The Blanchard Bunch

The Blanchard Bunch

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Subscription Boxes

I've fallen in love with something new recently: Subscription Boxes. I'd never heard of them until a few months ago, but now, I can't get enough. If only I had an unlimited supply of money, I'd subscribe to pretty much all of them. Below are my favorites (so far). If you'd like to check them out, or even subscribe, please use the links below so I get credit for referring you. :-)

I'll take some pictures of my boxes and their goodies and post them here as I have time.

For The Kiddos

Designer-inspired clothes for boys and girls. Sizes 2-12. I've gotten some fabulously cute outfits for the hobbits from them. So far, I've only found one outfit for the munchkin, but they seem to be getting better at branching out style-wise for the boys. I'm a huge cheapskate when it comes to clothes, but I can't pass up this quality for these prices! They also have B1G1 sales throughout the year. This is a $29.95 month to month subscription and you can skip any month by the 5th with no charge. You can also cancel at any time.

Citrus Lane
Delight Your Little One! Get a surprise box of the best products for your child every month. This subscription box is for newborn to 5 years. You choose which age bracket your child is in, and they deliver age-appropriate goodies directly to you each month. You can sign up for monthly ($29/mo), 3 months ($24/mo), or 12 months ($21/mo)
You get 50% off your first month if you use my code below:

The Happy Trunk
Hands on art, craft, and science activities for kids in two age groups: 3-7 and 8-11. All materials and know how included. These boxes have been full of great projects for the girls and definitely things I wouldn't normally just have lying around the house. You can subscribe with their monthly, 3, 6, or 12 month plans. Cost is $19.95 to 17.95, depending on your subscription length.
Get $10 off your first box with this link:

 Silly Rhino
Receive a monthly box of awesome for kids 0-4. These are environmentally friendly, high quality toys, accessories and gear. We have been beyond pleased with everything that comes in this box. Gabe knows it's his mail, so he comes running and can't wait to open the box to see what he's gotten! This is a month-to-month subscription and costs $35.99. You can cancel at any time.

The Boodle Box
The Boodle Box is "a monthly subscription box full of adorable accessories and beauty products that encourage girls of all ages to uncover new things and discover themselves in the process!" They have two age ranges: 5-10 and 11 and up. The cost is $24.99 for one month, $19.99 per month for their 3 month subscription, $19.99 per month with free shipping for their 6 month subscriptions, and $19.99 per month with free shipping PLUS the 12th month is free with their 12 month subscription.

Pamper Yourself!

Bezel Box
"Beautiful Boutique Jewelry Delivered To Your Door" This is a jewelry subscription box. For $29.97 each month plus shipping, they send you 4-5 gorgeous jewelry pieces valued at over $150. They also have a mini-subscription for $19.97 which includes 2 pieces each month. You can also buy additional pieces directly from their online store. I've been thrilled with just about everything I've received from them! This is a month-to-month subscription and you can cancel anytime. 

This is a quarterly subscription box curated by Giuliana Rancic and the FabFitFun team that sends some "uh-mazing" items out four times a year. You get over $120 worth of premium, full sized products for $49.99 per season. Or, sign up for a full year and save $20.00. The Spring 2014 FFF Box contained over $215 worth of items! You can also get $5 off if you use my link below.

Bespoke Post
Themed boxes, choice goods, and stories to help you make the most of it all. This subscription box is geared toward men, but honestly, I've loved everything that's come in! You can skip any month by the 5th with no charge. You can also purchase additional or different boxes at any time. What I like about this subscription is that you get to see what's in the box ahead of time and decide whether or not you'd like to receive that month's box, switch to a different box, or skip that month altogether. 

Get brand-new, can't miss color and beauty every month. There are currently two subscription tiers: My Maven and Maven Luxe. With My Maven, you'll get at least $40 worth of polish and product for $24.99 a month, or $19.99 a month with a three-month prepaid subscription. With Maven Luxe, you'll get at least $60 worth of polish and product for $39.99 a month, or $34.99 a month with a three-month prepaid subscription. Both monthly boxes are completely customizable. They also offer a Secret Store once a month where you can purchase items at a huge discount.

Cult Cosmetics
Nail polish, nail art kits, accessories, ideas, tutorials, and more! "We are the cosmetics brand of the new Los Angeles, a casual yet sophisticated cosmetics culture alive with vivid colors, fresh designs, and confident self-expression. Our award-winning polishes are single coat formulas that are toxin-free, vegan, and never tested on animals. Our colors are not just inspired by California, they are made in California. Launched in October 2013, we have already won national recognition. Our best-selling product is Blackbox, which keeps you permanently on-trend in the hottest nail colors and cosmetic looks." The cost is $19.99 a month plus shipping for their Blackbox. You can purchase some of their products directly without a subscription. You can skip any month by the 5th and cancel at any time. They currently do not have a referral program.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Day to Day

It's hard keeping up with a house full of kids and pets, but I do my best. Some days I succeed and the house gets clean, at least one kiddie craft gets completed, and someone actually cooks a full meal . Others, we call it a win if everyone gets out of pajamas and into regular clothes before bedtime. Leftovers and take out it is! Welcome to life.

Lately, with Gabe doing his best to win the Most Terrible Two Toddler award and Kimmie having medicine-induced anger issues, I feel lucky to survive each day. Gabe's behavior is to be expected, if not enjoyed, but Kimmie's issues were an unforeseen side effect of her newest ADHD medication, which we've now discontinued and switched out for one that is not supposed to have such an effect. It's going to take a while for it to actually be effective for the ADHD, but if we no longer have to worry about her instantly becoming angry and trying to destroy the house, we can deal with her being a bit hyper and unable to stop talking for a little while. Maybe.

One of the best things for all of us is having our furry babies roaming the house with us. We have Izzy the Pug; Bella Bunny, Lilly-Belle our pot bellied pig, Jerry the immortal fish, and the five cats: Princess Leia, Clark, Annabel Lee, Zooey, and Cleo. Gabe adores his kitty-kitties and they love him. He's somewhat of a cat whisperer, not to the degree Derrick is, but he's getting there. Kimmie loves them and does her best to be the center of their universe whether they want her to be or not; one day she might learn to leave them alone when the claws come out. Candace likes them, but she's not completely enamored with them like the others. Sissy likes them as long as they stay out of her room. Lilly has decided she prefers to stay outdoors most of the time and thinks that water troughs are to be flipped immediately after they are filled. So, she now gets to eat and drink outside and Izzy's water bowl has been moved to our bathroom. The cat's food and water are safe from piggie pushes inside their outdoor enclosure. Thankfully, everyone is house trained and the only messes I usually have to clean up are from when Lilly knocks over their food storage canisters.

The hobbits are getting better at cleaning up after themselves with only a little reminding. Kimmie was so proud of herself the other day that she did everything on their list with "only a little whining." I'm hoping that we'll get to the no whining stage soon, but I'll definitely take a little whining over the usual temper tantrums and refusals to clean. They both want to help with the dishes, but they're not quite ready to help without dropping the breakables, so for now, they just get to put away the silverware.  One day, they might be able to pay enough attention to what they're doing to not cause severe breakage and we will definitely appreciate the extra help.

We've got toys separated into different rooms for the kids. Gabe's are in the living room, so it currently looks like a toy car and train lot. That boy loves his cars and trains! The little cars go for rides in the big cars. The little people and animals are tucked safely in their boxes or might watch from the side lines, but they don't get the pleasure of riding around the house. That fun is reserved only for the other cars and trucks. His favorite toy to carry around and take with him everywhere is not a toy, but rather MY pillow. The one I've had since I was a baby. I think it's time to make one for him, just like I had to do for Derrick when he was little. Some things never change.

The girls' toys are are in the den, and I gotta tell you, the pink and purple do kinda clash with the red, black, and white theme for the room. However, it does keep the bedroom clean and keeps Kimmie from breaking anything when she gets into one of her rages. If we can get her bipolar disorder under control, we're hoping everything can go back in their room and we can use the den as an actual den. Until then, there are a lot of Barbies, dolls, ponies, and dress up clothes stored in the girly cubbies!

They each have their own bookshelves, which are full of great age-appropriate choices. The girls are generally requested to read at least one hour each day. Thankfully, they love to read, so this is an easy task for them to complete. Candace does "extra" reading every day at bed time. She loves to read a few chapters in her book before going to sleep. I love that she has become an avid reader. They also have some summer work books that will keep them sharp and introduce some new concepts that we'll be learning this year. They decided on their own that they should do three pages a day. It's nice when they take the initiative.

We try to limit TV time as much as possible because we really don't like the electronic babysitter. Sometimes, however, it's the only thing that will calm Kimmie down. I don't know what it is about that particular medium, but she can sit and watch television for hours, even when she's in a manic state. You've gotta do what you've gotta do to survive the day. One time that we do enjoy television is when we all sit down and watch Star Trek: The Next Generation. Gabe calls it "star ship" and he loves to dance to the theme song. The hobbits sing along with the music and can pretty much tell you the plot line of every episode they've seen. They also watched The Princess Bride for the first time the other day. It's a double win, in my eyes.

Derrick's van still hasn't been replaced and Sissy doesn't have her license yet, so part of my daily routine is getting the both of them to and from work. Some days it works out that Todd can take them in or pick them up after he gets off work, but those days are few and far between. They both work two miles from the house and about a block from each other, so that makes pick up and drop off fairly convenient. On days when the weather is nice, they don't mind walking back and forth, but right now with temps in the 90s and thunderstorms popping up constantly, that's not an option. If only we could get their work schedules to coincide, that would be great. Even better, would be a car for them to share so I don't have to do any more driving. Well, for them at least.

Thankfully, vacation is right around the corner. There is a spot on the beach calling my name. I can't wait to answer.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bipolar Disorder SUCKS!

We've all joked about Mother Nature being Bipolar (Hello! Four seasons in one week!) or maybe even said it about ourselves when we've had one of those good/bad/good/bad days. It seems like an apt description of what's going on in our lives at that moment.

However, living with someone who actually has Bipolar Disorder is anything but a joke. Our youngest daughter, Kimmie, has been diagnosed with BD and we live with the effects every day. We've always known something wasn't quite right, but just assumed it was a result of all the trauma she experienced in her first three years before she came to us. The hope was that with lots and lots of therapy and love, she would overcome all the abuse and neglect she suffered and would get to be a nice, normal little girl. Sadly, that's not been the case.

Don't get me wrong, the trauma, abuse, and neglect have had a very serious and long lasting effect on her psyche, but there is more going on with her than that. We have an official clinical diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder with Psychosis as well as ADHD for her. Unfortunately, she is not one of the "soft" bipolar cases, as her doctor calls them. She has an extreme case. The way he described it was something like this: Think about people with asthma. Some of them have it under control and only need an inhaler after they've been exercising or are sick. Others have it so bad that they are in the hospital every week. Kimmie is on the end of in the hospital every week, and with as severe as some of her symptoms are, she may actually end up there.

She is allergic to the two medications that give the best results and allow for the most control over the symptoms, so we live day to day trying to find the right combination of other medications, the right dosages, the right words to help her through her day, the right ways for us to react when she just can't control herself, the best way for us to all survive the day.

She does get some good days, even great ones. She can be the most loving, caring, awesome little girl in the world. She is extremely smart and loves to read, especially about bugs and other creepy crawlers. (What is it with my kids and bugs???) She remembers almost everything she reads and can tell you about things in great detail. She has a very active imagination and her fantasy worlds are extravagant. She can come up with some amazing stories. On the flip side of that, she can come up with some amazing lies and excuses. She once had her entire class believing we were moving elsewhere and would have to fly on a plane to get there. I found this out when a note came home wishing her well and asking her to keep in touch and to enjoy the plane ride. Sigh.

Looking back, the signs started when she was barely 4. She hit her sister in the face with a doll and told us it was because the doll told her to do it. She said the doll told her that her sister didn't love her and she had to hurt her. Not your typical four-year-old's reasoning there, is it? We had already been dealing with her extreme outbursts of aggression and being out of control whenever she got mad. I can remember times when it took me, Todd, and Sissy holding her down to keep her from seriously hurting herself or someone else. She would hit, kick, bite, punch, head butt, scratch, pinch, scream at the top of her lungs,and try to bang her head as hard as possible against objects such as her dresser or the headboard.  She almost broke my jaw with a head butt once and almost broke Amanda's arm when she shoved it against the dresser. She is preternaturally strong when she is in one of her rages. It was awful.

We would try everything we could think of to get her to calm down, but absolutely nothing would work. She would just have to rage on until she literally wore herself out. As she got a little older, she would tell us, "My head won't let me calm down!" We didn't fully understand it then, nor do we now, but we believe those were the first manifestations of her psychosis/hallucinations. Once she had completely worn herself out, she would sleep for a couple of hours and then wake up as if nothing had happened. Sometimes, she wouldn't remember any of it, but we'll never forget having to watch her suffer through it all.

Because she's Bipolar, she sometimes sees and hears things that no one else can. Sometimes it's nice things like fairies and pretty lights, other times it's scary voices telling her to do bad things. It's always a bit disturbing and scary for her, though, no matter what.

Her last round of great medication stopped working sometime in November. She had three full months of full blown mania. Her body and mind never shut down. Not for a minute. She wasn't sleeping. She wasn't eating. She lost weight. She was all over the place. She was scattered. She constantly talked 90 miles a minute, even in her sleep, when she actually did sleep. She would sometimes fall asleep at her normal bedtime, but would wake up in the middle of the night and stay awake for hours, aimlessly wandering the house. Her ADHD medication wasn't helping at all because her mania wasn't under control, so her doctor stopped that. She went from looking like a healthy little girl to a meth addict in those three months. It was horrible watching her health deteriorate, knowing that nothing we were doing was helping.

She was losing friends at school because she couldn't be still or quiet and was constantly bothering her classmates. Her teacher is an amazing lady who understands what Kimmie is going through and has worked with us to help her succeed in the classroom. I cannot give enough praise to Mrs. Best for all she has done for Kimmie and for us. She tried to explain to the kids, in terms they could understand, that Kimmie has an illness that keeps her from behaving sometimes, but that doesn't mean she's not a good person. She doesn't mean to be loud and bouncy, but she can't help it. That helped some, but kids are kids and they don't always care what the reason is, they just want their friends to be "normal."

At home, she can be very compliant, happy, helpful, upbeat, and occasionally, even quiet. She can also be argumentative, angry, defiant, depressed, loud, obnoxious, aggressive, and just downright mean. We never know which Kimmie we're going to get. She's just as comfortable yelling at us as she is giving a hug. Her disorder makes her think that she is going to be a famous singer and have millions of fans and all the money in the world. It also makes her think that no one loves her, that everyone is out to get her, that she doesn't deserve to have a family. That's the paranoia part of it. It's heartbreaking to have your seven year old tell you that she knows you don't love her and don't want her to be a part of your family. There are no words or actions that can change her mind when that's where her head is. During those times, she wholeheartedly believes what she's saying. This paranoia is one of the reasons people with BD are 20-30% more likely to die by suicide than the average population. I've seen some studies that suggest this number is closer to 60% higher. Either way, the statistics are frightening.

Over the past two years, we've worked more closely with her psychiatrist than we ever thought was possible. He's worked us in for emergency appointments, been on call 24/7 for emergencies, has read and reread her medical history so many times he can probably recite it by heart, all to try and find a way to help our little girl.

We've had some medications that worked beautifully for her. She was completely in balance and got to be a regular kid. She sat still in class, had perfect grades, was happy and smiling, loved to dance and sing, and just be normal. Unfortunately, these seem to only work for 3-6 months for her and then they stop working. Completely and utterly fail to do anything for her. At that point, it's back to the drawing board to see what we can do next. We thought we'd found the answer with Lithium a few months back. We were seeing a great reduction in her manic symptoms and she was eating regularly. It looked like we'd finally found something that would be a long term medication for her.

Then, one day after school, I noticed her slurring her speech. Over the next hour, she went from normal speech to completely incomprehensible babbling. We were at the ER for several hours while they ran tests and did blood work. The results were not good. She is allergic to Lithium. The effects only lasted a couple of hours, but those few hours were some of the scariest we've ever had as parents. We tried a different medication that can sometimes produce the same great symptom control. No go. She's allergic to that one, too. On top of that, her thyroid isn't working properly, so she's on a medication for that as well. Sadly, this is all too common in people with BD.

She's currently on two medications that have worked well in the past, but aren't doing so great right now. She just had blood drawn on Friday and we are anxiously awaiting the results on Monday so that we can see what the next step for her will be. The aggression is coming back full force and is now manifesting itself at school, a place where she's never shown aggression before. Once again, the ball game is changing and no one quite knows what the new rules are.

If you want to learn more about Bipolar Disorder, you can check out these websites:


Our Little Man, Gabe, was born on April 8, 2012. He weighed 3 lbs 13 ounces and was 16 3/4 inches long. He was born 9 weeks early and was addicted to drugs.

He went through a lot in his first month here on this earth. Horrible, horrible, horrible withdrawals. Feeding tubes. Breathing issues. Tremors. Reflux. No one there for him but the awesome nurses in the NICU.

We got the call about him on a Friday night. They needed a temporary 30 day placement for a baby that was getting ready to be discharged from the NICU. My friend Mandi and I went up there the next morning to see him for the first time. He was SO TINY!!! I was honestly afraid to pick him up. I'd never seen a real baby that small. All the baby dolls at home were bigger than him! But, oh my gosh, was he cute! I fell in love immediately. Over the next few days, Todd and the older kids and I visited him every chance we could get. We took lots of pictures. We sang him songs. We rocked him. I got to feed him his first bottle. That meant I had to learn the tricks to feeding a preemie, which is definitely not as simple as feeding a full term baby, but we figured it out. Sissy and I roomed in with him on his last night in the NICU. Todd stayed home with the hobbits and everyone else.

Discharge was a huge milestone for him. When we first met him, he weighed 4 lbs, 13 ounces. It had taken him almost a month to gain 1 pound. Four days later when we got to take him home on his 1 month birthday, he weighed 5 lbs, 13 ounces. He'd gained an entire pound since we started visiting him!! The nurses were so happy to see that and we all wished DCS had called us earlier so we could have spent more time with him and helped to ease and speed up his recovery.

We brought our little munchkin home and he fit right in. He did have some issues because of him being an NAS (Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome) baby, but thankfully, for the most part, they weren't extreme. He had random tremors in his arms and legs that would last for a few seconds to a few minutes. He did have a few seizures, but they disappeared within a few months and the neurologists never could see them on their tests. Knock on wood, he's not had one since. He was hospitalized in June, when he was just two months old, for Meningitis. I took him to the doctor because he just wasn't himself. They trusted me enough to send him to Children's for a full workup. The doctors there decided they wanted to do a spinal tap because he was so you and had been so premature. We didn't even have to wait for the results; the doctor could tell while he was extracting the fluid that he had meningitis. We spent a week in the hospital while he recovered from that. The next month saw him develop a case of strep.  It was a very eventful two months with him!

We weren't out of the woods with him after that. He started having some trouble with asthma-like symptoms. We've been able to control them with his nebulizer, thankfully, and his last few illnesses haven't triggered those symptoms.

We learned over the summer that our little man would become adoptable and DCS wanted us to adopt him. OH MY WORD were we excited! He is (we think) the sixth baby by his biological mother. His other siblings are with a biological dad, and two adoptive families. For various reasons, placing him with any of them was out of the question. However, that didn't stop one of the foster families from trying to gain custody of him. I'm going to make a long story short and say the foster mom was certifiably crazy and there was no way in the world we were going to let our munchkin grow up in that environment. Thankfully, DCS agreed, as did the court system. We happily, happily, happily able to adopt our little man on November 14, 2012.

Because of his prematurity and drug exposure, he was a little behind in development, but was still within normal limits, so he did not require nor receive any specialized therapies. We just played a lot and had fun!

Gabe had the thickest, curliest hair I'd ever seen. He also has two very prominent cowlicks on the back of his head. They look like dueling hurricanes and cause some pretty cool curls. They also make getting his hair cut a little bit of a challenge.

Gabe loves his family and we love him! He is definitely Derrick and Sissy's favorite! Those two spoil him tremendously and let him get away with just about everything. Candace is an excellent big sister and is always looking out for him and playing with him. Kimmie hasn't figured out how to play with him and not for him yet. He gets so excited asking if Daddy is home. When Daddy does come home from work, Gabe is the first one to greet him with lots of squeals, hugs, and kisses. He is definitely a Daddy's boy right now!!

Over the past year he went from a scooting baby to crawling everywhere, to walking, and now running everywhere. He is developing his speech and has quite a few favorite words: Daddy or BaBa, Hereyougo, Momma, Sishe (Sissy), De-ick (Derrick), Canish (Candace), Kee (Kimmie), Sta she (Star Ship, used for Star Trek: The Next Generation), Lightning, Mater, Dusty (for his favorite movies: Cars, Cars 2, and Planes), Veggies (Veggie Tales), Lar Boy (Larry Boy from Veggie Tales), Lilly, Izzy, bye-bye, Doggie, Chip, Cheeeeee (cheese), and just now I duv you (I love you!)

He loves watching Veggie Tales and we now own the entire collection. We also own Cars, Cars 2, and Planes because of him. Gabe is fascinated by cars, trucks, and trains of all types. He has his own large collection, which was added to by Derrick giving him his own collection of cars from when he was little. He's now getting into loving on his stuffed animals, which is beyond adorable. He's had his own baby for a long time now because he kept stealing his sisters' dolls. He's a very conscientious Daddy and gives her lots and lots of hugs and kisses.

He's old enough now for the toddler Zoo classes, so I signed him up and we've been enjoying our weekly jaunts to the Zoo, even though it's been super cold most days. He loves the animal toys she brings for them to play with each week. He absolutely loves the actual animals she brings in and is always the first one in line to pet them. He's also the last one in line so he can pet them again. So far, he's gotten to pet a ferret, a bearded dragon, and Madagascar hissing cockroaches. I do believe he was the only person in the class to actually touch them. *shudder* We have a lot of fun after class going around and seeing all the different animals up close. His favorites seem to be the elephants and lions, although he did show a bit of interest in the baboons last week.

There are days when I look at him and he reminds me of Derrick at that age. This is especially true where his love for animals, and their love for him, is concerned. He's super smart and understands almost everything that's said to him, so even though he can't use all the same words, he knows what you're telling him. He's a little daredevil, but he doesn't like having things on his hands, just like his big brother. He's one of the most loving children you'll ever meet and loves to be held. His favorite bedtime song is Barney's "I Love You, You Love Me" and we sing it multiple times every night. We also sing it whenever he's feeling out of sorts and needs a bit of a cool down period.

He'll be 2 (oh my gosh, how did that happen so fast??) in just a couple of weeks. He's already perfected his temper tantrums, so that's one thing we can check off our list.

Our Little Man has come so far in just two short years. He's now over 31 inches tall and weighs 26 1/2 pounds. He loves to eat, something that he couldn't do his first month here on earth, and isn't afraid to try new things. Especially if those new things are on someone else's plate! God has given us a little miracle and we can't wait to see where the next few years take us with our munchkin. :-)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Long time, no see!

I can't believe it's been almost two years since my last post. Well, in a way, I can. Life took over in a big way. Here's a quick overview, and because I'm in a writing mood, I'll probably write up some blogs about the big events and stuff I find interesting now over the next few days.

April 9 Gabe was born, although we didn't know it yet. :-)
May 5 We met Gabe for the first time. He was the smallest baby I'd ever seen in person and I was honestly afraid to pick him up.
May 9 We got to bring him home from the hospital!!!
June 14 Todd and I celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary
August 10 Derrick turned 18! Holy cow, where did the time go?????
August Teen-ish The hobbits started 1st grade
August 29 Kimmie turned 6
September 10 Amanda turned 16
September 21 Sissy turned 18
October 3 Candace turned 7
October 21 Marked the 6 year mark of my mom's passing
November 14 We officially adopted Gabe!!!!
December 25 Gabe's first Christmas

January 1 Chris ran away from home
January 9 Chris turned 18 and showed up on his Grandmother's door step, where he still resides
January 25 Duckie was born, but we didn't know it yet
March 15 Duckie was place in our home and we would happily get to be his temporary family for the next 9 months
April 9 Gabe turned 1
April 26 Derrick and Robin started dating
May 8 Amanda ran away with her boyfriend and was gone for 14 hours in the pouring rain
May 9 Amanda came home and swore to us and her therapist she'd never run away again
May 10 Amanda had someone take her from school to the runaway shelter downtown, where she refused to speak to me (until she was told she wasn't going to get any of her things she left behind until she did) and from where she refused to leave. Lots of ugly things happened to our family because of that. I may or may not share all of them in a blog...
June Amanda spent this month with a respite foster family
June 13 The family went to the beach!! It was the hobbits' and Gabe's first time at a beach and they LOVED it!!! We WILL be going back!
July Amanda was abruptly returned to us by the respite family because she was disrupting their home and causing issues for their children
August 10 Derrick turned 19
August 12 The hobbits started 2nd grade, Amanda started her Senior year, and Cara came to stay with us for a little while. :-)
August 29 Kimmie turned 7
September 10 Amanda turned 17
September 21 Sissy turned 19
October 3 Candace turned 8
October 21 Marked the 7 year mark of my mom's passing
November 19 Cara turned 18
Thanksgiving Jacob came to stay with us for a while
December 2 Amanda left school without permission and was suspended for 3 days. She told us they made a mistake because she was there all day, but we later found out she left with her supposed to be ex-boyfriend, who also got suspended.
December 6 Duckie went to bio parent's home on a trial home placement
December 17 Cara went back to her mom's
December 25 Derrick and Robin's first Christmas together and they got to spend it here.

January 8 Woke to Amanda's supposed to be ex-boyfriend's mom knocking on the door asking if we knew where Amanda was because her son had run away again. Double checked the house and discovered she was gone. He went back home a month later, but as of this writing, we've still had no contact from her.There is a runaway petition filed, so local law enforcement are looking for her and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children are helping with the search.
January Gabe discovered the world of Cars, Cars 2 and Planes. Lightning McQueen, Mater, and Dusty are his favorite characters. He still LOVES his Veggie Tales with Bob and Larry, but we watch a LOT of Cars and Planes now.
January 28 It was so frigging cold here that our road froze and we couldn't get out of our house. Unfortunately, the boys were at work and had to walk home in 15 degree weather that felt like 8 degrees with 3 inches of snow on the ground.
February 3 Kimmie started having neurological issues caused by her bi-polar medications. We quickly discovered she is allergic to the ones that actually help and work, so now we're back to trial and error and a lot of manic days and extreme inappropriate behavior.
February 8 Amanda's boyfriend returned home, but refused to give any details about where she is or might be.
February 21 Gabe got his Lightning McQueen big boy bed and slept very well in it the first night!
The rest of February Gabe and I stayed sick with one thing after another
February 24 Jacob turned 19
February 27 Our Pretty Girl, Tara, joined her furry brothers and sisters at the Rainbow Bridge. She was an absolute sweetheart and I miss her terribly every day.
February 28 Jacob moved to Colorado to live with a bio uncle
March Snow, snow, snow! Seriously, it's supposed to be spring!!!
March 8 Jacob came back home from Colorado
March 11 Jacob went back to Alabama to live with his Grandmother
March 18 We took a temporary placement of 3 little boys. They are absolute darlings and I would have kept them in a heartbeat if we'd had the room. It was Spring Break for the hobbits, so they did Zoo classes every day. We took the boys to the Zoo the days they were here. Some days were too cold to stay more than a few minutes, but others were perfect Zoo weather!!
March 28 Kimmie had a ROUGH day at school because of her Bi-Polar disorder. Thank God for understanding teachers and staff. her issues will cover a blog (or 12) of their own.
March 28 I decided to get back to writing, even if it's only a little bit at a time. And, that's where we are now. :-)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Letting Go

A few days ago, my good friend Marty posted a link to an article about 15 things you should give up to be happy. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it is a great list and all the items listed and reasons for letting them go make complete sense. I was very happy to realize that I've already given up most of the things listed and am already working on letting go of the others. Just reading through the items reminded me of just how lucky I am and how happy my life is on a day-to-day basis.

As a result of reading that article, I've been consciously paying attention to my thoughts and actions, trying to make sure they're as positive as I can make them. I've been feeling blissfully happy that I've got my "ginormous family" around me and that we're all happy and healthy (not counting the allergy issues we're all dealing with right now.)

One of the many things I love about being a mom to my kids is that they've always told me how they never want to leave home. Derrick has been plotting for years to buy one of the houses on our street so that *if* he ever decides to move out, he won't have far to go; Sissy's been on board with that plan from day one. Amanda's planning on joining the Marines, so she will be moving out at some point, but we have plenty of time to prepare for that eventuality. Chris hasn't decided what he wants to do besides be a skater and rap star, and the hobbits, being 5 and 6 at the moment, really don't have any future plans.

Then today, completely out of the blue, Sissy informed me that she has been thinking about and discussing moving away from Knoxville to get away from all the bad memories. (Those memories have nothing to do with her time here with us, but rather her life before she became a part of our family.) I have to be honest, I felt like I'd been sucker punched when I found that out. Not because she wants to be somewhere and be happy, but because we had just had a conversation less than a day before about how there was no way she could move out of state and away from her family and her home. So, to hear that she'd been thinking about  moving away and even had a few places in mind, really hurt.

One of the things I pride myself on is not controlling my children, but allowing them to make their own decisions and mistakes. If they want advice, I will happily give it. Don't get me wrong, I won't allow them to do anything illegal or immoral, but if they make a decision that will teach them a life lesson and won't cause harm to themselves or others, they are allowed to live and learn. Being happy about my children wanting to stay close to home is not about controlling them, but rather it's about knowing that we have developed such a loving bond that we are all happy being near each other. Being able to watch them continue to grow and start families of their own one day (say, 10 years down the road) is an added bonus.

When I started to recover from the shock, we talked more and she told me her decision comes from a place of fear, rather than a real desire to move away. There is a particular person here in Knoxville that has caused her great pain and suffering in the past and who can't seem to get it through their head that they are not welcome in her life anymore. For a long time, she has been able to put that experience behind her and move on and be happy, but the thought of that person finding her and trying to be a part of her life again has recently resurfaced and has made her uneasy in her own home. That's why she was thinking about moving away; to try and get away from that person and those feelings, not because she truly wants to get away from her home.

Now that we've established the reasons behind her thinking, we can work on making her feel safe again and giving her the tools she needs to be the guardian of her own safety and happiness. We can work on teaching her to let go of her fears and be the amazing person she truly is.

This has also taught me that while I thought I had no problem accepting change, when it comes to my kids leaving home for distant, or not-so-distant lands, I have a real issue with letting go. That's something I'll have to work on because I know it will happen and when it does, I want to be the mom who loves them enough to let them go and prays every day that they will one day make their way back home.

If you'd like to read the article I mentioned above, click here: 15 Things You Should Give Up to Be Happy.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Great Depression

Like millions of people all over the world, I suffer from clinical depression. Most days I don't even think about it; I just take my medicine and go on about my day. Occasionally, I'll feel a little down and out of sorts and in need of a little "me" time or an extra hug or two from Todd and the kids to set things back in order. For the most part, my depression is very controlled and I can happily go about my day and just be me.

However, a couple of times a year, I get hit with a debilitating bout of depression and I just want to curl up in bed and sleep for hours on end. I don't want to be around ANYONE and I certainly don't want to talk. Everything upsets and irritates me and I feel like crying all the time. Things I normally wouldn't even notice become huge issues to me. Normal activities and conversation are impossible. Life is impossible. Unless you've been there yourself, I don't think anyone can truly understand what this feels like.

The answers to the usual questions about my depression can be summarized in one word: NO.
No, talking about it will not help.
No, I don't know what caused it; if I did, I would fix it. 
No, you can't fix it for me. 

Todd has been through this with me for many years now and understands (as best anyone can) what my needs are when I have these bad days. He no longer takes it personally when I say I need to be alone, or don't want to talk, or just want to sleep. Derrick is pretty good at understanding this as well, because he too suffers from depression. Our other children, God bless them, have no experience with this and don't quite understand what's going on. 

It's hard to explain why you *can't* be Mommy right now to your children, even if it's only for a few hours. Daddy is right there with them and the big kids are truly self-sufficient, so it's not like they are left alone wondering what's going on. Todd does a great job of running interference for me, and tries to explain that there is no need in them getting cranky or ugly about not being able to talk to me for a little while, but not everyone listens. They are kids, after all.

Yesterday, sadly, was one of those debilitating days. I was able to do the bare minimum to get through the day, but even that was a struggle. Just being around other people, including my wonderful kids, made me edgy and irritable. I tried taking a nap in the morning hoping that when I woke up, I'd be in a better mood. No dice. I got a little bit of housework done and then ran a couple of errands with Sissy. While we were out, I realized that was NOT a good idea and sent a text to Todd letting him know that when I got home, I would be needing another nap. He was great about it and made sure the kids didn't bother me; instead, they all watched a movie together and got to hang out and enjoy each others' company for a while.

Sissy kept trying to figure out if she'd done something to upset me or that had gotten her into trouble. I assured her she hadn't and that it was "just one of those days for me," but she still worried about it. (When the kids have done something that's really made me mad, it takes me a day or so to calm down enough to be able to nicely talk about it with them. I refuse to be ugly to my children just because I'm upset with them, so I take the time I need to calm down and be logical and polite, as long as it's not something that needs IMMEDIATE action. Everyone is better off for that cooling-off period.)

Amanda couldn't quite grasp that I needed to be left alone and wanted to tell me about her day, ask me questions and just go on like it was a normal day. Todd explained to her a couple of times that I needed to be left completely alone and she needed to not text me or try to get me involved in a conversation of any kind. I'm pretty sure she took it personally, rather than seeing it as something that was requested of everyone in the house. She will, however, have to come to terms with it and realize that when I'm in 'that place' there is nothing anyone can do but leave me alone until I'm ready to be with people again.

The little girls knew that Mommy didn't feel good and needed to be left alone. They understood and were happy to cuddle with Daddy and Sissy and watch a movie together. Derrick came to my room and asked me if I was hibernating. I told him yes, because I was in a bad mood and didn't need to be around people. He gave me a knowing look, hugged his cat and went on back to his room.

Through it all, Todd was his usual supportive self and made sure everyone was taken care of and I was left alone. I'm not saying this is easy for him, but over the years he's become a bit of an expert at it. I'm certain he deserves the Father and Husband of the Year Award for putting up with all of us and doing it in such a loving way.

I do wish there was something I could do to insure that I never had another one of "those days" again, but there's really not. I've been there, done that with pretty much every medical option. So, for now, it's all about teaching the rest of the family how to cope without me for a couple of days a year. We'll get there. Eventually.