Tuesday, November 22, 2011

     I have neglected this blog for too long. For some reason, I thought that I would have plenty of time for recreational writing while attending school. The fact is, I've done plenty of writing, it's just all been for a grade. One of the essays I wrote for my English class was originally my second entry on this blog. I pulled it off of the blog for my assignment and re-wrote it. That essay is being publish in SLCC's literary magazine this fall. Many of you have asked to read it, so I thought I would post it here. Enjoy.

The Humping, Biting, Pooping Wonders
     I love Black Jack. No, not the game, but my dog. My wonderful, dorky, pubic-haired, Schnoodle. Sunday was his last day with us. About ten-o’clock that night he went to his new home. I’d like to say I handled it well, crying just enough to look beautiful in my sorrow, but I’m a terrible liar. For two hours prior to his departure, I cradled him in my arms while sobbing into his curls. He licked the salty tears and snot off my face, enjoying the treat, not understanding what was about to take place. That made me bawl even harder. He’s so innocent. I don’t care if he bites the kids when he’s excited. So what if he likes to demonstrate his dominance by hugging your leg. He’s a good dog! By the time his new owner arrived, I was a blubbering, red-faced, swollen, snotty mess. I could not pull myself together. It didn’t matter that Black Jack’s new owner was my best friend, who just lived down the street. All I knew was that my feet were going to freeze at night without my fur blanket to keep them warm.
     Black Jack’s leaving was a long time in coming. I knew back in May that he would have to go. On Mother’s Day, my sweet boy, Ian, was hospitalized for a massive asthma attack. Following this trauma, I took Ian to see his asthma doctor.
     “Do you still have the dog?” Dr. Gourley asked.
     “Yes,” I admitted sheepishly. “But this one is hypoallergenic and Ian seems to be fine…”
     Dr. Gourley was shaking his head. “He’s not fine. There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog to an asthmatic.”
     I love dogs. I grew up with them and cannot remember a time when my youthful feet weren’t tripping over metal food dishes on the floor. My first pooch was Penny the Toy Poodle, and then came Kachoock, our Siberian Husky with different colored eyes, and finally Mindy, the stray Collie my mother rescued on a stormy afternoon.
     Having grown up with dogs, it was only fitting that I would want them to be part of my own family. When my oldest daughter was about two, she developed a mild discomfort for all things canine. My husband and I decided the best way to combat this unnaturalness was to welcome a tiny ball of fluff into our home. Tank joined our family and for the next thirteen years, he worshipped my husband and pretty much hated everyone else. At least he cured my daughter of her fear. And while he tolerated four children, I would never recommend a Pomeranian as a good family dog. In spite of his propensity to bite and his inappropriateness with stuffed animals, I loved him and cared for him when age claimed his hearing and bladder control. Three months after his passing, my husband, Scott, surprised me with an American Bulldog.

     Once in a while, an animal comes along who is different from all other animals. There is something special and unique that draws you to this creature. My bow-legged, barrel-chested, Tinkerbell, was such an animal. She had a magnetic soul. Weighing in at fifty pounds, she was the largest puppy I’d ever owned.
     Caring for a dog means that you are willing to make certain sacrifices. You understand that poop will be tracked into the house on the bottom of a sneaker, you learn that library books shouldn’t—but do make good chew toys, and you decide that the short white hairs in your food really aren’t that big of a deal. You make these sacrifices because the rewards of having someone in your life, who loves you unconditionally, are worth it. For me, dogs are the best medication, the best therapy, the best cure-all for whatever ails you. They fill a need in me that I can’t get from anyone or anything else. With a dog in my life, my soul feels complete.
     After two months with Tinkerbell, I knew it wasn’t going to work. Ian’s allergies intensified around her so much, that with one lick of her tongue, he’d break out in hives. After giving her away, I came home and climbed into my bed. I didn’t leave it for three days. And when I did, I refused to wear anything but black. I wasn’t in a good place. Along with my appearance, my thoughts and mood were dark. I admit that during that time I had some very un-motherly feelings toward my son. It wasn’t rational and it wasn’t fair, but part of me thought, If it weren’t for you, I could have a dog. I’m ashamed that those thoughts and feelings once had a place in my mind and heart. Ian couldn’t help his allergies and asthma. He was born with those ailments. What I failed to realize at the time, was that he was losing something special too. Like me, Ian loves dogs and is happier when he’s around them.
     But as with dogs, raising children requires certain sacrifices. We know that sleeping through the night is a rare treat, and the ruins at Mesa Verde will wait, but a kidney infection will not. We understand that a dinosaur diorama is a family project, and we know that teenagers—when unsupervised—will break a brand new La-Z-boy. Our children’s needs always come before our own. Even if we don’t want them too.
     Black Jack was my last attempt to have a dog. Being a Schnoodle, he was considered a hypoallergenic breed. I lived in denial for two years, but eventually came to realize that it was Ian or the dog. The canine season of my life had come to a close and it was time to put my child’s needs before my own. The night Black Jack left I knew I needed to stop looking at my losses and start counting my blessings. I have many of them and the best ones are my children: Tawni, Rebeka, Zackary, and Ian. No pet is better than them. So with eyes that tear up occasionally—but remain clear—I am choosing to look for the good, and I’m finding it. Although my feet are cold.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


     We did a firepit last night in the backyard for family night. It's often nice to break free from having a gospel oriented lesson and just enjoy being outside and being together. We all have camping fever and eagerly await a time when the mountains are no longer covered in snow. I'm not sure that will happen any time soon. I think this might be the year when several new glaciers start to grow. In any case, sitting around the fire, roasting hot dogs and making s'mores was a nice alternative to camping. The smoke stung our eyes and made breathing difficult and Ian had to have an asthma treatment when all was said and done, but we had a grand time.
     I always have a bit of anxiety when Ian is around fire. It can be campfires, fireworks, sparklers, a BBQ... He is such an exuberant boy and he never seems to look where he's going when running, walking, riding a bike, or swinging around a flaming marshmallow.
     From the moment I brought the firepit into the backyard, Ian started to hyper focus. He was extremely helpful at first because he was so excited. He helped set up chairs, gather wood from the woodpile, set up a table for the food, and then ask me for matches. Like I'd give an eight-year-old matches! Psh!
     I gave him the matches--but only because I knew Scott was waiting for them. Ian proudly carried the little box outside to his dad, and together they lit the fire. Once a fire is lit, Ian seems to think that you need to put all the wood on at once. The bigger the better, right? If there's fire, he is constantly throwing sticks on it and and our firepit night was no different. Every tiny twig had to be on the fire. Expect for his fire stick. He saved one piece of wood specifically for stirring the fire. And he spent a good portion of the evening doing just that. He'd stir, then lift up his stick to see if it was burning. If it was burning he'd run to the dirt and jab his stick into the ground. Then he'd come back to the fire and do it again. Sometimes, if his stick was just smoking, he'd wave it around in the air making smoke signals, nearly igniting his siblings.
     As for the food? Ian had to put every hot dog wiener on a stick. It simply was not in his power to let us do that for ourselves. Which drove me crazy. I can't stand to have little kid germs on my food. And he'd roast marshmallows for the sheer pleasure of watching them burn. He didn't eat them. He just caught them on fire and tried to make s'mores, using the cancerous marshmallow, that he'd then serve to the rest of us.
     Now, Ian is a great multi-tasker. He accomplished all of these things I've written about simultaneously. He was zipping back and forth so fast that he reminded me of Forrest Gump's ping pong ball. He'd ping from the food to the firepit and then ricochet back to the food and then ping to his smoldering stick in the dirt. Ping! Ping-Ping! Ping-Ping-Ping! And when he got tired of pinging he decided we should all play Duck-Duck-Goose. Except he changed the words. He started with Beka. "Toilet water," on to Zack, "Toilet water," my turn, "Toilet water," I now knew what was coming, "Toilet water," he hit Tawni on the head, "POOP!" We played several versions of that game including butthead/butthole and chocolate/poop. Interesting how it's all potty humor.
     Around eight o'clock Scott decided we should wrap up our evening and he let Ian put out the fire. Ian held the hose with both hands and assumed his best fireman stance. Then Scott turned on the water. Ian held his finger over the nozzle so that the water would come out in a powerful stream and he bravely and single-handedly saved us all from a hellish inferno.
     Then he had to be rescued by his mother and his asthma inhaler.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Just the Way You Are

     I haven't written anything in over a month. I've thought about it several times, but the thoughts never quite became actions. Ever since CoCo left, I've been a bit unmotivated. I've read an insane amount of literature, slept in most mornings, showered once in a while, and played Farkle on Facebook. Productivity definitely took a back seat. I think after such an intense three months my poor brain and body wanted a break. The month of April did that for me. Now I'm good to go.
     At the end of February, I met with Ian's teachers at school for his annual IEP. Last fall I pushed and pushed for them to do more testing on Ian. I felt that he was falling behind and getting lost in the shuffle of other students. They did the testing and during his IEP we discussed the results. The whole meeting lasted for an hour-and-a-half. Believe me, that's long for an IEP. The results of the testing confirmed my suspicions and fears. The older Ian gets, the wider the developmental gap becomes between him and his peers. He does progress, but it happens so slowly that he just falls further and further behind the norm. His IQ was quite low and his cognitive function was at 1% of the average. The testing determined that Ian's disabilities are something that he will never outgrow. As his mother, I already knew this. But the school didn't. As a result of the testing, Ian now receives one-on-one instruction in the resource room for reading, language,spelling and math. He is in the regular classroom to receive his assignments and participate in centers, but all the other time is spent in resource. And he hates it.
     He hates feeling singled out. He hates having to actually put forth some effort and do his work. He hates not being with his friends. He hates "being stupid."
     Ian is at an age now where he recognizes that he is different in some ways from the other kids. He asks a lot of questions about his birth mother and the drugs she took during her pregnancy. He wants to know, "Why did she do drugs? Didn't she know that was bad for my body?" I'm very truthfull with him and try to explain things in terms that he can understand. I let him know that his birth mother loved him--and she did. I knew her and worked with her before adopting Ian. The decision to give Ian up was difficult for her, but she did it because she loved him and felt that God wanted him to be with us. I've let Ian know that. But someday he's going to understand more fully the extent of the damage the drugs caused to his body and brain. And it's going to hurt him. It will hurt his heart to know that his birth mother wouldn't stop doing drugs in order to protect him. I just pray that as time goes by, I'll know what to say and how to say it so that the hurt might be minimal. I pray that he will feel so loved by all of us, that it might make up for the things he's had to suffer. I never want him to question whether or not he belongs to this family. He does. Without any doubt. We prayed for him to come to us. I knew that Heavenly Father wanted us to adopt a boy, and we waited for him. When the time came, there wasn't a doubt that he was meant to be part of our family.
     I often have to remind myself of those things when he's being especially difficult. Which he has been for the last month. I think the changes at school have affected him, not to mention a slothful mom. He struggles with change and it's shown in his behavior. He's had a lot of meltdowns and tantrums. He's also been very demanding and impatient. More so than usual. Scott and I have had to come up with a little reward system for him. Scott gets paid once a month so Ian knows, if he does his homework and reading, he gets to pick out a toy or videogame each payday. This has helped. He's much more cooperative with reading, even reminding me that we need to do it. He knows that if he misses a night, he misses a toy.
     I hope this next month is better for him. I hope I can help him learn to love and accept himself for who he is. He's an amazing boy and I'm blessed to be his mother.    

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Just Rewards

     It seems like a goodly portion of my blog posts have to do with family home evening. And today's is no exception. I'm not sure why it happens, nor do I believe that my child and family are unique in this regard, but for some reason, religious instruction brings out the worst in us. After a less than successful family night, I often wonder about the nature of Heaven and how in the world God keeps order. I think the only reason God was able to hold meetings in Heaven with His children was because we didn't have bodies yet and couldn't make rude noises with them. But even the Great I Am couldn't stop the bickering. We know the greatest fight in history took place during a great counsel, with the final result being that a third of His children stormed out with hurt feelings, vowing revenge on the rest of us.
     Monday evening's family night wasn't a total disaster. It was actually what I would call a moderate success. Tawni and her boyfriend, Woody, planned and delivered the lesson. Woody talked to us about the importance of families. We read a few scriptures and tried to ignore Ian who was crawling on the floor behind the couch. When Woody was done, Tawni introduced the activity. She wanted us to all say something nice about each person in the room. She had Beka start. Beka named everyone, complimenting us until our egos were uplifted. I was next. Then Zack and so on and so forth... Ian was last. When it was his turn he shouted loud enough for heaven to hear, "Tawni is more awesome than Zack! Beka is more awesome than Zack! And Mom is fat!"
     There went the love we were all feeling. Zack was traumatized and I was embarrassed to have my son so bluntly state the truth. And of course he had to continue because now he had an audience. A responsive audience. Some were laughing, others were shouting, and I dare you to try and get control after something like that.
     But the wicked have their just rewards. After Ian had gone to bed that night, the rest of us relaxed in front of a movie--me with a bowl of ice cream to soothe my wounded feelings. All of a sudden the lights flickered and a gut-wrenching scream of terror followed. We all ran for Ian's room. He sat trembling on his bed, tears streaming down his face, holding his blackened hand. The smell hit us first--electricity--and then we saw it. A paperclip in the outlet. My boy had just been zapped.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Amazing Day

     Today was a great day for Ian. It started bright and early this morning over breakfast, at 7:45.
     "Hey, Mom? You need to come to the school at 8:30."
     "Your program starts at 10:30, Ian."
     "I know. But I'm getting the award at 8:30."
     "Is this the Chart Your Course award?"
     This presented me with a few challenges. The teacher always sends a note home on Monday letting parents know that their student has been selected to be the recipient of this monthly award. Ian never brought home a note so this was the first I'd heard about it. Luckily I'd already showered, but my hair was dripping and I needed to help my sister get ready for a doctor appointment. Somehow, I made it in time.
    The awards ceremony took place in the school library. Principal Jameson read Ian's name and then gave a description of his merits. "Ian is becoming a faster reader! The more he practices and tries his hardest, the smarter he grows." They shook hands and Ian was given his certificate and special pin. After all the kids received their awards, it was picture time. The principal said, "Hold your award below your chin and say KIWI!" Narurally, Ian had to hold his award over his face so that only his eyes were showing. I tried to hug my boy when it was all over, but he ran faster than I could grab him, hollering over his shoulder, "See ya!"
     At 10:30 I was back at the school for the "Everyone Smile's in the Same Language" program. I was a bit worried about Ian's participation in the program. Last year's wasn't so great. But to my surprise he did all right. He sang the chorus on a few songs, did hand motions and body waving when appropriate, and even performed a separate song with a small group of children. When the program was over, he stood up and did "peace out" to everyone.
     It's customary, on program days, for parents to check their kids out early and take them home. I thought it would be a nice time for Ian and I to have lunch together. On the way home he asked, "Is Dad home yet?"
     "No, honey. It's just you and me for several hours."
     "Several hours?"
     "I want to go back to school."
     Even though it was a pretty severe dig to my ego, I still laughed out loud.
     Every ten minutes, for the next three hours, Ian would ask, "What time is it?"
     He was counting down until 2:00. Because that's when his dad would be home. And two weeks ago, Dad promised Ian a trip to Game Stop for a new game. Today was payday and therefore, Game Day.
Too pass the time, we played LIFE. I landed on a spot that said, "Sue another player." When Ian heard this he replied, rather vehemently, "Don't take my kids. But you can have my wife!"
     I love my boy.
     Scott arrived home at 2:00 on the dot, as promised. I've never seen Ian grab shoes and a jacket so fast. He was like a mini-tornado, tearing around the family room and out the door. They were only gone for twenty minutes. But to Ian, that is equivalent to a million dollars.
     A major award, a succesful program, home early, lunch at McDonalds (even if it was with Mom), time with Dad, and a new game--all equal a very happy boy. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

My Well of Happiness

     For those of you that don't know, one of my sisters suffered a stroke at the beginning of January. The past few weeks have been very difficult and emotional. For the full details, you are welcome to read my other blog. There is a link on the right hand side of the page towards the top.
     In times of trial, I tend to appreciate small things. Things that might go unnoticed at normal times. Things like... warm socks fresh from the dryer, indoor plumbing, my crock pot, a smile from a stranger, and the feel of a little warm hand in mine. 
     My children are a well of joy to me. When I feel depleted, I just have to dip in my bucket and draw forth a bit of their happiness. Here are a few things that quench my thirst.

     Ian's infectious laugh
Zackary's imagination
Tawni & Beka laughing together as only sister's can
My daughters' blonde moments
Reading a bedtime story to Ian
Hearing Zack serenade an invisible audience in the shower
Beka's hugs
Tawni's testimony
Zack's compassion
Ian tolerating a hug from me
Watching Beka play games with Ian
Watching TV with my girls
Playing Battleship with Zack
Playing Chess with Tawni
Watching Ian do the dishes-
Watching Zack help Ian with the dishes-
Watching the water fight as Zack and Ian do dishes together-
Watching my children mop the floor
The smiles on my older kids faces as they watch Ian playing
Bedtime hugs and kisses
Listening to dreams and comforting heartaches

     As I've watched my kids over the past several weeks, I've come to appreciate them more and more. Today, something about Ian just made me feel warm inside. His sweet face, his smile and laugh, his innocence... I'm not sure what it was really. But today I felt, and still feel, so blessed to be his mom. When I see my kids playing, laughing, and working together, I am filled with joy and every trial becomes bearable, because I have them by my side.