Showing posts with label family life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family life. Show all posts

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Disappearing Posts (I did it!)

Some may remember a post about a tragedy in our family nearly a year and a half ago. Someone young and immature used it to bully, humiliate and try to exploit the person at the center of that post—so I took it down. It’s sad that someone can go through something so traumatic, struggle to find their value again after they feel they were robbed of it, nearly give up the battle, and then find the will to fight their way back—only to have someone use the story they found about it to try to ruin that survivor. 

Maybe some day I’ll republish it, but for now, it’s going to be unpublished. 

I’ve tried to figure out what to do here. I have so much to say, things I’d like to share with others to help them feel supported, inspired and hopeful. But unfortunately, as proven by the necessity of taking down my last post, sharing my story doesn’t just impact me, but those I love who are also part of that journey. 

I’m not giving up, but I’m deciding once again how much I’m willing to share and put myself out there. Not because of how it may impact me, but because I’m fiercely protective of those I love.

My family is doing well though. I’m so blessed to have them in my life. My husband and children are an inspiration to me. I see the things they’ve gone through, lessons they learned in the most painful of ways, and how hard they’ve fought to become who they are and I’m just in awe. I’m so thankful for my life. 

Monday, April 11, 2022

Time Marches on…and on….

My life has brought about many changes over the last several years. I’ve hesitated on continuing my journey on here, because the thing that defined me before is not where I’m at now. So many things have occurred I’m not even sure where to begin. I guess I should start with the admission that I’m not a homemaker anymore. I mean, I have a home, and I’m still a wife and mom, but as for that being my sole occupation… …well, somehow it’s moved over to being one of the things I juggle in a different way. 

I started a part-time job in 2018. It was just a way to bring in some extra money but led to so many other opportunities. I enjoyed the time away from home, getting to explore the working me and the new way of interacting with the world. The same month I started work, I enrolled in college. For the first year, I worked part-time, went to school full-time and tried to maintain my family relationships. It wasn’t always easy, but I felt like I could take on the world and I was learning so much about myself. Over the next year, I progressed to a point at work where I was offered a full-time leadership position and also earned scholarships in school. For a time I did full-time at both work and school. We moved out of our home to a new city half an hour away, and while it was challenging, somehow I seemed to be doing it. 

I promoted up to another leadership position within a few months, and while it was harder to keep up in school with those hours, I continued to make it work. My family was so supportive, but I did start to see some struggles in adjusting to this new life, not only with my changes in roles, but also in where they fit in this new place we moved to. I questioned whether or not I should keep going but they assured me I should continue and while I felt guilty picking to do something for myself for the first time in my life, I also felt empowered and thrived on the new knowledge I gained with each new course I took at school and role I moved into at work. 

I was again promoted at work, but this new role meant more hours each week, and I found that I had to make a choice in letting something go. My children were not doing well with the isolation that came with COVID-19, and my family, despite all its shared space together was becoming more distant emotionally from each other. My younger kids once thrived in our old neighborhood and spent most their days outdoors playing. Here they can’t seem to settle in—and have dealt with bullying and social isolation. My older teens have pretty much followed the stereotypical stuff I knew would present some challenges, but added in so much more I definitely wasn’t equipped for in this social media/digital age. 

I cut school to half-time for a year, then accepted another promotion at work—work has become an outlet for me and has kept me from losing my mind through all these failures at home. In an effort to spend more time with my family though, I opted to let school go entirely and didn’t sign up this year. I made this choice right before things became even more difficult in my family.

The isolation and disconnectedness from the community through all of this wasn’t something I was prepared for. Depression has claimed my whole household. My support system isn’t next door anymore—and keeping up on my work and school loads and keeping everyone connected proved to be too much.

My adult children struggled to find healthy relationships and settled into ones that were abusive and degrading. My teens struggled with major depression and started making the choices I’d tried so hard to steer them away from. Our vacation fund went to hospital/doctors/therapy. This is life now. The mental toll these things have had on our family—as we tried to be there for each other, love one another through the pain of all that’s tearing us apart—is one that we still can’t pay. It’s not one thing after another. It’s all things at once.

This year started with me having to run across the country to rescue a child from an escalating abusive situation, only to have things get worse before we got home for a struggling teenager at home that resulted in a hospital stay, then more bad decisions from the child rescued, the pulling back of the oldest teen and deterioration of what was once a close and loving relationship, —I’ve continued to pray, to advise, to love unconditionally and to attempt to guide—but none of it seems to make a difference. I feel like I’ve failed in my most important duty. 

I don’t know what to do from here. I’ve given up school. I’ve cut back from many of the extra hours I was doing at work. But nothing is getting better. It’s so overwhelming and I’m so powerless. Mentally, I’m lower than I’ve ever been in my life. At work, I can fix the problems put in front of me. It’s a challenge, but one that isn’t impossible. There I feel like I make a difference. At home,  all I can do is watch as everything falls apart because children seem hellbent on learning everything in the most painful ways possible. So many ways things are going wrong, and I have no ideas on how to fix them without completely losing my identity by once again becoming what everyone seems to need from me. 

Life is hard. No matter what I say, what I do, where I am, it doesn’t seem to make a difference. But I keep trying. I’m unsure how to figure this one out…

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Lord Giveth....a DNA story with a happy beginning

A picture from the first day we met in
person, with the heart rock she gifted me
I've been wanting to write about this for a few months now. I've had to give myself some time to wrap my head around it all first. It's not anything I really expected to happen, but maybe in the back of my mind I hoped for it without allowing myself to dwell on it.

Most everyone who's been here knows that I lost my little sister 4 years ago. It's been a struggle since then to be an only child. Lonely. Funny to say that, you wouldn't think it, since I have such a large family with my husband and children. But it's true. I lost the person who grew up with me. Someone I spoke to often, even when we didn't always agree. National sibling day on social media only made it worse,  and holidays were a sore reminder of what was missing.

I knew that there was a possibility of having other siblings out there from my biological father. I didn't know him well. Visitation stopped when I was 4, likely because he was a severe alcoholic and ended up homeless now and then. I met him once when I was 11, while in foster-care, when he came to court to help my mom try to regain custody of me. The visit lasted maybe an hour, and I vaguely remember he mentioned 2 younger sisters. I didn't have any other information though. I did try to track him down once I was an adult, but wasn't successful and he passed away in 2005, which stopped me finding out anymore. I figured that door was closed permanently.

Our father in about 1980
Fast-forward to this past summer, when on a whim, I decided to jump on the DNA testing bandwagon with my husband for Amazon Prime Day and ordered tests for each of us from both Ancestry DNA and from 23andme. Once the tests came, I figured I'd learn some health info on the 23andme and maybe track down some relatives and learn about my heritage. Ancestry.com didn't pan out on tracking anyone who knew my father down, and that was the one I pinned most of my hopes on, since it was the one I'd heard most about.

By the end of August, I finally got my results from 23andme. There, at the top of my DNA relatives, caught my attention and made me catch my breath. Half Sibling. I don't know how long I stared at it before it fully registered. WHAT?! Was this real? Could this be real? A sister. I had a sister. Her name was right there. Dayna. It gave her last name too, and it wasn't a common one.

I don't know how other people would've handled this, but I did the most stalker-y thing I've ever done and looked her up on Facebook. There was only one person who came up with her name, and she lived in the same state as me! I went through pictures, looked for a resemblance, looked at her family members, pictures of her life, and then when that checked out as being a normal, non-psycho looking person, I sent her a message on 23andme.com and I waited. And I waited. And I waited. A few days later, when talking to my aunt about my discovery, and my hurt and embarrassment that I hadn't gotten a response, she encouraged me to send a message on Facebook, saying maybe my newfound sibling hadn't seen my message. So I gathered up my courage, set aside my pride and did exactly that.

"I hope this isn't uncomfortable or weird, but I'm wondering if you're the same Dayna..... who came up on my 23andme DNA relation match. I won't bother you again, but if you're open to a conversation, I'm here. πŸ™‚"

And then I waited some more. I got a response the next day:

Dayna.... accepted your request.
Dayna Kinzel
That's me πŸ™‚
Who are your parents?
Nellie
(Information removed for privacy)
Dayna Kinzel
Omg!!
Seriously!
We are sisters!!!
Are you serious?
Nellie
I am very serious
Dayna Kinzel

Nellie








We spent a lot of time over the next several days messaging, then talking on the phone and then eventually setting up a visit. I was excited, terrified, hopeful, fearful.....We learned we'd grown up in much the same way. Both of us had been in foster-care. Both had difficult childhoods we'd overcome. Both were married with children. The more we learned, the more we wanted to know. And we very quickly came to love one another.

She's better at expressing her emotions, I think. I can do that in writing, but when my emotions are that caught up and strong, I have a harder time, due to fear of being hurt. But when she went with me to a procedure I had in September, the anesthesia took out my inhibitions and opened the floodgates as I came out of it.

I woke up crying and apparently told her how happy I was that I wasn't alone anymore and how much I loved her, as well as how excited I was to be an aunt to her children and how scared I was they wouldn't like me. I did this all while clutching her hand.......Yeah....I put it all out there. Which she said she loved and appreciated because it made her feel more secure that she wasn't the only one invested.

Dayna knew of my existence, though didn't know my name or much else. She had more time getting to know our father, though not a whole lot. She took the test before I did, hoping that after 10 years of searching, hoping and waiting, that something might turn up. She said she lost hope after a while of getting nowhere and finally set it aside. Until the day I messaged her.

First family gathering together for one of my daughter's birthdays
We want to find out more together, and maybe there's a possibility of us finding the other siblings out there. She says she's pretty sure we have 2 brothers and one other sister. But we don't have much info to go off of, and they haven't come up on the DNA tests we took.

We've spent time with our families together, gone to each other's children's birthday's, started a new Christmas tradition in painting ornaments together, and even had Christmas dinner together! I'm overwhelmed with gratitude for this major blessing in my life. I have wonderful friends, and amazing family. But to have a sister, to have that relationship possible again after I thought it was gone forever.....I'm so humbled. I'm so looking forward to building this relationship with her and her family. We've had a great beginning and I'm hopeful of our future!



Tuesday, June 27, 2017

That moment you realize you know nothing at all

This post is a long time coming. It's been one I've been thinking about, but wasn't quite sure how much to share. I'm a pretty private person. Funny, right? I have a blog here, I've shared so much already, but when it comes to the details of my immediate family, I always struggle with what I'm okay with sharing, and what they're okay with me sharing. I've said I want to help people, but really, I'm struggling in finding my own way, so what help can I really be?

Have I mentioned parenting is hard? I have children ranging in age from 19 down to 4. With six kids, you'd think I'd be a pro by now. You'd be wrong. I have no idea what the heck I'm doing here! And the stress! Who knew that I'd lay in bed at night and over-analyze every single detail of every choice I'm making with each kid, and how that may have shaped them to become who they are and influence what they're choosing to do now?

I remember a day--and please don't judge me too harshly if you already know better (I was pretty blissfully ignorant back then)--when I was talking to a friend about raising kids, and how I took the job so seriously because literally who they became was based on how I raised them. Then I went on to say that if my kids grew up making wrong choices which made their lives a mess, that it would be my fault for not teaching them the right things. This ideal on the surface may seem sound to some, as it did to me then, but it really is flawed. I've been learning this the hard way, repeatedly. It's so much more than that.

Kids have their own minds, their own spirits, their own way of making sense of things and their own free will. Sure, we as parents can influence some of that, but we're far from the only influence, especially in this day and age. We don't have control of all they see, hear, think, or believe. We can try to limit certain things, and push others, but really, we have no control over so many other factors in the world. None. At all.

One of my children, who was once so hopeful, so inspired and inspiring, has taken those extra things and viewed the world in such a dark, meaningless way. As a consequence of several choices made, starting a few years ago with small ones and going on from there, he is no longer sure what he should believe, think or feel about anything. I see the struggle in the daily choices, the consequences of the bad ones, the hopelessness and that lost feeling that increases day by day. And no matter what I say, no matter what I do, no matter how I pray, I can't seem to break through and change what's happening. I'm watching my child struggle to even find purpose, meaning and love for life. It's agonizing. I can't fix it.

I've spent more nights than I care to remember, getting up in the middle of the night to make sure he's still breathing. I've cried more tears and begged and bargained with God to the point of being physically ill. I've spent moments almost crippled by fear of saying/doing/or even thinking the wrong things and making it all worse. A month ago, I spent a few hours talking my child down from a building. Literally. What am I doing?!

And without meaning to, or wanting to, I fear what people would think of me if they knew how much I really am struggling here. Many of those who know anything of what's going on, I'm sure think we must've done something wrong. We must've failed our child in some way. God knows I find myself thinking this very thing. I just don't know.

I find myself wondering how much of this hopelessness stems from choices he made, and how much comes from the genetic predisposition he was given for depression? Depression is real. It is ugly. It is terrifying. It lacks in sense and it is obstinate.

Looking from the outside, I see someone smart in all the ways I wished I were. I see talent. I see a beautiful heart. I see so many possibilities. I try to encourage, to guide, to advise. It does nothing. Because all he sees in the mirror is someone worthless. A "dumb ass", to quote him exactly.  Hearing that pierced my being in ways I can't begin to describe.

And I'm fighting against the world here. The world says whether or not you have worth, and our children believe that determination. The world says there's no harm in sharing everything you've got if you want to find out who you really are and if you've got potential, and then it tears you down with those very intimate details you shared. It tells you that the things which bind you with another person are no big deal and can and should be explored with whomever, whenever. All this so it can tear you down when you eventually don't measure up to impossible and changing standards.

And who am I to compete? I'm just me. I thought my voice would count because it's been there longest. I thought my opinion would count more because it's the most informed, and it comes from a good place. But it appears this isn't the case. How do I get through that louder, more prominent voice and say that YOU are the one who determines YOUR own future? YOU decide who YOU are. And God is the only important judge to measure yourself by, and He's always willing to forgive and guide you to make changes.

So what do I do? I wake up everyday, I keep trying to break through that dark cloud, I keep reading, researching and trying to learn more. I keep putting resources out in front of him. But ultimately, it's up to him, and all I can do is pray.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

It's About to Get Real

I know it's been a really long time since I've written. I've been trying to get my life back on track, which, I'll be honest, hasn't been easy. I was really shaken with the death of my sister in July, 2013. I thought I was doing okay, but a year later, when the fog cleared from my mind (that's the best way I can describe it), I realized I'd been on autopilot for that whole time.

When I "woke up" I could see how much I'd been missing in what was happening around me. It's hard for me to admit publicly that I wasn't holding things together as well as I wanted to believe I was. I believed I was broken. I thought I would never again feel okay, but I did my best to fake it because I had a family to take care of, and they needed me to be okay.

I pulled back from the world. I stayed home most of the time because that was easiest. I wanted my family to be home with me too, which really, wasn't fair to them, but they complied quite easily most of the time. They were and are the most important part of my life (outside of God) and I wanted the comfort they gave me. Unfortunately, they weren't getting the full part of me at home either though. Really, when you're on auto-pilot, you miss a lot. I missed a lot.

When that fog cleared, and I suddenly felt more aware, alert to what was happening in the world around me, I was ecstatic! I wasn't broken! I could be happy again! I felt hope again! The pain is still there, and always will be. I love my sister. I miss her. But I can see that I still have so much to be thankful for in my life. And I know my sister is in a better place.



That suddenly clarity wasn't all sunshine, rainbows and unicorns though. I realized how far I'd let things go around me. My preschooler had been coloring on the furniture, the walls, you name it. And while I knew it was happening, and took the things from her when I caught her, I did little to prevent it further and rarely cleaned it up. My once relatively clean and organized home (as clean as it can be with 8 people living here!) was the most cluttered, disorganized, out of sorts as I've ever let anything get (let's just say I once was OCD about the shape of my house, and while having so many kids relaxed me, I was still very much into keeping things in the kind of order that wouldn't make everyone completely insane, but was very comfortable and wouldn't scare away company! Haha!) I won't even get started on the shape of my yard! Ugh!

Besides the shape of my house, more importantly, there was also the emotional well-being of my children I needed to address, and the relationship with my husband. They got use to the new me (foggier, reclusive, less active....well, you get the gist of it).  They didn't want to burden me with their problems. And now that I was awake and wanted to jump back in, that took some adjusting to get back on track. It also took some convincing that I could handle whatever they threw at me! Something they'd never doubted before this tragedy.

It hasn't been easy to jump back into being social either. A lot of times I feel really awkward in a group, but I never regret getting out there. Being a recluse for that long is a hard habit to break though! I'm working on it....

Grief is a strange thing. I'd thought I could get through it in the same ways I've had to before. I'm not a stranger to loss. I've lost a lot, as so many have, really. But the hardest loss was my baby sister. That went beyond any pain I'd felt ever. I'd heard it would take time, but when days, weeks, months passed and I wasn't able to bounce back the way I'd been able to in the past, and eventually I was sure I never would. Oh ye of little faith......

Ultimately it was God who woke me up. I recognize His hand in so many things that made me keep going. He didn't go easy on me, He knew what I needed to get through this and He never abandoned me, even though at times I thought for sure He had. He knew I had to keep moving to move forward, and I was a resistant, stubborn,
pain in the butt at times, I'm sure!

I'm having such life-changing, faith-affirming revelations as a result of the trials of the last two years. One of those is that these are the things that make us who we are. These are the things that draw us closer together. These are the things we learn most from and help us grow.

So while I can't promise to be here daily, I can say I will try to do better. Writing has always be therapeutic for me, and I've always loved sharing what I learn in life, so there are two great reasons to be here!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Should we stay or should we go?

We built our house 9 years ago. It's a modest house in our neighborhood at just over 2600 sq ft, but it's nice (in my humble opinion). We chose the lot, the options and did all the landscaping ourselves so the attachment here is real.

We have just under half an acre for our yard, which has allowed us to put in a nice play set for our children, a covered patio, a chicken coop, fire pit area, an enormous garden and we still have room to grow.

When we moved here, settled in and got to know our neighbors, I decided I could live the rest of my life here, I love it that much. What's the problem? We have a four bedroom house and we're eight people. Could we make it work? Sure we could, but it's crowded sometimes, and even more so when we have houseguests--which we do from time to time.

Right now we have our four girls paired up in two rooms and our oldest son has his own room (the smallest room of them all), and that leaves the baby in our room with us. It's working for now, but ideally, I'd like our little guy to move out of our room....I'm sure you can imagine multiple reasons why!

Right now, there's no space to move the baby to though and this has us contemplating selling our house and buying a bigger one. The very mention of this has differing reactions from our children--one being excited at the prospect of her own room, two freaking out at the idea of not having their best friends just a few doors down, some refusing to change schools no matter what enticement we may find.....They have only agreed to look into the idea with us if we stay close by. Honestly though, we'd like to stay in the area since the schools here are top-notch.
A view of the last half of our back yard. We have nothing behind us but the nature conservancy.
One problem is that our mortgage here is over $100,000 less than the houses in our area with our size requirements for house and yard (hoping for 6 bedrooms, 2+ bathrooms, a basement--which we do not have here--and at least 1/3 acre). We really don't want to go from having an enormous yard with plenty of playroom and a bountiful garden, to having a tiny space with a few little garden boxes!


We have a few garden boxes for our sage, onions, potatoes, garlic and we also moved some of our raspberries this year.

These pictures are from shortly after we planted our garden at the end of May.
This shows the plastic mulch we use to keep the weeds under control. The plants do very well with it.



We've had conflicting opinions from realtors about the value of our home, two of them telling us to list it for significantly less than some competing properties. Funny enough, several of the ones they email me to pique my interest are comparable to what we have now and they cost quite a bit more! Ugh!

We have some debt (yuck, I know) that we want to pay off, and so we don't want to sell with a realtor if it means we can't pay off those debts and have a down payment for another home. But I'm hearing conflicting opinions about how hard it is to sell a house on your own. But if we do this, we can ask for a lower price, pay off what we want, do it on our own timeline......It's all just so overwhelming!

I wish I knew some expert that we could trust in helping us in the right direction, but those seem to be in short supply just now. Pretty much we've just about decided to spend the next year de-cluttering, re-painting, cleaning carpets, etc. and then possibly listing around May of next year. We're not sure if that's the right decision, but we aren't going to rush into something that doesn't feel good.

We shall see, I suppose. Any ideas or experiences here would really be greatly appreciated. :)

Friday, January 17, 2014

What Happened to Honesty in Business?

Maybe I'm naΓ―ve to think that it ever existed, but I'm sure there must've been a time when people didn't try to cheat each other--when they actually did what they were supposed to do and didn't try to hide a mistake when they made one. I've had multiple bad experiences throughout my life with unscrupulous people, but I've still, somehow against all odds, managed to stay optimistic.

I loath dishonesty in people. I try to live by the motto: Treat others the way you want to be treated. I'm not going to say that I'm perfect. Certainly, I'm not. But I work hard to be a good person. I teach my children the same thing. And most days, I guess I think most people are trying just as hard. But this past week, well, I'm losing faith fast!

We took our SUV into Les Schwab a few months ago for flat repair. We waited quite a while, about half an hour longer than they said it'd be, and then when they gave us our keys back, they said it was on the house. We were pleasantly surprised and figured it was because of the long wait. We thanked them and they said to just keep them in mind when we were in the market for new tires (which were getting close. These are the only words exchanged.

This is what the stem looked like with their cover.


This is what we found under that cover. The stem is broken.
A few weeks later we started losing air in the tires again, so Tony went to fill them up with his air compressor. One of the stems was broken on a tire that Les Schwab had repaired, it had been covered by one of their valve covers and we'd never noticed. Tony was unable to put air in it because part of the stem is broken off.. He told me to call them about it, to see if they'd fix it. I should have, but I didn't.

Why didn't I call? Well, I've been working on getting out of bed in the morning. Putting one foot in front of the other. Keeping my children fed. Working hard to not about what I lost. Trying not to cry daily. Tying to keep track of appointments. Trying to focus and concentrate, because for whatever reason, my brain feels all out of whack.

Basically, it's taken everything in me to just do the basics. Everything extra has gone out the window. I'm working on it. Trying to get better. I think I've improved because my daughter Ashlyn said to me last week, "Mom, what happened?" I asked what did she mean. She said, "You look happy again." I was stunned. I didn't know what to say. I felt awful that she'd noticed I wasn't feeling myself before. I thought I'd done better at trying to be normal.

Anyway, I didn't call. I didn't want to deal with it. I thought it wouldn't be a big deal anyway, since we were soon getting new tires. Well, turns out it's a big deal after all, because that stem has a sensor in it and that sensor runs from $60-$80! We just found this out on Saturday. So I girded up my loins (I can say that, right?) and told Tony we needed to go in there and talk to them about this. Thus began my disillusionment with this business.

The technician had put it in the notes that the stem was already broken before we brought it in and that they'd talked to us about this before we left the store. Really? When? No such discussion took place. They "repaired" our flat, gave it to us for "free" and sent us on our way with a smile.
This is what the covers look like on all our other tires.
It's also what our cover looked like before our visit.

This is what the stems look like on all our other tires.

It's their cap on the stem. My husband had filled it before we even went in there, so we KNOW it wasn't broken then and that it had been our valve cap on there beforehand. A few weeks later, boom! It's broken underneath their cap, instead of the one that is identical to all our other caps on our other 3 tires (I wonder what they did with our cap? I'm guessing they didn't put it back on because it wouldn't fit on after he broke it....). When we showed the manager our stem, he said he couldn't believe they would let us out of the shop like that--with a broken stem and the cap shoved on there like that. He said he would talk to his tech and get back to us on Monday.

Well, Monday came and went. Tuesday came and went. Wednes....well, you get my point. So I called them today and asked what the decision was going to be. He said his tech insists it was already broken or that it was more severely broken after we left the shop over the last few months. He said that if it had happened at the shop, they wouldn't have let us leave like that. Well, they did! The cap should prove it, if nothing else. It's their cap!

Our ownership in this mess is that should have checked the work before we left the premises. Also, we should've brought it to their attention when we caught it. I can't keep letting my emotions get in the way of my responsibilities. I'll admit those mistakes. Had they said that the length of time was the reason for not replacing it, I'd have had to accept that. But this was an outright lie!

I told the manager that I understood that he didn't know us personally, and he wasn't there when this all occurred, so he has no reason to trust us. But I told him, "I know that we don't lie. I know that we're honest people. And I KNOW 100% that when we brought our car to you, our stem wasn't broken." He offered to give us the part at cost. I have to accept that. It's better than nothing. But it still gets to me. I'm not upset at the manager really. But that technician....well, that's another story. I hope he learns the value of honesty. I won't hold my breath.

I guess the best we can get out of this is that we know to not take our business there anymore.....

Thursday, December 5, 2013

I think I just may be a scrooge

My 9 year old daughter came home from school this week and asked me if we could do "Elf on the shelf." Had she asked me this last year at this time, I'd have been clueless to what she was talking about! But in this day and age of the internet and Facebook, I've come to find out what this game is. Apparently parents buy a toy elf and move him around to let their children know that he is watching them before Christmas for Santa Claus (at least that's how I understand it, so please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong).

Some parents make the game more simple in having this elf move from one shelf to another, or even from room to room. Some parents get more elaborate and have their elves get into mischief (i.e. making messes around the house that the elf supposedly did while everyone was sleeping). I, for one, have enough messes to clean up without getting into anything like that! Hah!

I looked my daughter straight in the eyes and said, "No, I'm never doing that. Sorry." I'm sure all her childhood dreams were subsequently crushed and she'll need years of therapy to make up for this deprivation. I did go on to tell her that while I think it's a fun game for some families to play, with six children, and being the primary one responsible for researching and grabbing all the good deals for Christmas online (which takes quite a bit of research!), I just don't have the time or the desire to start this game.

I should probably note that my 9 year old doesn't believe in Santa anymore. Before you think I'm terrible, I'll say that while I love the idea of Santa Claus and we do play along with the fantasy with our children when they're young, we also have the "Honesy when asked" policy. So when she came to us last year and said she wasn't sure she believed anymore, I asked her if she was sure she wanted to believe anything other than what she knew about Santa being real. She said she really wanted to know, so my husband and I told her about the history of St. Nicholas and how the idea of him lives on in Santa Claus. She thought this was great!

Anyway, this whole thing got me thinking this year. I think in some ways some people might think I've become a bit of a miser when it comes to Christmas. I just hate what it's becoming. I remember when I was little and we had next to nothing sometimes, that it didn't really matter what I got, I just remember the time spent with those I love. Now it's all about who can get the best gadgets and gizmoes. It's all about taking away yet another holiday from workers and opening businesses on Thanksgiving so people can fight, push and shove on a day we profess to be thankful for what we already have (this is a favored holiday of mine) and it just goes on from there.

Early in my adulthood, I did try Black Friday at Walmart a few times, but the last time I did people were crashing their carts repeatedly into my heals, pushing me out of the way to get to something first and one man was even deteremined that he wanted to get into a fist fight with my husband because we walked around him while he was looking at movies in the aisle! We didn't butt in a line, we didn't shove him, we just pushed our cart quickly around him so as not to block his view for long so we could make it to the other side of the store and the bathroom for our toddler at the time. Yeah! That's what Christmas is all about! And from the news articles and YouTube videos I've seen, this seems to be the accepted norm.

After those experiences, I tried waiting to shop until the week of Christmas. Then I started doing all of our shopping online several years ago, so as to minimize the amount of time we have to spend out in the crazy stores. That's just not my thing! I really don't care about this stuff. You can't take it with you and most of it's forgotten in a month anyway. That's not to say that I don't enjoy finding gifts for my children that I think they would genuinely enjoy. I do. But in moderation, so they appreciate it when they get it.

I also don't do much by way of decorating. I hate heights. I get severe vertigo so you will never catch me attempting to hang the lights on the house. My husband doesn't mind roofs so much (he's used to it in his profession), but he's not that driven to go out there in the freezing cold temperatures to get the lights on the often slippery roof, only to have to do it again to take them all down again in a month. Not only that, but we noticed the jump in our utilities when we had all the lights up and decided it wasn't that big of a deal and we could just do the stockings, tree, wreaths, nic nacs and perhaps the ground decorations outside.

Saying all this out in the open here makes me think I probably sound like a grump. I don't really think I am. But I am practical. We have a very small Christmas budget to stretch out amongst our children here (my husband and I don't even do gifts for each other so as to maximize what we can do for our children) and if I can save money by not doing some of these other things, I will.

We do like to watch Christmas movies starting on Thanksgiving. It's a family thing and we do it several nights a week up to Christmas day with all of our children. We make goodies for our neighbors (though we missed last year because I was so sick with my pregnancy).

So if refusing to do this one activity makes me a scrooge, because I know I'm not as much fun as some of these Supermoms out there, then so be it. That's just who I am. :)


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Working to Move on

My main purpose of starting this blog was to help people, and yes, to journal my family's journey as we go along. I still want to do this, and I hope that sharing what's been going on in my life now has been okay. This was a shock to me (understatement!) and writing is how I vent.

Anyway, I will always love my little sister and I'll miss her until the day we meet again. I don't want to drag anyone down with that. I just wanted to share her with you. She was an amazing person.

On a different note, we've had some other things going on during all of this. We've taken advantage of our Pass of all Passes a week ago for the first time this summer and I have some concerns about how it's going. It's our third year with the pass and I'm not sure I like it as much as we used to.

I'm thinking they've oversold them. To say the venues are crowded doesn't begin to paint an accurate picture. We're going to try going on a weeknight and see if that's any better. Also, a heads up on the Sandy Seven Peaks Fun Center location: it's for bowling only, and they really should change the name to reflect that. Not only that, but they charge $3.50 shoe rental, so it's not quite free with your pass (which is only valid Mon-Thurs).

There's some other things I wanted to share, but am gathering more info before I do. So hopefully I won't fall off the horse again and will be better about updating here. The kids go back to school in less than two weeks and I can't decide if that's going to give me more or less time! :)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Let's be honest, I'm not Okay

I've been getting that question a lot: Are you okay? How are you feeling? Or some other variation. I understand the mentality behind it. And I myself am guilty of asking questions like that after someone has gone through a tragedy of some kind. I know what people want to hear when they ask it, and I try to give them that answer.

Last night, after helping to go through my sisters things, to help her husband clear out their motel room, I was asked that question. I tried to give the stock answer and it came out on a sob. That's because it was a lie. I'm not okay.

I just lost my baby sister. It wasn't something I saw coming. It wasn't something I was even remotely prepared for. I'd worried for her, sure. I couldn't help that. But I didn't expect to wake up in the morning and find two missed calls from her husband that came at 2 am, and have things spiral from there.

We were going to take the kids to Seven Peaks, to finally use those passes we bought months ago for the first time. We got up early and was I was giving instructions to my kids when I noticed that the phone by my teenager's bed said it had voicemail. I thought that was strange, since I knew I had checked it before going to bed. I was surprised to see the time stamps on the Caller ID. Who would call at that time?

The message was from my sister's husband saying it was important to call him back as soon as possible. Twenty minutes later he'd left another message saying the same thing. That was odd and unlike him. I wondered if my sister was in the hospital. She'd been having terrible pain, especially in her back, and had just been diagnosed with a degenerative condition. I tried to call him back, but got no answer. So I tried her number, no response. I sent her a facebook message. Nothing. I called my mother, also no answer. So I called my Grandma. She said she'd also missed two calls just after 3 am.

It left me feeling unsettled, and I tried again to call her husband, but still got no answer. After talking about it with my husband, we decided to continue with our plans, but to keep trying to reach someone to find out what was going on. So we made breakfast, joked with the kids during meal time, cleaned up and then started to get everyone dressed. Between this time, I continued to try to reach someone to find out why we got those 2 am calls.

We were nearly ready to go, when one of my daughters brought me the phone and said I'd missed a call from my sister's husband. So I finished pulling my hair back and dialed his number. I don't even remember what his first words were. All I remember is that somewhere in there were the words, "Mel passed away last night."

I doubled over. No way!!!! I'd heard wrong. What?! No! No! No! No! And since that moment, I have not been okay. I keep seeing flashes of her. Remembering the good times. Agonizing over the bad ones. Thinking of how wrong this is--how unfair.

And then I still have to function. I have a husband and six children. My children need me. There are things that they need done for them. Band stuff for my son. Soccer stuff for one of my daughters. Appointments. Paperwork. Registration stuff....But I'm barely able to form a thought that doesn't have to do with my sister and what I have to do to prepare for her funeral--how to get through this day, the next day, this week....

Much needs to be done. Of my family, I'm the one most capable of doing this. Melanie's husband has the full support of his family and they're very willing to do everything--but this was MY sister. I can't let them take all the responsibility. She was MY sister--my only sister. I have to be there for her. I have to.

On top of this, I worry. What will this do to my grandma, who is already in very poor health? But most of all, what will this do to my mom? To lose her child--her baby. As it is, my mother's life is difficult, to say the least. But this...This is beyond difficult. There are no words strong enough to describe it. Right now though, she's handling it. She's surrounding herself with my sister's things, and trying to be strong for me, as I am for her.

So, to sum it up: No, I'm not okay right now. But I have my family with me, some very good friends and I have my Heavenly Father, and with them I will get through this and one day I will be okay again. I'm not sure how long it will take, or what steps will get me there, but second by second, I'll get there.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

I Lost My Baby Sister Today

Even typing it brings the tears back. I can't believe this is happening. Is this real? I wish I could wrap my arms around her and talk to her in a less hurried tone than that last time I talked. I wish I had more patience and understanding for how she was so forgiving and loving to a fault. I hated to see others take advantage of her generous nature.

If I could talk to my little sister again, I would say:

Melanie Sue, you were and are such a beautiful spirit. I wish you had an easier life. It certainly feels like you had more than your share of knocks. Growing up, it was my responsibility as a big sister to protect you. We didn't always see eye-to-eye, and when we fought, it was sometimes drop-down-drag-out. But we knew we were there for each other. Never did we let anyone else hurt each other. We were the first to come and fight for one another.

I remember a time, when we were little and had a fight over something stupid. Hours later you fell asleep and I watched you. I remember wanting to tell you I was sorry for being so angry with you, and I picked up your hand. It struck me how small it was and I felt such shame for being upset at all with you. I felt that protective instinct kick in and I stroked your little hand and whispered that I loved you.

Adulthood brought different challenges for us. Still we managed to keep in touch and I always wished I could do something to make your life better. I wanted to fix things for you. I never was able to. You were an adult and made your own decisions. Not to say you were always wrong. You have always been so generous and I worried about people taking advantage of that. I couldn't stop being the protective big sister, but know that I have always loved you and admired your heart.

I don't know how I'm going to get past this. I'm angry. It's not fair. I see all these people who still have their families and throw them away. They cut them off for stupid reasons and won't talk to them or give them the time of day. You were my only sister and now I've lost you. I still want you to be a part of my life, and while I do believe you still will be on another level, it won't be the same. I miss you already, Melanie.

I know you're with Daddy now. I'm sure he was the first to greet you when you crossed to the other side, along with Grandma and Grandpa. Give them my love, sweet Melanie, and save some for yourself. You have no idea how much I'm going to miss you. I love you so very much.

I'm trying to take comfort in knowing that this means you're no longer in pain and that you are finally at peace. I know I will see you again, I only wish that day could be sooner.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Little Late, but: Welcome our Newest Addition!

Baby Nathaniel, born May 11, 2013
One day I'm blogging about the fun pregnancy complications I had going on (BTW, the heart palpitations and extreme exhaustion were caused by anemia--Yuck!), and then nothing for months! Shame on me! I do have an excuse though--of course, don't we all! I was busy feeling sorry for myself over the following months because I was on bedrest with contractions 24/7 and just wasn't feeling at all inspired or helpful. :( I'd say maybe I'll do better next time, but this was our last time. Haha!

We love our new little baby boy though and are so thankful that he arrived healthy and strong at 36 weeks and 6 days. We had some prodromal labor--no fun, I'm telling you! So it made it hard to tell when I was really supposed to go in. I nearly didn't go in the evening of May 10th, but my hubby thought it was necessary and nudged me out the door. Turns out, that was a good thing! Not too long after midnight, we were blessed with our second son. He was seven pounds, even.

We didn't even know we were missing him until he got here. He's being loved and covered in kisses by his big sisters and even his big brother (who is nearly 16 years older) can be found holding him and talking to him. He's just melted all of our hearts.  We're all so happy to have him. And it goes without saying that I'll be juggling even more!



Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Life's Little Surprises

I know it's been a few months. I'd planned on being better about blogging, but something unexpected happened in September that threw us all off balance for a bit--and it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future! Hahaha!

What is this unplanned occurrence that has gotten in the way of my blogging patterns and then some? Well, we found out that we're expecting another baby! This was a surprise, for sure, as we had thought our family was feeling pretty complete with the arrival of our youngest two and a half years ago. But it seems we were wrong, and I'm sure this baby will be just as loved.

Unfortunately, it's hard to feel the drive to write when I suffer from morning-noon-and-night-sickness. So I spent the first few months with my head hovering over the toilet and then added another uncomfortable symptom about a month ago. My heart's been having a few issues. Nothing all that scary, as of now. I'm not having a heart-attack or anything, but it does race anytime I get up to move across the room. Sometimes talking a lot can put me out of breath too. But I'm not having any pain. It's just uncomfortable. I get a lot of headaches, a bit light-headed and exhausted--sounds like fun, right?

You can imagine how hard it is for me to try to keep up with my five kids (six if you count the hubby--but don't tell him I said that!), and let's not talk about the house! In fact, the truth is, I haven't been able to keep up. The best I've been able to do is VERY basic picking up, supervising little ones from a sitting position and cooking and preparing meals from a stool in the kitchen. I've felt pretty useless and it's taken a toll on my self-confidence at times.

I do have to say though, that my family, friends and neighbors have been wonderful. My husband has stepped in where he can after work (especially in helping me keep up on laundry) and my children have worked to be more helpful around the house and taken on more than their usual chores. And when some of our friends and neighbors heard about our troubles, they've come in with food, gifts and other helps for our family that have so humbled me, I can hardly think about it without crying.

We aren't too worried about my symptoms right now, since my doctor thinks it's stemming from anemia (apparently not all that uncommon in pregnancy). I've just started taking extra doses of Iron for the next little while and hopefully will be feeling more normal in the next few weeks. If not, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

So while life isn't easy at the moment (who'd have thought it, with all the sitting I've had to do lately?) I'm still very aware of the blessings in our lives. I'm thankful for all the Lord has blessed us with and feel so much love for the people He's brought to our lives.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Health Insurance--A Necessary Evil?

Well, I believe I mentioned last week about how much our health insurance went up. This, of course happened at the same time as several other trials (can stuff just stop breaking? Nah! That'd mean you wouldn't need to buy new stuff and companies can't have that hurting their bottom lines!).

Anyway, I'll admit we seriously considered just going without health insurance period. I know some people are paying more than we are, but our share (with my hubby's employer paying half) is a little over $606 a month. The prescription benefits are crappy, our individual deductible is $1,000, the family deductible is $3,000 and honestly we just try not to use it unless it's for preventative because co-pays have gone up to $30 for a regular doctor and $50 for specialists. Our daughter's dislocated elbow that took 3 seconds to fix in the ER cost us $250. Yeah....not pretty.

We did try to qualify for UPP, but they've made it so difficult. Even though we met all the main criteria, we didn't qualify simply because we've already had the employer's insurance, so even if it was a new enrollment period and they had moved to a new plan (at a much higher rate) they said we'd have to not be on the employer's insurance before new enrollment starts and apply again during the next enrollment, period. Of all the stupid stipulations I've heard! Seriously?

But when it came down to it, we just couldn't make the jump to no insurance. Still, we can't afford to keep our current insurance. So we did some research down different avenues and ultimately decided to go out on our own with a high deductible plan with a Health Savings Account. We found a good agent who's helped us figure out the pros and cons of each plan and guided us in the right direction.

Our kids will be going on CHIP (something we'd never have even considered before the economy tanked). It'll take 90 days before they can go on it after our insurance is cancelled, which does make us a little nervous. We prefer the IHC facilities though and they have a financial assistance program for those who need it, so if an emergency occurs, we'll have to take advantage of that.

I haven't heard good things about State dental insurance, so we'll be getting our own plan for that too, for the whole family. Overall, this route is going to save us almost $400/month. That's nothing to sneeze at, for sure. We'll be able to find a use for that money easily!

I'll be honest that it's a little embarrassing to share some of these hardships with everyone here. There's always the chance that we'll be judged and found lacking. Oh well. I can't let my pride stop me from helping others out there who might need this information for their own families. We never asked for these things to happen. Five years ago we were living well and doing fine financially. Things changed--for a lot of people. We just have to make the best of it and survive how we can, I guess.

I am thankful though that my husband has been able to keep his job, even if his hours have significantly decreased. I know that there are those who have flat-out lost their jobs and their homes. We've managed, through the grace of God, to retain both. It's a miracle that with Bank of America's track record at the time of only 3% of people applying for the the government loan modifications receiving them, that we got a successful modification (not that I didn't fight tooth and nail for it~ Hah!).

So this will be a new experience for us. We prayed a lot before deciding on this course and I feel like we're making the right decision. Time will tell where it will go.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

There's always something to be thankful for.....right?

I have this plaque in my kitchen that I bought to remind myself that despite the trials in my life, I always have something for which I can be thankful. We've had a lot of trials in the last month that have had me repeating that mantra over and over again. Some days I sound more convincing than others.

I know everyone has their own difficulties going on in their lives, and that I'm certainly not being picked on (even though I might claim I feel that way on those truly awful days. Haha!) I decided I needed to call myself to task about this when I found myself talking to a very good friend about why I've been so anti-social lately. I told her I didn't want to make anyone else feel miserable by being around me during this very trying time. I'd rather just stay home, be with my family and stick my nose in a book that I know ends with a happily ever after! She had some encouraging things to say, but I was being bull-headed and didn't listen the way I should've. Thinking back over it though, I realized I need to pay more attention to those blessings in my life.

So despite the fact that our tank went out on our filtration system, and the sprayer is leaking on our drip line in the garden (again) and the recirculating pump broke on our water lines,  my CPU went out on my laptop, our Health insurance went up nearly $100 a month (while the coverage went down) and our AC went out during the peak temperatures of summer--I need to remind myself how fortunate we are.

For one, I'm married to a plumber, so we only have to pay for parts on those plumbing issues. Two, we have wonderful friends who have helped us with our AC issues multiple times and only charged us for parts and donated their time. That's no small thing. Three, I have a home to live in. Four, I have a beautiful family. Having come from a....dysfunctional background, I know this is among the best of my blessings. Without my family I would be lost. And then, I have a Heavenly Father who loves me. Yes, I know He loves me. It might be something I struggle to remember when I'm in the middle of a rather nasty trial, but ultimately, I know it's true.

There are many other blessings I haven't mentioned here, but I know they exist. I just need to put them at the forefront of my mind and not let myself be trampled down during these trials that I know are meant to strengthen me. And maybe, some day, I'll be strong enough that I won't need any more trials! Yeah, yeah, I won't hold my breath! ;)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Summer, Where Did You Go?

I can't believe how fast this summer has gone by! My kids start back in school in just over a week and I'm sure I'm among the minority when I say, "I'm NOT ready!"

It doesn't really feel like we even had a break with all the different activities we had going on. I can't even remember June, it's such a blur. We camped a lot in July, took the kids to the water park to use our Pass of All Passes when we got the chance, went to several parades since my son is in marching band, and so on. And now, here we are, nearly fall and I'm thinking I must be getting old because time is just flying by way too fast!

I remember when I was a kid and everything took FOREVER, especially when my mom would say, "just a minute." Haha! Back then I thought Christmas took ages to come back around again, that it was taking way too long for me to become a grown up (still not sure I'm there mentally) and that day at school felt like it lasted a lifetime. 

And now, there's never enough time in the day! Christmas decorations are already out at Sam's Club (I noticed this yesterday. Really?!) and my babies aren't babies anymore! How did that happen? My oldest is turning fifteen in a month! My oldest girl is starting junior high, and that baby I brought home from the hospital is 2 and into everything! Yikes! Did I just age myself more? ;)

Anyway, the summer is coming to a close and I'm wishing we had more time to relax before jumping back to the daily grind of homework, games, parades, competitions, practices, etc. I think we tend to fill our days up with so much stuff, that it's nice to be able to wake up and say, "Hmmmm, I don't have to go anywhere today!" 

Most of my friends on facebook are counting down the days til their kids are back in school and it makes me wonder if I'm just not as good at juggling all this stuff as they are. What about you? How do you feel about the impending school year? Got any tips on how to make it less stressful?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

What is Success? My Definition Keeps Changing....

What would you define as success? Is it following your dreams? Sticking to your plan? Accepting the changes life brings you whole-heartedly and changing your life map to make the most of what you have? I've found my definition has changed over the years.

Life is certainly a road that isn't without its bumps, forks in the road and sudden turns you didn't see coming. It certainly complicates things when you're not sure where your focus should lie. Much of the last 15 years my attention has been split between raising my family (whom I'm so blessed to have!) and writing. Most of the time (let's say 99%), family wins. It wasn't always that way, but it was a choice I made several years ago when I decided what was most important to me right now. I always tell myself that writing can come later. I'm just not a fun person when I get interrupted while deeply engrossed in creating my characters. Let's just leave it at that. Hah!

So I tell myself that when my youngest is in school, I'll have all the time I need to finish that book I started too long ago. Most days I'm okay with that. But I try to make up for it by coming here, or to HubPages, and doing articles. It's not as engrossing, and I can be interrupted without turning into a troll (that may be a little extreme, but you get the picture).

To scratch the itch I have of getting lost in a world of fiction, I lose myself in others' creations when I can (whether that be a TV show, movie or book). It's funny that I prefer to write real life things, but my reading preference is Fantasy. Maybe it's because I write what I know (and to exorcise a few demons from the past), so I prefer to be entertained by something less real....Anyway.....

Then there are days like today. I have this book (don't most of us wannabe writers?) I've been working on it for years. Okay, I'll be honest, the last few years I haven't touched it--only thought about it in frustration now and then. I have most of it plotted out in my mind. I know how I want most of it to go, but it just wasn't working for me. I couldn't figure it out. The idea came to me in a dream, but the resolution just wouldn't come that easily. I would sit in front of the computer and go back over it and over it. Some things were obvious and were cut the more experience I got (gotta love writing groups!). But the main character just didn't feel right to me. Then the demands of life and family became stronger and I just set it aside, not wanting to give up, but realizing I just couldn't do it right now.

This morning, after a late night up, I woke up bright and early this morning. I was trying to figure out why I wasn't still lost in the land of dreams when I realized I was thinking about my book. I started thinking of the main character and why she wasn't working and it came to me. Just like that. Sudden inspriration flooded my mind and I wanted to rush downstairs and start making changes that would help me run with this story. Then it hit me, my daughter has piano this morning, my other daughter has soccer right after lunch, my husband and son are out camping--and that leaves me in charge of the running.......You can see my dilema.

I'll just have to take some notes, I suppose. The day will come when I'll miss these days with my children. I know that. There are times I feel it already as the older ones become more independent, and I see them preparing to become the adults they'll soon be.

Until then, I'll try not to feel like I'm failing to use my talent; my gift. There are days when I get to dust it off and help the kids with a fiction project for English. I just have to remember during those times that it's their story, not mine!  ;)

I guess my point is, I've had to change my definition for success. I haven't yet accomplished all I set out to do. But then I hadn't ever dared to hope I'd have all that I have now. I'm still young...ish--it's never too late to do those things I initially set out to do. But until then, I can't discount all I've done up to now. My life is full and so is my heart.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Blah Days

microsoft office clip art
I'm more than ready for spring time. I find that when the sky is overcast, the weather is cold and I hide indoors from the gloom that my mood is just.....BLAH! It's those days I feel moody, contrary and don't seem to accomplish even half of my to-do list. Sometimes playing upbeat tunes on the radio works wonders, but I haven't attempted that lately because my one year old has decided that it's fun to turn the stereo off every time I turn it on. If only I could find an out of reach place to move it! Haha!

Anyway, I think once I can get outside and do some yard work in the sunshine, I'll feel ever so much better! I can't wait to start working in my garden again. We're going to attempt some new things this year, so I'm excited to see how it will all turn out.

Also, hubby is wanting to get more chicks. Now that it's so cold outside, and they've started molting (losing feathers before regrowing new ones), we aren't getting near as many eggs. In the summer time we had so many, we were selling quite a few. Now there are some days where we get two or three, or even none. We'll see though, I'm not sure about raising more chicks right now, since I've got my hands extra full at the moment with life, kids and Norwex.

I did have one hiccup come up in that I accidently scheduled a party during my son's band concert. I can't believe I did that! I've been so good about writing things down, but somehow I missed that one! Thankfully I've got someone to tape it for me so I can watch it later. I don't want to miss that.

Anyway, I know I've got lots to be thankful for, even on the "blah" days. I wouldn't trade the blessings in my life for anything!