Category Archives: Aug 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.

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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

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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