Thursday, December 19, 2013

Why is this OK?

I've been stewing about this for a while and with all the buzz today about someone else who said something politically incorrect and the uproar it has brought, I decided I had to take time to write about an incident that has me, well, pretty much outraged.
Last week, in the same day, I got two emails inviting or reminding me about two upcoming events. The first was from my cousin, who also reminded us that we were having an ornament exchange.
The second came with the reminder that we are having a Chinese gift exchange. Huh?
I wrote back and asked, why was it called that? I am pretty sure everyone in the group knows my daughters are Chinese, but even if they don't, when did we become so desensitized to being discriminatory to some groups and so hypersensitive to others?
Recently I heard an older woman tell about inviting someone who is Asian to an event and they brought her a present. But as she pointed out, this is typical, that most Asian people bring you a gift, rather than take one from you, which is the point of the above mentioned gift exchange.
I did a little research to see if I could find why it was called a Chinese gift exchange and came across an article written by an ex-pat living in China. She attended a Christmas party, in China, and part of the entertainment was a "Chinese" gift exchange. The Chinese people were horrified that someone would take their present and it did not matter whether it was a joke gift or something they truly loved; they just did not find the concept funny.  
I thought maybe I was just hypersensitive, but I asked a co-worker what she thought. She had never heard that expression and thought I meant we were exchanging gifts from China, which sounds like a good idea to me.
When I got a second reminder for the party with the Chinese gift exchange, I opened it hoping that they would have taken the hint and chosen a different name for the gift exchange, although gift exchange seems to be pretty clear without adding a label to it. I was shocked to see it was still there, with no hint that there was anything wrong with it.
Maybe I am hypersensitive on this topic, but I cannot imagine this group thinking it would be appropriate to label it with a different race's name. I remember being confronted in the 80's when I described someone and named their race in my description. I was asked why that was important to the conversation. I stumbled and stuttered and tried to explain, but of course, the race of the person had nothing to do with who they were or the conversation. The same goes for any type of label, which was reinforced while completing my Masters in Rehab Counseling. When you are working with someone with a disability, you look to the person first, not the disability.
So why, in our era of enlightenment, is a title like "Chinese" gift exchange still accepted?

It's not about sandwiches! It's about my life!

Friday, December 6, 2013

LIke a good neighbor, Van is there!

When you live in a city the size of Dallas, it is great to live in a neighborhood like Oak Cliff, where the emphasis is on neighbor. We have great neighbors, but one did the "above and beyond" the call of duty for us today.

Several years ago I joined a community garden group and at the first meeting I met Van. At the time, he was actively working on his dream of an Oak Cliff Earth Day. When we finally turned the first shovel of dirt on our garden, Van was there, pitching in, even though he did not have a plot there. He worked tirelessly in helping us accomplish our goal.

The next time I came across Van, he was recruiting people to help plant trees to beautify a median on a major thoroughfare in our neighborhood. He worked to get the trees donated and enough volunteers to plant trees through a significant portion of the street.

When Facebook started, he began a group called Oak Cliff Gardeners, where you can find all sorts of great information and resources from a like minded group. When I went to see his "garden" I realized what an expert he is on the topic. He does not have a yard, he has a garden, a front garden and a back garden, with a pond, and incredible attention to detail.

Last night Dallas was hit with frozen rain, sleet, and ice. He posted a picture of his cleared driveway and sidewalk and offered to do others for $20. I commented that I would gladly pay for him to clear my parents' drive, as I am sure Dad will try to get out sometime today. Dad doesn't like to stay indoors for any length of time.

Within a  short time, I heard the unmistakable sound of someone clearing a sidewalk with a snow shovel. Sure enough, it was Van. He worked until he had every tiny bit of ice cleared from their sidewalks and driveway. He sent me in for my camera for a picture of Annabel who had been clearing our walk. When I came out, he was gone, before I could even thank him, much less provide something warm to drink and any type of payment.

So hear is it, "Thank you, Van, for all you do!"

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Chicken math can easily equal hoarding

Last year we hosted a conference on hoarding. Half of the conference was on animal hoarding. In jest, a friend asked if I hoarded chickens. I told her no, as long as we have less than 15, I've decided we're good. Not sure why I picked that as the magical number, but it seemed to fit.

Now if this is your first time to read my posts, let me catch you up to date on where and how I have now exceeded that number, but not sure for how long.

Back in March 2012, during spring break, my dad decided to buy some chickens. He wanted 5 for the Cadillac of coops he had built from scratch. We were along for the trip to the chicken farm and ended up with 3 laying chickens and 2 babies, one for me, my daughters, and my 2 nieces. Later in the week, I was contacted by a neighbor who was selling some of her chicks. We went to have a look and I ended up with 4 more, one for each girl, so for a long time we had 9, until Annabel's decided to do a swan dive and fell to her death. (Really not sure what happened to her, but that is a better story.) So then we were down to 8, perfectly manageable and giving us enough eggs that we could eat a dozen and sell a dozen each week.

Then I read a Facebook post where this poultry farm was selling their hatching eggs. This is how dumb I was, and did not understand that I would actually be receiving eggs that I would have to hatch, so after borrowing a friend's incubator, we set up the 21 day vigil for the 12 eggs to hatch. The only trouble is, only 1 did, which is not good, as you can't introduce one baby chicken to an established flock, so we had to buy 2 more to have as friends.

So if you are doing the math, we are back up to 11. Up until this point, all the chickens have had names and things were going pretty well, until I had a chicken go broody on me and I guess in some ways, greed, not sure greed is the right word, but I keep hoping that the chickens will supply enough income to help offset their costs and finally put a little cash in our pockets for our trip to China next summer. So with my broody hen posted on Facebook, a friend offered me 6 fertile eggs to see if she would hatch them. Sure enough, 21 days later, 4 little heads began peeking out from under her feathers. How we went from 4 down to 1 is somewhat of a mystery as it was just at the time of the hoarding conference, which meant longer hours at work, summer had started and there were plenty of distractions. I know one was not quite formed correctly and 1 disappeared completely and the last just croaked, I guess.

Anyway, the lone survivor stuck close to Pollo, the "adoptive" (or would it be surrogate?) mom and learned the ins and outs and joined the flock without much problem. Daylight hours and eggs production increased dramatically and we were selling 3-4 dozen a week, with our flock of 12, still within my limits of hoarding. This is the first one not to really have a name. When the other 3 from that group died, after being given names, I think it was just too much and no one wanted to risk having something with a name die.

Then just the other day, my niece tagged me in a post on Facebook of a friend of hers, desperate to move her flock of 6, as she had moved and they could no longer live where they were. In spite of Annabel's reluctance, we now have a flock of 18, 3 over the hoarding limit!

The first few nights we tried to wrangle them and put them in a borrowed coop for their own sake, rather than let them sit on the chain link fence all night. I grew tired of that craziness after the first night, so we wished them the best and left them out all night, perched precariously between Mom and Dad's house and ours. Now Annabel is convinced that she can train these chickens and pretty quickly had 4 of them now finding a roosting place in our coop each night so we don't have to worry about them.

That leaves 2, of the scrawniest chickens you have ever seen, refusing to give up their freedom and still intent on doing their own thing. These 2 don't even huddle together, they sit across from each other at the joint of the side and the back fence each night, daring me or anyone or anything else to try something. That hasn't been a problem until hearing the weather forecast for tonight, with lows in the 20's. I did what the experts suggest last night, I snuck up on them after they were asleep, planning to pick them up and move them into the coop. Those stupid chickens were awake immediately, squawking and carrying on like I had an ax with me.

This morning when I let the others out, I noticed those 2 coming closer than they ever have, so I left the gate open for them to free range, hoping those 2 will join with the rest of the flock at dusk and march into the coop like good bird.

The kicker to this story - we have not had an egg, with 18 chickens, in a week!Someone suggested it might be time for a chicken dinner. Yow! I can't even imagine that. I just hope their brains start working and they realize it's time to give up and join the flock!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

One reason I do what I do

Our schedule continues to get more complicated. Two afternoons a week, Grace has to stay late for club meetings. It seems like the opposite afternoons, Annabel has to stay late for basketball. It gets especially complicated when one has to stay later than the school's required pick up time, meaning, if your kid is not picked up, they are put into the after school program and you have to pay a fee when you pick them up. So I go to the school before the mandatory pick up time and we wait patiently in the car until the other is ready to go. From the time I leave until we get back home can run from 2 - 3 hours that way. The other choice is to bring one home, then turn around and go back for the other. It probably ends up being about the same amount of time in the car, but the whole time is spent driving.

Recently when I was telling someone about this their comment was that was too much to ask. And it probably is. The high school I went to is less than a mile away. If they chose any of the other schools within our ISD system, they could even take a bus. But there is a big difference in their school than any in the neighborhood and yesterday I had a chance to witness it firsthand.

In our school district, you move to middle school when you are in 6th grade. 5th grade had been pretty miserable with both girls being bullied on a regular basis just because of their ethnicity. There were so many tears and it was so difficult for them. When we were faced with making a choice for 6th grade, I knew we had to do something different and a dear friend suggested I look for an International Baccalaureate schools. One school stood out due to its racial diversity. I know we were meant to be there because out of 2000 applicants, they could only accept 200 and we got in on our first try.

Each year this school celebrates the more than 52 countries represented by the student body with a whole week of festivities. The week kicks off with a World Walk. The students are encouraged to wear an outfit showcasing their heritage, and then they form a parade for the rest of the students and guests. This was the first year that both daughters decided to participate.

When I got to the school yesterday morning, the wind was quite gusty, there were intermittent showers, and it felt really cold. I had volunteered to help and was assigned to be a country escort. Pretty soon the students came pouring out of the building, stopping to pick up a flag and a sign for their countries. From there they lined up in alphabetical order, ready for the parade to start.

Each child stepped forth, proudly declaring their country's name, honored to be wearing the clothes of their homeland, when for so many, they have lost so much by leaving their war torn, divisive countries in hopes of finding a better life here. I watched as Egypt, lined up with Syria, who lined up with Afghanistan, then Pakistan, and then Iran and Iraq. Then Kenya, Eritrea, Cuba, Ghana, Bangladesh. Viet Nam, South Korea, India, Taiwan, Brazil, and Colombia. The list goes on and on, but what was consistent was the pride in their country, to be at a school that values and honors their heritage.



To say it was moving doesn't do the emotions I felt justice, as I still feel emotional just writing about it.

The band played, the choir sang, and then the procession began with a senior dressed as the Statue of Liberty leading the group. As we made our way along the route, the students and guests, waved and cheered when they saw their country.

And right in the middle of it, were my two daughters, proudly wearing their new outfits showing their Chinese heritage. Yea, 3 hours can be a lot but a lifetime of memories is worth it!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Halloween - one of those holidays that has so many memories. Growing up, my Dad's company always had inventory on October 31, which kept him from participating, UNLESS, it was raining, then, after working a very long and I am sure, trying day, Dad would load us up and drive us around the neighborhood so we could try to get the much anticipated candy.

Nine years ago, Halloween was only a couple of weeks after I had adopted Grace. Halloween is not a custom in China, so here I was with a 6 year old, with no English, my very beginning efforts of being a mom, and I am dressing my child up in a costume, and teaching her to go door to door, begging for candy.

This is the first Halloween that I have missed since then. But after 2 trips to the school to pick up this afternoon, with the traffic considerably worse with each trip, on top of the rest of the day, I chose to stay home, while Grace and Annabel scored bags of candy with their cousins instead.

As far as the rest of the day, I actually had today off. We're planning our return trip to China next summer and after checking the prices of the trips, we've been trying to find ways to raise some funds. This has led to me finding things to sell. We all have more than enough stuff and so why not have a garage sale? A garage sale is great, when you are looking for a bargain, but oh my goodness, having one yourself is a ton of work, and really hard on your back, which kept me out of the trick or treating loop tonight. I'm just hoping I can find that stash of candy the girls brought in.

Oh and if you are in the neighborhood, drop by the sale!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Hope is needed

Our Saturday began and ended with the word hope and in between was a lot of chicken wrangling. The girls have joined a service organization at school. Out of all the clubs and groups they could join at school, for them to pick a service oriented one, makes me so proud. Anyway, they had signed up to volunteer Saturday morning and when that alarm went off at 6:00 am, I was pretty sure someone was playing a mean trick on me.

Our day had a long list of things that had to get done - chores, errands, and a chicken rescue.

A friend of my niece's had moved and needed a new home for her 6 chickens. Annabel was skeptical, but after looking them over, gave her approval. We went back, with Dad's pick up and our largest dog crate in the back. When we got there, the chickens were out free ranging, rather than in their chicken yard. Trying to catch a chicken, even in a small space, takes a lot of work, but thankfully, Annabel, dressed in shorts, t shirt, ball cap on backward, and my size 10 rain boots on her size 5 feet, was smart enough to wrangle them back into the chicken yard. What happened next is all owed to her skill, speed, and determination, as she wrangled each chicken, in spite of the chickens' heroic attempts otherwise.

The chickens are not convinced they like their new home and have stayed huddled in the back of the yard. It is recommended that you keep new chickens separated from your flock for at least 2 weeks, to ensure they do not transmit any diseases and also because the pecking order will be disturbed. In the meantime, our chickens are not pleased at their inability to free range and are very vocal about it. Last night when I went to check on them, the new chicks had not been able to figure out where they were supposed to roost and were still huddled in the back corner of the yard. We set up a borrowed coop and Annabel, the chicken wrangler, was at it again, only this time, some took flight and escaped to Mom and Dad's yard. Because it was dark, it was really difficult to even see them, but Annabel is extremely determined and kept on until she rescued the last one. When I went back to check on them, one had slipped through a spot in the coop and was so distressed that I thought I could open the door and grab it, like Annabel, only it got out and somewhere there is an errant chicken. We had a huge storm last night and I am not sure what to expect this morning.

In between all the chicken wrangling, our department at work had been invited to have a display at the Festival of Hope - celebrating an outreach ministry in the area. While I was there, I visited the other exhibits and was surprised to find one I did not know existed, practically in my backyard. Promise House - the only Dallas shelter for homeless and at risk teens. The young man with the organization was so inspiring and motivated to help these kids. I am so glad to learn of this group and the vast services they provide to so many. If you are in the area and want to help, they have a wish list on their website.

The day started at the Cathedral of Hope, where the girls had volunteered to serve breakfast to the homeless and needy. As we arrived, we saw a really long line of people, patiently waiting to get in. Annabel said I could just drop them off there, but there was no way that was going to happen. We parked and I went in too. After hearing what was expected and surprised that their teacher sponsor or any other parent of the kids was there, I knew I had to stay. The regular volunteers gave us a quick orientation and set the tone, that we were there to serve. The two hours flew by as there was a non-stop need and line for those waiting to be served.

What surprised me the most were the number of average, clean cut looking people who were there for a free breakfast. These people looked like neighbors, friends, family, they did not fit my idea of the "needy". I was shocked, especially when it was a family. The man I was serving with explained that by the 4th Saturday, that most had run out of food stamps and had nothing left and would not get the next ones until the first of the month.  I had visited the North Texas Food Bank this week and the guide had told us that very thing - so many times it is impossible to know that someone is in need by looking at them but those who have been able to find the resources, like Cathedral of Hope, the North Texas Food Bank, Promise House, have a chance.

I'm still processing what all of this means. At this age, I should not be surprised when I learn something new, but you would really think I would have known/realized just how overwhelming the needs are for so many in our area. Instead of just ruminating about it, I hope I can find ways to provide hope for others, like the amazing people I met today, who do this all the time.

Friday, October 25, 2013

What kind of day are you having?

Earlier today someone, quite innocently, asked me how my day was going. Although I truly wanted to tell them, I did not, because I wasn't sure how much more could go wrong, if I started enumerating the problems.

Our alarm was set for 4:45 am to ensure that Annabel got to her basketball practice by 6:00 am. Because she is still really new to the team and the rules are strict about being tardy, I went to bed worried that I might not wake up in time. The less smart thing to do then, is just stay awake most of the night, in spite of using every technique I know to help with relaxation. But if you have stayed awake most of the night, then at least you are already awake when the alarm goes off so you don't have to worry about being late.

I got Annabel to school in plenty of time, which is about an 18 mile trip each way, through downtown Dallas, each way, and returned home in time to get Grace up and us ready to meet the carpool and me to work, all by 7:10 am. It was at this point, not feeling very secure in the outfit I have chosen, I ask Grace, "Do these shoes make my pants look too short?" Of course they did but I chose to default to a 15 year olds stamp of approval to the outfit I am leaving the house in, rather than take the time to try to change. So I realize that she is looking at the clock rather than the length of my pants because she hates to be late, and she quietly says, "No, they look fine". So then I press it a little more and ask if I have on too much black. Again, I see her glance at the clock, not sure of how much longer this barrage of questions will last, and knowing we have a very small window of getting to carpool on time, she again answers, "No, it looks fine too". So  in spite of my best efforts to receive honest feedback, I leave the house knowing my pants look like "high waters" and a color other than black might have been a welcome relief to my Johnny Cash impersonation.

My inability to sleep was also impacted with concerns about the program we were having today at work, a big one on Medicare, with lots of partnering groups to supply services and resources. Of course when you are trying to coordinate lots of groups, something is bound to go wrong and one of the key services had left a message that they would not be able to participate. OK, not the best, but we can make do.

When you are working with older adults, it is very important to have restrooms close by. Well, the closest restrooms were under construction, so we were having to route people down a long hall. An equally important part of any activities for older adults is the food you serve. Generally our catering staff does a top notch job on the food service, but this time completely missed the mark, and we had long lines just for a cup of coffee and trust me, seniors don't like to wait for coffee!

Then within 15 minutes of the start of a 3 hour program, 2 ladies grabbed their stuff and approached me at the exit. They had been sitting behind a man who had a real problem with the government and was being very verbal about it. That had caught their attention, but then when he left the room, but left his backpack behind, they became quite frightened and were about to evacuate, just sure that his backpack contained a means to get even with the government. I did a quick mental scan trying to place the person they were talking about and my mind went quickly to the thought of interrupting the speaker, and announcing a quick break, and for them not to feel alarmed but we needed to evacuate the premises immediately to allow the bomb sniffing dogs in. Thankfully the disgruntled citizen was found fairly quick giving an earful to the Medicare rep and that disaster was diverted when he returned to his seat to reclaim his backpack.

Thankfully our speaker did not miss a beat and continued with the program until the construction in the adjoining restrooms began to include some extremely loud sawing, which overpowered our sound system. Each time the sawing started, the speaker would pause, and the second he opened his month to continue, it would start again. When it finally subsided, the speaker continued until, only 15 minutes later, when the fire alarm went off. There seemed to be only 2 ways that the seniors reacted to that - either evacuate immediately or just sit tight and see what happens. So I am trying to found out if it is a false alarm or if we need to get the 150 people out of the auditorium and my speaker just kept talking.

When the alarm did not stop, I announced a 10 minute break only to realize we are out of coffee, pastries, and everything else that makes up a continental breakfast. I get all my help searching desperately for catering personnel, as I am scrambling to explain that refills are on their way or hoping they are at least.

It was at this moment, someone comes by and says, "How's your day going so far?". All I could think to say was, "Good" as I struggle to keep an eye out for the catering department, my ears tuned for the construction or "all clear" on the fire alarm, and trying to make sure that no one is angry enough at the government to be planting explosive devices. Oh and all of this happened before 10:00 am!

How was your day?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Learning to drive

Prior to becoming a parent, this is what I thought had me fully prepared to be the best parent in the world:

  • Babysitting, which led to
  • Kindergarten/Elementary teacher, which coincided with
  • being an aunt, followed by
  • a Masters Degree in counseling.

I had all the bases covered and was well prepared and skilled in being a parent, no training required, just throw me into the role.

Since becoming a parent, I now realize that none of that and even all of that, does not prepare you to be a parent. If you are like me, you even visualized certain parts of your children growing up and how you would handle those situations when they arose.

If you are not a parent, I hate to break the news, that whatever that image of how you would handle certain life events, probably will never happen.

One recent example of how my expectations failed considerably is drivers training. Mind you, this is just one.

When I took drivers ed in high school, we initially went through a classroom, then even had a driving simulator, followed by the ever important - behind the wheel class. I well remember that first day of behind the wheel and the boy who bragged so loudly about his skill almost killing all of us when he could not figure out how to hold the steering wheel parallel. I don't recall the instructor screaming or even acting scared. But the ever important part, that still exists, is the time, behind the wheel with your parent, as you implement all you have learned from your instructors. I remember driving my mother, from the Minyards on Fort Worth Ave down Colorado to home and her mentioning, nonchalantly, it would be a good idea for me to check my speed. Oh, ok, so while looking down at the speedometer, I veered into the oncoming traffic and my mother, very calmly again, remarking, that I also should keep my eye on the road and develop the ability to "glance" at the speedometer, rather than focusing just on the dashboard. Again, no screaming, just a very calm admonition as I veered straight into the path of an oncoming car.

Fast forward.

My daughters are both old enough to have their learner's permit. I knew I was prepared to teach them to drive, because of not only my credentials outlined above but also because my mom was the "mom instructor" extraordinaire, but I opted to pay for a driving class so they would have the benefit of an instructor like I had. I knew when my time came to be the "mom instructor", I would be the type of parent my mother was and calmly admonish them ONLY when absolutely necessary.

At the beginning of summer, I let them try it out. I even chronicled it here in my blog. Even though my initial attempts at instructor did not meet my pre-conceived ideas of "mom instructor", I was sure that after they took their driving lessons that I would rise to the gauntlet of "mom instructor" that my mother had passed onto me.

Oh my goodness, I hate to admit, but I have failed miserably.

All of my preconceived ideas of how I would be as the ever patient, kind, nurturing "mom instructor" have now vanished and instead been replaced by raving maniac. Just backing out of the driveway, I've caught my heartbeat racing, my neck spinning to look from side to side, and then this voice, that sounds nothing like a nurturer, saying quickly and loudly, "Not so fast!" or "Pull straight back!" or "Did you look both ways?" and even "Be careful! Don't hit that car!" all the time knowing that none of those scenarios are likely to happen, yet being completely unable to control my gut reaction.

I hate to say, but even after completing all their classroom training and behind the wheel instruction, while their ability has improved considerably, mine, as the "mom instructor" continues to fail.

Part of what I had not visualized when contemplating this series of events, was a key element, their very patient grandfather. Dad has taken my girls driving so much more than I have and they come back with their egos intact and spirits lifted. They finally admitted to me that I made them nervous but with Dad, they don't feel that way. He lets them drive his brand new Mini-Cooper on streets with 6 lanes, has them change lanes, and never once has freaked out when he really thought there was a chance that they might take out the tree in the middle of their front yard. Thanks to Dad, there is actually a chance that they will become licensed drivers!

Thank goodness for My Sandwich Life!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Happy 9th anniversary

Nine years ago, you walked into my life and my world changed completely. At that moment, the life I thought was good, became great. God saved you for me and for that I thank Him every day.

You started the day as Hong Hao Yuan Jie and ended it as Grace Yuan Jie Locke.

You opened the door for so many other kids who needed families. When they saw you and heard your story, they too, chose to adopt an older child.

You never cease to amaze me - your compassion, your strength, your determination, your love. You make me look forward to the future so I can witness the amazing person you are becoming.

Thank you for being my daughter.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Motherhood teaches me another lesson!

My last post might have seemed like I was complaining, but I truly wasn't. I recognize that all of these experiences do not last very long. And, although I thought I had a good handle on this role of parent, I found out this summer, I do not.

I have watched as moms post how sad they are as their kids reach new milestones - going to kindergarten, middle school, especially those headed off to college. And I've thought to myself, "I won't be sad when mine leave. I will be so proud of the progress they've made that I will celebrate it instead."

I was sure I was going to be different than the other moms.

And I would probably still be thinking that except for something that happened this summer.

Our house was built in 1923. Slowly, but surely, we are trying to bring it into the 21st century or at least the second half of the 20th century. My daughters' bathroom still had the original tub, not a pretty claw foot that people covet, but a massive cast iron tank of a tub. This thing was big and so old that the one of the handles was marked refuse, meaning the drain. There was no way to convert it to have a shower, which is needed if you have a teenager, especially if your hair is waist length.

So a decision was made to rip out the tub and put in a shower. This ended up taking most of the summer. Until then, everyone just used my shower. When the job was finally finished and it was time to move the huge assortment of shampoos, conditioners, and soaps to their new shower, it suddenly dawned on me that, for the first time since becoming a mom, I had my own bathroom, again.

That's when it hit me! I missed them! I missed all the messes and the need for a schedule, I missed the wet towels, and pile of clothes in the floor, I missed it all and they were just down the hall from me!

Oh no! How will I handle college?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Location, location, location

We live less than 5 minutes to my job, grocery store, downtown, and one of the hottest areas of Dallas. Great, right?

The only problem - every, single thing for my daughters is a minimum of 30 minutes away. For school, while this isn't the best, it's ok, because they stay all day, they get dropped off and then picked up 8 hours later.

Lately though, we've added more and more places they have to be.

Last year, we added Chinese school. Still no problem, as they have a class for the parents during their class.

This summer, we added drivers training school. Class lasted 2 hours, so I could drive 30 minutes to drop them off, 30 minutes home, 30 minutes back, and 30 minutes back home, or I could wait. But there was no where to go and it was incredibly hot. For someone who has a really tight schedule, this was difficult.

With the start of school has also started group projects. Because it is a charter school, the students come from all over the area and numerous cities. For the last 2 Saturdays I've been taking one daughter to meet her group, 30+ minutes away, to work on their project. Each time for about 2 hours. Ugh!

This Saturday, I'm sitting outside the school, waiting.

So I've decided I need one or both of the following -

A more comfortable car to wait in


IPad, so I can write on a larger keyboard than my phone offers!


Monday, August 12, 2013

Real fear

Tonight one of my daughters finally admitted some of the things she has been worried about and causing her a great deal of fear. I sat there listening carefully but the whole time, on one level thinking, "My poor child has been through so much. I'm sure this has caused her to have these fears, irrational fears, but still fears." but on another level getting really worried about how can I, as the mom, help her get past all of this.

When I had a few more minutes to think about it, I started wondering if the fears were as a result of being adopted or if this was something that all children go through. From there, I started wondering if I should post this to one of my adoption groups and get feedback from other parents who had adopted and see if they were dealing with the same thing. Then I thought, maybe I need to go back to our social worker and ask her, but then I remembered a local authority on adoption and her series about whether certain behaviors were just part of aging or if it truly was because of the adoption. My mind went from there to wondering just what could I possibly do?

So at this point, my brain is on overdrive trying to sort through and catalog my best resources so my child can be "normal". But then I started thinking about when I was a child and whether I had any irrational fears. Thankfully  I did not because everything I feared was truly possible.

To show you just how possible my fears were, a big one, for a long time, was the knowledge and certainty that my troll doll could become alive and kill all of us. I know for a fact that happened more than once in homes of one of my cousin's friend's sister's next door neighbor's brother's house.

Then when I was 18 I saw the movie The Exorcist. Now, you might think that is just a movie, but my bedroom looked exactly like hers to the point that I knew the devil was certainly trolling for more bedrooms exactly like that one and that I was at high risk of being possessed by the devil. If I had not gone on an extended mission trip during that summer, I would probably still be sleeping on my sister's floor because I was too scared to sleep in my own bed.

Then when I was 19 and going off to college, at a Christian university, I realized I was at a high risk of being kidnapped by a terrorist group or a cult, just like Patty Davis was. I knew I was vulnerable and would be the first choice to be kidnapped, even though our family did not include any millionaire newspaper publishers.

The more I thought about my own fears, the more I realized fears are a pretty normal part of growing up (yes, I was still working on growing up at 19) and at the time I experienced them, would have argued as strongly as she did, that they could possibly come true. Shoo, I am so thankful to lose one of my fears of being a good enough mom that can raise "normal" kids because I have plenty more where that one came from!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Keeping it real!

Our summer break came to an end before I had time to blink. Our school starts back at least 2-3 weeks earlier than everyone else's. We get out earlier in May, but starting back the first week of August just seems cruel.

Songs, books, and movies have all been done with various themes for summer. I think this summer will be the summer of learning to drive, the bathroom re-do, and lots of family visiting.

I won't take time to talk about all of those now, but wanted to let you know, in the meantime, that my family has ensured that I remain humble. With their help, Proverbs 16:18 is not a problem - Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

As an example, the other night one daughter was describing someone as old, really old. I said, "About how old is she?"

Her answer, "Probably in her 50's!"


The next night, the other daughter was describing one of her teachers who is really tall, but could not guess about how much he weighs. I said, "Is he about my size?"

The answer, "No, he's not fat!"


Then I bought some facial hair remover since both my mom and daughter had wanted it. I offered it to my mom.

Her response, "Oh no, you need it worse!"


With their help, I should be able to avoid falling due to a haughty spirit!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Chicken farming and another chapter of raising a backyard flock

Eleven weeks ago, we started our next generation of chicks. I'm not sure if I think they are the second or third generation. Or maybe it is actually our 4th, since we started with 3 "adults, 4 "teenagers", and 2 "babies". I had always thought that would be enough but I joined a Facebook group (OK, multiple Facebook groups) all about raising chickens and many of them were hatching eggs in incubators and I caught the bug. Our results were not nearly as good as theirs and ended up with only 1 out of a dozen eggs. But because chickens are a flock animals, our poor little Cinnamon Queen needed some siblings. A quick trip to the feed store and we came home with 1 Aracauna and 1 White Plymouth Rock, now known as Biscuit, Gravy, and Honey.

We kept the three, first in a small bird cage, then moved to a plastic storage box, and finally into our good sized gerbil/hamster cage. Although a dining room should be for dining, it soon felt more like a nursery. Little baby chicks are fine in your house but once they get up to more of a teen age, they soon wear out their welcome. As soon as it was past the risk of a freeze, the whole kit and caboodle of them were moved outside with their bigger sisters. Within a short time, we took them out of the cage and let them mix in the rest, all of which seemed much larger than them. It's still about 4 weeks until they will get full size, so in the meantime they keep to themselves but have learned to race in when treats are given in an attempt to grab their fair share.

Annabel is the primary caregiver of their chickens and a little over a week ago she came in telling that Pollo, one of the original "teens" was holed up in the dog house, which is their favored nesting box. She had thrown her out but pretty quickly, Pollo ran back in. This went on for several days and during that time, I read a book, "Once Upon a Flock", a story about another person who caught chicken fever.

Reading about her flock, I recognized that Pollo was broody, in other words, she was sure that she had a "clutch" of eggs and would stay on them until they hatched, and she would have babies. There are plenty of resources that tell you how to break a broody hen out of her broodiness, but after reading that book, where she put fertile eggs under her broody hen, and she actually stuck with it until they hatched, made me wonder if Pollo would want to give it a real try.

So I posted in my Facebook chicken group about my broody hen and a friend who has roosters, offered me a few fertile eggs to put under her. After meeting up, I came home with a half dozen eggs of various colors, which may or may not be fertile.

Annabel and I cleaned out the dog house, after throwing Pollo out, and loaded it up with fresh straw, and put the eggs in. At first we were sure she had decided she was through with being broody but eventually she made her way back in and took a seat, adjusting the straw and eggs to her liking.

Tonight marks the 6th day, a day before you are supposed to "candle" them, but we were really anxious to check to see if any of the eggs showed signs of developing. We weren't quite the experts when we did the incubator eggs and skipped this step until much later. By then, we weren't sure what to look for but knew that most of the eggs looked alike and only 1 looked different, and of course, that was the only one to hatch.

Tonight we borrowed Dad's high powered Maglite and went to "candle" our eggs. Woo! Hoo! Right now, quite a few look like something is beginning to develop. Pollo is doing a great job and we hope she will stick with it. Only 15 more days and we will see!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Pictures from Jerri's Day Care

Note the oreo beard and mustache!

Dunking her crackers in water rather than eating

Safe with their Mimi

Trying out a DumDum

Mimi's ice cream was the best, chocolate!

Jerri's Day Care Center

Ten years ago, I made a visit to an adoption agency to ask a few questions about adopting from China. I was very disappointed when they tried to talk me into adopting a baby from another country. This really was not what I was interested in but wasn't sure how to say it without seeming offensive or ruining my chances for adopting. As a last minute thought, the case worker casually mentioned a waiting child program from China. She wasn't sure of any of the details but suggested I might call this other agency for more information. Before I left that parking lot, I had the other agency on the phone and the case worker was telling me about their program for older children to be adopted. I knew that sounded just right for me, as I was unprepared to adopt a baby.

Flash forward to last Friday and I found myself face to face with what I knew I was unprepared for ten years earlier, taking care of babies! My niece needed some help and I volunteered to take care of her two daughters for the day. I admitted to my daughters that I was quite nervous about the prospects and if they had not been taking end of course exams, I think I would have agreed to them staying home for the day.

At drop off time, I had only had 1 cup of coffee and was pretty sure I needed more, but I did not want to risk any tears when they mom left, so I quickly turned all my attention to them. My mom came over to lend a hand and while she was here, I decided we would do the craft I had bought - a garden stepping stone with their hand prints in it to present to their mother for Mother's Day. I scanned the directions, which I should have done the night before, and we moved into the kitchen so I could mix up the ingredients. Olivia, who is 1, decided to explore the work area of my girls and Isabel, who is 2, just asked me questions. I mixed up the first batch and poured it into the mold and even though the directions said to work quickly, I didn't know they meant lightening speed! And as I mixed up the second batch, I realized the first batch had already set! The stuff was as hard as a rock! There was no time to press their sweet little hands into the plaster before it was too late. And while I was checking on the first one, the second one set! Only this time in the bowl I was mixing it in! Now I had used both packets and did not have the wonderful gift planned for their mother. Not to be outdone, I resorted to plaster of paris and thought it would have to do, only it was too mushy and I decided it should set a little or their hands would be a huge mess.

We moved back to the newspaper covered area to paint the first solid undecorated block of cement while waiting on the third attempt to be ready to receive their precious hand prints. Five minutes passed way too quickly and when I looked at our third try, it was also solid as a rock. And when I looked back at my charges, they were covered with paint, from between their nose to Olivia's entire nose! I am still intent on making Marcie a present so I run back to the kitchen for an apron to decorate with their painted hand prints. When I tried to get them to put their hands on the apron, they looked at me like I was trying to cut off their hands, panic! They knew they weren't supposed to be wiping their hands on things like that! Four failed craft projects were not enough to slow us down, so we went outside.

We tried coloring with chalk on the sidewalk but opted instead for a walk. Iz decided she did not want to ride in the stroller and would just walk instead, which was not my first choice, but we forged ahead. Pretty quickly I asked her if she wanted to hold my hand and she said, "Thank you Jerri" like I had done her a favor. So sweet.

We saw the block, lots of flowers, some big trucks, and heard lots of dogs bark. When we got home, I knew I was a failure as a day care center because I turned the TV on for a little quiet time. Quiet time quickly turned to snack time which at the end of it, I realized should have been lunch time, so we just went straight into lunch. I opened up their Lunchables and they went straight for the oreos, bypassing the turkey, cheese, and crackers. Oh dear! Mom dropped back by in time to find me with two children with chocolate crumbs covering their faces and most of the rest of the lunchable on the floor!

We took a break outside and I knew we needed a nap instead.

Nap time turned into exercise time when it was discovered that my bed could double as a bounce house. I tried all the secrets I could think of to get them to both lay down at once, even laying still with my own eyes closed. This must have made my face very interesting and Olivia started sticking her finger into my nose, then around my eye, and then into my mouth. All I could do was laugh.

We were all to tired to sit still in the house so we loaded up the stroller one more time and took a much longer walk with both girls riding this time. I told them we would have a picnic and I really meant to but they ate all the snacks in the bag before we got to the end of the block! We ended up at the dollar store and stocked up on more snacks, bubble wands, and ice cream. I knew Iz had an odor emanating from her but earlier Olivia had tricked me with what I thought was just a wet diaper and ended up changing my first poopy diaper in years, so I wasn't brave enough to do that again.

We only had about 30 minutes before their mom would be back so we sampled the ice cream, the dum dum suckers, and the bubbles. By the time Marcie got there, both girls looked like they had been wrestling hogs in a mud pit! And Iz still had that odor! I'm not sure which of us was the most glad to see her! I helped her pack up her two and went to get my two.

I was sure glad that night that I had two 15 year olds rather than a 1 and a 2 year old to get to bed! God knew what he was doing when he blessed with my girls!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The long road back

I've been more than distracted lately. You see my brother had back surgery over three weeks ago. He had been having problems with his back for a while but in the last few years, his spine began to deteriorate. The pain has been excruciating and even with an almost lethal dose of pain killers, he could not get relief. The pain, the pain killers, and the depression made quality of life as non-existent.

He had 2 different surgeries, but the relief was only short term. He had high hopes that the previous one would allow him to pick up his granddaughters, but it wasn't enough.

Eventually a doctor was found who looked at the problems and felt he had a treatment plan that would finally provide relief, but the surgery would be extensive and the recovery would be intense.

Right after the surgery began, the doctor called for the family and explained that things were even worse than the tests had shown and it would be impossible to do all that was needed in one surgery. The surgery lasted more than 8 hours and plenty quickly things began to digress. I was not able to visit until several days after the surgery but the reports had been bad. He was in such distress that he was kept fairly well sedated. By the time I arrived, there was still little response, and inability to follow orders. The therapists came in and tried to manipulate his arms and legs some. His nurse came in and announced to the therapists that they needed to get him up, that he had to progress enough to have the second half of the surgery by the next week. I never would have thought it was possible, but they did get him up, which really started the recovery needed for the next surgery.

Just before he had the second surgery, the therapists had him walking up and down the halls, something that had been impossible before the surgery, and he was cracking jokes with all the nurses and techs.

The second surgery was considerably more aggressive and included the insertion of a titanium rod and 28 screws. The doctor expected it to take 8 - 10 hours but finally after 12 hours, the doctor finally came in to say they were through. We knew the doctor had to be exhausted, but he took the time to sit with us and explain the answers to any and all of our questions. I could see why they trusted him.

The rest of that week was grueling, the doctor knew he was in considerable pain, so there was considerable care to keep him as immobile as possible and unaware as they could, but when it was time for all of that to wear off and begin rehab, he could not wake up. Day after day he laid there with very little if any response to anyone. Talk began of sending him to a skilled nursing center until he could respond and begin rehab. Prayers were requested and within hours, he began to respond and before the end of the day, the therapists had him up again.

Of course as all of this is happening, life continued and it proved difficult to make the long trip to the hospital but a few times. Each time I left, I increased my prayers because I could not imagine his ability to recover.

He was finally able to reach the goals set for him at the hospital, much to everyone's surprise, everyone except those of who had prayed, and moved to a rehab hospital.

Today was the first time I had seen him since he was moved and when I walked into his hospital room, I wanted to shout out loud with joy! For the first time since this had started, he actually looked like himself. But it was even more than that, he looked like he had before all the pain had robbed his life of anything other than just trying to exist. He could carry on a conversation and was trying to feed himself. He even asked us questions and wanted to hear about what was going on. By the time we left, with help from his ever patient wife, Martha, he was able to stand up and even turn to tell us bye.

I know there is still a long way to life pre-back injury. There is a lot of hard work to be done so that he is able to get out of the bed on his own and stand, but for the first time, I felt like there might be a light at the end of the tunnel.

I truly believe the only way any of this has been accomplished though is due to the prayers of so many, who have answered our requests, and continue to. Thank you for taking the time to include my brother and his family in your prayers and I ask that you continue until you receive the "all clear" signal.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Split seconds that count

Friday night I was watching a news show on how life can change so dramatically in a split second.

I was on my way to Costco and as I came out the door, Mom and Dad were on their front porch. I stopped for a few minutes to see what they were up to and whether they needed anything from Costco.  I know I kept looking at my watch because I was getting a much later start than I intended.

As I turned the corner onto a major thoroughfare, I was surprised at how much traffic there was considering it was Saturday afternoon. As I slowed down I realized that everyone was stopped to look directly across from our lane. The first thing I noticed was the crowd that was growing as people were running toward a car. It took a minute for me to realize what I was seeing. But right there was a car, turned upside down, with at least one person stuck inside. In the middle of the street was an uprooted fire hydrant.

Not until I rounded the next corner did I see the first fire truck quickly approaching the area.

That's when it dawned on me how a taking the time to stop and speak to Mom and Dad might have provided the few seconds needed to avoid being hit by that car that had been going fast enough on this residential street, to cause it to flip over and take out a fire hydrant in the process.

Some people call it luck, I believe it is my guardian angel, slowing me down or speeding me up to provide protection.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Dinner conversation

Wow! Over a month since I took long enough to sit down in front of a computer to write a post to my blog. I believe that is a record, not a good record, but shows how fast life can go at times.

Because I probably can't remember everything that has happened, I'll start with tonight.

Although I had nothing specific planned for dinner tonight, I knew I had a freezer full of things I could prepare fairly easily but when I got home, Mom announced that she was planning to cook, which is always a great way to start an evening.

The meal was great but the conversation was especially entertaining. I was trying to tell about a TV show that features 4 women who used their special talents to decode information from World War II. Hoping to provide inspiration to my girls, I explained what an important role they played in winning the war. I was describing the various talents and when I got to the one who had photographic memory, Grace asked what I was talking about.

Annabel explained that a person who had photographic memory could look at anything and then spit out everything they had seen.

About this time, someone, who shall remain nameless, spoke up and said, "My problem is that all I ever do it spit!"

You got to love a lively dinner conversation!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Two big changes that occur with motherhood

My life as a mother began after I had spent a LOT of years as a single person who had little or no responsibilities to anyone else, at least not day to day, what's for dinner? do I have any clean clothes? type of responsibilities. And I did not start motherhood after 9 months of putting my body through the most dramatic changes I think a body can go through. And maybe an even more important point is I did not start with a newborn who was totally dependent on me and kept me awake night after night for at least the first two years.

My start in motherhood began after 2 years of paperchasing (no stretch marks from that!) with a 6 year old, who had been fairly responsible for herself a good part of her life. My first day of motherhood included a trip to McDonalds, a nap, shopping, and sightseeing, not nearly what happens after hours of labor and delivery.

Anyway, because of all of this, I think I am still quite surprised in the changes I see in myself from the fairly recent days of no responsibility to being mom.

This afternoon reminded me of one that probably doesn't seem all that significant, but is a major change for me.

When my sister and her 2 young daughters stayed with me just before leaving to adopt Grace, I remember as I was doing laundry, asking if they had any wearable colored clothes that needed to be washed. Jana laughed so hard asking what in the world did I mean. I sorted my laundry carefully and would never think of washing towels and sheets that were a color with the clothes that I wear. This was 2 separate loads. I also didn't mind washing small, medium, or large loads, rather than risk mixing items.

Today, while doing laundry, which included my sheets, I was down to a mix of one sheet, some of my better pants, and some sweaters. Without batting an eye, I threw it all in together. Shoot, I just wanted to get finished with it, I didn't want to waste the time, much less the water, to wash one sheet by itself. If I had done that, it would have resulted in 3 small loads, so in the still "new" life as mom, I can more easily recognize losing battles, things that just don't matter, and that there is a limit to the amount of time I want to use on laundry.

For the majority of my adult life, I have had a problem with allergies that can lead to sinus infections and then quickly turn into bronchitis. Pre-mom days, I probably delayed going to the doctor until I was just sick of being sick and then I took however long it took to actually get well. This could mean a week or two, doing NOTHING in between. Thursday, by the time I came home from work and as grouchy as I was, I knew I had to go to the doctor, it could not be delayed any longer. One night of me being "off" and I knew I had to fix that. So even though I did not feel like dragging out of bed on Friday, I did, and went straight to the doctor where I got a shot and three prescriptions to speed up the process, because now as mom, laying around until I felt 100% would be too late. Life happens and you have to keep up.

By Saturday morning, I knew my list of chores was long, so it did not matter that I did not feel 100% better, I needed to get busy. After making a quick breakfast, doing some preliminary cleaning, Annabel and I got outside, hauling big bags of soil and compost, trying to get a few things planted before the rain started. We got the front 2 raised beds filled, then moved to the back yard to do them. From there, we cleaned out the chicken house, hauling out the old straw, cleaning out the nesting boxes, and filling up the compost bin with all we had collected. From there we moved inside and changed the air filter, put some things away in our tip top storage areas, which required all 3 of us, and a few other things before a quick clean up and out to Costco. When we got home, then we had to find a place to store all the large economy sizes of everything we bought, which is a LOT of work.

By the time I finally sat down for the night and thought about all we had accomplished, I still feel a sense of amazement at this huge change in my life. I would much rather get well quickly and back into the groove as quickly as possible, as I think my girls deserve it.

I like the change. This life is so much better.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Spring break plans???

Tomorrow my girls are out for spring break at noon. We are scheduled to go to Abilene shortly after that to visit my original alma mater, Abilene Christian University. They are having a college preview day for high school students. Their school takes trips each year to visit colleges, but I knew they would never include ACU in their plans and I want them to have a good idea of the wide variety of colleges available.

When I first got the notice and realized that the dates matched up with their school holiday, I made arrangements for us to attend. I even made a hotel reservation, a month in advance, which is really unusual because I generally wait until the last minute on those details. In the last week, I also filled the car with gas, got the registration done (only one month late, again something that I usually delay for several months!), and even got the oil changed 600 miles before I had to (another item I NEVER do early). I wanted us to be ready to embark on this quick adventure and know the car was ready to go. All this preparation made me recall the hundreds of trips I made between Dallas and Abilene in cars that were pretty much on their last leg, some with windows that would not roll up or down, missing windshield wipers, holes in the gas tank, cracked blocks, and the only one that ever actually caused a problem was a broken alternator belt.

I loved going to school in Abilene, just not at first. I spent my freshman year at home going to Mt. View, the junior college here, because I had spent the money I had saved for college and went on a mission trip to Scotland instead, so I stayed home, taking classes, and trying to earn enough to start in my Sophomore year.

The first year in Abilene, I think I cried on every return trip to school. Eventually I made friends, began working part time, and really appreciating all that the opportunity provided, so much so that by the end of my Senior year, I cried because I had to come home. I knew I was coming back to Dallas and was so sure of it, that even 2 different marriage proposals were not enough to keep me in West Texas (and neither of them would fit in Dallas).

So when I graduated, I came home, sure of my future, meeting Mr. Right within the first couple of years, before saying I do, and by the time I was 25 - 28, that white picket fence and a shared life would be my destiny.

Only the problem with plans is I did not know what the future would hold and instead of making dates to uncover Mr. Right, I was making Doctor appointments, trying to recover and stay well after my, well, I'm still not sure what it was, whether it was a stroke, a cerebral hemorrhage, or just a giant aneurysm that suddenly became a problem! Anyway, none of what I planned in Abilene ever happened and for a long time, I was just glad to have made it another year, especially the years I stayed out of the hospital. I even gave up on the plan to have 2.5 children, which was the norm at the time, and never expected to have children to show where I went to school.

See, this is where my life took a much better turn than I had ever planned and now I have my two wonderful daughters, who probably have very little interest in seeing Abilene, but for my sake will be troopers and never complain.

So back to planning. After doing all of this prep work, which is all unusual for me, I am now just one step up from being sicker than a dog. I don't know if it is a sinus infection, allergy attack, but I just know my head feels like it is in a vise, and my cough sounds like the bark of a rabid dog. Ugh, why do I try to make plans!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Pulling the plug

We are very sad tonight. We finally pulled the plug on the incubator.

I kept hoping there was a chance of a maybe one more hatching, even though when we had candled, knew we only saw one.

I finally started looking at several resources, then got in touch with my local chicken professional, and she gave me instructions on how to check for any life signs in the eggs, after she asked if any had pipped.

I hated to ask what pip was so I googled it quickly, but after reading the first description of pipping, I knew that none of the rest had.

I went to the next step of using a clean sharp nail and poking a small hole into the large end of the egg. I even followed her instruction of chirping into the egg to see if anyone answered. There was nothing. I made the hole larger and saw that there was no sign of life at all and there had never been anything but an egg inside that shell. I grabbed the flashlight and looked at each one, then sadly announced to the girls that I did not think we had any more that would hatch.

Annabel wanted to help with the process of double checking and soon Grace joined in too. We took turns poking the initial hole, chirping into the egg, then carefully breaking back enough shell to see what quickly became the norm, an intact egg, with no signs of developing into anything else. With the last one, I went in and unplugged the incubator. It all seemed very dramatic!

It was really sad for Annabel because she had been so loyal about turning them, checking on the temperature, and the water. She bounces back quickly though and wants us to buy our own incubator and try again! She has caught chicken math too, evidently.

And a quick update on our 3 babies, this morning, there was not a peep from the cage, when I truly expected to be woken up quite early by their constant chirping. I lay there dreading to find 3 dead chickens in the cage. Thank goodness, they were just quiet for long enough to late me sleep until the alarm went off!

So here is a picture of Biscuit, the Cinnamon Queen that we hatched.

And here she is with her "sisters", Honey, which is a White Plymouth Rock, and Gravy, which is an Aracauna.

Let's hope everyone is still chirping tomorrow!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Our flock increases

February 3 - Saw a notice for a chicken place for a bargain - a dozen Cinnamon Queen hatching eggs for only $20.

Now, I will admit two important parts of this story - I had no idea what "hatching eggs" were, but hoped it meant the eggs would be hatching pretty soon and that I love a bargain, the thought of 12 chickens for only $20 made me gleeful!

So all you had to do was reply sold, along with your email address and they were yours, of course, after they received payment. I'm not sure what made me do some really quick googling, but I soon found out I would need an incubator, and at this point, you could not tell if they would be chickens or roosters. Still at that point, I was thinking you just used a little item, that probably looked like a quesadilla maker, pop the eggs in and within a short time - Voila! 12 baby chickens!

If you were around when we bought our first chickens, or within the month, you might have noticed that I promised I would NEVER have baby chickens again, or if I did, they would be in the summer, when you did not have to have them in the house, cleaning out a stinky cage, regularly.

So I'm not sure what happened or why, but common sense was thrown out the window and I went through with buying the eggs, sure I would find the quesadilla maker/incubator.

At the exact same time that this was happening, we were trying to convert to broadband from DSL and every single night, hours were spent trying to deal with AT&T, either on the phone or in person, with a tech trying to solve the mystery of why it would not work, so I was trying to do research about hatching eggs on my phone, and desperately seeking the quesadilla/incubator.

The eggs arrived on Wednesday. I finally tracked down an incubator on Thursday, and Friday, we got it all set up. The broadband, still not working, continued to force me to do research on my phone, but I found the details on temperature and humidity, that they needed to be turned about 3 times a day, and 21 days later, we should have babies.

Yesterday was 21 days. Last night we could hear an incessant chirping, coming from the incubator, which turned out to look like a very large foam cooler, with wires, and plugs coming out. This morning, very early, it was quite obvious that the chirping was no longer coming from inside an egg, but outside. It felt somewhat like Christmas, running in, and stealing the first look! Annabel soon was doing the same thing.

There, among 11 intact eggs, was a very tiny chicken jumping all around and chirping quite loudly.

I left out an important step.

Along the way we "candled" the eggs, powering Dad's tiny little, but powerful Mag light, to view inside each of the eggs, to see the progress of the development of the chickens. We weren't sure what we were doing but knew that one seemed different from the others. I reported to a group of friends who have done this before. They were surprised that I thought only one seemed to fit the pictures of a chicken growing, but I kept hoping that we were wrong.

Another important thing was that Annabel assumed total responsibility for the egg turning, the temperature, and the humidity. Each day, she was up early making sure everything was just right. Today she was up early wanting to open the incubator and get the baby out, but she also stood over the incubator singing songs of encouragement to the rest of the eggs, trying to will them to get the strength to break through their shell.

I knew the chance of any more eggs hatching was slim so when we went to get food for the baby, I knew we would need to get at least one more baby as chickens have to have other chickens to survive. as they are flock animals/birds. I didn't mention this to Annabel, as she was sure that the rest would hatch, but about halfway there, it dawned on her that we might want to consider the worst case scenario in case the others don't hatch, so what would we do.

Thankfully I knew this feed store usually always had baby chicks and today was no exception, so along with a 25 pound bag of beginner feed, we also came away with 2 more baby chicks.

So here's the math - buy 12 eggs for $20, one eggs hatches, so go buy more chickens!

A friend calls this chicken math! Tonight I am calling it craziness!

Saturday, February 16, 2013


My dad wears a size13 in shoes. I took after my dad. I have always had big feet. In school it could prove embarrassing when your feet were bigger than the boys. I eventually grew into my big feet and finding shoes is fairly easy.

My daughters on the other hand have very petite feet and it is almost impossible to find any choices in a size 5. Usually what is in a 5 was either meant for a much older woman or a kid.

Tonight is the big freshman social. I have extremely good kids and both were ok with wearing something they already had but i knew this event meant more so i insisted we go shopping.

Grace usually knows exactly what she is looking for. She requires little input because she has worked it out in her mind way ahead of time and when she finds it, she Is satisfied.

Annabel, on the other hand, does not see the need for all the fuss and thinks t shirt and jeans should be appropriate for all occasions.

We actually found exactly what each wanted within the first hour and then we moved onto the shoe department.

I asked for anything they had in a 5 and the salesman just shook his head.

Not to be defeated, i led us to the next shopping center that has 2 shoe stores, surely we could find something.

As usual, Grace found just what she wanted within the first 5 minutes, only i balked at the price, the fit, the height of the heel, pretty sure we could do better.

Annabel gravitated toward the sneakers. I put my foot down and said no way was she wearing sneakers.

We pressed on to the next store.


The next store.


At that point i was tired, hungry, and ready to go home so i did what i should have in the first 5 minutes of our search and bought the shoes they liked.

I've dropped them off as my shift to volunteer doesn't start yet but as i did they both said thank you one more time and went to the social in just what they wanted, sneakers and heels. I love my girls.

My wish

If i could wish just one thing for my daughters in life, it would be that they have bigger feet.

January blues

January seemed to play out like a really bad docu-drama or a cheesy science fiction thriller, where an enemy, in the form of the plague or alien, slowly, but surely takes down everyone, but a chosen few. The weather in Texas, regardless of the month, generally includes more days with sunlight, rather than cold and rain. But for us, the weather forecast was a broken record of cold and rainy days. With the passing of each day, you would hear of more and more people being struck down with the flu or something that felt as dreadful.

Thanks to Facebook, you could almost guess what was coming next with the first post of someone coming home from school/work, not feeling well, and within a matters of days, the entire family would be sick. I almost expected to drive through the neighborhood and see people in the hazmat uniforms posting quarantined signs on the neighbors' doors.

As soon as I heard that the flu seemed to be hitting early, I made my girls an appointment to get their flu shot. It was required for my job, so I knew I was covered.

The first person in our family who was hit, was my great niece. Olivia was barely old enough to get the first of the two shots needed for babies, when she was diagnosed. Before she could get well, my other great niece became ill, followed quickly by their mother. I can't imagine worse than having 2 babies 2 years old and younger and the mom being sick. My nephew jumped in thankfully and handled problems very efficiently.

Quickly the germ settled in my parent's house next door. I knew my dad was sick when he missed church, then his volunteer job, then church again!

In our house one night, Grace announced that her skin hurt, I knew we were in trouble, and her temperature confirmed it. I stepped up requiring everyone to drink juice, take vitamins, and get plenty of sleep. Annabel had some symptoms, but overall she and I stayed fairly healthy. It was a good thing since about the time one of my great nieces would get well, their mom would get sick again and my parents just swapped it back and forth.

So after so many days of bad weather combined with so much sickness, the first Saturday that the sun shined it was hard to stay indoors. After all our errands, my niece asked if we could keep her youngest daughter so she could go to the grocery store.

I met them outside and took Olivia to Mom and Dad's front porch swing.

The sky was blue and the sun was warm with only a slight breeze. Mom joined me and for a while, Olivia and I just sat and swinged. So relaxing. So rejuvenating. So, just what I needed, very healing and very therapeutic.

By the next Saturday, the weather had reverted to its January scheme of cold, wet, rainy weather.

We started our day with Grace's piano lesson, followed by a trip to one of the suburbs for me. I had been asked to speak to a group at a health fair, but the weather seemed to deter interest for most to venture out of their homes.

By the time I got by home, my sister and 2 more nieces had arrived to celebrate my birthday. Regardless of the weather outside, it was warm inside.

It was also Chinese New Year's Eve, so we had asked our cousins to join us for this very traditional, family oriented event, at our favorite Chinese restaurant.

The weather went from bad to terrible and they had a really long drive, but they braved it anyway, and joined in the fun of discovering plenty of new things for all on the menu. It was a great time. It is great to spend time with my sister, nieces, and cousins. Even though we probably should have stayed home and out of the weather, everyone showed up, and we all had a fantastic time.

Tomorrow is Saturday again. I missed hearing the forecast as the assignment the girls could not work on last week because of our Internet being out, was due tonight at midnight, which seemed to demand all of our attention.

This Saturday will be even more different than the last two will since it includes chaperoning for the Freshmen dance at the girls' school and me on the clean up committee!

Friday, February 8, 2013


I was really sure that tonight I would be able to sit down and catch up on the many things going on this week. Unfortunately I'm having one more night of frustration. We decided to upgrade our internet service to Uverse, just in time for the girls to do research needed on a big project due tonight at midnight. Each night we have had a new tech who assured us that they had solved the problem that the previous tech had not caught. Each night I've spent considerable time on the phone with AT&T trying to report that it still was not fixed, becoming more frustrated each recording that I had to listen to.
Tonight? No internet.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My failure as a mother

I have to admit I am a bad mother and hoping I do not get thrown out of the secret society that moms share when I confess to what I have done.

No, no, nothing about them being sick, although I am worried that Annabel is running a fever tonight. No, it is something even more important than that.

What, you might ask? Well I will explain.

I do believe it is the mother's responsibility and right to embarrass their children and I failed.

If you have girls, you know that at some point, you begin to hear more stories that include boys' names in them. And you begin to hear the same names on a regular basis. Having been a girl back in the old days myself, I can also tell you that generally this means an interest in the boy whose name you hear most often. Not love, more like infatuation and you just can't help yourself telling "funny" stories about them.

Both girls are in the same grade and since they started in 6th grade, most of this fairly small class have been together. So while it is not unusual to hear about students who are parts of team projects, you do notice when the same name comes up rather often and/or the tone of voice used in telling the story is different.

So here is where I failed.

The other afternoon after school, one daughter hurried out to meet me in the carpool lane. While we were sitting there waiting on the others, two of these boys that I hear about often, walked in front of the car.

You should always go with your first impulse, which for me, was to honk and wave.

I hate to admit, I did not. I made the mistake of saying that was what I was going to do and I believe a record might have been set as to the reaction speed for blocking the pad for the horn before my hand could even reach it.

You see, I failed. A perfect opportunity to do the perfect embarrassment and I wasted it.

Hopefully I will get a second chance.

Aaaccchhhoo, part 2, the rest of the story

Sometimes when I am writing I get a little sidetracked and miss the point of my story, so today I am going to do a Paul Harvey imitation and tell the rest of the story.
With Grace sick, I've realized I have felt a great deal of stress. Of course I was worried because she did not feel well but I also realized that it felt like more than that.
I am a horrible caretaker. I recognize this weakness and have told my parents that if they ever need a caretaker, I hope I will be able to afford to pay someone to do it. But when my kids get sick, I try to overcome this. But I already knew this about myself and did not think that was really it either.
Sunday I jokingly told Annabel that I was afraid that the teachers at the Chinese school would think I wasn't a good Chinese mother because I let them get sick.
BAM! That's when I realized the source of the stress - I feel like I have failed my kids when they get sick! AND that I might be perceived as a bad mother.
Yes, I can be rational and know that none of this is true, but I can't help but think, "what could I have done to help avoid Grace getting the flu?". Sure, she went out without a coat one day that it was cold, went to bed with wet hair, did not eat her fruit, none of which caused her to get the flu, I know, but was there something else, something I missed? They had their flu shots and I was trying to be diligent, yet I failed because the end result was she got sick.
AND if that's not enough, I have really stressed because I felt like some were raising an eyebrow in suspicion of my mothering skills when I told them that she was sick. I was quick to point out that we had gotten the flu shot in December as my defense! I was prepared! Or at least I tried to be. I want to ask them, "What else could I have done? Was it not enough garlic? Should I have insisted on more water? Do YOU hold the key to detering this illness?". OK, I haven't done that, but I have wondered and they probably aren't thinking anything other than, yuck, the flu.
This brings me to another thought. There has been a story in the news lately about a horrible situation in which a young boy ran ahead of his mother and was hit by a car and killed. I cannot imagine the pain that mother is going through, how many times she has replayed the event, stopping at each frame to see how she could have prevented it, yet each time she has to play it through to the same ending, no matter how much she wished it could change.
Being a mom is hard. I don't think there is another job that requires as much due diligence 24/7, because there is always the risk of that one second where things can go terribly wrong.
I know I have it much easier as a mom than most. My girls are extremely self-sufficient. I don't have toddlers who rely on me for all their daily needs. My girls have good judgement, usually, so I don't have to second guess each of their decisions. I can go on and on as to why my job is easier, but when they get sick, maybe we are all more similar than different, regardless of their age and ability. Sometimes it is hard to be the mom.
It's not about sandwiches! It's about my life!

Monday, January 28, 2013


One day, many years ago, I had an work day filled with meetings that took place just down the hall from my office. I noticed around lunch that my throat was sore and as the afternoon progressed, I began to feel worse, but wrote it off to a cold/sinus thing/nothing major. By the end of the last meeting, I felt the only way I could get back to my office was to crawl as the pain was so intense, my brain felt so fried, and I was so exhausted I did not have the strength to go on. When I got to my office, I began to feel a sense of delirium and began frantically looking for my purse, because, I knew, if I could just get home, I would be ok. About this time my friend, Denise called to see what my plans were. I explained that there was something seriously wrong with me, to the point that I could not even find my purse in my small office.

Since our field was working with the disabled, she felt qualified to come provide assistance by diagnosing my ailment and send me to the pharmacy after she helped me find my purse. By the time she arrived, I must have looked like I was in quite a state, because she immediately diagnosed that I needed help. Since we could not find my purse and could not get into my house or car, she took me to ER. Even though she had two small children needing her at home, she did not dump me off there, but phoned my parents, and stayed till they arrived. I only know these details because she told me later. I was convinced I was about to pass, and it just could not happen soon enough as I wanted the misery to end.

The diagnosis? The flu.

Even with having endured sinus surgery, brain surgery, and multiple eye surgeries, I had never felt as badly as I felt that night. I remember trying to explain it must be something much worse, but the doctor was correct and sent me home. Only with no house or car keys, my parents took me home, Dad broke into my house, and after getting prescriptions filled, began the process of getting new keys and the window replaced that was broken to obtain access to my house. I know all of this only because they told me because all I did was fall into my bed and woke up several days later.

At my next job, my boss announced in the summer that we would be giving flu shots. I don't know if that was the first time I knew about a shot to prevent the flu, but he warned they were a difficult sale as most people refused to get the shot. I did a ton of research and was shocked at what I learned on the high incidence of death as a result of the flu! Because of this and my own experience, I embraced the events, joined immunization coalitions, educated others,, and I began to do whatever it took to get people to get the flu shot, even rewarding them if they would just get it!

So when I became a mom and the option of having my child immunized against the flu came up, I was quick to sign up.

For the last eight years we managed to avoid the flu.

This year, when the immunization coalitions started sending ominous messages about a really bad flu season, I got my girls in line to get there shots and then breathed a sigh of relief that we would be missed. Except, we weren't. This year has been different from all the other years. Everywhere you go you hear coughing, sneezing, blowing their noses. It made you wish you could either wear a bubble to protect you or else spray shots of Lysol everywhere you go. Everyone has someone in their family who is sick or knows someone who is. Even after having the shot, people are still getting sick. I upped our defense and made everyone eat 2 oranges a day in addition to vegetables and other fruits, as well as vitamins. First my Dad got it. Then my Mom. Then my great niece got it before she could get the booster for babies.

I held my breath sure that it would pass us, but last Wednesday, when Grace told me her skin hurt and her throat was sore, I had a sinking feeling. There aren't a lot of things that can affect your whole body that even your skin hurts, accompanied by a fever. Someone who had been through it sent me a message to get her to the doctor. I am so glad I listened to their advice and hated to but I dragged her to the doctor where it was confirmed, she did have the flu.  Tamiflu was prescribed, along with bedrest, liquids, and time.

Time. I have to say that is the hardest part. She still hasn't been able to go back to school and some symptoms seem even worse than they did last week.

One of the big differences in the flu season this year is the ability to see what is going on in other families via Facebook. I keep seeing the desperate messages posted by moms regarding their children's illnesses, then their own, and you just have to feel for them. But it does help to know you aren't alone.

Here's hoping you can escape and keep your family well too!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Oh my!

OK, I did survive our first driving lessons. I don't think I had thought it through enough before I let them get behind the wheel.

I was just sure that I would be the organized kind of mother that would have Annabel at the DMV the day she turned 15 and she would sit for her exam and get her learner's permit, making her the primary driver for the whole school year. I did not factor in changing me to an organized mother and here we are, almost 7 months later, no closer to a license, so when Grace mentioned ALL her friends were now learning to drive, and knowing she will turn 15 in just over 2 months, I knew I had to get started.

I told them after church that I would let them try out driving, but did not say a specific time. After lunch, I had to have my Sunday afternoon nap, which they are usually very agreeable to, but 30 minutes later, I knew they were anxious to get started when I heard first one, and then the other, come to my door, glance in, and check to see if I was awake. No rest for the wicked?

They were surprised that I made them take separate turns, but just starting out, I knew they did not need a critic in the backseat who had no more experience than they did.

As we began, I tried to remember all the checklists and rules that I learned, but my drivers training was a really LONG time ago! I mean a long time. I spent more time trying to explain how to adjust the seat than how to actually drive.

As soon as we began to roll, I still was trying to remember about how far back you start braking when you come to a stop sign and before I knew it, we were in the middle of the intersection! The next stop sign, we stopped half a block before the intersection. I think we still need to work on that. We only had two speeds, too fast and too slow.

The next one got in the car and she did not bother to stop at any stop signs until the middle of the street, which was actually when she would speed up! We had a really close call with a telephone pole and ended with only a bumped mirror. The curbs continued to haunt us and we finally just ran up on one.

Today was a holiday, but I had to work, and before I got home I had already received a text asking if we were driving again. It's really hard to turn them down, regardless of how I feel, so we started out toward the grocery store. I meant to have her pull over before we got onto the 3 lane street, with the sun in your eyes, and considerably more traffic than we had the day before, but the word stop still seems to be foreign. We merged into the traffic, but could not seem to stay in just one lane and we were approaching a complicated intersection with even more cars, when I suggested taking a left turn onto a side street so I could drive. Oh my! We stopped in the middle of the street, just past where we needed to turn and the traffic was coming quickly. I think I might have sounded a little more anxious and explained we had to turn sharply and quickly to get out of the way!

On the way home, I suggested that I would get us away from the store, off the 3 lane street, and the other could take over. With the half block to the intersection where we needed to turn, our speed varied from about 5 to 65! Or at least it felt like it. We maneuvered the turn when a loud dinging began to sound and soon realized that in the excitement, the driver had not put on her seat belt! Lesson number one: put on your seat belt!

We got through the other turns, although the idea of turning into your lane is still a difficult concept and moving to your side, after passing a parked car needs considerably more practice. All of a sudden we were at our house and the choice was to quickly change drivers so I could pull into our driveway, or proceed. It had to be tried sometime, so with some false starts, we pulled into the driveway aiming directly at a tree in the middle of the neighbor's yard!

My plan was to save the money that drivers training would cost. I am beginning to rethink this plan. Our deductible is $500 and the cost of the drivers training is about the same. I'm pretty sure that would be the best money I could spend!

Stay tuned! If you are on Facebook, we will post so you will know when to get off the street!