Sunday, August 16, 2015

2 x 4 Grief

Many of our blog readers are people of faith, and many are not.  Those of you who are long time readers know me to speak casually and frankly about my understanding of God in my life, and you know that in the past I have spoken of being so dense that I literally pray for God to hit me over the head with a 2 x 4 so that I will be absolutely certain that what I am sensing is, indeed, Spirit led and not headstrong Cindy led.

But what do you do when that 2 x 4 that whacks you upside the head is Grief with a capital "G" What about Grief you'd prefer to keep held tucked away,  Grief you'd much rather not reveal because the effort of explaining it requires too much of you, Grief that you don't even have sorted out yet and don't have a handle on?

What do you do?

You listen when God begs you to share.  You cry out and let your tears speak the words you can't quite find to eloquently express what you are feeling.  You set your pride aside, you be as vulnerable as a person can be, and you let God do what God does best...hold you in the arms of others, whisper in your ear through the sweet messages of others, and look into the eyes of others who may not fully understand but who care enough to want to connect in some way...any way.

This week has been one of hard, painful truths being explored.  It has been a week of coming to grips with a reality no one wants, but half suspected.  It has been a week of emotional depth for many different reasons, coming at me from all sides, requiring of me a level of spiritual maturity I don't really have, but need to have regardless.

I have spent 8 1/2 years advocating for our dear, sweet Kenny.  Starting with a blank slate, and quite literally not a single medical record relating to the 8 years that were lived prior to being adopted, Kenny has been...what is that saying?  He has been "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma."  And I just snorted out loud with laughter as I looked this up and discovered how apropos it is that this is a Winston Churchill quote about the actions of Russia. Yea, the actions of the former USSR...could this be any more telling?

How many IEP school meetings did I find myself fighting tooth and nail to get someone to listen to me about the fact that what we were seeing in Kenny was absolutely NOT just language acquisition challenges? In how many of those meetings did I hold back the tears, knowing something was desperately wrong with my son and understanding that not a single person believed me or saw what I was seeing?  Why did I...an uneducated, non-specialist, non-degreed mom...have to bring diagnoses to MD's and educators and beg for testing and be blown off time and time again, despite ultimately being proven correct in my personal assessment?

And there sat Kenny, always trusting me to have his best interests at heart, always working harder than any kid ought to ever have to work to do the simplest things, like learn to sound out words, learn phone numbers, learn to acquiesce with incredible grace when he made mistakes all day long.

The patience and forgiveness this young man has offered me, even when young, is beyond my understanding.  How many times did I expect things of him that were impossible?  How many times, in my lack of knowledge, did I hold his behavior up to him and point out how illogical it was, as if he could somehow "fix it" if I made him feel bad enough about it?  How many times did I learn something new about his brain, and suddenly realize why he did the things he did, or didn't do the things he didn't do?

After years and years of adding up diagnoses, and pursuing every possible avenue for help for Kenny, I finally decided to look into Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I "liked" a Facebook page many months ago for caregivers of those with FAS/FAE (Fetal Alcohol Effect) and it was a gradual "aha".  The statements being made WERE the life we were living with Kenny. Why hadn't anyone ever suggested this, and why hadn't I put two and two together myself?  Of course, I knew it was possible in some sort of distant, random way, but we kept being given specific learning disability labels with no umbrella ever suggested by a single specialist of what the true root cause might be.  So, we focused on each development as it arose, accommodating as best we could with academics and ever changing expectations.

As I continued to read posts in this Facebook group, I decided we needed to pursue this, and spent months finding the right place to get an evaluation.  We ended up trying to work with the University of Washington, as they have not only an international adoption medicine program with a fabulous MD who reviewed videos of Matt and Josh all those years ago, but she is also involved with the USA's longest running FAS Clinic at the U of WA.  I came to discover that even getting permission to be seen by the clinic is a bit of a process, and we had to send in photos, provide a history, and needed to know if the biological mother used alcohol before we would even be considered for an appointment. Hmmm...good luck with that one when you have a child who was abandoned immediately after birth outside a police station with no note.  The one thing that saved us in being allowed to apply for an appointment was that 8 1/2 years ago we immediately took Kenny to see Dr. Boris Gindis to be evaluated in his native Russian language, and in Dr. Gindis's report he stated that one of the orphanage documents he translated stated that at some point, there was a suspicion of fetal alcohol exposure for Kenny.  That, along with the obvious challenges he has, was enough to have U of WA say "yes", and we are currently awaiting a date for an appointment for an evaluation, which we told will be 4-6 months from now.



This week, it really hit.  FAS is hard to diagnose without firm knowledge of birth mom usage, and there aren't always facial feature anomalies as determining factors.  Often, it is solely a broken brain that is the only clear sign of FAS/FAE.  And that makes it harder, because these kids LOOK normal, but they absolutely can not think the way the rest of the world does. Like Kenny, they can also be quite bright, and yet their brain is broken and what might have been an exceptionally good brain misfires randomly and with no warning.

After another mildly frustrating day with Kenny, when everything was disconnected, and yet again he forgot to take a shower...and when asked if he forgot he couldn't even recall if had had showered 30 minutes earlier, I decided more research was in order.  I sat down and started to seek more information, this time instead of searching for just FAS or FAE, I Googled FAS in Young Adults.

And there it was.  Validation unlike any other I have ever found.  A report was quoted that was generated by the U of WA about a long term study of 451 young adults over 21 years old and the statistics associated with their success.

Oh shit.

Sorry, but that was the only thing I could think of in the moment to say.  Oh shit.

Not only have I been right all along when I have said, "I am not so sure Kenny will make it on his own as an adult, we will just have to wait and see.", but I was more right than I ever could have imagined.  So many times in casual conversation about the kids and how they are doing I have  mentioned something along those lines, only to have the person who knows him look at me like I
had a third eye sticking out of my forehead, or that I was some sort of slightly insane, over-thinking, overprotective mother.  Kenny?  That Kenny who can carry on a conversation for hours about any event in history and analyze current events in context? Kenny whose theological depth is truly almost unparalleled for a kid his age? Kenny who is funny and engaging and tender hearted?  What in the world is wrong with Kenny?  You must be nuts, mom.

The only person who truly believed it was Kenny himself, for he and I have daily fought on the battleground to regain brain function for almost 9 years now, and we both know something is just not right here.  As he read some of the data I had found, as well as combed through an ebook I had downloaded, he looked up at me and said with conviction, "Yea mom, this is totally me...it's sort of like you wrote it specifically about me."

The statistics in the report were devastating, and yet so very sadly validated that sneaking feeling I have had for years. Not a single man  in the study of 451 people was able to live independently unassisted.  They end up homeless, victimized or in jail. Of the 451 people studied who are adults living with FAS/FAE, here are the percentages that needed concrete help with these daily tasks:

Getting dressed - 4%
Public transportation - 24%
Hygiene - 36%
Staying out of trouble - 47%
Structuring leisure time - 47%
Cooking meals - 49%
Grocery shopping - 52%
Interpersonal relationships - 56%
Getting medical care - 66%
Getting social services - 70%
Making decisions - 78%
Managing money - 82%

Yes, 4% even need help getting dressed.  How many times have I had to tell Kenny that wearing long sleeved fleece shirts when it is 96 degrees out is probably not wise?  Do you know Kenny has revealed to us that if he had to drive somewhere on his own, he would have no idea how to get to Walmart, church, or the library...and we live in a town with only 2 major streets.  Even today, I sent him to go find a Tshirt for volleyball while we were shopping, and when he returned he admitted to me that he got lost and forgot which direction the grocery section was in.   16 year olds can find their way around the major departments of a Walmart...but not ours.

And helpful, wonderful, kind and caring people think that something as simple as "make him a list" will be a solution to a problem that is far larger than a list can solve.  And that alone is so isolating as a mom, I can't even begin to tell you.  It is isolating to have no one really understand the level of handicap because your kid looks normal and IS smart. It is terribly lonely to feel something in your gut and no one believes you, and you know you are losing valuable time trying to work with it because you don't have solid answers (and you have already lost half their childhood).  It is isolating as hell to have to look your child in the eye, and tell them their dreams are truly out of reach, and they will need to lower the bar...not a little, but a lot.

The 2 x 4 of Grief whacked me in church this morning, after having spent several days this week in
conversation with Kenny over this, struggling to wrap our minds around the fact that, indeed, this lovely, inquisitive, articulate (when he isn't trying hard to find the right word that escaped his brain), wonderful young man will absolutely never be able to live safely on his own without a fair amount of support, and with the degree of deficit Kenny has, truthfully probably he will never be able to live completely alone.  It is unsafe for him in many ways, and he gets that too.

I am sitting there with our family, a wonderfully challenging sermon had been delivered that "hit" me on so many levels, and it was time for us to share prayer requests.  Now, mind you, no one is aware of this week's awareness that had struck us, no conversation had been had with anyone, and there were only about 20 of us in church today.  The very first prayer request?

For parents who will be parenting children long into the future, who have kids who will need care all their lives and move into adulthood never being able to be independent.

It was so unexpected, so out of the blue, and even out of character as a request from the woman who made it, that I literally almost crumbled with the weight of the knowledge of God's presence in that very moment.  It was impossible for her to know anything about our deep disheartening dismay this week, and yet there she was, sharing a prayer request about...well...us...without knowing it.

The tears welled, my chin trembled, and I had no idea what to do with what I was feeling.  The weight of this very real awareness of what Kenny's future looks like was much more than I had realized until that very moment. And I knew then that God wanted me to have the courage to speak, to share, to allow the Spirit to be ever more present to me in my time of need, despite how foolish I felt knowing I would barely be able to even find the words, despite how desperately I just wanted to be alone in some ways with this, despite the embarrassment I knew I would feel at being so publicly vulnerable.

But, do we take the Gospel seriously, or do we not?  Do we seek out God's healing presence or do we stubbornly insist on going it alone? Do we shed our tears in private, or worse, hold them in? Or do we dare reveal to the world our pain, our longing, our fear, our sorrow...our Grief?  This was Grief I am just beginning to grab hold of, and have little understanding of. This is Grief that is layers and layers of "stuff".   It is frustration, realization, self-flagellation.  It is sorrow for what can't be  but might have been if only...if only...if only...

Sitting there, trying to speak, I knew that part of the need to share was to rid myself of misplaced shame and to lift up Kenny's experience and our family's experience of walking through the world with children who have been hurt by others, and yet make it somehow...through faith, through love, through sheer determination, and through the power of community...the very community that sat right there with me, patiently waiting for the ache and the tears to subside long enough to speak.

I was inarticulate, I was unable to look up, I was unable to do much more than briefly share what had just happened for me, and to mumble words of heartfelt gratitude that, at the very least, I knew we weren't going to walk these next miles alone because of our faith community's care for us, shown in a million little ways.

And you know what?  No matter what happens in the future, Kenny is a beautiful soul, who has already touched so many lives.  I can't help but give be SO SO SO thankful to be his mom. I can't help but be thankful for how, in some ways, I have been broken time and time again by being his mom, learning and growing right alongside him. I can't help but be thankful for the subtle nuances of "knowing" that have helped me not to give up, and spurred me on to discard the "experts" who said, "He is just mentally retarded, you may be expecting too much."...a more laughable statement has never been uttered, as anyone who knows Kenny would attest to.  To say that flashes of brilliance are there wouldn't even be much of a stretch.

The Grief hid from me, I wasn't aware of how rooted it was as I immediately went upon the task of beginning the net phase of research.  I was't running from it, truly I wasn't.  I didn't stop, I didn't allow for a moment of sitting with it emotionally, so God made sure that happened with my 2 x 4 today, for I need to grieve, this unique kind of Grief that thankfully not many are familiar with...the Grief of giving in to reality, of better knowing that some things truly won't get better, the Grief of having to help someone accept what will be when they are only 16 years old.  I'll share more later in the week what that has looked like for us...but let me say that it is imperative at this age that we begin to be realistic and honest about what the future looks like, and not play the "Well, don't make him feel like he can't get better." game.  Our family does a very good job, I think, of holding in proper tension hopes for the future and for possibility right alongside acceptance of truth.

My 2 x 4 came in the shape of a lovely 70 something woman this morning, who had no idea God was using her.  How blessed I am that the Spirit has listened to my request from years ago about making things abundantly clear to me, so that I might better enter into relationship with God and not miss lessons to be learned, opportunities to be jumped into, and relationships that are life giving.  How much more I have felt, how much deeper I have been drawn, and how much love I have experienced because of a 2 x 4 moment.

The Grief will remain awhile, until it dances gracefully offstage to be replaced by new dreams, new visions for futures, new happiness which no doubt awaits.  I trust that.  God is ever faithful.  Always.

And as another piece of Divine Intervention we sang my very favorite Taize chant of all this morning, smiling as Angie looked over at me upon reading the bulletin and saying, "Look Mom, it's your song!"...a chant I sang over, and over, and over again as I waited for the girls to come home, a chant that has gotten me through thick and thin...the brief yet oh-so-appropriate words so often a balm to my soul.


In the Lord I'll be ever thankful,

In the Lord I will rejoice!
Look to God, do not be afraid.
Lift up your voices, the Lord is near,
Lift up your voices, the Lord is near.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sweetest 16!

Who is the sweetest 16 year old in all the world?  Our daughter, our lovely, tender-hearted, resilient Olesya.

It is hard to believe that she came to us as a meek, quiet 10 year old who cried quiet tears of frustration over how "stupid" she was, who gave in to everyone over everything, and who struggled to even offer a firm hug because it didn't quite feel safe.

Confidence has taken over, at least on many days, and identifying a learning disability in math has helped her grab hold of the fact that she may always find numbers a challenge, but she is NOT dumb, and she is experiencing academic success all over the place!

Olesya has dreams now...little ones, big ones, and in between ones.  She has dreams she can make come true, dreams she can walk toward, dreams that lead to even more dreams.

Today it is owning a donut shop and translating with Angela, tomorrow it might be working in modern art, and sometimes it is solely about the family of her own she might one day have.  At 16, the world is barely opening up to her, gradually revealing possibilities and promise.

Our family simply wouldn't be the same without this gentle spirit in our midst, the second mom who remembers everything I forget...the hand wipes, the water bottles, the appointments.  She is our Organized One, with gifts galore which will serve her well as she matures into lovely womanhood.

And when I think of her as a little girl, I still feel such an ache that I have no memory of her laughter, her first steps, her first lost tooth.  I ache for the year we lost in a single moment, as we discovered AFTER court that she was really a year older than we had been told.  I ache for all she suffered at the hands of her first family, at a system that cruelly lied to her then ripped her from her sister's protective and nurturing arms, and at adults who led her to believe she was hopelessly incapable of learning which has led to years of undoing what was internalized.

The memory I will always recall with a lump in my throat is the vision of her staring out at us through the orphanage winter that long ago winter evening as we left for what we thought was the last time, thinking our hopes for being their family were lost.  I will never forget the look of grief on her face as she felt held hostage by a sister's understandable anxiety and inability to trust at the moment, and her deep love for that sister that held her there.  I couldn't take my eyes off her, this innocent, hurting little girl whose future was out of her control, and who clearly yearned for the family that was being forced to drive away without her.  I turned in the back seat, tears unchecked as I waved one last time at my daughter as she waved back through the frosty window pane.

We all know how that story ended, thanks to God's work on a bruised and guarded heart.

Now she stands before me, 16 years old, admitting to feeling a couple of years younger, reaching tentatively for older teenagedom as she still has fingertips flitting gingerly around younger youth.  Her excitement as we headed toward the bank to open the traditional checking account was so obvious, this girl wears her anticipation on her sleeve for all the world to see!  Grinning from ear to ear, she sat there as she pondered what her customized ATM card should look like, and as we left she tightly clasped her new account information in her hands, looking an inch taller as we exited the building.  It is a little rite of passage, nothing as big as being given a new car with a new driver's license, but it is something that marks the gradual movement toward full maturity.

This blessing of ours, dressed up in auburn hair and grins galore, this sweet, sweet spirit that resides among us, always looking out for others, always caretaking, always leaving kind love notes to her mom and dad for no reason other than that she wants us to know she is happy and that she loves and appreciates us...this blessing is above and beyond anything we could have ever thought to ask for.

As is also our tradition, we took the family out to eat at any restaurant of the 16 year old birthday girl's choosing, so off to Chili's we went!  It is a rare treat for us to eat at a "real" restaurant, so everyone dressed up a bit and there was a hint of excitement in the air.  I can only imagine what people thought of our clan storming the restaurant with Josh in his jaunty fedora.   Laughter danced above our table as conversation moved from politics, to the level of service we received, to trivia questions, to teasing Matt mercilessly about his order of a "Sweet and Smoky Burger" repeated endlessly by mom in a husky, Lauren Bacall style voice, bringing out a cheeky grin and blush from him.

Arriving home, a lopsided chocolate cake made by the boys awaited the also-traditional devouring, and it sat there untouched just long enough for Olesya to open her gifts.  Here are some photos from our evening:

                                    
Waiting at the bank to walk one step closer to eventual independence.

Helping make the cake...um...er...eating scraping the bowl clean.

The whole gang, growing taller with each passing day, burrowing ever deeper into my heart...something I thought was literally impossible, and yet deeper they each go.
How I love this family of mine!

Lessie and Josh have a special relationship as our "youngers", I love this photo of them.

Sharing an ice cold mug!
The kids begged us to take a pic, so we did...I am not a fan of being in front of the camera at.all.
So this is my one annual pic allowed! Hahaha!

Back home, time for gifts!  The boys bought Olesya a longed for sushi making kit.  We cracked up when Matt said, "The ingredients are inside!" and almost all of us said, "Ewwwww!!", then he added, "Well, I meant the seasonings."
A Buddha Board from Auntie Kim, a big hit!

Finally...something with her name on it and spelled correctly!  From Auntie Candi, a personalized Coke bottle.
Time for mom and dad's gift.  We have considered 16 years old the "Big Birthday" and have tried to buy each of the kids an extra special gift, something we would normally never be able to afford, as we usually keep gifts in general very low key.  But 16 is different, 16 is marking moving out of childhood and into adulthood, so 16 means something a little more.

As we did for Angela, Olesya received her first "real" jewelry, which Angela actually helped me select on an Olesya-less trip to the mall on HER birthday!  We had the double fun of being together and shopping for "our girl".  You can't see it much from the photo, but the stones are light blue topaz.  When Angela and I saw it, we both said, "That's it!" excitedly at the same time.
Olesya loved it.
Dad examining the gift, which he had yet to see...hahaha!

Beautiful heart, beautiful soul, beautiful young lady inside and out.

The evening just ended not long ago, as we all gathered in the deepest dark on our patio, beneath a twinkling starlight sky, eyes turned upward as we waited to catch a glimpse of the promised meteor shower.  There we stood, draped in silence broken only by exclamations of, "I saw one!  Right over there!".

No longer children, not yet quite adults, these young people who grace our lives with their depth and goodness remind us to be filled with wonder, and teach us daily what it means to be "family".  Olesya said it best when she declared in sweet tones, "God knew it was my birthday and sent me this as a gift!" as yet another meteor streaked across the heavens, ablaze as its trail left a hint of where it had traveled from.  One day, too, this young woman will have her light shine brightly on many others as she walks through the world, as God certainly sent her as a gift as well.

Happy birthday, dearest Olesya...daughter of my heart, love of our lives.  May the next few years offer your opportunities to blossom as never before.















Friday, August 07, 2015

Facebook and the "Average Mom"

I had a bit of a "light bulb" moment today, one that I am surprised took me so long to have, frankly.  Some of you might laugh at this flash of "insight", and others of you who follow us I know are in the same boat and might have your own 100 watt moment as well.

Today Angela had some heavy dental work done, and has more to go.  Her anxiety was palpable last night when we talked about it, and she had every right to be nervous...she was facing a root canal, a filling, and 3 crowns today, with wisdom teeth to be removed in a couple of weeks.  This poor girl has already had so much with two prior root canals and several fillings after she came home.  Funny how no one ever thinks to warn you about the incredible dental costs that you will face in adopting older kids who have had zero dental care and poor nutrition their entire lives.  Well, I guess if you were to ask overseas the use of pliers is considered adequate dental care...at least that was true in Kenny's case.

So there I am, my sweet 17 year old being unusually quiet as we enter the dentist's office, knowing her heart must be beating much faster as she anticipates the next 3 hours or so filled with needles and drills, and I get myself settled on the couch in the waiting room as they take her back.  I was planning on going back with her, but there was some confusion about Xrays being taken first and they ended upstarting the work without me present.  She was going to have anesthesia for it, so by the time I realized they were likely already working on her, I knew she wouldn't really need me there at that point.

How many times have I sat nearby as a child was in emotional or physical pain due to no fault of
their own?  How many times have I seen the panic spread across their faces as images of prior experiences flash through their minds, telegraphing their every fear?  How many times have I held them as they clung to me as they worked through old nightmares with very real monsters in the starring role?  How often have I assumed this was a normal part of parenting?

I posed a question on Facebook this week, asking if my 480 friends got a lot out of their Facebook forays, or if it was merely a "time suck".  Now, mind you, of these 480 folks I count as "friends", a good number of them I have never met face to face.  Some are ministry connections whose posts feed my soul in a number of ways.  Some are homeschooling connections that have been picked up here and there.  And the overwhelming majority of them are adoptive moms and dads with kids who come from hard places and have lived through too much, needs too long ignored, hearts sometimes hardened by neglect and not having ever been truly "seen" in their short lives.

As such, my Facebook feed is filled daily with stories of triumph and tragedy, with surgeries and recoveries.  Photos includes casts and feeding tubes, hospital beds and tiny little walkers.  Posts contain the ache of broken brains that will never function normally and the anguish that brings to both parent and child, and the little successes when someone can finally turn and look their mama in the eye or accept a hug for the first time. Day after day,  as I scroll, I see love winning at every turn, and I capture a glimpse of the years long journey to wholeness that I have followed faithfully along the way, praying for good outcomes, hoping for diagnosis that will offer answers, and writing celebratory comments as the occasion calls for.

Today, for the first time, I really realized this is not normal.  I also know this may sound completely strange and odd, but at a gut level I finally really recognized our family's story is among all those others, that we too are "them".  Isn't that ridiculous?  That we could be this far into our lives together and only now am I seeing the parallels?  And not just seeing it, but internalizing it in some new sort of way I never have before.  I have no idea why it took me so long, but it is some sort of new revelation at a deeper level than my prior shallower understanding.  The kindred-ness of it all just spoke loudly to me today.

The average mom doesn't have a Facebook feed filled with the sort of remnants of trauma and neglect mine is filled with.  The average mom isn't open up her newsfeed each morning, pressing that down arrow and moving past miracle after miracle, hurt child after hurt child, brave mama after brave mama.  The average mom doesn't see the vacant expressions of so many newly adopted little ones, and the gradual smiles beginning to appear in photos months...and sometimes years...later.

And the average mom doesn't see her own life in those kinds images and posts...hundreds of them every week.  The average mom may find their son or daughter's childhood marked by the single hospitalization for a tonsillectomy.  The average mom has likely never had to explain that yes, indeed, their Asian child is really and truly theirs to the sample woman at Sam's Club. The average mom has never had to hear their child's keening cries that are finally coming years after the traumatic event that changed them forever.

But on Facebook, among this collection of never-met or perhaps once met friends, I find I really am the "average mom", I find I have a peer group of sorts that can't possibly have been gathered in rural Western Colorado, where there mere appearance of our entire family at Walmart gives cause for stares, and where the acronyms of adoption are as foreign as our children are.  On Facebook we use our private lingo, this Tribe of mine...FAS, SID, CAPD, IA, I-171H,RAD, IEP, 504, and so many more.  It is the one place where we don't have to start at the beginning with explanations, interpreting for others.


On Facebook, or here on the blog, I can share how very hard it is too have looked Kenny in the eyes this week as we discussed his future in very real, very hard to accept terms, and see his dreams floating above him, circling tantalizingly out of reach.  On Facebook, or here on the blog, my fellow "average moms" know how I feel as I scramble to be outwardly positive, pointing always toward the promise of possibility, when reality is heavy, weighty and utterly unfair.

On Facebook, or here on the blog, there are fellow moms among whom I am average who know what it is to have not one, but two, three, four, or more serious surgeries on the horizon, and who steel themselves to put their emotions on hold so they can be the bedrock their child can build their own faith in recovery on.

On Facebook, or here on the blog, I find solace and friendship, support and encouragement. Perhaps more importantly I find community, one in which explanations are brief and immediately understood, one in which I can be authentic and angry, discouraged and disheartened...and there will always be someone who will reach out to lift me out of the morass and offer concrete suggestions.

On Facebook, or here on the blog, I am reminded that I am indeed a special needs mom, times five, because sometimes I forget that. On Facebook my experience is validated and my insights are affirmed. I can reach out for immediate prayer and know that immediate means the moment someone reads it, and I can trust that appeals are being lifted up just for me and mine.

Tonight, Angela in her dental weary state is still not quite herself, but she'll be fine.  What child of 17 years old, after awakening from a 5 hour post-dental-sedation slumber, makes it a point to stagger around the house looking for her mom to give her a huge bear hug and even with the ache of the day still present say,"Mom, I really want to tell you thank you.  Thanks for getting my teeth fixed, and most important, thanks for always being there for me and for all of us."

Matthew came to me after camp and said, "Well Mom, I hate to say this, but I really think I need the extra surgery on my back to take the hardware out.  The original pain is gone, but now there is a new pain that feels like the metal is scraping my muscles and it is really uncomfortable.  I am so sorry, and I know it is another major surgery for you to go through with me, but I don't want to feel like this the rest of my life."  then he added as he grabbed to hold my hand, "But we can get through this together..."

I know my fellow "average" moms can understand the sighs of relief over one conversation,and acceptance over another that I heaved over both those conversations.

So Facebook may ultimately be a "time suck".  It can admittedly be the vacuum in which I spend far too much time, saying far too little of any real importance.  But it is where my people are, and that that matters. It matters a lot.  It is where I can find someone at just about any hour of the day who can virtually nod their head in complete understanding over insecurities that arise in the wee hours of the morning, or where mid-neuro-psych evaluation I can share how heartbroken I am as my son hangs his in defeat at all that he can not do...and know he can not do.

I really don't think I could make it without them, this tribe of Warrior Women, fiercely determined, enduringly patient, endlessly sacrificing.  My gratitude has seldom been expressed, but I am fully aware of what a unique Club I am privileged to belong to.  Thank you, ladies (and a couple of long time dad friends, too!), for walking alongside me.


Thursday, August 06, 2015

Journeying Together

School is solidly underway at LaJoy Academy, and it is going to be a good year!  We will take a break here and there in the fall, but are hitting the books hard right now, and everyone is happy for the routine to return.  Soon volleyball for all the kids will be added to the schedule, bowling will be added for Kenny and Josh as they wanted to try that out, gun club will again be waiting for Joshua, and one more thing has been added to our list.

Civil Air Patrol.  ::sigh::

Matthew's group is losing its adult leader, and after trying for weeks to find one, was going to fold because no one could be found to take it over.  

Yea, I know.  It was the last thing we needed right now as we are knee deep in learning the business and as I have taken over a good portion of the paperwork involved, added to full time homeschooling.  But sometimes you just have to say yes, and this was one of those "God hitting me over the head with a 2 x 4" moments, so here we go.

I don't know a thing about airplanes, despite the fact my dad was a test flight mechanic for Hughes Aircraft my entire life.  I don't particularly have a fondness for flight at all, nor do I have an empty schedule and need something to occupy myself.

What I do want is to see not only Matthew, but other kids as well, benefit in the ways he has from a wonderful program which has developed him into a confident, poised young man.  I want him to be able to continue participating in something he loves and has been very successful with.  I don't want to have to be away from home at least 4 1/2 or 5 hours yet another night of the week by driving him to Grand Junction for meetings.  We had an incredibly generous offer from our pastor to help with the driving for him, which touched me deeply.  

I so hoped someone else would get involved and offer to run it, because I also want Matt to have the diversity of exposure to adults other than his parents.  The group has been stagnating because the current adult leader has been faithfully trying to find a replacement with no luck, and he didn't want to press for growth if the group was going to have to disband.  No one stepped up, and the 2 x 4 moment came last week when 3 homeschoolers showed up and expressed interest in joining, and when I got home from picking Matt up from CAP last Thursday I had another mom email me who out of the blue asked of Matt was still in CAP and telling me one of her sons really wanted to join.  What are the odds of that happening 10 minutes after I got home from a meeting I usually didn't attend?  Yea, I hear you God, I sure wish I was smart enough to pick up on clues that were more subtle!  So, Dominick and I agreed to co-lead the group, and we will see what happens.  The time commitment is not insignificant, as I was told it was between 3 and 10 hours a week.  Adding that to homeschooling 40 hours a week and business paperwork and planning/learning at least another 10 hours a week, and it is anybody's guess how this is going to go.  I am not one to glorify "busy", so this is not something to brag about whatsoever, and creating space for this means I probably have to let go of one of my singing commitments, which has me a little heavy hearted.

However, I learned a long time ago that by saying "yes" to things that God calls me toward, even when I don't get it or really don't want to do it, I end up gaining something sacred.  I will be the first to admit, this is something I don't want to do.  Nope.  But the 2 x 4 moments were enough to let me know that I am called to participate and that something is in store for me that I probably can't imagine...something rich and wonderful, something I will grow from.  It has never failed to prove true, so I am going to put my head down, learn all I need to learn as required by the program, and see what develops.  

We have a good "Team" behind us in Team LaJoy, and that makes everything seem more manageable.  I had the sweet surprise of having all my laundry done for me this week by Kenny and Josh when I was out of town.  No one asked them to do it, they just took it upon themselves to empty our hampers and get 'er done.  We have enthusiastic kids who take "ownership" of our home and their lives, and that helps so much.  Matt also offered to help with anything additional with CAP that he could, and as the highest ranking cadet in our group we would have been relying on him whether or not he was our son.  He desperately wants the group to hold together long enough for him to take it over as an adult at 18, for he told me "Mom, this has changed me in so many positive ways, and I know it can help other kids, too.  Just hang in there a couple of years for me, then I will be able to do it."  

Everyone is growing in so many ways!  Angela wants to take a course in Interior Design after volleyball season is over, Kenny dearly wants more religion and theology studies after his Comparative Religions course is completed in late fall, so I am seeking out materials for him.  Olesya wants to study Marketing and Advertising, which is a bit of a surprise and has me scrambling for something to fit that, probably some online courses.  Joshua is not asking for anything above and beyond his current work, and with bowling and shooting I think that may be enough for him for now.

And everyone is taking a unique course for school that fits us to a "T"...Entrepreneurship!  All of our kids have talked about owning their own businesses eventually, and Matthew has already seen how he can make a little side cash with computer repair and using programs like LogMeIn.com to access someone's computer remotely and remove viruses, optimize hard drives, etc. so it seemed like the time was right for us to dig into entrepreneurship.  Thus far, already it has prompted some of the best conversations, and it is easy to see that they really do think independently, and that their work ethic and some of the control they have over their education might lead to some strong entrepreneurial type minds.  Angela and Olesya are thinking about a Russian/English translating business, with Olesya also dreaming about a couple of other ideas.  They are doing business math along with it, and that is proving more challenging than they thought, but they really enjoy the real world application of the math.


So, perhaps we are a bit of a Business Incubator, rather than merely a homeschool. We do have a plan (I'm Cindy...of COURSE I have a crazy plan!!! Hahaha!) that by the end of spring they will put their learning into action in a concrete way, which will involve them writing a business plan, seeking out investors, and handling every single aspect of opening a business on their own.  We will see if it all gels in the long run :-) but there is a lot of enthusiasm and an enormous amount of learning going on right now as we talk about the "sweet spot" for pricing in terms of supply and demand, what gifts and skills it takes to be an entrepreneur, the risks associated with it and risk tolerance in general...lots and lots of deep, rich thinking going on 'round the kitchen table!

And how wonderful it is that I get to witness it, participate in it, guide it, and watch it blossom.  Being the mom in this family is the coolest job I could ever, ever have.  I have been privy to the kinds of conversations parents seldom have with their kids, I have been able to watch the girls go from not a word of English to reading Poe, Emerson, Angelou, and more.  I have seem them all morph into these creatures of intelligence and depth that stuns me sometimes, during conversations about whether "sin" is subjective, or what characteristics determine whether someone is a "fool" or wise. (Just this morning these were topics.)  And I have a lot of work to do to stay ahead of them! Hahaha!

And every day we are learning, every day we are growing...as individuals and as a family.  Dominick and I both have matured over the past several years, and we view all of us as being on a journey together.  Team LaJoy will continue to try new things, continue to love fully, and continue to work hard to achieve goals together. We need one another, we respect one another, and we all realize we are far stronger together than apart. 


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

And We Press On

It was Sunday after church, and our Leadership Ministry meeting was just about to begin.  Kenny had been invited to participate as an interested youth, this was his 3rd meeting to be in attendance.  He sat next to me, equal parts studious and ravenous as he waited for the go ahead to fill up on the pizza that was being provided.

This is no surprise to anyone who knows Kenny personally, as it was obvious his heart has always been God's from the very first day we met him,  He is gradually moving into more meaningful roles within our small little church, having been liturgist at the ripe old age of 12 or so, now occasionally teaching Sunday School to the little ones, and now sitting on the Leadership Ministry.  He feels called to something, and is open to just about anything that seems suitable.

So there I was, my son sitting next to me when he was asked to briefly share what he had gotten out of his recent church summer camp experience.  My usual "Mom Radar" went up and I prepared myself to nudge him to stop him from rambling on and oversharing as only Kenny can sometimes do, or stand at the ready to gently re-direct him back on topic.

And I'll be darned,  not only did he summarize three key points, it was clear to everyone that those important points were directly related to our church, and he had obviously spent a significant amount of energy and time at camp thinking about our congregation's needs.

To say I was quietly stunned is an overstatement.  Who WAS this kid?

As the meeting went on, Kenny was an active participant, contributing to the conversation in significant ways, gently urging us to remain open to Spirit leading rather than "Worker Bee" mentality.  His insights were thoughtful, well articulated, and sometimes surprising.  This was a young man beside me who was discerning in every possible way.  He had analyzed things deeply, his suggestions were thought provoking, possible, and pragmatic.  There was a logic present that had been years in the making, but more importantly, there was a sense that God inhabited this young man.  Were he not my child, and were I to be sitting in on a meeting with him for the first time, he would be someone I would immediately be drawn to because of his depth and gentle way.

Was I proud?  No.

I was so humbled, grateful, thrilled, stunned, and filled to the brim with God's healing goodness.  Once I was so near tears I thought I would lose it, but managed to reign it in.

Those present are the people who have come alongside our family, the very ones who have supported and encouraged us, and loved us through some very hard times.  They still are loving us through some very difficult times.  There are many others who were not there that Sunday afternoon to see what their care and cheerleading hath wrought.  There are some who have invested financially in him, their belief backed by funds we couldn't provide to get him tools and resources he needed.

Where would we be without God wrapping arms around us through so many?

This lovely young man who couldn't read a lick five years ago, who couldn't have summarized a cartoon, let alone organize his thoughts to be able to articulate them quite so easily and comfortably, has blossomed in ways neither Dominick nor I could have dreamed of.  Though everyone around the conference table knows him well, there was only one other there who has a real handle on how very handicapped Kenny is in terms of his brain and learning deficits.  Our beautiful Miss Mary was sitting directly across from me, and kept looking up at me with each comment he made, eyes widening as much as her grin was.  She knew...she knew this shouldn't have been happening.  She has been here twice a week for years, offering her gifts as a reading teacher, supplementing my efforts, and watching the gradual and unlikely transformation.

There are no words, my friends, no words at all really that can convey all of what was going on for me that afternoon as I listened, and witnessed the miracle that was Kenny.

The slow stutter-step progress he has made over the course of the past 5 years has been exciting at times, and incredibly disheartening at others.  Day after day, books spread across the kitchen table, such painfully slow reading that every single one of us has sat patiently through, correcting the same mistakes over and over to the point of utter frustration for all of us.  And yet, we all valiantly carried on, encouraging, never showing any sign of the irritation that could have been given voice.  Kenny's siblings are true heroes in many ways, encouraging, reassuring, building his confidence as they let him know there was no rush and he could take his time.  A more compassionate group of young kids you would never find.

Complete phonics programs THREE times (not including in school a fourth time!), constant correction of ADD behaviors as he interrupted others a gazillion times and I firmly got in his face reminding him that his was not the only opinion deserving of an airing and that he needed to "Hold it, mold, it, then show it" before impulsively speaking.  We STILL work on this daily.  Five years of daily verbal news article summaries, reminding him to share the key points and not every detail...and not assume your audience has background knowledge.  Night after night, hour upon hour of researching what the best teaching methods, tools and curriculum would be for working with him.
Memory loss kicking in and reminding him yet again (still) what sounds letters make, what his zip code or area code is, or how to work with his auditory processing by taking things one step at a time.  Discussions about themes for every single thing we have ever studied, Socratic questioning to get the logic to start kicking in, explaining the definitions of so many words on a single page that it takes us half an hour to complete the reading of that single page.

There have been so many dark days, when I felt like the worst mom in the world because Kenny was the one always being corrected, always suffering consequences, always breaking my heart a little.  Outsiders have actually commented that I am harder on him than the others or that we don't love him as much as the other kids because they lack knowledge, they lack understanding, and perhaps they lack the gumption it takes to tackle parenting a kid like Kenny in the face of judgment that is undeserved.  It has hurt me deeply at times, and made it hard to pick myself back up after having been hit over the head with an emotional mallet like that.  And yet Kenny and I get it...we talk about it openly, we share together, we have a wonderfully warm and delightfully connected, affectionate relationship.

We know what others don't.

We know it is he and I against his brain.

And damned if we aren't going to win.  It may take years more, it may take ALL of my hair falling out, it may take ten thousand more behavioral modifications and corrections, but this kid WILL succeed, or he and I will both die trying.  You see, we have conspired against the evils of probable Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and the  other awful brain damaging effects of long term institutionalization.  We know we are in a battle for his very future and we can never give up.  NEVER give up.  I told Kenny when I brought him home to begin homeschooling that I would give him my all, and I would do my best to have him reading at a high school level before he graduated (YES!!! He is already there!), but that he would absolutely have to dedicate himself to working just as hard, that we were a team and had a big job to do.

Boy, did he take my words to heart.  I have never seen a kid work so hard to learn.  Well, that may be unfair, as I have a houseful of 'em who have overcome a lot, but even among this bunch Kenny stands out even in their minds as the hardest working student.

I have always known it.  I knew it from the first photo I received with those warm smiling eyes staring back at me...it's always in the eyes, in case you didn't know...the intelligence and warmth of a child you are referred can not be missed if you look carefully at their eyes.  When we met him, it took five minutes to see the clever intellect that resided beneath the four year old behavior in the 8 year old body.  How I advocated for him and his brain, knowing no one knew what I knew, knowing no one saw what I saw daily in deep, rich conversation with him.  I declared it boldly to every teacher in every conference, one of whom looked at me and said, "Maybe you are just expecting too much, after all, he is borderline mentally retarded."

I wanted to choke the living...well...you know...out of her.

Our children are NOT their test results, beneath the challenges and the delays reside heart, guts, soul, determination, and intelligence that damage done to them by others hides.  As you gradually work to peel back layers, you begin to see ever more wisdom, courage, and not a small measure of grace.  My Dear God, I live with some extraordinarily special people, a gift of untold worth.

So there in our meeting sat Kenny, and there sat I.  For the very first time in the 8 years as his mom, I discovered I wasn't in "Mom Mode", something I never thought would be possible.  I was able to sit back, as I have had the luxury of doing from time to time with our other less hindered kids, and simply observe and enjoy.

No one else could have known what a victory that afternoon was.  No one else had images in their head of Kenny hitting his own head with his fists in utter dismay crying out, "Why am I so stupid?? Why can't I learn anything like everyone else?".  No one else was recalling the sound of his heartbreaking sobs as he asked why his life was so hard and begging me not to give up on him after a particularly difficult day with behavior.  No one else was there just this past December at Shriner's when he took a break from neuro-psych testing and came out utterly dejected telling me he just couldn't figure things out, and he was suddenly really understanding how "broken" he was.

And there sat my handsome, open-hearted, loving, bright, amazing kid...16 years old going on 50 in terms of life experiences, suffering, and compassion.  16 years old going on 13 at times in terms of other developmental markers.

All I could think to utter in my soul over and over again was "Thank you.  Thank you, God.  Thank you for letting me be the forever mom to this remarkable young man.  Thank you for helping me help him.  Thank you.  Thank you. Thank you for giving me the guts to keep at it.  Thank you for exposing me to his unique spirit, from which I have learned so very much.  Thank you, God...thank you."

Then, as if God was reminding me of just how far we still have to go, yesterday at the table I was teaching and asked the kids to take notes.  I spelled a word for them to write, it was the name of the font "Calibri".  Kenny asked me to repeat it.  I spelled it again.  And again. And again.  And again.  Six times I spelled it slowly.

You know what?  He stopped and looked up at me with eyes that were quite disturbed.  He had forgotten how to make a letter "B".  Completely forgotten.  I reminded him.  He went on to the "R".  He forgot that one, too.

::::sigh::::

And we press on.




Thursday, July 23, 2015

House of Spirits...or The Spirit

I have been on an unplanned hiatus from blogging, the first "real" one in the 8+ years of its existence. Two months of not writing here has been due, in large part, to being unable to find words of value to name or talk about what is going on in our life.  No, it isn't anything that is really wrong, but is likely due to the preoccupation that comes with a new business venture, and no doubt the fear and trembling that are associated with it.

Also, I.Just.Couldn't.  I couldn't.  I don't know why,  but maybe something had to give and I have finally matured enough to recognize that when life overwhelms you, something's got to give, and this was it.  I couldn't tap that place within me, as I may still not be able to, to write the sort of posts I prefer to write...messages that are deeper, not daily journals expounding on "what we did today", but observations of the sacred each day.  Right now, I have to hang on to that sacred just for me to make it through, and the effort required to share it simply seemed to be too much.  It may still be, but I sense that maybe I am slowly easing out of that place.  I hope so.

Many of our blog readers have literally followed us for close to a decade...a time filled with emotional ups and downs, a sharing of our hearts and lives, and you have been with us as we have weathered some heavy storms.  The past 15 months have been the longest extended period of time of tumult we have experienced yet.

Beginning with the late evening phone call and near death experience of my mom being found on the floor of her home after falling and lying there for 4 days, the long distance coordination of care and several trips to California to help her, and Matt's major back surgery, recovery and the associated several trips out of state for that, I think I have literally been in survival mode as we in the Sandwich Generation often are.  Then there was the year long knowledge that we would be losing our main source of income with the loss of the airport contract for the restaurant and the emotional toll of not knowing what God wanted for our lives as we searched and searched for a new opportunity for Dominick and tried to be as faithful as possible in that endeavor.  There was the dissolution of two small businesses and the financing of another that had to be done in 3 weeks.  Then the learning curve that continues at this moment as we try to get up to speed and learn an industry we are unfamiliar with, and create systems to organize ourselves.

Oh yea, then there is actually homeschooling the kids, the arduous and ongoing pursuit of a diagnosis for Kenny's developmental and learning disabilities which has required a couple of trips out of state and awaiting yet another,  and his emotional struggle over maturing and greater realization around his limitations, as well as other very important concerns.

It has been hard, and I need to acknowledge that.

But the past couple of nights as Olesya, Joshua, Dominick and I worked the entire night through stripping and waxing the floors of our beautiful little store, all I could feel was a growing sense of gratitude for every single thing this family has endured, and the blessings we have had bestowed on us.

This new endeavor of ours at House of Spirits is a big, big deal for us, and we are throwing our heart and soul into it.  We have to, and you know why?

Because God provided for us Big Time, and we need to respect that and cherish it for the unique and wonderful gift it was.  We need to see the ministry revealed beneath it, and we need to show our gratitude for this opportunity by working harder than we ever have because we know this had nothing to do with our efforts and everything to do with God.  We saw the Spirit move in extraordinary ways to make this happen for us, just in time, and there can be no doubt Who arranged all of this.

Why us?  Why now?  Why the trust placed in us by the old owner willing to carry an enormous loan on a handshake?  Why our banker who worked hard to squeeze every bit of equity they could out of our home to help us?  Why did someone anonymously help us with enough cash to carry us through the very trying first couple of months as we are literally held together by glue...and that gift?

We may never have the answers, but there are things we can do to repay all of that trust and generosity...

We can be LaJoy's.

We can offer the acceptance and love we always try to offer others.  We can look for every tiny ministry opportunity we can with our customers, our employees, and our friends.  We can work hard, laugh often, and love vigorously.  We can pay our debts responsibly, we can show others that their trust in us was not wrongly placed.  We can remind ourselves often that a particular Spirit hovers over the House of Spirits, and we have a duty to live into that.

And most importantly, we need to be the family we are...authentic, flawed, open, and caring.  We need to be together, we need to work together, we need to think about the future together for each and every one of us.  We need to be thankful together.

We also need to trust.  There is that old saying about mortgaging the farm, and it is easy to let fear reside in your heart when you are the ages we are and it feels as if you are starting all over because now you literally don't own even a piece of your home, have no savings, and have laid it all on the crap table of life to see if your gamble will pay off.

However, we were reminded by someone just a week ago that if God is in it, it is all good.  Dominick and I went for an overnight stay at a little lodge about an hour from here up in the mountains while the younger kids were at camp.  It was only the 3rd time we have ever been away in 16 years without the kids, and was a one night treat to celebrate our 29th anniversary a few weeks late.  There, we met Gary, the enthusiastic and kindly proprietor, who sat down and visited with us for awhile.  He talked about his great leap of faith there with his lodge a few years back, and we ended up sharing about our great leap of faith two months ago.  When I said, "We know how you feel, it's a little scary to do something like this!", Gary, a man of faith looked at me, and replied, "I don't know where you two stand in terms of faith, but if God's in it, you've got nothing to worry about.  Just put in the work, God will take care of the rest.  Just let it go, and do your job...if God set it up, it wasn't so you'd fail.  Trust that."

That was exactly what I needed to hear, and when I needed to hear it.

So here's to tossing away doubt, to living in joy...or "LaJoy" as the case may be.  Here's to recognizing blessings and another adventure.  Here's to hard work, time shared, and laughing often.

I'll share several photos to catch up on the past couple of months a bit, as this is the only place Bad Momma records anything.  If I don't place pics here there aren't even scrapbooks created yet to look back on so I have to make the effort here.  WARNING:  Tons of photos, sorry!



This picture clearly shows I can't get away with calling them "The boys", now the only appropriate term is "The young men".


Hiking and exploring our special place, Rifle Falls, with dear friends Candi and Miss Mary.
Where's Waldo?  I mean, where's Matt?  Can you see him??


Our church family at it's 2nd birthday celebration.  These are the people who have made us who we are, in so many ways.

                          
In Salt Lake City at the movies...a rare treat thanks to a friend, and I suffered through...ahem...I mean I enjoyed a superhero flick accompanied by three handsome guys.


                            

At Matthew's Shriner's Hospital follow up visit Build a Bear was there and Matt gave Josh his ticket to build one of his own. 

                               
Josh still loves his stuffed animals, despite that deep voice that has appeared.

                                         

Matt's special 16th birthday arrived, so we all had our treat of a meal at a restaurant, something we don't usually afford.  He elected to go to Texas Roadhouse, and here is Olesya's creative birthday card for our resident techie.

                                             

Our "twins", Olesya certainly knows her brother!  She bought him a charging unit for his iPad.

                                 


                                 

Proving that real men love flowers too, or at least the gift contained within, Matt opens his gift from Angela, a Bluetooth speaker for his new bike that attaches to the handlebars and is supposedly indestructible. Well, we'll see...

                                               

Our other twins :-)


                                            

Sticker from mom...LOL!

                                      

No, it's not a car upon turning 16, but it IS transportation!  A new rugged mountain bike!

                                             

Beginning the freshening up at the liquor store beginning with the bathroom and a new coat of paint.

                                
More paint on the walls, please...not on your clothes!!


Kilroy was here!

                            

Skills being put to good use, learned on the rental project we did three years ago.  Has it been that long?  My goodness!  The painting was well done!

                                      
And of course a Home Depot run, the first of many :-)

                           

More painting, thank goodness we have such a hard working crew!


                                  

We knew Dominick and I had selected our overnight mini-retreat well when I took the photo below, turned beside me, and saw the sign above...
                                         
Yup!  Looks like we must be in the right place! HAHA!

                                 

                            

A nice little getaway, and we were treated royally!

                              


                                  

Dinner served to us in the "Tree House"

                       

Aaaannnd back to work the next day, as the boys helped by installing vinyl baseboards.

                    

Angie grubby after several days of hard work, but happy as can be!
                         
                           
This is the bulletin board Angela installed, note her handiwork in the lower corner.  I am sure our construction worker customers will appreciate that...hahaha!


                                       

Nothing fancy, but the bathroom has a new toilet, new flooring, a fresh coat of paint, and the "junk" is hidden a bit.

                                    

                                

While Crew #1 was at work, Crew #2 was at church camp.  When Crew #2 arrived, Crew #1 had their turn at camp.  Crew #2 got stuck with the night shift as it was time to resurface the floors by stripping, sealing and waxing them...hard, exhausting work and as you can see, much needed after years of wear and tear in a  busy store.                                 

                                            

No complaints though, just digging in and "gettin' 'er done"!! A little pizza and soda helped, too.


                           
We inherited outstanding, experienced, helpful employees.  Here is one, Debbie, in our "before" photo.


"After"...some yellowing of the tiles that can't be helped, but it is shiny and clean and that area is covered by mats anyway.

                                      

Watch out, Ole' wields a MEAN mop!!

                           
Yea, sometimes I look at them and my heart melts.
Who am I kidding.  That happens every single day in life.

                               

Where's American Idol?  These two were singing "Down to the River to Pray" after Josh learned it at church camp, and couldn't get it out of his head.  Late night duets...I love it! And it makes hard work a little easier when you sing the night away.

                           

By 3:00 am on Night #2, Josh stalled out and fell asleep like this while waiting for coats of wax to dry.

                                      
Taa Daa!!!
All done...whew!


That's it for now, and hopefully more posts on a more regular basis as we ease back into some semblance of normalcy.  Not really sure what that is anymore :-)