Wednesday, June 27, 2012

We NEED Change!!

The beautiful girl you see above is our oldest daughter Sarah.  She is smart, beautiful, and preparing for college, she has her first serious boyfriend and we miss her.  But if things had gone as her mother planned, none of you would know this side to Sarah.   Odds are, she would have been a negative teen, possibly pregnant or sexually active, she may have even dropped out of school because what was the point if she wasn't leaving Davenport, IA, ever.  Her relationship with Chris probably would be lots of swearing at Chris on the phone and being angry.  I would have been the evil wicked stepmom who stole her dad from her mom (I didn't by the way, they had been divorced for over a year before I met Chris) and she would most likely not be in church or even know about God.

How do I know this?  Because the first four years of my marriage to Chris (we are going on 12 years in January), we spent praying, weeping and begging God to PLEASE BRING SARAH INTO OUR HOME!!!!  We got four to six weeks in the Summer (her mom tried to shorten it whenever possible) and then she would disappear.  Unanswered and unreturned phone calls, calls to the police to do a well check.  What was going on? 

Kate was married to an abusive mentally ill man.  For four years (I didn't get to see her at all the year Chris was deployed), I would pray and ask God to please help me not put this beautiful girl in a car with her mom.  We didn't know what was going on, but it was the little things that weren't said, little actions, reactions that tipped me off that all was not okay in Sarah's home.  Finally in 2005, I prayed and begged God, "Lord, I do not have it in me to put Sarah in a car knowing she is returning to a bad environment.  Lord, you know better than we do what is going on in her home.  Please don't make me put her in the car with her mom again."  Chris and I even formulated a plan so that Lizzie and I would go spend the day in Oklahoma visiting friends and family because he knew I couldn't watch her leave again.  I couldn't dance the vindictive dance with her mom, where she worked to claim Sarah as MINE! 

For four years, we heard how Kate threatened Chris' family that if they didn't do what she said, they would never see Sarah again.  We worried, she wasn't eating, being fed, and we didn't dare send extra money because if we did, then it meant that it went to beer and cigarettes, instead of milk, bread and eggs. 

As the time began to draw closer to Sarah's 2005 visit I realized Cessna was hiring and encouraged Chris to help Kate get a job there.  This accomplished two things.  First, it helped Kate get a better paying job with potential to move up.  Second, it meant Sarah was in Kansas and I knew from a lawyer visit we had had a few years before that once Sarah moved into the state that we had to keep her with us for six months to ask for a change of venue and change of custody.  Mainly, the plan to was to get Sarah closer so we could keep a closer eye on Kate and make sure Sarah was safe.    It worked, Kate moved to Kansas in September and she allowed Sarah to live with us because she could only afford a two bedroom apartment and Sarah was too old to share a room with her brother, which in Kansas is illegal. 

Something that wasn't a part of the plan for us, Kate's now ex husband kidnapping Summer, forcing Kate to move back to Iowa.  Our plan was to share joint custody with us having primary physical custody.  Carl Fetty Jr.  pulled a fast one and that went out the window.    March 2006 saw us sitting in a lawyer's office, using our tax return to file a change of venue.  We got it, but Iowa tried their best to hold onto Sarah, but they didn't have any legal standing.  We finally got the change of custody, but due to some unhappy events while we had temporary custody, we changed our minds and decided to go after sole custody.  We also stripped Kate of medical power, unless it was for emergency medical care, and we had it written in to the papers that when Chris would deploy that Sarah stayed with me.  This helped both girls because it was tough enough having Dad gone, but then for Sarah to have to leave too - it would have been too much for Elizabeth and for Sarah.   

The day the custody papers came making Sarah legally and finally in our home, well I think I am going to frame those papers.  Until then I had never ever seen such a beautiful piece of paper.  How did we get to the point we did?  How did we get stuck spending four years worrying and praying?
The courts.  In our country judges assume every mother is a fit mother, unless you can prove otherwise.  Many states are known as Mother States.  Iowa is one of them. 

There are thousands of children stuck in custody battles who are losing.  Divorce is tough period on children, but when they end up with parents who love them, but only as a pawn to hurt others with or who only want them for the money, it harms the child.  Sarah is still struggling. 

On a happy note.  Because of the change of custody Sarah and her mom have a better relationship.  It took a few years of us forcing her to talk to her mom, but once they broke through some of the barriers they are now on the road to mending their relationship.  Kate even attends church now and sadly, Sarah's siblings have both been diagnosed with some form of disability.   It may have started off with me being afraid for Sarah, but now that she is heading off to college, I am thrilled to see the amazing young woman she has become. 

We as a country need to begin to demand that our children stop paying the price for overloaded court systems.  Courts need to begin to look at both parents as viable options.  While not every father should have custody of his children, neither should every single woman who gives life to a child.   Not all women are good mothers.  We see evidence of this weekly, sometimes daily in the news.  It's time for a change, we need to speak up.  Court shouldn't cost parents tens of thousands of dollars to fight for custody.  If we had fought in Iowa, it would have cost us $30,000 easy and that is just to start with, the more drawn out it would have been, the more expensive it would have been.  This isn't right, of course, it isn't right marrying someone and decided, "Oops I made a mistake" either, but I can't change that. 

Justice 4 Jason Kendall on Facebook is a story that provides an excellent example of custody in need of being changes.  When a woman can cheat on a man repeatedly, lie about him, destroy his Army career and still hide his son?  Something has gone seriously wrong in this world. 

I ask that you join me in prayer for Jason and his son and pray that God speaks to his ex-wife's heart.  I also ask that you pray for God to open the doors so that Jason can gain visitiation and eventually custody of his son. 

In Christ,
Maureen

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Envying Your Children?

I was reading a blog recently about a woman who had lost her father as a girl.  She wrote about her missing him and how it affected her now as a mother.  The thing is this woman said she envied her children their father?  Hmm. . . should we envy our children.

I would LOVE to have Sarah, Lizzie and Beka's thick beautiful eye lashes, it's true or the dimple each girl has on one cheek when she smiles, but envy them their relationship with their dad?  No.  My dad passed away unexpectedly when I was five years old.  And it shaped my life, definitely.  It shaped how I looked at men, how I interact with other people (he was more a social butterfly than my mom) so I might be doing better and then there is the fact that I would never had had to put up with a mentally ill, abusive stepfather.  But envy my girls that they have their dad and a wonderful relationship?  NO!

Until I married Chris, I skipped Father's Day at church.  Nothing like shoving a dagger deep into your heart than sitting there watching other people moon over their dads.   But something shifted when I met Chris.  I used to think I would be a little melancholy when I got married, that I would be thinking about how I wished Dad were there.  But when I married Chris all I cared about was being with him and being married.  When we were expecting Lizzie I enjoyed shopping for his cards from Lizzie and Sarah and snuck them into his duffel bag at the bottom for him to find out in the field for annual training.   I still enjoy making sure the girls spoil Chris on Father's Day.  But something else helped. 

The year I became pregnant with Beka, Chris was at annual training and I attended church.  In truth, I had forgotten about it being Father's Day.  Sarah and Lizzie were with Mary and Ted in Idaho, so I had lost track of the days.  Maybe I would have ditched, but I didn't and the pastor shared a story about a boy who began attending a church as a small child.  His father never married his mother and had abandoned them both.  For years this boy felt odd, like an outcast and outsider.  Then a new pastor came to church and as luck would have it he preached on Father's Day.  The young man was walking out and the pastor reached to shake his hand and asked where his dad was.  The silence in the church became suddenly awkward, the pastor realizing quickly looked at the young man and smile, "Oh you came to meet the best Father of them all today - your Heavenly Father."  That moment changed that young man's life - he went on to become a very successful man as he got older.  And a man of great faith (the name was not shared in the story).  I had never thought of it that way before, I didn't have to miss my Dad, because I had the best Dad of them all - God!  It helped and I don't feel like ditching on Father's Day anymore either.  It helps that Chris is retired now too - so no more annual training etc. . .

I guess what got me thinking is, why would you envy your own child?  Isn't the point of being a parent that you want your children to have a better experience than you had?  So far my girls are having an excellent example of their Heavenly Father's love and I LOVE that.  I love that my children don't know the pain of a Father's Day watching other children and longing for a Dad who is in Heaven.  I pray that they not know this pain for years. 

Have a good week.
In Christ,
Maureen

Friday, June 22, 2012

Shame (Said Tongue in Cheek)

I had a brilliant plan for Friday night.  We did some school, we worked a while, even walked laps at the mall - followed quickly by playtime at the play area.  My plan was to make hot dogs, mac-n-cheese and introduce my girls to Star Wars.

As a girl I had grown up watching Star Wars and LOVED them.  I was so excited when they came out with movies 1-3.  My hope was that the girls would love the movies as much as I had.  So I mistakenly took a nap, got up later than I planned and cooked dinner.  I had invited Sam, a friend of the girls to come and watch the movie with us.  Maybe that is where I went wrong - she had already seen it.  The girls did fine until the soda, pop corn and goodies were gone. 

Suddenly I found myself watching Star Wars alone.  Not unhappily mind you but I had to have a little fun.  What on Earth is wrong with my girls?!  Chris and I both enjoy good science fiction, and here our daughters couldn't even watch Star Wars?!  NNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOO!!!  Where is Star Trek's Dr. Crusher or Sanctuary's Dr. Magnus when you need them.  I hung my head in mock shame.  I have failed as a science fiction parent?  What's next?  They don't want to attend Comic Con?  The shame, the horror?  Quel Nightmare!!! 

Then I remembered them sitting enraptured as we watched Stargate, some Sanctuary episodes (some of them are too scary for hyperimaginitive girls) and how they enjoy Farscape with Chris and I.  So maybe all hope isn't gone.  After all, they loved watching Thor and Iron Man 2 with me. . . Superman is a favorite in my house.  So maybe hope is not lost, maybe, just maybe there is hope for the girls.

But can someone please call Dr. Magnus and tell her we may need her assistance soon?  She may need to run a brain scan for a tumor or something.


Have a good weekend.
In Christ,
Maureen

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Independence

As a parent one of the toughest things we have to learn is to let our children go.  I think in many ways it never gets easier.  I am 38 and still have to remind my mom that I am in fact, an adult and raising three girls just fine.   This is probably even more difficult when your child has a special need.

I've seen many families who insist their children mind, use their manners, and do not let them get away with much.  I have also seen other families struggle until their child is an adult and able to move away from home who never quite achieve this.   It is tough.  I still struggle with it, but I have also found that as I raise the bar of expectations for Lizzie that she and her sisters meet my goals for them every time.  It might take a while to get there, but it happens in their timing, and sometimes it even happens in my time (notice I said sometimes).

I remember when Lizzie entered Kindergarten for her second year, I realized my goals needed to shift.  The first year I was hyper vigilant.  I constantly watched and hovered over her.  Of course, that was the first year we knew her diagnosis as well, but the second year there was a shift.  Chris and I began to transition from being overprotective and letting her slide by to realizing we had to raise our expectations.  She had shown us quite well that she was capable of learning.  It took a while, but our ultimate end goal now is to teach Elizabeth what she needs to be independent when she becomes an adult. 

Granted we think we it might take her a little longer than Sarah and Rebekah, but we know it's possible and it is our ultimate goal.  Even now I am teaching her how to cook, clean the kitchen and do laundry.  As she gets older we will learn other tasks as well. 

It is an easy trap for us to fall into when our children have a special need or need to work a bit harder to achieve their goals that we try to shelter them and do everything for them.  There are some children who are severely autistic or disabled who will need extra care for the rest of their lives, but Lizzie isn't one of them.  And many children with special needs do not fit into that category. 

I have a friend who spent years working with disabled adults.  She has told me stories about adults who were capable of caring for themselves but never given the chance.  I remember listening to her tell me about a man whose mother was dying and she could no longer care for her son.  My friend had to teach the man how to do his laundry - he did it, he learned to cook and clean and take care of himself with assistance.   That was the point in which I realized we could not be that mom.  Because my dad died when I was young I realized at a young age I would not live forever, but never did this idea concern me more than when it came to how did we prepare Elizabeth so she could live on her own?  She may always need a social worker to look in on her or her sisters to be there to offer assistance when necessary but Chris and I had long conversations and still have them about what is our next goal to teach Elizabeth to be independent so when we are no longer with her she can thrive and function in society.  Is it tough?  Extremely.  Is it important?  Nothing could be more important. 

I think the trap that most parents fall into is not realizing they can't live forever.  And let's face it, in this tough economic time, most of us cannot afford to create a trust fund for our children.  So what do we do to help our children?  Begin researching?  What is your child capable of and what are you expecting of him?  Are you doing too much for her?  Are you allowing him to get away with things he shouldn't?  They are tough questions, but they need to be asked and answered.  How can you help your child be ready for the day when you are no longer able to help him?  What kind of programs are available to offer assistance?  What kind of wait list is there?  Can you apply before your child is 18 years old or do you have to wait until that time?  If not apply early, especially if they have a long waiting list. 

Your inability to live forever does not have to spell disaster for your disabled child.  Ignorance or denial won't help them either.  You can make the difference - be your child's advocate and as they get older if they are verbal, teach them to handle those situations while you are there to help them navigate them.

I hope you all have a good week.
In Christ,
Maureen

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Update

It is June and has been over two weeks since Elizabeth's surgery.  We are going on week three and I can see the difference even now.  Her eye no longer drifts towards the outside.    She did a good job, especially if you consider that sitting still is not easy for her, without her medication. 
Beka and Mary Saturday morning at IHop before we hit the road to go home.
 Last week saw us packing up Sarah and all of her gear and heading to Nampa, ID so Sarah can move in with Grandma Mary.  Excited does not adequately describe how happy Sarah was to be heading that direction - I'm sure that her boyfriend living in Idaho had a good deal to do with her excitement. 

I was also excited, I got to eat Sonic. Since moving to Everett, I have to travel to taste Sonic.  I discovered something important.  I miss Sonic's drinks, but not so much their food.  It isn't that it is bad food, but it just doesn't sit so well on my stomach anymore.  This is a problem I am finding with a lot of foods since my gastric bypass.  Chicken tends to be the worst one.    But I managed and we arrived in Idaho safe and sound.   We had a good time, we spent Friday there and roasted hot dogs and made smores over the fire pit that Mary has in her back yard.  I look forward to purchasing a table and fire pit so we can do this with the girls next Summer. 

Saturday was a long and eventful day.We could have stayed longer, but after years of annual trainings, weekends away for training and two deployments I don't like to be away from Chris for a long period of time. So we hit the road home so we could spend Father's Day with Chris.  We discovered Abby's Legendary Pizza in Prosser, WA and we had the van overheat. It was my fault, it was running a little warmer than I would have liked, so we stopped to rest for a bit, get some ants out of little girl pants and I didn't re tighten the radiator cap as tight as I should have.  So it found us on the I-82 stuck on the side of the road as I waited for it to cool down, and fiddling around when I discovered the loose radiator cap, tightened it up until it couldn't be tightened anymore and adding antifreeze and water to the cooling container on the van.   It worked, I also turned off the air conditioner.   The trip was nice, both ways, we even got to see Deadman's Pass in Oregon - which was pretty neat. 

Lizzie and Beka at Deadman's Pass.
After a quiet Father's Day at home with Chris, we are doing school and looking forward to the next few weeks.  The house is quiet without Sarah here, the girls fight a little bit, but not a lot.   I think Beka enjoys having her room to herself, but I know the moment when the girls realize Sarah isn't coming back - this isn't a visit with her Mom or a few weeks away and they have the house with just the four of us will finally sink in and I'll hear a lot of "I miss Sarah."  We already have had to call her this week so Beka could hear her voice.  Beka is the one who will miss Sarah the most, they were buddies.  Lizzie will miss her too, but they are really two first born girls living under one roof which leads to a lot of conflict.  Time will tell.

Lizzie and Grandma Mary at IHop. 

I hope you all have a good week. 
In Christ,
Maureen


Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Wall


So one of the things that is so frustrating about home schooling (and there are not many frustrations really) is that sometimes we hit a wall.  I don't mean an actual physical wall, I mean an educational wall.  And usually the one who hits it first is Elizabeth.

Even when she was young, Lizzie was not always a huge fan of school.  She can only take learning for so long, then she hits a wall and starts to shut down.  Before Strattera, she would hit the wall much faster than now.  So our typical day goes like this. . . smooth, smooth, smooth - WALL!!  So then we take a small break for her to chill out and come back and go at it again. 

Why is this so frustrating?  Because Beka seemingly never hits a wall.  She could spend all day working and learning and tackling new educational tasks.  So I have one child who is always gungho and up for anything, then I have another child who requires coaxing, TV privileges removed and who often ends up crying or glaring at me at some point and she hasn't even hit adolescence yet!  I can only imagine when she is a teenager. 

Part of our problem is the curriculum.  I didn't get the best Science curriculum - something I will be working to remedy over the summer.  It helps that I have friends who are educators in public AND private schools, so I can ask them plenty of questions and get ideas about better curriculum and teaching methods.   That helps me out a lot.   Another problem we are facing is the fact that we do not have a spare room.  An apartment that is only 920 square feet with three bedrooms, doesn't make for a lot of space when it is time for school.  It means a lot of putting up and tearing down, which is problematic and it means my freezer is often a catch all. I considered having Lizzie and Beka move into Sarah's old room and turning their bedroom into a playroom and classroom combo, but the truth is, Lizzie is at that age where she needs her privacy and I need them to stop encouraging each other to remain awake way past their bedtime.  

All of this means we absolutely must move come April 2013.  It's just a must, we need the room, we need more than one bathroom and I need the girls to have a small quiet street so they can ride their bicycles and we can go on walks.  I don't mind a condo or a townhouse, as long as there is an extra room that I can turn into a schoolroom with tables and chairs and a desk for myself.  We'll have to wait and see and pray about it, and ask God to lead us to  house with more space that is conducive to home schooling.

Have a good rest of the week.
In Christ,
Maureen

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Eye Surgery Pre and Post Op

Moving is always difficult.  But when you have a child who has medical issues it can seem daunting, almost impossible at times.  That was how I felt to an extent when we realized we were moving from Wichita, Kansas to Everett, Washington.  Thankfully, our pediatiric opthamologist knew someone in the area we were moving too.  And Dr. Whitfill was right, Dr. Lenart is a lot like him, and he has an excellent manner when it comes to dealing with Elizabeth.  
Well S- Day came sooner than we thought it would.  Chris was awesome and tooks some vacation time so he could spend this past Wednesday until this coming Monday at home with us, helping me and Elizabeth.  He is a very sweet and wonderful man like that.  Plus he is all about making sure his girls knows he is there for them when the going gets tough.  So the above picture is Chris and Elizabeth in the waiting room while we waited for them to take Elizabeth back to get ready for surgery.

Here is Elizabeth back in the pre-operation waiting area in her scrubs.  She liked that they let her pick out the flavor she could smell in the gas mask. The anesthiologist, Dr. Rody made sure he said hi and explained everything to us. Elizabeth told us later he sat next to her and told her a story about the Princess and the Frog. So he won huge brownie points in her book and frankly, mine as well.
   Dr. Lenart is our pediatric opthamologist.  If you have a child and have some challenges, I highly recommend him.  He is firm but patient with the both of my girls and he can get Elizabeth to focus for him.  That alone is high praise indeed.  I am very glad that Dr. Whitfill recommended him, he said, if we liked his style, we'd like Dr. Lenart as well.  He was right, we do like him a lot.

Ironically, we spent more time waiting to go into surgery and for Lizzie to be up to going home than the actual surgery took. I had enough time to grab Chris and I breakfast and we ate, no sooner had we finished but the doctor came out and told us it went well and he didn't have to go into the right eye and under correct it (it was an option if he wasn't able to work on the left eye), which was good, because one eye hurting is bad enough, but could you imagine if both of your eyes hurt? We talked for a few minutes and then it was time to go back to see Elizabeth. They told us she was waking up, but we weren't quite prepared to find our little girl crying.

They were very quick and prompt there, so I would definitely recommend Overlake Hospital - they got her a cool rag to help her eye not hurt and Chris and I worked on soothing her until she could talk to me about what was going on. Her eye hurt pretty badly, so her nurse immediately got her some pain medication and gave her a half dose. Anesthia apparently makes people pretty loopy.  One patient tried jumping out of his bed, which sent a bunch of people running - Lizzie just cried.   Which I guess is a lot better than if she tried to jump up and around.  After the pain meds kicked in a bit, she told me she looked hideous and didn't want Sarah to see her.  I was a mildly amused- she didn't care if Beka saw her, but she didn't want Sarah to see her?  I'm not sure what that was about.  But after a while she felt well enough she wanted to put on her clothing. 

Jammies make everything feel better.  After an uneventful drive home (Thank you, Lord!  I wasn't up for puking), in which Lizzie began singing to herself - a sure sign she was feeling better, Lizzie got home and got into her jammies. She didn't want to go anywhere or eat anything.  So we both snuggled down and I fell asleep while she watched a video with Beka in our bedroom.  After a while she regained her appetite a bit, but we made her wait a while before eating solid foods.  I didn't want her getting really sick and accidentally undoing her stitches. 


Today is Saturday and she is feeling a lot better as you can see from this picture.  Her eye still stings, I called Dr. Lenart and if it still stings on Monday he is going to take a look at it and see what he can do.  But she is recovering nicely - no infection, not pus, nothing that sends alarm bells.  :D The real test will be in the weeks to come.

I hope you all have a good weekend.
In Christ,
Maureen