Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Feeding an Army 30 meals a day close to $1.50 per person, per meal

Last week I posted this on Facebook:

LOL, and there was a lot of response.
Asking me meal plans, menus recipes, and all in all, HOW THE HECK do you do that?

I am going to preface, this is how I do things, it may not be the answer for you, it may not be what your family eats,our meals may be too strict for you, or not strict enough, and thats O.K.
I can only speak to what we have found works in our cray-cray casa, what foods work best for our health, our emotional, behavioral, and financial needs.

Our goals are to eat whole, healthy, mindful, meat on the side,primarily organic produce, cassin, gluten and refined sugar free.
I personally eat as vegan as possible.

We CHEAT. We are not perfect, if you are looking for a perfect model of Organic, whole foods NEVER an m&m, passes our lips...keep looking!
Yes we do, because we are human, and we like rewarding ourselves with treats, or are offered to pick or glean free food, we.will.take.it gratefully!
I love the term “flexitaran” my friend Christine uses.
Thats exactly what we are.
If you give us otter pops ( though I may cringe, and let my husband eat the blue and red ones, we will say thank you)

Our goals are healthy, aware of where most of our meat comes from, and yet sticking to a very strict budget, and if free food is available, we will do the hard work to preserve and use it.

I am a crazy person about food waste.
Like, cleaning the fridge out makes me cry.
I don't know if it is my experience working in Orphanages in Haiti, or growing up with a single mom, who supported us with her waitress job while she went to school, but.I.hate.waste.
One of the things I will share is HOW, to use the bits and pieces most people throw out.

One of the ways we limit expense, waste and the constant question of what to make and feed all of the people is a rotating Breakfast and Lunch menu.
I switch it up pending on Season, what we have in the garden, and orcahrd and free food that has come available.
What a rotating menu means is every Monday, we eat the same Breakfast and Lunch combination.
Monday through Sunday, is something different, but weekly that combination is what we and the kids expect to be eating and making.

We take lunches, we can our own jams, salsas, sauces, pickles, relish ect.
We also have chickens for eggs, glean potatoes in the fall, buy in bulk, and stock up on sale items.

We drink water with our meals.
No juice, soda, or milk.

This is what our rotating menu looks like right now:

Monday ~ Cereal ( usually Rice Chex) almond/coconut milk ( we don't drown our cereal, in milk, nothig bugs me more than dumping a bowl of milk down the sink), and banana (this is the only day of the week we eat cereal, and I buy iy in bulk when the boxes are $1.50 each)
Tuesday ~ Oatmeal sweetened with Organic Syrup, sometimes raisins and nuts tossed over ( in the summertime homemade granola)
Wednesday ~re-Heated pancakes or waffles w/ peanut-butter or berries , and eggs
Thursday ~ Baked Oatmeal with fresh or Preserved fruit from our Orchard
 ( summertime zucchini muffins, or oatmeal muffins, and coconut yogurt)
Friday ~ Breakfast Burrito or Hash-brown Casserole
Saturday~ Pancakes/waffles/french toast and Bacon or Sausage ( theses are always doubled or trippled and frozen for Wednesday breakfasts.
Sunday~ German Pancakes w/ fruit salad

Monday ~ P.B. Roll ups ( Peanut-butter in a corn tortilla), baby carrots, string cheese and trail mix ( homemade)
Tuesday ~ Turkey sandwich (
gf bread, romaine lettuce),Apple, Granola Bar
Wednesday ~ Rice Crackers, P.B. ,Snap peas , string cheese, trail mix
Thursday ~ Tuna Sandwich (
gf bread, romaine lettuce) clementine orange, string cheese, granola bar
Friday~ Rice Crackers, Hummus, cut up Cucumbers, string cheese, trail mix
Saturday~ Quesadilla's w/ beans, salad
Sunday~ Pizza and Kale Salad (
sometimes a GF frozen pizza, gilled zuchini homemade pizza, mini homade pizza)

When this rotation gets old, or the seasons change we switch it up.

My kids NEVER have to ask what is for breakfast or lunch...and that makes us all VERY happy.

In the Summer and harvest, meals are planned around harvest.

We large eat salads at almost every single meal, with occasional meat, or grains.
Majority of our meat is from Family raised animals, purchased organically from the Farmers market ( I always buy in bulk from these farmers and they cut me a deal, especially at the end of the market season)

In the Winter and colder months meals are based on food storage items, and we eat a lot of home grown frozen, or bought organic veggies.

In Winter and Colder months soups and chili's, potato's, brown rice, corn tortillas or chips, beans, brown rice pasta are the vehicles for our meals.
I bulk shop twice a month at Costco.

Winter Meals have a theme, I generally stick to:
Monday ~ Mama's break, usually something simple, from the freezer ( pre-made) or left overs, one of my casseroles, pre cut up frozen veggies or salad, over romaine, or pasta.

Tuesday ~ Taco night ~ which pretty much means anything with Mexican food influence, stuffed bell peppers, Tortilla or black bean soup, Enchiladas, Taco Salad, Tamales

Wednesday ~ Rice. Usually a Vegetable Stir-fry, maybe Sweet Thai Meatballs from the crock pot, Haitian Rice and Beans, Risotto.

Thursday ~ Soup, Chili, Potatoes, Something created out of the pantry...
(we always have the makings for a Baked Potato, or a Roasted veggie Melody, or a Potato Soup or Chili)

Friday ~Veggie-mania, sometimes fresh sauce over pasta, sometimes as a dip-dip night with lots of fresh vegetables, and a lot of fun dips. Cold pasta salad, Artichoke Hearts in a dairy free Alfredo Sauce.

Saturday~Clean out the fridge, and eat left overs, Get creative, check out what is around, and use it.Sunday~ Big meal. Usually Crock pot or grill a meat, a whole baked chicken, Asian BBQ Chicken wings, Pot Roast, Shredded Pork sliders, Grilled Steak, or Salmon, Open face Burgers, or BLT's....its a meat day. :)

To extend specifically ground meats I use brown rice, lentils,and beans. I never use more than 1 lb of ground meat during a meal.

One thing I have learned over the last 5 years cooking for 10 people, 30 meals a day , is CUT IT ALL UP.
If you are already in the kitchen, chopping up, an onion, peppers, cucumbers, pineapple, watermelon. Take the extra 5 minutes and cut all of it up.
You aren’t going to want to chop up a half used week old onion in a plastic bag in your fridge...BUT you will toss in fresh frozen chopped onion in a soup, or while browning meat, or in a stir fry.
You will eat that already chopped up pineapple waiting for you in the fridge, if you are already in the kitchen use the time.

If you are already making a big pot of Potato soup, make 3, and freeze it.
Enchiladas? Lasagna? Tuna Cassarole? MAKE 3 and FREEZE them!
Oh my goodness will you be singing yourself praises, of already making your family a meal you just have to heat up, on a rough day.

You made a baked chicken? Save the bones, toss them back in, and make a broth over night to use in a soup the next day, or freeze for fresh broth.

Here is a great example of flexible meal planning:
On Mothers Day Sunday my husband took 4 steaks too many out of the freezer, and grilled them up, anyway, and chopped them into strips.

On Tuesday I cut bell peppers and red onion in strips, and made Fajita's with the leftover steak.
We had 3 peppers and half an onion left, and so I chopped them up, and tossed them in a plastic saver.
Saturday I sauteed the peppers and onions, and garlic in butter, and used 6 cans of black beans with juices, chili powder, cumin, and other spices..and made an amazing black bean soup served with tortilla chips.

Good staples I always have in my pantry:
Organic Brown Rice
Organic Black Beans
Organic Kidney Beans
Brown rice Pasta
Maple Syrup

I can, and freeze:
Spaghetti Sauce
Jams- savory and sweet
pickles and relish
Grape Juice
Hash browns
French fries
Veggie melodies
Stirfy veggies

We constantly double or tripple batches of:

Black bean veggie bugers
In the fall we don't say no to anything.... if someone is allowing people to glean potato fields, we are on it,someone has grapes they dont want to pick, extra produce, that we have to work for or process...we do it.

We eat cherry cobbler at Christmas from our Cherry trees, frozen.
My kids eat Peanut butter and Plum jam, sandwiches , from our trees.
Our freezer is full of Elk Sausage, Organic Whole chickens, gallon bags of frozen pea's, corn, green beans, pumpkin, berry's, hand processed hash-brown's and fries from fall harvest.

It isn’t easy.
We do fancy meals for holidays and birthdays.
We realize the “American expectation of Meat, starch, and side veggie, isn't whats most important in a meal.
We eat an entire broccoli salad until we could burst.
We have a full meal of grilled corn, asparagus, and tomatoes, and know that, is a full meal.

We make an amazing trail mix, full of protein and fiber for snacks, we also pop organic pop corn, eat fruit, and oatmeal cookies with raw honey, and peanut-butter.

Things we cheat on:
String Cheese.

Skippy Peanut-butter ( I know its total crap, but it is a concession in the war on health I am willing to make. )
Kirkland Mexi-Cheese
non organic Eggs when my lady's aren’t laying as much in cold weather.


Heck yes, we occasionally buy our kids ice cream cones, or chocolate, we make homemade snow cones with juiced watermelon or homemade peach, or lemonade.

Junk food, is a novelty, as it should be.
Potato chips are a giant treat, for a trip, or a family BBQ.
Sugar cereal too, a special snack that they are excited for.

My kids LOVE and live to eat, they also have developed such a taste for real, and good, the times they have BEGGED for school lunch, they have never asked again.

I don't know if I helped a single person, or made an sense of our madness...but this in a little blue print, in the how's, of what our clan eats.

Lets me know if you have any questions.
<3 Linds

Monday, April 6, 2015

Dear Church, do you want to know why those of us that have adopted the fatherless....

Aren't “there” Sunday morning?
Aren't as easy to ask to participate in service?
Aren't as open to people in our home, community activities and it seems our beliefs, our demeanor or just “we” have changed.
Yes. Yes, we have.
Those of us that have brought a hurting and healing child into our homes, are working on constantly healing things most people can't even begin to understand that have been broken, or teaching and adding things that were never even there in a neglected, or abused child...and then healing the new broken in our own homes, and then in ourselves.

You see. We can't be the same.
We may have been called, felt an inkling, had an ENORMOUS boulder placed in our path saying “ADOPT”....we may have taken in family members, experienced infertility, all these things, choices, good and right and in biblical terms “Godly choices”.

We also have had dreams and expectations, with no real idea of the sacrifices that would be made, the losses we would experience, the judgment we would face in the name of loving or helping a child.
We also had very little real understanding of the weight it would put on our marriages, other children, and friendships, as well as our relationship with God.

What you may not understand is simply by living the lives that we do, we feel like strangers to our community now, heck until we find ourselves again, or recreate ourselves,our old selves are strangers to our new stronger, wiser, more eyes wide opened selves. We are struggling to re define, everything.

I remember the out pouring of prayers and support when we were waiting, to be chosen by a birth mother, parental rights to be terminated or for our children to come home. When my pain and hope was palpable as I walked down those church hallways, the way I threw myself into callings and service,hoping my efforts would somehow bring miracles faster....and when they came home, the balloons and dinners, and pats on the back of “Aren't you so grateful? God is SO Good!”

and I would nod. Because of course I am grateful, how could I not be? And yes, he is good...but could ya ask him...that maybe they would scream for only 23 hours a day instead of 24?

I couldn't tell all of these shiny eyed so happy for me members...that “OH MY HELL, THEY ARE PEEING ON EVERYTHING, 5 x a day a toilet is plugged on purpose, I am flipped off and called a whore by my four year old, The adorable 18 month old that makes you “want one too” has required me to get stitches 4 times.” Yes. I.am.so.grateful.

I remember sitting watching my 8 babes under 8, singing in their first church program.
Standing in the back, making sure every cherub could see their proud supportive mama's face, and looking down, and realizing, in the right light, my white linen dress had massive urine spots where one of the 8 cherub choir had obviously emptied their bladders, on my new dress, as a gift of their tangible hate, shame and anger towards me.
As hot tears dripped off of my chin, I remember a member kindly coming over , putting her arm around my shoulders and saying, “I can't imagine how many times you have dreamed about a moment like this.” and I JUST nodded...and instead of screaming “NO, not exactly, because one of those adorable little A-holes pissed all over my Easter dress, thank you very much.” I just continued to nod, and cry.

Why do you LOOK different? Have gotten a tattoo, eat different, moved, become a total hippie, home-school now, NOT home-school now, seem MORE alternative, seem to accept more things...ect.

Because, what this life has taught me is in the constant throughs of HARD, you have to hunt down joy like a man, thirsting for water in a desert. YOU.ARE.DESPERATE.FOR. JOY. Desperate for balance, peace, and HOPE.
You DO what is best for YOU, for THEM. and if that is MORE family time, you do that..if it is MORE structure in a school environment, you do that. If it was standing on our heads and painting ourselves purple would help we would do THAT.
If twinkies/gluten/dairy/red food dye are making them MORE crazy, you take that &*@% AWAY!
You don’t have time for judgment.
Time to worry that someone's daughter who wore an immodest dress to PROM, you are just hoping your teenager isn't sending topless pictures to the bishops son. Your focus becomes more on, NOT shaming people for their choices,but hoping that girl felt BEAUTIFUL in what she was wearing, and doesn’t hear any of the whispers. Life becomes TOO short, the church mouse drama, and gossip, SOO not a priority....and lets be honest...how much of it is now about us anyways?

Our ability to take our kids to activities on a regular basis changes. Too remember ALL of the THINGS, my scout didn't have his scarf? DUDE, he pants on...I am fist bumping myself right now.

HOW do I have someone understand? I AM so sorry, because I also have special needs kids at home, my one child that needs CONSTANT line of sight supervision (yes the charming one) can't be there, and my child that CAN attend, needs a ride home, because as unbelievable as it may sound, I can not drive in my car with one of my children to pick him up, without them trying to jump out of a moving car, or beating up everyone, including me, while I drive. It's O.K. If you sigh and roll your eyes every time I text or call and beg for a ride for him, every.single.week. but if you could JUST help me, I would be so grateful.
I need those prayers now.
I need those times you believed in what I was doing for my children before they came to me, to be JUST as strong now they are here.
I need you to understand, I am WAY more financially broke trying to help these kids heal, with constant therapies and tools, and simply fixing all of the things they break...than I ever was trying to raise money to adopt them.

I am more accepting of other people and lifestyles, because, everyday I have to accept and love someone that rejects me, seeks to hurt me, lies to me, steals from me...and creates barriers between me and others on purpose. I have to hug a child that on purpose threw my wedding ring away in the garbage, I say sweet dreams and tickle a kid who tried to light my house on fire, I pray for a child that broke my very bones...I NOW know how to LOVE PEOPLE and accept them AS IS, in all of their exactness and worthiness to be loved and accepted. That is a hard earned beautiful gift my children have given me.

I don't fit in anymore.
I DO want fellowship, badly, but please without that enormous pill of “We SURE have noticed you guys haven't been attending as regularly” THANKS, but no, I hand capsule my own guilt these days...and don't need any shame pills from you, or the “means well” congregation.
I need friends, people that say, “so good to see you, how are you all hanging in there?”

We need people to BELIEVE US, not lessen our concern, or boundaries for our kids, the MORE support and understanding you can provide, the MORE you are going to see us sitting in those benches.

Know that in the name of sheltering and loving and bringing into our homes a hurting and healing child, as the Bible councils us all to do, we also have lost and sacrificed much to do so.
This for us is our “calling” our life long work, and no, most the time it doesn’t get easier , or better, it just changes, the needs becoming sometimes less complex, often MORE. If you don't want us to give up on the church...don't give up on us.

This is such a lonely, loving, long suffering journey...how we would love a community surrounding us, and if not...we still have to walk this path,with, or without you.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Are you choosing kindness?

15 days loom in front of me.
15 days of holiday splendor and family togetherness.

This morning we have rung in this 'festivus of fun' with tantrums, orchestrated fights, screaming, and a plethora of door slamming. Fa-la-la-la-, la-la-la-la.
Here we go...

It's a lot.
It's a lot to expect children with trauma backgrounds, and spectrum autisim to cope with a 2 week 'vacation' void of their norm, daily structure with added twinkly lights and anxiety driven entitlement, and very little availability for therapies and here you have a poo storm a-brewing.

I get jealous of neuro-typical familes, where a movie night might consist of some pop-corn,blankets, fire in the fire place and : enter scene.
Sure kids might argue about movie title choice and who gets to sit where...thats expected....there may even be a “ so-and-so got more pop corn than me.”
I miss that, sometimes our movie nights do and can look like this.

These days the “Movie” is chosen before the night is planned...its a take it or leave it kinda thing, “sure sweetie you can stomp your feet that we are watching “A Christmas Story” but I guess what you get to choose in this moment is whether you want to be mad about the movie choice and sit down here and eat your popcorn, or go upstairs and read in your room, your choice baby cakes.”

“Oh, you don't want your brother touching your blanket? Awesome, could you have said that without throwing your shoes at him. Lets pause the movie and figure out a repair....and get the blood out of the carpet. “

I am not seeking peace this Holiday season. With 10 people shut in a little house, while it rains outside, I have very little expectations than a couple moments of quiet and some alone time hiding in my closet eating chocolate.
By the handful.

I am seeking kindness.
I am going to be the ambassador of kindness.
At least 13 times since school released my fanged cherubs from the bond of the educational system yesterday, I have asked and prompted all, but specifically one child on this one thing.
In the moments they become revved up, over all the fry sauce being gone, me asking them to sit at the table , and not stand in the middle of the kitchen glaring at me, to go put pajamas on, “Oh silly duck, is that frilly church dress the new style of pajamas?”
Maybe to brush their teeth with toothpaste this time. “No I don't think they were tying to make you mad by giving you the yellow bowl, I don't think they know you wanted the pink one , because you didn't use your words, and we all forgot to put our special mind reading socks on today...I think mine are in the wash, again.”

“Baby, in this moment, is being angry(sad, mad, depressed controlling),and looking for a fight bigger and more important to you, than having a good time and enjoying the time you have with your family?”

"Take a minute. Decide what you want most in this moment and get back to me.
Sure, blink the lights off and on and stomp up the stairs while you decide, EXELLENT idea!"
Once you are calm, can you choose kindness?”

When words get harsh, or more adult than I prefer.
“Are we choosing kindness with our words?”

Yes, why yes, if you are wondering if I have gotten the response “F#%# KINDNESS” from one of my children, why yes, yes I have.
Its adorable.
But I still go back to it, for them and for me.

In the moment.
When there is a cross-road.
When one reaction can manifest the outcome for the next hour.
I am helping them recognize just that. Can I look at this situation, realize what I really want from it, and choose the kind reaction. Can kindness be selfish? Sure, at first, but it has this wicked way of flipping it and allowing it not only to be self serving, but selfless.
Sneaky kindness.

Up until Christmas, I am rewarding my kids with special treats for accomplishing their secret elves duty. We don't have a sneaky elf on a shelf lurking around our house. Why would I need a fictional imaginary elf that gets into random Shtuff around my house? That service is provided for free.
What we do, do , is have an assigned person we preform secret random acts of kindness for.
Its a chance to be sneaky in a very good way. Some kids need a little more help than others, but I am truly touched by the gifts and smiles we are seeing as we continue to give this practice a go for the 5th year in a row.

This being the first year 90% of my children were enrolled in school, to watch them excitedly give their teachers the gifts we had prepared for them, it was a one of the first times I could again talk abut the joy of giving vs. receiving and actually have a full car of understanding head bobs.

Kindness doesn’t have to come from a fully healed heart. It has healing properties of its own.

And importantly.
My need for kindness to myself.
This year my little local Farmers Market booth has exploded to a small online business and has me spread in a very good way, thinner than I am used to.
These next 15 days I am beginning my own radical practice of self kindness.

30 minutes of exercise daily, reading 30 minutes by the fire, eating healthy amongst the handfuls of chocolate, 30 minutes meditation. Forgiving myself completely when I loose my patience and mess up completely....and don't choose kindness in the moment because in that moment I wanted to be frustrated and mad, or angry and loose my SHHHTUFF, for a bit.
Being kind to me...because this whole dang practice has to be modeled...and it sure isn't easy.

Merry Christmas dear ones....even to your Angry elves.
And if peace is waning a little bit this holiday season, lean into kindness...lean in deep.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Alright, STOP....and break it down,stepping stones in their puddle.

I wish I could beat box.
That would make this post soooo much cooler, O.K. Well at least for me...
Cuz in my head I am back in the 5th grade, and am sporting some sick Hammer pants yo, hanging in the 8 th row at the M.C. Hammer concert right now. “Rollin' with the Flow”...
And just in case you are wondering, yes, I am THAT cool.

So I know you know this, because I KNOW THIS...and since you are not up at 1 a.m. Typing a blog post, you are already 5 x smarter than me.

Lately my sweeties have struggled with what I call “puddle jumping.”
They get stuck over things I can't tell are a massive flowing river to them, because from my point of view, they just need to put on them rain-boots and JUMP, HOP, SKIP....over a very simple object, issue, frustration, project.
They need to get over it,
because well,that would make my life easier. And lets be honest, I don't always love getting my feet wet while joining them in their muddy puddles. I want to stand outside of the puddle and direct them. With a mega-phone.
Let me tell you how well that works.

(insert crickets chirping)

So here we go, waders on.
A lil refresher on remembering to create stepping stones in your kids puddle.
Because I know that you know, that I know, you and I already know this.

I have a preteen that struggles with a mood disorder and also is on the Autism spectrum. This kid fights and craves structure in even steady breaths.( Imagine those rockem-sockem red and blue plastic fighter guys...in the yellow boxing rink.)

Sometime getting though a single day for him seems the most impossible thing in the world. My point A to point B....for him has numbers and 3 alphabets in a different language tripping him up.

I remember one day this summer , we were watching a movie mid day, due to an unplanned rainstorm, and he looked PANICKED.
“Bud ,whats up?”
“Um , its just that I don't know HOW the rest of my day is going to go.”

Big brave words.

“O.K. I can feel that with you, not enough plans for you to know what is going on, since we are off schedule today...I know...lets make a “just for today schedule.”
And so we did.
He doesn't always require this, but occasionally on a weekend, or day school is out, his need and craving for structure becomes debilitating..and man did I have fun helping him create his half hour, by half hour schedule.
We tossed some boot-ay shaking in there, a bunch of snacks, some jumping jacks, and stair runs, and reading mad libs.
And we got through a giant, sensory messing with, plan destroying rain storm.

Sometimes it is my 4 year old, that literally can.not.clean.her.bedroom.
As if the object vomit of my little ponies, littlest pet shop and dress up clothes is holding her room hostage and refusing her to enter.
There is A LOT of wailing and gnashing of teeth going on..my personal favorite are the dramtic body throws onto the carpet in slow motion...
“O.K. Babe-doll lets just start with all of the yellow things.”


“Yeah...lets not worry about ALL of the THINGS....lets only work on the yellow, and after you are done with that , we should 'high five' it and have 3 yellow m&m's to celebrate.”
Next it is Green, then blue (saving the tide-pool of Purple and Pink for last).

Room clean.

Specifically for kids on the spectrum, trauma, children that struggle with regulating mood and emotion, stepping stones are crucial for there daily success.
Does it get old?

Their successes, are our successes.
When we take the time and energy to set our kids up for small consecutive wins, they in time, learn slowly to believe in themselves and their ability. It is slllloooooww.
But it can happen.

Today I had a child that was so very emotional about a project that was due, that they hadn't let me know about, and was know refusing with ever fiber in their being to attend school.
The broom grabber in me, WANTED to say “Oh heck YES you are going to school.”

and then I took a deep breath and said, “Sweetie lets just start with getting dressed, do that and come back down and pick a song you want to hear.”

Next they fed their animals.

Put their lunch and agenda in their bag.

At breakfast came the meltdown of them “STILL NOT GOING!!!”

And I made a deal if they could just make it to lunch they could call me, and there was a guarantee of a special lunch item and a secret note in their sack.
We stepping stone, mambo-ed our way all the way through school today...and tonight?
After an email into the teacher, we sat and knocked that project OUT.

I think sometimes I forget how much these little humans need their finish lines brought to them.
As I promise myself...”if I can just stay calm and kind and patient...I can go to Starbucks once every last tushy gets on that ever-loving bus.”
It is the same thing.

We all need rewards for getting through our day.
We all sometimes need survival broken into hour by hour, second by second, to just pick up the yellow things first.
We all are puddle jumpers.
Its the experience and perspective that gets off.

I know, I know that you know, that I know, you and I already know this... but because we all have our own lakes and giant rushing rivers...and all need at sometime or another someone willing to put their waders on and walk us through....
I am just gonna remind you, while I am reminding myself.

Mmmm. Kay?

I wonder if waders come in MC hammer pants style?
Stop. Beak it down.

Monday, August 11, 2014

“But HE looked so Happy!”

“But HE looked so Happy.....
and he WAS soooooo Funny, and talented...."

Many tears have been shed today once hearing word of the great loss of the great talent and human that was and remains Robin Williams.

We are all blessed by the poinent moments of evidence, of his light on this world that can stay with us even though he is not. I am not only sad to hear of his death, but more the loneliness and great battle to depression and bipolar disorder he lost his life to.

Mental illness remains such a silent killer of young and old, male and female alike.
Soul Cancer.
Except the cure is hard and often not easily found because the symptoms are so easily masked.
The issues not prioritized among medical corporations, and the stigma attached creating the ultimate handicap of things becoming easier and better for the millions that ever day walk the road of mental illness.

Robin Williams possessed talent and humor, until today I had not ever heard of his battle with depression. We often hear of celebrities that travel in and out of different rehabs for different “Substance abuse problems”...but how often have we heard, “So and so has entered a facility to help them gain tools or cope with their, depression, bipolar or borderline personality disorder," how often is it mentions WHY the person was in rehab in the first place? So often substance abusers are self medicating something they can not fix with out the help of trained, educated, involved mental health professionals...and believe me finding those involved individuals that “truly get it” are few and hard to find.

Lets talk about the Root of the 'WHY'!

I today have read “But he was SO FUNNY”, “He SEEMED SO HAPPY!”, “He was rich and famous, he had EVERYTHING, I just don't get it?” Many of us Mama bears who are constantly seeking help for our hurting and healing little people would like to think that he of all people had access to the best, could he have gotten the help he really needed?

This proves one thing.
Mental illness is not a respecter of gender, religion, occupation, race or bank accounts. It doesn’t care if you are young or old, attractive or if the whole ugly tree fell on you. Being famous may have created more hardship,MORE judgement, because of the lack of privacy so many people in the spot light face....we forget how very human they, how very human we ALL are.

Today I spent the entire morning speaking with and leaving messages for my children's Principle, District Special Education Directors, Receptionists, School Councilors and many more.
The most difficult conversation was with one of the educators vocalizing “ Well I guess I struggle to understand all of these so called much needed boundaries you say your children need. I understand they have been through stuff...but haven't we all? I mean I have watched them on the play ground and they look SO HAPPY, like Happy, nice normal kids.”

Me calmly, as I could feel my ears getting red, “Yes...but then again you can't walk around a grocery store and guess who has lost a child, is recently divorced, or dying of cancer...nope they just smile at you while you pass them in the frozen aisle, or bump hands while picking out bananas.

No one wears a t-shirt that says “ Hey I feel like killing myself today.”

I am sad that Robin Williams will be remembered for his lost battle with such a debilitating disease.
But then again, if such an incredible man had to leave us in such a sad dark way...
Let this also be his legacy.
Talent and torture are not far from each-other, nor is addiction and depression.
None of us are exempt from pain.
Trust others with that pain, you will be surprised how much they want to help, and understand more than you know.
Vocalize in your Dr. Offices, with your politicians, in open conversation TALK, about the need and importance for better mental health care.
Watch your loved ones, listen to their words and actions.
Always remember mental illness does not define the whole of a person,
and, happiness can hide a multitude of pain.
Let his loss break down this wall of stigma that serves nothing and no one....

I quote the perfect sentiment given by Rachel Evan Wood today.

“Genie. You're free. “

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

It's the most WONDERFUL time...of the year!!!

I remember as a Homeschooling loving mama watching this commercial, and seriously NOT.GETTING.IT.
Fer reals.
I was all "Summer is my favorite time of year with my kids, what parent wants their kids to go back to school?"


I had home-schooled my little people for the last seven years. I loved exploring and learning and delving into my kids passions with them. I loved watching my Haitian babies learn, become confident and excited about their abilities. 
I valued the time and room homeschooling allowed my children for healing and much needed breaks and growing as a family.
I someday may in the flux and flow of my kids needs bring a couple of them home to educate here and there.
I got to a point last year, mid fall in the process of parenting children with heightened behaviors and special needs....I didn't LIKE it anymore.
LIKE AT ALL.  I kinda COMPLETELY hated it.
The excitement to delve into studies, to balance rages, and tantrums, and the needs of other children began to wear on me in new ways that left me waking in the morning, staring at the ceiling, whimpering, "I don't want to do this again today." I don't have the energy to ask them to read one story and answer questions..to find they read five stories,all BUT the one I had requested.
If they pee on one more composition book.....

I got really honest with myself.
I realized with some of my children, their needs would exceed childhood into adulthood...and NOW was the right time to recognize I needed to begin to build our resources as a family, now was the time to realize...I couldn't be my children's everything,not all of the time. Not when there is eight of them, not when some of the behaviors would eventually require hospitalization, not when I was losing parts of myself that I needed to be available for the most important parts.

Last year by April, I had all of my school aged children enrolled in public school.
This was not with out enormous requests of the district, multiple meetings  and testing. Me stalking chasing down Dr.'s and therapists for records and letters recommending aids, and para professionals to ride the bus and be available full time for my children while in the schools care. 
I became "that Mom"...the one on texting, emailing and  on cell phone terms with my kids teachers, Special Ed directors,secretary,principle and School Counselors.
The one that worked in the classrooms and ate lunch with the kids.
I was blessed by the willingness and understanding we as a family received.
 Much of my burden was lifted, as I took a deep breath and trusted..while I let go of some major reins.

Was it perfect? Nope. Did my kids pull things and charm the pants off people, and shocked the heck out of the teachers as they got good and comfy? Yep.
There were absolutely growing pains...and we moved through them.

As that golden chariot daily pulled up that first week and whisked my cherubs away, I felt like Cinderella in sweat pants, or maybe sleeping beauty...because I went right back to bed and slept into 9:30...that whole week. I hadn't realized how completely exhausted I had let myself get.

Anywho...after a lllllllloooooonnngggg summer, I am looking forward to fall.
Yes.I .AM.
As I prepare again for my kids to begin school I am actively hunting out best deals on school supplies, and shoes and socks, making lists, taking into considerations the new schedule and added short people that will be going this year.
I begin stalking once again the district, and therapists for meetings and letters to prepare for the upcoming year.
I by no means am an expert, but I do believe I have found some ways that are more effective in communicating my children's needs to the amazing adults that will be working with them every day.

Treats or small gift cards.
Never underestimate the value of gratitude and chocolate.
At all meetings , I try to bring a bag of Reeces Peanut butter Cups, a plate of cookies, something that says...."please know I am kind loving mama and am trying so hard to advocate nicely, but there is a Honey Badger behind these treats...."
Every time I show up at the kids school, I try to bring the sweet Secretary that calls me 3 to 6 times a day for behavior or diabetes needs Lindor Balls, or fresh flowers for her desk.
I write thank you notes, when my children's behaviors become increasingly difficult.
I say thank you, all of the time.
Even when they tell me no.

Letters from therapists and Dr.'s Supporting your requests
. Whether your child suffers from PTSD and needs not to have someone sit behind them, or has attention issues and needs to sit at the front of the classroom to pay better attention, needs to sit on a yoga ball instead of a chair for sensory reasons, or needs a full time aid to keep their needs in constant eye sight, a letter from a professional supporting your request goes much further and allows the district the capability of accessing funds, with the recommendations, supported by professionals.
I have found can be VERY helpful inviting your childs therapist to the actual district meeting.

Don't be afraid to ask.
Don't get offended easily.
Be prepared to explain and re explain your childrens needs.
It's O.K. to be the crazy Mom...Eventually most adults who work with your children will eventually see the warning and concerns you have for your chilren, and if they don't, that's O.K.
It feels terrible to be judged by other adults that don't "get it"...but sweetie, this isn't about you...don't make it be. Let  it go.
Yes ....So much easier said than done.
Come, vent here...I will eat a snickers bar in solidarity with you.

A clear plastic backpack.
Really, Amazon has them in all colors.
I can't remember what parenting group I heard this recommendation from but I am so grateful for the idea of transparent backpacks...my kids have "wrapped things" in paper to hide, but still they serve as a literal transparent stealing detourant.

A plan. For Mornings and Meals.
We have Eight people counting my husband to get out the door, dressed and fed by 7:15, five days a week. This is no small feat.
Most mornings I go back to bed, mostly because I have already run a physical and emotional marathon.
The rule is the night before:
Clothes, socks, undies, shoes are all layed out.
Lunches are packed. Here is a link for EASY Breakfast and Lunch plans. This was before we went all Gluten and Dairy free.
Having a solid weekly rotating menu for breakfasts and lunches, keeps the guess work out of what we are having, it minimizes battles, it is a consistency they cling to.

Most of all:
The most effective way I have found to articulate my kids special needs, issues and fears...wasn't in my words at all.
It was in theirs.

Individually after other kids were in bed, or occupied we will sit down together, and talk about what it was they are worried about struggling with in school. Things my child as their student really wanted their teacher to know about them, see in them and help them with... along with a promise that their teacher would still like them, and be nice to them. 
Once I have typed or written out their "Things I want you to know about me"
I handed them a large index card and let them write it out, in their own hand writing.
Sometimes pending on the penmanship attaching the typed version as well.
I also like to include a wallet sized picture of them, paper clipped to the index card.
It makes them human, and see the person attached to the pain, and fears and needs.
Sometimes we make copies for reading aides, special ed teaches and counselors.

Some examples of things my children have written on their large index cards:

"When I get loud and hyper, sometimes it means I am not being able to calm down, you might see an overly happy kid, but really inside I am freaking out, and might need a quiet minute to calm down."

"Please know I have a hard time taking things that don't belong to me, not because I am a bad kid, but I have lived without and sometimes take things and I don't even really know why. Please keep a good eye on me, and check my desk and bag occasionally. "

"Sometimes I seek attention from grown ups...or act really cute and friendly,but when you or someone else touches me, my hair, or to hug me, it scares and make me feel really uncomfortable...and I don't have the words yet to say that."

"Because I know what it is to be VERY hungry for a long time, I get scared that could happen again. I don't like food being wasted. I will eat until I get sick, even things I am allergic to. Please keep an eye on me and your classroom door locked, I have been known to sneak back in during lunch recess and finish up other kids lunches, or ask during lunch to have the rest of everyones' food."

"I will see if I can get away without doing all of my work, or lose homework on purpose. I need people to stay on top of my work and require my best. I am very smart and capable, and sometimes use pretending not to be, as a control and behavior."

"I have tools I am afraid you won't let me use in the classroom. I need them, They may seem silly but they help me feel safe."

"Sometimes I am mean on purpose to adults and  other kids, because I feel bad about myself.
I don't like losing friends, and I don't know why I do this, please help me make repairs with my classmates and help me know the best way to communicate if my words get sharp, I swear, or even get physical, making repairs are very important for me."

"With that, because I look different, sometimes people let me get away with things, and I know it.
I need to be held to the same rues and consequences. When adults go easy on me, I feel unsafe.
I need you to tell my parents when I struggle or misbehave. Sometimes I try to triangulate the adults in my life, because earlier in my life I couldn't trust the adults in my life to keep me safe.
Sometimes I wonder if there is a better family for me, and this scares me, please, please don't let me think you will be a better mom, too much physical and emotional freaks me out. I need kind, consistent,and distant."

"I get sneaky, this for me is a safety thing.
I like to see if I can be in charge of the adults.
I will purposely lose papers, and not give information. You might have to text my mom and let her know stuff, because I can sabotage a field trip or spelling word list, sometimes because I get anxious about doing it, and sometimes because I don't want either you or my mom knowing absolutely everything. I want to be in charge. I know this doesn't always work best for me, so please. ..if something seems out of sorts, let my mom know...."

"Thank you so much for seeing all of me, teaching me, and helping me feel safe.
School is such a good opportunity for me to learn and continue to heal.

These words.
All verbatim from my littles.
They know so very well what their needs are.

If I am forgetting anything, I will continue to add to this post as thoughts and helpful tips arise.
I hope we all can prepare ourselves for another school year (squeeeeeee), with love, understanding and patience.
I am blowing you all "first day of school" kisses!!!

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Friday we had to Call Child Protection, On Ourselves.....

I have stared at a blank text document for over a month now.
Having words and thoughts so jumbled I could have made a great crossword puzzle, but no legible blog post. I would just sit, soaking the key board with tears, sometimes with overwhelming sadness, sometimes with fear..and sometimes with overwhelming gratitude at peoples kindness and support, and still the words couldn't come ...and then eventually, I would seek my safe place and message Christine.
That woman, she is the gift I have allowed myself even when I feel completely unworthy.

SO, yeah.
Over a month ago...

Do you ever notice that we all have that pinnacle defining point of ….
”Everything is going to be O.K....you know as long as “THAT THING” doesn’t happen?
I have had A LOT of those,
and DAMN-IT;
every.single time. I have put a ceiling on “things I thought I couldn't handle”....the Universe started rubbing her hands together, giggled and said; 
Happy? Smooth going? Ha, Hold on for one second...”

Dear God, I will be faithful and strong as long as one of these “things” doesn’t happen....and then;
My first Pregnancy ended in a car crash, resulting in multiple miscarriages after that.

Umpteen failed domestic adoptions, and the continuation of miscarriages.

The loss of my son's twin, and maintaining his pregnancy, bed ridden on IV therapy for 7 months, while parenting a three and one and a half year old.

A four year old Autistic son being taken to the Emergency Room late one Sunday night, hospitalized and later diagnosed with Type One Diabetes.
So, life, really not fair.

In 2007, our small tiny son languishing in an Orphanage in Haiti, 9 months into his adoption, took his final breaths, and they weren't in my arms.
Somehow we survived.

That same year my husband came home “early from work”, as he informed me, not early but his company without his knowledge had committed Medicaid fraud and was being shut down, we had just bought a new house, and were working on selling the one we were in. Two mortgages, no job, and in the process of adopting 3 children.
And, it turned out, O.K.

And so it continued...with an Earthquake...
A “Smooth transition” of a family of five in six weeks avalanching snowballing into a family of eleven.
Followed by years of constant screaming, crying, urine, feces, broken,lying,controlling, alienating, therapeutic HARD.

E.R. Trips with children due to self harm.
(well check THAT off the list of stuff I didn't think I could handle)

One child not being safe, or healthy enough to stay in our home.
That loss. Almost broke me....but, it didn't.

Before Christmas I had a long, invasive Breast Cancer scare.
That sucked.

Later another child needing more help that I, or my husband could provide, making the decision to seek professional help for behavioral and a severe eating disorder.

As you all walk this earth...you know these “breaking points”, they keep on-a-comin' don't they?

Still I was unprepared for June.
When my oldest daughter came down the stairs with a look on her face.
As she explained to me what she had witnessed between two of my healing kids.
I sat and shook my head.
No. just NO!

We had been doing so well.
My arrogance in the “WE ARE ALMOST A NORMAL FAMILY NOW”....was back-flipped and tossed into a brick-wall of ...”nothing is ever going to be O.K., I was lying to myself thinking I could help these so severely hurt children, WHY ...did I trust and remove boundaries? I should have KNOWN they weren't ready.”

After talking to my children separately, calmly, with a broken heart and voice, hand shaking, I called my husband at work.

“ You need to come home RIGHT NOW.”
“We need to Call Child Protection, there will be an investigation, and we will have to call your bosses.”

You see our family depends on my husbands income.
My husband works actively helping Trauma victims heal, he is a therapist, a clinical social worker who spends his days walking with people through their pain, offering hope.
He also contracts with Health and Welfare, and works on call in the evenings and weekends with Child protection, seeking safety and support for families, mostly children in their ultimate time of need.
And so, he made the call.
His hands shook as he made the call to the people, co workers, friends, people we admire and have true relationships with...on ourselves.
Out of city officials, and workers had to be called in to avoid conflict, and an investigation was launched.

In a numb whirlwind, his on call job was put on temporary hold. We began restructuring our home again into fort Knox, as we put back up the door alarms our therapists had assured us our kids were ready for us to take down. As we prepared our other kids that they probably too would be questioned, and moved bedrooms and children and floors between kids...and waited, and prayed, and cried and worst of all, questioned everything.
And I mean everything.
We worried and wondered, would children have to be removed?
I mean we hadn't KNOWINGLY allowed THIS to happen.
Had we followed all of the kids therapists recommendations...were their warning signs we missed?


What is going to happen?

Are we going to financially survive if this investigation takes a long time?
How is this going to potentially effect his job?

Most of all.
Are are kids going to be O.K?
HOW did we miss this?
Has this been going on under our noses forever?

Is this a Latent Trauma Time Bomb?
Remission of Old Behaviors...
or Part of the Ride?

Yes, with new therapy, more structure, boundaries,more safety put in place and non shaming open conversation and unconditional love....my kids are going to be O.K. And continue on their path of healing.

Yes. Time Bombs, healing and then mistakes and spiraling downward happens, bombs blow, and then you access the damage, and move on.

Yes. Humans Regress.
But humans move forward.

Yes. Trauma is a monster creeping under the bed, waiting to grab your ankles....this too is part of the ride.

Eventually, after phone calls, and interviews, and an investigation was done and the charges unfounded. We began to breathe again. Slowly. Not with the same ease as before, but breathing and moving froward non the less. Before we knew it, we found peace and laughter and fun slowly beginning to seep back in...because the love and acceptance of healing our kids and family never left.

What I have learned since that Friday.
Pinnacles of Impending Doom, are not Road blocks, they are Jerk Ass Speed Bumps that take our your undercarriage...but it is your choice to keep moving.

When you have people, a tribe that walk, stumble and crawl your same path,and you trust them with your Impending Doom....they rise and carry you. From there you can see the sun again, their hope and faith in you become contagious....and you begin to believe again too.
They walk with you in messages, in the Pay Pal of “get your kids therapy and don’t worry about the electric bill this month.... ”
They shine in loving texts, and funny emails, and packages so filled with love you can't read the cards because of the tears. To you....
I LOVE you with a deep, beautiful, grateful ache that is with out words.

So, what am I saying in this long, winding post of hard?

Yep. So that happened.

And also, Dear Universe....bring it...I no longer am giving you my fears, apparently what you have been whispering all along is...
          You are way tougher than you think darling, nothing can destroy you.

Hold your head up lovey, keep your true friends close, everyday seek healing and gentle understanding for those beautiful beings I have placed in your care, and keep walking.”