Thursday, January 30, 2014


It's January 30, 2014.

We had a talk with the kids tonight before bed.

See, tomorrow afternoon, the guardian ad litem, appointed by the court to act on behalf of the girls in the upcoming hearing, is coming to visit.

We didn't know what to expect from his visit, but we needed to at least prepare the girls for his visit.

So, we sat the girls down around the island in the kitchen to tell them about our company for tomorrow afternoon, and explained why he would be coming.

"Remember when you first came to live with us, you called us Auntie and Uncle?" Hubby asked.

Three dark heads nodded.

"Well, that's because you're really our nieces. We love you like daughters, but you're still really our nieces. You call us Mommy and Daddy, but we're still Auntie and Uncle." Hubby paused, glancing at each of the Fries to be sure they were following him. "And we want to be your real mom and dad."

This brought silence, and then cheers.

"We want you to really be our daughters. We want to adopt you."

So we talked a little more about what that would their last names would change to match ours, for instance.

Proposal #1.
Then Hubby said, "You know what I did when I told Mommy I wanted to be with her forever? I proposed. Do you know what that means? It means I got down on one knee and asked her, 'Will you marry me?'"

Hubby smiled at each of them, love all over his face.

And then he got down on one knee in front of Medium Fry. "Medium," he said gently, "will you be my daughter?"

Medium was still sorting through that, and couldn't say yes, so he hugged her and said that was okay. She took off for upstairs.

Proposal #2.
Hubby then scooted over and asked Large Fry the same thing. "Large, will you be my daughter?"

Large squealed, "YES!" and threw her arms around him.

Then Hubby faced Small Fry. "Small, will you be my daughter?"

She mimicked her older sister's reaction, complete with squealing and hugging.
Proposal #3.

I let them hug and went after Medium.

As it turned out, Medium just needed to talk a bit more about this, and understand that us wanting to be her real parents didn't mean that Daddy Bro or Mommy XSIL didn't love her. As soon as she was able to understand everything to her own satisfaction, she got right on board with the adoption, and could hardly wait for that to happen.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Fifth Commandment

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may
live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. 
~Exodus 20:12

Hubby was talking with his sister Lou this morning, following a Facebook conversation about her snow day today and Small Fry's insistence upon calling Auntie Lou to tell her she has to get married. After he got off the phone with her, the conversation between him and the Fries in the kitchen moved from Auntie Lou to Auntie Lou and Daddy's parents, and what it means when the Bible says to honor your mother and father.

"But how do you do that when your daddy is dead?" one of the girls wanted to know.

"I behave in the way that they taught me. When we go to see Gramma Bevvie, and I go to the church my mom goes to, those people know me. They knew Poppa C. How I act reflects how my parents raised me. So people watch me, and they remember Poppa C, and they can tell if I'm honoring him or not by my actions."

"What do we do with people when they're dead?" Medium pressed.

The Inquisitor strikes again.

Can I just tell you how glad I was that it was Hubby in the kitchen facing that question, not me?

"Well," Hubby began, "every person has two parts to them: the body, which is what we see, and the soul, which is what makes us who we are. When we die, it's not our soul that dies: that's the part that goes to live with Jesus. It's not Medium's smile that makes her Medium. It's not Small's nose that makes her Small."

I could hear the smile in his voice, and imagined that he touched Small's nose as he spoke.

He went on. "Those things are part of the body. Everything about you that makes you you is your soul."

He paused for a moment.

"On Christmas, what's the best part of the presents? Is it the wrapping paper and the bows and the packing peanuts and tissue paper?"

"The gifts!" chorused three voices.

"Right, it's the gift. What do we do with the wrapping paper and stuff?"

"Throw it away!"

"Right., your soul, that's the gift. Your body is like the wrapping paper. Once we're done with the wrapping paper, we don't need it anymore. The same thing is true for people. When our soul doesn't need the body anymore, the body dies. And when that happens, we do one of two things. We put the body in a box, called a casket, and we bury it in the ground. That's called a cemetery. You've seen those. The place with all the big stones, remember?"

I imagined three little heads nodding.

"The other thing we do is we might put the body in a big fire, and burn it until there's nothing left of it but stuff that we call ashes. That's called cremating."

"I want to see where your daddy is buried."

I'm not surprised to hear Medium say that.

"You have. We stopped by the cemetery once when we were visiting Gramma Bevvie. And once, we took a long drive, and we visited where my grandparents are buried. Mommy has pictures. You can ask her to show you."

There was another brief pause, and Hubby announced that he really needed to go to work.

But there was one more question...

"Daddy, when you were in Hawai'i, did you put dead bodies in volcanoes?"

I think Hubby almost choked. "No, we didn't put dead bodies in volcanoes. We buried them there, too."

I know you're not going to be surprised when I tell you that Medium is the one who asked that.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Name Game

It's January 17th.

While we haven't told the kids about our filing of the court papers, we have been slowly building up to the point where we're able to tell them at least part of what's going on. We know we'll need to; at some point, the court-appointed guardian ad litem is going to come to our house, meet with us and the Fries. We'll have to explain that, and we really have no idea how at this point.

So we've brought up names a couple of times.

We've discussed what we would do with the Fries' names at the time of adoption.

Now, we always thought that we wouldn't get to the point of adopting the girls until they were all 18; we'd do an adult adoption, which is legal in our state. We never thought that we'd be able to pursue this now. We knew we wanted them to take our last name. We also planned to ditch the hyphenated second half of Large's middle name, which is historically attached to XSIL and her family. Beyond that, though, we didn't plan to do any changes. The Fries are too old to be messing with their first names.

However, we realized that, with the last name change, Small and I would run into a problem: we would share the exact same name, except for the middle initial, since Small was originally named after me.

Hubby and I had both worked in the credit card industry. We knew from semi-personal experience—both in our job experiences and since Hubby's older brother and father shared everything but their middle initial—that having the same first and last name but different middle initial could cause all kinds of potential problems in the future: credit mix-ups, auto insurance/accident records screw-ups, medical records switching, a whole host of problems.

This was not going to work. We needed to protect both Small's future and my own.

Suddenly, the names for our potential daughters were back on the table. You know, the ones we'd discussed years ago, before we even thought about starting our family, beyond the theoretical.

And, well, in for a penny, in for a pound...

Large's first name, we decided, would dovetail nicely with the feminine form of Hubby's father's name. We liked the combination of names that Medium already had, but to make it ours, we could change the spelling of her middle name. That left Small...we could change her first name to one of our original name choices, had we been naming our own baby, keep her current first name as her middle name, and continue calling her by that name.

How to approach this with the munchkins, then...

We started by asking them what they would change their names to, if they could have any name they wanted. Large and Small pretty much liked their names.

Medium announced that she wanted "more letters" in her name.

Then we gradually talked about what we thought about their names...what we'd change their names to, if we could.

It took Large a couple of days to decide that she liked what we proposed. Medium was happy with her extra letters.

Small was ecstatic about her name change. She couldn't wait to have it be her real name.

I've told you all that to tell you this particular story.

I was checking Small's homework tonight, and noticed that she'd scribbled something in addition to her name...which suddenly had more letters. As I struggled to make sense of the letters she'd written—it became clear that she'd left a note for her teacher, explaining that her daddy had changed her name—I asked her what she'd written for her name.

A mulish expression stole over her face.

I dropped the firmness from my tone. "Is this because you wanted to use the new name Daddy and I have talked to you about?" The letters were only partly what were in the name we'd picked. Clearly, it hadn't sunk in yet.

Small nodded.

I handed her homework back to her. "Okay. Your name hasn't changed yet, honey. When it does, you'll be the first to know."

She nodded again.

I pulled her in for a hug. "I love you."

"Love you too."

And then I emailed her teacher, just to give her a heads-up.

Thankfully, her teacher is excited for what this step means for us and our family, and thought Small's reaction was understandable...and adorable.

Friday, January 24, 2014


Hubby took the Fries up to the Mountain Roller Rink tonight, since they've been itching to go back ever since the twins were there for Brooke's birthday party.

He called me while they were on their way up there (and, yes, the rink's name does give you a good idea of the roads to get there), and related this conversation:

Medium: Oooo, it's tickling my bum!

Hubby: What is?

Medium: The hills!

Small: It's not tickling my bum.

Medium [very matter-of-factly]: Well, I'm squeezing my butt cheeks together.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


I know I've mentioned my best friend JJ here before. There's lots of reasons why she's so very near and dear to my heart, and not the least of these is her heart for adoption. She and her husband already have three rather rambunctious boys (ages 9, 7, and 2), and they recently decided that their family was missing a child. Specifically, a little girl.

They have been through a wringer of fundraisers: a massive yard sale, selling the children's Christmas book she wrote, doing fundraisers through various organizations; all of this, with the end goal of finding their daughter and bringing her home.

They were approved by America World last year, and they are now waiting as they wade through miles of red tape, recommended reading, home studies, spending more money, facing possible delays due to several countries who have recently closed their doors to international adoptions, getting physicals, and more paperwork and still more waiting. Once they've cleared the paperwork, they wait some more, for a referral for their little girl, who will come from Haiti.

I can't imagine the anguish of knowing your daughter is out there, but you have no idea what she looks like, or how long it will be before she comes home. It must, in some ways, be like the parents of the missing kids who used to be on milk cartons...except you have no picture to post, no name or description to give. You have nothing but the certainty in your heart that tells you your child is out there, waiting for you. And you don't know how many days must go by before the someday of her arrival at home finally gets here.

I know she's recently been discouraged, by the closure of Ethiopia and the Congo to international adoption, by the dwindling balance in their adoption account without a whole lot seeming to show for it, by the pressures of continued fundraising to bring home their daughter while enduring an interminable wait and yet not forgetting that they have three little boys already at home to love and raise.

One fundraiser that JJ had desperately hoped would take off well was their sales page through Just Love Coffee. It's a simple fundraiser; you order great coffee, and their adoption account gets a cut of the profits. In fact, this is a core tenet of Just Love Coffee's business model: they help with fundraising for adoptions while selling some pretty fancy-schmancy, really good coffees. And hot chocolate.

They have coffees for every palate, really, from mild roasts to dark. For Christmas, I bought some Jamaica Blue Mountain, one of the best coffees in the world, for Hubby (who was shocked, knowing how good—and expensive—it is). It's so good that Hubby says it's too refined for his palate, and he has to mix it with another coffee because he's so unsophisticated. I bought coffee for Jester. I bought hot chocolate for Mitzy, who is not a coffee fan the way Jester is.

So, for all of you coffee drinkers out there who read my humble little blog...would you consider joining Hubby and me, and my family, and treat yourself to some really good coffee, and help bring a little girl home? If you're not a coffee drinker but you know people who are, would you share that link with your coffee-loving friends and encourage them to shop there? Would you consider sharing this post or the link on your blogs? (I'm placing a link on my sidebar tonight that will lead directly to JJ's Just Love Coffee page.) It's not every day you can indulge your caffeine addiction and do a world of good for one special little girl at the same time.

Disclaimer: While JJ reads my blog, she didn't know I was doing this tonight. Call it a belated Christmas gift to her.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Oh, goody. A school holiday.

So far today, I have:

*Ascertained why Medium Fry is bawling (before I even got dressed). Evil Daddy assigned "too much" chores.
*Checked with Hubby, because the chores Medium said he gave her did not make sense (she was supposed to clean her room by herself, particularly).
*Determined that Hubby did NOT assign the bedroom-cleaning chore, more specifically, did not insist that Medium was to do it solo.
*Fielded a phone call from Hubby, who wished to speak with Medium regarding her prevarication.
*Insisted that all three Fries eat (a very late) breakfast, which explained some of the squabbling.
*Ate my own breakfast. (Yay for bacon!)
*Filled crock pot stoneware with soapy hot water so I could clean it later.
*Folded a load of laundry.
*Started a load of laundry.
*Had the sudden realization that it's nearly noon, and I still haven't gotten dinner in the crock pot. Oops.
*Washed the crock pot.
*Seasoned the roaster chicken for dinner tonight, and then realized that I should have scrubbed, quartered, and foiled the potatoes before seasoning the chicken.
*Put potatoes and chicken into the crock pot. On high, yes, please.
*Made a tie for Small Fry's duckie...because he's getting married to Small's Piggy today. (I'm invited to the wedding.)
*Realized I have not even gotten started on work today. Sigh.
*Listened to an avid conversation about weddings in the kitchen while Small made her wedding dress for Piggy. Large was recounting Daddy Bro's wedding to StepMommy, and grabbed my wedding album to ask me what the "thing" on my head was. That's a veil, sweetheart.
*Not yet made lunch. I should do that.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Shot Heard 'Round the World

It's January 15, 2014.

I say that because this post will sit as a draft for awhile.

You'll understand why.

Based on a tremendously long string of events (more accurately, lack of events), biological parental history, the sheer amount of time the Fries have lived with us, and much, much more, Hubby and I came to a very painful but necessary decision back in late August.

We would file petitions with the court to involuntarily terminate the parental rights of Bro and XSIL, and petition to adopt the Fries ourselves.

Our fabulous attorney had first brought up the notion back in May 2013, when we had sent her an email just to kind of update her on life for us.

Our attorney does not advise towards whimsical, flighty courses of action.

We weighed the matter heavily. We prayed about it...A LOT. We held our own counsel for awhile, and then sought out friends whom we deeply trust to confide in, and begged for their prayers for wisdom.

We knew what this would do.

We went to my parents. We had many conversations.

We made the decision just before school started. Admittedly, a big motivating factor was that XSIL's current hitch in the Army was up in January 2014. She does not communicate with us, and so we had no idea if she'd reupped or not. If she hadn't...well, that could cause all sorts of ruckus with our nice, comfortable life.

And then I proceeded to decide that I really needed to have two surgical procedures and a massive staph infection and put in some new entries in my Magnificent Medical Maladies history...and our talks with the attorney got delayed.

I finally got in touch with her in mid-November.

By the time I was allowed out in public again, and could drive myself down to the office, it was early December.

The petitions were filed with the court the week before Christmas.

We have lived on tenterhooks ever since.

We didn't know when the judge would send out the filing with the hearing notice. We did know that the fallout was going to be ugly. The best predictor of future reactions is past reactions, and his past reactions when we've done something to anger him told us that his response to this one is going to be off-the-charts mad.

Christmas went by. So did New Year's. (Neither biological parent of the Fries called.)

Our lawyer emailed us; the paperwork was still with the judge.

It finally came back to her office last Friday.

It arrived in the mail at our house yesterday...and at my brother's house today.

He called our dad.

Oooooooo, he's mad. So mad he hasn't even tried to call us yet.

I wasn't surprised by any of his complaints. Nothing new there.

But...every single one of the complaints—EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.—is because of choices that he himself has made. All of the angst? The result of his choices. Finding himself in the position where we are petitioning to sever his parental rights? Ultimately, due to his choices.

We love these girls, and we are currently charged by the court with parenting them, raising them to be good and profitable members of society. That includes protecting them from those who would do them harm, especially at these young ages, even if those people are their biological parents. We have poured years of our lives into them. We have told them countless times that we are here in their lives for good, to stay, that they will always be ours, no matter what.

We feel the rumble of approaching teen years.

We need to confirm the stability of our family before that freight train arrives.

The Fries deserve—NEED—to be assured that our family is forever.

This decision, this upcoming hearing in February, protects and preserves what they already know.

We are mom and dad. They are our daughters.

Soon, it will be legal, and we'll be shouting it to the world.

I can't wait.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Good news! Good news!

If you heard that in the voice of Rosco P. Coltrane, I automatically award you oodles of cool points.

I had OT this morning.

Even though my last evaluation was on December 23, and they're supposed to be about 30 days apart, my occupational therapist decided to do an evaluation today, because I see my surgeon on Tuesday. She wanted to be able to give him a recent and accurate progress report.

Let's reminisce a little, shall we?

I started OT on October 30, 2013. At that time:

  • I had a whole 8lbs of grip strength in my right hand. (In my left, by comparison, I had 40lbs. That meant I should have about 45-50lbs of grip strength in my right, under normal circumstances.)
  • I had a whopping 11 degrees of extension in my right hand (palm down, lifting up). Normal is 60-70 degrees. This is when I learned that I am a freak, because I have 78 degrees of extension in my left hand. And, because I have freakishly flexible ligaments, that's the reason I'm feeling like I'm in the sixth circle of hell. Any tightness is magnified times about a zillion because I'm so used to having ligaments that stretch and move like crazy. Gee. Even my ligaments are overachievers.
  • I had very little pinch strength. Pinches are kind of important; they're used to button things, put in earrings, pick up small items.
  • I had almost no lateral motion (moving the wrist side to side, from pinky to thumb).
Four weeks later, I was reevaluated:
  • Grip strength test: "Give it all you've got," my therapist said. We did this three times. I actually yelled during the last attempt. ("Well, that didn't help at all," she said.) 16lbs of grip strength. Hey, it's a 100% improvement! Still pathetic? Yes.
  • I had about 25 degrees of extension and 35 degrees of flexion. Not even approaching normal levels.
  • Pinch strength was still at less than 5-10lbs per pinch (thumb on top of fingers, one-finger pinch with the index finger, two-finger pinch).
  • Minimal range of lateral motion.
The second week of December is when my therapist decided that I needed a more "aggressive treatment" plan. That's when I got the splint. By forcing my hand back, it would help force the scar tissue and underlying adhesions to stretch more. There are two rows of bones in the wrist, see, and the scar tissue was wedged between them. (I do nothing halfway.) This actually helps in flexion; the scar tissue forces the bones apart the way they need to in order for the wrist to flex. It inhibits the extension of the wrist, because the scar tissue blocks the motion of those bones, and they need to kind of move over each other. I started out using the splint for five minutes at a time. (I'm now up to 12.) I was also started on a more aggressive set of exercises designed to improve my grip strength.

I was reevaluated again two days before Christmas:
  • I had 25lbs of grip strength.
  • I had 45 degrees of extension and almost 60 degrees of flexion. This meant I was at minimal levels for functionality.
  • Pinch strength was up to normal ranges for all (between 8 and 15lbs, depending on which pinch).
  • Lateral motion range was between 10 and 15 degrees, depending on whether I was flexing toward the thumb or the pinky.
After this evaluation, I got bumped up to the highest level of strengthening toys. I used only the highest weighted clothespins, used the rubber TheraBand balls with the most resistance, used the toughest resistance levels on the Digiflex weighted grips, and we started adding the 2lb weight to the extension/flexion exercises. And the parrafin wax treatment came first in my therapy sessions, with the addition of a hot pack and weights to help stretch out my wrist.

Are you bored yet?

Today, I was evaluated again.

We both almost jumped up and down over today's numbers:
  • 34lbs of grip strength, which she said will continue to improve as I do more and more daily tasks. That's the best therapy for that now.
  • 59 degrees of extension!!! We could not believe it. That's one degree off normal! 70 degrees of flexion! So awesome. All of that without stretching, without massage, without using The Extractor, without doing anything to improve the stretchability of my ligaments.
  • Lateral motion range about the same as before.
I got officially discharged from occupational therapy today!

I will continue to do certain exercises here at home for the next few months. I need to continue to use the splint until the end of March, at least. The scar tissue still needs to be massaged and worked on, to loosen it up as much as possible before it matures (I didn't know scar tissue did that) and won't relax any further. That won't happen until June or July.

I was so happy I almost cried. In October, I didn't think I would ever get better.

I was also so sad I almost cried. In the last three months, my therapist has become my friend. I'm going to miss seeing her.

She almost cried for the same reasons.

I'll miss going to therapy. I really will.

The $80 a week in copays, however, I will be happy to miss.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Dear Liza...

There's a hole in my wall, dear Liza, dear Liza.

There's a hole in my wall, dear Liza, a hole.

Water from outlets is BAD.

With what shall I fix it, dear Liza, dear Liza?

With what shall I fix it, dear Liza, with what?


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Myron Lives!

Well, sort of.

I think maybe it's Myron's ghost's cousin, once removed.

Otherwise known as adhesions and scar tissue built up under the skin.

I was at OT today, and decided my progress was decidedly pathetic. (My therapist said, when I mentioned it to her, that it has nothing to do so much with strength as it did the scar tissue getting in the way of the ligaments and tendons trying to do their jobs. So I'm not pathetic, but it sure looks that way.)

I'm holding a 2-lb. dumbbell.

Yes, a whole two pounds.

I'm doing my extension/flexion exercises. Extension pulls the hand and wrist up; flexion drops it down.

Behold, it's progress!

No, really. Progress.


I can now get about 51 degrees of extension without the dumbbell, which is awesome, compared to the 11 degrees I started with. And that's without all the heat therapy and the stretching and the exercises and everything that gets me another 8 or 9 degrees of motion.

With the dumbbell is another story. I'm still working on building up my hand strength. Two pounds is a lot when you consider the amount of trauma Myron has put me through.

By comparison, here's what I can do with my left hand:

Yeah, you can see why it's so easy to get discouraged. And I should theoretically have another 5-10 degrees of motion beyond that in my dominant hand. Which I don't (obviously).

My therapist says that part of my problem is that my ligaments are naturally so loose that any tightness feels even worse than it is, because I'm so used to being freakishly limber. In my hands, anyway.

I have to constantly remind myself that I could not even pick this up ten weeks ago.

But this terrible-looking splint (beautifully designed on pink hibiscus magic stuff by my occupational therapist), what my therapist calls aggressive treatment, is helping me get more and more movement back.

But yes, it hurts.

The Big Picture

One of the presents we got for the kids for Christmas was a game for the whole family: Big Picture Apples to Apples. I thought it would be easier for the kids to be able to play, if they were using pictures as opposed to words. It also has a hidden benefit for Large, which I didn't realize when I bought it, but I digress.

The Green Apple cards still have words on them, so they've been sounding out some new words as we've played. But the Red Apple cards are all pictures, some of them quite hilarious all on their own.

School got canceled for tomorrow, because of the ridiculously cold weather, so when the kids begged to play it again tonight after dinner, we said yes.

So there we are, seated around the dining room table, and Medium Fry is the judge.

"Drop-Dead Gorgeous," she reads, after we help her a little with pronunciation.

I momentarily debate among my picture cards, then smirk, and show this one to Hubby, who's sitting to my left:

He guffaws, and tells me I just have to play it.

So I do.

The Fries giggled for five minutes straight, and kept looking back through the pile of Red Apple cards just to find it so they could laugh some more. (No, I didn't win. Some lady in a pretty, red, strapless dress did. Good thing Medium was the judge.)

The truly hilarious thing was that Medium actually got the joke.

I really think I should've won.

A few minutes later, Small Fry is the judge, and her Green Apple card says "Squishy." I played a very poor card, and lobbied for the fact that my picture had a lady with "squishy" big hair, and lost anyway.

We're all drawing replacement Red Apple cards when Small leans over and grabs a handful of Hubby's chest. "Squishy!"

This sent everyone into fits of giggles, except Hubby, who looked mildly shocked and then sort of long-suffering. Small, continuing to chortle, grabbed Hubby's arm, earlobe, and goatee, proclaiming them all, "Squishy!"

I begged him to let me get a picture of Small's first squishy grab as a re-do, but he declined. (Loudly. And repeatedly.)

And then came the hand when nobody had anything good to play. Hubby was the judge.

He just sort of stared at the cards.

Yeah, what would you have picked?