Saturday, December 31, 2011

Update and such

It is late and I am tired, so I'm sure this is going to be a disjointed blog entry. Apologies in advance. :)

So, Sophie acclimated to school fantastically. We are still trying to figure out the rhyme and reason of things, but her report card (which only had 3 weeks worth of time on it) was right where we expected, if not better! She looks forward to school, except she does miss us. I think making new friends, learning new things, and hot lunch (which I'm sure will wear off eventually) is allowing it to go well for now.

Whether or not our goal at home is going well...that's another issue. It seems without Sophie around, Ben's target has become me. So I've been getting a double dose of attitude and what not, during school time. We have not made a lot of progress academically, but there is some progress in attitude and effort, despite the war wounds I have, and his Tourette's management is a slow but effective process, mostly. I am hoping for some huge progress to be made the next 6 months. For next year, we are looking for a solution for Ben and Madeleine that isn't full on homeschooling and isn't full on public school, but allows them to answer to another teaching authority alongside mine, and helps them to become more responsible for their own education, AND catches them up and challenges them. Part of that reason is that I absolutely feel that if I have to wake up another year, day after day, and have to fight my son each day just to get him to write a sentence and do 10 math problems....well, I just can't do it like this anymore, and have run out of solutions. This leads me to my other reason for looking for a more creative solution...

Recently, a friend of mine who is also a homeschooler with a fun gaggle of kids, made the choice to put her kids in public school for the first time. I was so intrigued by her reasoning, which so echoed some of my own thoughts. She said something along the lines of being commanded by God to LOVE her kids, but not necessarily homeschool them. In my life, I know I haven't been loving my children successfully according to my goals (and I KNOW I haven't been homeschooling them well, according to my goals). So, if I end up succeeding at only one, I sure as heck want it to be the LOVING one. If things continue like this, anything resembling a loving mother will be replaced permanently by the grumpy, yelling, angry, defeated mother I'm becoming. (And this isn't necessarily shared to open up a discussion on homeschooling vs. other schooling...I have friends who travel many different paths for their children...this is just a sharing of where I'm at in my journey and what works for you may not work for me and vice verse).

So, I've been pondering this, among other things, as I've entered into a season of darkness. See, I used to have many seasons of darkness, that would last long periods of time (or not, depending). For a few years now, I have felt that the depression I experienced was basically healed, and if it did start to creep in, I could cut it off quickly with a few healthy choices or changes. This time around, though, it's hitting me hard and quick. This is mostly due, I'm sure, to the fact that I have a lot on my plate and am failing at most of it...I'm sure all you women and mothers can relate to my feelings. I'm worried about money and health and school and my weight loss stall and upcoming reunions and family members Tourette's and holidays and cars and housework and finding time for me and healthy cooking and work stress and and and and....yes, that right there is enough to get someone going.

However, I am still nursing a wound, a wound I think gets healed, but then festers up again. It's a wound that, upon examination, I see is steeped in feelings of severe anger, resentment, bitterness, hurt...but most of all, it is soaked in feelings of betrayal and grief. A severe loss. And it's at the point where it's affecting everything now, and I've lost all hope in what I once knew to be the only true thing in my life. And I'm lost without it and not sure I will find it again. So, to fight this battle to LOVE my kids well, I must first battle this WOUND and then battle the DARKNESS creeping in and then argue with the SCHOOLING issues and then I can try to love them well...all while feeling like I'm in a dark room with no flashlight.

So where does that leave me? Well, other than not sleeping and crying a lot and removing myself from as much interaction as possible (including with those awesome kids I'm supposed to be loving) and oh, not leaves me with an absolute feeling of utter defeat. I feel that I am accepting defeat. I quit. I cannot do the money and the schedule and the schooling and be a wife and a mother and friend and ME, successfully. Something needs to change in order to stop the insanity. Tonight, I'm living on about 8 hours of sleep in the past 3 days and I know this may be too much for some of you to read on a blog...I know. I also know that fear and worry and hopelessness are not from the Lord...I know. Sometimes, what the brain knows and what the heart understands seem the same, but actually fail to connect. A mismatched marriage of sorts.

Poor reader, I started with a school update and end on a note of defeat and sadness. Sorry! But here I am, in my insomnia, on the last day of the year 2011, pondering this past year and looking ahead to the coming year. What needs to change in order for me to find my fight again? To find the purpose, the hope, the reason to not allow this season of darkness to finally win? To be fair, we have lost a lot in the past 5 years, and depression supports itself on two pillars...anger and loss. I know this, and know that there's a lot of missing pieces that many reading this don't have. My puzzle may not completely fit together for you, and that's okay. It doesn't necessarily need all the details to see the bigger picture.

I will search this out and grasp at the promises I once upheld as undeniable truth, hoping that they will again manifest themselves as comfort and hope in my heart AND my mind. Friend, if you are a praying sort, I will covet your prayers. If you are a thinking sort, an encouraging sort, I covet your words that build up rather than tear down. If you are a cooking and cleaning sort, I covet your desire to come spruce up my home and kitchen...oh, that's asking too much? Okay then. I'll take whatever I can get.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A new adventure awaits us

Goodness, a lot has been happening. I'm the kind of person that appears to make rash decisions suddenly, but truthfully, I am not a spontaneous person. I am a thinker, a researcher, an information collector, who then sits on that info for however long I need to and then, at some point, I put that info into action. It could be hours, days or even years later. Our recent adventure is that kind of decision.

For about a year, I have been toying with the idea of putting one, two or all the kids in school. There's been various reasons over the year for that decision, but most of them always ended up in the column of "Mom is being selfish and is tired and wants an excuse to quit homeschooling." However, this past couple months, the reason has been more valid and so, armed with that justification, I dove headfirst into researching our options and plotting the different scenarios and outcomes. Then I sat on the info and kept it in my just in case space.

Well, just in case showed up about 3 weeks ago, at Ben's counselor appointment. He and I have begun sharing the hour separately, because it was becoming obvious that I can do him more good if I work some things out too. The counselor was very concerned with the load I am carrying in my "wheelbarrow". Her suggestion was to start parceling out that load, and that perhaps starting with the school aspect was a good place. I left the office, convinced that I did indeed need to put all three kids into school somewhere. However, after much more thinking and researching and praying and talking, we decided that perhaps I would start with just ONE child in school. The obvious choice was Soph.

Why obvious, you ask? Why not Ben, the one with Tourette's, who could maybe benefit from special services in school and who is the main instigator of all fights and conflicts here at home? Well, a few reasons. First, Ben refuses to go to school. I know, I'm the parent, don't I decide? But due to his nature and his challenges, I opt to respect his very strong feelings toward this issue. Secondly, he does have serious challenges that would prevent him from doing a lot of learning...the sound of pencils on paper makes him very angry; he can't handle people kicking their legs or moving their feet; weird breathing bothers him; if the chairs make noise it can give him a headache. I know these sound like excuses to get out of school, but if you'd been his parent for 10 years, you would understand that they are not, and that these challenges make life very difficult. Thirdly, Sophia was ITCHING to try school. She's the only one who really never got a chance at even our local parent partner program, Home Choice Academy, because she had the long hospital stay when she was enrolled there and we quit shortly after.

So, those reasons led me to choose to let Sophia try public school, in the 3rd grade. I will concentrate on getting Ben caught up in math and writing, as well as helping him with his ability to handle the challenges he faces with Tourette's, in hopes that maybe next year he can do some sort of online school or maybe a local magnet school. We will see how it all plays out. All I know is that Tourette's is changing our family in ways we never expected and I'm very excited to see the growth that Sophia goes through (as well as the rest of us, without her!)

For today though, I cried just a little as I peeked through the window of her second story classroom, seeing her sit at her table, such excitement surrounding her. Of the three kids, she's the one who is the most outgoing and adaptable, and I have no doubt she will be fine. But we are missing her tons and hoping that the kids and teachers continue to be as kind and gentle as they appeared today! :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Happy happy day of birth to you!

I am officially the mother of a teenager!

This is where I'm going to enter in a cute baby picture of her, as soon as I'm on the right computer. :)

Thirteen years ago today (well, almost exactly 13 years...we still have 1 hour to be official), Madeleine was born! I can't believe how quickly 13 years has gone. I know that's so totally cliche, but it's true.

The first child is that one that "makes" you a mother. I think it's the subsequent ones that tend to refine your motherhood. Maybe it's just because Madeleine has been such an easy child to parent (except the first colicky 3 months, we won't mention those). She doesn't struggle (so far) with the stereotypical teenage girl drama or emotions, and that makes it kind of hard to believe we actually have a teenager!

So, in honor of my baby girl, I am going to compose an acrostic poem for her (in which I promise NOTHING about the worth of), on the fly. This is how our relationship and humor with each other tend to go. I act stupid and she laughs. She acts silly and I laugh. I think up ways to embarrass her and she shakes her head, muttering, "Oh Mother, what shall I do with you?"

So, here goes!

Much loved and hoped for you were,
And lots of joy you've brought us.
Deliciously tiny and so very sweet, with
Exceptionally talented and useful feet. (hey, that line rhymed!)
Love your family and your friends,
Especially your main homey, Jesus.
In life, your talent will take you far, but
Not as far as your heart, mind and wit. Madeleine
Elizabeth Pamela, we love you very much!

Oh, that's terrible. So, so bad, but on the fly, this late at night, after the weekend we've had and with the week we have to look forward to, that's all I've got, baby girl! Someday I'll write you a book or something that is super good (and don't forget alllll those songs I've made up for you all these years, especially the ones about Jesus and the fire circle while camping and being friends!)

Happy, happy day of birth to my "little" girl!!!! (No pun intended or directed toward the short kid in the family!) :)

Friday, October 28, 2011

I promise, we do more than just go to doctor's appointments...

I'd like to update everyone on regular life, because I promise, we do a lot more around here than just go to doctor's appointments. HOWEVER, it just so happens that we have been to see a doctor 3 times in the last week and the information from these appointments demand some attention.

First, Ben had an EKG and it was fine. However, we were encouraged to contact his psychiatrist, regarding his headaches. We think they are related to his medication. So, we did and the dose was increased. It does seem to have helped the headaches a bit, but he sure does hate the medicine. We are looking into natural remedies and nutritional changes in order to control the Tourette's, but until then, we are trying out the medicine.

One really good development we've had in the "Life with Tourette's" journey is that we met today with Ben's new talk therapist. His last talk therapist wasn't such a good connection for Ben, and while we like his psychiatrist, we WERE happy that he suggested we use someone else for talk therapy. So, even though the new counselor is a woman (and Ben had requested a man), she still has a dog, which was important to Ben, and she seemed so gentle and kind on the phone. Well, we met her today and we LOVE her. It's the first time I've seen Ben respond to a doctor or therapist the way he did; he's been so happy and animated since, especially when we talk about the appointment and her dog; and I feel so hopeful that this woman can help Ben gain some positive skills towards dealing with his challenge and accepting that there are fantastic things about BEN!

So, all day, I've been thinking about a few things...I can't believe sometimes how much I entirely love this kid. It's sometimes so hard to see that in the midst of his tantrums and issues and such. But seeing some peace in him, and watching him truly work toward making positive changes in himself, has been giving us glimpses of the the kid we knew was in there, and the reason for the hope we've held onto in the dark years of training and disciplining a "challenging" child...he is a fantastically intelligent child who has a tremendous amount of humor, love, gentleness, and spunk in him. He's observant, honest, tries to always choose to do the right thing, and loves being included and having friends. He doesn't understand how other boys can call him stupid or irritating, because when he feels that way toward a friend, he tries to stay patient with that friend and then unloads on me later. As Ben works through his challenges and grows, I am seeing a kid who has the world at his fingertips, who has such greatness in him ready to burst forward, and the best thing is, I get to go along for the ride (at least part of it)! When my 10-3/4 yr old son holds my hand (yes, in public and without shame, ladies! Be jealous!), I am reminded of how lucky I am to have this super duper challenging child, because often, the things that are the hardest are the things that give the best reward.

So, in a sense, Tourette's has given me a gift and I'm so excited as we open the package and see what blessings we've yet to find!

Finally, for a quick update on our other appointments...I had another Vitamin D blood test and my levels are normal now. I'm sure I'll keep taking it for another month, at least, and then taper off to a more normal dosage on a regular basis. Teddy had a retest of his Creatine Kinase levels, as they are double what they should be. They are still highly elevated, yet the cardiac tests we've run so far have been normal. So we are baffled at where this muscle injury/fatigue indicator is coming from. He has a great doctor as well, so we are confident he will find the cause. But I sure would love to hear some experiences anyone has had with this elevated enzyme, if any of you have had experience with it. Just for brainstorming's sake!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I knew there was a reason I became a CNA...

Gasp! Another entry in less than a month? I know, crazy! But I thought I owed an update on Ben to all of you dear friends who commented and emailed such encouraging words.

So, the short story is this...he's GREAT! The medicine seems to be having a good affect. He's not too tired, although does feel a little different. He has not had any huge fits or bouts of anger, and is a lot more polite, but all this is from 2 things. One, his tics are lessening a little and not as frustrating (although I do agree with the doctor that the dose will need to be increased to truly affect the tics); and two, he has hope. He no longer feels like he's a 'broken' kid who just can't obey...he understands, truly, that he's a 'broken' kid (like the rest of us 'broken' people) who has a unique challenge in life (like a lot of us) and sometimes, that unique challenge makes obeying harder (or controlling his anger, or not freaking out over noises--which he hasn't done as much this week!) The diagnosis of Tourette's has kind of made everyone around here ease up on each other, and also made us so thankful that it's JUST Tourette's. Not a whole bunch has changed, yet everything has changed. Weird, I know.

Now, for an update on some other medical issues I've broached over the last 2 years. Many of you have asked, and I forget all the time to update as things get resolved or as we learn new info.

First, Sophia. She has been seeing a doctor off and on for some embarrassing flatulence issues (embarrassing to us; she actually claims that she LIKES tooting so much and is quite proud of some of them...not sure who her parents are, but I don't know ANYONE like that). This issue, combined with her ever quickly increasing weight (despite what we feed her) have caused us some concern. Nutritionists say we're feeding her just right; lab results have shown no celiac, diabetes, thyroid, or other typical disease; and she eats less calories than Ben and Madeleine. Our next course of action is to explore gluten-free and food allergy testing. But we also know, just by looking at her, that her frame and metabolism take very much after her Aunt Heidi and Mommy, which will lend her to being "sturdier". It is affecting how she feels about herself, so that is what we're working on now, as well as making it fun to eat healthy and exercise more. Her issues with constipation continue to be watched, as that is what we thought led to her appendix rupture, but overall, her big issues have been handled.'s been two years since she had her appendix out! Can't believe it's been that long!

Now, for Madeleine. She continues to be under the care of an awesome endocrinologist. She is making slow progress in the height department, but the endo is pretty confident that there is no Human Growth Hormone deficiency, and that she'll at least reach 5'2, which is good! It would appear that she has no Celiac disease, no diabetes, no thyroid issues...her tummy aches were probably due to stress, and her fainting episodes we think were related to hypoglycemia. So, we just have her eat more frequently, especially when she's going to be in a long rehearsal or something. Overall, she is doing well and we don't have many worries any longer about the "late bloomer" in our family (whom the endo thinks will 'bloom' AFTER little sister times for us, having two girls that are 4 years apart, sharing puberty almost on top of each other. Yay.)

Now for me. I have dealt with weight issues my whole life, as well as depression, skin issues, womanly issues including Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, infertility, miscarriages, extreme some other things. Finally, after years of different tests and psychotherapy and drugs and whatever, I have a doctor say, "Let's check your vitamin D levels, and re-check your thyroid." The thyroid had possibly been done in the past, but I wasn't sure how recently. Well, I didn't come back with high glucose and cholesterol like we thought I would. I actually have a severe vitamin D deficiency and hypothyroidism. So glad to have found the answer to a lot of my issues. I'm feeling a little better and continue to lose weight on Medifast, although the thyroid issues makes it go a bit slower than I'd like.

Finally, Teddy. We thought he was just fine, until today. He went in to have his hands checked out for possible carpal tunnel. Turns out he does have moderate carpal tunnel, and they found this out after the painful nerve tests. Oh, and the painful muscle test where they insert a thicker needle into muscles in the hand, arm and bicep, about an inch deep, and kind of dig it around, to test for the electrical current. Yeah. I didn't tell him about that one, because I didn't have that one done when I had a nerve conduction test. So, the doctor also tested some blood levels, to rule out some things related to fatigue. We are going to take care of some sleep issues, and follow the protocol for the carpal tunnel to try to avoid surgery...but in the meantime, Teddy needs to think on some vocational choices, since the carpal tunnel will only get worse with his line of work, and surgery will help but not prevent it from coming back if the same repetitious movement is done. Also, if taking care of the fatigue doesn't help, and the carpal tunnel doesn't improve, then we're looking at testing for other things, things that I don't want to speak aloud because they are scary.

So, that's it in a nutshell. I tell it all in one place, at one agonizingly long time, because lots of you have caught snippets here and there of one child or the next, but I've failed to update completely. Contrary to appearances, we really are a healthy family. We just get odd medical issues, seemingly all at the same time!

Prayers would be welcome, as we continue to navigate Benjamin's issues, but also as the family's other medical things come into play. Madeleine is weary from being 13 next month, but all her 13 year old friends tower over her and sometimes, kids her own age treat her like a baby. Heck, kids who are a few years younger than her treat her like she's 8! Soph is weary from being overweight with no change despite our attempts. Teddy is weary from the pain in his hands and worrying about the affect on his job. And I'm the Mom. I'm just weary, period. LOL! Seriously, if we come to mind, prayers would be appreciated.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Life Altering Days

So I haven't posted since June. Yikes! Although...not like a lot of people noticed! :) So much has happened...a lazy summer; a new homeschool year begun; new dance teams; new sports teams; new, so much. But really, nothing really life altering. All things that could be caught up quickly, over a cup of coffee. Until today.

Because of today, our family's life was altered.

Some background info...Ben has been struggling this past year with severe negative emotions. He has been sassy and obstinate; he has called us names; he has threatened to call 911; he has asked for a new family; he has refused to eat, to sleep, threatened to run away; he has said he hates his sisters; he has said he hates us; he has said (more often than anything else) that he hates himself; and three times, he has expressed the desire to die or to kill himself. He's 10, by the way.

There's so much in this that's relevant. First, he's my mini-me...dramatic, emotional, deep thinker, argumentative, self-focused, a bit manic. Second, he's been parented in the past in a very reactive manner, with our emotions often winning over common sense, so he reacts differently to things than the girls do. Third, he's a boy who is encroaching on puberty. And finally, he has been in trouble more of his life than not. I own what parts of his current problem are based on poor parenting choices I have made. I have taken steps to rectify those and back in June, Ben started counseling again with Teddy and I attending as well (same counselor Ben had when he was 5 and 6).

After about 5 sessions, we didn't see much improvement or have ANY feedback from the counselor. Also, over the past 7 years, I have been conversing with Ben's pediatrician about his tics and school challenges, only to be told it's all normal. Two years ago, I discovered Sensory Integration Syndrome and Tourettes, and went armed with evidence that I think my son has both those as well as possible dyslexia...only to be poo-poo'd by both the pediatrician and the counselor. So, I chose to address the sensory issues at home, but left the dyslexia and Tourettes alone for now. Well, after realizing these counseling sessions were a waste of time, and after a particularly hard night (Ben woke me up at 2am, yelling that he didn't want to go to summer camp and he wanted to die, and it took 4 hours to calm him down), I decided to seek out psychiatry. At this point, a friend in the medical field suggested that Ben was showing symptoms of bipolar disease, which happens to run in both sides of my family to some degree. So, in August, we were given the soonest appointment with my second choice psychiatrist...October 4th.

Today, I considered skipping the appointment. He's been doing better, and I've been more consistent in our school routine which has helped with a few of the issues. He hasn't muttered anything about death or hate since August, but bedtime every night is a nightmare. He still can't sleep well; food is still a battle; he still bullies Sophia over the little noises she makes and the odd things she does that irritate him; and he still is lacking in self-confidence. So, we went.

He was scared and nervous. After I shared the gist of the last 10 years and Ben shared where he struggles the most, the doctor began to talk about medication. I was a bit ticked off, thinking, "I knew it, you're one of those doctors...running a pill palace, practically giving away prescriptions and rolling in the bucks." He said the pills would be for Ben's tics, that he could make them almost completely go away and it might help Ben have the mental capacity to cope with life better, since most kids with Tourette's struggle with tics, focus, short fuses, "crisp" personalities, sensory issues...wait. WHAT?

"Who has Tourette's?" I ask. "Ben?"

"Yes, hasn't he been diagnosed? He's a clear cut case. Vocal and motor tics, lasting over 6 months, that are migratory."

"But I asked his pediatrician, for 2 years now, and was told no way, that it's just a normal part of boys and growing up and he'll grow out of it" My Momma bear was getting riled up and it was either going to be directed at this psychiatrist or at our (now former) pediatrician.

"It's Tourettes, without a doubt." He went on to explain how all of Ben's challenges fall under this umbrella; how he will most likely grow out of it but the medication will help take the edge off for him so that he can sleep better, and slow down his "short fuse" so he can think through his actions better, help him obey us more and be nicer to his sisters just because it helps slow down his adrenaline reaction, and that we would combine that with talk therapy with a female counselor in the office (who also has a dog, which really helps Ben relax).

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not a fan of medicating kids, and I don't plan to share publicly what he's on because, for whatever reason, people like to judge me and I figure I'm already giving enough fodder to cast a few stones. But, to hear that my son actually has a reason why he's been so prickly his whole life, and to see him get some relief from these emotions and movements, about which he has said "I just can't control myself and I hate it"...for this, I am willing to try the medication and see if it helps him just a little. He needs some hope, and this family was quickly running out of it. Madeleine and Sophie cry themselves to sleep most nights, because bedtime is when the fighting is the worst. School was becoming impossible because it was always a fight. Car rides were a nightmare, because he would yell and complain the whole time. And quite frankly, my son was getting awfully hard to be around, and I hadn't used the word "fun" in reference to any activity he's part of, in a very long time.

I don't share a lot of this with many people, and between this and some health issues I've been having (blog post for later on), the past year especially has been a challenge in ways that are hard for some to understand. I've asked for advice on how to deal with Ben's behavior and had well meaning friends tell me things like, "You feed him junk, change that and he'll act better" (because my organic apples and whole wheat bread and no candy and almost no fast food was all junk, right?) or "It's because you let him play video games and read Harry Potter" (not sure if 20 min a day, if that, of video games has that much power...and he's finally reading, praise the Lord, so I won't go there) or "It's all spiritual, you need more church and more prayer" (more prayer is always a good thing, not so sure on the more church yet)...anyway, you see my challenge. We have read every parenting book, tried every tactic, been accused of bad things and judged for good things, tried nutritional approaches, prayed, begged, researched...only to still have crying kids at night and terrible feelings of despondency all around. I have felt very alone and have quit sharing my struggles with most of the people I'm surrounded by, because of this. I have felt like no one understands what it's like to have a child who's just off a bit...not enough to necessarily require special help, but just enough to make life hard...that's Ben. Always been a little out of sync, a little disconnected, a little lost. My heart has always been broken for him; broken by him; and done some of the breaking as well...perhaps today, this will start to change.

To have a diagnosis means I can begin to help my son heal, be empowered, to cope. There's a lot to learn, a lot to process. We've already had a few deep talks, focusing on the fact that this is something you have not who you are, and that in lots of ways, it makes him very unique and special. He asked if he can tell people because he gets made fun of a lot for his tics, and he surprisingly gave me permission to tell whomever I wanted as long as it wasn't his friends because that's his job to share. :) His sisters sang him a song (I think something from Seussical) and cried a little.

Anyway, I share this with you few who read this, because I would ask for prayer (if you are inclined) or advice (if it is non-judgmental) or positive support in any way, as we explore this new area. It's scary, giving my son a pill that could change him, however temporarily. It's also scary to "own" this disease. But within this fear, I'm finding relief, and hope, and power. I'd love to have you walk this journey with us and share in the blessings I'm sure will reveal themselves to us.

And perhaps, this writer's block will take a vacation soon.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I have so much to say, so very much. I just don't feel like blogging lately. Sigh. I'll get back to it at some point. Working on something big, internally.

We are purposefully having a slow summer, so I'm having lots of time to think and reflect and write (my favorite thing to do). I just don't feel like blogging it all right now. Not sure why!

Here's a great song though, that's going along nicely with the book I can't put down...One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I know it's been months

It's been months since I've updated. Guess what? SO much has gone on that I have absolutely no way of catching up or even writing anything of importance.

I will say this.

We've found ourselves in a huge predicament. Surprised? You shouldn't be. Here's why.

I sat up for hours last night, reading old notes going all the way back to 5th or 6th grade. Come to find out, I have lived a life of drama! Drama tends to find me, no matter if I seek it out (like the growing up years) or if it seeks me out (as in my adult years).

At any rate, we have some drama. Thankfully, NOT relationship drama. But financial drama, which is worse, in a different way.

So, if you think of me (if you're one of the maybe 2 people who actually read my blog) please pray for us. We are facing the 2nd worse financial crisis we've ever been in and staying faithful is hard.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


I have been thinking about pursuit lately. Pursing. Being pursued. Waiting on pursuit. Something sparked this in me, but it is an idea that's been on my mind for awhile now, like the last year or so.

Here's the story, the history behind this idea of pursuit. When I was a little girl, growing up without a father created in me a feeling of rejection that rooted itself very deeply in my soul. I had very little understanding of why he was absent, or why I wasn't enough to make him want to change the way he was so he could be with me. I also dealt with a lot of rejection from my mom, albeit un-purposefully. Being a single mom isn't easy. Even when she thought she found her life partner, it would have been easier if he wanted me in their life. He didn't...which led me to more feelings of rejection.

Being fat growing up didn't help either. I got rejected over that a lot. By the time I lost weight, around age 12, boys started to notice me more, yet I was still rejected more often than not, usually for my best friend at the moment. And let's be honest...a fat girl never really is released from that feeling of being the fat girl.

At age 18, I finally found God again, although I'd technically been a believer since I was 5. The church I started attending didn't really foster a healthy environment for a person like me. I often was encouraged in different ways to change, because God could only love me if I tried harder or changed who I was, if I fit a certain mold. It always seemed to be about making myself acceptable and meeting the expectations of other people. Not God.

So the whole idea of pursuit is so foreign to me. I have ALWAYS been the pursuer in most of my relationships. I always wanted a dad; I always wanted more of my mom than she could give me; I always went after the boy; always been the date asker; I have never been recruited for a job or special position; rarely was the invitee but always the inviter (even as an adult, with all of the friends I have, we rarely get invited to dinner at someone house, or out with friends, unless we initiate it.); and most accomplishments I have are because I went after them and didn't give up. Some of you who know me have told me that you see me as very dynamic, very popular, very loved. I think my personality has developed in a way so as to appear included or pursued, but rarely am I the included or pursued person. So, I've been grappling with this in numerous ways lately.

I found myself in a situation a while back, in which someone was actively pursuing me for a friendship, and I didn't turn away from it even though I knew it wasn't a road God intended for me to travel. But that feeling of being wanted was so prevalent, so all consuming, that I didn't say no. What I took away from that friendship, once it cooled down and lost it's excitement of being new, was that I have this gaping hole in my heart that's gasping to be filled with being wanted. Being seen. Being included. This pseudo-only child (I have half and step siblings, yet am essentially an only child) wants so badly to be part of a group, and I basically have never had one. I find myself jealous of people from growing up years who were part of a large group of friends, or jealous of church friends who have known each other their whole lives and spend lots of time together; or even newer friends who invite a few families over for a bbq and fire in the backyard...that has never been us. Ever. I can even think back to weddings I was in, where all the bridesmaids and even wives/girlfriends of groomsmen, got together to work on wedding stuff...but one bridesmaid was left out. College group game nights, planned on the fly, where everyone from the group was invited but us. Book clubs that include all my friends that I talk to on a regular basis, except I'm not invited to the book club. If someone is going to be left out or forgotten, it will be me and Teddy (and sadly, this seems to be now happening to my children more and more). And that point, I start to it a lack of being pursued, or active rejection? And if so, what is wrong with me that I have been rejected my whole life? And is there a difference between not pursuing and rejecting? And maybe the message I've been given most of my life is order to be loved, I have to change.

So, am I writing this because of sour grapes or wanting someone to feel sorry for me? Yes.

Just kidding. No, I'm writing this because I'm a verbal processor, and I'm more transparent than I know what to do with, and I am thinking hard on this idea of pursuit. I know God pursues me, the Bible tells me so. But it's hard to understand that or accept than, in light of my typical situation. So, I'm just wondering what God is trying to teach me about being pursued, and wanting to be able to recognize it in my everyday life. I am also pondering the whole idea of waiting, instead of being a pursuer. I've been actively practicing waiting on the Lord for a few years now, and it has been a good practice, but I'm trying to reconcile that with the desperate need for pursuit. I'm also thinking on the fact that all of us have this desire to be pursued, so what is it in me that makes me either need it more, or makes me more reject-able?

This is what I ponder, as I wait for sleep to find me.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Happy Birthday to Teddy, part 2

I know it's been awhile since I posted, and I've been so busy that the only reason I'm doing it now is because I already wrote part 1, so I HAD to write part 2 of Teddy's birthday weekend really has nothing to do with Teddy at all!!!

First of all, Friday night, we were watching a movie and eating a pizza around 10pm, when suddenly our front door of the hotel room opens and in walks an innocent intruder. Apparently, our hotel had "forgotten" that room 4433 was already booked, and they assigned our room to someone else! Truth be told, I'd rather be the intruded upon party than the intruder, how embarrassing (and it's a good thing we weren't doing anything embarrassing on the couch when they walked in!) Needless to say, that night I didn't sleep well, wondering what other kinds of mistakes this hotel could make.

The next morning, after making a great big breakfast for Teddy, I jumped in the shower. I briefly thought I should turn my phone up, but I was on vacation right?

Well, I'm finishing up in the shower and Teddy comes in. The front desk had called (which wasn't new, they'd been calling all morning for the OTHER couple they booked into our room...apparently they didn't understand that the Williams family was NOT in room 4433 no matter how often we told them). Anyway, the front desk called with a phone call from my mom, who was watching our kids. She was at the hospital with Madeleine, who had passed out at CYT rehearsal and hit her head on the piano!!! What the heck?

Over the next few hours, and many, many phone calls to lots of different people, we were filled in with all the details. Apparently, she felt like she was going to faint while standing around the piano, passed out, then thumped her head on the piano and landed on the floor. She needed 10 stitches, 2 on the inside of the cut and 8 on the outside. Because of the generosity and compassion of many people, Teddy and I didn't feel the need to cut our trip short. We wanted to be there, but also so badly needed this time together. If Madeleine were in different hands or not handling it well, we would have gone home immediately. But she was actually doing very well.

So, now that it's about 2 weeks later and she's healing up well, we are still in the process of finding out why she fainted. Over this past summer, she had a whole bunch of tests run to find out why she feels faint, but the ER doctor was concerned that it's now progressed to actual fainting. She's only felt lightheaded once since then, and it was during dance class so it made a little more sense than just standing around a piano (not even singing or locking her legs!)

I also need to thank my Mom for taking such good care of her while we were gone; to Mary Head for staying with her at rehearsal AND the entire hospital stay AND at home for quite a few hours; to Kiana Ryan for coming over to hang with her even though you had a busy family night; to Annette Martin for taking care of Ben and Sophia while Madeleine was in the hospital; to Jamie Julian, Cherry Wilson, Courtney Rice, and Kristi Foster for great care while passed out and laying on the floor at rehearsal; Doug Webster, Justin Parks, and Lynette Carver for good leadership at rehearsal; to the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang cast for all the prayer and concern for Madeleine (it made a difference!); and to God for loving my baby girl more than I'll ever understand and for making a very stressful situation seem not so bad.

Now, we just need to get rid of the scar!!

Happy Birthday to Teddy, part 1

My wonderfully loyal and hardworking husband turned 37 this past Thursday. Isn't it funny how once we pass age 25 or 30, birthdays just don't matter anymore? But we did what we could to make it special. The kids had CYT classes and couldn't miss them, so Teddy's parents took the two of us out to dinner. We went to Red Lobster and Teddy had a great meal. After CYT, he and I took the kids to YoLicious to get frozen yogurt, and he got to choose as much as he wanted with as many toppings as possible! We also got him a few clothing items for the big day.

The big present, though, was a wonderful weekend away for the two of us, courtesy of my Mom. She let us use her timeshare, and also watched the kids. Teddy's mom and dad gave us some dough, and that coupled with the money from my mom for his birthday, enabled us to have a fun weekend just hanging out.

We visited Hug Point, just past Cannon Beach, and we walked on the beach at Manzanita. We ate out a little, we cooked a little, we walked around Seaside a little. We really didn't do anything at all, and didn't think anything about what we should be doing. It was very fun!

Love you dear hubs!!! So very much!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A belated happy birthday

I can't believe that my favorite (only) son Benjamin turned 10 this month and I completely put off writing him a special blog post!!! Goodness, it's like I've been focused on ME and all MY problems lately! Sigh...

So, to my little boy who's not so little anymore...our journey this past decade has not been an easy one. As I reminisce over it, the thought occurs to me that those of us who have rough journeys often see bigger blessings at the end. But let's not start there.

Let's start at the beginning, when you were one of the biggest babies ever born at that time in the SWMC FBC. Ten pounds, eleven ounces and 21-1/2 inches. WOWZA!! Good thing I didn't push you out!!! You were such a content, mild mannered baby, although you often had a worried look on your face (a pre-cursor to your later years, where you lay in bed for HOURS, just thinking). When you turned one, the dynamics of your personality (mixed with the fact that you are a boy, after all) began to show through. Thus begun our up and down journey!!! Good thing Mommy was entirely in love with you, which has made it entirely impossible for me to ever give up on you even in your times of trouble!! AND lucky for Mommy, you are entirely in love with me and don't give up on ME when I make huge mistakes and fail at providing a good example for you.

Just like your best friend Mimi is emotionally very similar to Daddy, you are emotionally very much like Mommy. They are stuffers, we are exploders (or "sharers", if we're trying to describe ourselves more gently). They breath deep, we slam yell and talk back. They take a walk, we slam a door. They get mad then calm down, we cry and cry for hours. The positive in that is that they love loyally and we love's a good pairing! :) And then your other BFF Soph? We haven't figured her out yet, but the two of you sure do laugh a lot together.

Some people might wonder why I would speak of things that seem so dark, when I'm celebrating your 10th birthday? But remember that promise I made you years ago (probably not, so I'll remind you)...I will never lie to you or sugar coat life for you. I will always present the truth to you as gently and honestly as I can, while protecting you as long as I can and as best I can from growing up too fast. So, the truth of our relationship is it has been loving yet unlikeable; loyal yet hurtful; fun yet imperfect; joyful yet scary....but I would not ever trade any of it for a different son than I have in you. You have my heart, little man, and you always will.

Your soft heart for the sad things in this world inspires me to be a better person; your belly laugh and quick wit encourages me to always look on the bright side of life; your forgiving heart and deep thinking mind challenges me to always look for truth in the world; and your love and understanding of Jesus keeps me holding on in those darkest hours of doubt and pain. You will never know how much you've changed my life and my heart. I'm so glad I am your Mom!!!

Happy 10th birthday Bugaboo!!!

And just for you, dear Ben....our song! :) I love that you tear up when you hear this song.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The heart of winter

The other day I was commenting to my son that we never really had a summer. I mean, it got hot like maybe 5 days and the rest of the season was so mild. Enter into autumn and we never really had an autumn. Nothing about these two seasons was extreme at all. Here we are at winter, and people are wearing shorts and flip-flops some days. I know, not too weird here in the NW, but still...we were supposed to have the worst winter ever this year and so far it's not been extreme in any way. Well, on the drive home, I got to thinking about people who crave sunshine or warm weather, especially when it's so cold and dreary out. Right in that moment, I didn't crave it. I don't hate the NW rain and lack of sunshine, I've never been too bothered by it. Although as I've aged, it's gotten harder. But on this particular day, I really, really didn't want the sun. I so deeply craved a full on, extreme winter and was feeling ripped offthat we may have gotten through it with no big storms or cold fronts. This led to me thinking that maybe all these "mild" seasons are only considered mild because of comparison and expectation, based on the season before, and that it kind of goes along with the idea that without the sour then the sweet just ain't as sweet!! That led me to start thinking about the winters of our lives. Without the winters in our lives, the summers, springs and falls aren't so sweet. We enter into the easy times of our lives with expectation or comparison to other times, and when they don't measure up or when they measure up poorly, then everything loses it vibrancy.

I then thought that the past few years, when I've been spiritually dry and really searching on my journey, that this is my winter. I've been in the heart of winter. My deep longings are to open up and bloom, to let beauty fall forth, to show growth and abundance...just like the blooms of spring and summer. that same time, I'm holding on tightly to this season. I don't want to let go, and I am 99% sure it's for a sinful reason. That I want to hold onto this "poor me" time and not move on, despite the yearnings of my soul. Just like, as much as I'm anticipating spring so I can clean up our yard and spring clean and wear less layers...I am holding tightly to winter, trying to let it have its full say and run its course, so upon arrival of spring, I can fully say farewell to winter without holding onto it at all.

These are the things that I think about while driving. Deep thoughts, they pray you don't share the same road as I, in case I find myself too distracted!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Just two songs

Not a whole lot to share today. Just plugging through life, realizing that we've really been caught up in the trap of being too busy to really live life. But listen to these two songs that have really touched me today.

Pretty much sums up my journey right now!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My heart HAS been breaking

So last month, I earnestly prayed that my heart would begin to break. That I would become soft again to the heart of God, that I would see my children and others in a different light and learn to love again. Fully love. Well, God has been at work. Many, many of these stories are for another time, as they are still developing and transforming me. But I'd like to share a story from today, one that, as I continue to process my day and the events that happened, I'm finding it hard to not cry and just sit, mulling it over. Instead, I will write. It's what I do.

I'm not sure how much of someone else's story I should share, but I've realized that my level of deep, sometimes severe, transparency comes from my dad's side of the family. My half-siblings and I don't seem to hide much. So I will share, and if I offend, I'm sure they will tell me. :)

I have 4 half-siblings. Travis is 38 and his parents are Jan and Gary. I am 36 and my parents are Faye and Gary. Earlydawn is 35, Brandy is 33, and Willie is 31 and their parents are Renee and Gary. We also recently found out that we may have a new sister, Howi, who falls somewhere in between Earlydawn and Brandy. I met Early, Brandy and Willie when I was in 3rd grade. We went to school together. They knew I was their sister, but I had no clue who they were. I actually lived 2 blocks from my dad, and had interactions with the "crazy Indian guy down the street" a few times prior to meeting him...but never knew he was my dad. He knew me though.

When I was 8, I was introduced to my dad and siblings. The emotions that have accompanied that over the years are, once again, not a post for today. But I loved those siblings from day one, although I didn't always know what to do with them or how to "be" a sister. As we grew up, I was very close to Earlydawn since we were the same age and grade and kind of felt like twins (we're 9 months apart), and to Willie since he was the only boy and the baby (I have only met Travis 2 times, so he didn't really count growing up). Brandy and I haven't always been as connected but I have always loved her just the same, and love so much about her. In the past year, we've really started to talk more and I love that.

So, fast forward a bit. Willie is 16, I'm 21. He's moving out of Dad's house. I never really talked a lot to my dad. I was never really comfortable doing it, uneasy about the different lives we lived and his "issues" he had. Oh yeah, I was also a bit self-righteous and persnickety. If he was alive, and I could do things differently, I would love him where he's at in his life journey, and accept his love even though it didn't come packaged exactly as I thought it should. Again, post for later times. Anyway, Willie is planning to go live with our Aunt and Uncle, but spends a week with me. It was one of the best weeks I remember ever having. I had a little brother to drag around with me. We laughed, he played softball with my boyfriend and our church team, we ate out and saw movies, he got to have family dinners at my house (which was dysfunctional in it's own way, but not a lot of people ever saw that. I know, save it for another post). At the end of that week, I was able to use one whole paycheck to buy him school clothes before I took him down to Salem. After that week, we didn't really see much of each other. He came back a few months later for my wedding, then years would go by. We'd run into each other here and there, but really...nothing. I heard about him, but I wasn't really talking to any of the siblings.

Then my dad got very ill, and after about 2 weeks, he died. I saw the siblings, but they were all in a very different place in life than I was. I had a baby and was a good, law abiding, prissy, church lady type girl. (I say this very sarcastically--I was uptight and rigid in my beliefs and lifestyle). Way different lives. Their journey through dad's death was not the same as mine. I'm grateful for my support system, but devastated that they understood and experienced Dad's love in a way I never will. I'm elated that I do not have the challenges and baggage they've accumulated since his death, but my heart breaks over those challenges and baggage. Enter my heartbreak (you knew I'd get around to the point of this at some point this year, right?)

Today, my younger brother Willie, who has always, always had a different kind of hold on my heart (all of us girls' hearts, I think) was released from prison after 2 years. He's not the only convict in our group, so don't think too badly of him. :) Just so it's clear, he was imprisoned for theft. He had a very serious drug problem (he's not the only Hopkins to struggle with addiction)...his problem led to choices that weren't so smart. What's still undecided is if his drug problem preceded his mental problems, or if the drugs CAUSED the mental problems. But he has some severe mental problems as well. So today, us 3 sisters drove to Olympia, all of us contributing in different ways to clothes, underclothes, suitcase, hygiene items, junk food, and the best mp3 player. Could you imagine 2 years without music?

Anyway, us sisters set him up as best we could, with our limited resources. Did you know that most prisoners get released with NOTHING? Just a small box of they're personal stuff and some prison issued clothes (which at the end of the night, he gave his prison issued coat to Brandy since we got him a new one, and he left his prison shoes there...guess who walked away with those shoes? That's right, I'm not about to let only Brandy have some cool prison garb!!) We fed him a bit, spent some time with him, and laughed with him...then got him on the bus on his way to live with our other brother, the kind of absent one, in another state.

It was so great to see Willie again, to help him, to love on him. But I'm so scared for him too. I saw the mental illness, although I DID see "my" Willy in there still too. I also saw the pain in his eyes, the determination to succeed this time, the tiredness, the desire for hope, the need for survival but maybe a lack of faith that he could...I wanted so badly to transfer my faith to him. The faith that he could do this, that life will not always be hard, that things CAN be better. But how do you tell that to someone who has never, ever, ever had an easy life?

He has never lived a life that he wasn't expected to be, at some level, self-sufficient. Both his parents are dead, they were both addicts of some kind, one was a convict as well...does anyone ever really stop and think that our comfortable lives, our nice clothes and cars, our kids' music lessons and CYT classes and sports teams, our warm churches and food on the table and reliable job...that there are hurting people out there who DO NOT know what that is? I'm so struck by the canyon between his life and mine, that we could be from the same gene pool (well, 50% shared) yet have such different lives.

My heart is just breaking for him, because I love him and I want to make his life better. But I can't. It has to come from his resolve and his decisions. It's also breaking because of the stupid mental illness. There are parts of Willie that will never, ever come back because of it. I miss those parts. I don't want to see what's left of him disappear into the illness. I don't know what his future holds and I find myself so scared. But I'm also so grateful to have seen him, and don't want 11 years to go by before I see him again. And I need to look around at my comfortable life and see why I find so much to whine about?

William Earl Hopkins, I love you. Earlydawn and Brandy love you. Madeleine loved meeting you and seeing us all together. You CAN do this. You have so much inside you that is fantastic, and you CAN survive this road you've been placed on and persevere over the darkness.

Anyway, that's how God is breaking my heart today, on this journey to better loving. I also really saw today how I used humor to deal with life. My motto is if you can't laugh at the lemons life hands you, then why bother living? There's really so much that happened that was hilarious that wouldn't have happened if my brother wasn't a convict with mental I'll take it. I'll be grateful that there was a reason to laugh, and that he's alive for me to love. I'll just take it.