two years, shown increasing and advanced stages of gingivitis at the ripe old age of 17.

I have tried all the tactics I can think of to encourage him to brush, and not a thing works.  As a matter of fact, he will go to extremes to pretend to brush, all the while never doing more than putting a wet toothpaste covered brush in his mouth, spitting and rinsing.

At each dental appointment, things keep getting worse, yet even in that, he is still refusing to brush or to take the necessary steps to help combat his severe gingivitis and potential tooth decay.

Last month I took him for his dental check up.  I was told that because he was a minor that I had to stay at the office while he was in the chair. (I had hoped to run a few errands because I knew it would be a while.)

Since I was not able to leave, I situated myself in the lobby with my book and started my long wait.  Fifteen minutes into the wait, the hygienist comes out to me and says, " Mom, we have a problem."  I sort of roll my eyes in my head and think, "no kidding".

I ask her politely, what the problem is.  She indicates that said dwarf is refusing to open his mouth.  Shocked, (not really) I ask why.   She tells me that as she was water picking his mouth and counting his teeth, that his gums had started to bleed, and he is in pain and is refusing to open his mouth, so she would like my permission to give him some numbing pain relief.  Which of course is going to cost me X amount of dollars.

Now I roll my eyes for real, thinking she has to be kidding me.  But she is not.  I authorize the numbing agent, and as she is preparing to walk away, tell her that if needles are involved, she could do it twice, and I would happily pay for once on the top row of teeth and once on the bottom.  Sadly for me, it was just a numbing rub.

I settle back into my reading and am just getting to the good part, and she is back.  "Um, excuse me, mom... we have another problem."  Really?  I am almost 50 and I have never ever ever, had problems at my cleanings.

Oh, right.  I brush, regularly, and with enthusiasm, as this is my free gift to all I come in contact with each day!

Now she goes on to explain that they have to irrigate his mouth with antibiotics, as the bleeding is continuing and spreading harmful bacteria throughout his mouth. Geez, I think to myself.  All this because he refuses to brush his teeth....

Fine (and of course there is a fee for this as well) they irrigate his mouth.  An hour and a half later, the cleaning, numbing and irrigation, and I would venture to say  what he thinks has been torture, is over, and my purse is much lighter.  As we are leaving they admonish him to do a better job at his oral hygiene and that he needs to do a salt water rinse every day two - three times a day to help heal up his gums. 

As I am leaving the dentist office,  I turn and ask them, how much it would cost to have him come every month for a tooth cleaning.  " What ?" they ask.   A teeth cleaning.  If I bring the dwarf that refuses to brush his teeth (and knowing that, he will also NEVER rinse with salt water) every thirty days for a cleaning, what would the cost or the fee for that service be?

$50.  $50 is not too high of a price to assist in helping my dwarf, who will not help himself, try to keep and maintain his teeth until he at least reaches the age of 18.

So in another week we have a one month cleaning appointment.  Even though he has the knowledge of said appointment, he has not rinsed with the salt water unless I have made it, and by rinse I mean he takes a swing and spits. (no swishing, no gurgling, not getting throughout the entire mouth.) and his oral hygiene has gotten no better. 

Maybe the monthly torture sessions, I mean visits in the dentist chair, will eventually lead to the desired result, him owning his poor habits, changing them, and saving his teeth and gums... but then again, maybe not.

Know this, I will not be paying for numbing and irrigation for the "standard" monthly cleaning.  He has all the power and knowledge to fix this, or at least make it better, and his refusal to do the basics, means the same for myself.  I am committing to the basics, in the hope that he tires of his time in the chair, and the pain, and gets motivated himself to do what needs to be done!

PS- If there was a little bit of, peer pressure, aka kids making fun, like 35-40 years ago when I was in school,  I venture to say, (of course no one knows for sure), that none of this would be an issue for the dwarf.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Such an easy read... the dwarf, not the blog

So there are times when my mom gut instinct is "spot on".  Most times it involves our adopted dwarfs and their "squirrel-ish"  behaviors.  When they drop off the radar, there is always a trigger, and when they are in need it is always significant.  They read like a cheap dime store novel, you always, sadly figure out the end of the story in the first several chapters.

Each of my dwarfs start and end chapters in their life just like the rest of us mere mortals. The difference is because of their impairments, watching their stories unfold is somewhat like a train wreck, it is hard to tear your eyes away and you always, always despite your deepest hopes and desires as a parent, watch them muck it up over and over again.  Mental illness is a horrible and debilitating disease for the sufferers and their families.

The dwarf today that I am shaking my head in absolute fascination over is Grumpy. He can't, or won't, or is unable to make a good choice. I have had the distinction of being his mother for 14 years, and nothing is changing for the good, only getting worse now that he has no care or accountability in his life.

Many of you may have heard that Grumpy was involved in a "hit and run" accident a little over two months ago.  He was struck, we were initially lead to believe, by a vehicle while he was walking in a crosswalk, coming home from work at about 4PM in the afternoon.  A hit and run.  In his mind, he was the victim, and the story that he weaved to us and the emergency room employees, was to say the least, consistent, and compelling and evoked empathy and even some sympathy.  The Prince and I considered all things, caught the inconsistencies that others missed, and knew that the verdict would be out until we had the official police report.  Needless to say he is a pathological liar.  Nothing about the story was true, except that yes he was struck full on by a moving vehicle at 4PM on a clear afternoon.

Grumpy lost two front teeth.  His body was battered, and road rash covered his face, head and left side of his body, his foot and big toe on his right foot were broken.  While he has recovered fully from the road rash, and broken body parts, what was discovered in that emergency room visit was his serious and remarkable thyroid problem, Graves Disease.

I am not a doctor, so what exactly these stats mean, is foreign to me, but seemed to be a large enough concern for his nurse to make him aware that he must take medication daily and be under a doctors care.  His heart rate at the time of the accident was 220 beats per minute, his resting that day after they stabilized him, 160 beats per minute.   This disease caused him to among other things, have the shakes, the crazy eyes, shortness of breath,  hallucinations, and disillusions.  When he dashed across three lanes of traffic to get hit in the fourth and final lane (eventually he claimed) he was running away from the bus stop because he thought someone was chasing him.

While Grumpy has had a rough go of it, homeless for almost two years and in and out of facilities, he had somewhat settled in a program that offered him a second chance.  A room in a home, food stamps, rent free, with a case worker to help him with life's issues.  While this is not his first program, nor are we foolish enough to think it will be his last, we were somewhat hopeful that after being struck by a motor vehicle, something would start clicking for the dwarf.

From the time of the accident until two weeks ago, Grumpy was heavily dependent on us for care from everything to showers and bandage changes, to grocery and med pick ups and transportation to and from appointments.  Because of the missing front teeth and loose teeth, he also requested soft foods, so we bought groceries and occasionally, when the Prince was headed over,  I made mashed potatoes as a treat.

While he was "incapacitated" he desired to read books, do word search puzzles, and write letters to his siblings and his old friends.  In said letters he encouraged everyone to do the right things, listen to authority and to obey the rules, so that they do not end up like him!  Most excellent most would say.  However, when the rubber meets the road and the healing began, the red flags started flying!

First, he stopped calling every day.  Why you may ask?  My guess was two fold.  He was feeling better and was going out of the house more, and some how managed to get his hands on technology.  Some devise with wifi.  Which as soon as he has access to social media, he starts living life untethered.  As a matter of fact, the day that I told the Prince that Grumpy was up to no good, I heard through the grapevine on snapchat he was attempting to buy a gun... shocking no, but if you think you're a thug, absolutely appropriate, I guess... I mean don't all thugs buy their guns off snapchat?

Second, while not much more than another week of extended silence... it was still silence. When the Prince "pops" in after work one night to check on his groceries and meds, he is a) not home, and b) his room shows all indications of having a house guest.  This is how and why he was removed from the program the last time!  There is a very strict policy about house guests, while they can visit in the day light hours they may not, any under circumstances, stay in the group home over night.

The Prince reminds Grumpy that this is how he got kicked out of the program the last time.  He also reminds him that the program will not give him a third chance, so get this kid and his stuff out of the house now, OR, you forfeit all that your mother and I are currently doing to help you.  Grumpy says that he will immediately have his friend leave, he just was trying to help out this homeless "friend"  and that he is really sorry.

More silence.  A red flag to us that he did not do as he has been instructed, and is now putting not only his position in the program at risk, but putting the other men that live there and follow the rules in a tight spot. 

Yesterday, I pick him up for an appointment for a thyroid check.  Their first option in treating the Graves Disease is with medications and regular monitoring.   When we arrive, we find out I have the wrong day.  (it doesn't happen often, but sometimes I get confused... )   As we are leaving the doctors in record time I might add,  Grumpy sees a side table in the back of my truck and asks if that is for him.  I said, yes, that I picked it up at the Goodwill so he could put his bed side lamp on top of it instead of the cardboard boxes he was currently using.   As we make the trek back to the halfway house, he says he has something to tell me.  He has a friend staying at the house.  I look at him, and shake my head.  In no uncertain terms I again, lay out for him what the Prince said to him, he needs to go!  Under no circumstances  can that "friend" be staying in his house, room, garage etc.   Grumpy says that he feels bad and that he just wants to help him out.  He feels like he wants to give back to someone else (oh how liars lie).  I tell him, he is helping no one including himself.  If he wants to give back to others, get himself situated and then do what he feels led to do when he has his own funds, home etc.  Grumpy agrees that the friend has to go.  I remind him that he was removed from the program before because of this, and if he looses his placement again, he also looses our current supports.  Choose wisely...

Today, the correct day for the doctors appointment, I show up at the halfway house and the driveway has a car in it.  Not like a cool car... a mini van.  Clue one for me... an adult in charge is on location.  One of the roommates is on the front porch drinking coffee, avoiding eye contact with me. Clue two, as this gent is usually super chatty.   I enter the house and there stands his new case worker and her supervisor.   Grumpy is mad, flying around like a hornet, spouting lies about what is going on, as they are calming explaining to me that the "friend" was found in the house this am by them, and that Grumpy is being evicted.  Just so we are clear, the day before, he assured me that the "friend" was out. (Insert eye roll here and the reminder that pathological liars will tell you whatever they think you want to hear.)

As he was creating a verbal mess to contend with, I told him to shut up and get in the truck.  I took a moment to speak to the case workers.  Found out the situation by asking a few pointed questions, thanked them for their time and left.

We went to the appointment.  He tried to talk to me about the situation and what were we going to do?  First of all we? I don't think so... but I hold all my words in!   I told him this was not a conversation we were having while we were at the doctors.  During the appointment, it became obvious that while initial treatments from month one were working well, as Grumpy was taking his meds regularly, and we were checking in regularly, this last month that he has been off the grid,  he has also not regularly taken his medications.  His blood levels were elevated, and his symptoms are starting to partially return.

This doctor (God bless Him!) is more than aware of Grumpy's situation and we have all indicated that we are in this, as long as Grumpy does what he needs to do.  If Grumpy jumps the rails, he looses the significant assistance (financially) this doctor is providing and without medication will return to the previous issues sufferers from Graves Disease struggle with.

Now because it has been over 40 minutes in the office (of which I have the pleasure of paying for) and Grumpy has been stewing in the error of his ways and his eviction, when we get to the truck, he is dying to talk this out.  I think the Prince would be proud of me... without emotion, without raising my voice, I clearly told him to shut up and listen to me.

This was a mess that he created, and chose to keep allowing to happen, even though his father and I advised him against it, and more importantly is against the rules of the program.   That all of his life he has been a follower, not a leader, and that this behavior will lead him down the road of destruction if he continues to follow those only interested in using him for their own gain.   ( Insert a small chuckle here... oh the irony...Grumpy is in a halfway house with nothing to his name that is actually his, and is being used by a homeless friend for free shelter and food.)

My advise, I tell him is that after I drop him at the house, he should clear all his "friends" belonging out of the house and put them in front of the garage, and call him to pick them up. Tell him not to come back.  Never let him back in the house, and if he comes back on the property,  call the police or his case worker.  After he does that, he should call his case worker and apologize for breaking the program rules, ask for forgiveness and beg for them to help him find a new and suitable housing arrangement.  Here is the sad situation.  He can not, currently be successful,  on his own in a minimum accountability situation.  He needs a placement where he has no technology, has assistance in making and keeping appointments, has transportation available to him, is given his medication at the appointed times, is fed three hots a day, and can continue learning life skills. 

Oh,  and get a freaking job!!! Because by the way, back to the "hit and run", coming home from work... nope... all a lie. He told us he called his boss, and his boss told him to get better and call in a week or so to let him know how he was feeling, and that they would hold his job for him.  He even produced a work shirt!!  Truth,  he had worked for a week with a landscaper and the landscaper was paying him cash.  When his boss told him that he had to get a bank account, so that they could direct deposit his check, Grumpy told them no thanks, he was not getting a bank account, and walked of the job.... The only job he has had since Jan of 2017.

Today, as he started to sputter and wanted to tell me his side of the story, I told him to not say another word.  We are past talking.  I told him that today, he has a choice to make.  All this mess is because he has been making a series of poor choices.  At the end of the day, this is his life.  He can follow my counsel and trust that I may know a bit about life or he can continue to do what he has been doing for the last two plus years. Muck it the heck up... but the choice is his.   I told him to weigh the options.  He has 15 days to figure this out, without our help.  He knows right from wrong and continues to choose poorly.

When we arrived back at his house, I handed him his appointment cards for the next round of doctor visits and blood draws, gave him the adjustments to his medication, reinforcing the warning from the doctor that he had to take these meds regularly, and told him not to forget to pick up his medications tomorrow... I hugged his neck, told him I loved him.   I backed out of the driveway,  a little sad, as I know already, how this chapter will end.

You really can not make this stuff up...

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

"Officer, really, can you please take ME!"

I tell you, when I started having children, and even when I adopted, never did I think that my conversations in my own home would involve police officers.  Unless of course, one of my darling seven dwarfs grew up and became one, or married one.

I have had the sheriff at my house a bit more than I would like to recount, as well as children and youth and a visit from the agency that protects special needs adults.  Why you ask?  Because I am raising RAD kids.  Kids that as they "matured" into adults, figured out that they had this amazing "power" to report the abuse that they endure in our home to the authorities. 

So for this particular visit yesterday, I am sure that the dwarf who made the phone call thought that  I would be satisfyingly hauled off in the paddy wagon to the jailhouse to pay for the great travesty of  asking him to stop doing his chores halfway.

On a personal note, I find that it is very hard to live in a home, and parent a dwarf, where you never know what phrase, word or situation is going to set them off.  In particular, this dwarf has a very bad habit (especially when the Prince is out of town) of refusing to do that things that he knows he ought to do (like chores and taking his meds or cleaning up after himself)

I have not blogged much recently because, life is a series of situations like this.  Until yesterday I felt like no one would "get it" or that no one would want to hear the serious side of the not so cute anymore, adult-ish people that reside in my home.  Perhaps, however that when I have time, and there is a situation like this one I that I can retell with humor, it would be beneficial for another to read, if for no other reason than to know that they are not alone.  Raising mental health special needs kids is hard, and it has that ability to isolate you from "normal people" with normal kid and family issues. So if you are reading this, and understand, because you live it first hand.  You are not alone!

This story actually starts on Monday.  I had to work outside the kingdom, a longer shift than normal.  Dopey picked up Bashful from school, and brought him home for me.  I had no contact with the dwarfs while I was at work, but it was apparent when I got home that night that one of the dwarf's did not do anything at all. Meaning his things from school were dropped on the table and floor of the kitchen, and his chores not done.

He woke up Tuesday morning edgy, because he knew he had been a slacker the day before for no good reason, so while he was searching for his shoes (insert eye roll here, if you took them off and put them away they would be where they are supposed to be.) I said, "they are in the upstairs bathroom, and while you are up there, since you did not clean it last night, please bring the towels down to the laundry room.  Instead of a "hey thanks mom", his head swiveled as if he were possessed and he growled out, " I am not going to f-ing clean the bathroom because Happy doesn't. Those towels are not mine I wasn't even home all weekend.  Happy was supposed to clean it Friday, and did not, so I am not!"

What?!  Wait a minute.  I offhandedly replied (sort of like a mumble to myself) "If you boys do not clean the newly and (a bit expensively) remodeled bathroom, then you can shower outside." 

Bashful, who never hears me when I speak clearly and directly to him, manages to hear me mumble and then began a tirade of curse words and rants explaining to me that I can't make him do that and that the Prince wouldn't make him do that. Finishing out the tirade about how he is not bringing the towels down, and that if the Prince was home, he would not have asked him to do anything this morning.

Of which, I told Bashful, he was absolutely right!  If the Prince was home, this would not be a conversation that they would be having in the morning because the Prince would have made Bashful not only bring the towels down, but start the laundry, scrub the toilet, clean the sink and mirror, remove the trash and sweep the floor; last night!!  The day that it was Bashful's day to clean the bathroom!!

This is the greatest way to start the morning, says no one ever.  I finally,  loosing what bit of half a cup of coffee, tolerance for nonsense I have, and tell him to shut his mouth and get in the truck.   By the time I refill my coffee cup and get to the truck, like a switch, now he wants to be my BFF.  Can you say personality disorder...yikes.

The day proceeds (and no I did not get the towels and bring them to the laundry, because my towels in my bathroom are clean and fresh!) eventually I have to return to the school to pick Bashful up at the end of the day.  The dwarf jumps in, and picks up where we left off with conversation and tales of the day.

Because he is still aware that Monday he did nothing; and that I am on to him, and because he was a jerk in the morning, (of which he will never apologize for because in his mind he is right) after he enters that house and has a snack, he sets about doing his chores for the day.

Now you would think, oh never mind, that is why I have these situations, he doesn't and never will think like me!  He pulls out the vacuum for his "vacuum the steps and upstairs landing" chore.

I am working in the room adjacent to the staircase so I am very aware of what and how long it takes him to vacuum.  He plugs the vacuum in beside me, runs it across the first step and then walks the vacuum to the landing and makes a few passes around that area.  He then turns off the vacuum, comes downstairs and unplugs the vacuum from the plug beside me. 

I turn from what I am doing and say, leave the vacuum, I will sweep the stairs since you did not.  My voice is level, no anger, no frustration, just simply state, " leave the vacuum, I will do the stairs". After stating that he was not done with the chore, (then why were you unplugging the vacuum) he proceeds to loose his mind.  His words follow in no kind of order, escalating and of course where appropriate if you are a cursing person, (insert any curse words you would like into the dialogue), says the following sorts of things.

"If you want me to leave, then I will".  (Not what I said, I said,  "leave the vacuum.") " I don't know why you never get on anyone else about their chores."  (Sure, let me yell at Happy since Monday while I was at work he did his chores and mine, and because he knew I was sick, came and picked me up at work on his scooter so I did not have to walk home. )  "It would be better for everyone if I left."  (Says who? While I won't lie, I think that, in times like this, I do not ever say it to his face.)

I then text the Prince and say "CALL HOME NOW!" thinking that he can be the voice of reason in this situation because I am about to loose my marbles.  At one point I even said, "look Bashful, go to your room.  I will leave.  I seem to be the trigger for you, so give me a minute and I will go."

To which his response was (keep the cursing coming) "that is stupid. That because I live here and pay the bills and he does not pay for anything he should be the one to pack his stuff and leave. "

Let me say at this point I am like, "no please let me help you pack", but again that is just my inner dialogue.  (Gosh how do you get credit for all the stuff that goes through your mind that you do not say...please someone tell me how!)

The Prince calls at that moment, so I hand the phone over to Bashful, which just proceeds to make him angrier.  Hard for me to imagine, but I saw it with my own eyes.   I am still working and Bashful abruptly stops talking and hands me the phone.  The Prince says, "Hang up and call 911."

So I hang up and Bashful asks what his dad had said to me.  I tell him, and he again starts verbally attacking (insert your curse words here) peppered into phrases like this:  " I'm leaving, you can't stop me." You are such a puss because you actually listen to what he says."  What are you waiting for, are you afraid to call the police because they might arrest you?"

Now, I have reached about the end of my self, and I am not proud of it, but reached out and punched him. (in the arm; and again I'd like credit for not dropping him to the ground and pummeling him)  I was hopeful that a change in the situation (a physical sting to the arm) vs this word battle we were in would cause him to pause and think, "wait a minute this is going a bit far".  Again, who am I kidding.  Instead he is now claiming abuse and he wants to call 911.

So I did what any parent would do in this situation.  I dial 911 for him and hand him the phone.  While he is on the phone with the dispatcher, I am still working, and listening to his conversation.  He gives his address, my phone number, and my description (age, hair color and clothing that I am wearing)  When he gets to the abuse part, I interject from my workstation, "Make sure you tell them what you did that lead up to the point where I punched you."  So he tells the dispatcher that he didn't want to do his chore and was yelling and cursing at me.   She must have asked then if he felt like he was in harms way, to which he answered no, because I was working.   He then tries to bring up years of the past with the dispatcher of all the ways he has been abused over the years.  I say,  "hey Bashful, can you ask how soon the sheriff will be here?"  He does, and the dispatcher indicates that there is an officer on our street.  He is super excited about that and tells the dispatcher that he will go get him "so my a$$ can go to jail".

He throws the phone at me without hanging up as soon as he spies the officer, I greet the dispatcher, she asks who I am, I say Bashful's mother, and thank her for her time and tell her the officer is at the end of the drive.

Bashful literally skip runs to the end of the drive to meet this officer, because in his mind (even though they have been here before) since he called them, surely they will be on his side! 

The officer and Bashful talk and then come inside the house.  When the officer asks for my version of the story, I start to tell him, and then just stop.  I look at him and say, "Look, really, can you please take me?  Really... I am tired of living this way.  You can handcuff me, but I think that is extreme, because I will go willingly."  I think he thought I was joking.

Bashful, who thinks I deserve to be hauled off, is now encouraging the officer to do it, cursing about me and using the F word.  At that point the officer draws himself to full height and leans towards Bashful and says,  " DO NOT, use that word in your mother's presence again.  I will not tolerate that disrespect, or we will throw down, do YOU UNDERSTAND ME?"   Bashful has enough sense to respond with a "yes sir".

Another officer is now knocking at the door.  Bashful looks at me as if I should answer the door.  I say "go let the officer in, you invited him."   When Bashful walks away to let him in, Officer 1 asks me what the situation is.  I say in what felt like was a defeated, and exhausted voice, he is the youngest of 7.  The youngest sibling of a set of four we adopted.  The highlight reel is he has,  RAD/FAS/and is on the spectrum.  Officer 1, says "I'm sorry."  I feel like saying, "not as sorry as I am."

So by now the situation is mostly defused.  Officer 1 tells Bashful, that if any time I hit him or other wise physically disciplined him,  I have the right to do so because he is a minor living in my home.  He continues to elaborate on what abuse looks like.  Marks have to remain 8 days.  He also explains that if I had been abusing Bashful, he would not be standing there in front of us whole and unmarred.  That his experience is that if Bashful was being abused he would have marks all over him where I punched him and would be bleeding and swollen.  That if anytime, either of his parents physically discipline him, and they leave a scratch mark with a fingernail or even a hand print from a slap, that is considered an unintentional mark.  Not an intentional sign of abuse.

Then Officer 1 asks Bashful how old he is again, and reaffirms that it seems to him that Bashful does not have a very good exit strategy for life on the streets when he turns 18.   He indicates he should work hard at school, get a job, and graduate and not screw up what seems to be a pretty good situation that he currently has. 

To make this officer, maybe my favorite of all that we have met under these type of circumstances, he also elaborated and said,  "You son have to live here until you are 18.  I suggest that when your parents ask you to do anything, you do it.  Furthermore, if either of them say that the task is not done to their liking, guess what?  They can ask you to do it again.  You should do it again until it meets their standards, not yours.  So I suggest you just do it right the first time.  Grow up and start acting like the adult you think you are!"

You can't make this stuff up, and even if you could, who would want to live this way on purpose?

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

March 5th Marks 20 Years

Today is the Birthday of Grumpy.  At 2:35 PM today, March 5, 2019  he turns 20 years old.

I wish that I was writing a post of celebration and joy in regards to the 20th birthday of my third youngest dwarf.  I am instead making a plea to our family and friends, to commit to praying for him today. For safety, for others to be raised up around him to guide and protect him, and for continued favor upon his young life.

As you know Grumpy spent January 2, 2018 through the 10th of January 2019 homeless.  The Prince and I did all that we could to help him find a meal, transportation (we provided him with two bikes)  places to stay, clothing, occasionally a shower or a car ride.  Sadly at every turn he would disrupt his opportunity because of his inability to follow the rules, fleeing and leaving all his belongings behind.  The further he got into his stint being homeless the shorter his stays became in the homes of those who were willing to take a chance on him.  He refused to get a job.  Opportunities for employment arose, even some of the managers of the locations he was applying went so far as to purchase work shoes or clothing for him, all resulting in him just never showing up for day one.

On January 10, 2019 the Prince made a two hour drive with a dwarf that we thought may be at the end of himself.  We found a ministry that specialized in men needing a fresh start.  Men that needed to disconnect from the environment that they were living in and receive supports and therapy to help them in a span of two years, reconnect with appropriate contacts in their life, learn job skills and work on learning to help themselves. 

Sadly, we report that while he managed to stay longer at this placement than any other over the last year, they have returned him to our home town area to a mental health facility.  We believe that he was baker acted, and hence has 7 days of observations at this location.  After that time, we are unsure what his lot will be.  He is soon running out of options.  Florida does not have systems in place for young adults with mental needs.

If we are being honest, Grumpy most likely needs to be institutionalized so that he can live his best life ever.  He needs to be in a place where he is told when and how to do things, and just has to follow the rules.  Where someone will wake him for work, remind him to do his laundry, enforce schedules and time management for him. A place where when you do not follow the rules, there is a consequence, and there is consistency until the offending behavior is regulated.

Please be praying for Grumpy today on the day of his 20th birthday. We know that we are only part of his story, and the Lord holds his beginning middle and end in His hands.  However, even though we know and trust this, we still need to be fervent in our petitions and prayers for this young man's heart, soul, mind and body. As you pray today with a hope for Grumpy's future, please include the following areas:
  • A secure and safe placement for him after his 7 days are up at this mental health facility
  • In the time he is in the facility, that they would see the true depth of his illness which may open up other options for treatment and/or programs 
  • That whatever needs to happen to Grumpy to bring him to the end of himself, would happen sooner rather than later
  • That Grumpy would desire change, want to work and function well in society
  • That he would not be placed back on the streets, homeless
  • That the Lord would continue to raise up men and women that would desire to pour themselves into Grumpy to give him yet another fresh start
  • That Grumpy will not forget that above all he is loved and treasured as one of God's children and that he has value. 
Just because we as a society do our part and adopt these children from foster care in no way assures them a healthy and productive future.  At some point in their lives their mental health overtakes their abilities to function inside or around the "normal" parameters of life and they disrupt from their safe and structured home environments.

I leave you with these statistics to ponder.   It is more than just and adoption issue.  It is more than just a homeless issue.  It is more than just a mental health issue.  As these children in foster care or that have been adopted age, it becomes a mental health issue for many, and homelessness or prison for many more.

The statistics  are a couple years old, however speak volumes to the situation in our foster care system, and the overwhelming increase in our homeless population across the nation.  Our states need to make changes so that we can appropriately care for those who have mental health issues. 

Estimates at the end of 2017 Fiscal Year indicated by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children Youth and families and the Children's Bureau indicate that the following: 

437,465 children were already in foster care at the start of the fiscal year
273,539 children would be added to the foster care system in that fiscal year
250,248 children/young adults would exit the foster care system in that fiscal year through aging out or reunification attempts (many to return again another year)
117,794 children would be adopted into homes during that fiscal year

Approximately 1/3 of the total homeless population includes individuals with serious, untreated mental illness according to a research summary compiled by the Treatment Advocacy Center.

"Serious mental illness disrupts people's ability to carry out essential aspects of daily life such as self care and life management skills.  Mental illness often also prevents people from forming and maintaining stable relationships or cause people to misinterpret others guidance and react irrationally.  This results in pushing away caregivers, family and friends who may be the force keeping that person from being homeless.  As a result of these factors and the stress of living with a mental disorder, people with mental illness are much more likely to become homeless." (National Coalition for the Homeless)

This is not the path that I ever thought I would find myself on, but as I journey I share, as we are not alone in this fight for our children, adopted or biological.

Statistics have been cited from the sources indicated

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

They say, "Sometimes even a blind squirrel finds the nut."

Much of our life spent parenting children, the typical and the not so typical, has been filled with quick change in directions, attitudes, and drama. Trauma to triumph in a minute, or vise versa,  so when a moment happens that makes us stand back just shaking our heads, with a small and crooked smile, on our faces that are a mix of joy, bewilderment  and a dash of "did this really happen?", well it just needs to be shared.

Understand this moment in time was an accidental victory.  Not one thing about the way this unfolded was "appropriate" or pleased the Prince and I as parents.  It went against all the safety nets and rules we had set up for this dwarf.  Yet in the end, amidst the sneaky behavior, the lie and finding out the truth, this dwarf caught a victory, and a rash of "what for " from the Prince and I. 

This is the tale of how even a blind squirrel can find a nut.  Our dwarf Happy will live with us forever as we are his legal guardians. He is 21 is diagnosed ID.   He has celebrated some wonderful milestones in the last year,  which included landing a part time position doing what he loves, landscaping. Yes, even in the hot Florida sun. That job has lead to a occasional work  mulching and mowing in our neighborhood.  He has sustained continued employment at his main job at a local grocery store for going on three years now.  He graduated high school.  He got his first cell phone.   He turned 21.  He has picked up a hobby, wood burning, and it turns out is very skilled at it!  He volunteers twice a week at our church to help with sound for events.  In all a stellar year for the dwarf!!

Out of all of the above mentioned milestones, the item that has honestly given us the most problem has been, of course his cell phone usage.  The prince and I have been pretty tireless in trying to monitor and delete and discuss things that we see in text messages, on internet searches and the apps he uses that are just not socially acceptable.  Learning the appropriate rules for snap chat, and texting is difficult to navigate typically, but when you miss cues socially it can be really tough.

Often on the app Let Go, and similar sites and apps, we would see him bartering with people for items they were letting go by posting for sale,  in ways that were not only a waste of the sellers time but also were getting him bad ratings on the site for not showing to look at items he claimed he wanted to purchase etc. He would offer all the money in his account $46.29 for a $200 item, or he would barter with them in other unreasonable ways like trade offers of things he had. 

Unfortunately, another one of this particular dwarf's challenges is lack of comprehension about money. Truth be told most young adults suffer with this one.  But for Happy, this is a hot topic at least once a week. 

Three Sunday's ago the prince texts me while I am at work.  He says did you know that Happy bought a scooter?  "What?! NO!!"   He proceeds to tell me that Happy came home from church on Sunday afternoon riding a motorized scooter. 

When the Prince inquired about the scooter, Happy indicates that someone dropped it off for him to "test ride".   But it seems suspicions that Happy is not riding back across the street to the church to return it to anyone. 

The Prince pulls up Happy's bank account and finds that his account is overdrawn by $550.  Now remember to Happy there is not much difference in his mind between $10 and said overdraft amount.   He regularly spends more than he makes. 

The Prince confronts Happy about the lie, the overdrawn account which indicates no one is waiting for him to return the scooter after a test ride,  and for yet another time, speaks to him about making purchases of such grand proportion without discussing his desires to do so with an adult.   Not much sticks from that conversation, as it is clear that Happy can only see visions of freedom in his eyes as he tries to focus and listen to his father. 

Understand, the Prince and I have been talking about the potential of getting Happy a golf cart, or scooter for small trips around the neighborhood and for him to get back and forth to work.  However we have not mentioned this to him yet, as the situation is a bit more complicated in the fact that Happy can not get his license, he will always live with us as we have legal guardianship of him for life, and we have not done any research about what is acceptable in Florida for use in the bike lane. 

Sunday, the scooter is affectionately referred to as the "$550 paper weight" as we are not going to allow Happy to ride it until we find out what the law is.    It takes the Prince a few days to sort out the Florida law.  And wait for it... this is where Happy lands on the good side of all these bad choices.  Drum roll please.... according to Florida law if you own a motorized scooter and it is a 50CC machine, you must register it, you may not ride in the bike lane, and you must have a valid drivers license. 

Happy's new acquisition?  Well this is the victory!  He unintentionally purchased a used scooter, behind our backs without the assistance of a sales person that would know the rules that was a  49CC machine...  Because it is a 49CC machine he can ride it unregistered, unlicensed anywhere that the speed limit is 25mph,  or any roads of greater speeds that have bike lanes!  As the Prince learns the rules, suddenly the scooter becomes a significant victory for our dear dwarf. 

With this purchase he can now drive himself to and from work. He can ride to and from church.  He can run for dinner, grab something that he needs at the store and last night he and friend even went to the movies. And while the distance was less than 5 miles from our home, the dwarf at 21,  finally has a great sense of freedom, pride in ownership, a feeling of being one of the guys.  Really, it makes a mom's heart swell! Well that swell is a little bit of anxiety truth be told! 

His job coach shared that at his work, people are noticing that he has more pep in his step, is working harder, and seems to be boosted by this positively "accidental" working out of his unauthorized  purchase.  He rides to his job, locks the scooter to the bike rack and takes his helmet to the break room.  He offers to run small errands for me, and today he even went for a haircut, that he scheduled on his own! 

If it were up to the Prince and I, we would most likely still be in the research stage of this idea to get Happy some independence.   While I have once again blocked all re-sale apps from his phone, and Ipad, and have been diligently checking for inbox messages from Craigs' list sellers,  it seems that this purchase was a great deal, (it came with the full size helmet ) he was not taken advantage of, the price was fair and the person he bought from was on the up and up!! 

Happy has made a large step forward in being independent and is starting to enjoy some additional freedoms!  I make him keep his GPS on at all times!  He has to check in before leaving anywhere, and has to report to us when he arrives at home or another destination, but so far he is following the rules of the kingdom and those of the Florida bike lanes!!

Happy is currently living his best life ever! You can't make this stuff up!!! 

Thursday, January 3, 2019

A Future with Hope

Today is the anniversary date of the removal of one of the seven dwarfs from our kingdom.  Last year at this time, I was a mess.  I was faced with a decision which required me to finally back up my three plus years of words, with actions.

For almost four years, the prince and I kept telling this particular dwarf that his life choices, his inability to do the right thing, to be a productive member of the family, was drawing neigh.

The parts of the story that are the in between, started over thirteen years ago. The meet and greet, smiles, reuniting of siblings, the adoption, the honeymoon period, the start of inappropriate behaviors, failing in the classrooms, questions on our end, testing, evaluations, twenty-six months of a therapeutic treatment facility. The RAD diagnosis and therapists, wrap around services, IEP meetings,  behavioral specialists, phycologists, psychiatrists, medications, an inconclusive FAS diagnosis. Walking through our days on egg shells for fear of setting him off, holidays,  birthday's, fights over homework,  manipulation, fights about nothing and all things, his cursing, his tears, our tears, the growing anger, the lying, the continual battles of wills, the lack of being tethered to reality in his life, his inability to make good choices.  All this pushed us, pulled us and challenged us to become his biggest advocate, his biggest supporter. Yet, nothing made the impact in his heart or mind to promote healing or growth in any lasting, tangible ways.  Still we carried on with equal parts determination, and hope. 

If you had told me when we started this process of parenting "special needs" children, that were classified as "special needs" because of the number of siblings in their grouping, I would have thought you were crazy.  After all these years of living in the trenches, battling daily, an existence that very few people understand or even try to understand, I sometimes feel like I am the crazy one.

While I am secure in the knowledge that is a path that the Lord has equipped me(us) for, there are certainly times in this journey when I have not relied solely on Him or His promises.  There have been times when for the sake of self preservation, I have gotten in my car and driven away. I have yelled until I was hoarse. I have cried.  I have locked myself in my room.  I have shuffled kids off to friends homes in the middle of the night so they would be safe so that we could spend hours de-escalating a situation.  The number of hours of my life spent in negotiations, battles of the will, steeped in worry and fear and the struggling with the unknowns for this one dwarf alone, are unable to be counted.

In the reflecting of those minutes, hours and days we did all this and more clinging to hope. We battled in the trenches for his spiritual, mental and physical being.  Hope for the next hour, the next day and for his ultimate future.

When it became apparent that this was a situation that was not changing for the good, only deteriorating, we were faced in that moment in time to say, enough is enough.  That day was January 2,  2018.

In the midst of this past year, I find that there is nothing harder than knowing the name of the homeless man on the corner.  Being torn between helping again, or running the risk of being an enabler.  Knowing when to walk away.  Knowing to not answer the phone.  When to ignore that pleas of strangers and police that want to reunify because they only have one skewed side of the picture. Remembering when faced with the stories about the worst of times that he was enduring, that at the end of it all he is a liar and a manipulator, who has had countless chances to change and has not.  How challenging and difficult it as been to stand firm in our decision to have him to leave our home. 

Even in this, when the path for him seems hopeless.  We, as his parents have hope.  In the midst of the past year, there has been growth in the other dwarfs,  in the absence of the one. Healing has begun for me personally.  The stressors in our home has been dramatically been cut.  As I write this update, tomorrow there is hope for this one too.  It is going to take a monumental effort on his part.  He will have to conform, and while he has agreed to this two year program, the hard work is going to have to be done by him.  If I(we) could have fixed his broken parts there would be no need for any of this past year to happen.

Please join us in praying for our dwarf.  While he has said with his words that he will participate, he is not yet there.  The journey is going to difficult.  He will be doing this alone.  It will be at least 13 weeks or more until we hear from him, and even at that, the responsibility of communicating with us will fall on him to set up and organize, with the staff of the program.

"The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those that seek Him."  Lamentations 3:25

May this time away be for our dwarf the final stop in his tormented existence.  May he find peace from his past, come to terms with his current and find his own hope for his tomorrows.

Sometimes, I do wish that I was making this stuff up....

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Being Intentional in your planning and preparing for the holiday. A collaboration of ideas.

As we finished the Thanksgiving holiday, and crept closer to December and the Christmas holiday, I started seeing many posts about ways to de-stress and declutter our holiday season so that we could get the most of this year’s Christmas. 

It matters not how hard we try, often many of us end up wrapping gifts on Christmas Eve, doing last minute baking, and overall feeling like we have at the least compromised our joy, but in many cases losing our joy, in the last-minute crazy of the Christmas season. 

This year, while I saw many posts about various ways to handle this stress, I had a thought.  Let me engage some wonderful ladies, in my online bible studies to see what sorts of tips and tried and true ideas they have for decluttering and de-stressing the holiday season, so that our focus as moms can be our family and remembering the real reason for the season; Jesus. 

While many of the ladies in these two groups were encouraging of this collaboration, they admitted that they really did not have much to contribute but were excited to read what others had to say on the practical ways to get a handle on the strain and stress that we as moms feel (real or perceived) during what should be the most glorious time of the year. 

First and foremost, many of the women in the online groups indicated that regardless of how busy they knew that their days would be, they had to take the time to focus on the Lord.  Without a daily and purposed quiet time, they find their frustration and irritation on the rise in the month of December.  I agree.  After all, the Christmas season is about celebrating the birth of Christ.  Regardless of your preferred style of study and quiet time, either an advent style devotion, or the study with a specific group of ladies, stay connected to the Lord daily! 

Secondly, many ladies also indicated that it was helpful to maintain a regular work out program.  We all agree this is not the time to start a new fitness program (wait until the first of the year and resolve to do so then) but if you are a walker, a runner, a boxer, a weightlifter, a Zumba dancer, or a swimmer; keep at it!  Purpose to make it to your activity of choice, at least three times a week, to not only offset the additional calories from breakroom goodies,  and holiday parties, but to just keep that time for yourself to focus on your body and mind and keeping them healthy. 

From here on out the responses are varied, but all are worth consideration and are in no particular order:

Greeting Cards: Some indicated that they no longer send holiday greeting cards.  Others indicated that they still send greeting cards, but it makes them anxious that they may have missed someone.  Here are some insights about holiday cards.  If you want to send them, plan to have them done and ready to go in the mail by black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) I can speak to this personally as I typically prefer to make my cards by hand.   However, it started to become a major stressor in my life.  So about 10 years ago I made an agreement with myself.  If the cards were not done, addressed and stamped by the end of September, I would skip them that year.  There have been some years that I have not sent cards.  Most years, I enjoy either creating (this year I colored them) or addressing cards I found at after Christmas sales, as a summer weekend project. 

Many, including myself keep track of whom I send my cards to.  By placing a list of the recipients on a piece of paper in your calendar or other safe place  ( setting aside about 1 dozen extra cards and stamps)  so that if a card comes in the mail during the month of December, from someone that is not on that list, you can quickly jot a note and send a return greeting!  

If you opt to skip the cards, then be okay with it!! Don’t second guess your decision, but do enjoy the greetings from those that send you greetings!  If you really want to reconnect with someone, then save their card and send a personal hand-written note/email/Facebook message after the first of the year! 

Shopping:  Another hot topic was shopping.  Wow, so much to say about this area of the holiday!  Where do you even start, what are the boundaries? Some indicated that each child/person in their home receives three gifts, as a representation of the gifts baby Jesus received from the wise men.  Others indicate that their lists for their loved ones start the day after Christmas,  and they keep a note book (or the note section of their phone) for listing things that their loved ones mention throughout the year as things they like, or wish they had. 

Others indicated that they get wish lists from their loved ones no later than August/ September and attempt to do all their shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  

Personally, I try to have all my shopping and wrapping done by November 30th each year.   While there is occasionally a few items that slip through the cracks until the early part of December, it is a great relief to have the bulk of the gift giving handled before the first of December!  

For those of the group that have out of town family, online gift giving seems to be the best option.  I agree!  For my family and friends, that are out of town, I order wreaths and other live greens for them, which are delivered end of November and early December, that include a personal message and gives them a gift that they can enjoy for the entire Christmas season.  Additionally, using e-bay, amazon, Esty and other online stores to order and ship gifts to family and friends across the miles, is best done early, with guaranteed availability of items and delivery in time to actually be a Christmas gift.   

It seems that hands down, shopping on line, either at Amazon or your favorite retailer, with front door delivery was the go to method of shopping for the majority of the ladies that weighed in on the shopping aspect of the holidays!  

Spending: There were many that have learned lessons about over spending and creative ways to plan financially for the holiday.  Many banks offer Christmas club accounts.  For years when our kids were small, we started one of these the first of the year and then put cash in each payday.  The bank then paid them out around the first of November.  It was a great way for our young family to prepare all year for expense of the holidays!   If your bank doesn’t have a specific check into opening a savings account that can be used specifically for holiday saving year round.

For the few ladies that really enjoy the Black Friday craze, they weighed in with their tips for successful shopping including purchasing the newspaper or looking at the online advertisements, to make a “road map” of where you will go, at what times, to get the best deals and the best chances at the items you really want.  Many said that it can be tricky to Black Friday shop, because if you are prone to impulse buying, you could walk away with many “great deals” but with no one to gift them to. 

The last note on gift giving and spending is make a list!  Check it twice! Or five times!  Whatever you need to do to stay on budget and on task.  I know that there is always that one person on my list that is super easy to buy for and if I am not using a list that person ends up with two Christmas’s worth of gifts and everyone else looks like they were an afterthought!  The “list” can be altered throughout the shopping season but provides a great baseline for staying in the means of your holiday spending and gift limits!  

Everyone that weighed in stated that staying on task for giving and financial spending makes the season easier to manage and makes the new year manageable, since you will not have over spent.   Many said if they do not have cash, they do not make the purchase.

Wrapping: In regard to wrapping, over the years because of the number of children we have (7), we wrapped all gifts in a separate paper for each child.  This is a great option for me, as I know that since the gifts are not hidden, no one is sneaking peeks because no one knows what paper their gifts are wrapped in until Christmas morning!  

It is also great to pick up paper and ribbon at the after Christmas sales, so that when you are shopping and wrapping in August and September, you have paper and do not have to wait for the retailers to put out their stock. (while you are at it, purchasing that discount paper and ribbon at the end of the year sales, go ahead and add scotch tape to that list and keep it with the paper for safe keeping! 

Now about this point in the post you are feeling a bit overwhelmed!  As one online contributor shared, always keep wine on hand… it is the great holiday stress reliever, however if you plan, and are intentional in your holiday preparations, you can just enjoy your wine, or cup of hot tea with a good book, without the guilt of being behind as the holiday rolls up on you fast and furiously! 

Baking and Meal Planning:  Another area that causes much stress is holiday baking and meal prep!  Here are some insights from the ladies.  You are either a baker or not.  If you are not, do not worry, you have a friend that will deliver some sweet treats to your home for the holidays!  If you are a baker schedule your baking time!  We have always made many types of cookies and shared them with neighbors, postmen, garbage men, bus drives etc.  But to use baking as a gift giving option, you do have to have a plan!  So, in October, make the list of the types of holiday baking you would like to do, and then start adding a few of the baking items to your standard grocery list through the end of November.  This helps keep the cost lower, as you spread it out across several weeks of shopping.  Also, don’t forget the containers that you are going to use to wrap those great treats in or distribute them in. 

Be intentional about scheduling a baking day.  Clear your schedule of all distractions and plan to spend the day baking! In our house now that the kids are grown, this helps ensure that they are off work, and have the time also to bake.  

If you have younger kids, you may want to consider letting each child choose their favorite type of cookie and they can bake that one with just you, so that you can purpose to have some one on one memory making time with each of your kids.  But again, it must be intentionally planned on our end, so that we have the supplies and the right mindset.  Being in the kitchen with littles is not always easy.   

If baking is not your thing, as early as September, you can make a few types of dough, (sugar cookie, chocolate chip, snickerdoodle etc) roll the dough like a log, and wrap in saran wrap and tin foil and place in the freezer.  When you need or want cookies for the holiday, remove the cookies from the freezer, slice and bake by normal baking instructions.  Or buy frozen cookie dough at the grocery and keep on hand for the holiday season.  The end result is the same, a house filled with a fresh baked cookie aroma!

In addition, like the baking ingredients, meal planning and purchasing can put a huge hit on the family grocery budget.  If you use frozen turkey, purchase "Tom" at the end of the summer,  for each holiday.  If you make green bean casserole, purchase two of everything in the summer and stock pile them in your pantry with an X on them, as a sign to yourself that they are earmarked for the upcoming holidays. 

We often seem surprised by the holiday meals, but they are coming, so planning in advance and purchasing everything prior to Thanksgiving, is what many ladies said they do.  Then, give it no more thought until the week before when you need to purchase your perishable items like potatoes, or fresh meats and vegetables.  

Again, the key the ladies indicated is making a list, and planning ahead!   This sounds great you say, except you do not have a lot of storage or freezer space. No worries!  You can then either, put aside a certain dollar amount each week starting in the summer (based on your budget) so that you can purchase supplies for the holiday meal and baking in December without wrecking your grocery budget.  However if saving money(cash) is an issue, and you are tempted to use the cash for other things, try purchasing gift cards for yourself from your primary grocery store and put them away each week, so you can pay for your holiday meal and baking items with gift cards vs your standard weekly grocery budget monies when the time comes.

Here is an example from our house. We have many “traditional” meal items.  Christmas Eve dinner is always homemade chicken pot pie.  At the writing of this post the chicken is cooked and shredded and in the freezer in gallon zip lock bags with the celery and slivered carrots and chicken broth.  The week before Christmas I will hand roll the dough and cut it in squares and place it on wrapped cookie sheets in the fridge.  The day before Christmas eve, I will pull those bags from the freezer to thaw, and then on Christmas eve in the morning place the prepared ingredients in the stock pot on low, bringing to a slow boil and add the dough prior to leaving for church, turning back to warm, so that dinner is ready after Christmas Eve services at church… no fuss no muss.   Regardless of the tradition, my grandmother’s hot chocolate, or breakfast on Christmas morning, the prep is done well in advance of the actual holiday meal need, and the stress is minimized, allowing more time for sharing time with my family instead of being alone in the kitchen! 

Okay, I bet you are wondering what we missed!  DECORATING!!  This preparation is literally my favorite part of the holidays!  I did not get a lot of ladies weighing in on this particular part of the festivities, but I have lots of great ways that I have made this work for me over the years, and I love to share. 

Before I do however, please note that this is a serious thing for me, decorating.  I do have a Christmas problem. Inside and outside my home. If you doubt it for one moment, know I rent a storage facility for all my Christmas decorations.   I do understand that there are not many of you that do decorating on the scale that I do. (Most do not.) DO NOT feel discouraged, the level of decorating that you do, is what you do. If it in any way causes stress in your life just review some of the ideas below and see if any could help you with the stress. 

The first thing that I started years ago (at least 20) was organizing all my decorations by theme (room).  When the kids were small they each had a bin with a tree for their rooms, and the ornaments that were the room theme (hunting, sparkly things, football team) which also included santa hats, and special blankets for their beds etc.  If you are like me, most always the decorations go to the same place and stay in the same general pattern over the years.  When you have a bin for each theme(room), you can decorate a room at a time vs, pulling all the decorations and reorganizing the whole house at once. 

When I enter a room, to start decorating, I take the bin(s) for that room with me, and the cleaning supplies. You read that right, cleaning supplies!  My themes are vast after 30 years of Christmas decorating, and so all my “typical” decorations come down, are dusted, stacked neatly on a pile and then I wipe the walls, and baseboards, dust the furniture, and then re-decorate by pre-appointed Christmas theme. Then the standard decorations are placed in the empty bin(s), and are clean for their return to each room after the first of the year.  

For example, my half baths have always had a reindeer theme.  Hand towels, a wreath for the wall, and small wooden and plush reindeer add the festive touches to the room.  By cleaning the room before decorating, I am also guaranteeing myself if I only manage the basic bathroom cleaning for the month of December that space will be guest/company ready at all times. 

If you have not thought about your rooms in themes, here are some ideas.  My main family space is nativities, big and small, and our family tree. Our family tree has all the ornaments from our kids and my husband and my childhoods.  I anticipate that it will in years to come be filled with our grandchildren’s homemade treasures too.  

As an aside, in regard to the decorations for that tree, each of the kid’s ornaments are marked with their initials and sorted into containers.  When it is time to decorate the kids, each get to put up their own ornaments (which my kids insist on), while I did not figure out soon  enough that I should have been keeping them sorted all this time, until about 6 years ago, it has been SO helpful.   Now that they are starting to leaving home, when they have their own first trees, I can just hand them their ornaments with ease whenever they are ready to decorate in their own homes. 

Other themed rooms are snow people including a snow man tree with ornaments, and shelves with knickknack snowmen and women.   My kitchen is gingerbread men, and the tree in that room is decorated with a variety of old kitchen gadgets, cinnamon sticks and ribbons.  I have a vintage Santa nook, and a beach theme for my lanai including throw pillows for the furniture, and a sea themed tree. 

This year I got to add to my themes, because for the first time, I have a guest room!  I purchased a small table top driftwood tree, some new bed sheets with flamingo’s in Santa hats,  a driftwood wreath, and decorated  a small tree with shells and driftwood… while purchasing the decorations, I also made a stop for a small bin to house these items in for the other 11 months of the year! 

I think that it is also important to evaluate your decorations each year. Sometimes we have things that get broken.  If I can fix it, I stop right then and go for the glue gun or the super glue.  If I can’t fix it easily, I return it to the box for repair after this Christmas season or determine if I it is even worth the fix.  Sometimes,  somethings that are not sentimental, are only around for a season.  For example, none of my kids have trees in their rooms any longer.  It was a phase and that is over and all those supplies and items either got merged into their personal ornament collection or were donated to the Goodwill/Salvation army, so others could find a way to use them for their holiday memory making. 

Some other ladies shared that it is helpful to spend time with their small children cleaning out and purging their play boxes and playrooms, and donate to a specific cause before the incoming gifts arrive.  Not only does this make room for the new items but also helps our littles understand that not everyone is as blessed as we are, and many can benefit from items that we no longer play with or care for.  

 One more note, as I know this post is growing long. Please let’s remember that the Christmas holiday season is not always a happy and joyous occasion for everyone.  I have found that by being intentional prior to the first of December in regard to my own traditions for decorating shopping and planning, this has relieved much of my inward focus and the stressors so that I can now focus more on others.  I do not always do great at this, but it is my goal, to each year stay on task personally, and spiritually so that I am more sensitive to those around me that may be lonely or struggling because of depression or loss of a loved one.  When I complete my tasks, big or small, before the first of December, I have found that I have more time to consider others before myself.  Maybe blessing a family in need with gift cards, baked goods, or gifts so that their holiday is a little brighter.  Giving to a toy drive.  Taking that time for coffee and a chat with a friend that is hurting, without feeling guilty about tasks that still need to be checked off my "to do" list. 

Intentionality is everything during the holidays!  I hope that you have each been blessed by the ladies who took the time to contribute their thoughts and ideas about how they manage areas specific to Christmas planning and execution.   As women we put a lot of pressure on ourselves.  Most times when I look back at the not so perfect Christmas’s (and there have been a ton of them) I am the only one that remembers the pie was burnt, or the gift wrap was held together with string because I ran out of tape at midnight on Christmas eve.  

This year if you feel overwhelmed, stop and seek the Lord’s direction.  If it is not important, the task that is stealing your joy, then let it go.  Be okay not always being the most creative mom, or the one who sends the lengthy update on kids and family to your mailing list.  Be okay resting in the joy of the season.  Ask yourself this, at the end of the day, will your home provide a haven for your family and an occasional guest?  Will the joy of the season be what people who enter through your front door feel? Is there peace in your home, when the world outside is chaotic? 

None of this happens overnight.  Years of purposeful and intentional planning go into making things merry and bright year after year.  At the end of it all, my goal is to honor the Lord and my family while being available to share the good news of the birth of our Savior with all I come in contact with, not only at Christmas but all year round. 

Merry Christmas to each of you!  May your days be intentional, your spirit be encouraged, and your hands and feet available to serve in tangible and remarkable ways this Christmas season!