Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Precise Definition

"Hey, Momma." Middle dropped into the rocker in the living room. "Guess what!"

I aimed the Roku remote (one of our wiser fiscal choices, that; wish we'd switched years ago) around Youngest and paused the show I'd put on for background noise while I tried to get some editing work done. Hopefully this was an update after yesterday's conversation about friendship. "What?"

"You-know-who and I are back together."

"I'm so glad," I told her, genuinely happy. Middle-school friendships are so often fraught with drama, and I was relieved this episode was short-lived.

"And I called one of my friends flamboyant today, but they didn't know what I meant, and so I had to explain that it means flashy and crazy and overly dramatic, and she didn't understand why I have to be so sesquipedalian, and..."

My brain screeched to a halt. I knew the word, but the definition escaped me. Fortunately, I had open in a browser tab, and a quick flick switched it to the dictionary side.

"Did you say sesquipedalian?"

Her eyes widened. "Maybe."

"Did they say that about you? Or did you say that about yourself?"

"What? No. I didn't say that."

I pinned Middle with a look. "I know you said it. I heard it."

She grinned. "I said it about me."

"Okay. I was just checking." I cocked my head and studied her. "Where did you hear it?"

"I don't know." She skipped out of the room.

I watched her go. Middle's my wordie. She likes to try to stump me. I at least knew how to spell the word, and Google doesn't recognize it here as correct. (Neither does spellcheck anywhere else I've mentioned it so far.)

Middle is the definition of sesquipedalian, given to using long words.

And she very nearly stumped me today.

I've got to up my game.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Snap, Crackle, and Pop

We here at Casa Fries, as you know, don't believe in doing anything halfway. Buckle up, because we have another one of these.

This week, I'm out at my mom's. Mom is recovering from surgery to repair a full rotator cuff tear in her right shoulder. The twins joined us on Monday this week, after Oldest went off to camp on Sunday and my mother-in-law went home Sunday evening. 

We had planned a relatively quiet Fourth of July. I would put out the flag at Mom's (she can't do it); Mom would go over to lunch at Sis and BIL's place; the twins and I would do something fun; and then Mom, the twins, and I would go over to the Lowe's parking lot and watch the fireworks from there.

Well, we all know what both Robert Burns and Solomon said about making your own plans...something about things going all agley when you think you've got it sorted out and the Lord making his own determinations.

The day started off as planned. I took Mom over to Sis and BIL's and then told the twins we'd go to Wendy's for lunch. I am not the grill master my father was, and I didn't feel like messing with my mother's broken gas grill, so Wendy's for cookery we went. Then we went to pick up some groceries that Mom had ordered through Walmart's website, and headed back home. Mom was still at Sis's, so we returned to watching Fixer Upper on HGTV (which we don't get at home).

Shortly after 3 p.m., while watching Pocahontas II with the twins, the phone rang. "Mrs. Auntie J, this is the camp director at Northwest Christian Camp. I have Oldest here, and she's hurt."


"She fell and tumbled down a short embankment and it looks like she might have dislocated her knee. We think she needs to be seen in the ER. Do you have a preference where we send her? We normally send them to Nearby Regional Hospital, but we can send her to Southern Hospital, if you prefer."

Given that I'm out at Mom's, Nearby Regional is closer. "I agree she needs to be seen. Go ahead and call the squad, and have them take her to Nearby Regional."

"Okay. Will do. We'll get things rolling here and call you back."

And so I waited for a bit, continuing to watch the movie with Middle and Youngest, and I sent a text to my mom around 3:30, explaining that I needed to leave. I also called Hubby to let him know the situation.

Mom responded about twenty minutes later, and the kids and I packed up to head out. I looked up Nearby Regional and figured I could get there without too much difficulty.

We were about twenty minutes into the drive and had arrived in Pickletown when my phone rang again. It was the camp director again. "The medics have been in touch with us and told us that they've felt they need to divert to Holy Ghost Medical."

"Where's that?"

"Mount Hill."

I whipped into the parking lot of of a church that's on the familiar route between Mom's and home, which had been the general route to Nearby Regional. "Okay. I'll find it."
"Please keep us informed about Oldest. We're all praying for her here."

I thanked him and hung up, and then did a search for Holy Ghost Medical and punched in directions. Fortunately, we weren't that far away.

Unfortunately, the skies opened up and God chose to celebrate the Fourth with us as I drove. The twins and I dashed through the rain to the Emergency Room entrance.

"My daughter Oldest Fry is here," I explained to the triage nurse. She frowned in concentration as she searched her system. "I may have beaten her here."

"Looks like you did," she confirmed. "Have a seat and I'll let you know when she arrives."

The twins and I settled down in the waiting room. They quickly got interested in America's Ninja Warrior and I pulled out the book I'd brought along, because, well, waiting rooms.

We waited about twenty minutes before being called over. We were led to a small room back behind the waiting room while the receptionist explained that Oldest had arrived and was being evaluated by their team, but we couldn't go see her yet. "She's getting the very best of care and being treated the fastest because she's in one of our trauma bays."

I had a flash of sudden understanding. I know what this room is for. Thankfully, I knew it wasn't for that purpose today, but it was still rattling, especially when the receptionist's departure coincided immediately with the arrival of a tiny woman wearing a habit. "Hi, I'm Sister Mary Joan, director of spiritual care."

We introduced ourselves, and Sister Mary Joan was quick to offer whatever assistance we needed. I only had a few moments to chat before I was called out to meet with the doctor.

"Hi. I'm Dr. Tall. You're mom?"

I nodded.

"Okay, what she has is a fracture of the growth plate here in her leg..." He turned to gesture at the x-ray, only to discover that it wasn't on a screen anywhere. "Okay, anyway, it's in the growth plate. That's orthopedics, and she really needs a pediatric orthopedist because of where the fracture is."

I nodded again and looked over at my daughter. Her injury was obvious, her left leg twisted and her knee swollen. I turned back to the doctor as he continued.

"So we are sending her to BigMed—did they tell you that?"

I shook my head.

"We're sending her to BigMed. They have a pediatric orthopedist there who's accepted her as a patient. So you don't have to go through any of the waiting or anything there; she's already a patient, so she skips the line. They're coming to transport at 6. Because she hit her head, we do need to do a CT to make sure she's okay. Any questions?"

That's a lot of information, awful fast. I looked at the clock. Twenty-two minutes until 6 p.m. "So what do you think we're looking at to treat this?"

"Probably surgery would be my guess. That's why she needs peds ortho. BigMed will take great care of her. You can go see her now."

I walked over, trying to avoid wires and cables and ER staff. "Hi, honey. Mom's here."

Oldest screamed and writhed in pain.

I reached for her hand. "It's okay."

"It's not okay!" she cried. "Why would you say that?"

Fair point. "I know. The doctors and nurses are going to help you, though. It's going to be okay."

That calmed her down some.

The nurses took her over to get her scan done, and I stood in the trauma bay and called Hubby at work. Again. Surprisingly, he answered the phone. I gave him the results of my two-minute conversation with the ER doc. After that, I called Mom and discussed what we were going to do with the fact that Oldest was going to be admitted forty-five minutes away, that Mom still needed help, and that I had to be with Oldest while the twins could not go stay with Sis and BIL.

Then I reviewed her history with the nurse. No weird diseases. These are her regular prescription meds (she takes two, and one OTC). She previously had her tonsils and adenoids out. No medication allergies that we know of. 

I stayed with her until the ambulance transport packed Oldest up and departed, promising to follow as soon as I could. Then I collected the twins, bid goodbye to Sister Mary Joan (who stayed with the twins the entire forty-five minutes I was gone; all the saints preserve her), and dashed through the rain to the car.

We drove back to Mom's, where we formed our game plan for the night: Sis would spend the night at Mom's with Mom and the twins. I would go be with Oldest. Reevaluate in the morning. I threw stuff
BigMed is very patriotic.
in a bag and drove to BigMed, where they were waiting for me. History review? Lather, rinse, repeat. No, I didn't see her injure herself. She was at camp. It was now about 9:30 p.m.

Meanwhile I'd learned a bit more about the accident that brought us here. Oldest had safely navigated the zip line at camp and gotten unhooked from the harness, landing aground safely. But when the time came to run the rope back up the trail to the tower for the next camper, Oldest missed the trail and ran out of rope. She stumbled and landed on one knee, letting go of the rope. When she jumped to grab it again, she missed, and tumbled down a two-and-a-half foot embankment.

I met a wide association of doctors, nurses, techs, and was brought up to speed. The orthopedic fellows and one of the trauma docs and her admitting physician all decided that the best route to treat her was not surgery, but rather to sedate her in her room in the ER, set the fracture, cast it, then vent the cast by cutting slits in it to allow for swelling, then wrap the vented cast in a soft dressing. We'd come back and see them "in clinic" for follow-ups and go from there. Should be released in the morning after observation overnight.

So that's what happened. The admitting doctor thought they'd cleared her C-spine (x-rays showed no injury), but Oldest still complained her neck hurt at a level 4, so the collar stayed on, especially after she winced and cried after the doctor probed the back of her neck.

I stayed in the room until Oldest fell asleep under anesthesia so that the fracture could be properly set, and then I got punted to the waiting room. I bought the last bag of Smartfood popcorn from the vending machine and was bummed when I found there wasn't any more in the machine. (That was dinner.) 

The doctors proclaimed the procedure a success and I came back to wait with Oldest, who slept peacefully (thank goodness). Then they brought us up to her room. It was well past 2 a.m. when we finally got to fitful sleep.

Today dawned with Oldest waking me to read stuff on the television that's required for parents to read and acknowledge before they'll spring you from this joint.  I met with the social worker, who asked what she could to to help, and I explained my clothing dilemma: Oldest was at camp, all of her stuff is still at camp, home is ninety minutes away, and we are discharging to Gramma's home 50 minutes away. Yet more doctors came in, including the ones from last night. I wondered how much sleep the one whose name I originally thought was Dr. Quack (cell connection was poor because of the storm when Hubby called) had actually gotten, because it was almost criminal for him to look that good when I'd last seen him a scant four hours before. These young kids. I figured he was probably wearing yesterday's clothes like I was and felt better (before I went right back to sleep; he came in just before 6). A cheery Child Life volunteer came in around 9:30 and offered to have Oldest play Bingo via streaming video at 10:30 since she wasn't ambulatory. More nurses came in just at Bingo time and helped Oldest play, and she won the first of three games. (The roving Prize Patrol cart came to her.) Person #700 came and introduced himself as such, bringing some possible clothes for Oldest.

Of course, that's when we thought we were getting out of here today.

Because then Dr. Strong came in. He's the pediatric orthopedist who's really in charge here. He didn't like the way her leg was laying there in the cast, and determined he wanted to do what he hoped was a closed procedure to set the bone in precisely the right place so that she wouldn't end up knock-kneed. It was close enough, he said, that had she been 4, he would have left it alone. But because Oldest is almost 13 and the growth plate in her tibia (the bone she broke) stops growing at age 14, he didn't think she'd have enough time left to grow to have the bone straighten itself out. He gave me several options for what might need to be done in a traditionally closed procedure. 

Everything else today has been marching towards that procedure. Neuro came in, wanting to get an MRI done of her neck to make sure that there isn't anything wrong there that's causing pain and discomfort.

So I'm sitting here in a padded chair, in the very waiting room I was in almost exactly three weeks ago when Middle had her heart surgery. Not too long ago, last night's admitting doctor came out to talk to the family of another patient. He saw me and stopped before he went to talk to them, and asked if Oldest was in surgery, and if she was still in the collar. I explained Dr. Strong's reasoning, and he nodded, and we talked a little about last night before he moved on to his patient's family, but not before he gave me good wishes for Oldest's healing.

The receptionist informed me just now that Oldest is in surgery, and that Dr. Strong says they'll just be casting.

Sounds like good news to me, which means we should be out of here tomorrow. Whew.

If I'd had to pick which daughter would break a bone first, I would have said Middle, hands down. Agley is no respecter of a mother's intuition, I suppose.

To a less-adventurous Fourth next year!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

All Things New

I have been camping out at my mom's this week, taking over as chief cook, bottle washer, chauffeur, and nurse. Mom had surgery on Tuesday to repair a full tear on her right rotator cuff, and her surgeon wouldn't even schedule the procedure until he confirmed Mom had live-in help for two weeks post-op. Enter me.

The original plan called for the girls to come with me, and then Hubby would come out and pick up Oldest to pack her off to camp today. However, that changed last Friday, when my mother-in-law called and said she and Hubby's oldest sister and her husband were coming out a week earlier than expected.

Okay then. The girls got to stay with Gramma Bevvie, and I came to Mom's alone.

Which turned out to be a good thing all around, as it turned out. I love my mother-in-law, and I was sorry I couldn't spend more time with her than just a day, but Mom and I both agreed that having it just be the two of us in the immediate days following surgery was a good thing.


That's why I'm here.

Here, and scorching along with everyone else in the vicinity of the East Coast. We are all baking.

To that end, one of my daily tasks has been watering Mom's flowerbeds and tiny garden.

With temperatures soaring and the heat index skyrocketing, it was equally imperative that we get out to the cemetery and water the new tree Mom had planted on the plot where Dad's ashes are buried.

This is the part that requires a little history.

When Mom went looking for a cemetery plot, she specifically wanted a place that would allow her to plant a tree. Specifically, an oak tree, because oaks were special to my father, featured prominently in a poem he had written about his own father. Mom had gained permission from the cemetery my sister found, in a nice location, next to a small private airstrip (Dad also loved planes), and everything seemed perfect. We planted the tree and buried Dad's ashes.

And then things went sideways. Turns out, the owners of the cemetery—who also owned several cemeteries and properties in Ohio—were crooks. Mom was contacted by federal agents investigating the owners. The marker Mom ordered and paid for never arrived nor was installed. (As of this writing, Mom has seen the marker, and it's actually complete, but it still has not been installed, after three years.) Getting questions answered was next to impossible. The cemetery fell into disrepair, tended by only a few volunteers. Dad's tree was the only thing marking his grave.

Then I got a call from my mother in mid June last year, telling me that someone had cut the tree down.

Devastated doesn't begin to describe how we all felt.

The tree wasn't just cut down; it was chopped so low to the ground that it looked like it was never there.

Mom went and talked to the mother-in-law of the skeezy husband who owns the property, trying to find out what happened. This tree, after all, was tall enough and established enough to not just be a nut job planted by a forgetful squirrel. Of course, if they'd actually installed Dad's marker, then the tree wouldn't have just looked like it didn't belong in the middle of an expanse of plots. The mother-in-law said they never would have allowed a tree to be planted, while Mom argued that the owner said he loved the idea and wanted to plant more pin oaks in that section.

But with everything going on, and the owners in Ohio trying to wrap things up before beginning prison sentences, there was no way to get confirmation...and then the feds decided Mr. Martin was too much of a flight risk and scooped him up.

So. No tree. No marker.

My brother-in-law went out and hunted around, and found the very short stump, so at least we knew we could find the plot again.

Seasons changed, and Mom researched what she wanted to do.

This spring, she planted another oak tree. This one, she told me, was not a pin oak like the last one, just a regular oak with the more rounded leaves. And BIL had helped plant it, and he'd made sure that it would not be so hastily cut down. Mom mentioned that he'd also put up a cross with Dad's name and dates of birth and death.

Which brings me to today.

And our heat wave.

Hatchet proof.
Mom had wisely chosen to not attempt church, and after we had lunch and took a short walk, she decided she didn't truly need to go to the cemetery with me. I could go and water the tree alone.

I took five full gallon jugs of water and drove over, hoping that BIL's attempts to prevent another hackery were sufficient. I wasn't sure I could handle seeing another tree gone, and I hadn't been to the cemetery since the last time I'd gone, when I'd seen the awful truth for myself that the tree wasn't there.

I pulled up next to the section where Mom and Dad's plot is and smiled. The tree still stood, as did a small sturdy cross. I smiled. Well. That does discourage a quick hatchet job. BIL had constructed a cage support for the tree out of two-by-fours and chicken wire.

I grabbed the first two jugs and strode over. Huh. That's an awful lot of foliage near the ground there.

I set the jugs down when I got there, and dropped to my knees. It can't be! Shoots burst out of the ground. Actual branches. One threaded two and a half feet high, in through the chicken wire surrounding the new tree. I tugged it free.

I shoved aside the branches. They're saying poison oak is everywhere. Am I getting myself in a world of trouble? No, this is oak oak! I felt around. There it was--the stump, the jagged two-level cut that felled it that I remember.

This is Dad's tree!

I laughed in outright glee.

Death cannot stop true love.
I studied the leaves. Yes, these were pin oak leaves. They were clearly oak leaves, but also very clearly not the same as the oak leaves on the oak tree BIL had carefully caged. I shrieked and laughed some more. This is the coolest little resurrection story!

I dumped water on both trees—although admittedly the pin oak looked more like a bush than a tree—with glorious abandon.

See? I told you not to lose heart. I am making all things new. The words fed life into my soul. Thank you, Abba.

I messaged Waffle. I called Hubby, who was driving his mother back to meet his brother (the twins will be joining me tomorrow).

Then I plucked two leaves, one from each tree, and went home to tell Mom.

As I staggered into the house from the heat of the garage, she asked, "So, was it there?"

"Oh, it was there," I told her. "They were both there."

Mom whipped her head around as fast as she could. "Both?"

"Yes, both." I grinned. "Despite everything, that pin oak has grown back."

"Well, how about that."

How about that.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Kindness Challenge

We were five days into summer break and I was already sick of the squabbling. After listening to the girls nitpick against each other most of the day, I announced that we were done with this. It was going to be a long summer if all they did was snipe at each other all the time, and I wasn't going to have it.

"If you can't say something nice, you won't say anything at all," I told the three of them as we gathered around the kitchen island. "If the only nice thing you can say is, 'Oldest, I like the way you did your hair today,' then that's what you'll say. If that's the only nice thing you can say, then that's all you'll say." I gave them all hard stares. "If you can't say anything nice, my tape will help keep you from saying not-nice things."

The girls snickered.

"I'm not kidding," I continued. "If the only nice thing you can say is, 'Youngest, your shirt is cute,' then that's what you say. Furthermore, we're going to start a Kindness Challenge."

Their faces lit up.

"You may not nominate yourselves," I announced, watching their expressions fall. "When you see someone else doing something kind, you'll write it down and put it in the jar. For example, I can say that Youngest took the bread out of the bread machine for me without being asked, and that was kind."

"Are you and Dad gonna play? Can Special Edition?"

Special Edition was visiting at the time, and I knew she'd love this news. I grinned and answered the girls anyway. "Of course. It's for the whole family."

The girls really seemed excited, and Middle walked over to the homework station where we keep the Chromebook. "Can we use this pad of paper?"

A happy snowman smiled at us from the right corner. "That's mine, but sure, we can use that."

"Can we use that jar?" Middle pointed on top of the cupboard.

And so began our Kindness Challenge. I toyed with the idea of awarding dimes for every kindness, and filching them back for every meanness, but decided I didn't want kindness to be a currency. I wanted it to be its own reward.

Little folded slips of paper began appearing in the jar.

Well, where all this has been going is that today the squabbling reached a fever pitch again after Hubby went to work. I called them all up to the living room where I'd been folding laundry and talking to Waffle on the phone. "What's going on?" I asked, less interested in the answer and more interested in the next question I planned to ask. I let them spin out the answer and asked a couple of follow-ups just to justify bringing them up.

Then I jumped in. "Oldest, I would like you to tell me something you like about Youngest."

Oldest blinked at me, and then said, "Well, I like how she's creative..."

I stopped her. "That's good. But don't tell me. Tell your sister."

Oldest turned and relayed her compliment directly to the sister she has the most difficulty getting along with. "I really like how creative you are, and how you'll still try to play with me, even when I'm in a bad mood."

I had Oldest repeat the exercise with Middle, and then asked Middle to offer a compliment to Youngest in the same vein.

"I like your wild socks!"

Um, no. "Not something physical," I instructed. "Something deeper than that."

"Dad let us do that," Middle whined.

I gestured up and down along my torso. "Do I look like Dad?" Waffle snorted in my earbud.

Middle found a way to come up with genuine compliments for her sisters, and then it was Youngest's turn.

I studied them for a moment, trying to figure out my next step. "Oldest," I said, "I like your compassion. You care about things. Middle, I like your quick wit. It keeps me on my toes. Youngest, I like your desire to explore and learn. When you didn't know something, you looked to find it out." I looked at each of them. "Now, I want you to say something you like about yourselves."

Middle popped away from the wall. "I like my wordiness. I know lots of words." Her eyes narrowed at me. "But not more than you. I envy you."

I smothered a chuckle and said aside into the microphone on my earbuds, "You should have seen the look I just got."


"I've been talking to Waffle," I explained. "Go on."

With prompting, Youngest told us what she likes about herself.

"Oldest, what do you like about yourself?"


Well. "There's got to be something you like about yourself."

"Hey, Mom, what do you like about yourself?" Middle asked.

"I like my wordiness, too."

"Hey, somebody put your mom down for buying me tea!" Waffle shouted in my ear.

I relayed the message to the girls, and the twins took off giggling, chasing each other, trying to put in the paper slip first.

I chuckled and turned back to the more pressing problem of Oldest and her not having anything to like about herself. We had a good long talk about how other people's opinions shouldn't dictate whether she liked her eyes (which I love; they're the color of melted dark chocolate and they shine) or her skin color or her musical taste or whatever she likes about herself.

And both of the previous stories are really a setup for this one.

That long talk also included a ninja-level of reporting on the post-bedtime activities that were making all three girls sleep in so late (which I'd begun suspecting), so after I wrapped up my conversation with Oldest, promising to address the nocturnal misadventures she'd complained of, I went back to talking with Waffle, and I proceeded to set in motion my plan.

I figured the surest way to know what was happening in the room was to hear it, and I'd recently found the old intercom system we'd used as a baby monitor when the girls were teeny. After much crawling around under the loft beds, I positioned one intercom under Middle's loft bed and locked it in transmit position. I put the other under the loveseat where I usually sit in the living room.

Then I sent the cherubs to bed.

Middle has been using Special Edition's room since last Wednesday, when she had the heart catheterization procedure to get rid of her Wolff-Parkinson-White, because she still feels bruised at the groin and it's been easier to get in and out of Special Edition's bed than her own loft bed. I'd asked Middle to try her own bed tonight but didn't see her do it, so I was surprised to find her in Special Edition's room. Upon confrontation, she went up to her own room...but not her own bed.

Which I did not know.

I turned on the monitor, still talking to Waffle, mind you, because incidents had gone on so long, and then I heard funny sounds in the radio static from the intercom-monitor.


And then, Middle's voice.  "Who are you, strange person? Who's on the other side of this gadget?"

I could not believe it. I grabbed the intercom off the floor, jabbed the Talk button, and growled, "Get back into bed!"

"They found it already?" Waffle asked.

"Yes, they found it already." I hoofed it up the stairs to see what was going on.

Middle had decided she couldn't do her loft bed, and rather than coming down to Special Edition's room, which I'd told her she could stay in, she'd made a bed on the floor under her loft bed...and found the intercom and its glowing buttons.


Wednesday, May 30, 2018


Ten years ago, at this very moment, I was crammed into a minivan with five other bodies and lots and lots of stuff.

After all, tiny tykes come with not-so-tiny amounts of cups...plastic seats...more clothes...more diapers...more toys...more diapers...strollers...

...and no small amount of scawwies, love, hugs, kisses, tears, stories, and more love.

That first night, I had no idea of what lay ahead of us.

I think I might have thrown up if I had.

I almost did, as it was. I was no parent. I could keep the cats alive, sure. They were self-cleaning and all of them were very well trained according to the rules of the house. I was thirty-two years old and had no clue how I was supposed to handle three little girls come morning.

Enter my dad, who decided "suddenly" to stay as he probably just mentally acknowledged that my mom's advice before he'd left home the previous day, before we picked up the girls, was right: Stay overnight a second night. They're going to need you.

The girls adapted quickly, and soon were amazingly comfortable with us.

Oh, we learned so much in those early days...

  • Kitties could "bite" toes from the next room.
  • Snack and juice at 10 a.m. made getting to lunch without the crankies a lot easier.
  • Mika would lower himself to eat French toast, but Popoki wouldn't.
  • Middle loved all things squishy and stuffed.
  • Oldest loved to dress up.
  • Youngest had baby radar. (And a baby was anyone younger than her.)
  • Disney princesses can perform amazing feats.
  • Talking Veggies are fun.
Mom and Dad came out about a month into this Experiment to give Hubby and I a date night, and we went out to dinner, promising ourselves we wouldn't be one of those couples who only talk about the kids.

We only talked about the kids.

Except for Hubby's comment about the motel nearest to the hospital, and his wondering if it rented rooms by the hour. Because, you see, we were both so tired that a movie didn't appeal, but a two-hour nap sure did.

That was the night Hubby asked my mother the question. "Mom, how long do you think the girls are going to be with us?" This was, after all, supposed to be a three-month gig.

Mom didn't bat an eye. "Eighteen years."

"No, really, Mom. Seriously. How long are the girls going to be with us."

"Eighteen years."

As it turned out, she wasn't wrong.

We learned unpleasant things, too, like how underweight the girls were. How much they didn't expect regular meals. (It took them six months to realize hungry meant food is coming soon. Heartbreaking.) They were all developmentally behind. 

We got them help. A developmental therapist came and worked in our home with the twins for an entire year. A physical therapist also came to work with Youngest, who didn't walk independently on her own until she was 20 months old. Oldest entered speech therapy.

So much has happened over the last ten years that I hardly know where to begin.

  • We filed suit for custody of the girls in June of 2009, after they had been with us more than a year, because my brother and ex-sister-in-law's planned move for the girls would have put them directly in harm's way. We also filed a petition of special relief, to keep the girls in our custody until the custody suit hearing.
  • I was in a terrible car accident in July of 2009, and the girls and I moved in with Mom and Dad for two and a half months.
  • Hubby left his ministry position and began the search for a new one.
  • We went to Daytona Beach, FL, with my parents in 2010.
  • During the time it took us to reach a hearing, there countless visitations both in person (Bro) and via Skype (Ex-SIL), fourteen months, five continuances, two judges, and one pointless conciliation hearing. But, on August 6, 2010, we were as shocked as my brother and his now ex-wife when the judge handed down her verdict that day, awarding us full physical custody and guardianship, along with shared legal custody with Bro and Ex-SIL. We spent the next week in Ocean City, MD, on a planned vacation with my parents, sister, brother-in-law, and nephew.
  • We enrolled Oldest in Kindergarten in 2010.
  • Hubby found a new ministry position in 2011, and we enrolled the twins in preschool.
  • We bought a house and moved to a smaller town north of where we lived when the girls first came to us.
  • We enrolled the twins in Kingergarten in 2012.
  • We traveled to Ocean City, MD, during the summer of 2012 with my parents.
  • We've said some sad goodbyes to dear family members: Popoki and Keiki (2012), Pa'ani (2014), Minouchette (2016), Koa and Mika (2017).
  • We went back to Daytona Beach on vacation in 2013.
  • We filed a petition for termination of rights for Bro and Ex-SIL in December 2013, after long silences by both of those parties, so that we could pursue what we all now wanted: adoption, the legal acknowledgement of our family.
  • We said goodbye to Youngest's tonsils and adenoids in the spring of 2014, making her the first of the girls to undergo surgery.
  • The termination of rights hearing was held in front of our custody judge (from 2010) in April 2014. My brother pursued appeals all the way to our state Supreme Court, on the grounds that we had not bonded to these girls who, by now, had been calling us Mom and Dad for several years (we were originally Auntie and Uncle), and had not seen him in nearly two years by the date of the termination hearing.
  • We invaded Daytona Beach for the third time in 2014, also working in a few days in Orlando, where we got to see Mickey!
  • On April 9, 2015, our judge granted our adoption petitions, and we became legally what we had been from the very beginning: a family.
  • Oldest also said goodbye to her tonsils and adenoids in May 2016. There was much rejoicing.
  • Special Edition joined our family on May 28, 2015, in a move we'd been hoping she'd make. 
  • We visited the Gulf side of Florida with my parents, staying at their place there in 2015.
  • We weathered the toughest loss of all in June 2015 after our Florida trip, the girls' beloved Poppa, my dad.
  • In the firm belief that chocolate cures many things, we went to Hershey Park.
  • We visited our nephew's family in Virginia in the fall of 2015 and spent a couple days seeing museums around D.C.
  • Middle had eye surgery (she's an overachiever like that) not once but twice, correcting a vision abnormality she had (2016-2017).
  • We discovered a nearby (ish) lake that was so much fun we visited it two summers running.
  • Middle sustained a concussion and learned she was a heart patient this year.
Today, we are ten years a family.


Our school year wraps up on Friday. We'll have an 8th grader (Oldest) and two sixth-graders (Middle and Youngest). The summer promises to be an adventure already: Oldest turns 13, everyone has
camp, the twins have summer band lessons, we're spending a few days visiting Special Edition and Mr. Nurse, and we plan to do something fun to celebrate marking a decade together.

I can't wait for the adventures of the next decade.


Monday, May 28, 2018

Today, We Celebrate

Special Edition does not know I'm going to make a big deal of this, but I am.

Because three years ago today, she joined our family and made us complete.

Three years.

Sometimes it seems like a lifetime, others not nearly long enough.

We have walked through all kinds of crazy together. From the first moment I met you, I knew. It wouldn't matter how crazy, I would be there.

Baby girl, I know the road has been long and hard. I know it's been rough. But your dad and I would not trade having you in our family for anything. You are worth it all.

We love you.

And we're so glad you're a part of our family. You belong here.

Okay, gooshy moment over. You can go back to your regularly scheduled programming, sweetheart.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Cool Ranch Doritos and Other Cool Things

Hubby currently works for a well-known local gas station/convenience store chain in our area, having stepped out of ministry for a sort of sabbatical about two and a half years ago after my father's sudden death. It's a crazy workplace, and he says it's perfect for him and his ADHD because there's always something new to do. He likes his coworkers and it's become increasingly obvious why this chain is one of the top 100 employers in the country.

He likes his job.

This makes him happy, which makes me happy.

Innyhoo. His store is busy, sitting in a location where a divided highway joins back together just on the other side of the store's property. Lots of local traffic, and lots of regular customers.

Among these regulars is a mom and her two young sons.

Now, Hubby has always thought, from a customer-service standpoint, if he can make the kids smile and giggle, he'll please the parents, who are always the customers. He feels that way about our own girls: if someone can make them laugh and smile, his day is made. So he turns that around and applies that to the customers who come in with their kids.

So he talks to the kids who come to his counter when he's on register. They'll hand up candy. "Is that for me?" Inevitably, the kids giggle and correct him. They'll hand up chips. "Oh, those have to be for me!" More giggling. "No, those are for my sister!"

The kids love him.

The parents are happy.

The mom and her two boys are, according to Hubby, in the store nearly every day. He's built a rapport with the boys. "Oh, you've got Cool Ranch Doritos. I love Cool Ranch Doritos! Are those for me?"

Giggles and silly shrieks. "No, those are ours!"

Yesterday, the mom and her boys came into the store and got in Hubby's line. Once again, he interacted with the boys. "Cool Ranch Doritos! Are those for me?"

I can only imagine the look on his face when those little boys (about six and seven, he says) happily told him, "Yes, those are for you!"

The boys, it turns out, go to one of the local Christian schools, the one that's less than half a mile from Hubby's store. They've been learning about sharing, caring, and doing kind things.

They told their mom they wanted to get Cool Ranch Doritos just for Hubby. They wanted to do something nice for him, specifically.

Hubby said his first instinct was to say no, that he couldn't accept them, but then he realized what they were trying to do, and he gave in, and enjoyed his chips with the pizza he had later on his dinner break.

That little moment made his entire day.

You know, as long as there are parents raising kids like this, as long as we are teaching that kindness to anyone is a true virtue, the future is in good hands.