Monday, December 30, 2013

Wow, I Did Not Blog At All In December.......

Sorry about that folks.  We had our own little Fa-la-la-la-FASD holiday here at Family of 4.

But it went MUCH better than I ever could have expected. I hate to jinx it because we still have New Years to get through, but this holiday was probably one of the best, behavior wise, that we have had in over 5 yrs of holidays with the girls.

Dave has to work 6 days a week 10 hour days through New Years day. Then he has asked for this coming Saturday through Monday off.  He is tired and that gets really old (especially when you are on salary so you don't get overtime).  His boss said he could fill out a vacation form and he was like, "I have worked 6 days a week, 10 hour days for two months, I want a day off, not a vacation day. They gave it to him. It will finish off our holidays on a good note.

SO the girls started their vacation on Dec. 23rd.  We stayed in and watched movies, went out 1 or 2 days and ran last minute errands, but I knew getting LGA out with all the sensory overload would not bode well so we didn't do it without a plan (had to get pet food and had to go to two different stores so let them look at all the pets IN the pet store.  I did my grocery shopping the Sunday before Christmas and got out to see Saving Mr. Banks (which I totally enjoyed, although I did have to bring out the tissue at one point) do some last minute shopping and then grocery shopping by myself.  We kept LGA out of the stores where she would be tempted to throw a fit or have a meltdown.  The only thing we did do at the beginning of the month is I took the girls to see Frozen, which they both loved and while LGA had a very hard time keeping still during the movie, they both liked it.

I needed to make Christmas gifts for the teachers (luckily the aide and bus driver were out, but I plan on making it up to them when school is back in session.  The speech teacher showed up on Friday the last day of school, and I had no idea when he was there so didn't get a gift for him either.  Starbucks cards it will be) the last week of school.  I had LGA help me in the kitchen because I was tired (we did a LOT of baking this year, more than any of the years they have been home) and she turned out to be the best helper.  She likes baking (gonna start her on helping to cook next) and is very focused, a little OCD, but very good in the kitchen. I did the measuring and pouring and she flattened out the chocolate chip peanut butter cookies and stirred while I poured stuff.  Next I will let her do eggs and pour, etc.  But it was fun for us to be in the kitchen together and I really enjoyed hanging out with LGA.  BGA didn't throw a fit or get jealous she let her sister help, but she did make sure she told me she wanted to help me as well.  BGA's teacher got two pairs of earrings I made (one was a Christmas pair) and some fudge (which BGA said she liked) and LGA's teacher got some cinnamon quick bread, and a necklace I had bought (not very expensive) but had not worn at all.  LGA liked it and wanted her teacher to have it so I made some earrings for her too.  Both teachers liked their gifts.

There was a dance for BGA the Friday before school got out.  BGA's teacher said BGA was shy and didn't want to dance and she came out really moody and did not appear to have a good time.  It was a 6-8 grade dance and BGA's teacher said the kids ALL wanted her to dance and no one was making fun of her so teacher is hoping the next dance will be better for her as she knows what to expect now. I think, based on how BGA can be, that she did not want to get embarrassed.  I have seen this behavior in her before when she thinks she will be embarrassed.  We will need to work on it, but I was sort of sad as she looked really pretty, a boy asked her to go (he got demerits and was not allowed to go to the dance at all) and I really thought she'd have a good time.  But I think it will be better now that she knows what to expect, for the next dance. The pressure is off.

I spoke to LGA's teacher who had a temp for the last 2 weeks of school so the kids were kinda hyper and not acting like they normally would.  LGA's teacher explained that they moved LGA off the playground for bigger kids and on to a separate playground with some of the kids in her class.  She said that LGA was doing much better (she was having lots of issues with the older kids) and I agreed.  Her teacher said she went out and observed LGA's behavior and said it was too much for her.  FASD kids do get along with younger kids much more than with older ones, so I was a bit happy this change had been made.

Fast forward to the week of Christmas.  Both girls were doing well.  LGA was on excitement overload and was getting up at the crack of dawn (4:45 or 5:00, that's really wearing on this NON morning mama) and going to bed at 9pm!  This is still happening so she's starting to get tired now. I know when she gets back to routine in school she is going to be very tired and cranky.  But she lays in bed and refuses till the melatonin kicks in, to go to bed.  She calls down the hallway gets out of bed, etc.  She is also very very loud in the mornings.

Christmas Eve we decided to eat cold cuts and salads and have the goodies we baked.  I also got diet soda, something I never do (and am now paying for it as both girls want soda at every meal now.  We rarely have it in the house and I try really hard to limit it when we are out as well.  We watched Arthur Christmas, which is always a favorite.  LGA did not go to bed till 10pm, her excitement was SO great.  That meant procrastinator Dave and Molly had to hurry up and wrap after she went to bed. I think we finished at midnight, after watching Christmas Story on TBS and Christmas Vacation (a tradition for us while wrapping) on DVD.  We finally crashed at midnight and LGA woke up at 5 and began (unbeknownst to us) digging in stockings and took stuff out of Dave and BGA's and put it in mine (I did the stockings so I knew who had what).  SO I am thinking she might have gotten up earlier than 5 but 5 is when I became aware of her.

We had a leisurely time at home, baked french toast, eggs and bacon.  Hot cocoa with marshmallows for the girls.  The kids played with toys and mommy took a 2 hour nap.  I cooked a turkey breast and ham and we have been eating off the leftovers.  The day after the attitudes got a bit more meltdownish (they did after all feel they needed to hold it together for Christmas to come) but never really too bad.  They (LGA mostly) snapped out of the attitudes quickly, which was quite nice.  If you have read my previous blog you know that the girls really did not behave well at holidays, there was grief, there was acting out, it was horrible.  Dave and I couldn't wait for the holidays to be over.  They started getting better in about 2010 and onward, but there were still issues till last year.  However, last year my mom died so I really did not care to celebrate. So last year it was pretty simple and pretty simple this year too.  We didn't have anyone's house to go to, so we stayed in and kept routines the same as much as we could.

What I liked about Christmas was that we enjoyed each other's company.  BGA took stuff from her room and made gifts for us all (without being asked or prompted).  LGA got a full story (we are Molly and Dave in the story which is a bit interesting. I have not read the whole thing but that is what I saw on the first page).  She wrote little cards for everyone as well. I was really proud about that.  The day was nice and so far each day has been pretty good.  Which I am not used to. I am used to drama.  Lots of drama.  This was kind of nice. I don't know if we'll have any drama going forward but hopefully not.  Our days are quiet and we are enjoying being together.   I am used to drama, I am used to waiting anxiously for them to go back to school and the holiday to be over.  Not this time.  There has been a little bit of drama from the pre-teen, now 12, whose standard line (which is getting a bit old) is, "Really Mom?  Really?"  LOL.  I am getting used to eye rolls,sighs and "whatever" a lot.  LOL.

I wish I had pics to show you but I really didn't take any.  I used to take so many in the beginning but I have not really taken too many pics lately.  I do have some pics of my baker's helper:

Playing checkers with me (don't notice the messy family room behind.  The trash bin is there for them to clean up that shelving area, but we haven't tackled it yet.  She's getting good at checkers and almost beat me.  We were playing the day BGA went to her dance.  This precluded a huge meltdown when we decided to go to dinner after the dance and she wanted soup (and they were all out).  She kept saying, "I want soup" over and over and finally the waitress told her they were out of it.  She was quiet after that, but it was all relating to her sub aide and she just was on overload.  I didn't realize she had an aide and so I couldn't talk to her to help her to work through it. I only found out when she had a meltdown in the restaurant.  Dave said there was an older man eating a burger across from us and when LGA started her melt, he got up and went to have his coffee at the bar.  LOL.  And I can LOL now but I really have a hard time when this kind of stuff happens.  Someday I will bust out with, "walk a mile in my shoes, lady/man" I am sure.

I do have a pic of BGA before her dance.  I think she was nervous because this is the only 'smile' I got out of her.  I ran to school before the dance and got her ready in the van.  She did not want to do it but I told her it would be better than going down to the bathroom to do it.  The windows are shaded so I put her there with doors closed and she was able to get ready quickly.  She really looked pretty I thought.

And this one is on her birthday when she could officially ride with me in the front seat (which she TOTALLY loves, LOL).  I just love this picture of her, she is getting older and looking more teen to me.

So from our family to yours, I wish you a safe, happy, healthy New Year.  There have been a lot of people losing family and friends this month, it's been sort of sad to me.  Here's hoping 2014 is a good, healing year for everyone.

So if I don't come back to this space before New Years............see you all on the flip side.  :-)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Surviving The Holidays.....And Other Stuff....

I saw this post on Facebook and it resonates with me.

We have always kept the holidays simple here at Family of 4.  The girls for the first few years, really did not do well at the holidays.  If you followed the old blog, you probably remember a few frustrated posts of mine about surviving the holidays.  Dave and I felt like zombies when they were over and basically just wanted them to be over and to move on.  The last few years the girls have been really into the holidays.  They like to decorate the tree and their room trees, make decorations at school, drink hot chocolate, candy canes, Christmas music (started already a few weeks back) and Christmas movies.  It's been fun to enjoy the holidays from their perspective and I really am glad we can enjoy them together.  That's not to say that their aren't meltdowns or acting out, because, let's face it, while we do enjoy the holidays now, there's always that missing piece that comes with missing another family or feeling you are missing out.  I understand that now, having lost my mother, brother and father.  So we address it when needed, we allow memories and talking about whatever they want, and we move on.

I have never been one to schedule a lot of activities though.  I just have to keep it simple, especially for LGA. She can't handle all that overload.  She really needs a very quiet, low key environment.  Activities we have done in the past, which have gone over well, have been to ride the Christmas train, see Santa at the local Bass Outlet Store (free if you live near a Bass store), see movies, and bake cookies.  These things when scheduled sporadically and then down days in between, have helped us to survive.  One year we spent at my friend Kim's and the girls had hot cocoa, candy and were amped beyond belief. I don't remember if that was pre ADHD meds or the meds had worn off, LOL.  But we add little things - new traditions - over the years, (this year I think we'll do some sort of Christmas craft), and it seems to work for us.  I am not one of those moms who tries to cram it all in and have an overloaded schedule. I just am not really into it and I remember growing up, spending time with my mother decorating the tree, baking, shopping and enjoying time with her. That's what I want the girls to remember.  Not that we were rushed doing stuff and getting it all done. I have done the stressed holiday seasons before and I just can't be that kind of mom.   But I do admire the ones who can do it.  I just decided a long time ago it was not for me.  And when the girls were not really into the holidays it was hard to try and do it and not really get any reactions.

On that note, we added another kitten to the mix. I blogged about thinking about it previously.  And as most of our pets are rescue, this kitten was also a rescue.  She came from a local shelter.  I saw her when I made a visit to the new shelter, the one I blogged about where the girls could pet the cats.   Well, I saw this sweet white and orange, green eyed kitten there and she mewed really loudly.  She wouldn't come up to the cage to see me as the other kittens/cats did, but she sure had a voice.  And a purr.  The little boy I saw was so sweet, too.  So I kept going back to him.  But I took the girls to see the kittens/cats yesterday as I figured it would be a good thing for them to do. I had no intentions of really getting a kitten and we looked at a few of them (both of these 2 kittens were gone), and the girls had fun playing with the kittens in the room where they were loose and running around.

We left with a bit of disappointment on the girls' parts.  They really wanted to stay longer but I had some errands to run.  But I did promise a visit to the local pet store, so we could get dog and cat food.  When we walked in, who was in the large cat enclosure but mewy white and orange kitten!  The girls were smitten, and she was still mewing from behind the glass.  What did it for me was that we would never be able to pet any of the kittens unless we were interested in them.  A sales girl said we could pet her if we were 'really' interested in her.  Of course the girls begged.  So we pet her.  And she cuddled, something our other cat does not do.  She leaned in and head butted the girls and I as we each took turns cuddling her.  I hesitated on getting her and we still had errands to do so we agreed to come back.  The sales girl said she could not hold her and the girls were really upset (of course, didn't expect they would be, I know I would have been at their age too).  We ran errands we had a rare meal at McD's and the play place (the girls are officially too old for them, all they want to do is play the video games) and then headed back to the pet store.  Dave said it was ok but he was not cleaning another litter box (that's what he said about our other cat and I pretty much have had litter box duty except when I can't do it and he has had to).  So we decided the girls would need to learn this task as they really wanted the kitten.  So now I will have to show two little girls, one of whom gagged the last time I showed her (BGA) how to clean out the cat box.  I am glad someone else is going to do it but I wonder how often they will do it or if it will fall back on me.  So now we have new kitten and she's a bit feisty than they mentioned on the card they had pinned on the glass.  We will see how this goes, but the fact that the kitten went right into LGA's lap and cuddled, and snuggled her, was SO worth it.  LGA was in cat heaven.  This is what our other cat was supposed to do, but never did warm up that much.  So LGA got to have some time in the am before BGA got up, with just the kitten (with my supervision as she's only 8 weeks old) and I, and she was in heaven.  I hope it works out as I know that LGA desperately loves cats/kittens and really wanted a friendly cat.

Hope you are all gearing up for your Thanksgiving day tomorrow.  We are going out, not cooking.  Dave has to work this week and has been working 10 hour days and even went in on his normal day off and has to work the two days after the holiday so he's tired.  I will cook a small turkey breast on Sunday.  But we may, if he's not too tired, go to see the new Disney "Frozen" movie.  It's nice not to have to worry about cooking.

So whatever you do tomorrow, whether you celebrate with family or friends, I hope it's a great day for you. I am thankful for family, friends and health this year.  It's the 2nd holiday without my mom and I miss her, but I will remember some of the great Thanksgiving's we had together or with family.

I will NOT be shopping tomorrow as I really do not agree with the stores opening early on Thanksgiving day.  I feel everyone should have a day off to enjoy with their family and friends, not having to work that day.

Make those holiday memories, but also try to keep the stress levels low and enjoy the time spent versus what you feel you need to make the holidays be like.  I know I will.  Have I finished all the shopping, baking, putting up the tree, etc.?  Nope.  Cause I refuse to put up the tree till after Thanksgiving and it will all get done when it can.  Not gonna stress.  Rinse and Repeat.........

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

November Is National Adoption Month And Our Cat....

November is National Adoption Month, so I thought I would do a post about our adoption and our all ties in, just keep reading.....

We adopted the girls 4 years ago and brought them home almost 5 1/2 yrs ago.

We always knew we wanted to adopt.  We tried fertility treatments and were unsuccessful.  We had an idea of at what level we'd stop trying to get pg.  I was an older (36) age when we started and so we knew there were probably lower chances for us and had adoption at the back of our minds.

When we stopped trying to get pg, life got in the way.  Job layoffs, a hysterectomy operation and recovery for me, etc.  We took a break of 4 yrs to heal, get new jobs and try to plan next steps.

We had always had an idea we'd adopt internationally.  We considered Guatemala, China, Korea, Russia, etc.  But our timing was off, we'd have to take out a home equity loan to pay for it, etc.  It just never seemed the right time and we just were never able to start the process.  

Our friends adopted foster to adopt and we observed the process they went through.  They went to a private agency to start the process, not working directly with a county.  We went to an information session through the agency and signed up on the spot in May of 2007.  We decided we could do this.  We started the process the next month for our homestudy and classes and everything sailed along smoothly.  We WERE going to be parents!!  We couldn't believe it.  Then fall 2007 hit and the mortgage industry took a huge hit.  I was working as an admin for a mortgage processing company and I got laid off.  We were devastated.  Half way through our homestudy process and an almost completed homestudy.  We again had to take some time off and wondered if we could do it.  My mom lent us a small amount of money as you make payments to the agency for various parts of the homestudy (as you do also in the international adoption and possibly domestic adoption process as well) but we still had a couple more payments to make in order to get us to the assigned Social Worker part of the process.  So we plugged along through Thanksgiving and Christmas, hoping we'd be able to start again in the new year.  

In February of 2008 we were able to complete the homestudy process and waited for 8 very long weeks to get homestudy written up and finished by our agency Social Worker.  In April, we attended a fair with local agencies in a town 50 mins away, to 'present' our homestudy to the agencies.  No kids were present but you could look at profiles and see if any kids interested you, then someone from our agency would talk to the counties/agencies there and see if any more info could be obtained.  We started out with 2 sets of 3 kids, one was an older set with an older boy Dave was interested in hearing more about, a girl in the middle and a younger boy.  The next set was in our county but was 3 younger kids, two girls and a boy, all 3-5 and under.  In each instance relatives came forward to show interest so we were back to square one.  I called the agency weekly as they had an Adoption Coordinator who got the profiles in and then looked at homestudies to do a match. I made sure she knew who I was and there was a set of 3 Pacific Islander boys, a 5 yr old girl and 11 mos old boy, etc. 

We did a home visit on the 5 yr old girl and 11 mos old boy but decided the fit wasn't right.  However the county worker knew our agency Social Worker and a month later passed along our homestudy to her co worker.  We were to attend our first picnic (where kids were going to be there) and so we were going to meet the girls.  We had signed up to do activities and so we fulfilled that part, checking out other kids as well.  The county worker wanted us to spend time with the girls as we were the only ones being considered for them, she told us.  If we passed they'd move on to the next homestudy.  We spent time with the girls while they ate.  BGA was demanding, now knowing her as I do, she was overwhelmed and very uncomfortable.  LGA was so very cute and very shy.  We talked it over briefly and decided to move forward.   We WERE going to be parents, this WAS happening!

We had what is called a 'disclosure' meeting at the county offices where the girls were from.  Our agency Social Worker drove up with us which in hindsight was not a good thing.  On the way back we couldn't really talk or make a decision.  However, it was good to ask him what he thought and he thought it was a good match.  We heard some of the info about the girls (we know now that a lot is held back and things sometimes get missed in the rush to match kids and parents).  And we decided it would be the girls who joined our family.

Visits with the girls started a week later.  We took them out for a lunch date after meeting them again one on one (they kept interrupting the info that needed to be exchanged, a sign of things to come because they still interrupt me when I am talking to people, paying at a cash register, ordering food, etc.) at the foster parent's house.  Both workers came along and after 2 hours we returned them to the foster parent's house.  She reamed me out a bit (but not too much as there were two social workers present) about a mustard stain on LGA's dress as we'd let her have a hamburger with mustard on it and it stained her dress.

The next visits were half day visits.  We would pick the girls up after school (it was June of 2008) and then take them to a park for lunch or to play.  They didn't interact with us at all at first and when I complimented BGA on her pretty eyes and eyelashes she glared at me really harshly.   We then did a day trip on a Saturday to a funland park.  The girls took off and did not wait for us.  We had to establish ground rules on that but it was really hard to do because they weren't ours yet and we weren't sure how much we could say to them.  So they took off and we had to chase them down.  We returned them earlier than expected as we had run out of things to do and it was a scorching hot day in June.  The girls got a bit sunburnt also (bad new mommy forgot the sunscreen.  I had a lot to learn).

The first overnight visit then occurred two days later on a Monday.  We kept them Monday and Tuesday and then brought them back on Wed and picked them back up on Friday and brought them back on Sunday, and picked them up again to take them home for good the following Thursday.  It was fun having them but also different for me and I was very tired the first few weeks of them being home.  We eventually got into a routine and they went to school at the end of July as that was when school started here for them the first few years they were home.

The girls have come a long way from the two little girls who came home to the almost young ladies they are today.  Foster to adopt is not for the faint of heart. I wish I could say it was.  It took us 13 mos to adopt the girls and a few hurdles in between, lots of attachment and bonding had to happen.  The girls were 3 and 6 when we met them and just 4 and 6 when they came home.  Personalities were formed and they were older than babies would have been.  But we got through it, we bonded and we became a family.  Lots of things happened during the years the girls came home, they met my brother and mother and family (and my brother and mother passed away), they met friends who were part of our lives and friends came and went, decided how much time they wanted to invest in the girls, etc.  We had school changes, and FASD appeared on the scene quickly at age 5 for Angelina.  Life has ebbed and flowed and we have adapted, we have grown as a family and as the girls have grown life has gone on.  I love them and can't imagine what life would have been like without them.  Here are some early pics.......

Just home a couple of weeks

A forever family........adopted at court

And now on to the cat part of this post.  This cat was adopted by us two years ago.  She was a semi feral cat, found out in the valley on her own, evidently dumped.  No other kittens or a mother with her.  She was so cute as a kitten.  We had a cat who lived 8 yrs and then got cancer.  She died in early 2010 and we did not really want another cat. The girls begged, absolutely begged for a kitten.  When I saw this girl's kitten pic I was drawn to it.  Dave had had a calico cat and he loved her. I thought for sure we could win him over with her pic.  He saw it and said as long as I was willing to clean the litter box he was game (and the girls at some point, however,neither one of them are fond of litter box duty and BGA almost gagged when I showed her how I clean it so it has fallen to me, yet once again)/.  I didn't do any research and didn't realize the kitten was semi feral with apparently NO hands on contact with humans (I won't say the rescue group but their primary rescues are not of the dog and cat variety) and she was active. I thought that would be good for the girls.  So we took her home. She bit, scratched (I'm lucky I did not get cat scratch fever) her way through our house and we had to settle on putting her in our bathroom for a bit then bringing her out in her crate to get her used to being in the house. Of course two VERY eager young girls could not keep their hands off her and she hated absolutely hates being held.  Major problem.  Lots of anger and jealousy issues as the cat really has always preferred BGA.  BGA is her person.  BGA for her part loves the cat, but doesn't want the cat in her room, and really claims to be a cat person, yet takes no responsibility for the cat at all.  

So fast forward to the cat that avoids the dogs, who chase her, stays in our room a lot (once she learned to jump the baby get set up to keep dogs in our room at night) and really has nothing to do with any of us but BGA.  It went on like this for a year.  I debated for the first time whether we had made a mistake and we should try to find a home for her.  We couldn't really as she bit a lot the first year and I knew she would not really be adoptable.  I tried to find farm type settings for her as she was always trying to get outside and figured she'd be happier in a farm type of setting.  She was so unfriendly Dave and I felt that we really would not miss her if we placed her somewhere else but we couldn't seem to do it. The girls proclaimed to love her but would get so frustrated that they couldn't pick her up (yet they kept doing it and she would scratch them and we would have kids with face scratches).  I felt bad but I really had never experienced a cat like her and she really didn't like me as I was the one who fed her and took care of her those first few months.

We left her for the first time to go sort out my mom's estate last year and when we came home she wouldn't leave our side and stayed with us a lot.  She became the slightest bit friendlier, then as we settled back in, became aloof again.  2 yrs after we adopted her, she has become friendly like she was when she was a kitten again, but on her terms.  She will sit by you but only on Dave's lap and no one else's except possibly BGA.  She will come in when you are in the bathroom (I think the rescue group kept her in the bathroom and that is where she felt safe in our house) and in our bedroom.  She will go down the hallway to LGA's room while we are trying to get her to sleep at night and go in there.  She will also go to the girls when they are in their bathroom, even if they get up at night.  She seems to feel comforted there for a petting.  She will sleep on our beds and at one point on Sunday when I was watching tv on our bed she and the dogs all came in and got on the bed.  She loves her food and if you don't give it to her becomes almost manic in her quest for it.  She appears to be going back to square one and her kitten ways.  The cat who never would purr, you could pick her up (which she hated) or go up to pet her and nothing, no sweet purr, she would just stare at you, now purrs LOUDLY when you pick her up or pet her.  She will sometimes NOT purr but nine times out of ten, she will.  This cat is slowly warming up as she attaches.  She has taken a long time to attach more than any of the cats I have ever had. I love her, but I do still miss the kittens whose purrs go a mile a minute.  I was able to pet a kitten in a shelter last week. He was only 6 weeks old, but my oh my was he lovely.  He purred a mile a minute, made kitten kneads on his bed and head butted me through the bars.  I wanted him (and would have brought him home but he was not ready to go yet) to adopt.  But the more I want to adopt another kitten, the more this cat opens up.  So I'm waiting.  It might not be the cat we all envisioned having (after our last lap loving cat) but she's opening up, if only we can be patient.  She will give the love she can, I just don't think she was ever taught how to.  But as with humans, we can all love.  We all have the capacity, it's just opening up our hearts and allowing it in. So here's to this sweet Calico, showing us that adoption can take many forms, be it human or feline.  :-)  Happy Adoption month, please support adoption in any way you can.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

My Daughter Turns 12 This Week...

Where has the time gone?

If you are new to this blog, you might not know we brought the girls home 5 1/2 yrs ago.  BGA was 6 and LGA was 4.  It doesn't seem like 5 1/2 yrs have passed but they have.  Lots of changes in the girls and in our lives since they came home.

I'm going to try and dig up some pictures of BGA over the years for her birthdays. I don't know how many I will have. I missed a year of camera pics last year when my mom died, I just didn't shoot them but did take some cell camera pics so will look for them and post.

BGA came home one angry little girl. It was hard to get through to her sometimes. I felt she'd never attach to us and she would be angry in her life a lot.  She still has a bit of what I know to be the 'red haired' temper but she's learning ways to over come it.  Dave went through it, being a red head.  My mother and brother each had red hair and tempers.  BGA's teacher is going to enroll her in a social type of session with the counselor to work on social relationships.  We tried to get this going at her previous school but the counselor would not try it.  The teacher didn't ask me if I wanted her to meet with the counselor, she just TOLD me BGA would be going.  Ok.  I did agree but what if I had said no to it, would I have had a choice?  I don't mind because we all agree she needs some work on relationships with her peers.  She has come so far, but this is one piece of the puzzle we have not been able to help her with. I hope the counselor (a neutral party) can help her.  She's had a lot to overcome and I am amazed at the young woman (wow, I am saying that, my little girl is becoming a young woman) she is becoming.

I have seen lots of blossoming behaviors I never thought I'd see in the beginning.

BGA is kind. Oftentimes I will pick her up and she will tell me she gave her 'prize' or something she got in class, to another classmate who seemed down.  She will offer us and her sister food or treats, as well.  She ate the candy out of the Hello Kitty pez but gave the dispenser to her sister who she knew had sweet tarts  and could put them in the pez to eat.  She will stop and help others.  I never saw this behavior in the beginning.  In the beginning a lot of behavior was about "me" what can I get for me. I really like seeing this part of her develop.  It makes me think she will be compassionate when she's older.

BGA has a pretty laugh and she cracks up at a lot of stuff.  She's excited and enthusiastic about what she sees and is interested in.  At 12 she is reading more, (even though I don't think she likes to read as much, which is disappointing to me as I love to read.  But we're working on it) and likes books about nature and bugs/animals, and some mysteries, some chapter books. She likes quoting facts and riddles.  I like to hear her make up riddles.  She likes to sing and has her radio, cd's on a lot.  She still likes her cd player on for bedtime and will listen to chapter books on CD or music.

BGA has grown this year in height. I feel puberty is not far off for her.  She is almost as tall as me, a fact she likes to point out, often.  LOL.  She has developed her taste of clothes as well.  The girls grew in height but not much in weight, so their jeans were like a few inches shorter than last year.  I had to buy new jeans as BGA is still a bit petite and LGA at 3 yrs younger has caught up to BGA in shoes and top sizes (jeans she's still a size smaller).  I shopped at a great thrift store I found that had great brand name jeans. I scored luckily, and also managed to pick some tops out for her that she liked.  She's not so much into the t'shirts with designs on them as she is in shirts and pretty tops rather than just plain old t's with a design on them.  She picks her wardrobe out every day and loves to go pick out what she will wear.  She's getting better at matching too as we work on what goes with what. I bought her thrifted jeggings and some skinny jeans at Target that fit her perfectly.  She is developing a shape too.  My girl is growing up.

We have time together in the car as I am now taking her to/from school as Dave's working 10 hour days now till the end of the year.  So we have lots of time to chat about stuff.  She is loving and likes to give hugs a lot and still tells me, "mommy I LOVE you."  I know this will change, so I am taking advantage of it now and I hope it stays around a long time.  I know puberty and teen years are hard and can change her but I hope that we can keep some of this around a long time.  We still get the sighs and eye rolling as every kid does, and the addition of mumbling under her breath, but she has not figured out how to do that without being heard.  I thought that was hilarious till Dave told her what she was doing so now she's getting better at lowering her voice.

I love how she comes up with ideas of things to do and things she wants to try.  I need to remember to indulge her more. I do to some extent, but sometimes life gets in the way.  I want to indulge her creative side more too.  She has one, and it's just coming out.

So as we face 12, I look forward to seeing the young lady she becomes.  She's beautiful to me in every way and I compliment both her and LGA, I want them to seem themselves as beautiful as they haven't sometimes, and that makes me sad. I always tell the girls they are but too many times girls are defined by a certain body image they feel they have to achieve.  So I am very conscious about it and watching that side.  What I have seen lately is BGA eating healthy and choosing to eat fruits and veg (while still eating some junky foods, you just can't avoid it if you have kids that were exposed to it as ours were) and she will eat what I cook even though she's a bit on the picky side still, but her palate is expanding which makes me happy. I found out she prefers chicken thighs to chicken breasts (Dave prefers chicken breasts) as we ate teriyaki chicken thighs and she inhaled them.  One thing she has continuously requested when we go out for dinner is soda.  I am not sure if she's getting it at school but I am trying to tell her how it's not great for her and has a lot of sugar (I don't drink it, very rarely will I have a soda, Dave drinks diet now and mostly drinks water or tea but does get the occasional soda) in it and is not very good for her ADHD.  I don't know how long I can keep that one at bay but hoping for a bit longer.

Here are a few pics of BGA's birthdays over the years.

7th birthday
 8th birthday

 9th birthday

10th birthday (looking so much older)

11th birhday.  Didn't think I had pics but I did find two.

I love this girl and I am excited to celebrate this birthday with her.    Here's to many more and to seeing the young woman she becomes.  I'm excited for her.  I'll post some pics of her actual birthday once we've had her dinner and cake.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Hiking Post and Just To Clarify.......

I have great friends in my life.  Some of them are part of the girls' lives and some have chosen to distance if they can't handle the needs.  We didn't quite realize what would happen as we chose the girls, with the friends in our lives.  Some chose to be a part of the girls' lives, some chose some infrequent contact, etc.  This particular friend that I wrote about below, chose little to no contact.  It is what it is, and I am moving on.  I do understand that some people can't know what it's like to raise the girls, and to raise a FASD child.  It's not easy at all.  And so that sometimes means that friendships suffer as you cannot make the time you once did to be a part of their lives and they don't understand it.  They tell you that you are only focusing on the girls, it's always about the girls, etc.  I hate that it's that way when it comes to friendships because inevitably a friend feels that I can't make enough time for them.  Yes, it can be as easy as having someone watch the girls while I go do something with a friend, but I don't have any grandparents, aunts or uncles or friends who watch the girls on a regular basis.  To go to BGA's meeting this week we did not want to take LGA as she makes it really hard to focus and the girls interrupt a lot.  So I asked a mom in our neighborhood that I used (and sometimes meet for breakfast every couple of months) to watch LGA last minute because her son and LGA were in kinder through 2nd together and they get along ok.  But I don't ask her often as she has 4 kids so adding two more would be a lot.

I will miss my friend but I have learned that you have to move on.  There was a quote that seemed appropriate and while it mentioned God, it say that you need to let go and trust God and the people who are meant to be in your life, will still be there.  I hope that is the case. I have read on FASD groups that parents complain of losing friends who just don't want to stick around for the long haul.  I suspect that was the case here.  So I am letting go and moving on.

I wish this blog could be a light one,with light topics and to show pics and products, etc.  But it is an adoption blog and a blog about raising a FASD child.  My audience is limited and that's ok.  My topics will be heavy and light at the same time.  There will be times I'll write about vacation but also detail that there are issues when the routine is disrupted due to transition.

Make no bones about it, we have some good and funny times here, and as soon as we get some meds situated and go down that road, I think we will see more of them and hopefully a few less struggles for awhile.  Cause the struggles are harder than anything I have ever been through, but we do come out the other side and we are making it.  I was not prepared to raise a FASD child, but I am .  I am trying to find ways of getting support or a support group because I know I need one. I think sometimes we adoptive parents feel that we should take it and not talk about the struggles because we wanted these children and we need to accept the issues and not talk about them.  But if we don't talk about them then who are we helping, someone who might be struggling and not know where to turn?

So now on to some good news.  BGA's 12th birthday is this week!  12!!!  Seriously, how did my lovely little 6 yr old who came walking through our door and said her first memory was asking where the bathroom was, LOL, get to be 12?????

I will do a birthday post on my girl this week.  She's struggling with school work, but she turned it around this week and I was proud of her and SHE was proud of herself.  We're working on it together, Dave, BGA and I.  She's got work to do, but she has really functioned well when she has a challenge.   I am disappointed her science program after school got cancelled as two rowdy boys got hurt before it started so the "dr" who is teaching it decided to stop it until they decide if they can start it up again.

We took a hike this past weekend to some local redwoods.  I have started walking again and it's really helping me physically, I have needed this for a long time but never pushed myself to do it.  I am taking BGA to school as Dave who used to do it, is working 10 hour days till the holidays are over. It was either that or he worked till 7pm and when we did that year before last LGA could not handle the transition.  But it's been good for me to go on a walk each day.

So we decided to visit the "BIG" trees where there are some great redwoods, etc.  Lots of hiking paths.  We chose the 1.6 mile hike.  It was fun and we did experience nature (LGA experienced it a bit more than the rest of us as she ended up with some bug bites on her chest).

The air was crisp and cool in the 'foothills' where the big trees are, in upper 50's (we have hit 75 two times this week, when is 'fall' going to officially start??) so it was jacket and gloves weather.

We decided to stop for a late lunch at a local diner a few towns over.  Usually when we go to restaurants these days it's hard for LGA to sit still, lower her voice, etc.  We try some of the nicer restaurants but it is not always a great experience.  Someone kicks someone else under the table, "I can't have that, SHE'S having that" etc.  So this diner, the waitress was so nice.  She sat us in the back, gave the girls a cup of ice with their water to keep them busy, then let them pick coloring books and crayons and made sure they had substitutions when they didn't want what the menu had on it.  Dave said she ate her dinner and kept coming over and asking us if we were ok.  She said she had kids too.  It was the best dining experience we'd had in a long time.

So here are a few pics of our hike last week.  I think I got some great photos of LGA.  Usually she has an awkward smile as some kids do, but I caught her true self.  She was beautiful and I love how her pics came out.

Sorry for the picture heavy post, but I had not really taken many pics and it was fun with all the great nature background. I love how LGA is looking up at the redwoods in one pic and how BGA was focused on the old Kodak camera we gave her.  Great day, it was the cap to my 50th bday celebration.

Halloween was good and rushed, but still good.  The girls chose their costumes at the last minute, we went to birthday dinner for me, rushed home, they changed into costumes and we drove around trick or treating.  It was fun to see their excitement.  No trading of candy this year, but since we waited till later to go, they had a half a sack of candy and we've been eating some also (with their permission) and doling it out bit by bit and we are almost done with it.

Well, there's two posts in two days!  Enjoy your Veterans Day weekend.  Daddy works a day and we are doing some relaxing (LGA's body has not caught up on the time change, she's getting up at 4am, have to try to get her to go back to bed, till 5am, then she's up, although today I got her to sleep in till 6:30!!) and going to see Thor.  It will be nice to have the extra day off from the day to day school schedule.  

Friday, November 8, 2013

I Lost A Friend.......

It probably won't come as a surprise to those of you (the small amount of readers) that this happened. Edited to say that if you raise a child with FASD, this is a common occurance, so it would not be a surprise that some friends aren't in it for the long haul.  Some are, though, and I am grateful for them.

The friend was a friend of over 15 yrs.  She was the maid of honor at my wedding.  However, life got in the way, she got married, I think for the 2nd or 3rd time.  She is helping raise a grandson.  The girls came home. I noticed for the first time when we visited (and the last time I might add) her for her grandson's bday.  The girls had been home just about 2 mos.  They were into everything, non medicated and just hyper.  They tried to help the birthday boy open gifts (not something my friend wanted) they were into stuff and running in and out and I was trying to keep track of them.  The kicker was when BGA threw a fit getting into the car to go home (and she was helping me get them in the car). I got the impression they were not something she could handle.  So she didn't.  We were invited to her grandson's bday a couple of more times (but I didn't want to subject them and myself to it so we declined).  She was invited to the girls' parties - she declined.  When we would mention getting together, which never happened because of one reason or another on my part, she suggested without kids.  It's funny, because the half way town (she moved away years ago) now has a hands on kids museum which we took the girls to on vacation and I was thinking of inviting her and her grandson to meet us there in the future.

So I got dumped via Facebook.  First she msg'd me and told me that she didn't like some of my posts and when I tried to explain she just said she was unfriending me.  Yes, I know there are a few of you not on FB and you will tell me that is just FB.  I do get it.  I am sad, but there is nothing I can do. However, usually I am the one who tries to save the situation and I give in. I didn't do it this time. I asked her if she didn't like my posts or felt I might be struggling (I have posted about our sleep issues and LGA's tantrums) why didn't she reach out?  She didn't answer, so that gave me my answer.    I am sad but I have to admit to myself, that she has never taken an interest in the girls and when I have asked for some advice I was mainly told "kids are kids she will grow out of it."  So, one person of  a few who cannot handle the girls' issues or needs who has 'unfriended' me.  It won't be the first or last, so I am grieving what was of the friendship but I really have to admit that it was never there in the first place, for many years.  That makes it a bit easier.

The girls are having a few issues at school.  LGA has a tri annual IEP coming up next week, and as she's turned 9, she's had a few more issues, also being in 4th grade adjusted (special ed day class) and with older kids (which is hard for her) so we have gotten a psych refferal for some different meds.  The teacher finally pulled her off the main playground and has her playing with her class on a smaller playground at lunch and that has eased some of the issues and defiant behavior.  We are still going to readjust meds because I do believe it's warranted.  And if my friend had truly taken an interest in what it is like to parent a FASD child she would have known how hard it is. Instead she chose to judge. Parenting a FASD child is hard and I am sorry if it appears there is some whining going on but really till you've walked in the can't really understand the issues or how hard it is.  It's hard.  But there are also the special times and those times are the ones I savor when they happen.  Now that LGA is settling into school they are happening again but for the first 2 mos of school it was really hard going.

BGA's grades slipped a lot and she has had to learn to step up this year.  We had a parent teacher conference this week and she really has to step it up.  Her math slipped to below grade level so we have some support in place for some tutoring and she wrote down her goals (neatest writing I have EVER seen her do).  She has goals in place and we will need to probably switch out her meds as well as the teacher feels she is unable to concentrate in the afternoons (when Math is) even with the small pm med dose.  But her teacher wants her to succeed and so we are working on it. We have had to do this in the past and then BGA really steps up to the plate and totally surprises us. She is getting used to note taking and getting ready for middle school next year so the teacher is trying to make them responsible for their own notes, etc.  I think BGA was used to skating by and now she has to work at it. But she gave it a great effort and saw her rewards this week and I was proud of her.  I know she can do it.

So that's where I've been lately.  Hope all is well in your worlds.  Gonna go read some of your blogs.

Take care all.......and hug your loved ones.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


The girls have been on vacation this week.  I love this time of year.  Dave usually takes vacation time during the girls' one week 'fall' break.  He likes to take it at this time because the weather is cooler, most kids are back in school and he can't take vacation during the holidays so it's nice to have him home for a week or so during October.

This year I asked Dave to take off a couple of days before the girls got out of school, just so we could have some time together. He did a few things around the house (we had a plumbing issue and a toilet seat that would not stay on the toilet so had to get a new one for the girls' bathroom, so a trip to Lowes was in order) and we went out for lunch, cooked ourselves breakfast (eggs with veggies, which the girls will eat but do not particularly like) and had some nice talks, time together.

On Friday of last week, our friends the H family, won some tix to Disney on Ice.  We have never taken the girls (although they remember going with a foster parent at one point) but they have always asked to go.  The boys in the H family did not want to go to this one, so the dad in this family (who works with Dave) brought the tix over when he got off work (he works night shift) on Friday am.  We managed to keep it a surprise for the girls and when we picked up BGA from school she knew there was a surprise but not what it was (she had guessed it, so not sure if she heard us talking after bedtime on Thurs night or what).  When LGA got home we told the girls and they were excited.  I had told LGA's teacher because we had had a conversation about some behaviors LGA has had at school.  LGA is having a challenging FASD month and some of her behaviors to that regard are getting very challenging. More on that in an upcoming post.  For now I'll skip to our vacation post.

We decided to go early to the town DOI was in so we could exchange the vouchers for tickets.  We got great tix not on the floor but a few rows up.  We then went to a local steakhouse we like (after driving around because we did not check out dinner options first) for dinner.  We like this place, Logan's Roadhouse, as you can eat peanuts out of a bucket (they come in a bag and then you put them in the bucket) and the girls were kept busy eating peanuts and cracking them.  That's always a plus.  We were in the back too, which is always good when taking LGA out. She can move around and get out of her seat, etc.  Dinner was good and we were ready for DOI.

This year's show was called Passport to Adventure (and I don't have any shots of it because my cell phone pic that Dave took makes us all look like we have devil eyes, LOL.  I didn't take any other pics because I was too busy trying to keep LGA at an acceptable level of behavior).  To say LGA was really on sensory overload would not be a lie.  She was in/out of her seat, she fought with BGA so as we had the two of them sitting together we had to split them up.  She was yelling and screaming when the characters came out.  She hit me when I told her she couldn't sing because while the people around us were ok with her behavior, the couple below us, the mom was staring at LGA.  It's times like this I really wish I had one of the cards other people pass out that explain FASD and it's behaviors.  I must order some.  But she did calm down a bit after the initial hyperactivity and was really enjoying the show. It was worth it for her joy and happiness. I had a hard time going down the stairs (the bifocals I got last year make it really hard to see unless I adjust where I am looking, going down stairs and there were very few rails. I got a bit dizzy).  So there was no way I wanted to go back up.  Poor Dave had to go make bathroom trips and the girls wanted a toy each.  They exchanged the light up wands for the hard plastic binoculars.  The show featured, Lion King, Ariel, Lilo and Stitch and Peter Pan.  It was cute.  We really thank our friends for giving us the tix.  It was a fun family night and BGA kept saying the next day what a good time she had.

We needed a day at home on Saturday so we pretty much vegged.  The girls and I slept in till after 8 (no normal feat in this house where LGA is almost always up, 7 days a week at 5:55am. Not 5:54 or 5:56, but at 5:55 am.  We need to figure out her sleep schedule. It's really hard lately) everyone is usually up early.  I made a crock pot meal and we all did our own thing.  It was a nice day, similar to what our Sundays are usually like.

Sunday we got up and had bkfst and went to a hands on science museum in the town over.  I got a Groupon for it so we decided to try it out. It was very hands on.  Lots of of bubble making, earth quake simulating, tornado simulating, heart beats on a drum, puzzles, etc.  The girls spent 2 hours on the hands on stuff and I think Dave spent as much time on all the stuff too.  It was another fun day.  We had a late lunch out and headed to the grocery store for some groceries for this week.

Monday we decided to go to the Groupon pumpkin patch we had purchased.  However, when we drove there it was really empty and looked really small (they promised a free pumpkin to a child 9 and younger) so we decided to go to our local hamburger stand (near it) for lunch and then decided to come back to the patch on the weekend when more people would be there.  We decided on the spur of the moment to go see a movie.  Of course it was a kid's movie, so Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs2 it was.  I have a movie theater card so the girls got a free popcorn and discounted sour patch candy.   It was cute and fun.  We came home and had dinner since we had groceries and no one was really super hungry after the popcorn and candy binge.

Tuesday was game day with Daddy.  The girls played board games and the Wii.  Usually there is a fight as LGA has issues with the Wii and can't play all the games so she gets mad and goes into meltdown mode.  This time Dave was patient with her and tried to show her a few tricks. It worked for awhile and then it didn't so it was time to put the Wii up.   The girls never like to get rid of stuff so we went through the board games but LGA was really unwilling to get rid of some of them.  I have a local fellow foster to adopt mom that I am hoping to give the games to. I really want to go through LGA's room and give this mom some of her toys that she doesn't play with but she's really unwilling to part with them.  So we'll see how that goes. I would really like to pare down.  Our house is small and while she has storage under her bed, I really would like to just purge what she no longer plays with.

Daddy went back to work yesterday and attitudes sucked.  It is transition after all.  Any transition is hard.  LGA has had a hard transition to having time off.  So no nintendo for her yesterday.  She was not happy.  I also would not let them play board games as they were fighting and that usually leads to a lot of fights, so they had a Netflix movie day instead.  That led to fights also because they are at different stages of what they will watch.  LGA is still wanting to watch some of the younger cartoons/movies and BGA wants to watch some of the more 'teen/tween' stuff.  They worked it out but I had to threaten to turn the tv off.  It was a tough day.  I still managed to make a chicken pot pie and salad for dinner so that was a good thing.  :-)

So we are hanging out again today, as BGA has a slight cold.  I let them play nintendos today so we'll see how that goes.  LGA is getting better at shutting it down when asked, but of course that continues to be an issue for her.  But I figure they have not had much nintendo time so if I can monitor/restrict the time we'll all be better off.

A new article came out on FASD that I want to blog about, but this week I am unable to really concentrate on it.  Daddy will be off again on Sunday and Monday so I figure that topic will be one for next week. One good thing, was LGA came to me and tied the strings on her knit pants into a bow. I have been wanting her to tie her shoes for awhile.  She finally has it.  Time for some shoes with laces now.  I was very happy she can now tie her shoes!  Also, the girls have grown.  Time for new jeans and shoes for them.  Both girls shot up in height but not at the waist.  BGA is able to wear the next size up in slim jeans (wow, where did my little girl go?  She looks very grown up and 'teen.').  LGA just needs the next size up.  I'm on a quest to find school clothes jeans.

For now, we're enjoying vacation and October.  The house is cooler today (temps have been high 70's to low 80's) and my feet are cold for the first time since probably March.  I'm making a meatloaf for the sick one in the house (her fave) and baking brownies.  I'm very domestic this vacation.  It helps picking up a Taste of Home crockpot recipe book, though.  I have made one meatball stew out of it and look forward to the soup section, particularly this fall.  Now, if the leaves would change, I'd be really happy.  :-)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Couple More Wedding Pics.........

So to lighten the heaviness of last post, here are a few more wedding pics.  BGA caught the bouquet and was so happy to have caught it.  they loved the dinosaur bubble guns that they used leading the bride and groom back down the aisle after their "I-Do's."  Nice wedding.  Can I just say BGA looks  SO grown up now??

My Daughter And I Are Similar........

Five (and almost a half) years ago I never thought I would utter that sentence.  My daughter and I are similar.
But the few of you who are reading this blog know that I posted about my mother having consumed alcohol while pg with me.  A fact I learned when she was in the hospital right before she died last year.  I was born in the 1960's (yes, I am going to hit that 'milestone' birthday this month) and in the 1960's pregnant mothers did not know they should not drink or smoke while pg.  I wonder how many adults are out there now whose mothers consumed alcohol while pg.

I didn't know when we brought LGA home that I was similar to her in any way. Her issues became apparent when she hit 5.  Most of her behaviors prior to 5 (between 3 and 4) were mostly toddlerish behavior because she was about 2 yrs behind as most foster children are.   So I didn't really notice her FASD behaviors till she hit 5.  Once she hit 5 it was like a switch had been turned on and she became this whole other child.  Meltdowns happened, swift and fast.  Anything could and did set her off.  It was and continues to be challenging to parent her.  LGA turned 9 this year and parenting her became harder.  But as I really took a look at my life, knowing I was on the spectrum for FASD, I realized we are similar.

But first I had to take a look at myself and my growing up years.  I don't remember many fits or tantrums. If I had a fit I remember I was ignored.  I did have a couple, usually because I wanted something my parents had said no to, or I remember a fit at my grandmother's house, not sure why but it sticks in my mind as I sat in her huge Morris chair that had these huge arms on it that you could put your fingers through. I don't remember what caused the fit, I just remember sitting in that chair and knowing I had a fit.  But I was ignored and I think I got over it quickly.  Math was always hard for me, for some reason it makes more sense now than it did when I was younger.  I was good at spelling, reading, history, etc.  but not good with math and hated science completely.  I never wanted to go on to college and couldn't wait to get out of school.  I started when I was 4 because I had a fall birthday and have read my report cards where I couldn't focus (had eye issues) and stared out the window in dream land (my words, not the teacher's).  So I repeated kinder when I was 5 and it seems to have worked out.  But I have had a hard time at times focusing in my adult life, and while I held admin jobs and a hotel job in reservations and sales admin, I really had no career path in mind.  I wanted to travel to the UK where my cousins were (and I did, I lived there for 6 glorious months) and work. After my mother realized I was not going to fulfill her dream of going to college (I have some Jr college under my belt, as well as a travel agent's course and nanny training) she concentrated on getting me a job.  She got me one, my job at a hotel (she knew the HR person) and I stayed there for 13 yrs before I moved to N CA from S CA.  That was a leap of faith.  It was the right step as I met Dave and we married and each had our share of job layoffs during the years that have followed.

SO imagine my surprise when I learn I have been alcohol exposed.  After adopting my daughter who is also alcohol exposed (during which time my mother never uttered a word to let me know that she drank while pg with me).  It was only when talking about LGA's special ed day class and her issues that my mother mentioned it.  I wish I had thought to ask her when she consumed alcohol and how much.  I never did because I saw she was making some connections to my brother who had passed away the year before.  He had a lot of issues and I suspect also was exposed to alcohol.  So I didn't bring it up and now I will never know.  My aunt and uncle never want to talk about it and my cousins who are all at least 10+ years older than me do not remember.

I have done some deep reflection.  I have wondered what it would have been like had I known years earlier that I have FASD.  But I didn't. I didn't know when we adopted LGA.  I didn't know when we started seeing her behaviors when she turned 5.  Would I have changed anything?  I don't think so.  I started remembering my childhood.  It doesn't compare to hers, I know she has more brain damage than I do.  I might have mild brain damage, but the realization that I have it (after thinking I was not like her nor could I relate to what she's going through. I was wrong.  I can relate to some of it) really took me for surprise.  People didn't know what to say to me.  They sort of skirted the issue.  Even my own husband had no clue what to say to me.  It was hard.  I thought people put it off and didn't want to talk about it.  It made me resentful.  I needed to talk to someone about it.  I still haven't done that and I guess I need to.

I did talk to LGA about it.  I think it changed our relationship, because I could tell her that I am like her, that Grandma didn't know about drinking while she was pg with me, so I share something with her. I think she liked it.  As posted previously, I wondered if I was meant to parent her, even the frustration of her behaviors.  As I have worked through my mother's death, the grief, the realization that I too, am a FASD, I have been able to have a bit more compassion for my daughter, while also trying hard to understand her behaviors, and what it means for her, in her future.  Because my life has been so different than hers will be.  All I can do is be there for her and help her wherever I can.  But we share a bond we didn't know we shared.  And that has changed her relationship with me.  She is in a phase where she only wants me.  She is very vocal about it too.  It's hard when I need a break, but we are coping.  Daddy is the fun daddy, which is how it should be sometimes.  But he can also calm her down whereas I have a hard time when she's in meltdown mode. I have finally learned how to try to help her and learned her triggers but it took awhile for me.  I think I have some sensory issues because yelling and screaming voices are hard for me and make me really have a hard time during that.  So I am recognizing it and I am trying hard to not buy into it.  It just hurts my ears.  Movie theaters speakers hurt my ears.  Wool bothers me.  I never thought about what it would mean to have some sensory issues.  Now because of LGA's issues, I am aware of mine.

It's hard to put this out there. I don't know what made me feel the need to put it out there but I felt sort of pushed to write this post. I am not a super spiritual person, but I felt a bit of a spiritual push to write this post.  I thought of it, put it out of my mind (great procrastinator, used to get told that by my mom all the time) and then decided again to write this post. Maybe some adult FASD might find it useful.  Maybe someone will connect the dots.  I never did, I had no reason to believe my mother consumed any alcohol while pg. I was quite surprised.  I keep examining my baby pics and toddler pics to see if I have any FASD facial features.  I think I do.   But I know that I have made it this far in life, and that I will continue. I will support my daughter, knowing her future may be more limited, but that she can have a good life and we will make sure it happens.

If you got this far, thanks for reading.  Please read up about alcohol consumption if you are a woman who may be pg or want to be.  Please know that no amount of alcohol is safe during pgcy.  None.  I know this to be true, whether I knew it for the first 40something years of my life or not.  The puzzle pieces came together and I am a different person as I approach this milestone birthday, that is for sure.

I have found some people in 'real' life don't get the challenges there are in raising LGA. Some tell me I dwell on them too much and make it about my kids.  Some people have told me to 'find my tribe' for support.  I am sorry, but I have realized that I cannot change this.  LGA is who she is and she has issues.  She is special needs, brain damaged, whatever you want to categorize it as.  It's there, and it means my time is spent raising her.  Dave and I have not had a break on our own in awhile.  Dave took vacation for 2 days before the girls have a fall week break next week so we could just hang out and talk, watch a movie (at home, the movie times don't work for school pick up/drop off) and have breakfast together (he cooked for me this am) and go to lunch.  It's nice.  We need it.

And.........just to give a little bit of fluff from this heavy duty post.  Check out the pic of LGA and I at cousin G's wedding. I will post a few more pics for you in the next post. I like LGA's smile in this one.  Some of  the other pics she has more of a forced smile.  This is the smile I see every day and love.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Reflection and Celebration........

During the last half of the year, I feel a lot of reflection (much as I love fall and proclaimed it in my last post) coming on. I am seeing it in posts on other blogs, and I feel it, as much as I feel the weather changing.

Today marks the 13th anniversary of our marriage.  I cannot help but reflect 13 yrs ago at this time.

Photo: In celebration of anniversary week.  13 yes and counting.  Love you Dave Levingston.

Look how young we were (and I was a lot heavier than I am now). We knew so little about the direction our lives would go, same as some people's lives go, job layoffs, debt, infertility, etc.  We knew so little about being married either, we had no idea how to be a man and wife, married.  We had a house and a dog, and jobs.  We had friends we hung out with all the time on the weekends.  And we waited for the baby we thought would come.  It didn't, so we moved to infertility treatments.  We then let that go and I went through the hardest operation I'd ever been through, emotionally (physically it was easy), a hysterectomy as my poor body had been through a lot infertility treatment wise. We took 3 years for me to heal physically, another job loss (this time mine) and to heal emotionally.  We then decided to go through the foster to adoption route after having a 'friend of a friend's' friend who got pg and might want to place for a domestic adoption.  We weren't ready but would have done whatever we could to make it happen.  The birthmother parented and I was really devastated.  It came shortly after my hysterectomy op so I think that was part of the reason we took 3 yrs as well to decide on whether or not we wanted to be parents.

We got to know each other over 7 yrs.  We knew each other like the back of our hands.  We had similar thoughts as well as different (much different) interests.  Dave was into comics and painting wargaming figurines, video games,action movies, initially he was into WWE wrestling.  I was into making my own jewelry (with his support, starting me out in the beginning and helping to learn different techniques - before You Tube), reading, and comedy/romance movies, and I started to learn to cook (after Dave initially did the cooking in our house since I commuted) and liked clothing/shoes.  But we would routinely be thinking the same thought and would voice it.  We had a commitment to being together through sickness and health (my health would test us first). We rarely argued if at all, but we did get frustrated with each other at times.  We loved our dog and going on date nights each Friday night.  We went to movies and dinner and pretty much took day trips places in our area and beyond.  We were comfortable in our lives together.

And then we had a conversation late one night about adoption.  I pretty much told Dave I was ok if we didn't adopt (I wanted to raise Cavalier King Charles Spaniel dogs) and he could decide. I was ok either way he chose - we could decide to pursue adoption or if he really didn't want to, we could decide not to.  And I wasn't just saying it to make him do it, I really could have gone either way and would have been perfectly happy. I was over 40, and I knew that it would be hard to parent over 40.  Dave chose to go forward.  Our friends A & S had adopted 3 boys foster to adopt and S and I had been Yahoo Im'ing each night as she told me about the process and the parenting of her new boys.  We met the boys and decided to go to an information session for their foster to adopt agency.

The rest is pretty much history but I'll cap it off here for you since most of it is on our older blog.  We went through the process and mid way through I experienced another job layoff (this time in the mortgage industry as an admin) mid way through finishing our homestudy and I had no idea if we would be able to continue. I was mad about the timing (as I felt my bosses knew where we were in the process) but most of the office was laid off in different stages so I had wished it could have been earlier in the year (it was fall) so we could have finished our home study.  However, we managed to finish and waited a month before we got calls and met the girls.  They were placed a month after we met them and the rest is history.

I look at where we are 13 yrs later and while it is different (we argue or snipe at each other a bit more than we ever did before kids) it has also grown a lot.  Dave has been here with me through health issues, the loss of both my brother and my mother, his mini health issues, and we have gone through a lot with the girls' placement.  We have found out how strong we were together and separately, and we have grown as individuals, a couple and as parents.  I love him more than I ever have and I am glad to know that when I tend to (possible ADD???) to not focus he can bring me back in.  He is the voice of reason and he takes awhile to think things over (I go whole hog and want to do stuff NOW!).  He's solid as a person and he's very much dead on in his opinions of people.  He has a great sense of humor and makes me laugh a lot.  I love him and I can't imagine life without him.

So, here's to 13 yrs of marriage, and to many more.  I know he won't read this blog, but I love you Dave.  You are a great father and husband.

And to celebrate, since we do not have babysitters, we will take the girls out for dinner.  They were excited it was our anniversary and I know they will look forward to celebrating with us.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Food is important in our family.  It is important if you have not had food in the past (as was the girls' case when they were with birthparents).

When the girls first came home they ate as fast as they could and often. I had a bowl of fruit out, they could ask for a snack between meals and I had a little tupperware pitcher and cups on the table for them (this was pre refrigerator that has an ice and water maker) at all times.  I didn't do the snack drawer as some parents do but I let them know if they asked they could have something between meals.  They did not ask constantly but they wanted to know food was there if they wanted it.  The first summer they were home, they really did eat us out of house and home.  Dave and I were used to shopping once a month.  We both worked and would take leftovers or go out to eat at work, and usually Dave cooked dinner because I always commuted to work at least an hour or more.

I remember the first grocery bill after they came home, and in shock as it was more than double what we were used to paying.  To say we were naive and didn't really think of what food would cost is an understatement.  I shopped a lot at "bag your own food" places a lot.  Sometimes I went out on my own to get a break, which meant I had to bag it up myself, put it in the car and Dave would unload it and then I had to put it away.  A lot of work, but sometimes that break at the grocery store was what I needed.

Meals during the first year were almost always 2nds and they asked before they were finished with their first plate, wanting me to fill it up as fast as they could eat it.  I often wondered what kinds of food they got in their foster homes.  I can't imagine there was a lot and when you were done that was it.  The last foster home had a few kids in it so I think they probably ate what they were given and that was it.  The girls both put healthy weight on and their hair began to shine and they looked much healthier.  Our first dr took one look at Dave when he came in with us (he's a big guy) and said to the girls "don't get fat."  That was it for him, I immediately switched doctors.  Even the therapist asked what they ate, and seemed surprised that I fed them milk, fruits veg, no soda and healthier foods.  We couldn't really afford to eat out that first year, once a week eating out. Very little fast food.  I am sure that was probably not the norm.  But they really ate healthy. Sure they had their share of sweets in moderation, but they were just as happy to have some canteloupe or watermelon for dessert.  Now of course as they have aged, that has changed a bit, but they still only get soda on special occasions and while I have been on a fall baking kick, they can have a cookie or pudding cup and not have to have a huge dessert.

I think the key for us now (and I know it can change as they become teens) is that we eat together at the table.  Every night.  We sit down and eat together. I prepare meals at least 5-6 days a week and it is mostly home cooked.  The girls have a small red Ikea table and chairs we bought them the first year, and they are able on a weekend or holidays when they are off, and it's just the 3 of us, sit at the table and eat their lunch in the living room. I tried breakfast once but BGA spilled her cereal bowl on the floor and then LGA spilled her mac and cheese on the family room floor, so that was it, I decided if it was a sandwich lunch it was safe.  But sometimes when we decide it will be fast food hamburger night they are almost disappointed.  However, that doesn't stop them from wanting pizza and hamburgers when out or if it's what we decide on for dinner.

BGA is still picky but one meal she actually scarfed down last night was a made up meal of frozen shrimp, diced chicken, veg egg and rice. I made up my own stir fry based on what I had on hand and she scarfed it down.  She's not fond of too many other meals, likes meatloaf and fried chicken, pizza, chicken alfredo, etc.  It is hard when I see her turn up her nose at food I have cooked but she does eat it.  She doesn't have to have seconds and I usually give her a smaller portion so that if she wants more she can have it (she rarely has 2nds, these days, probably due to the ADHD meds, but LGA has 2nds frequently).

LGA is not very picky, although she will turn her nose up on some stuff and when you ask if she wants 2nds will say no.  Last night on the stir fry, she had 2nds.  She likes off the wall stuff, like jicama, she likes her ice cream and frozen yogurt to be flavors like blueberry, vanilla, mango, etc.  She will eat chocolate but prefers when we have pies and last night's raspberry buckle.  She's more like Dave in that way.  When cousin G got married and we went to her rehearsal dinner they had a choice of ice cream or sorbet.  LGA picked lemon sorbet.  I like that she's open to trying new things.

BGA is more like me, as I was growing up. I was a picky kid. I can remember my mom telling me a story about how the babysitter she had for me (who had a daughter I played with, I think, I can't remember) while she rode the horses we had, and how the babysitter got a pizza for the kids. I was a strict peanut butter and jelly kid (like LGA has become these days) and I refused to eat pizza.  The baby sitter had to make me my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I have changed a lot and I try new things and like a lot of foods (I have overcome my pickiness, although mushrooms are still not a favorite) these days.  I will eat almost anything.  I hope that BGA will change as she grows up too. I have her try new things all the time.

On school mornings we rush through the routine.  LGA has been eating at school.  Her teacher insisted the kids all ride the bus and eat bkfst in the cafeteria too.  So LGA would have to go through the routine to get her ready (which is challenging most days) and then get on the bus.  BGA would have Dave cook her a bkfst or make her one from a frozen waffle, sausage patty, etc.  LGA's teacher or aides will help LGA pick her bkfst and lunch.  I wanted to pack her a lunch but the teacher explained that she's a good eater and with a little help makes some good choices.

So fast forward this week.  LGA has been getting up at the crack of dawn. I don't know what has happened to my good sleeper but she sometimes gets up to go potty and in the case of this am, got up at 3:30 and wanted to know if she could stay up.  Oh, heck, no.  So I put her back to bed and she was up again at 6something this am.  She cannot unfortunately be trusted up on her own, so I have been getting up early so Dave can get his shower in and get ready.  Also I think he's burnt out on her am routine (which is hard too) so I am helping him out.  Yesterday he made egg in the hole for bkfst.  Everyone loved it.  We gave LGA a smaller bkfst because she was going to eat again at school, but today she asked for bkfst at home.  Yesterday Dave cooked and I helped LGA get her am routine done and get dressed.  Today I cooked pancakes and he helped LGA get ready.  We used to do this when they first came home but as LGA became more difficult in the am, and I became a night owl, Dave would let me sleep in and he would get her on the bus and then wake me up to help BGA.  Well, BGA became quite self sufficient last year and this year she picks her own clothes out, so he would wake me before they left.  But with LGA's increasingly earlier risings, and Dave feeling a bit burnt out getting bkfst and helping LGA get ready, I decided it was time to trade in the night owl for morning person.  I should have done it earlier but he insisted he did not mind doing it.  However, I have found when I am up there are less morning outbursts and tantrums and everyone does what they are supposed to.  I feel sort of like my mother who used to make me a home cooked breakfast every morning.  In the past it was a struggle to get the girls to eat on time, so LGA may have to forgo bkfst as she has in the past, to eat it at school, if she can't stay on task, because we cannot be late for the bus.  Right now it's a novelty and she is wanting bkfst, so I give her something small to tide her over and then she can have a piece of fruit and some milk at school.

It feels good though for us all to be up. I have decided this will also allow me to get some exercise in as soon as Dave and BGA leave for school/work.  This is a good thing.  The extra family time in the am and everyone getting ready to go is kind of nice too.  In the early days mornings were just plain not fun and if you read the old blog you might remember me complaining about them.  But these days it's kind of nice (even if I am really NOT a morning person, I try but I just am not an am person).

In other news, BGA is attending as of this week, a science and math program after school two days a week. She's not really a math person so I am not sure how long this will hold her interest but her teacher encouraged her to go, so she attended one session so far and seemed to like it.  This gives LGA and I about a quick half hour to hang out together while BGA is gone and the first session we managed to get in a game of checkers.  It was fun to see her play as strategy is new to her but she's catching on.  You just have to watch and make sure she doesn't cheat.  I am hoping we can fit a few more little things into this time we have together, although LGA seems to think there's enough time for projects, which unfortunately there isn't.  But she definitely wants the time together, so I am glad we have it.  LGA has been challenging for me since school started as she's hanging out with the bigger kids and trying some of their behaviors, which I do not like.  So maybe this will give us some time to hang out together.

Dave is now having weekends off.  He was working a weekend day and then having a day off during the week, which I really liked because we could have mini day dates together. No more.  At least till the holidays are over.  Which kind of bites because he really does not get any holiday time off during the holiday season, just the actual holiday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years days. The employees don't get 4th of July, Memorial Day or Labor Day off.  They are not allowed to ask for any vacation time from the end of October through to January. Dave is taking vacation time next month for the girls' one week fall break, but that is the only vacation time he's taken all year.  I will miss having him off on a Monday.  I really enjoyed it.  We'd go for breakfast or lunch, do errands, and when the movie times fit we would go to a movie together.  We don't really have babysitters so I am sad to see this time go. I hope it will go back to normal once the holidays are over.

We are hoping to take advantage of Free Museum Day this weekend (since Dave is now off both days).  Here is the link should you be interested in going to a museum free this weekend.