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Friday, December 13, 2013

Adoption Day

Friday the 13th, what a perfect date for what we face today.  The date brings a smile & a shiver. Our family has worked and waited many long months for this day; our Adoption Day. Today is the day a perfect stranger, a judge in Florida, will decide if my spouse can legally adopt the girls. It’s a very rare occurrence in our state, there are a small handful of same sex parents in Oklahoma who have pursued and been granted a 2nd Parent Adoption.

2nd Parent Adoption was designed for a step-parent to legally adopt their spouse’s child. It is legal in about ½ of the states, but mostly for heterosexual couples and even then, you have to be a legal resident of that state. It is happening for us because I heard about a county in Florida, where a loophole exists, allowing out of state residents to hire an attorney to act on their behalf to pursue the adoption. It was all very complicated and very expensive, BUT very legal. So far, in 2013, our attorney has successfully handled over 200 such adoptions.  
What this adoption allows us:
-If I died, there would be no question, no worries about where the girls would go. No one could fight to take them. Without this adoption, they would be wards of the state until guardianship could be appointed.
-They can now be on my spouse’s health insurance. She has worked 24 years for the same company, (only using 1 sick day in all those years) yet they’ve denied allowing me or the girls on her health insurance repeatedly.
-She can take them to the hospital, by herself, if needed. She can make decisions for them in medical emergencies and not fear being separated from them (this happens often to same sex parents).
-The girls will be legally linked to all of my spouse’s family as if they were blood relatives. This is especially important regarding inheritance & taxes.
Once the adoption is final, she & I will be equal parents with equal rights and responsibilities like any other set of parents who are listed on their child’s birth certificate. The birth certificate is another round of this fight. Thankfully, the attorney is handling this and she expects we will have a Birth Certificate, for each daughter, re-issued with BOTH our names on it very soon. (Right now, it’s just me, making me look like a single mother.) Our attorney is only aware of one other same sex couple who have managed to get Oklahoma to re-issue a birth certificates listing both parents, lucky for us, she was their attorney also!
Baba holding her "commemorative" birth certificates that the sweet nurses at the hospital created for us.
So why do I feel such a contradiction of emotions today? Today is the culmination of a lot of work, a lot of waiting and worry. It will finally be over. Why am I not thrilled on our Adoption Day? Maybe because this should never have had to happen.  Why does my spouse, whom I legally married before our children were even a dream, have to adopt our children? My spouse who was there through every step of planning and conceiving her daughters, now has to respectfully request a stranger grant her these rights to her own children?
Isn’t this wonderful?! Adoption! It is now legal for us, people “like us” to be equal legal parents of our own children?! The children we conceived together and have cared for since birth, for 13 months. Oh, we are so, so lucky!! Pardon me, if I don’t feel enthusiasm over the situation.
We had to pay someone to come into our home, inspect every room, every cabinet, (checking for the safety and well-being of our children).  We had to present her with years of our financial information to prove we could afford to take care of our children (tax returns, bank statements, titles to vehicles). Give her copies of my college transcripts, letters from friends and family “recommending” us as parents. Write autobiographies, family biographies describing relationships with our parents, siblings etc. Then there was the interview. We answered all her invasive questions; our 6 year old answered all her questions (then we had to answer all his questions about her questions). Pages of answers. It was such a numbing experience, telling a stranger every detail of your life.  Have your life laid out to be examined, so she could then put it all a 40+ page report to the judge.  All to determine if you were “fit” to parent your own children. Oh, and that part of the process alone cost us nearly $1,000. That was a tough check to write.

 
 
As you can see by these photos, we definitely needed to be screened and investigated extensively to prove we are "fit" to be the legal parents of our children.
I am proud that we are helping pave the way for other same sex parents in our state. I feel the weight as we’ve pushed these squeaky wheels into motion. I’m excited that this is finally almost over.  I’m also angry about it. In a time when having two loving parents seems to not be the norm, why did we have to fight so hard? I have a spouse who has wanted to be recognized as their legal parent from the beginning. She’s longed to pay those health insurance premiums each month.  Yet, we had to jump through ridiculous hoops to do it.
I guess I’m writing all this to say I’m just such a pissed off, happy mess today! Some families call this date every year their “Familiversary”, the day their family became legal. We just don’t feel right celebrating it that way. We don’t want smiley pictures with the judge beaming at our babies. We will go to an office today, be sworn in and be granted equal legal rights to our children.  There will be no balloons or cake or photo announcements sent. We shouldn’t have had to go through all this. We shouldn’t feel lucky to have rights to our own children. It’s messed up. It’s a relief a HUGE relief and that is it.
*I don’t mean to take away from families who do have big or even little celebrations over their 2nd parent adoption. It’s just not how I feel about the experience with my family. My feelings, my blog. Congrats to those who do celebrate, to each their own.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Last Letter I Wrote by Hand

Writing Prompt this week: The Last Letter I Wrote by Hand…

Each week, on Wednesday, the Hersband & I write letters to each other. She calls them “Love Reports”. They are basically a recap of the week’s events, highlights, lowlights & occasional sweet nothings.

I got the idea from a book I read 3 years ago. It wasn’t a great book, but gave us a great idea, in it an older couple had passed away and their children found boxes of letters their parents had exchanged over decades. We didn’t start our letters so that our children might find them. For us the letters are more an effort at better communication & memory keeping.
The letters have served their purpose so far. It has greatly improved our communication and serves as a timeline of events big & small. Little memories often forgotten are remembered with a quick read and smile. The big memories are always there, but when I re-read one of the letters, it can take my breath away.

October 12, 2011- “We moved all that lumber by the house and found 27 scorpions, 4 frogs, 2 salamanders and a horny toad! You kept squealing and jumping around. Took us forever to move that lumber, but now the yard will look good for our pumpkin party!”

December 14, 2011 – “We got married! You are officially my beautiful, sexy wife. God, I love saying that. Thank you My Love for marrying me. I am a very happy Hersband. Provincetown was unbelievable. I have never been to a place like that. We were able to walk the streets holding hands. It was so freeing.”

February 6, 2012 – “Couple of weeks ago we tried for a baby, no go. So you are taking pills to make your eggs come to life or something…and we also got a shot that I’m supposed to give you after we go to the doctor. I really hope that you can still be happy with me even if we can’t have a baby.”

April 11, 2012 – “We went to the doctor today. We had to wait one hour, but it was worth the wait to see what is growing in your body. Not only is there one healthy baby, but there are TWO! The heartbeats are strong. You couldn’t stop crying, you are so happy! Oh man, this is real…I think a list is in order so hopefully we won’t be overwhelmed. This is something. I love you and I thank you for your love. I’m so glad you are my wife and my babies’ Momma.”

January 9, 2013 – “I know you are tired. I am tired. Being a parent is exhausting. We need to learn to talk better to each other though when we are tired. I think we need a schedule too, for the babies for feeding them and who will get up and all that. This is hard.”

March 13, 2013 – “Your dad died today and I am just so sorry. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what I’d do without my dad. I know ya’ll had a different relationship than me and my dad. It’s not the same. I’m sorry. I’m really glad we took the girls to meet him a few weeks ago.”

September 18, 2013 – “Our first overnight trip away from the babies! Pops & Nana kept the girls and we went to see Wicked and to the State Fair! It was awesome. We spent a lot of money at the fair. It was fun, but maybe we need to look at that budget thing you did again this week. I know you said we are fine. I trust you. We did buy a lot of Christmas presents. We need to do this more often. Not the spending but the overnights!”

Our goal is to write every Wednesday, but I have to admit, this past year has been rather busy and we are lucky to write every other Wednesday. Sometimes it’s a post-it note, or even a scrap of paper, but sometimes a long, beautiful, rambling letter. We state our complaints, compliments, frustrations and fears to each other in those letters.

We keep them in a big wooden box that D made for me one Christmas. The box is almost full already and I feel we’ve only just begun! 3 years of Love Reports down and a lifetime to go. She better get to making more boxes! I’ll remind her in the next letter.

To see what my blogging friends wrote in response to this writing prompt go here.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I started making my own laundry detergent when we decided to try cloth diapering the girls. Cloth diapers require "special" (read "expensive"),  detergent. I started seeing where other parents were just making their own. So, I gave it a try and turns out, it's great detergent for ALL our clothes and can be made at a fraction of the price I was paying for name brand detergent (even after coupons)!

Here is the recipe I found & love on How Does She:
  • 1 (4 lb 12 oz) Box of Borax- Found in the detergent aisle
  • 1 (3 lb 7 oz) Box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda- Found in the detergent aisle
  • 1 (3 lb) Container of OxyClean- Found in the detergent aisle
  • 2 (14.1 oz) Bars of Zote Soap- Found in the detergent aisle (You can also use Fels Naptha)
  • 1 (4 lb) Box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda- Found in the cooking aisle

  •  
     
    Some people add:
  • 4 Bottles of Scentsy Washer Whiffs- found online or through a Scentsy Representative

  • OR
  • 2 Bottles of Purex Crystals Fabric Enhancer- Found in the detergent aisle

  •  
    *I do NOT add these. My preference is to have zero fragrances in our detergent. Fragrance = Chemicals in my opinion. We are not totally chemical free in our household, but I figure where the babies are concerned, the less, the better!
     
    1. Open all  powders and pour into a large tub. You can see my tub in the background. Alternating layers of the powders is the easiest way to mix. Then stir with a big wooden spoon.
     
    2. Use a cheese grater or food processor to grate the bars of laundry soap. Once grated set outside in the sun for a day to let it dry out. This helps it to not clump once mixed in with the powders. It also helps with dissolving in the washer.
     
    This is a huge mixing bowl although it doesn't seem like it in the picture! I have used Fels Naptha in the past and like it, but it was not in stock this week, so I'm giving Zote a try. Not sure the Hersband is going to appreciate the pink, but I think it's pretty!
     
    So this is how much you have once all mixed. I keep1/3 without the grated soap because cloth diapers can't be washed with soap. (long, boring explaination...it does end in stripping...but not the kind you were wishing for!)
     
     
    We use 2-3 tablespoons per load in our front loading HE washer. I marked a spot on the scoop to help. I throw the clothes in, then toss the detergent right on top of the clothes and whaa-laa! Cheap, great, homemade laundry detergent cleaned clothes!
    So you are probably wondering:
    How cheap? About $20-$25 (depending on coupons)
    How many loads will this amount wash? Not sure on the exact number of loads but our last batch lasted us right at 10 months for our family of 5. Remember, you are only using about 2 tablespoons.
    How clean? Well, it cleans all our clothes, everyday, nice work & play clothes just as well as it cleans the girls' poopy diapers & Hersband's work clothes with rubber/carbon black on them from her manufacturing job.  

    Thursday, October 10, 2013

    Back to the Future

    Writing prompt for this week: There's a DeLorian in your driveway and you can use it to travel through time. Where do you go and why?

    This was an easy answer for me. I've already considered this idea too many times in the past 6 years. It’s not a matter of which point in time to travel, it’s the task that is the focus. I would go back to the early 1990’s, it would be a day in December when we were out of school for holiday break. These two weeks out of each year were a time when my mother had focus on nothing else but family. She was always a good listener, but she was the best listener during this time.

    In the middle of this nostalgic time, when I had her best, most focused attention I would tell her that I knew what her future held. I would first establish credibility by telling her of events to come, a timeline of tragedies and notable moments. I would give specific dates & details so that she could not question the validity of what I was about to tell her. April, 19 1995 the OKC bombing, August 31, 1997 Princess Diana dies, May 3, 1999 one of the deadliest tornado outbreaks in history hits central Oklahoma, September 11, 2001….you get the picture. I would write these events on a note, in my own writing, so she later couldn’t question that she had written them in a dream.

    After establishing credibility, I would tell her of her future, her future if she didn’t stop smoking. How her first grandchild would be a girl, a girl she would adore, but wouldn’t get to see grow past Kindergarten. How my sister would give her a second grandchild, a boy who she barely knew past his 1st birthday. I would tell her that if she didn’t stop smoking, she would be diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer while I was 6 months pregnant with my first child and she would only know him 17 short weeks before she would pass from this world. I would add that I go on to have twin girls in 2012, and one carries her middle name, the other her smile. 


    Nana & Pumpkin 2 weeks before she passed.
    She told me once that she believed her purpose in life was to be a great teacher and a grandmother.  I will tell her that, I will tell her she did not fulfill her purpose. I will make her sad, make her cry, make her understand what is at stake, what she threw away with both hands while fumbling in the wind & cold outside so many times to smoke that cigarette. The task, not the time would be my laser focus for the trip in the DeLorian. I will make her see & feel her future and want so much more than she had, because it was always here for the taking.

    See what my other blogging friends wrote in response to this week’s prompt here.

     

    Friday, September 27, 2013

    10 Things I Know to be True About My (older) Self


    1. I am a former champion multi-tasker – the primary word here being “former”. I still try to be the champ I once was, but I have to admit, Pregnancy Brain morphed into Sleep Deprived Brain, finally settling into Multiple Mom Brain. There is no cure for Multiple Mom Brain, therefore, I relinquish my champion title and humbly accept the status of “former”. Sigh.
    2. I am a terrible housekeeper – I fully admit this. I have been a stacker, knick-knack collector, clutterbug my entire life. I can jump into Operation Organize lickity-split if we are expecting company, but don’t expect the house to be clean if you just drop by. Also, just know I won’t be cleaning until the day before you are expected to arrive (see #3). I was raised to make my bed, clean my room etc., so it’s not the nurture part that’s to blame. Who knows why I’m this way, but at this age, I don’t see it changing drastically - much to the dismay of my hersband.
    3. I procrastinate- now this is an area where I still hold the Champion status! I excel at procrastination. Planning things is not the problem, I plan things well in advance. It’s the preparation I put off. This is another area where I turned out opposite from the way I was raised. I have to admit though, I always pull it off. If you came to my house for an “occasion” of some sort, you’d think I had been preparing for weeks!
    4. I can be impatient with others – I have gotten better since becoming a parent, but I still have a way to go. If you know you are writing a check for your groceries Granny, get your checkbook out while your items are being scanned, please for the love of all that’s holy, get.your.checkbook.out. Also, if you use the drive thru at the bank, have your stuff ready. Checks signed. ATM card out. Drive thru fast food? No need to study the menu, we all know what is served with that side of grease, order already! Come on! The drive thru is for those of us in a hurry! Ok, maybe I haven’t gotten any better.
    5. I am not a terrible driver…..but my driving skills could be improved – I have just recently come to this realization. I should have known before now. I’ve had my share of fender-benders (3 in my own driveway). A few speeding tickets over the years. A little brother who at 18 started refusing to ride with me. D says I use the brake too often and make her nauseated. Yes, I’ve definitely had some clues. So while everyone else took note; what finally made ME realize my poor driving skills? Yesterday while in town for only 2 hours, I was honked at 3 times. 3. So, I started thinking, what is the common denominater here? Oh, it’s lil o me in my big ol van. oopsies.
    6. I am blunt and should use more tact sometimes when speaking to others – I’ve known this my whole life and actually improved quite a bit. Not enough though. It is the only thing I was docked on for my employee performance review this year. (only ½ point but still) If you say something asinine in front of me, you are probably going to be made aware of it. You’re welcome. I probably just saved you from getting your face smashed by someone else. I seem to lack a filter of some sort. A snarky thought pops into my head and I’ve “matured” enough to deliver that thought with a little more pleasantry than in my younger days. I’ve evolved from, “You are an idiot if you think that!” to “Wow. Well, that’s one way to look at it I suppose, if you’re not educated on the issue.” See, better, but still needs some tweaking.
    7. I am not a morning person, nor a night owl, just a person apparently – my mother always described me as a “bear” upon waking. I don’t think I’m quite that bad now, but I’ll fully admit, you are putting your feelings in danger if you try to have a conversation with me before my first cup of coffee. Also not a night owl, in college I put myself to bed with a good book around 9pm (even on most weekends) and it was lights out by 10. I don’t do mornings & I don’t do nights. I do sleep.
    8. I tend to overload my family with commitments/plans – I have all these great ideas, make all these plans and totally overload my spouse and the kids. Next weekend is jam packed and I’m already sure there will be tears and we will be late for at least one thing. The challenge is, doing the things we want to do, doing the things we feel obligated to do and doing the things we need to do. It all adds up to a lot. (maybe this ties into #1?)
    9. I am getting better at admitting when I’m wrong – Oh boy, I was really bad about this in my younger years (under 30ish). I had a hard time admitting to myself when I was wrong, much less others. I have found in recent years though that when you admit a mistake, it’s a powerful thing to yourself and the person you are admitting it to; especially if it’s a child. The shock and admiration in my son’s eyes when I admitted to him that I delivered the wrong punishment was something I’ll never forget. He hadn’t realized that adults make mistakes too. Adults can be wrong. It is ok to not trust an adult when you see them doing or saying something you think is wrong. That’s the lesson my son learned from me being wrong and admitting it. Much more powerful than him seeing me be right all the time.
    10. I am much less likely to pass judgment on others now – that was my New Year’s Resolution about 3 years ago. I’m much more aware that there are always many sides to a person’s story. Several friends have told me I should write a book about my life, it is sitcom worthy for certain. I figure if my life is this complicatedly beautiful, others have some serious shit going on in theirs too. I think I was so judgmental because if I took note of their screwed up ways, it made mine seem better. Like, whoa, at least I don’t ___________. So, you notice I said much LESS likely. That’s because I’m not perfect. I still judge sometimes. (yes, you giggly young moms from my son’s kindergarten class who didn’t realize until I mentioned it to you just before holiday break that your kid does in fact have math homework weekly…and has since school started months ago. Yes, I judged you and I still do. Here’s a thought: put down your cell phone, look in the backpack, check in with your kid and the teacher every so often. What the hell kind of parent are you anyway, doesn't realize your kindergartener is getting zeros for weeks?! Ya damn idiot.) I obviously need to work on this & #6 a bit more. Oh well, I’ve got time.

    I linked up with my blogger friends this week where we all posted our Top 10 things we know to be true about (fill in the blank) lists. Check others out here.

    Thursday, September 12, 2013

    The F Word & Others

    Today’s writing prompt with my awesome group of blogging friends is, words that are off-limits in your house.

    I can only remember 1 word being officially off limits in my household as a kid. It was the F word. Our family’s F word was not THE F word. I had never even heard THAT F word before (and wouldn’t until I was a teen).  Our F Word was “Fart”.  I have no idea why my mother banned that word, but we never dared speak it. Instead, we had to call it a “Froggie”. Again, no idea why. Made no sense to me as a kid and none to me now.  
    I still don’t use the F word. We call it a toot in our house. Even typing it feels wrong. Thanks mom. Whenever I hear someone say fart, or a kid talk about a cute little froggie, I feel a quick rise in temp and heart rate.

    So, as a kid, my list was short & weird. The current list of words off-limits for our household seems to grow weekly. A first grader brings home a lot of words. A spouse that works in a manufacturing plant brings home a lot more words.

    For each word off-limits, we’ve discussed why it’s inappropriate and what alternative words we might use instead. (Name calling is off limits and there is no alternative word choice).

    Our current list:
    Shut-up = Please stop or be quiet
    Loser = Falls under the no name calling rule
    Retard/Retarded = Usually, the word silly or goofy fits here.
    Stupid = Falls under the no name calling rule or use “not thinking”
    Fat = Unhealthy
    Hate = Dislike
    Jerk = Not nice
    Fart Head = (gasp!) Falls under the no name calling rule
    Idiot = Uneducated
    Jesus Christ! = Holy Cow! or Oh my!

    Whenever a word from the list is used by any member of the family, we all call them on it. There is no jar of penalty pennies etc. In our house, a stern look and mild blast of guilt works just fine.

    You may have noticed our official list doesn’t include cuss words, we haven’t had to deal with that yet. I’m sure it’s just around the corner though. Holy Cow, it will probably happen when some not nice, not thinking, uneducated, person doesn’t know when to be quiet around our kids. That type of person would probably froggie in front of them too! Oh my.

    I’m hosting the link today where my blogger friends have written on the same topic. Please check out their thoughts on the off-limits words in their households. Maybe there are a few we should all add?

    Photo Credit: Greg Johnson

    Tuesday, September 10, 2013

    Play Kitchen-To Go




    I saw this on Pinterest and thought it would be perfect for Pop's & Nana's house. Here is the kitchen I pinned as inspiration.
    A play kitchen that can be put neatly away when the grand kids aren't around. 
    I bought a Rubbermaid Tote at Target for $7.99. 
    Cooking Utensils, towel, oven mitts & baking pans at Dollar Tree for $1 each.
    Black duct tape for $2.99 & used my scrapbook tools to cut the circles for the "stove" top. 
    Play food courtesy of big brother's toy box.
    30 minutes & $30 later...ta-da!!!

     
    The girls are loving their new little kitchen! 

    Saturday, August 31, 2013

    Happy Birthday to Me

     
    Happy Birthday to Me! I have always loved my birthday or should I say my birth-date? I actually love the date. August 31st. It is a unique date.
    We had an assignment in 4th grade to find someone famous who shared our birthday. I had to use Michael Jackson, whose birthday is actually on August 29th, because nobody famous shared a birthday with me. Our only resource for looking up the famous person was a book, a single book, in our tiny elementary library. These days we have Google. Google shows a few famous people share my date, but still…just a few. Love the uniqueness of a birthday on the 31st of August.
    This year, I turned 37. It wasn’t painful at all.  31 was painful because I was officially IN my 30’s, 35 was painful because I had to hear from the OB-GYN all about “Advanced Maternal Age”, but 37…it ain’t no thang at all. 
    I usually get nostalgic and even a little anxious on my birthday. Like I need to apply the brakes on this run away rig. This year it’s fine though and I think I owe credit to a fellow blogger.
    Lisa, at My So Called Glamorous Life, wrote about the changing seasons of life this week. Something she said, has been rolling around in my head the past couple of days. “Everyone’s life goes through a change of seasons: the glorious Springtime of our youth, the bountiful harvest of Summer, beautiful transition of Fall and the peaceful stillness of Winter.”

    I’ve reflected on her statement and am so thankful to be in the bountiful harvest of Summer.  At 37, I think I’ve still got a few years of Summer left and already I have such a bounty. My spouse, my children and I are happy & healthy in mind, body & spirit.
    Indeed, it is a Happy Birthday to Me.
     
    Photo credit:  Birthday Cake by Will Clayton

    Thursday, August 29, 2013

    Mom, I reallllyyy wanna be a Butter Cub!

    Time for another writing prompt from my awesome blogging group! This week we were to write about a challenge we are facing.
    Pumpkin, our 1st grader, came home from school Monday clutching a wrinkled, well-worn flyer from the local Boy Scout troop. They are recruiting. Pumpkin, who is not interested in organized sports or organized anything for that matter, is VERY interested in joining the boys pictured on this flyer. There are images of smiling boys shooting skeet, racing cars, camping & hiking. It is apparent from the looks of this paper that it has made many trips in & out of his pocket, folded & refolded, studied much. Please, he says, please will you sign this and say I can do it? I really want to be a Butter Cub! (no idea why he called it that, but it was cute)
    So, here is the challenge: The Boy Scouts of America does not respect my family, heck, they don’t even recognize that we ARE a family. I see a lot of value in the skills & life lessons they teach, but when I look at this flyer and see words like “compassion, character development, leadership”, I think Hypocrites with a capital H. But, I also see my son’s hopeful eyes and innocent spirit. He is 6, he knows nothing about politics & prejudice. Sigh. Why oh why can’t he just be in to t-ball, or karate or the ump-teen other things we get recruiting flyers for?!?
    D & I tell him, we will think about it. We will go to the parent meeting, talk with the Den Leader and think about it. I’m not one for confrontation or loud public displays of disagreement, so I thought it best to email the leader, to give her a head’s up on our situation prior to the meeting. Here is the email I sent:
    Hi Angie –
    My son is interested in joining the program. I will be attending the meeting with him tomorrow evening, but had a few questions first. I don’t want to put you on the spot in front of other parents or make you uncomfortable so thought it best to ask the questions via email.
    We are a 2 Mom family. I understand that the Boy Scouts have recently changed their position and policy statements to be more inclusive of gay & lesbian members; however, not accepting of leaders/parent volunteers. Our son got very excited when he saw the flyer and wants to join. He is in 1st grade and doesn’t understand the politics/controversy our family unit might cause in scouting. So here are my questions:

    1.       If he joins the program will we as a family be able to attend his scouting activities? I understand we wouldn’t be allowed to be trained volunteers (sadly), but attend the events (matchbox car races etc.)?
     
    2.       Is there ever a time in the program when same-sex families or issues would be addressed? (I would think not, I would think it would be a non-issue, but just wanted to make sure there isn’t a time families like ours would be portrayed negatively)

    We think the scouting program has wonderful things to offer.  We are not interested in causing controversy or stress for anyone. We really just want our son to be able to take part in the program, as long as it isn’t detrimental to his attitude & feelings about his family dynamic.

    Sincerely,
    Amber
    (I did not receive a reply to the email. It’s been 3 days and I still haven’t)

    Meeting day came, I picked Pumpkin up from school and he was vibrating with excitement, “is today the meeting? The cub meeting?” Yes, it’s today. D stayed home with the girls, so it was just me & Pumpkin. We went to the meeting. I was picturing parents & eager sons in chairs, leaders up front with a basic scouting overview and time for Q&A, maybe some cookies..…what we got was a school cafeteria wild with shouting, running children, tables of adults filling out forms, writing checks & leaving. No overview, no cookies, certainly no leadership. No chance to ask questions at all.
    I wanted to leave. Pumpkin sensed this and quickly grabbed up an application. “Mom, do you need a pen?” he said, with this desperate look in his eyes. Sigh. I thought, Ok, I’ll do the paperwork, we can always back out later.
    We waited in line to turn in the application & check. Here’s the scene: One frazzled looking lady & many, many children & parents all trying to talk to her at once, my son included.  Somehow, he got her attention. He handed her the app and said, “I have two baby sisters, will they be able to come to my meetings?” I quickly assured her the babies will not join us at meetings, we’d get a sitter.” She smiled, looked thankful and moved on to another parent. We were walking away, when Pumpkin pulled his hand from mine, marched up to the lady and said, “I wasn’t finished! What I want to know is, will my sisters and my parents be allowed to come to my meetings…and stuff?” I do not know what the look was on the lady’s face at this point, because my eyes were a bit blurry. I did hear her though, she said, “Of course! We love having parents at everything we do!”
    Pumpkin was beaming. He rushed back to me, “Did you hear that Mom?” Oh yes, I heard it. I felt it. I’m still feeling it in all kinds of ways.  I’m not sure if he overheard D & me talking the night before, or if he was just concerned about going to future meetings alone? I do know the lady had not read my email at this point because her answer was not a loaded one. It was a quick, innocent, straight, “we welcome everyone” response. And that is not the scouting way.
    On the ride home I told Pumpkin how proud & touched I was that he was concerned about our family being accepted & included. I asked him, what would you say, if the lady said no, your family cannot go to all the activities? In his 6 year old honesty he said, “I don’t know Mom, I really, really want to be a Butter Cub”. I laughed and corrected him..again, “It’s a Tiger Cub son.” We laughed together and I just dropped the subject because I could feel his anxiety over it.
    I hate leaving a post with no resolution, but I still have no reply from the email. The lady said there would be an informational meeting scheduled in the next two-weeks. I’m anxiously awaiting her response & the meeting. I want this to work out for Pumpkin. I want this to work out for us. I want this to work out for the Boy Scouts of America. That’s my challenge though, if it doesn’t work out. If they won’t accept our family and welcome our involvement, how do I break this news to our son? How do I use this as a teaching lesson without hurting him?
    I guess we can start a troop of Butter Cubs, I could teach cooking, scrapbooking, couponing? Seriously though, this is a current and ongoing challenge for our family. I have no answers yet, but I’ll keep ya’ll posted!

    If you’d like to read about what challenges others in my group are writing about, check out this link.

    UPDATE - She replied to my email, late last night:

    I think I talked to you on the phone and covered this. I will get the application to the school. Our information/pack meeting is Sept. 9 at 6pm.

    My reply:   We have not spoken on the phone. I was at the school Tuesday & filled out the application then. It must have been another 2 Mom family you spoke with.

    Her reply:   You are still invited to our meeting on Sept. 9th.

    I am not thrilled with her response & refusal to address any of the issues BUT I am thrilled to hear that maybe, just maybe there is another family like ours in the school system!!!! After Sep. 9th I may owe a BIG thank you to the Boy Scouts of America for connecting local LGBT families! heehee! :-)
     

    Tuesday, August 20, 2013

    Money & Evil

    The thought yesterday in the book was:

    The Love of Money is the Root of All Evil

    Well, I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say the root of ALL evil, but I get the point. Money is reportedly the #1 cause for divorce. It has also brought a lot of sorrow and regret to many lottery winners. It's astounding to see all that's befallen those newly minted millionaires. Just google "curse of the lottery" and see what I mean.

    Money isn't a daily topic in our house, but we do have a budget spreadsheet that I update regularly. We also have credit card debt and right now our focus is to eliminate that permanently. We bought the Dave Ramsey system. Used our cash envelopes for about 6 months and we did make some headway. But the system overwhelmed me. The workbooks, the dvds, the cds, the electronic spreadsheets. So I started my own spreadsheet with pencil & paper, been doing that for about a year. Again, made a little headway, but still not where I feel we need to be.

    So, I started looking into other ways to tackle this debt. There was an article about debt management apps in All You Magazine. I looked at each of the ones they reviewed and decided to give Ready for Zero a try. The website is easy to navigate and the program is really simple. The basic version is free and really it's all we need. No request to enter any form of payment, it's not a free trial, it's just a free program. They claim it only takes minutes to set up the account and enter your info, but for me it was more like 1 hour. Probably because you have to set up an online username/password for each of your credit cards with the CC company first. Then you link them to your Ready for Zero account.
    It was worth every minute spent doing it in my opinion though.

    After set up, you have ALL your debt in one place. At a glance you can see every payment due, interest rates, it even calculates the month/year of payoff for each debt. You can adjust a little sliding scale to show if you pay an extra X number of dollars per month toward your debt how it will effect your payoff date and the interest you will save.

    This program isn't for people who are struggling to make monthly payments, it is not a debt consolidation program. It's truly a debt management tool and sort of along the lines of an adult sticker chart.  If you don't like sticker charts, you're probably a stodgy, old, responsible person who has no debt anyway!

    We've been using the program now for about a month and so far I love it. I can really see the debt decreasing.  The app is great too, it's like a pocket version of the website. There are progress charts and little text alerts (if you have them on) to remind you of a payment due or even a tip to let you know if you make an extra payment this month, on a specific card, how much it will save you overall.

    These are just my thoughts on the program. I did not get paid to review it, not even sure how I would if I wanted to! The thought in Thoughts for a Good Life triggered my brain to write about my experience with this program.

    So my final thoughts on money...I don't believe it's the root of ALL evil, but it is the root of a lot of extra work and some extra stress in my house until we are debt free...which according to Ready for Zero will be June 2017!


    Monday, August 19, 2013

    Thoughts for a Good Life - 8/19/2013


    This was the thought on 8/17 in Thoughts for a Good Life:
    That which is bitter to endure may be sweet to remember.

    I like this thought. It makes me consider that silver lining in the hard things, the crappy things. Of course there are still bitter times I’m sure will never be sweet to remember, but this quote has me thinking.  Here are a couple of bitter times I’ve now reconsidered:

    Thought 1:  My senior year of high school our new coach loaded us on a bus, took us to a field and made us run. We had no conditioning, no warning…get off the bus and run. Run a mile he said, and do it in X number of minutes or you are off the team. WTF? This guy was crazy! It was August, nearly 100 degrees and I hated running & at that moment I hated him. The sweet part isn’t that the coach turned into mentor (18yrs later, still don’t like the guy). The sweet part is that I did it. I actually did it. I came in 2nd to last, it hurt, it made no sense to me (still doesn’t) but I did it. So the sweet in it is that I finished and I look back and know I can do it, if I had to, I could run a solid mile.  

    Thought 2:  My grandparents have a 120 acre farm. They grow & sell vegetables, going on 30+ years now the local farmer’s market. It’s a family business and we are all expected to help. We are paid in fresh veggies & now awesome stories to share. At the age of 8 however; these are not acceptable forms of payment! If you’ve never picked black-eyed peas, well, you aren’t missing much. They are harvested in July/August, the hottest part of the year and it gets damn hot here. We have a low-tech farm, you sit on an upside down bucket and pick, move the bucket down the row and keep on picking. On one miserable, humid day, I stood up in the middle of picking and declared, “I’m not picking another pea!”. My Memaw said, that’s fine Amber, go sit in the pick-up, but you won’t eat another pea all summer, not only that, you won’t eat another veggie off this farm all summer. Fine by me I said. I can still see her in the field, pointing her dirt-stained finger at me. Just daring me to keep walking. Unfortunately for me, I did.

    I didn’t realize how much I really loved those veggies. That day was miserable, but my stance led to a miserable summer. We had a home-cooked supper nearly every night of my childhood. It was torture to sit and watch those bowls of fresh, buttered veggies passing by my plate. It also hurt me to know that I’d let my family down… disappointed them. My picking strike only happened once. It was bitter to endure, but pretty sweet to remember.  My pea picking strike has been retold many times in our family; I’ve served as a warning & lesson to others. I’m so thankful for that lesson though, it taught me to really appreciate the efforts of hard work and now I know exactly what to do when one of my kids decides to strike!

     
     
    Scrapbook page  w/ pic of my mom at the Farmer's Market. I scrapped this page in 2002. I look at this page and think my life & my pages have gotten a lot more beautifully complicated.


     

    Friday, August 16, 2013

    More About Me

    Probably the most important thing about me...I'm a mom. Pumpkin, our son, is 6 and we have 9 month old twin girls, Tator Tot & Tiny Tot. (names changed to protect the little innocents). We have joint custody with Pumpkin's dad, so he spends 1 week with us and 1 week at dad's. We get strange, judgy looks over this arrangement, but it works beautifully for our family and most importantly Pumpkin. 3 years of every other week and it really couldn't be smoother. We miss him like crazy when he's at dad's, but the feeling is vice-versa. So, instead of pulling him apart ragdoll style, we share. Because sharing really is caring after all!
    As for the girls, they are our babies, D & I created them, grew them, they are ours in every way. No sharing with anyone else. Pumpkin even told a lady in the grocery store once, "These babies are NOT for sharing!" She joked she wanted to "borrow" one. Yes, we get weird comments like that often, but Pumpkin always sets them straight!
    I'll write much more about being a mom and all the joys and tears that brings in future posts I'm sure. For now, it's just more info about me. I'm a mom!
    Pumpkin (l)  reading to Tiny (m) & Tater (r)

    Thursday, August 15, 2013

    Thoughts for a Good Life - 8/15/13

    The thought for today in Thoughts for a Good Life:

    Men may work and think, but women feel. 

    Well the modern version would probably say... Men may work and think, but women do it all with feeling. 
    This book is outdated, but still an interesting little read each night.

    My Love Story

    In an effort to keep blogging & get better at it I've joined a blogging group. This week's writing prompt is "The scariest thing I ever did....and why I did it" I am the newest of newbies in the group. I know my blog sucks and my writing has major room for improvement, but I'm having too much fun to let it hold me back and dammit I'm working on it! If you want to see what others in the group have written for this week's assignment, you can find the links here.  Now, on to my post for this week's prompt:

    The scariest thing..
    I fell in love with a woman. I am a woman and I married a woman. The actual marriage wasn’t the scariest thing, it was the courtship and coming out about our relationship. Why did I do it? What a strange question. I couldn’t not do it. I don’t feel there was a choice. The story is complicated, but the answers are simple.

    Let’s start at the beginning. It was Fall of 2009, I was married to a man, living in the suburbs, with our 2yo son (I’ll call him Pumpkin). I was living a life, that in this area, is considered “privileged”. I never looked at the bank account, went to the salon weekly, placed regular $100 bi-weekly orders with the Avon lady & Schwann’s man. Privilege I tell ya! But I was married to a work-a-holic who spent his every free moment in the casino. ( I should have known, we were married in Vegas for goodness sake!) Pumpkin was my dinner date, movie date, my everything. I won’t go on about all that was wrong in that marriage, I’ll just say it was a very lonely life in the burbs.

    I was part of a ladies only, Supper Club, that met monthly. Our rule was no kids, no husbands. It was just a time for us to cook new foods together, laugh, drink wine and enjoy our friendships. Our friend Wendy, kept the 6 of us organized as to the themes and who would host etc. We called ourselves The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pans! In November, she invited a 7th to join us. It was D. Wendy warned us all before D arrived, “D is a lesbian, she’s super cool, but she can’t cook a damn thing!” D arrived with her frozen, grocery store garlic bread and we could tell she was nervous. She didn’t really seem to fit our privileged, sassy little group. Wendy introduced us and as we shook hands a jolt of electricity shot up my arm. I knew; the instant we met, that she would be in my life in some capacity beyond Supper Club. I had no inkling that it would be romantically, I really just thought she’d be a lifelong friend.  She had these sparkling green eyes and a constant genuine smile, a smile that said she enjoyed life. Even through her nervousness, she seemed to really be enjoying the experience of our lively group. We had a Table Question the hostess would ask the group, we would each answer while eating. It always led to deeper conversations. D’s answers, that night and nights in the following months fascinated me. It led to more conversations with her and I was right, we did become friends outside of Supper Club.

    During this time, Wendy, who had just turned 35, became ill.  She had a cough that would not go away. It never did. She was a healthy, young, non-smoker, diagnosed with lung cancer. It rocked our group to the core. She was diagnosed and gone within 6 months. It was an awful, terrible time. I had just lost my mother to lung cancer 2 years prior and it brought a flood of grief unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I turned to my husband for support and found none. Found him completely absent during this time. We separated very soon after. This is April/May, 2010.

    Pumpkin & I moved into a tiny little house in a town nearby. It was more of a hippy/artsy village and we LOVED it! No more salon visits or Avon orders and I did not miss it a bit. D & a couple of family members helped us move. My family & friends did not understand at all why I would leave “such a wonderful life”. I’m pretty sure they thought I’d lost my mind. Well, everyone but D. She kept telling me how proud she was of me. She knew the truth of the situation. The others didn’t. I had put on a great fa├žade all those years. Beautiful home, the perfect Christmas card photo, you know, all that crap.  We all have friends like this, where we think wow, their life is so perfect! That was my lie of a life and I was leaving it behind in a wake of confused family & friends. Truth be told, maybe I did lose my mind a bit, but I found myself in the process.

    D became my closest friend, she didn’t question why I’d left, never asked how “he” was or if I was sure I had tried everything I could to save the marriage. We hiked, watched tv, cooked together. Then one night, as she was leaving to go home it was storming outside. I stood there with her by the door waiting for the rain to let up so she could make a run for her truck. We were laughing and all of a sudden she stopped laughing, I said what? And she kissed me! And I do mean she kissed me! One kiss that I felt head to heart to toe.  It was thrilling and terrifying all at once. I had wanted it to happen, of course, I can’t believe it took as long as it did. We had crossed a line though, from friendship to ? (this is where the relationship gets steamy hot, but I won’t be sharing THAT! Back to the scary part…)

    After she left that night I couldn’t stop smiling. I couldn’t stop thinking. What did this mean for us? There were so many things to consider. We live in a rural area, a relationship like ours would not be accepted much less celebrated. What would my family think? I’ve given no indication in the past that I would ever be involved with a woman. How will this affect Pumpkin, who at this point is 3. 
      We live in a state where you can be fired for being gay & I worked with children on a military base. I realized I was surrounded by homophobes. Hell, you could be beaten or killed and it's not even considered a hate crime here. Also, my divorce was not yet final. We had reached an agreement, but I hadn’t even officially filed the papers. Could I lose custody of my son? All of these thoughts were scary. Many were terrifying. Fear settle firmly inside me. I had so much to consider and I struggled with it for weeks.
     One thing I didn’t consider was ending things with D. I couldn’t. I told her and myself that the only way I would consider ending our relationship was if it came between her & my child. Nothing else could move me. I had fallen in love with her; but instead of being able to enjoy it and announce to the world, I found myself racked with worry.  My hair began falling out, my stomach was completely torn up, I developed insomnia. I kept this huge secret for months and it felt horrible. This secret was going to come out one way or another. It was destroying me keeping it in and it I feared it would destroy my relationship with family & more than a few friendships if I let it out.

    Scared, is an understatement of what I felt during those months. As scared as I was of coming out about our relationship, I was even more scared for it to end because I wouldn’t come out. D had lived honestly the past several years and would tolerate only the same from me. The struggle between fear & the truth was so painful, but the truth had to be told. It had to be, because I loved this woman. Plain and simple. A love I could no longer deny. In August 2011, D asked me to marry her. We planned a December wedding in Massachusetts. I couldn’t keep this secret. I wanted to live… to truly live my life.

    So I started telling. I told it in emails and nervous phone calls. My fears came true, my family was devastated. Some were angry.  Some damned me to hell. They did not understand. There were many tears & harsh words. Once I started telling though it was like the floodgates opened. I was hurting and realized if I wait for the hurt to heal it’ll just hurt all over again when I tell the next group of people. So I told everyone; family, then close friends, then extended family/friends, co-workers. It wasn’t all bad though, I found support in friendships that surprised me and even with co-workers. I told my ex and he didn’t even threaten my relationship with Pumpkin. I’ve retained primary custody and he’s not threatened it once to this day.

     I do not believe in “soul mates”, I’m a realist. Mathematically, this cannot compute in my head. So I will not say she is my soul mate, but I will say that we are connected. I knew when we met she would always be an important part of my life. As we fell in love, I came to realize I would leave this planet as her partner. No question, no doubt. I’ve worked harder on myself and this relationship than any other time in my life. I’ve cried and agonized and worked harder than I ever knew I could because we are connected. She is mine and I am hers and it’s really that simple. I went through the scariest thing in my life for this relationship, rejection & damnation from loved ones, but I did it because it was far scarier not to. Facing life without her is something I am too scared to ever do.

    Tuesday, August 13, 2013

    Project: About Me - getting this list started

    Eeek! I forgot to post About Me yesterday. Not surprising, I often forget about Me anyway. It's back to school week for Pumpkin and we have 9 month old twins, Tator Tot & Tiny Tot. I also have a full time job and a hersband that enjoys homemade meals for her lunches & supper. SO, Me is on the backburner a lot. I've actually got dishes & laundry calling Me now, so this will be a quick list of things I know are true about Me: I love coffee & scrapbooking. I'm great at starting a new project, not so great at finishing them. I'm a fantastic pancake maker. It's the most requested meal in this house! I'm a decent couponer. I'm not extreme about it, but I do save at least 50% every time I shop. Here are some photos that go along with these things about Me.

     
    A couple of pages I scrapped for our wedding album
     
    This photo is 2 years old, but covers a couple of things about Me - Couponing & DIY Projects. I got all those groceries for $30 and Pumpkin was super happy to help me that day. The red cabinet in back started as a dark brown, water stained cabinet that was in the garbage pile. It's a rare example of a bigger project that I actually finished in about 3 days total. Now take a look at the frame that spells out "family" that's sitting on top of the cabinet....that took me 2 years to finish :-( Sigh.

    Pumpkin enjoying his Party Pancakes for his birthday dinner!

    Me loving my coffee & looking at my Love.

    Monday, August 12, 2013

    Thoughts for a Good Life

     
    While visiting my Memaw, on her 78th birthday this weekend, the cover of this book grabbed my attention. I love the colors and that title! Who wouldn't want to peek at those Thoughts for a Good Life? I thought to myself, this looks like something Mom would have had tucked away on one of her many bookshelves. I wanted that book. I felt like I needed that book. I picked it up and Memaw said, "Oh! I found that in a box of your mother's stuff the other day!" She asked me if I would like to have it. Yes. Yes, please. That's all I could say.
    My mother has been gone 6 years now, she lost her battle with cancer and I lost the most amazing person I will ever know. This is as much as I will say on the loss of my mother. It is still too painful to accurately share a description of the void she left in my life. I do love talking about my mother though, I have many wonderful memories & stories. She was such a thoughtful, caring person. She was a great friend to many. This little book serves as a testament to that. When I opened the cover here's what I found inside:
    "To Debs, In gratitude for your guidance, understanding & constant friendship.
     Love & Friendship, Zuria 4-18-75
    It gave me a bit of a thrill to read that because for months now, this lady, Zuria (Mom called her Zuree) has been in my thoughts. Not daily or even weekly, but every so often lately I've been recalling memories of Zuree. I was around 8 or 9 when Zuree passed away. I remember, as a child, thinking she had the most exotic name. At the time, I was puzzled by my mother's friendship with her. I couldn't figure out how she fit in our world. Mom was a school teacher. As a family, our social circles were school, church and the Jay-cees (a civic group my parents were members of in the 80's) Zuree was in none of those circles. Also she lived alone, in a lime green house. My mother's visits became more and more frequent just before Zuree passed away. Of course, now I assume she was terminally ill and my mother was being a good friend and doing the things friend's do during that time. At 8 though, I didn't make that connection; I just knew mom had me stay in the car while she brought food to exotic Zuree in the lime green house.
     I have always been curious about Zuree. She's been on my mind lately and now she shows up in this book! I'll probably never understand how Mom & Zuree came to be friends. As curious as I am about their connection, I'm glad that there is sort of a mystery about it. I like wondering about the little pieces of her life like this. It keeps her story going for me. If I know a thing about my mother, well, then I know it. But with this, the Zuree story, I don't know it and it can have many beginnings & endings to think about.
    I'm grateful for this new little piece to their friendship puzzle though, and thankful to Memaw for finding it and allowing me to have it. Inside there is a thought for each day for 1 year. I'm going to post each day's thought, in the hopes it will get me blogging daily!
     
    August 12th - Every man's life is a fairy-tale written by God's finger.
     
     

    Saturday, August 10, 2013

    Project "About Me"


    Been thinking about adding an “About Me” page and with that comes the task of writing about well…me. There are so many things that make me, me, that I’m unsure where to start. Sounds ridiculous, but I’m feeling enormous pressure from About Me.  It’s the first thing I read when looking at someone's blog. It’ll be like a snapshot of me.  My heart is racing just thinking of it. Am I an interesting enough me to read about? Afterall, even my hersband said, “You are going to write about our life so a bunch of strangers can read it? Who even cares? and if they do, they must be some kinda weirdo!” (In her defense, I had to explain what a blog even is) Maybe she has a point, maybe nobody will read About Me. Well, one thing is certain, nobody will read it if I don’t write it! It’s too much pressure to just sit and write About Me in one moment of creativity & clarity. So, I’ll tackle this project by writing a few daily posts, then hopefully after a week or so, I’ll be able to look and say, Oh yeah, that’s me! Coffee lover, Mom of 3, Project starter etc.  

    Friday, August 9, 2013

    Giving this another go...

    It's been a full year since I've updated this blog. Like most projects, I start them with excitement and zeal...then they tend to fall by the wayside. :-( I've joined a blogging group and am going to give this thing another go! In the past few days I've realized just how much I don't know about this blogging thing. D thinks I'm crazy, last night she said, "Oh! like you need another thing on the list to keep up with...twins & work aren't enough?" I told her yes, it's enough, but I do like to learn new things and isn't this cheaper than taking a class or starting an expensive project (that let's face it, will end up 1/2 finished for weeks). She agreed, so here's to my next go round with this blogging thing!