Friday, December 19, 2014

An update on our house guest

I suppose over all, the transition of the great grandmother into the kingdom, has been smooth.  In reality, I believe she thought since she was here on vacation, that we were also going to be on vacation. Sadly, life does not stop in the kingdom and for whatever it is worth, I think she is starting to recognize that.

The transition while relatively smooth has not been without it's bumps in the road.  One whole room of living space on the first floor is now just her space..."the Nan Cave". We still scratch our heads as she blow dries her hand washed clothing with a hair dryer, when we offer free laundry services, and while the pace of the kingdom has slowed to the speed of a heard of turtles mucking through peanut butter when we go out and about... things could be significantly worse.

Here are just a few "moments" in time from this past week in response to all the notes and messages I have been receiving about how things are going with Nan in the kingdom.   :)

I was not sure at what point my home would reach saturation point. You know the point when you do not notice a odd non- Lingle in the midst of the daily chaos.   Today at about 2:30, upon my arrival  from school with a van full of kids, our total head count of dwarfs that call me mom, or friends of a dwarf that call me mom, in kingdom rose to 11.   Today as the various rooms of the house were filled with  piles of dwarfs doing a myriad of activities.  In strolls Nan.  She walks up to the dwarf at the kitchen table, sitting doing his homework, and asks when he got his glasses, she really likes them.  (Alone, a very nice thing to say when starting a conversation.) However what makes this a funny is that she thought that the dwarf at the table was Happy!!   The response of the Non- Lingle dwarf was nonchalant, and appropriate, and he politely played along,  however the remainder of the dwarfs in the room next door stifled giggles a plenty.  Saturation point is reached quickly when you add a 90 year old to the bunch.  We are not sure any longer about her vision...

It seems that there is a very large conspiracy in the kingdom!   We call it the Great Whisper Conspiracy.  Well actually we don't, Nan does.  If we have heard it 10 times, we have heard it a 100 times!   " You all whisper!"  "Why do you talk so softly?"   I think that the event that secured in our minds her lack of hearing was the night that we all were in the living room with the surround sound on watching Guardians of the Galaxy, and around 9:30PM she strolls in, and says in a shocked voice, "Oh, I am so surprised you are all up, it's so quiet here I assumed you went to bed."

We are all in the proverbial "dog house".  We lied to her.  We told her that the weather would be warm here.   It is not warm here it is freezing cold!  Now, I completely understand the whole thin blood thing, and being older... but every day from sun up to sun down, (and the sun has been out every day she has been here except one in two weeks)  the gal is never warm.  She is always cold and does not once pass on the opportunity to tell me that 70 degrees here is different than 70 degrees in PA!

We sat down the third day for dinner and she finally asked if we eat like this everyday?  Doc said, "you mean dinner Nan?"  "Yes, we eat dinner everyday of the week."  "Oh," was the response, followed by, "well I will never loose weight here eating like this everyday!"

 "What's wrong with Grumpy's arm that he has to wear that cast thing on his arm to play basketball?"  We all shook our heads and in unison, yelled "NOTHING, HE THINKS IT MAKES HIM LOOK COOL!"  and indeed that is why he wears his shooting sleeve everywhere he can!

She wanted to gift the dwarfs in the kingdom some cash for Christmas.  She set a dollar amount and told me what to give them all.  A couple days later provided me with the funds, but was off by $40.  The difficulty in explaining the math error is too great, so I am going to take the amount and divide it in my own creative way, and she will even get some change back from the exchange!

There is no way that you can make this stuff up! 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Silence is Golden... And SHOULD NEVER be taken for granted!

As you all know, I am a huge fan of silence! Good old fashioned peace and quiet.  Always, I consider my infrequent periods of silence as one of the greatest gifts of all times.  I look forward to the kids going to school and having the house to myself for whatever amount of time they are gone, with only the hum of  needed appliances running.   Do not misunderstand, the laughter of children, the chatter of dear friends, music in the background all have their place in life.  But when it comes down to it, you will never catch me turning on the television to "keep me company".  Driving in the car, with the radio on has to be under specific conditions.  They are as follows, a bright sunny warm day, all the windows down, the sunroof open and the my favorite country song blaring through my speakers.    Otherwise, the radio is off.   I am relishing the quiet. 

I suppose that you could assume, and logically so that my aversion to noise is a relatively new, but it is not.  I have always enjoyed peace and quiet.  It has just been elevated in its importance as we increased the number of noise makers in our home!

This past Sunday, I had the distinct pleasure of blessing the woman that is the proud grandmother to the Prince and the great grandmother to the dwarfs, with a personal escort to our new home in Florida for an open ended visit... 

Since her mostly smooth transition into our home, the item that is pushing me further and faster to the crazy crabby woman that I desire not to be, is the noise that has come to this house since her arrival.  From the time she awakes and most times in between, the background noise of the television is heard from one end of the house to the other.   

What I find to be even more laughter inducing, is that she has no ability to work any part of the remote control and television, EXCEPT the up volume button.   

Many times in the last three days (yes it has only been three days), I have gone in or past the "nan" cave and just nudged the remote volume button down a few clicks, only to come back to the other side of the house to  hear the commercials for awkward medical conditions as clear as if there were a television on in the room of which I am standing.   

I may be doing a lot of errand running in the upcoming weeks, for the sole purpose of peace and quiet!

You Really Can't Make this Stuff UP! 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Concrete Thinkers

I am sure that many of you with toddlers, preschoolers and even early elementary age children know of what I speak when I say concrete thinkers.

I however have the unique opportunity to parent a dwarf that is physically WAY past this stage of learning, but because of the consequences of his biological mother's poor choices while she was pregnant with him, he is stuck, knee deep in concrete.   Since I always seem surprised by the look of confusion, and the slack jaw...  I thought, without divulging which 15 year old male dwarf this is :),  I would share some of the more recent "concrete" moments.

When discussing a basketball game played at 3 Rivers (Stadium) was the word he missed, we had to pull out the laptop, and physically search for coverage of the game in question, and a photo of the stadium, surrounded by land,  because he thought that the game was played on a barge on the actual river water. 

When discussing a man that we were about to meet for the first time, and indicating that the man's identifying feature was his salt and pepper hair... the conversation got a little confused because of course we know what salt and pepper are, but why would they be in someone's hair...

In a conversation about a "broken" alarm clock, it was difficult to explain that each time he unplugs the clock, on purpose or accidentally (because he sleeps with it beside his head) that the time on the clock automatically goes back to 12:00.  The clock is not broken.  In order for it to work, keep time it must be plugged in. Keeping time is not a job it just automatically does because it is a clock.  The appropriate power supply must be engaged.  (I suppose that this year a battery back up clock may be in order.)

On a recent day when we were having plumbing issues at the house and there was a moratorium on using the facilities for "number 2", I was struggling to figure out if he needed to use the bathroom, or if he just wanted to ride his bike to the Hess station.   I got a little short with him, to which he responded with "MOM, why are you angry?"  I tried to explain to him, that me having to deal with the plumbing problems,  would be similar to asking him to put on a tutu and dance in the Nutcracker... oh so many things went wrong with that analogy, but the biggest was the fact that he did not realize that a Nutcracker was a Christmas ballet... 

Phrases, like "dullest knife in the drawer", "Shut the front door", as a statement of astonishment, "cup of joe","you can't judge a book by it's cover"  make his head whirl.  Most times he can tell by the tone or inflections that we really do not want him to "bark up a tree" or "beat a dead horse" but the expression on his face is always priceless. 

I do rejoice that typically after the phrase is initially thrown out, and the slack face and confused eyes appear, we have successfully,  with one explanation or two, significantly explained the premise, so that he appears to understand next time he hears it... however a concrete thinker will never repeat these phrases in their vernacular because they would never be 100 % sure they were using it correctly. 

You really can't make this stuff up!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Bashful, giving others a good bashing???

Okay... "Mrs. Lingle, do you have a minute? " is always a sure fired way to get my attention.  Rarely, am I refereed to as " Mrs. Lingle".     It is the youth pastor asking if I have a moment, he has a concern about Bashful.   The pastor starts out the conversation, seemingly unsure how to present to me the information that he clearly feels he needs to share about Bashful.  I just indicate to him, that he is not going to upset me or hurt my feelings, as not much surprises me any more with these dwarfs of mine. Just say it.      

So the saga begins.  It seems that Bashful, is "bragging" during the youth gathering that morning, that he is getting into a lot of fights at school.  That the kids are starting things with him, but in a confident voice indicates, that he is ending them!  He is beating them up, cuffing them a "good one" and making them wish that they had not starting picking on him! When questioned further about the name of the his most recent victim of his fists of fury, Bashful, in an off the cuff  response, replies that he doesn't know that "ginger's " name, but that he really messed him up! 

The youth pastor is concerned and felt the need  to discuss this with us.  Understandable!  I am grateful.  I am sure that the pastor did not expect that I would laugh out loud at his recounting of this situation. But I did laugh. Out loud. While shaking my head, and most likely I threw in an eye roll at the crazy lunacy of the fabricated story.

I shared with him, after asking some clarifying questions of course,  that I was 99% sure that the whole story was an untruth.  The Prince and I  shared a good laugh about it  as we discussed the best way to handle this situation with Bashful, and spent rest of the morning until we were able to talk to him one on one,  referred to him as "slugger".  (I know we probably should have resisted the name calling, but stuff happens, don't judge!)

Rest assured, all you faint of heart, Bashful is not being bullied nor is he being a bully.  He just lives in a world where his reality is what he makes up.  Additionally that morning he was also  struggling with MROS - Mouth Runneth Over Syndrome.   

You really can't make this stuff up!  

She's living her dream.

Most of the dwarfs "talk" a lot about what they want to do when they grow up.  Being a professional athlete, a veterinarian, a mom, a life time learner, a hobo.  But talk is cheap as they say.  In order to obtain a goal, one must be passionate, motivated and focused in where they want to go, and on the path to get there.  One of the dwarfs has talked since she was 10 about a life of service in our country's military.  While we thought that it was a passing phase, we have come to the conclusion that after five years, perhaps there is a bit of motivation, passion and focus for Sleepy regarding this dream.  When we lived in PA we heard the rumors of JROTC programs, but because of funding cuts there were no local programs, not even one in driving distance for her to consider.

Fast forward to March of 2014.  After much prayer and consideration and more prayer, our family...that was firmly planted in Pennsylvania, prepared to pull up 40+ years of roots and transition to the sunshine state.  Immediately we began to pursue the school options in the area as we still had six dwarfs requiring a secondary education.  We looked at private Christian schools, of which many of the dwarfs were very comfortable and familiar with, as well as charter schools.  Sleepy immediately latched on to the Sarasota Military Academy as her school of choice.   We made appointments, filled out applications and paid registration fees.  She was ecstatic! A school that she could attend that would afford her the opportunities that she had been dreaming of for years!

Through a series of events, we ended up enrolling our 5 eldest dwarfs in the local public high school.  Sleepy was on the fence about this decision, but the swaying factor was that they offered JROTC as an elective.  She filled out her form for registration, with JROTC as her first choice of an elective, confident that she would be placed in the program.  The first day of school arrives and she is nearly in tears to find that she did not get placed in the elective of her choice.  After a series of meetings and moves to her schedule, we were also able to get her a space in the program about two weeks after the start of the school year.

The rest of the month of September and part of October were a blur as she found out that there was a competitive side to the program called Raiders.  It seems that all at once she went from a dwarf with nothing to do, to a dwarf that I needed to keep a tracking device on so I knew where to pick her up at the end of each day.  She had committed to basketball training, had started working out with the Raiders, and was interning at the church in the youth program.  Some days she would leave the house at 7am, attend classes, attend Raiders training, head to the gym on campus for weight training with the basketball team and then attend practice  until 8PM with the basketball team.  We began to see her joy slipping, and cautioned her about being in over her head.  As her parents, we asked her to pray through where her commitment should be and how she should prioritize spending her time.

During this time she was convicted to go to the basketball coach and her Raiders instructor and inform them that she could not practice on Wednesdays as her internship at the church had to be her focus on that day of the week.  Jesus came first in her life and that it was because of Him that she had the abilities that she did to do the other activities she enjoyed. She was informed that she would not be able to play in any of the fall ball games because they were on Wednesdays.  She never blinked an eye and kept faithfully attending practices through most of September and early October.  But she was still weary.  Finally, she came to the Prince and I asked if she could drop basketball. (rabbit trail for a moment) If you know us at all, you know we LOVE basketball at this house.  The prince coached for years, I have coached for years,  all of our kids but one, have played, some for years! Heck,  I played in a 3 on 3 tournament when I was 6 months pregnant with our eldest dwarf .... ouch ouch ouch. Drop basketball??? The reality was that she could not keep going at the rate that she was, and something had to go, so basketball it was. 

What she has done in her time since downsizing her activities and becoming focused on just the Raiders program and her internship at the church,  has shown me that she is already at 15 a stronger, more competitive, more compassionate, more humble, more gracious a young woman than I could have ever hoped for her to be.  I look at her in amazement when she arrives to my car at the end of practice, covered in dirt, sometimes blood, and sometimes in tears and think, "crazy girl... but boy that is some dedication".  I see her with her peers working together, encouraging one another, supporting one another, and am grateful for her maturity, and her ability to see and understand that this is not just about her.  There is a bigger picture. Relationships to be built, and a goal that individually, on their own, they can never achieve outside of the team.  I would be remiss, if I did not mention that while these students, in the 9th -12th grade are the ones physically doing the time and putting forth the efforts, clearly they are blessed with some great leadership.  Instructors that give their best to these kids and their job each day. Instructors that know how far to push to get the maximum results,yet know how to be an encouragement when the kids are "off their games".  As we were transitioning here, one of our biggest fears was taking the dwarfs from the comfortable cocoons that they had built up for themselves and dropping them into the unknown.  Our fears for the most part have been unfounded.

I do not have any experience or  knowledge of what is going on at these competitions, but I am learning.  It is fun to explore and experience these things with Sleepy.  Rope bridges, tire flipping, sandbags, liter carries, 5K's, well to be honest it all seems a bit intense to me.  However it seems to bring her great joy, and satisfaction! While the Prince spent  time  serving our country, it was before we were married, and I was oblivious to most of the details of the military life,  as my focus was relegated to running to the mailbox each day, looking for a love letter or a picture of his handsome self in uniform... so to say I have a lot to learn would be an understatement. I am slowly piecing it together, and figuring out!  Sleepy is young.  What her future holds is yet to be determined.  But for the girl, living her dream, it has been a great joy to watch her grow where she has been planted.  Bloom in the midst of struggles and difficulties of the transition, and rejoice with her in her in her triumphs!

It is in the moments such as these that I am so grateful that I don't have to make this stuff up!  

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Post "Happily" dedicated to a dwarf that is "Happy" to work hard, please others and be part of something bigger than himself!

Ahhh... if we were all so eager, if we were all so teachable, if we were all excited about the little things in life...

Happy is a dwarf that you hear about less and less over the years.  He sort of blends in. While he is far from perfect, and clearly has his "moments", for the most part he is just as his name implies.  Happy!    He is a people pleaser.  He enjoys being part of something bigger than himself.  He loves doing things for others.  He is not afraid of physical hard work.  He will even rise to the occasion of mental exertion if we lay out the ground work in advance for his success.  Over the years we have determined that Happy, is content in who he is (oh there was a period of uncertainty; but we did not linger in it) and he is happiest when he is serving others or is a member of something bigger than himself!

Spoiler Alert:  If you are not interested in reading me brag about my special needs adopted kid, who has a ton of reasons to be okay just existing in life, but has chosen on purpose or by accident to be exceptional, then please stop reading now.  

Happy came to us 8 years ago at the age of 9.  He was a tall skinny kid for his age, who's most distinguishing feature aside from his smile was the size of his ears.  (I am happy to report he has finally grown into those!)  He has a heart condition, VSD (ventricular Septal Defect), he is academically behind his peers, with an significantly low IQ, making him ID (intellectually deficient) placing him academically at a 3rd grade learning level.  This can and does occasionally create significant issues in social situations and in basic communication functions, but most expressly in his ability to discuss his feelings, frustrations and even his joy.  Over all Happy is just mostly just happy.  Happy to help, happy to do something or nothing.  Happy to be alone, or to be with a crowd.

The Prince and I  have had all the regular struggles that parents of special needs children have in regards to knowing how to help him be successful, and reach goals that are appropriate and obtainable at each stage in his life.  Because of lower than average cognitive skills and low social skills it has been a constant juggling of all areas in his life.  Just about a year ago we thought we had found a good balance for him.  He had a good placement at school, was excelling in their work program and in life skills, and was doing odd jobs on the weekend with some folks from church.  He was really thriving where he was planted!

Then we uprooted him and moved him 1100 miles from everything that he knew and was comfortable with.  We girded up our loins, as we expected this transition to be very difficult for Happy.   Happy however during this time of transition, oblivious to all things that were expected of him, starting tracking his own path in this world!

In July, he determined that he wanted to get his boating license. (No we do not have a boat... but we do have friends with one, and they let him "drive" it and he was hooked)  The class was online and you did not pay for the class unless you passed and got your license.  He was relentless, he took the exam over and over and over again, until he finally got the needed percentage correct to pass.  He is officially and proudly a licensed boat driver!!

In August he began school at a new public high school in a great life skills program.  He excelled!  He was getting rave reviews from the staff and from the volunteers.  They started looking for extra things for him to do, like help in the cafeteria, so that he could do and be more challenged in his day.  It was about this time, that he started seeing his siblings wearing their JROTC uniforms, and the Prince and I would catch him star gazing at their reading materials and spending time trying to learn what he could about the program.  He even talked to the Prince on the side one day about whether or not he could be in the JROTC.  We thought it was too late in the year, but promised to look into it for next year for him.  Well it turns out while we were talking to the staff about the possibility, he was taking matters into his own hands (as much as he could) and was sharing his desire to be part of the program with his teacher.  She made some inquiries and he is now a proud member of the JROTC.   He of course takes great pride in his appearance, as I sat last night "fixing a button" on a back pocket that was not regulation tightness, I can attest to the seriousness that he assigns being part of this organization.

About the same time of the JROTC change, the school started announcing that in October there were going to be soccer tryouts.  Now Happy has played baseball for a season, and soccer for a season, but typically ended up being placed on the teams because of lack of players or the fact he had other siblings that were playing.  We did not hold any hope that he would make this high school team, as most of the boys trying out, I think came out of the womb playing soccer. Additionally, he has no working knowledge of the game, or the rules aside from you kick the ball into the net.  As a diligent parent I contacted the coach, and explained that while we were happy to send Happy to the tryout's, I wanted him to be aware of some of the issues that he has, and limitations.  I was told that they were happy to let him attend the tryouts, could make no promises, but indicated that they would treat him fairly and if he was dismissed or awarded a spot on the team, it would be based solely on his efforts.  Because it is hard to get the accurate information, we thought tryouts were one week long.  They turned out to be three weeks in length.  Happy was at every tryout.  He did everything he was told to do.  He ran hard, never quit and ALWAYS had a smile on his face.  Each night as I picked him up from the fields I started to notice a strange phenomenon... he went from standing alone waiting for me, to standing beside the other boys trying out, to wait for me.  Instead of not acknowledging the other boys and them responding in kind to his departure, there began to be head nods at one another and grunts.  One day Sleepy came home to report that a young man trying out for the team asked if Happy was her brother, she replied, "yes one of 4" to which this young man said "well we are all rooting for him to make the team, he is really working hard!"  Ah, how simple words uttered in casual passing can make a mommas heart soar!   Well he made the team. Not the varsity team, but the JV team.  Not first string, but 2nd goalie.  He is so proud.  I went last night to the game, I headed over around halftime.  There  he was tending our vacant goal. We were in the second half of a game, which was really a blow away - 7 us, zero them, to find him contently standing there at the ready, to defend that goal.  When his team scored an 8th and final goal, and they called the game with 20 minutes left, he was a bit dazed, but his teammates quickly called him in, and he hustled to join them in the end of the game huddle.  He is learning.  Why?  Because it is important to him.

Somewhere between Pennsylvania and Florida, whether he realized it or not, Happy made a decision to participate in life, not let life pass him by.   The Prince and I could not be prouder of him!  I am SO grateful to the Lord that Happy is thriving in his new environment and  that I don't have to make this stuff up!! 

Monday, November 3, 2014

I have never been a fan of Halloween

I have never really been a fan of  Halloween. Understand when I say Halloween, I mean trick or treat.  Even as a child, there was so much energy and effort put into getting ready for the holiday, and the build up just never met with the reality.  We had cleaver costumes, and my parents bought candy, for the ghosts and goblins that came by our home.  One parent always stayed behind to hand out treats, and the other put us in the car and drove us from house to house since we lived in a rural area.  At the end of the night, every one returned home in less than a happy mood, because of falling on a dark driveway, or a costume that failed the" in and out" of the car 20 times test, or we wanted to go to "just one more house" but that one more house was another 4 minute drive, in the opposite direction and the driver wanted to just go home...

Of particular interest to me and my most vivid memory was the year that my brother was the Incredible Hulk, and my mom made him a great costume, however the green food dye she used on his hands and face and neck, stuck with him for a while! I did wonder why after his shower he was more red than green, but now that I have children of my own, I am sure my mom scrubbed his arm neck face and hands until the were red, trying to make the green fade!    I have a great clown costume, and perhaps this was the year that I wore it, but it currently sits in my collection of childhood memories that I know my mom lovingly made for me, but have no memory of ever wearing it.

So when it was time to start a tradition with our own family, we started out with Doc.  Born in January, I had plenty of time to consider her first costume.  I do believe that it was a very traditional baby pumpkin suit that she adorned.  But again, I am a bit fuzzy on the details, because who in their right mind actually goes out in search of candy for their 10 month old?  I think we may have driven to my parents (because we are still living in a rural wooded area of my childhood) and oohed and took some photos.

I recall the next year, she was walking and she was a shark.  But again, I do not remember if we even went out on the great candy search that year.

After that I have no more recollections of Halloween costumes or outings aside from a very ambitious sunflower costume that I made for Doc.  I spent a week crafting the petals and the hat that fit easily over her head and would bear the weight of the sunflower, searching high and low for a  green sweatshirt that would be the perfect shade of green for the the stem, and when the day arrived for the Halloween Parade at Preschool, she refused to wear the costume!  She refused to march in the parade!  She refused to go out trick or treating!   She was just a stem!

If I were going to be honest, this is when any of my love of the holiday left me.  Add a few more children, 6 to be exact and over the next 15 years, I just scrapped the idea. We would take the kids out of school early so that no costumes were needed for the all school parade and we would go to dinner or the movies or bowling on trick or treat night, and avoid the chaos.  I could take 7 kids out for dinner for less money than I could spend creating the perfect costumes and shuttling them around for buckets of candy that they did not need, or than what was good for them.  We would take them to the store and let them each select their favorite candy bar. I would even let them eat it all in one sitting,(I know, shocking to you that know my aversion to having junk in the house.), in an effort to fill that need that they thought they had for candy.  You may be wondering what was the issue.  Why do I not like Halloween and trick or treating?  Was I some zealot that thought the holiday was evil, or to frightening?  Was I a parent that was protecting my children from "glamorizing" the dark side of the holiday?  Nope.  Not at all, I was a parent who was opposed to 7 candy baskets full of a food group that was of no value to them.  I was a parent that was opposed to dropping $19.99 (or more), times 7, on costumes that were made of poor quality and would rip before getting out the door which lead to tears, and the someone having to go to the bathroom and then to someone's feelings being hurt... In a herd stuff just happens. 

Then an amazing thing happened. The rules of trick or treat as I recalled them from childhood, took on a new twist.  Kids were trick or treating later in life.  During my childhood, no one went out in costume after their 12th birthday. In my mind I was figuring my kids were to old, save one, to go out trick or treating.  Once we moved to our more suburban housing development, I let the kids hand out candy, and I noticed a distinct shift in the size of the kids coming to my door.  I thought these kids look older .. like the age of some of my dwarfs....  so  I looked at my dwarfs and thought, they could do this all themselves this year.  I would have to do nothing.... they can all walk, and if they start to meltdown I can send them home...  The year was 2009.  As previously mentioned, we had moved to a new neighborhood the year before, and at dinner, 30 minutes prior to the community trick or treat event beginning,  I looked at the six kids around the table and said,  "Hey... anyone want to go trick or treating tonight?" Our youngest girl dwarf literally had NEVER been out and she was 12.  To say they were surprised, would be an understatement.  Then it started and I thought I was going to lose control of the group...the "I don't have a costume, I don't know what to be or do..."  Quickly, I laid the ground rules...  you may go out trick or treating if you pull together your costume on your own, with a bag to carry your sweets in, and be on the front porch in 30 minutes.  Almost all were in agreement.  It was a fun time for them, we even have this photo (curtsey of a neighbor)as documented proof of 5 of the 7 dwarfs went out for the adventure.  They talked about it for days, as they started making their plans for the next the next year.  

I was still not a fan of the obnoxious amounts of candy with no perceived nutritional value, so we 
solved the problem by combining it all on the table. Everyone picking out a few favorites and the remainder was donated to a local charity.  (I am aware that many find candy to be a staple in their home, so I do not mind donating and that nothing went to waste.)  

This year, we are in a new area and  while I am sure, according to the articles I have been seeing on the internet, my kids still all fall into the realm of acceptable age and size for trick or treating... However, we opted to try something different this year.  While I think the craze was starting at home a few years ago, we had never really gotten into it since our kids were older, the ingenious idea of  trunk or treat events.  A safe place to take the family for candy gathering, game playing and fun. So this year we determined that the kids are all old enough and big enough to help out in the spirit of the  holiday by serving others.  Really who doesn't like to dress up, and play games and hand out candy?    I created a trunk design for our 15 passenger van, and loaded up all the children, drove to the school parking lot where the event was being held, and the kids and I spent the evening serving the community - handing out candy, manning game and food tables and just enjoying the holiday in a new way. 

The look of joy on the faces as children of all ages, yelled "Trunk or Treat" at the elephant's trunk or his face, and a piece of candy (or three) fell out of the trunk right into their basket, bucket or bag, was worth the brainstorming and painting and creativity that went in the creation of our trunk.  I believe that if these events would have been popular when my kids were little this is the type of thing that we would have done.  There was free food, hot dogs, popcorn, cotton candy.  There was live music.  At least 20 cars were decorated and set up all handing out smiles and candy.   It was a safe place to for parents to bring their kids.  It was simply good clean fun.  It goes to show that an old dog can learn new tricks, and that while my stance on Halloween is still the same, I am still not a huge fan, it is simply a lot of work, and I would love it if there was something else to give away besides candy. The future looks a bit brighter for my grandchildren...especially if Trunk or Treats are still popular when they are ready to head out to celebrate Halloween!  

You really Can Make up a Elephant trunk design for the back of your 15 passenger van, if you are a fan of Pintrest and have some spare time on your hands!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Even the Queen has malfunctions sometimes!!

As you know many of my posts are about the dwarfs.  I do not think that I have ever been tempted to blog about the Prince ( he IS perfect in every way), but I also have a history of not blogging about myself.

My family, the Prince, my brother, my adult child, often mock me for my "Michelle" moments.   They find it hysterical that occasionally in a complete and absolute sincerity, I say perhaps not the most appropriate things... or I slur my sayings, or choose hills to die on that they find to be insane.  I don't really understand why they find it necessary to pick on me, and have started to tell them that "someday when I am gone they will feel bad about being so mean to me," but alas they are not buying what I am selling, so why not just go ahead embrace it, and laugh at myself!

My brother will fall to fits of uncontrollable laughter over a time that I walked outside while he, my father and my husband were investigating a septic system issue and proclaimed " Gee it sure stinks out here!"  Or the time that I walked into a funeral home, and proclaimed it was great to see the woman that handles all the arrangements again!  What I meant was that I was happy to see a familiar face, seemed I had been there before, just recently and she did such a great job the first time with our funeral arrangements, it was just refreshing, comforting was all.  NO amount of discussion could make them see my reasoning for the comment.  Why anyone would be happy to see the funeral director again was beyond them.

There is also a rumor out there that  at my funeral you may be handed a cereal bowl and a half pint of milk, if this happens, you should just go with it... why?  Because some of my family and friends think my rule of not letting my children slurp their milk, or soup, or other liquids from the bottom of a bowl is silly.  So the idea is at a given point at my service, everyone will pour, lift their bowls to their lips and slurp loud and proud in my honor!  I think it is sort of rude, to poke fun at the dead,  but if they find it funny, I won't be there to stop them.  I guarantee that my children will at least pause before being so uncouth, at their momma's funeral, to slurp out of their bowls... I hope.

I have had many moments over the course of the years, where my words have been slurred, my thoughts unclear, and my intention, while in my heart true and pure, turned into something else when it came out.  I do not think it is coincidental to the fact that the number of children in my care has increased over the same amount of years as exponentially as have my "moments".  No one however,  is buying what I am selling.  So as I have recently had two moments... I thought I would poke some fun at myself!  Here goes!

A few Sunday's ago, I got dressed and drove to church with two dwarfs.  Situated myself in class, and got ready to take prayer requests in my journal, when I felt a tug/or snap/ or nudge on my left side.  So I glance to my left side, to realize that the zipper of my sundress has started to pull apart.  (Sometimes it does not pay for the Salvation Army to be your one stop shop for clothing.)  However, at this point I was not overly pressed, as it was just a pucker in the zipper.  I was not worried, as the zipper was still secure at the top and bottom and most of the space in between!  I figured I would be fine until the break for the main service.  WRONG!!  As I adjusted in my seat turning ever so slightly into to the back of the chair, the whole zipper breaks open.  How do I know ? Because I can feel the breeze!  Now I am not prone to panic, however after being in Florida since June, and knowing the "mom" variety bathing suits I have been wearing, I know for a fact that the area of my body now exposed from under my arm pit to the top of my hip is the pasty white and very NOT attractive variety.   I of course, have no sweater, and am seated on the far side of a horseshoe arrangement of seats, farthest away from the exit door!  Now my options are limited.  Prayer requests suddenly are dragging out... and I am fighting a simultaneous panic, mixed with sweating profusely, and cant focus for anything on what is being said as I plan my exit.  Finally, I am able to get the attention of the leader's wife, to whom I indicate that I may or may not have suffered a wardrobe malfunction, and when her husband starts to lead everyone in prayer, I will TRY to sneak out.  Now we are halfway around the circle of adults sharing from their hearts, and all I can focus on is my flesh that is pressed into the scratchy seat fabric, while I plot my exit.  At this time another thought pops into my head, and now I start praying that everyone in the room prays with their eyes closed! (or at least the one's to my left!)  Finally, it is time to move!  All I have is my prayer journal, so I tuck it under my arm, tuck the sides of the zipper under the book, and press it tightly to my side with my arm, and rush to the door. I grab the handle and twist... and the door doesn't budge.   It is not locked, but it is a heavy metal door, of which I was not expecting!  So as I adjust my force on the door, the prayer journal starts to slip... I start to inwardly groan (or at least I hope so!)  I throw myself into opening the door and just barely escape with my modesty in tack.  Now I stand alone in a hallway that stretches left and right with no one around.  I am on the second floor of the church.  Do I take the elevator and risk running into someone in a well lit area, or do I take the stairs, where it will take me longer to make my exit, but I will be in a low light area and can almost guarantee to be alone?   Well I opted for the stairs and surprisingly in a church of a couple thousand members encountered no one further.  I got to my car with only slight modification to the prayer journal under the arm and drove the .22 miles home to change laughing the entire way!

My next moment is not nearly as dramatic, but left me feeling exposed none the same.  I worked diligently on making a grocery list for two days, and as I gathered my coupons, slugged the last of my coffee I felt ready to conquer the world of the Winn Dixi!!  It has always been my personal opinion that coupons are a painful experience and not worth the effort, but in an attempt to make the Prince happy, and to take advantage of the best options available on our reduced budget, I am making a genuine effort to save every dollar possible !  So , I get Bashful off to school and head out on a mission to stock the fridge, freezer and pantry for the week ahead.  I have the coupons, the list, the sale flyer for the store.  I am filling the cart with an abundance of stuff,and have crossed off diligently all items on the list.  No extras, but the cart is bursting!!  Cold items, paper products, dry goods and canned goods for 9 for one week!  I am at check out and there is only one line open (of course) and as the second register opens I am in perfect position to be invited over to the new open lane - since the three folks in front of me are either checking out or have already unloaded their carts on the belt.  I see the light go on, and I scurry over as Dennis greets me with a big smile and a "how are you today?"  I start placing my purchases on the belt, and he starts ringing them up.  I pause because the belt is full and reach for my purse to pull out my "club card".  My hand strikes air.  Empty space where my wallet sits  regularly.    I glance at Dennis, my retiree cashier, who is struggling to get my items to scan, and frantically dig again thinking I just placed it in a different section of my purse.    NOOOOOO! is what I defeatedly say as I come to the staggering realization that my wallet is sitting beside my laptop on my desk at the house.  I say to Dennis, " I am so sorry sir, but I realize that I have left my wallet at home."  He looks at me like I might be speaking French.   He eventually stops scanning items and calls over Bill, the sweetest little, if I could choose my own grandpa, he would be it, sort of guy.  He is so kind, he says "Look Miss, this happens often.  I will take your cart and put it in the walk in cooler. Is that okay?  How long will you be gone? "  I shake my head and say "I am so sorry...but I think I can be back in 20 minutes will that be okay?"    Bill, everyone's favorite grandfather figure says, "You bet!  See me when you get back and I will go get your cart from the walk in."   I fly home. Not really it seems like the trip that took an eternity, but I got back in 21 minutes!  Went to find Bill...  He saw me coming.  He stopped what he was doing, and said he would be right back with my groceries!  He was!  I went back to Dennis.  He was happy to rescan my items - all of them this time, and I was happy to pay in full for them!   But boy did I feel silly !  I am sure those ladies behind me thought, what kind of goof comes to shop without her wallet.  My friend said I was just distracted.  By what I thought was, come on now, get it together, this mom thing is your only gig currently.

So you see, what is that saying about throwing stones? I can poke fun at the funnies in my families life and at life here around the kingdom, since I am also willing to share my tales of misfortune with you! People who live in glass houses should not throw stones?  I think it applies?

You really do not have to visit long at our house to see that this stuff happens on the regular, and you really can't make this stuff up!  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

He's a Winner!!

Yes, all parents think their dwarfs are winners !!!  While this dwarf has only made a few appearances in my blog in the last years,  Happy is still alive and well and leaving his fingerprint on the world!!  (Not just my windows and my peanut butter eggs !!)   I would be remiss if I let this moment pass by without acknowledgement and to take the time to brag about the dwarf that has a overcome much in his life, and has been bestowed a great honor!

For many of us, this may not be a big deal.  But for Happy, who upon receiving notification of his award, carried this pamphlet, which proudly also displays his name, around for two days, as he giggled and talked about "flying home" to receive his award at the Governor's Mansion in PA, it is!   While I know that he is unable to process the cost associated with such a trip, he took the news of not being able to be there for the ceremony well, and still smiles at the mention of the award!

What he does not know, is  in the midst of communication with the administrator for the Special Driver's Programs at PENNDOT, is that she is going to forward the poster, the award, and all the important items that go with the ceremony, to us after the event on October 22nd.  When we get the "package" we are going to make sure that we celebrate this in a big way for him.   I already have pinned a bus cake, and stop sign name tags... and if it were not for the many miles separating us from family and friends, I would be holding a big ol party!!

Instead I have contacted his new life skills teacher, and asked if she would allow him a special "show and tell" about his project that lead to the award.  Not so that he can brag about what he has accomplished, but so he can learn to use some new life skills, talking in front of a group, articulating the process of the contest, and the steps that lead to making the poster, and then the excitement and celebration that was bestowed upon him in light of the honor. 

There were 679 posters submitted last year to the Bus Safety Poster Contest.  He won 2nd place in his division amidst all those entries!!    Happy has never won anything (that I am aware of ) in his 16, (Monday he turns 17) years of life.   For him, this is HUGE !  For us this is HUGE  because it is huge for Happy!

Please know this.  Life is about the victories.  It is about celebrating the things that are important to each of the dwarfs individually.  As a mom of many, it is my job to save, savor, and celebrate ALL of life's accomplishments for each of them, archive the specific items and save them each dwarf until they can determine on their own if it is important to them or not.

Ask Doc if you see her, she has a stock pile of "childhood treasures".  When she was preparing to move to meet us in our new home state, she called to tell me that she was stuck in the land of the past.  Who keeps birthday cards from every birthday and catalogs the gifts given by each attendee on the back of the card?  This mom!   Who keeps the child saftey fingerprint and DNA sample kit, long after her kids are grown adults?  This mom!  How about an American Doll, with her complete matching doll and kid clothing?  This mom!   What about that 2nd grade "quilt project", of all of her favorite( and mine,) of her clothing, from birth that I turned into a quilt? This mom! 

Here's why. I have no idea in the moment, what memory is going to resonate long term with each dwarf.  Something that is a big deal to me, may not be to them.  So what is the worst that can happen to all this stuff?  They toss the items they feel are insignificant when these items becomes their property!  What happens if I determine that the events that  happened, were or were not important or significant to them and haphazardly tossed those things that I think were not relevant?  As they transition from childhood to adulthood, what if they are looking for a specific memory, and it was just a small thing that I thought was insignificant?  I would rather err on the side of caution.  Does it make me a bit of a pack rat... yes especially since there are seven of them!  But as technology advances so do my practical ways for archiving special times!!  Thank goodness! 

Regardless, if at the end of it all, in 15 years or 30 years, Happy still thinks this is a big deal, then he can savor the memories and mementos. If not, he can toss them, it is his decision.  For right now, it is a big moment.  So we will celebrate!  In the only way we know how!   The motto of this Kingdom, Go Big or Go Home!  

Sometimes, you want the actual memories,  You don't want to make this stuff up!!! 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

For those Enduring the Storms of Life

I have been wrestling with being away from my family and friends.  I have been feeling out of sorts, as I watch and listen from a far to the struggles those I love are enduring.  It seems as if my prayers are just rote as my heart and mind desires to jump in and assist in a physical and tangible way.  However, as I sit this morning praying for them, and considering the seasons in my life and theirs, I wonder is God attempting to show us a fresh new start.  Are our trials, our circumstances, even our joys that alter our current reality, not fresh new starts, gifts from God to motivate us to draw closer to Him and to trust Him more? 

This is a challenge to me.  I thought I would live and die in Pennsylvania. While never opposed to an adventure, I married my high school sweetheart (the Prince) and never lived more than 10 miles from either of our birth homes, and had a secure and comfortable life.   People have come in and out of our lives over the years and we were always the constant steady that they could return to for a visit, for encouragement and for a sense of connection to what they had left behind.    But in my prayers this morning, I began to see a trend.  When God moves, (and not just geographically) and we face situations that are not what we desire, or that we are surprised by, is He saying stay where we are,  this is your lot in life, or is He prompting us to open our eyes, focus on Him, and start over with a new plan, His plan. 

New plans are not comfortable. For most of us they are not enjoyable, and it is a hassle, takes more energy than we want to expend, and causes us too much heartache, to get past where we currently are sitting.  Stuck in a rut, on the side of the road.  But more often than not, we are stuck in the rut on the side of the road, because we tried to do it our way.  While I may have made overtures to bring God into my plans, catch Him up to speed on my vision as it were,  have I really yielded to Him, just trusted Him to work on my behalf?  My spouse has left me. My kids are leaving home.  My spouse has passed away.  My boss is a jerk.  My spouse just lost their job.  Myself or my spouse is sick.  I am the caregiver for my aging parents.  My finances are a wreck.  I am a wreck.  Hear my heart in this, I do not have the answers and  this early Saturday morning musing is more for my own sanity than perhaps any of yours.

Here is the what came to mind today as I prayed for all my friends in positions of transition today, for all those that are faced with trials that seem overwhelming, with sadness, with rejection and with grief and even in joyous times that alter our current reality. God is not surprised by this.  I know even as I type those words, it comes across as a bit trite.  However, with 100% confidence, I can say that as a believer in Christ, nothing that comes my way is a surprise to Him, as it has first passed through His hand before ever reaching me!  He has ordained it, He has allowed this situation to come to my attention.  Why?  Because He knows I need this challenge, this transition, this trial, this struggle, and yes even this joy, so that I can grow closer to Him, and He can continue to do His good and perfect work in me.

The following passages came to mind this morning, and if you are reading this and are in the midst of a struggle, it is my prayer that these verses with bring comfort, clarity of thought, peace and joy to you today in your journey. 

"Consider it pure joy my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish it's work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything."  James 1:2-4

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

In this you greatly rejoice,  though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor and glory at the revelation of  Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:6-7

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

It is because of Christ and His Word that I can proclaim loudly,  I am glad that I don't have to make this stuff up, to find peace and joy in life.

Friday, September 19, 2014

In the Midst of it all, God is not Surprised

Following a couple rough weeks in the kingdom,  I keep coming back to the above statement.  In the midst of it all, God is not surprised.

I often wonder, why is that I am surprised?  Why is it that I am disappointed?  Why is it that I struggle and wrestle with the how's and the why's of the situations at hand?  Oh, right...because I am NOT God.  Well Duh, you would say.  None of us are.  But do we not try our hand at the "god" thing by attempting  to control our circumstances, and their outcomes?  Do we not make decisions based on feelings not facts? Are we not occasionally swayed by our emotions in how we respond, and react?

If you are not that person, good for you!  You have just saved yourself from years of heart ache, heart break and stress.  I sadly, have not yet arrived.  I am however trying very diligently to not get d-railed when life comes at me fast and furious.

Surely if you have followed the saga of the dwarfs and their shenanigans over the course of the years I have been blogging, you will know that some of the dwarfs have a handle on life, and some of them are on the struggle bus of life.  I try to be an equal opportunity blogging mom, and mix up the posts with small stories and antics from a variety of them, but historically, there are a few that keep getting starring roles.  The last few weeks have been a good mix of hard times, and in the middle of the hard times, refreshing moments of grace and goodness, all that shed  light on the fact that God is not surprised by any of this thing that I call life.  Because of His love for me, He knows when in my humanness, I am at the end of a rope, and need a glimpse of his grace.

Below are the highlights of the last few weeks, the good and the bad, and why I am leaning towards making my life's motto,  In the midst of it all, God is not surprised.

A girl's weekend spontaneously planned and executed, that was a blessing and a gift that not only energized me in the moment, but  prepared me for the weeks that would follow.  There is something so healing and so precious about friends, and their ability to land just when it is needed. We shared laughs in the rain, gain survival skills for the future, and were able to cross items off of  a bucket list together!  

Shocking I know, but three weeks into the school year and we are facing suspensions and potential expulsion for a dwarf.  Yet even with offenses at the highest degree, this dwarf's heart is responsive and remorseful and seeks forgiveness from those that have been offended and hurt in the situation.  The situation still remains, and there are still consequences to be doled out, but in the end we know that whatever they may be will be in the best interest of said dwarf. 

Help has arrived to our family in ways never before accessible in the state of Pennsylvania.  Clinics that specialize in Fetal Alcohol Testing, that I can take my dwarfs into for testing, and walk away that day with a yes or no diagnosis and the severity of the syndrome. While this potential for a diagnosis in no way makes up for their poor choices, it will go a very long way in figuring out how to best communicate with them, and care for them.   For years this diagnosis has been danced around, but there was never a way for a formal diagnosis to be given.  One phone call, one transfer, and one week later two dwarfs are scheduled for testing in December.  The cost for the testing $3500 each.  The cost passed on to us, close your eyes and what do you see?  NOTHING!  I am shocked...but God is not!

A dwarf whom since the third grade has been sharing plans of joining the military has been presented with an amazing gift of the JROTC.  While by the week's end we may have 3 Cadet Lingle's in the kingdom, and are proud to be the parents of all three of them, we are most certainly proud of the one that is embracing the lifestyle and challenges of the program with gusto and enthusiasm.  He knows the desires of our kids hearts and works in advance to see them fulfilled.

There seems to be a break down in the process of  securing an education for one of the dwarfs as we struggle to make our way through finding a good spot for this young one academically.  While the school is insisting that we mainstream this dwarf, it is clear that this dwarf is not mainstream material.  What the staff views as defiance and and outright disobedience, I am struggling to show that there are reasons for the struggle.  Tremors, Autism,  Verbal Turrets just to glaze the surface.  Sadly when your kids present as a " normal child" it is hard to help strangers see their brokenness.  As the mom I feel that the task at hand to get the services needed is an uphill climb and as I crest over a peak, I am confronted with yet another rise to tackle.  Not only is this challenge one that I feel I am ill prepared for, but with the change in states and rules, I am in flux trying to figure out all the new rules and policies.   Just when I am at my lowest along comes help, in the form of a staff member that has the occasion to work one on one with this dwarf, and has picked up on many of these issues because prior to teaching she dedicated her time to assisting  special needs children in an out patient facility.  With one email, the ball is rolling in a new direction and there is much hope for the future. 

Time with family, planned the first weekend of our move, in June, happened at a perfect time two weeks ago.  Again, no surprise to God, that we would need that time to be silly, to relax and to catch up on all the things that you miss when you move away from your siblings! Grateful for a brother and sister and their children that filled our home with a taste familiarity, and fun.  With kindness and grace in the midst of a challenging time, were able to fill a void that we did not realize we had!  

There is a saying that things are all good, when funding is all good... so we add a bit too the stress of life, by having miscalculated the "cost" of sunshine.  But even in this, as I scheduled an energy audit for our home next week,(because I am sure that my neighbors must be hooked into our home's electric somehow)  dear Mr. Monty was able to share with me that the last home owners peak month of usage was $825 for the month... What an encouragement to us, while our bill is double what we budgeted for, it is no where near that amount!  It is also wonderful that the Prince in his wisdom, has been able to provide us with ways already, to be frugal with our energy and that there is such a thing as an energy audit, that will hopefully show us other great ways to cut costs!

Homeschooling is hard.  Hats off to all of you moms and dads that daily provide for the education of your children!  Once a dear friend said, you would make a great homeschooling mom, and I laughed out loud and said every day would be a field trip.  However,  in the face of necessity,  I was able to pull it together for one week.  It was not pretty, and I yelled and kicked and screamed a lot, but we got the job done and then some.  In a very smug and non humble way, I did enjoy one part of the experience, being more physically fit than said young adult dwarf, as we worked our way through PE class each daily for 5 days.  While the dwarf could run faster and bike longer,  the weight training with this 40+ year old momma on the lanai made this dwarf quiver and complain and hurt the next day!  Score one for the mommas!  A reminder that making my health a priority is paying dividends and encourages me that even when I do not feel like it, exercise is important for my over all health and my sanity!  Plus this was a great reminder that homeschooling is not my life calling!

One of our dwarf''s struggles mightily with their past.  The technical term is Reactive Attachment Disorder.   It's definition is this: Reactive attachment disorder is a rare but serious condition in which an infant or young child doesn't establish healthy attachments with parents or caregivers. Reactive attachment disorder may develop if the child's basic needs for comfort, affection and nurturing aren't met and loving, caring, stable attachments with others are not established.  As this young dwarf fast approaches 18, we are concerned about their ability to make good decisions, process situations appropriately and provide for the basic safety and care of them self.  One more phone call on a separate day yielded an appointment with a RAD counselor, again something that specifically was never available in Pennsylvania to us, that is sharing weekly with this dwarf.  Our hope is that upon their "coming of age" this dwarf will see the benefit in this wise council  and continue with these sessions, even though initially opposed as them and was viewed as the Prince and I's attempt to "fix" them.  In this again, a reminder that God is providing for the needs of the dwarfs in ways that in PA were not available.

There is another dwarf that has a love of baseball, in the middle of all the craziness of life, this dwarf has found a nitch... too bad it is at the crack of dawn... 6am!  What high school student willingly attends workouts at that time of day unless they are serious about their sport?  Alas, the Prince and I gladly transport said dwarf to early morning workouts four days a week before school in the hopes that this dedication will result in an opportunity to play for a high school team that game that they have loves since they were little!  It has been hard to make that adjustment to early riser, but the great news is that we are all home from school for the day by 2:30 hence allowing for down time in the afternoons and a time to rest and prepare for the next early morning.

There have been so many "ah-ha" moments in the past three weeks, and I would be remiss in not mentioning another great gift, aside from the Prince and his recognition of my limitations and stress levels,  is the fact that I have a great "get away" just 20 minutes or so from my new home.  I can sit in the sand and feel the waves lap my feet as I stare out over the ocean.  In the midst of the chaos, I can find tranquility in the roar of the ocean.  My happy place can now be reached whenever I need it, with in a short drive.

As I sit, I can reflect on all the great ways that God is tying together our new home, our new surroundings and new opportunities.  I can say that while I desired for our dwarfs and my Prince and I to have a fresh new start at things, I was disappointed when slowly I realized that only our scenery had changed, the shenanigans and the often resulting chaos did not change.   However, keeping it all in perspective, In the midst of this thing I call life, God is not surprised.  He has this!  All I have to do is recognize this truth in my life, and then sit back and trust Him as He continues to work on all fronts for our good!   (Blogging about it also helps keep a written reminder of His faithfulness to our family in the forefront of my mind.) 

Really... You Can't Make this Stuff Up!  

PS: As I was typing the conclusion to this blog, I got a phone call from the school where we are in day 10 of a level three suspension with potential for expulsion for one of the above mentioned dwarfs.  The school is not expelling this dwarf, and is instead recognizing how they(the school) did not set this young adult up for success from the start. Not only are they graciously allowing for the dwarf to have a second chance(with modifications), they have formulated a plan to guarantee future success for our dwarf, and are also making a way for others with similar disabilities to be successful!  I was so surprised I was nearly in tears... but did I mention God is not surprised by this!?


Monday, September 1, 2014

Holy Mole !

Here it is!  My mole.  It resides on my back.  My hair often covers it. Covers it so much that I frankly  do not recall every seeing or feeling it before.  My mole that has changed color recently.  My mole that felt a bit raised.  My mole which Sneezy found on my neck this past Sunday morning.   The mole that I did not believe I had.  The mole that I did not believe had changed color.  So she took this photo to prove to me that it existed. 

"Oh..." I say as my stomach starts to flip a little.  Clearly that is a mole, clearly that is a funny color and clearly I may have a problem.  As I continue to sit at the table with Doc and Dopey, I gingerly feel for the mole on my back.  I pull aside my hair, and yep, there it is.  I wonder in my mind, how long has it been there?   Why did I not every see it before.  I wonder when it started to raise, and change color.   All during which time, there is endless chatter around me about the mole.  Additionally, not only were some of the dwarfs witness to this revelation, but some out of town guests were included in the conversation.  One was figuring out, in advance, how to encourage me, in the face of having to find a doctor here, remind me to not let it go, and to follow up this week to make sure that I did both, called the doctor and scheduled an appointment.  One dwarf, was mocking me for my relentless love of all things sunshine, telling me it was only a matter of time before this happened!   One dwarf was calling me a goner, melanoma victim, and telling me to eat another sweet roll, because it could be my last one.  There was a side conversation between the Prince and another friend, discussing how the Prince needs to be more attentive and make sure since we live now in the sunshine state, that he should be more aware of the areas of my back and neck that get sun that I can not see on a regular basis.  The Prince is a bit caught off guard and I can tell he is as surprised as I am.  Another dwarf is discussing how much I am worth if I am no longer with the family.  Should this mole be the death of me, they have determined to add on to the house, a memorial Ma Lingle wing. 

I ask Doc to open up her laptop and look online about what it says about moles that are raised and change color.  She reports after a brief search that since the edges are still intact that it is not the worst case situation, and that I should just get it looked at as soon as possible. 

At this point I get up to leave the table, still shaking my head at the banter surrounding the mole's appearance and speculation about what it means for my future.   Because it is a Sunday morning and I am getting ready to head out the door to church, I head into the bathroom for a few last minute touch ups.  I pass the Prince, he asks if I am okay.  I say, " yes, for the most part, and that more than anything it is a bit of a surprise, but I am sure it will be fine. "  He says he is also surprised, but agrees that we just need to get it looked at. 

I brush my teeth, put on my shoes, all the while resisting the urge to look at the mole on my own.  I head out of the closet past the mirror one last time.  I stop in front of the mirror,  glance at my reflection,  lift my hair off my neck, pause, take a deep breath and turn to the side to see the offensive mole with my own eyes as it sits on my neck.    I squint because I am not wearing my glasses.  I lean in a bit closer for a better look.  I step away and flip on the overhead light.  I look again.  Move closer... thinking that it clearly does not look right, but for the life of me, I can not remember ever having a mole in this location.  Using my finger, I brush against the mole.  If feels crusty, rough.  I can clearly see it's unique color.  It sort of feels like a scab.  I gently scrape my finger over the surface only to realize that it has lifted off my shoulder and is now under my nail.  In a bit of a mild panic I look at the spot and just see skin.  No blood, no redness.  I look at the offensive mole under my nail, only to find that it was a tiny piece of shell that must have stuck with me after a day in the "splash zone"in the surf, at the beach the day before. 

Oh yea, the mole that caused so much discussion, and speculation, was really just a small piece of rough green shell stuck to my neck that most likely fell out of my hair when I washed it that morning.  Big sigh of relief, and a good reminder to pay more attention to my moles, and skin markings as I spend more time in the hot Florida sun.  I thank the Lord for the gentle reminder, of how quickly things can change, for the good the bad or the indifferent,  and how I need to be more aware and alert about my personal care and saftey.   While many of the dwarfs, seemingly will be fine in my passing, I would like to spend a lot more time here on earth with them!!

You really CAN'T make this stuff up !! 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

See me shake my head...

Well there is not much that makes me just shake my head, but today while doing laundry for one of the dwarfs, I pull a pair of khakis from Sneezy's pile of dried clothing that I was going to fold ... and I stare in amazement as I focus my eyes on them.  They are spotted, splotched, discolored and my immediate reaction is, " Oh NO!  instead of laundry detergent, Sneezy used bleach and the whole load is ruined.

As I pull more items from the basket, my mind is racing, as there are no other items in the basket that have the same issues with the splotching blotching discoloration.

Now in my new home, I have the distinct advantage of having a great view of the laundry room from the couch where I fold the piles and piles and piles of laundry that the Prince, the dwarfs and I make each week.

My mind only wonders for a moment more as my eyes fall to the bottle of Tilex with bleach, on top of the dryer with some of  the other cleaning supplies.  

Yes, I know, you're shocked too... instead of taking the time to read the bottle, or look for the SHOUT that was on the laundry shelf, she sprayed her pants with the shower cleaner.  Darn, I hate when those things happen!

I will give her this... she has only been here two weeks.  So she may have not realized that there was a laundry shelf in the laundry room on which all the laundry supplies sit.  I do wish at times like this I was a betting woman, because I would bet she will never make this mistake again!

You really CANT make this stuff up !!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Do you smell smoke?

Well the situation is this, we have a pyromaniac on our hands.  This pyro may be young, and cute, and seem, innocent, however, when there are opportunities to light something on fire, this dwarf can NOT stay away.

Last week I walk past the bottom of the stairs in our new home, that leads to four bedrooms and a bathroom on the second floor.  I think I smell something odd.  Sort of acid like, sort of sulfur like, but also odd at the same time.

I keep on task as I head to the laundry room, but a nagging thought lingers, "what is that smell?"   I head back to the stairs as Sneezy is coming down and I say, "do you smell that funny smell?" She replies that she does and she asked Sleepy about it, but Sleepy did not smell anything odd.  As I continue up the stairs, the smell is stronger, and is strongest at the top of the stairs.  I walk to the left toward the four of the dwarf's rooms and sniff... nothing.  Back to the center of the stairs and the landing, still a strong lingering odor.  Head right towards the media room and the other two dwarf's room... nothing.  Back to center. Still a lingering scent of oddness.  By now my canvasing the hallway, landing and stairs has caused a bit of  a stir... Grumpy is saying that whatever it is, it was not his fault and that he thinks it was Bashful. Bashful is claiming ignorance and can't even smell anything odd.  Sneezy is now insisting that the smell is coming from the bathroom.  I agree that is the only room I have not checked.

As I head in, clearly the smell is the strongest (even as it is rapidly fading) in the bathroom.  Here is where the detective work begins, because whomever was doing whatever, did a respectable job of hiding said evidence.  I begin my methodical search of the bathroom counters, mirrors, trash cans, and tub... I see nothing.  I am still at this time unsure what I am looking for, but feel confident that when I find it I will know.  Currently standing and staring at me are two remaining dwarfs, one fearful I will find out the truth and the other lurking because for once he is not the guilty party and wants to assist in bringing in the one who he thinks is guilty. 

Bashful has most recently exited the bathroom.  So I call him in and politely ask him what he was doing in the bathroom.  He indicates to me that he had not used the restroom at school that day and that he was going to the bathroom, but that he had washed his hands.  First red flag.  Bashful never, ever, ever washes his hands after using the bathroom, without being reminded.  So I ask if I can see his hands.  They are still soaked. Odd, I think to myself, since the hand washing that he participates in after being reminded rarely ever ends with his actual hands being in the water, just his finger tips.  The backs of his hands have water drops on them, and the drops are running down his forearm as he holds the hands up for inspection.  So now my alarm bells are in full gear.  He did something in the bathroom to make a big enough mess, that he actually had to wash his entire hand, fingers, backs and palms...  because he is a germaphobe... I now know that had to have touched something he finds to be disgusting while he was in the bathroom to warrant a full hand washing.

So, as casually as I can I glance at the toilet.  Which to my surprise is clean.  Any of you that have boys can attest to this...boys are messy in the bathroom.  Upon closer inspection, I now see one small spot of something on the toilet rim.  It is dark, and it is the size of a flea... I reach out to place it on the end of my finger, and it disintegrates, like the ash that it is...

I turn to Bashful and I ask, "What were you burning?" What?  Shocked and appalled that I would ask him, the most innocent of the innocents, what he was burning in the bathroom...  He responds with "Nothing. I was not burning nothing."  I shake my head to indicate to him that I understand completely.  That me finding an ash on the toilet was clearly a fluke.   I line up my second question.  " What were you flushing down the toilet?"  "Q-tips",  he responds.    I asked him my next question rapidly, because I would hate for him to figure out that he was being tricked into quick responding, " Were the Q-tips on fire?"  " I did not use a lighter."  says the dwarf.    "Ah...but they were on fire when you place them in the toilet correct?  "  Dang, now he knows that he has given himself away.  He tries to work his way out of the situation now claiming that he did not light anything or flush anything that was on fire while he was in the bathroom using it.  

To end the saga of the smell, I asked him where he got what he was using to light the Q-tips with.  He indicated that he " found" a pack of matches and just wanted to see what would happen when he lit them (the Q-tips) on fire.   I asked him if he knew that what he was doing was wrong, to which he relied that he did not.  So  I asked him why then he did not lite them on fire in the kitchen, where we were all working on homework and dinner.  That made him cry.

We all know that things done in secret are typically things that are wrong.  Bad for us, bad for others.  If we did not know that they were wrong or bad to do, we would be doing them in the open or in the light.  It really is my prayer for each of my children are able to see the difference between things done in the light and in the dark.  That the holy spirit would continue to impress upon them that if you feel that you must hide to do something, then you probably should not be doing that thing.  In this case Bashful should not have been lighting Q-tips with a match, watching them burn and then flushing them to extinguish them so he did not burn down the house.

You really Can't Make this Stuff Up !

Friday, August 8, 2014

Throw me a Bone

So many of you know that Grumpy did not just get the dwarf name assigned to him because it was the only name left over.  To say that he spends a significant part of his day being grumpy is not an understatement.  Based on several issues that seem at this age and space in time, to be beyond his abilities to over come, he struggles with low self esteem, the inability to make good choices, a fear of others and what they think of him, as well as a huge pile of pride that prohibits him from ever, ever, ever being humble and in a position to accept or desire correction or instruction.

Most of you with teenage boys can relate to this.  Add a little bit of body odor, a flair up of acne and I have just described half to three fourths of the males in the 14 - 17 year (and beyond) age group. 

To say the story of this blog post was a challenge with Grumpy would be accurate, and while I can hold it together for most of the day, as with most of us parents, you get to a place where we are mentally and physically exhausted and to coin a phrase my mother used to use, "fed up to here".  So the day of the blow up described below, was the climax of three consecutive days of rolling, boiling, stewing issues, where this momma finally blew.

From his direct disobedience, refusing to work on a task we were all participating in, to his silly antics, that to an outsider would make him seem more like an 8 year old than a 15 year old, to his mouthy disrespect, to his skewed and inaccurate remembrances of conversations, after a 58 minute shower I was starting to loose my cool.

The week played out like a bad sitcom, or at least scene after scene of me thinking, " there has to be a camera here somewhere and he is a paid actor, because no one in their right mind, could continue this way for any length of time behaving so poorly unless it was a choice."

The highlight reel.... telling me, insisting really, that I told him humidity would cause a sunburn. Spraying tanning oil on himself, in the house, with not one, but three fans blowing the oil on to the leather couch, arguing that no one told him we were leaving,  as all his other siblings are sitting in the van for 15 minutes waiting for him, his recounting numerous times throughout the week that he does NOT need to be reminded to finish a task before starting a new one; when there are piles of yard debris left in the grass that he did not clean up, his papers from writing letters blowing around on the patio, cereal containers and milk still on the kitchen table at 11 am, his bike left out in the rain, his clothing  and socks leaving a trail to show a where he has been in a 24 hour period throughout my 2600 sq ft home and my outdoor living spaces,  and my personal favorite that leads me to blow, that according to him, he was only in the shower/bathroom for 9 minutes "Grumpy time", but 58 minutes real time. 

Rewinding to the fact it is Wednesday, and a church night...  By three that afternoon all 3 boys had their hair cut, so upon arriving home at 4:03, Grumpy heads up the stairs to shower so he is not hairy for church.  In that time, I send some emails, switch over the laundry, make dinner, call him twice for dinner, serve dinner,  sit with the other dwarfs, share conversation around the dinner table with the four other dwarfs, put away dinner and am cleaning up dishes from dinner, when alas he finally wanders down the stairs.   Still holding my cool, as I say to Grumpy, " Here is your dinner, I fixed you a plate because you did not come when called for dinner."  His response, "I did not hear you".  Fine, I said," I can see how that can happen when the shower is on, the door is locked, and the radio is blaring. "  You need to eat your dinner so we can leave for church." Still in my opinion,  holding it together, refusing to get into a battle of the wits with someone that suffers from a processing disorder.  Until that is,  he starts to complain because his taco is too full and he can't wrap the ingredients in the "baby sized taco shell".

To say that my next words were edifying would be a lie.  To say that my tone was more kind than sarcastic, would also be a lie.  To say my blood was boiling over the fact that no amount of reasoning or discussion could make him see his part in why he was eating pr-emade taco's,  would be accurate.  My greatest source of frustration with this dwarf (and he is not alone, there are others that vex me so), is that they never, ever stop, when faced with a correction or instruction and they are clearly at fault, to just say, "oh, darn mom, I lost track of time, or gee mom, I'm sorry."   Or in this particular instance, "thanks mom for saving me dinner."  (I know that is similar is seeking a miracle, but a mom can dream right?)  In this particular instance 20 minutes of loudly discussing brought no resolution.  I thought that my rational and calm (not) pointing out of the facts would assist him in seeing his fault in this.  My points, as they were made, had no seemingly immediate impact like I had hoped, and in the end we both walked away frustrated, exhausted and irritated.  In times like these, I always tend to walk away feeling like Charlie Brown's teacher .... my voice and all conversations with said dwarf, are just non intelligible words being heard, making no impact.

To church we go.  Two hours later, we are on the home journey (which really takes all of three minutes now if you don't get stuck at the red light)  and Grumpy announces he wants to talk to me.   I wish that I could say to you that I graciously agreed to talk with him.  That my initial reaction was to want to sit with him one on one.  It was not.  However, what happens next,  is why as parents we keep on repeating ourselves, why we keep on reinforcing the messages of social skills, work ethic, curbing attitudes, heeding instructions, playing nicely with others etc, etc, etc.

Grumpy, went soft on me.  He started to tear up.  He shared from his heart.  He desires to change. He wants to comply, he is starting to understand that he alone can not make the changes.  He is able to articulate that he is taking his past out on me. I am hopeful again.  Will this be the last of these types of days, with certainty I can say no.  It has been almost a month since these incidents occurred that I am writing about, and just yesterday alone I can recount 4 issues that Grumpy and I had to work through painfully.  I can say that the path ahead is long and the journey will be difficult, but the moments of growth and tenderness in Grumpy are what I need to hold on to, in an effort to continue on in this sometimes monumental and exhausting path of raising special needs kids.  God knows when we need the encouragement as the parents, just as he knows when these broken cracked kids need encouragement.

When I think about my life and my decisions, my arrogance and pride, while on the outside may look better when I am melting down, what is on the inside is really what counts.  It is what is in our hearts that is what displeases God.  My special needs kids, do not have the ability to harbor things, or to hold it together like others can.  The training process for these kids is rigorous.  The fruits of our labors are often times so small that if we blink,  we will miss them. However knowing the unconditional way that God loves me, should give me the strength and the power, in His name, to keep ministering to my kids.  To keep instructing, to keep on being faithful in the small stuff, because my God has not walked away from me in my moments of stupidity, confusion or defiance.   

One of my life verses reads like this, and I keep it on my desk at all times:
"Consider it pure joy my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish it's prefect work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything."  James 1: 2-4

You really Can't Make this stuff up! 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

How did I get here?

This morning as I start my day after 7 am, with not a soul awake in the house, I wonder, " How did I get here?"  As I look around my home, filled with great potential, I wonder, "How did I get here?"  I sit on the lanai looking at the fish jumping in the lake and the gator swimming about, and I wonder, "How did I get here?"

Before I go any further, please understand, this is just a brief window in time, where the peace out weighs the chaos in our house.  I am not trying to put forth an idealistic image that life is all sunshine and roses...and while there are moments of that if you look for them in anyone's life, the broader question of "How did I get here?" is a reflection of the journey that took us from all we knew and were comfortable with to this place in time.

Life is a journey. Sometimes we see the curves in the road, we can anticipate the speed bumps or road blocks, even the times on the journey when we can coast, but today I was hit with the new reality of my life, here in Florida.

The Prince and I were born and raised in PA.  Eight years ago, we purchased a home in a great neighborhood, with wonderful neighbors that turned into friends, we began to pour our efforts into making that home our forever home. With no consideration, not a thought, that we would not grow old and gray in that home, not only raising our children there, but making it a haven for our children's future spouses, for our future grandchildren.  The renovations that we did increased not only the value of our home financially, but also increased the potential legacy that we would be leaving our children.  Memories of fires in the back yard, a tire swing, play house, a basketball pad, friends stopping over, friends and family in and out of the house whenever ...  and all of a sudden, we are starting over.  Not just in a new home, or in a new city, but a new state, a new climate, a new everything.

This bend in the road, caught me off guard.  We had a plan the Prince and I.  So when the offer to submit a resume came to the Prince, we sort of laughed about it.  Ignored it, and kept on moving forward with our plan.  The request came again, and even though we indicated we were really not so interested, we did scurry to put together an updated resume, and submit it.  Assuming that would be the end of the road.  Who hires a pastor for a non ministry position? Never did we anticipate the calls, the interviews, or the repeated offers, for different positions, until the Prince and I could no longer dismiss this opportunity.

I will say that trusting the Lord throughout this process was easy...when the offers and positions were clearly not one's that would benefit our family,  it was very easy to trust!   In all my year's of being a believer, I thought, I finally have a handle on this trust thing.  Then in one phone call, that all changed as the position became a viable and an overwhelmingly great opportunity for our family.  Then I faltered.  Then I had a few minutes of anxiety.  Not over the details of the move per say, ( I  did seriously have moments of great doubt about the potential of selling our house with 7 dwarfs and two dogs occupying the three floors of space, and the "how to" show a home that is that busy on a whim to a potential buyer), but more over the concerns were about the logistics of uprooting children that were well adjusted, and loosing our network of family and friends and what life would look like as we all started over.

To say God is gracious in providing me with tons of real life examples to help my dwarfs with their adjustments would be an understatement.  I think that clearest example in regards to their questions about the move was to take them all back to their own journey in life and share with them that God, who loves them and cares for them more than the Prince and I, has been preparing us all for this move and the next season in our lives.  As you know many of the dwarfs are adopted.  In this they have traveled from state to state inside their biological and foster homes until they came to reside with us, their forever family. Even upon arrival to our home, some of them changed schools multiple times and one spent two years in a treatment facility outside our home.  Our biological dwarfs, (of which this is one of the only times you will see me make a distinction of any kind) have also had preparation in this thing called change and transition, while not the same, what they needed to be able to see, looking back was that God was good in their situations of transition as well.  Sleepy has changed schools multiple times and in all those transitions with grace.  Dopey has also had a recent school change which he could look back and see the smoothness of that journey.  In regards to the Prince and I, while we have not made many transitions in life, we have not had to because of our personalities and the gift that we have to "never meet a stranger". So the "what if's" of their questions have been answered, by showing clearly that each member of our home, has had  a specific number of transitions to make, in preparation for this move!

To show His goodness in this transition even more clearly, to ourselves, and our family and our friends, we sold our house, for full price, through a neighbor and a Facebook message, with just one informal showing.  (There were several projects under way in the house at the time, so the buyer had to really have a vision!)  We were blessed to have a connection that provided housing for the Prince while he came ahead of us by three months to start working and to search for our perfect home.  The house that He provided for us, came with a realtor that used to be a kitchen cabinet maker, so when we were gifted a new kitchen from an old house that was going to be demolished, our realtor went above and beyond to provide his former skills to our family, to custom fit the new/old pieces into our space perfectly! 

Many many small things happened along the way as well.  A dryer swap, friends to help with packing, a month of meals to ease the transition of the Prince being away, and myself still having to work full time, church members that "adopted" the dwarfs to take them to and from work, and activities, pizza for dinner that just arrived at the door, rent swap for a bedroom suite,  cases of non perishables that arrived at the moving truck ramp in time to load for the final road trip, many hands that made light work of both of the loading days and the last loading and cleaning day, a friend to make the trip with us, that did the bulk of the driving, safety on the road in the midst of a blown tire on the car hauler and an escape dog on the interstate, friends on this end that assisted with unloading and unpacking.  I am sure that in the midst of the busyness of life, I have missed some of the blessings along the way, but I think you can get the gist of the grace that brought us to where we are today.

So as I pondered this morning, "How did I get here?" I realized that I am here because this is exactly where God wants my family to be.  That once again we are smack dab in the center of His will for our lives.   In the midst of this thing called life, I feel that God has blessed us in ways that He did not need too, but because he did and he continues to do so, it just adds to our "God Story", our legacy that we continue to blaze for our children, and generations that come after them.  

To say that any of this is easy or is going to be easy, (because right now it is still like an extended vacation) would be wishful thinking I believe!   We are blessed because the Lord knew what we needed, even when we did not know.   He is not surprised by this curve in the road, He orchestrated it all for His glory.   From the beginning of this new adventure in our lives we determined to give Him to the glory and the praise, even in the midst of the trials (and there have been those as well) so that our focus remains on Him!  I am this morning, grateful for His care and provision for our family, from those large moments, to the small still moments like this morning.   I know that at every fork in the road, I had a choice as to how to proceed, it could have been with kicking and screaming, or with acceptance and trust that the Lord is in control of all this and more. I am so grateful for a Godly heritage that was lived out in my childhood, modeled by my parents, which has made it easier to continue to grow and live out the calling in my life without such meltdowns and temper tantrums, and I pray that as the Prince and I continue to live, fully trusting the sovereignty of God, that we are laying the same foundation for our children and future generations.  

Too many great things have happened in this transition for it to be coincidences.  Grace abounds when you seek Him and when you trust Him.

You really can't make this stuff up!