Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I think I'm back...

When I said my mini-vacation was almost over, I was mistaken. I decided to change my vacation time at work so I'll be off until this coming Saturday. YAY! It worked out well, because my kids are still on spring break from school (they get 2 weeks off.) My teenagers were in Ohio for a week, and they came back yesterday, so life is a little more back to normal, umm, whatever that is. So I skimmed through about 180 posts on my bloglines, and feel caught up enough to jump back in to the blogosphere :)

Anyway, this is one of my favorite pictures from our little hike last Friday, and I wanted to share it :)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Mini-vacation almost over

My mini vacation is almost over *sigh* It's just as well, because I got almost nothing done that I wanted to get done. Mr. Big Black Trash Bag did leave the house fat and happy though.

Today I took Sassy and Snugglebutt hiking, it was a really fun day. Now we're totally wiped out, but that's how it goes :) I took a LOT of pictures, which will be appearing here I'm sure :) For now I wanted to share this one, which I thought was very cool. The mountains we went to (White Tank Mountains) is very near Luke Air Force Base, and on our way home, we could see the jets flying in formation, zipping here, there and everywhere. There were several cars lining the streets so that people could watch, and we stopped too. I was so excited! My kids? Not so much. I couldn't believe they didn't even care!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I forgot! Another kid funny!

Ok so after the lunch with ALC and Sassy scheming to go all Thelma and Louise, just a little nicer of course, we were walking to the video game store across the shopping center, and Sassy and Snugglebutt got into a bit of a tiff about the amount of brothers and sisters they have. Snugglebutt insisted he has 4 brothers. The 17 year old, his two half brothers that moved out of state with their mom after my ex-husband was arrested, and.... we couldn't figure out who his other brother is, and you would think I'd know about another brother, right?! So then Snugglebutt looked at us like were were simply MAD, and said "Have you forgotten about my clone?!?"

Snugglebutt and a Mini-me, what a scary thought that is!

Spring-Bloggy Break

I think I am going to take a bloggy break for the next few days. It's already been a week since I posted, and I don't think I've left any comments in at least that long... Part of my problem is no sleep. I've gotten an average of 3.5 hours of sleep for the past 4 days, and that doesn't work well for me. So I'm tired beyond all reason. And now my kids are on Spring Break, and two of them are gone for a week. So for right now it's just me and the two youngers. The teens are in Ohio, and the oldest still insists she'd rather pay rent than live here. Fine I say :P I'm off for the next 4 nights (WOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOO! I'd do a cartwheel if I thought I could accomplish that without breaking an important part of my person...) So, tomorrow we have a date, the three of us... with Mr. Big Black Trash Bag. Kids don't like him much, but I adore him. And wow, it will be a field day for him in those rooms. The rest of the days we'll come up with some things to do, but I'm going to take this time to be with them.

But before I offically start my break, a kid funny:
Today we went to lunch with my former sister-in-law, the only member of my ex-husband's family I can be around without it being totally awkward. She has a 2 1/2 year old daughter, who is just adorable of course. So, FSIL says to Sassy "So, what else are you guys doing, besides going to school." Sassy says "Oh, not much, you know... I'm going to take a road trip though. By myself." She pauses. "Yeah, without my family. I'm going to steal my mother's car." FSIL said "Oh, that's nice." Sassy says "Yes, and I'm taking ALC (adorable little cousin) with me. Right ALC?" So then ALC, who may I remind you is 2.5 years old, says "Yep. I'll bring the ice cream!"

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

WW - Phoenix Botanical Garden

Visit WWHQ to see more!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Much Ado About Something

****Remember to go vote for the photo contest! Scroll down for my entry, voting is March 9 - 11.
To vote, leave a comment.

Yesterday was a busy day. In the morning, I went to the Phoenix Botanical Garden with a few friends, and took some wonderful pictures! I'll be posting some of those soon. And then last night was the play that 2 of my children were in. It was AMAZING! These kids, not just mine, were so talented, it was so much fun! They did Shakespear's Much Ado About Nothing.

This is my son. Yes, he's wearing a kilt.

This is my daughter (the one facing the camera) She's wearing a kilt too.

I am so thankful to the teacher that dragged my son into being in the play last year, he was kicking and screaming to be sure! But she wouldn't let him say no, and now he absolutely loves theater and I expect him to be moping around for the next week because of PPD - post-play depression. It's his last play in high school!

I am so proud of both of my teenagers, and the rest of the class too. They worked SO HARD, and did a GREAT JOB!!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

What Inspires Me - Photo Contest

Kailani at An Island Life is having a photo contest! You can go see the other entries and vote - Voting is March 9th-11th! I' love it if you woud vote for me, but if not, that's ok too! Here's my entry :) The theme is what inspires you...

I couldn't narrow it down to just one picture, so I made a bunch of pictures one image. Nature inspires me. It inspires me to trust more in the God that creates such a wide variety of sights, smells, and colors for us to enjoy. Rainbows inspire me to have hope, as does the sun peeking through rain clouds. And when the rays of the sun break through and touch the mountains, to me it's like God saying "I'm still here, I haven't forgotten." My kids inspire me. Allison inspires me to just have fun. Sam inspires me to try new things and to dig deeper in m faith. DQ inspires me to be artistic and creative. That's how she is. Sassy inspires me to be resilient and strong. In a lot of ways, she's my hero. Snugglebutt inspires me to take the time to remember these days of their childhood is very fleeting, and to get the hugs in now before it's too late.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Someone sing me a lullabye?

Because I should be sleeping right now, and it's just not happening. When I was sleeping, I kept waking up having strange dreams. This sleeping during the day stuff is just not normal, I've been doing it over 2 years now, and I still don't have the hang of it! Most days I'd be able to have the big kids feed the little kids dinner and sleep after I picked them up from school (although I HATE doing that, I feel like I'm robbing my children, however, humans need sleep! And I am, in fact, a human!) but today that's not going to be possible. The big kids are in a play this weekend, and their rehearsal goes until about 7 tonight. So at the most I'll be able to get a 2 hour nap in. That's IF I can fall asleep. Oh well, the good news is it's my Friday, and with any luck I'll be off Thursday and Friday night. And I've got a 4 day weekend in a couple weeks, so I'm really looking forward to that!

You know it's kind of sad, the thing I look forward to most these days is when I can sleep next...

Anyway, I thought I should mention, I made a decision regarding dispatch (radio) training. At the beginning of February I was really struggling and decided that I was going to give myself a month, and if I was still not getting it well, then I was going to go back to being a 911 call taker only. Then I started getting it, and it started clicking. Except for one thing. I discovered I really didn't like it. I'd dread coming to work, and not because I was feeling inadequate or frustrated with training, but because I was just dreading the job itself. I waffled for a week or two, but one day I sat down at the terminal, and the first time an officer cleared over the air I thought "I really don't want to do this!" I was sure at that moment that dispatch isn't for me. At least not right now. It's not that I think I can't do it, I know I can. It comes down to, I don't want to. So, yes, I stopped dispatch training and went back to 911. It's been 3 days now. I thought I would kind of regret quitting, but you know what, I really don't. There's a huge peace about this decision. I notice though that I do things differently in 911 now that I have a better understanding of dispatch, and I'm glad I at least tried dispatch training. I do think it has made me a better 911 operator. So I'm thankful, because I'm pretty sure when God gave me this job, he wanted me to make a difference to people. When need help and dial that phone, and my voice is the first one they hear, well, I am honored to be the one who is able to help them.

Ok... most of them :P

Monday, March 05, 2007

Dear 1987 Me,

Dear Me in 1987,
Not that I think you'll listen, but I have some things to say.

First is, you are NOT fat. But, if you keep up with those mint swirl brownies, you will be. Take it from one who knows.

Even though you were a teenage mother and already have a child, that does NOT mean you've screwed up your life beyond repair. I know part of you thinks that, but it's not true.

It's also not true that you need someone to take care of you. Have confidence in yourself! You are stronger than you know!

It is true that God loves you. I know you know it deep down, but you don't act like it. Your value is in Him, not the rest of the world. You are worth so much more than you know.

Don't ever settle. Later this year, you will meet a man named Ron. RUN THE OTHER WAY! You have this messed up idea that love is something you decide to do, not something that just happens. To a point this is true, but if the attraction is not there in the first place, it won't happen later on! You can't force yourself to love someone.

And when Dan comes back into your life? Yeah, run even faster! Don't even give that boy the time of day.

I know you love being a mom, and it really was a great feeling when you figured out that you are good at it, however, you are valuable even when you aren't taking care of a baby. And as wonderful as babies are, they don't stay babies. Teenagers take more time and energy than one can imagine, and their needs are greater than you know. I'm not talking monetary needs. Consider this please before you give in to that ache in your uterus!

In 11 years when you get an email from a man in Arizona, I have 3 words for you:

Now that we have that out of the way, I'm so glad you figured out that leg warmers are not cool. And Air Supply. What were you thinking? In a few years, stirrup pants will be all the rage. Please avoid them. They WILL make your butt look big.

Love always,
2007 Me

Link: Miscellaneous Adventures of an Aussie Mum: The "Dear Me" Project

Friday, March 02, 2007

5 reasons why I blog

My dear friend Janean tagged me for this a couple days ago, but I'm ummm.... lazy.... (Shhhh! don't tell anybody!)

1) I started my blog so that I could have an outlet for some of the stuff we'd been through. Because as awful as it was, I've got a powerful testimony to God's provision, love, and faithfulness through it all! And secrets lose their power when they are no longer secret.
2) I also thought that if I shared what we've been through, maybe I could connect with other people who had been through something similar. Then, we could be a support to each other. Because the one thing that was sorely lacking when this happened was someone that genuinely understood. I'm sorry it happened to someone else, but I praise God that my prayer to find someone who totally knew what I meant was answered. And I feel blessed to be able to offer support to her too.
3) I am terrible at writing in a journal, so I thought this was a good way to do some journaling, at least, it would hold my interest a little more, and it has :)
4) It gives me a chance to write things I wouldn't take the time to otherwise. I love writing, I know I'm not all that great at it, but when I grow up, I think I want to be a writer.
5) It's a chance to connect with others. I've found others who blog who I would never be in communication with otherwise. I have connected with people whom I admire and respect very much, and they've caused me to think about things I wouldn't otherwise, and look at things a different way, and they've helped sharpen my faith.

So, I want to take this opportunity to thank those of you who take the time to blog. Even if you believe that nobody would want to read what you have to say, I tell you that's not true. Even if it means something to one person, it's worth it. I don't comment as much as I'd like because I'm... lazy... (SHHHH! DONT TELL ANYBODY!!!) but I'm reading as much as I can and I appreciate what you have to say!

I tag....... YOU! So tell me, why do you blog?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

forever ago, but just yesterday

Today is the 3rd anniversary of that knock at the door. That awful, terrible knock at the door. In some ways it seems like it was forever ago, and in some ways, it seems like it was just yesterday.

I can't help but think back to that day... there are so many things that stick out vividly in my memory. In the morning I was crabby because getting the kids to school was a monumental feat that I didn't feel I had the energy for at that time. My stepsons were living with us and they were on the high end of the maintenance scale. So we had not even been awake 10 minutes when there was some dramatic production that started with them. To tell the truth, I think I was really depessed at that time in my life. I loved my husband more than I could ever imagine loving another human besides my children, but there was something... off... about our relationship. We never fought, he encouraged me to have my own life, and overall he was good to me and I enjoyed being with him. But most nights I went to bed alone, and that bothered me. I was not enjoying my job very much. I worked part time as a teacher's aide at a preschool. I had loved it, but then we got a new teacher, and since I had been there the longest of the aides, I got to work with her. I began to hate it. I dreaded going there everyday, and dreading your job is not a good thing when you work with children. The other thing that was bothering me was how difficult my life was with my two stepsons. I loved them too, but I did not have the first clue on how to deal with them. The older one, at 12 years old, still messed his pants on a regular basis and would not behave in school. Yet he refused to go to counseling, and his father would not force the issue. I could see the child had serious issues, but what I could not see was how very much like his father he was. The younger one was much more easy going but still had a lot of difficulty in school. It bothered him when Sassy who was a year and 3 months younger learned things quicker and easier before he did. Of course, I had to deal with the competition between the two of them - whenever Sassy got the chance to boast about something, she took it, and I think that was partially because she knew my husband loved her stepbrother more. She would come in the bedroom without knocking and get yelled at. If the other child did that, it was "Come here man! How ya doing?" I saw it, I know she saw it, and when I pointed it out, it helped for a little while but that thing about a zebra and his stripes... So anyway, that day, it started off bad. I was crabby. I dropped the one child off at his school and then continued on to the younger kids school. I had to stop and get gas though between the two schools. As I was pumping my gas, this blue Buick Century pulled up at the pump behind me. A friendly looking white haired gentleman got out and began to get his gas. He looked up at my van, which had an Air1 Christian Radio sticker on the back. He said "Hey! I listen to Air1 too! I had to redeem myself somehow because my kids tell me this is an old folks' car. So I have to play cool music!" I laughed and thanked God for sending me something to smile about at that moment. I waved to the man and continued on my way, dropped the 4 middle kids off at school, and then went to the preschool with Snugglebutt, who had just turned 4. As I was preparing the tables for the art project for the day and laying out newspapers, an editorial opinion piece caught my eye. It was about yet another child who died at the hands of her mother's boyfriend. It seems to be all too common, and I could not understand for the life of me how that could happen. How could a mother not protect her child? How could a mother know that her boyfriend killed her child and then protect the boyfriend? I could not understand it, and I thought there was nothing I would not do to protect my child. I sincerely believe God sent that article to prepare me to protect my child. But then the teacher and the students demanded my attention and distracted me from those thoughts for a while. I prayed throughout the rest of the morning "Lord, if I shouldn't be doing this, give me a sign." So, I've joked that it's all my fault, because I prayed for a sign! I never went back to work at that preschool as a teacher's aide again after that day.

I picked the kids up from school, got them home, and was playing a computer game for a few minutes before it was time to start dinner. Everybody except Snugglebutt had homework to do, so that's what they were doing. About a half an hour later after we got home from school, there was a knock on the door. THE knock on the door. I assumed it was the older stepson's friends wanting to play. They were tenacious in their efforts to get him outside before he was allowed to go, so I wasn't about to get up and open the door. But the knock got louder and nobody else was answering it. I went to the door, and did not see prepubescent boys at my door. Instead I saw two ladies dressed in pinstripes, carrying briefcases. Ok, I don't want what they're selling, I thought as I opened the door. But then they called me by name, introduced themselves as being from the FBI, and said "do you have a daughter?" I thought of my oldest, who had just turned 18 and was living in Ohio. I wondered what kind of trouble she got herself into. They said they had to show me a picture and they wanted me to tell them if it was my daughter. When I looked at the picture, it was not Allison, but Sassy, who was 6. I was shocked and confused. How and why did they have a picture of my 6 year old? It was a picture I had taken myself at a park a few months before. Totally G rated, family snapshot picture. I even scanned it to share it with my friends who had access to email. But I didn't send it to the bad people who had it. Then the one FBI agent said "We have reason to believe your daughter is being molested, and we think it's someone in this house." I argued with them for about a half hour. Surely they were mistaken, because there's no way he'd ever do anything like that. He lectures our boys all the time on the value of people, including women, to God. He goes to church every Sunday. He teaches Sunday school on occasion! He smuggled B i b l e s into C h i n a for goodness sakes! Someone must have hacked our account. No, that's not possible they said. They showed me print outs of chat logs from when he would get on the internet and talk about the things he did. I did not want to believe he was capable of such a thing, but there were too many accurate details for what was on those logs to be from a stranger... such as she had lost her two front teeth in December. Finally they talked me into letting them have my computer. When I brought it out for them, the detective from the police department said "Oh, and you see those cars there? That's CPS. We're taking your kids to Child Help. You can stay here and protect him, or you can come with us and protect your daughter. The choice is yours. But we're taking the kids and there is nothing you can do about it." Yeah, he was a real charmer. But there was no choice to make. As I drove to Child Help, I told the FBI agent who was in my car "I don't want to believe it, but somehow in my gut, I know it's true." And I felt sick to my stomach. That feeling didn't go away for several weeks.

They separated me from the kids immediately and would not allow me to see them or talk to them. Child Help is an awesome place that you never want to have to go. It has everything in one place for children who are abused in anyway. It's not like going to police headquarters and giving a statement. They have rooms with stuffed animals and big comfy couches... the kids don't even know they're being video taped and recorded. They also have this humongous play room that is every child's dream. A library full of books to read, toys for every age level, computers, video games, TVs, a dressup closet that is fully stocked with any character or thing you could ever think or hope to dress up as. Murals on the wall, and a train that circles the room high up near the ceiling. For adults, it's not so fun. It seemed like hours before anybody ever came and said anything to me. They questioned me about him and her and if I thought anything was going on... there were little small signs that I should have paid closer attention to, but there was nothing that could not be dismissed as normal. Finally they told me that Sassy talked, and they needed me to call him on the phone to confront him with what I knew, and they would tape the call. They said I didn't have to, but it would help a lot. I wanted to throw up all over again, but I knew, for my baby and for me, I had to do it.

I wasn't aware of it, but he called when I was outside the house talking to the FBI and the police. My son told him that I was outside with our computer talking to some people in suits. So he had some idea he was in trouble before he got home. But he has told me since then that he was honestly not expecting what I said to him. I said "I've got the kids, and I've got the computer, now tell me what you've been doing to my daughter." My voice was firm and determined, but I was a mess inside. It took him forever to speak, at least it felt that way. I said "don't you have anything to say?" He could only choke out "I'm sorry." He answered my questions and verified only what I asked. He did not freely admit to anything he wasn't asked directly.

At this point I pretty much felt like someone stuck a straw in my ear and sucked out my brain. The anger, the confusion, the betrayal... I can't even put a name to all that I felt. It was back to waiting in the lobby without my kids after that call. And more questioning from Mr. Personality. At one point I asked him "Is there any chance he's going to get out of jail on bond?" This detective YELLED at me. "WHY WOULD YOU WANT HIM TO GET OUT?!? After what he did to your daughter?!?!" I was stunned. No, I asked because I didn't want him out and I wanted to make sure I wouldn't have to deal with that. I shouldn't be so hard on the guy, he's got an awful job. What he sees happening to children on a daily basis, well, I couldn't do it. But he was SO nasty to me so many times, throughout the whole court process until the day of sentencing, well, I'll be happy if I never see him again.

We got to Child Help at about 5pm. I made the call around 6:30. At 10:30, they finally let me see the kids again. Of course the kids wanted to know what was going on. How do you tell them that? The older stepson said jokingly "Is my daddy in jail?" I had to look at him and say "Yes, he is." It was so awful. I spent the previous 5 years pouring my heart into and out for those boys, and I knew that was all over. We could not go home that night because the police had to serve a search warrant and I could not be there. So we had to wait to leave there until the police victim's services representative could get a room for us at a hotel. They had to do it under an assumed name just in case he was able to bond out. It was midnight before we were in the room. So there I was, crammed in a hotel room with 6 kids, no pajamas for any of them, no clean clothes. The kids eventually fell asleep. I did not. I could not. Everytime I would doze off, I would think "at least I slept a little bit" and the clock would only show 5 minutes later than it did the last time I looked. I would try to close my eyes and relax, but my imagination kept drifting to images of things I knew Sassy endured, and I could not stand it.

Obviously, our lives have never been the same since. There was no bond offered, and he was eventually charged with 19 different counts for a total of 330 years possible. Yes, it was that bad. But it still could have been worse. He plead guilty to 3 for 30 years and lifetime probation. I am so thankful Sassy never had to testify. I have not seen him since the day he was sentenced, February 11th, 2005

I called my stepsons' mother after we got home and let her know. She came and got them later that evening and they never spent another night with us again. I still took them to school and took care of them after school for a while, but she eventually moved them out of state. I hear from them occasionally. I loved them and did my best for them, but I can't say I'm sad that I'm not responsible for them anymore.

3 years later, I want so much to put it all into a box, categorize and catalogue everything about the whole ordeal; who we both were at the time, what was wrong with us that caused this to happen, and the end result. And then I want to put that box away and never open it again. But life doesn't work that way. Just when I think I've got something figured out, and filed away in my neat little box, life reminds me just how messy it is. My box falls down off the shelf and everything spills out again. So I'll keep trusting God, because even if I can't figure it out, He can.