Yearly Archives: 2012

Nighttime dose of reality

I know the pictures of us touring Brussels look like so much fun. And we are having a great time. But, let’s not romanticize what traveling with three kids can look like. I won’t go into the detail of the fighting and bribing to get two of the three kids to eat, at two of yesterday’s three meals (we fixed the usual fare for breakfast, in our apartment).  But, I will give you a brief overview of what the night looked like.

We were going to have an early night.

That was the plan. But, plans don’t always happen.

After blowing (Ruining. Forever.) our Bluetooth speaker (our only provision for the music required for family dance-offs), Dreamboat figured out how to accommodate charging 3 devices through an assortment of converters, power strips, and adapters. One of the devices was my phone.

Dreamboat and I finally turned the light out just after midnight. I swear I had turned my phone off. Repeatedly. But, as it was one of the lucky electronics to be charging, when someone called at 2:30 AM, it rang. And rang. And rang. I finally unplugged it to get it to power off.  Even though it was arguably my fault, for the sake of preserving friendship, I’m not going to find out who called.

The call started a chain reaction.

First Peanut woke from what he thought was an afternoon nap.  After 30 minutes of listening to him (and potentially cursing his being awake. Potentially), I got up and gave him a Melatonin.  Yep. Drugged the Peanut.  Shouldn’t have wasted my time.  When I went back to bed he yelled loud enough to be heard back in Seattle. Woke the other two kids.

Here’s where the night took a decided downturn.

I brought Peanut to bed with us.

Now, I’m not a family-bed-kind-of-person.  No judgment here for those who are.  (I believe that whatever works for your family and gets your kids reared with the least parental-suffering, and I suppose, least child-suffering too, is a good way to go.)   For me, that means no co-sleeping. Co-sleeping means I suffer. And we all know, “when mama’s not happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

I need my sleep. Dreamboat and kids will agree, I need my sleep.  In fact, I can totally see the appeal of Carol-Burnett-style-separate-beds. Just saying. (And, obviously I am seriously sleep-deprived or I wouldn’t ever say that. Ever.)

So, bringing Peanut to bed, which was a selfless gesture on my part to allow the older kids to sleep, had the usual disastrous effects on me. Even though I got more cuddles and kisses and slobbering and kicking and face-patting and hair playing (pulling) and eye poking and hand-holding than a girl could wish for.

Peanut thought he was in Heaven.

I thought I was in Hades.

Dreamboat slept through it. All.

At 5:20 am, Peanut fell asleep.  I immediately carried him back to his pop-up-crib and returned to bed.  Where I eventually fell back asleep.

At 7:00 am, construction started on the building across the street. Let’s just say my thoughts weren’t charitable and my earplugs, which I wear every night, can’t stand up to hammering on metal. With a metal hammer. At 7:00 am. After having been asleep for only 1.5 hours.

At 7:30 am, Miss O came in to show me a bite on her finger. A bite, on her finger?  From a bug. That’s why she thought it was ok to wake me? Really? I refrained from giving her a bite to complain about. But I thought about it.

I sent her away without acting on my thoughts. I thought I was even pleasantish. (Miss O may have a different opinion.) But, I bet she won’t wake me to show me a bug-bite tomorrow morning.  Although, she might wake me for a hangnail.

At 8:00 am, G woke up. And came to tell me was awake.  Wasn’t that thoughtful of him?

I gave up. Got up. Made some coffee.

I have to say, Douwe Egberts makes some delicious coffee. And, when paired with heavy whipping cream, it makes me happy.  And, drinking several 10-ounce ‘cups’, from a European-styled bowl, makes me really happy.  And helps to make-up for the lack of sleep.

So, I’ve now been up three hours, and Peanut is still sweetly sleeping.

And I’ve had lots of coffee.

I’m equal parts admiring and envious.  But, I’m letting him sleep.  How can I begrudge him the rest he needs, that also gives me the quiet I need to write?  And to enjoy yet another large bowl of heavy-cream filled coffee?

Once Peanut wakes, we’re off to explore the Atomium and other Brussels monuments, and free-museum Wednesdays.

And I’ve already warned the family that I may not be at my most-sweetest today. Let’s just hope there’s no discussion over trying new foods today.

They’ve been warned.

4 Comments

Filed under September 2012

Montage of moving

We did it!  We all moved out of the house and made our plane. With LOTS of much-needed help from friends and family.  Here’s a quick montage of some of the milestone moments.

Goodbye party for the G-Man

Peace-themed sleepover for a gaggle of Miss O’s friends.

“All Natural” lemonade stand, to raise money for the trip…and for the Humane Society…which, as far as I can tell, is the only one who made any money.

Emptying of the cupboards

And empyting of the liquor cabinet, which funnily enough, I didn’t have the stomach to finish.

 

Some last-minute potty training (and quality reading) for Peanut

My brother helped by emptying the gutters.

You can’t tell very well, that as our stools are already gone, we’re sitting around the island on some old, LOW, chairs before they go to the dump. Feels a lot like little kids trying to reach the table.

Short visit from Grandma to say hello and goodbye.

 

Gut-wrenching goodbyes to Molly and Maisy.

Some unexpected fun playing with our colorful plastic cups, since all the non-plastic ones were either packed or given away.

1-800-Got-Junk stopped by, and within 10 minutes, our junk was someone else’s problem!

After all the goodbyes, we boarded the plane…all smiling.

Can you see the exhaustion and relief that “the longest goodbye in history” is finally over?! Our poor friends. It felt like I said goodbye (and probably cried), each of the last four times we got together. I’m sure they were thinking “Alright. Already. Go.” We finally did.

 

3 Comments

Filed under September 2012

Rollercoaster ride

Lots of people have asked how I’m doing. What I’m feeling, as the departure date looms just around the corner.

“Are you excited?”

“Can you hardly wait?”

“Are you ready to go?”

Although I’m looking forward to this year with great expectations, I have to say the answer to those questions is a resounding “No.”  I’m terrified. I’m overwhelmed. I’m too busy focusing on what has to be done in the next ten minutes, to be able to think about next year. It’s like a rollercoaster ride I can’t get off.

Here’s a random list, in no particular order, and in no way exhaustive, of some of the things taking up my emotional bandwidth, energy, and time.

Trey.  A friend’s 3-year-old just died. From Whooping Cough. He was born a few weeks before Peanut. Although I never met him, I loved him dearly and deeply. Most of the scary stays (‘visit’ sounds much too pleasant–but I guess ‘stay’ doesn’t do it justice either) we had at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Trey and his family were having their own scary stays, usually much longer than ours, at another Children’s Hospital across the country.  In addition to other physical complications, Trey was experiencing many of the same challenges as Peanut. I prayed for him on and off for 3 years and watched him struggle and grow and learn and develop.  Now, as I move from room to room, sorting and packing, each time I pick up Peanut, I think of Trey. The loss of him hits deep down inside. I cry for his Mama who will never again feel the delicious weight of him in her arms, or smell his hair as he snuggles close. I cry with gratitude that I have my Peanut and can kiss his sweet cheeks. And there’s a feeling, less strong than guilt, similar to uneasiness, that my life goes on. That my life is all about looking forward and adventure.  And I keep looking at video’s and pictures of Trey, and then I can’t stop the waterworks and can’t focus on packing. And then I’m completely derailed from whatever task was at hand.

Logisitics. To not frighten away anyone who might be considering making a similar life change to follow your dreams, I’m going to quickly smooth over the nightmare of tangled details required to get this family of five out the door. Read fast…Doctors appointments by the dozens. Countless house showings, always at the most inopportune times. More immunizations and paperwork than I am comfortable with. Flights. Housing. More flights. More housing. Contractors in and out (good idea to keep this one in mind so you don’t inadvertently leave the bathroom door open when you think you’re alone in the house. It’s embarrassing). House sale falling through. Goodbyes for each child, with each of their closest friends, and with their classes. Selling both our cars and coordinating “alternative transportation” (taking offers from kind friends to pick up and drop off, then breaking down and getting rental cars). Listing and selling all our possessions we don’t want to keep, and coordinating the pick-up/delivery for each. Boxing and storing what we do want to keep.  Getting the children to do the same. Changing our mailing address on everything. Getting the electronics and entertainment (music, books, movies) set up.  Changing insurance for most everything. Writing homeschooling and therapy curriculum. Working full-time and figuring out how/when/who to tell the news (oh, and block them from FB until you do). Figuring out, ordering, and testing eyelash enhancers. And the list goes on. But, I’ve lost interest in writing it and you get the point. We’re busy.

I threw my back out, helping someone carry out an armoire they bought from us. Let’s just say that muscle relaxants don’t help with clarity and focus, and shooting pain isn’t conducive to packing, lifting, and moving.

We’re also trying to be thoughtful parents, and help prepare the kids for what’s to come, and to help ease some of their fears as they watch piece after piece of furniture leave through the front door.  FYI, I’m not currently focused on being a great wife. It may partially be because I think I get a pass for these last few days, and just possibly because it isn’t readily apparent that Dreamboat is focused on it either. But it’s possible it’s me and I’m missing the effort.  So, we’re trying to spend some time with each child, making them feel important, and allowing them time to talk through what’s going on inside them. And my heart is heavy for Miss O in particular.  She is struggling with saying goodbye to her best friend. And her best friend is really struggling. And Miss O is very similar to how I was as a child, strong on the outside, but very tender and sensitive and easily bruised on the inside. And this friend is the only person she really talks to. Including me (one of my greatest hopes is that I become her confidante this year).  And we’re also trying to do some ‘normal’ summer activities with the kids, like sports camps, additional therapies, and evenings by the water, enjoying al-fresco dinners at Music In The Park.

Time. With friends. There has been a steady stream of company, staying with us this summer. And, we’re trying to fit in every last opportunity for time with our local friends too. If you’ve heard of the book “Love Languages”, mine is TIME.  I feel loved when people spend/make time for me. That’s how I show love too.  So, in the middle of this craziness, I want to carve out time for everyone I love. Of course I’m driving the family that I love a little crazy too.  I haven’t figured this one out yet…no clear answer or boundaries set. I’m willing for things to be crazy if that means I get one last dinner, or Bunko game, or girls’ night, or sleepover, or coffee, or happy hour, or breakfast, or pedicure, or, or, or….I’m in!

A friend of mine recently returned from an extended visit to Uganda. With their three children who are similar in age to mine. I called to catch up with her and asked for some tips on what to expect.  She told me how one of their kids dealt with the culture shock by withdrawing and going very quiet. The older child showed his struggle by being angry. All the time. The third child couldn’t swallow. And gagged or threw up EVERY morning. It was awful. She hated it. And after twelve months they adjusted, and equalized. And a few months later they moved back. And now they’re going through it All. Again. But, she also said it was all worth it. And she’d do it again. So, I’m mulling it over and wondering how my friends will feel if I’m gagging through our champagne breakfasts upon my return…

And then there’s the fact that I’m going back to Mercy Ships. To where I grew up. It’s like going back to those horrid, awkward feelings of being thirteen. But, more on that another time. I don’t have words yet to describe it. For the ‘hornet’s nest’ to make sense.

So, I hope you’ll understand that although I know I am blessed beyond measure, and that this year will be a highlight for all of us, that I’m not excited right now.  I’ll get there.  Soon.

Miss O saying goodbye to Maisy

7 Comments

Filed under September 2012

For My FIVE Kids

Not sure I would ever say this out loud.  But, this is my private journal (right?).  I wrote this alone in a motel room, after a lovely glass of chilled rosé (it’s my favorite summer wine). And I recently read an inspiring story about an abandoned child that was rescued by Mercy Ships.

And, although I currently have three children, my key password at work is: For My FIVE Kids.

It’s not figured into our budget. There are no additional airline tickets purchased. And, just yesterday, Dreamboat tried to get me to agree we would NOT. But, here’s my secret hope…

There will be a child. Or siblings. Who need love. Our love.

I’ve always wanted five kids.  I remember Dreamboat’s eyes when I told him this particular dream of mine, on our fourth date (right after I told him that I don’t share well, and if he wanted to date the other girl he was seeing, then no hard feelings, but I wasn’t interested).  Well, obviously Dreamboat bet on me, and we’ve made three amazing children. And I barely lived through the pregnancies. And the family barely survived me being pregnant.  And I wouldn’t want to add children to our family while I’m busy working with my corporate clients.

BUT, while we’re taking this year to focus on family, should a child (or children) be without love. Without family. Without resources. Without hope.  Then, I want to be their answer.  We have love to give.  We have more resources than they were born to.  And, with this year “off”, we have the time to spend, incorporating them into our family structure. Loving them. Nurturing them. Showing them they are valued and unique and treasured.

It may not happen.  It doesn’t usually happen this way. In fact, Guinea’s adoption policy with the US is complicated.  And if it doesn’t happen, I’ll be OK. Disappointed. Maybe a bit heartbroken. But OK.

And, knowing me, I may put the dream to one side…but only for a while.

Miss O wants a little sister. I’m happy to comply. But, I’d be happy with any child. Boy or girl. Or one of each. Or two of one.

7 Comments

Filed under Aug 2012

Education and discontent

When Dreamboat and I were first married, we used to dream. A lot.  We’d play “What would you do if you won the lottery?”  We were broke and it was fun. And we learned about each other. And what inspires and motivates us.  And, not surprisingly, we learned that if there were piles and piles and oodles of money lying around (those MEGA million lotteries were the most inspiring), we both wanted to support education.  For other children. For other adults. For other countries.  Because we both firmly believe that when you educate a child, you bring hope to not only that child, but their family, their village, and their entire country.  As a former high school substitute and French teacher, I firmly believe this.

And, funny enough, my clients at Microsoft for the past several years, have been in education. Strange how that works. Isn’t it?

And, I’ve been inspired. (You will be too if you check out this video.  Promise).

And I’ve been reminded of the need for more education. Anthony Salcito, their VP of worldwide education is working tirelessly to support his belief that education for every child should be a Right. NOT a privilege. (I couldn’t agree more). His daily highlights of education heroes will remind you too (and inspire you. And on occasion, bring you to tears).

And I’ve been convicted to do more.

OK. I have to insert here that the ‘conviction’ partially came through hours, months, years of misery at work.  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely, dearly, truly love Microsoft, and the $500 million they’ve poured into education (reaching 8 million teachers and 190 million students). I’ve gotten my kicks working with Ministers of Education around the globe. I’ve loved rolling out lesson plans focused on protecting our environment to 149 countries. I’ve been privileged to participate in bleeding-edge discussions around child-directed learning. It’s also been rewarding to get to challenge the Microsoft employees to do their part in education. To make a difference too.

And I sat next to CEO Steve Ballmer once (I’m still a total nerd at heart).

And, I got to make a few new entries to the list of countries I visited…which I have kept over the years.  I first started writing it in high school, when I was bored in classes.  I’ve kept it up in all sorts of boring meetings since then. That and ranking the list of guys I’ve kissed…which of course, I don’t do anymore.  (That also gets boring when Dreamboat clearly outranks anyone, and new entries stopped over fifteen years ago.)

Yes, I am that shallow. And obviously have no shame. Sorry Mom.

But, inside, I grew dissatisfied. And I lost some of my passion. I grew quieter. I started to settle with the small decisions. And then with the bigger decisions. And stopped voicing my opinion. And I felt like I was wimping out. I wasn’t living my best life.  I had more to give. More to do. More to be.

Of course being an entrepreneur in a large, corporate setting, isn’t easy either.

But now, as part of our year of travel, we’re going to DO more.  We’re going to volunteer with Mercy Ships, who work tirelessly to educate others about health, agriculture, and micro-enterprise.  We’re going to volunteer at an orphanage in Peru, and help ensure those children get the love and education they need to flourish and live their best lives.

And… and here’s the funny/hard/interesting part. This year away also means we’re going to school our own children.  HOMESCHOOL.  That word used to send chills down my spine.  I should never have said ‘never’. I know better.  But here we are. Homeschooling three kids for a year.  And I know that I’m putting into practice and living out what I believe in.  That education can change lives. And will change the lives of my kids. That this year of adventure and helping others, and culture shock, and hardship, and surfing lessons, and fine wine (not for the kids), and opening our kids’ eyes to the world, will teach them more than they could learn any other way. That this year of adventure will be the best education I can give them. And that they will be changed because of it.

And, they will thank us…maybe not right away, maybe not for a few years…but they will, in time, think of this year as one of the greatest gifts we could give them.  And, just like my time growing up on a ship made me who I am, this gift will shape who they become.

 

Ps – I’ve taken on one last client (of course it’s all about education) before we head out, to raise awareness for Microsoft’s Global Forum. It’s a joy and an honor to work to celebrate the world’s most innovative educators, who bring learning to life in the classroom and impact millions of students. And, hopefully (it’s commission-based) it will provide some income to help fund this year of education and adventure!

One of the AMAZING, innovative teachers being recognized at the Globl Forum

2 Comments

Filed under Aug 2012

The important things in life

After Peanut’s intake evaluation in the morning, “we” decided to head down to the tourist district of Boulder. It’s really cute.  We checked out the walking streets and several of the shops in the glorious sun.

While checking out a shop called ‘Peppercorn’, I started to feel fear. Heart palpitations and sweaty palms kind-of-fear.

You see, this darling store was filled with beautiful, pretty, shiny things.  And I love pretty, shiny things.  I really do.

While Dreamboat is perfectly happy traveling with a small backpack filled with of all his worldly possessions, and owning nothing else (well, except for a mansion-sized storage unit FULL of books), I’m happiest at the Four Seasons. I don’t pretend anymore that any of my dreams involve camping. They don’t.

I truly love fresh, running water. Especially when it’s the exact temperature I want it to be. A cup of tea sipped from fine china is my idea of recharging.  A walk through a fancy furniture store, with shiny, modern chairs, stunning arrangements, and spectacular art, feeds my soul. Having friends over for dinner with three sets of crystal glasses, as much silverware as I can fit on the table, and four differently-shaped but coordinating plates laid out on a linen cloth, with fresh flowers arranged in silver pots, makes my inner-little-girl giggle with happiness.  And the outer, forty-something me, giggle too.

And, I’m getting rid of all the pretty, shiny things I’ve collected over the years.

And, I’m willingly headed to Guinea.  That’s in West Africa.

I’ve been to West Africa before.  It’s dusty. It’s dirty. It’s impoverished. Much of it, to western sensibilities, is very sad.

And I know so many people desperately need all the help and services Mercy Ships has to offer. And that’s part of why Dreamboat and I are taking our family there.  We want to teach our kids the truly important things in life. (At least I can admit what my priorities should be.)

And so, while I know I will long for beautiful place settings, and air conditioning set to the exact degree I wish, I will find treasures MORE BEAUTIFUL than I’ve witnessed before.

I’m not just saying that. I really believe it.

I will see my children begin to comprehend that other children are truly happy playing with only grass and twigs.  I will see how education and health are key to transforming an individual and a nation’s future.  I will witness how many people walk for miles to get water, not remotely fresh or cool.

And, I will experience the beauty of many sunrises offering new hope to a country ravaged by poverty.

And joining villagers as they drink pure water from a new well, drilled in their own ‘town square’, will taste better than any glass of champagne I’ve sipped from my wedding crystal.

And, the beauty of the patients’ faces, after their lives are transformed by a free surgery that removes the stigma that had made them outcasts their whole lives, will be more beautiful than any shiny baubles I could find here in Colorado. Or anywhere.

And, I may take along some ripped-out magazine pages, of pretty, shiny things.  Just to glance at occasionally…

8 Comments

Filed under Aug 2012

It wasn’t pretty

Oh. My. Word.  I brought Peanut to Boulder, Colorado, for some alternative therapy to help speed up his development.  The trip was almost bad enough that the hoped-for-development-milestones weren’t quite worth it.  Almost. (OK.  That’s not true at all.  I’m a mama. We do crazy stuff for our kids).

It started out badly, in a rush.  We had 2 house-showings the day before. The two older kids were headed to camp the next morning. Dreamboat’s birthday was 2 days after I left. And the list goes on.

On our way to the airport, after we dropped off my car for repairs from backing into another car (I admit no fault — total deniability.), we were thrilled the Express Lanes were open in our direction (LOVE that invention). Then Dreamboat accidentally took a wrong turn onto an off-ramp that deposited us downtown. I should stop here.  The day took a definite downward turn.

Finally arriving late to the airport, after more wrong turns…once again, deniability. ( I directed absolutely none of them), and with my stress-induced-adult-acne going into overdrive, and after Dreamboat handed me some cash as I had NONE, I gratefully chose the “family in need of assistance” line at security–to the chagrin of the passengers around me.  There were some pointed, passive-aggressive comments about ‘cutting’ being spoken very loudly. Directed at the back of my head. I kept telling myself if they were only brave enough to be passive aggressive, then they didn’t deserve an answer…but I think that’s when the shaking started up in full swing.

After what felt like an eternity, Peanut, his car seat, his stroller, my briefcase, our suitcase, our shoes, and all the jewelry I wisely chose to wear for the airport screening, made it to the gate. We were the last people on the plane.  While finding our seats, I got a text from my sweet cousin saying she was waiting to pick us up on the West side of arrivals at DIA, to spend a little time together while she was to take me downtown Denver to pick up my rental car.

Wait. What???  Oh. No.

I had given her our departure time to pick us up. Not the arrival time.

So she, 10-and-a-half-months-pregnant (ok. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration), her husband, and their 2 year old little girl, had driven and hour and forty-five minutes to pick me up. I fessed up to my idiocy and profusely apologized.

They went to Ikea instead. While I continued to lament my idiocy.

When Peanut and I landed, I called the rental car agency to see if I could pick up the car at the airport, instead of downtown.  They couldn’t help, as I’d booked on Hotwire (trying to save money). I called Hotwire and listened to their lovely hold music for 49 minutes and 32 seconds before I accidentally hung up. You know that made me happy.

I talked with the local car rental desk who let me know the downtown office was closed anyway.  More joy.

Peanut only screamed twice, when he banged his head into the sharp suitcase handle hanging over his stroller.  Which, as the good mother that I am, I left there.  Because otherwise, how would I manage him, his stroller, his car seat, my bag, my computer, and our suitcase?

I lugged all our stuff onto a tram and headed out to the rental car lots.  By the way, Peanut has some latent fears from his accident.  Trams are one of them.  There was lots of screaming and tears.  From both of us. And I don’t have a traumatic history.  It wasn’t pretty…but it was loud. We got high scores for sheer volume.

After pleading my miserable story to the rental agency, and after trying to charge me DOUBLE the rate, she found me an available car.  Cheap person that I am, I went with a two-door option that was $5/day cheaper. Once again, I’m an idiot.  But, after only 20 minutes, I was able to maneuver the car seat into the back and got Peanut safety buckled.

I should just skip this part.  You don’t need to know how truly idiotic I can be.  But, in the interests of full disclosure, here goes.

It was a car with a button start. Keyless…

And I couldn’t figure it out. For a good 10 minutes.

I sat in the parking lot and kept pushing the damn ‘start’ button to no avail.

That’s about when I realized I’d only printed directions to the hotel, from the downtown car lot.  But, after figuring out how to start the car, and after only a couple of high-speed u-turns on the Denver freeways, I made it.

And, the nice gentleman from the liquor store (yes, that was my first stop), who carried my purchases out to the car, mentioned the car was still running.

Wait. What?? Oh no.

Yep. The ‘off’ button doesn’t work if you hold it down too long (which you have to do to start it).  And I left our car running in the parking lot while we bought wine and all the fixin’s for Mojitos.  And I talked myself out of buying a bottle opener.  Once again, the whole ‘cheap’ theme seems to not be serving me so well…(I’ll remind Dreamboat of this when discussing future purchases.)

When, late that evening, we finally made it to our hotel, the clerk at the front desk commented on the length of our stay.  You see, Peanut’s therapy is a two-week, intensive course.  The clerk asked if I’m here to visit family.

“No” I said, as sweetly as I could.

“Oh. Are you here for work?” she continued…

“No” I said, as sweetly as I could.

“Oh.  You just want to be HERE for two weeks?” she inquired?  By now, we had her FULL attention.

“Yes” I said, as sweetly as I could.  You see, I didn’t want to get into Peanut.  And his accident. And why we’re here for treatment.  And the hope I am trying to not feel.

She pursed her lips, arched her eyebrows, stopped asking questions, and handed over the room keys. I’m sure she marked my file to keep a close eye on us. If this were a TV show, I would have been entered on the ‘person of interest’ list that involved a room search and time in the local jail.

Then the real fun started.  In my kitchenette, I unpacked our ‘groceries’ and got out a glass.

I dug through the drawers and found the kitchen gadget that looked just like a bottle opener.  It wasn’t. It isn’t.

I hurt my fingers, and my ribs, when my hand flung off the rim of the bottle. After several failed attempts (ok. It was MANY attempts), eventually I gave up.

No wine for me.  (However, I did eat ½ a bag of chocolate chips).

But, peanut gave me lots and lots and lots of kisses. And cuddles.  And we’re safe. Unlike many people who went to watch the movies in Aurora just a few miles from here.

So, after a trip from hell, I go to bed grateful.

4 Comments

Filed under Aug 2012

Curfew and other vices

I’m starting to freak out a little about appropriate behavior during our three months on the Africa Mercy. And it’s not the kids’ behavior that concerns me….

I’m not a rule follower.  There I said it.

I have never been a rule follower.

My job is to question the rules.  Sometimes this has served me well (and benefited the processes, companies, service agencies, etc. around me).  Sometimes, well, not so much.

I think I’m in trouble.

Unfortunately, here’s where I have to admit that the last time I got spanked (yep – true story). I was fifteen-years-old and had disobeyed the ship rules by going on a deck which those under sixteen were only allowed on with an adult (it was deemed unsafe). And I got caught. Oops.

And, Dreamboat and I are taking the family to volunteer with Mercy Ships for three months. In Africa.

Alcohol and smoking are not permitted on the ship due to insurance reasons. I get that.  But here’s my secret hope: maybe they’ll reconsider when they meet my kids and realize we’re homeschooling for the first time in our lives, and when I convince them that being a parent and being in Africa and after a long day and when I’m longing for some peace and quiet, or had a really rough mentoring session with some of the crew, or want some alone time, or want to kick off a deep conversation with Dreamboat, or enjoy a good book, or need to really focus and prepare my management training classes for the following day…a glass of wine or good whiskey is the perfect answer to all of it.  And, I’d even go for bad whiskey…not yet sure about bad wine.  But, after a real scorcher of a day, I’m betting I would.

Smoking is not a temptation for me.  So, I’m good there. Whew.

So, at Bunko the other night, I asked the girls for advice on what to do if the ship doesn’t change their minds.  By the way, I’ve never yet played Bunko.  We talked. And drank good wine. And after you hear what we came up with, you’ll realize it was more than just one glass.

Their fantastic advice was for me to take up chewing tobacco in those little pre-stitched packages. I think it’s called “Snuff”.  The thinking is that I won’t be breaking any rules that could invalidate the ship’s insurance.  And, it would provide me with a quick and easy way to just chill and take the edge off.  And I wouldn’t have to deal with spitting out loose tobacco and carrying around some sort of receptacle all day.

And you know what?  It’s a viable option. I’m considering it.

I realize a mature adult would request someone in HR send me a list of official guidelines.  I haven’t. I’m too terrified of how long the list will be and that the part of me that doesn’t like to follow rules will rear her ugly head, dig in her heels, and decide to be stubborn. I’ve seen that happen.  It’s not pretty.

So, I’ve just been planning to go off the ship, find a little café, and have a glass of wine in the evenings now and then.

And today I heard from our travel agent that one of our flights was outside of ship curfew.

Wait…what?  C.U.R.F.E.W.

Oh help.  I can’t say it out loud yet.

I can feel my inner child’s heels digging in. Just a little.

18 Comments

Filed under Aug 2012

Peanut

Today has been hard. And I’ve momentarily questioned our decision. And I’ve been shaking all day.  Well, since Peanut’s therapy at least.  His physical therapist (actually, she’s one of several) does not want us to leave on our year-long-big-adventure. She just doesn’t.  She’s scared. And angry.  I could see it in her eyes.

And then when she said, “It makes me angry that you would do this to him”, it sort of gave it away.

DO THIS TO HIM?

OK.  So I ranted for three lines and then deleted them. This isn’t about defending my love for him, so I’ve decided to calm down.  This is about the decision to travel for a year, and how that affects him.  And how we’re building time for his therapy into our weekly schedule/curriculum, so that he continues to get the support and encouragement he needs.

I guess I should back up and tell you bit of his story. You can also read the Times article.

When my Peanut was almost 4 months old, the driver of an SUV — after drinking a few beverages over lunch, while talking on her cellphone, checking her messages from her new boss, and wearing an ankle cast that got stuck in the accelerator— plowed through the wall of his day care. And hit him. Peanut was moved 10ft and pulled out from under the front bumper of the SUV.

His immediate diagnosis was “a compressed spine with injuries to multiple vertebrae as well as misalignment of his cranial plates”.  Shortly thereafter he was diagnosed as “Failure to Thrive” and put on a feeding tube (through his nose) that interrupted his natural hunger cues, and then fitted with restraints to keep him from pulling it out. (Dreamboat and I were taught how to hold him down and reinsert the tube each time he pulled it out).

It took time for the whammy of “Global Developmental Delay resulting from PTSD” diagnosis to appear in his chart. There may have been a concussion.

We spent almost a month in Children’s over four hospitalizations that autumn, mostly related to breathing issues (he wouldn’t. or couldn’t. or didn’t. not sure which).  And then lots, and lots, and then some more, clinic visits, mostly related to eating issues.  All while Peanut’s PTSD got worse, and he withdrew more, and the trauma to his new word continued.

There were times I thought it was over. The end of his life with us.

Many a night I sobbed quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) in the shower in his hospital room.  Doing my best to face how I would deal. And who I would chose to be, when he died.

But he didn’t. And I’m doing a happy dance here.

And over time, and with lots of love and countless therapies. (Really – countless…I print a schedule each week, with his myriad of appointments color-coded, so we can try to keep on top of it all.) He is strengthening. He is growing (FINALLY). He is improving.

The driver of the SUV, 40, who was arriving to pick up her granddaughter, later plead guilty to reckless driving and reckless endangerment. She received a 12-month suspended sentence and 240 hours of community service.

There is no prediction for what Peanut’s future will look like.  But there is lots of hope, while trying not to set expectations too high. Peanut started walking on Christmas day of this year.  Just this month he fed himself a small meal.

Those are the facts.

The emotions are more complicated.  There was relief that he was alive. Gratitude that his injuries weren’t worse. Grief. Anger. Denial. And lots and lots of fear…and the hours of crying in the shower. And tears at the most inopportune moments, like watching the parade on Christmas Eve with the older kids, and aching for Peanut, and Dreamboat who was with him in the hospital, to be with us. There was also time spent with a counselor for families of high-needs children. And lots of conversations with Peanut’s siblings, to help them process it all as well.  And there was lots of love.

And we’re still on this journey.

And there’s boat-loads more to say and lessons learned.  But I’m going to save them for another post. I’m not quite ready.

So, back to the Big Decision…

I may not schedule 11 different therapies a week for him, like I did at first, but I will make sure that Peanut gets the attention, encouragement, and support to continue developing.

There will be LOTS more celebrated milestones.

And one angry therapist won’t deter me from what I think will be a magical year of growth and learning for each one of the five of us.  EACH and EVERY ONE.

Sometimes, you have to push through the fear to accomplish your dreams.

25 Comments

Filed under Aug 2012

Home – part two

I’m often told how strange/odd/unique/different I am.  It’s true. I am.  Just today I was trying to fill out one of those online password reminder forms.  It wanted the street I grew up on.  The city I lived in. My 3rd grade teacher…NONE of which I could answer.

So, here’s a bit of background on why I am such an alien. Happy alien. But still an alien.

I grew up on a ship. The Anastasis.  She was  a 522 ft. (183 m), 11,650 ton hospital ship that recently ‘retired’ (it was time.  She deserved to sail away on still, aqua waters, forever.  But, it was and still is, very hard to say goodbye). I moved onboard when I was nine.

See that third porthole back from the 4th deck up? I drew a yellow arrow for you…that’s my cabin…IS my cabin. ‘Cause in my head it’s still mine.

The facts are pretty simple.  How I felt about it is more complex…which I’m sure will feature in future blogs, as its part of who I am.

The Anastasis belonged to Mercy Ships. A non-profit organization that brings hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor.  All their work is given for free.  They perform all sorts of surgeries, like the cleft lip and palate repair on this little one.

Their crew of volunteers minister to those terminally ill.

Train local personnel to address mental, neurological and substance abuse disorders.

Agricultural training.

Maternal health training.

Varied construction projects to build local hospitals, training centers, orphanages, and other community service facilities.

And distribute food and other supplies to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Here a picture of us kids (me, Luke and JP), shortly after we moved onboard, and then with Mom & Dad, and Charles, after he was born.

During my ten years onboard, we sailed all over, usually spending half of each year in the world’s poorest nations (by WHO standards), and visiting 1st world countries the other six months, to gather supplies, support, and volunteers.

‘The Ship’ as everyone calls it that lived onboard, was like a floating village.  There were upwards of 500 people and over 50 kids at any given time.  We had school in a designated area, built-out with classrooms on the aft (back) of one of the decks.  And unfortunately, Mom was the Principal for a while. I didn’t like that so much.  She was great, but you can’t get away with anything when your mom is your teachers’ boss…

We did science experiments and had piano lessons (and the dreaded recitals).

A nuclear submarine engineer and Chief Engineer taught my advanced trig and calc classes. During the summers we had to volunteer with the department of our choice.  My favorite jobs were volunteering with the fire team, the aft deck snack shop, and working with a construction crew. I’m sure painting on my arm was really helpful.

These glimpses into my life don’t really begin to describe it. I loved every minute of it in many ways, and at the same time really suffered from it too (mostly because of who I am). One of the things I found the hardest was the constant goodbyes to friends, either as we sailed away and waved goobye to them and their country, or as other ‘ships kids’ and their families moved back ’home’.

But, growing up on the ship gave me an innate understanding and love for people of other cultures.  That raises the question of what ‘other’ cultures are. Hmmm. Not sure what culture I am…But I know I am so very grateful for how blessed I was, and am.  Growing up as I did was the amazing gift that made me who I am. That gave me the heart for development. That exploded my worldview. That gave me such a feeling of fulfillment and joy. That helped me truly see and really love people.  All people.

And now, Dreamboat and I are about to take the kiddo’s back! Back to living with people from 149 countries.  Back to making a difference.  Back to doing our small part to change the world.

We start volunteering (yes, we’re PAYING for the privilege to work) on the Africa Mercy this fall.  This ship will be in Guinea.  My life, in an awesome and strange way, is coming full circle.  I get to introduce my kids to my home.  It will change their world…and make them odd too.

And by the way, I like being odd.  It suits me and it will suit them :-)

4 Comments

Filed under July 2012