Friday, October 29, 2010

Can't Argue With That

Large Fry: [singing nonsense song, completely made up on the fly]

Hubby:  She's weird.

Me:  She's genetically predisposed.

Hubby:  Good point.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Hand of God

I have a friend who is really struggling with her faith.

I can understand, because I've struggled much with mine over the last two and a half years.

We got together last week for the first time in over a month, for a mommies night out.  Had dinner...just us.  Saw a movie...just us.  Went back to where we had dinner to snack and keep talking...just us.  Because we both needed it.

She's seen, especially in the last year, just what the struggle for the Fries has cost us.

As we both sat in our mom-vans and continued to talk after leaving Friday's, she asked me, "Can you really see the hand of God in everything that you've gone through with the girls?  Or was He just not there?"

I know that's how she's feeling, that God just isn't there for her.  Isn't interested in her life, doesn't care about her, and is woefully silent.

And I know, because I've lived a lot of the last two and a half years in that same kind of faith-fog.  Wondering where my almighty God is, as I struggle to give the girls security while our lives remain in uproar.  Where He is, when my husband has to go away for ten days on a job-related mission trip with his youth group teens, and I'm left to deal with three little kids who now have forced visitation with their biological mother, whom they haven't really seen in six months and know even less, all by myself...and my parents are out of town.  And, since the kids and I will be staying at their house for four days before they get home, I'm good and alone in dealing with this.  Wondering where God is when I realize that my estranged sister-in-law gets to live her life with nary a blip because of all the court stuff, but we live on tenterhooks and eggshells and the constant fluctuation of not knowing what's going to happen from one day to the next.  How unfair is that?  This doesn't affect her day-to-day life at all.  Where's God when I have not one but two health crises in less than nine months?  Where's God when my husband's boss, the senior pastor of our church, decries what we're doing, by taking in the girls, saying that it's a bad thing and orders Hubby to not let it affect his work?  Where's God when the job goes downhill, not because of the work Hubby's doing, but because the senior pastor has an agenda to get rid of him?

Yeah, I'm all too familiar with the "Where's God?" questions.  If only, during these dark moments, God would be as easy to find as Waldo is.

And yet, I could only give her one answer:  Oh, yes.  I can see the hand of God all over this situation.

She wanted details.  I don't think she knew what she was asking for...or how far back the list of God-incidences would go.

But I gave them to her: 
  • Hubby joined a Southern Gospel quartet waaaaay back in 2002 or so.  By late 2003, he accepted that God had called him to leave the quartet--a lifelong dream of his, really--and devote himself more to the needs of the church we'd been attending.  God asked him to commit to that church for three years.  Dan asked, "Then I can go back to quartetting?"  God said, "Talk to me in three years."
  • We were ready to have a family...but never got pregnant.  From early to 2003 to early 2009, we did nothing to stop pregnancy.  And nothing happened.  Those years were filled with a lot of heartache for me, especially as I watched my friends have children.  (Yes, this was part of the list for a reason.)
  • The senior pastor of our church announced in May 2006 that he was resigning, effective in six weeks.  We loved this man.  I had told Hubby, more than once, that as long as JB was pastor at that church, I had no intention of leaving.  His ministry was THAT good.  JB juggled lots of hats, and was a very busy man, but I never felt, when I had a need to speak to him, that he was too busy to make time for me.  I told Hubby we were simply going to follow them to Illinois and be little JB groupies.
  • In August of 2006, as we drove out to my folks' for my mom's surprise 60th birthday party, I casually announced that the worship pastor of my parents' church had resigned and they were looking for a new one.  I hadn't realized the 3-year deadline was encroaching, but Hubby had.  God had been speaking to him, reminding him of his call to full-time ministry.  Hubby's conversation with God at that point, as we tooled down the PA Turnpike at 65 mph, was basically, "God, if you really want me to apply for that job--the church is huge!--you're gonna have to make it really clear."  About then our car threw a piston rod.  Mile marker 216 or so.  Yeah, that's important.
  • September 2006: We now know for sure that God is going to start shaking things up.  And so, God asked us to leave the church we'd been attending for six years.  A church we loved.  With people we loved.  So that we ourselves could take some time, recharge, rejuvenate, before we plunged headlong into God's plan.  So we said goodbye and left the church in November.
  • October 2006:  I had much-needed wrist surgery, and this pulled me out of the field in my caregiving job.  And it landed me in the agency's office.
  • December 2006: On our way to my folks' for Christmas, we met for a brief informal interview about a youth/music pastor position at a church in Chambersburg, PA.
  • January 2007:  We did a more formal interview in Chambersburg.  Hubby was offered the job.  We accepted...and moved to Chambersburg in the end of February, 2007.  And I was able to keep my job, converting to telecommuting to manage the agency's scheduling system.  And did I mention?  Chambersburg is pretty much straight due south of mile marker 216ish on the PA Turnpike.
  • Chambersburg, PA, is a lot closer to York, PA, where my brother, sister-in-law and three small nieces lived.  Columbus, OH, where we had spent all of our previous married life, was not close.
  • May 2008: When my brother determined that he needed to get the girls back to PA, their state of legal residence, after my sister-in-law announced (again) that she wanted a divorce and she was serious this time, we were in a position to help out.  For three months, which has stretched into almost two and a half years now.  And with no children of our own, we didn't have to up-end the lives of anyone but us and our cats with bringing in three little girls.  (Imagine that.  I'd always been a big proponent of adoption.  This wasn't adoption, but it was the same general idea.  Not how I expected my life to go, though.)
  • June 2009:  We have my parents' full backing when we file a lawsuit for full custody of the girls, who have now lived with us over a year, because their parents chose to switch the girls' guardianship to someone else...someone whom we felt would be a danger to the health and well-being of the girls.
  • July 2009:  I'm involved in a major auto accident (combined vehicle speeds of 70+ mph) that fractures four bones in my right ankle (surgery required to fix two of those) and the radius bone of my right wrist in two places.  The girls and I live with my parents for two and a half months as I recover.
Much bleakness covered our lives, starting in June 2009.  We fought through a court presentation at the end of June, followed by that ten-day work trip of Hubby's and ten days of visitation with the girls' mother, who hadn't even told us she was coming back.  My recovery from the auto accident was a long, hard road, especially at the time.  It's humbling to be 34 and have to have your mother cut your broccoli into bite-sized pieces for you, because you can manage a fork, but not both that and a knife, what with your dominant hand being stuck in a lovely cast.  The first court hearing date was scheduled for October of 2009.  That one didn't happen; SIL had her lawyer petition for a continuance, since she was still serving in her overseas posting.  I was worried about our assigned judge, who had openly declared that he saw the momentum in the case being returning the children to their mother.

I continued my list:
  • The continued October hearing was rescheduled for December 22, 2009.  My first thought was that someone's Christmas was just going to suck.
  • The December 22 hearing got continued--again at the request of SIL's attorney--and rescheduled for April 13th, 2010, with the conciliation conference two weeks before.
  • Hubby lost his job at the church he'd been at for three years.
  • The conciliation conference in late March 2010 went about like we expected, with no resolution.
  • Our lawyer requested a continuance on the April 13th hearing after we learned we'd only have two hours.  The delays were driving us crazy, but what could we do?
  • The April 13th hearing was rescheduled for June 9th.  Plus, we were assigned a new judge.  And by new, I mean new.  As in, just elected.  I was relieved anyway; about all the good I'd seen come from the first judge was that he, being former military, had quickly determined we were not in violation of the Soldiers and Sailors Relief Act, which SIL's attorney had cited as reason for our suit to be tossed out (preferably), or postponed at the very least.  The new judge was a woman, and a former prosecutor in the family court.  And she was a mom.  I figured those were all good things.
  • The insurance settlement from my severe auto accident was given to us in early April.  It was substantial.
  • The June 9th hearing was also continued, again at request of my SIL, who by now was representing herself.  Our new court date was August 6, 2010.
  • We actually made it to court.  I was nearly physically ill with worry about testifying.  I wasn't sure I could pull it off until after I swore in.  I placed my hand on the banister around the witness box to step up and in, and was reminded of my best friend, and a host of others, all of whom were praying specifically for me.  The calm that settled over me was inexplicable.  My father said afterward, following the judge's decision that we would all share legal custody and that Hubby and I would have primary physical custody of the girls, that I had been "magnificent."  And he was sorry for all his doubting thoughts.
  • Even with Hubby out of work, between the insurance money that wasn't invested and my income, we've made ends meet.
"Could I see the hand of God during all this?" I asked rhetorically.

My friend smiled at me.

"No, I couldn't."  I looked her straight in the eyes.  "It was so dark sometimes.  But I can say, without a doubt, He's been there every step of the way.  All those 'unanswered' prayers for kids of my own?  He was saying Wait.  And then He dumped three of the most amazing little blessings in my lap, just when I was sure I'd never have kids of my own."

All of the court delays?  Well, those got the right judge on the bench for our case.  Our judge hadn't even been elected at the time of the October 2009 hearing date.  She wasn't in office at the time of our December date.  She'd only been on the bench four months at the time of the April hearing.  The delay between the reassignment of our case to her in April and the actual hearing in August gave her another four months to be in court, working as a judge.

Yes, even during the darkest nights and deepest doubts, God was there.  The string of circumstances, stretching back eight years, makes the truth of God's involvement in our lives stand out.

Would it have been nice to really see God working, as I felt like I walked daily through the Valley of the Shadow of Death?  Oh, yes.  I would have loved that.  I would've loved to have the confidence of faith that Hubby did.  I would have loved to have little flashing signs that said, "Hey!  God just set up another thing to help work this situation to the right resolution!"

But I can't deny the truth: God was there.  He was working on getting all the dominoes lined up just so.  He always is.

And that's something I need to remind myself of more often.

Words that Strike Fear into the Heart

"Auntie J, the toilet is bwoken."

Oh, that's the last thing I needed to hear.

"What?"  I want to be sure I heard correctly.

Medium Fry comes back into the kitchen from the bathroom, and I peer at her through the living room doorway into the kitchen.

"The toilet is bwoken!"  There's just enough exuberance in her tone that I'm immediately concerned.  I jump up from my desk chair.

"I will show you."  Medium turns and walks back into the bathroom.  "It's bwoken.  I think it's owld."

I follow her into the bathroom.  She points to the flush handle.  "I think it's owld."

There's a crack in the plastic.

That I've known about for weeks.

Which is so much less of a worry-inducer than all the mental images I got as soon as I heard, "The toilet is bwoken."

Friday, October 22, 2010

"Unca D, why is dewre cancewr in my Gwamma Bevvie's tummy?"

Geez.  Nobody prepares you for these questions.  Nobody tells you that you're going to have to answer innocent and crazily complicated questions.  Nobody says you're going to have to search for theological answers that most pastors might stumble over.

It reminds me a little of the time that I asked my mom if my neighbor's cat, Spooky, who had just been put to sleep, was going to be in heaven.  Spooky was an indoor/outdoor cat, and I spent a lot of time with him.  He was, in a lot of ways, my best friend.  I was devastated by his death, even though I knew he was old and sick.  My mother didn't know what to say.  My question totally flummoxed her.  But I have a feeling I'll use her answer when we face the death of one of our cats and the kids want to know: "Honey, God says that everything we need will be in heaven.  So if you need Spooky to be there, he will be."

My mother-in-law called this morning.  We knew that doctors had run a scope and found a polyp in her stomach about a month before.  They biopsied the polyp and it came back benign.  However, doctors wanted to remove it anyway.  Now they're saying it's cancerous.

This was not how we'd wanted to start our morning.  I came downstairs to find Hubby on the phone with his mom.  It took me a bit to realize who he was talking to, and what he was hearing.  But when I felt like a blow to my stomach.

I am very blessed.  My mother-in-law is a wonderful woman.  I love her dearly.  I never wanted to be one of those people who had mother-in-law horror stories.  My mother-in-law considers me her daughter, not her daughter-in-law.  Her very first words to me still ring true: "We believe in hugs here."  She loves my girls like they're biologically ours.  It doesn't matter to her that they're not.  They are her grandchildren as far as she's concerned.  And I'm sure not ready to lose her.  (We lost my father-in-law eleven years ago.  I still miss him.  Wasn't ready to lose him, either.)

So, when Hubby got off the phone with Mom and knelt on the kitchen floor at one of the chairs to pray, the twins came over in turn to see what was wrong.

Medium Fry, who is her unca's buddy, wanted to know what was wrong.  Unca D doesn't always kneel on the floor and look devastated.  Hubby explained that his mom, Gramma Bevvie, was sick.  And he was scared.  And he was talking to God about it, asking Him to help Gramma Bevvie to get better so she won't be sick.  Medium Fry gave him a hug, and wandered over to play.

How do you explain cancer and death to children who aren't even four?

Next came Small Fry.  She wanted to know what was wrong, too.  Hubby explained that Gramma Bevvie is sick.  Small Fry wanted to know what kind of sick.  Hubby explained that the doctors found something called cancer in Gramma Bevvie's tummy, and it could make her very sick, and we don't want that.  We want her to be well.

And that's when Small Fry asked her question.  "Why is dewre cancewr in my Gwamma Bevvie's tummy?"

How do you answer that?

I'm glad it was Hubby who had to.

I don't know that I could've given a coherent response.

Hubby explained that it was a type of sickness, and the doctors wanted to fix it and make Gramma Bevvie all better.

If only that was the last tough question of the morning.

A little while ago, Medium looked at Hubby and said, "Unca D, why aren't you my daddy?"


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

You can't make this stuff up.

It's bedtime.  I have sent Small Fry to the bathroom to go potty.  She comes back, and grabs my attention.

Small Fry: Auntie J, dis fewll in da toiyet.

I look down, and see her stuffed Toy Story piggy.

Me: So it is.

I set the poor wet pig on the shipping box that my printer cartridges came in a week ago, which I haven't opened yet.

Small Fry: Why is it wet?

Me (exasperated): Because you dropped it in the toilet!

Just when I'm thinking what else?, that's when Hubby suddenly turns and looks at us.

Hubby: WHAT are you doing?  Get that off your head and put it back in the bathroom where it belongs!

And that's when I whipped around to look at Small Fry, who had wandered behind my desk chair.

She was wearing the toddler potty seat for the toilet, upside down, like a crown.

And about then...

Medium Fry (who was sitting in time out): Unca D, can I tawk now?

Hubby: No!  You're in time out!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

This Morning's Conversation of Note

Hubby: Medium Fry, what are you doing?

She's in the bathroom.  When any of the kids are in the bathroom for very long, it usually means trouble.

Medium Fry: I'm wooking in da mirrwowr, to see how byootifuwl I am.

How do you argue with that?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Last Fifteen Minutes

Small Fry:  Auntie J, she won't let me ride the horsie!

Me: Medium Fry, why can't she ride the horse?

Medium Fry:  Because she's knocking the dominoes off!

Me, knowing I'm going to regret asking:  Why are there dominoes on the horse?

Medium: Because he needs teef!


Not three minutes later...

Medium Fry:  Auntie J, my awrm huwrts!

Me, sure I'm going to regret this one too: Why does your arm hurt?

Medium: Because I bwop myseff!

Me:  You what?

Medium slaps her upper right arm with her left hand: I did dis, and dat's bwopping myseff!  An' it huwrts!

Me:  Well, don't do that to yourself then.

I'm not done relating the first part of this series of conversations when Medium Fry starts having a cow again.

Medium: Auntie J, Small Fry is going [inaudible], and dat's a baby wowrd!

Me:  What?

Small Fry, in the background, shouting happily over everyone:  Me me me me me me me me me me!

Medium: She's saying "me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me" and dat's a baby word!

Okay, so admittedly, we are having issues with Small Fry insisting on babbling in baby talk rather than articulating like the almost-four-year-old she is.

Me:  Small Fry, use more words than just "me."

Naturally, not to be outdone, two minutes later....

Large Fry, rushing up to me where I'm sitting at my desk: Auntie J, Medium Fry is eating dominoes!

Me:  Medium, don't eat dominoes!

Medium Fry:  I'm NOT!

Yep, it's been one of those kind of nights.

You must be smarter than the 3-year-old

We have this rule.  No wearing shoes in the house.

It's not for the same reason my mother had that rule, which was because she didn't want her new carpet all dirtied up by our shoes.  We have wood floors, so that's hardly a consideration.

However, we have a persistent penchant among the children to not put their shoes away.  This means they get lost.  A lot.  Mostly, in the no-man's-land under the couch.  Unless they're elsewhere, hiding.

So, in an effort to keep the shoes corralled for when we do need them as we're getting ready to head out the door, all shoes belong on the shoe shelf.  If your tootsies are cold, well, wear your slippers.  Which also belong on the shoe shelf when not in use.  But it's easier to find a pair of pink slippers than it is to find the errant sneakers.  I don't know why.  It just is.

It's chilly here this morning, and I think fall has finally arrived to stay.  It's also dreary and rainy.  Medium Fry announced that her feet were cold.  Small Fry echoed.

"Put on your slippers, then," Hubby told them.

Not five minutes later, I hear him say in exasperation, "No shoes on in the house!"

The twins, who were in the toy room, must have looked at him, dumbfounded.

Of course, their definition of "shoes" is "sneakers."  Everything has to be specific.  You can't just say a generic "shoes."

Hubby goes on.  "You can't wear sandals in the house.  You can't wear flip-flops in the house.  If your feet are cold, find your slippers and put them on."

Small Fry immediately objects.  "But we're at the beach!"  Clearly, Unca D is stupid, because they ALL know that you don't wear slippers to the beach.  You wear sandals or flip-flops.

I'm trying to muffle a laugh from my desk in the living room.  I'm glad it's not me, because I have no idea how I'd answer that one.

Hubby puts his hands on his hips.  "Then you pretend that your slippers are flip-flops.  Put the flip-flops back on the shelf."

He turned back to me, and tapped his forehead.

He didn't say a word, but I knew what he was thinking.

Gotta be smarter than the kid.

Round one to the parents today!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Today's Award-Winning Conversation

Hubby:  Small Fry, what are you doing?

Small Fry:  Makin' a baby.

Hubby:  [calmly]  I would prefer if you didn't.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Modesty v. Toilet Training

We're potty training the twins.

Due to the general upheaval in their lives when they came to live with us, it took Large Fry until she was almost 4 to successfully toilet train.  The twin Fries are at about the same age.  Medium has kind of grasped least during the day.  And as long as you don't consider her deliberate accident the other day.  (Sigh.)

Small Fry is lagging behind.  Now, we know that all kids train when they're ready, and there's not much you can do to make them be ready.  And my mother is very fond of reminding me that the girls all have a charming genetic predisposition to belated toilet training.

Now, most of the time, because they're still so little, the girls are not all that modest.  However, because Unca D is the only boy in the house, and he demands pwivacee when he goes potty, the girls have taken to making similar demands when they go to the bathroom.

Last week, while I was in the throes of my usual payroll-week insanity for work, Hubby was mostly doing the munchkin wrangling.  Large Fry was off at school, so it was just the twin Fries at home.  Sometimes, that's more than enough for hilarity to ensue.

He sends Small Fry to go potty.  And she has a total conniption.


Because she didn't want the kitty--who was also in the bathroom, because that's where the water dishes are--to see her giwrl pawrts.

The girl kitty.

Friday, October 8, 2010

I prefer to acknowledge only one 5 o'clock per day.

Today, I get to acknowledge both.

I woke up at 5 this morning as Hubby whipped off his CPAP mask and mumbled at the small figure who'd just entered our room, telling her to go to me.

It's Small Fry.  She leaned against me and whined, "I don't feel good."

I felt her forehead, and sure enough, it was too warm.  In the process of reaching for the thermometer on the headboard, I touched Hubby's arm...which was extremely hot.  Clearly, he hadn't been kidding when he'd come to bed several hours before and said he wasn't feeling well.  And without the thermometer, I could already tell he won.

Small Fry's temp was 99.7.  I pulled her up onto the bed and she snuggled in while I managed to get a brief reading off Hubby's forehead--100--before the batteries died.  I thought his fever was higher than that, but I went and got Small Fry some ibuprofen.  Then I crawled back in bed.

I saw a shadow waving on the wall in the hallway, but figured it was the fluffy cat, Minou, walking down the hall.  Until I heard the shrieking and screaming.  Keiki was in the hall, but so was Medium Fry, who'd been waving her arm at Keiki to shoo her away, without success.  Keiki got mad and hissed, and Medium screamed.

It's got to be some sort of twin thing...whenever one of them wakes up early, the other knows shortly and comes looking.  I brushed my hand across her forehead.  "You, too, eh?"  Another round of ibuprofen.  I settled Medium on the bed with her twin, checked on Large Fry (who was warm, but not overly so, and might just have been sleepy-warm), and went downstairs looking for my extra AAA batteries.

They were not in the catch-all drawer in the kitchen where I keep batteries.


That meant I was out.  I searched the drawer three times to be sure.  Yep, no extra AAAs.  I have 9Vs.  C cell.  AAs coming out my ears.  Several disc batteries.  But no AAAs.

I resigned myself to a twenty-to-six run to the store.

I shook Hubby awake enough to tell him I had to go to the store for batteries.  He grunted.  I told the girls to rest, and I'd be back.

One thing about going to the store at oh-dark-stupid.  The parking lot is virtually empty.

I'm back home within twenty minutes, switch back into jammies, and crawl in bed, trying to claim enough turf on my own queen-sized bed so that I can get a little more rest before I have to get up and get Large Fry off to school.  Hopefully.

However, the twin Fries are not interested in being quiet and sleeping.  Hubby hasn't put his CPAP mask back on, so he's snoring to beat the band.  Between Small Fry walking her fingers all over my arm and trying to strum my lower lip and Medium Fry making soft smooching noises at the cats, trying to get them to come to her, the only one getting any sleep is Hubby.

A little before 7, Medium crawls up and snuggles on Hubby.  He makes a good bed.  Except for today.  Because Medium is a chunk, and weighs enough to make him uncomfortable.  I stave off the tears by telling her to come lay next to me.  So she lays on me instead.  She's out within minutes.

At 7:30, Large Fry moseys into the room.  I shift Medium off me, which wakes her up, and discover Small has fallen asleep.

Too bad both of them only power-napped.  I could use a nap myself about now.  And Small has proclaimed that she's "all better" now.

This is the stuff they didn't tell you about motherhood!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Things that Terrify!

In the course of the last two-plus years, we've come face-to-face with some rather interesting childhood phobias.

Ironically, it's the middlest who shows the most tendencies towards being inexplicably afraid of things.  (It's a stark contrast to my sister, also a middle child, who seemed to be afraid of nothing.  Perhaps it's because the middle child here is also an oldest twin.)  First fear? Bugs.

Okay, that I can understand.  I've had to go from the squeamish one, always having Hubby kill the bugs, to the one who performs most insect executions.  I try to hide my heebies when doing so in front of the kids, but really, most bugs don't just squish.  They crunch.  It's gross.

Next fear? Fuzzies.  Good heavens, let there not be lint!  And this, from my child who is addicted to anything soft and fluffy.

Then there were the mean red "eyes" on the monitor in the twins' room.  Had to turn that so that the red lights faced away from Medium Fry's bed; otherwise it was staring at her and it was scawwy.

Then one night I noticed that we had a spare pillowcase hung on the doorknob on the back of the door to the twins' room.  It was probably there for a couple weeks until I finally asked Hubby about it.  "Medium's afraid of the doorknob."


"It's scary."


Next up, the ceiling light fixture.  Medium Fry came unglued a few days after my asking Hubby about the pillowcase.  "What's so scary?" I asked at bedtime, perplexed.


"What?"  I looked in the general direction where she was pointing, but saw nothing that could be construed as being scary.


"The light?"

*whimper*  "Yes."

"It's a light, honey.  Why is it scary?"

"Because it has a nooooooose!"

For Pete's sake.  The light fixture has a ball in the middle, on the bottom.  "It's fine.  It's not scary, it's not a nose, and it's not going to hurt you.  Okay?"

She settled down, and thankfully, the ceiling light hasn't been an issue since.

Not so much with the doorknob, however.  If the pillowcase comes off, or falls off because one of the cats has played with it, it had better be back in the right spot before bedtime.

Now, I told you all that to tell you this story from bedtime tonight.

I wanted to stay downstairs and watch tv, and with my sinus icks, the next time I go upstairs, it's for the night.  The girls all give me hugs and kisses goodnight, and Hubby takes them upstairs to tuck them in.

A few minutes later, I hear Medium Fry crying.  "Scawwy!  Scawwy!  Scawwy!"

The door bangs in the twins' room, and I hear Hubby's voice through the monitor.  "What is wrong?"

Whimpers ensue.  Hubby comes downstairs a few minutes later, and I ask what Medium's problem was.

"The pillowcase fell off the doorknob," he said.

"What did you tell her?"

"I said that there are doorknobs all over this house, and she's not afraid of them."


"She said, 'But it's going like this!'"  And then Hubby screwed up his face and puckered up his lips like he was going in for a smooching kiss.

I have no idea how he kept a straight face on that one.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Motherhood Doesn't Give Sick Days

Which, really, I knew.  I can't tell you how many times my mom had soldiered on, being sick herself, because her family needed her.  Or one of us kids was sick too.  I can only think of a handful of times that Mom pulled rank and told Dad that he had to take the day off, because we needed someone healthy to care for the sick ones, Mom included.

Sometimes I thought Mom's healthy work ethic was a little too healthy.

But I understand that more now than I ever did as a kid.

I am sick.  I have a sinus infection.  I get these several times per year, so I know all the signs and symptoms and I usually just wait it out until I'm sure it's moved from viral sinusitis to bacterial, so that I can get help from modern medicine in getting over it.  I goofed this time and didn't wait long enough, so I got to shell out a copay to be told to go home and get rest and drink plenty of fluids.  Really.  I have three little kids.  What doctor really thinks that a mom with three small children is going to be able to REST?  Honestly, the kids act up the most when I need them to be the most well-behaved.  It's an inverse proportionality.

At least my doctor was nice enough to give me an antibiotic prescription, just in case, this went from viral to bacterial.

It's moved to bacterial and has settled in my chest, just like always.  So now I'm laying in bed, trying to keep from hacking up a lung and being grateful that my husband is not working.  He can take care of the kids.  I can try to rest.

A few minutes ago, I got a blank text message from Hubby.  I sent a text back, asking what he needed.  He asked if I was okay.  I explained that I'd come back upstairs after getting something to eat, because I was hacking like crazy and wanted to rest.  His text message response was that Small Fry was hearing something "weird" from upstairs, and since he's got his headphones on, he wasn't hearing it.

I guess she just needed to be reassured that I'm okay.

And that there's not a monster upstairs.  It's just Auntie J, who's just making a lot of noise.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

From the Beginning...

Taking in the girls was supposed to be a three-month deal.  Time for my brother to get enough money to move back from Georgia to Pennsylvania, get a job, get a place to live.  Be ready to be a parent again.

When he announced, less than two weeks into the girls' stay, that he'd gotten himself a dog--a small dog, he said, that was part Chow, part German Shepherd, and part something sneaky--I could already tell that he wasn't looking to be a responsible parent again any time soon.  He tried to tell me it was a "present" for the girls, but at least confessed that he'd gotten the dog more for himself.

Because, you see, some well-meaning soul in a divorce support group had recommended getting a dog to help fill the void left by the departing spouse.  By my way of thinking, he had something to fill that void: his children.

He was not to be dissuaded, though.  I pointed out Small Fry's deathly fear of dogs.  (Heck, we had at least two cats that were large enough to qualify as small dogs, and poor Small Fry (the youngest twin) was terrified of them if they so much as blinked at her.)  He countered by saying that the girls loved dogs.  Never mind that Small would claim the kitty had "bitten" her from across the room, and that she'd climb the nearest trusted adult like a tree if she saw a dachshund.  He knew his kids.

That was really the first inkling.

The second was when he proceeded to prove why he was an irresponsible adult by making a series of unfortunate choices: getting fired from his full-time job for walking off the job, not finding another one, and only working minimal hours at his part-time job, and all of that was before he got back to PA.  The bad choices continued when he returned home.

So it didn't take long for Hubby and I to realize that this was going to be a longer haul than originally thought.  Or that, really, we'd known from the beginning that it was going to turn out this way.

If you're wondering about the girls' mother, well, she was still in training for the Army down in Georgia.  She also knew the girls had been placed in our care relatively soon after it happened...and claimed, during a surprise visit on Father's Day weekend, that she was happy they were with us and not their father.

And so we settled into something of a routine.  Hubby went to work.  I stayed home with the kids and worked from home, which I'd been doing since before the girls arrived.  My parents came out two or three times a week to see the girls for probably the first month and a half.  Then they cut their visits back to once or twice a week.  The girls slowly adjusted.

But things weren't quite right.  First my mom (a retired elementary school teacher with thirty years' experience in small kids under her belt), then my sister (a nurse practitioner), and finally my cousin (a social worker) all indicated concerns that the girls were not developing as they should.

It took me a bit, I'll admit, to get past the idea that this was somehow a slam against the parenting skills we'd had to cultivate on the fly and realize this was more about the fact that the girls were already behind developmentally when they came to live with us.  They needed help.  And so did we.

I contacted Early Childhood Intervention for the twins.  Large Fry, the oldest, at almost three, really needed to be evaluated by the ages 3-5 program, and our biggest concern there was her speech.  She was still using a lot of baby talk.  The twins were evaluated at the end of July, and services started within two weeks of the evaluation.  Both twins had at least a 25% delay in their self-help skills (ability to solve and communicate problems).  Medium Fry (the older twin) threw frustration tantrums half a dozen times a day, because she would get so frustrated by something and then by her lack of ability to communicate it to us and our inability to solve her problem.  So she'd scream.  At the top of her lungs. Often threw herself on the floor in tears.  As awful as it was, we became experts in ignoring these tantrums.  When she'd spent herself, we could figure out and resolve the issue.  Small Fry also had at least a 25% delay in her fine and gross motor skills.  She wasn't walking independently like her twin.  She could walk, as long as she held on to things.  If there was something to push around, she could.  Crawling, however, was her preferred mode of transportation.  Developmental therapy for both twins was held weekly in our home, and so was physical therapy for Small.  It took a while to get through the red tape for Large Fry, because (despite the guardianship papers we held stating otherwise) the LIU evaluating center refused to accept my signature as a responsible party for Large Fry when it came to her educational rights.  It took forever to get my brother to sign the papers authorizing the evaluation.  When he did, Large Fry was found to have an expressive language delay of almost a year.  Everything else was pretty normal, but her ability to express herself was severely behind.  No wonder she couldn't answer questions like, "Did you hit your sister?"

So we exchanged our dining room for a toy room, our spare bedroom for the girls' bedroom, and I saw far less of my office than I did before.  I relocated it to the living room.

About half of the clothes my brother had packed and sent with the girls were too small.  A few had mildew on them from being wet and not cared for.  Laundry became a daily experience.

Large Fry turned three, and we had a small party.  She loved it.  Popoki, our oldest cat, showed up at present time to see what all the fuss was.  Despite being a crotchety old thing, this was her house, and she was going to keep tabs on things, and she adapted best to the kids' arrival.

The girls' mother finished her training, only to find herself reassigned to suit the needs of the Army and packed off to yet another training.  She graduated from there right before Thanksgiving, and the twins' 2nd birthday.

We had two parties that time.  One, at my folks' the day after Thanksgiving, for my brother to attend, along with any extended family who wanted to be there.  The second, actually on the twins' birthday, was the one we invited their mother and her family to.

Five weeks later, having only seen her kids three more times, the girls' mother shipped out to her first duty station in South Korea.  She would be there for a year-long tour.

And the girls would remain with us.

Friday, October 1, 2010

"So was it fun?"

That's what a very dear friend asked me when I posted a status on Facebook that said I would not take the twins with me the next time I had numerous errands to run.

I had to think about it for a minute.


I don't know that I could necessarily say that.

The other shoppers probably had a laughfest over my twin girls.  Trying to keep them from running around in three different directions (I'm still trying to figure out how that's possible when there's only two of them, but there it is), not push in the foam cups of every bra they saw, drumming on shelves, and plaintively asking when we were going to get the oldest twin's new sneakers, wanting to walk out with a stuffed Grinch and his dog Sam...and that was just in Kohl's.  Oh, and that's where the guy was running a floor cleaner over the linoleum at the checkout registers, and my youngest twin was sure that the cleaner was a monster that would eat her. 

They were very intrigued by the post office, when I went to mail two books and my rent check.  Fortunately, small-town post offices are staffed by nice folks who think my little terrors are the cutest thing around.  That was our first stop.  The whole way from there to Kohl's, the oldest twin rambled on and on about how monsters and giants are afraid of little girls, and how Unca D flicks the giants and scares them away.  Come to think of it, that's probably why Twin #2 came even more unglued over the floor cleaner at Kohl's.  But I digress.

After striking out on the sneakers at Kohl's, we went on to Target, for both prescriptions and sneakers.  They both charmed another customer at the pharmacy, who was a grandma of twin girls about a week younger.  Twin #1 chose her sneakers while Twin #2 has to have the prescription bag taken from her and the handles rolled up so that she won't drag it on the floor, like I kept telling her not to and she kept doing anyway.  They were cute enough in the checkout line that they got stickers.

A short ride later, and by "short," I mean it took longer to buckle up and then unbuckle again when I parked than it took to drive from Target to Giant, and we're walking into the grocery store.  We're in desperate need of butter, although I make a happy detour and pick up some Reese's peanut butter cups.  I need the chocolate.  I grab the butter and am tooling on down the aisle when Twin #2 comes running up.  "I got da butter for yew, Auntie J!" she says cheerily, dropping another pound of butter into my little cart.

I feel like I'm running laps as I return the butter and sally forth.  I picked up stuff for lunch and stuff for dinner tonight (lasagna; aren't you thrilled?), and then gawk at the self check-out lane line.  Eep.

I got into a regular line, and as I'm standing there, trying to keep the twins occupied (they're almost four and have the attention spans of a cat) and out of the nearby freezer endcap that has ice cream treats in it, I feel something being yanked out of my pocket.  Twin #2 pops her thumb in her mouth and looks up at me somewhat defiantly, holding her little stuffed pig in her other hand.  "I want my piggy!" she says.

We're about ready to leave when an arm appears out of nowhere on my left, piggy in hand.  "Is this yours?" the customer that's two behind me asks.  I'm just barely able to contain the eyeroll as I thank her and comment about how sad life would be without the piggy.

My foot is really griping by the time we get home.  (I broke it in four places in a nasty auto wreck last summer, and the two titanium pins and the healed breaks don't handle weather changes well.)


I don't know that that's the adjective I'd choose.  Interesting, perhaps.  Insane.  An exercise in herding cats.


Yeah, I'm still not seeing that.

However, it did serve to remind me of why it is that I usually run errands and shop alone.  It gives me precious "me" time, a chance to recharge, however brief.