Thursday, July 3, 2014

Summer Lovin

Oh what a nice day! This weather is beautiful. Highs in the upper 70s in July. No humidity. Seriously, it doesn't get any better than this.
The kids helped with some yard work today. They actually enjoy laying mulch. Who knew! The flower bed is really coming along compared to the beginning of last summer.
And then add the work we did to the outside of the house this spring; looks like a different house. We scrimped and saved to do the work. We even had a contest to see who could save the most money, Bart or myself. We got real and even got separate savings accounts for this. It worked! We were able to do everything we planned, and more, within our budget we had set. (I won by the way.)
We started with a new roof. The old roof looked like my 10 year old did it. It was worn and really dated the house. We went with a standing seam metal roof. I wasn't so keen on it when we chose, but after some research, we realized it would provide us with the comfort of knowing we probably wouldn't have to replace it within our lifetime. The metal was a little more expensive than a standard shingle roof, but the longevity of it will pay off in the long run. I'm glad we did the metal, now. It looks great and really makes a huge difference. We were also able to swing new soffits, fascia and gutters. Then we finished off with three new exterior door and a storm door. Our little fixer upper is coming along and I couldn't be happier with the way it is turning out.
The kids and I also enjoyed a nice, long walk with the neighbors tonight. They were heading out while we were outside playing and we tagged along. Up the road, downtown and back home. It was great little starter walk. We finished off the evening with a competitive evening of dodge ball. Momma came out on top!
I can't wait to start off this holiday weekend. I am thinking right now it will include the races tomorrow and fireworks at the reservoir the following night. The husband is on vacation after that. Finally, some much needed family time.
We would like to wish our great country a wonderful day of celebration and say thanks to God for allowing us to live here. Everyone stay safe and enjoy your cookouts, fireworks and friends and family.
Happy 4th of July

Sunday, June 29, 2014


For someone who is usually very level headed, I am struggling today. Struggling with absent parents, struggling with enough time, enough sanity, struggling with patience. All around just struggling.
I'm good with my kids. Good with where my family is right now. I actually have not felt more content or comfortable with my family of seven and where we are or what we are doing. The kids are settled and finding their hobbies and talents. Our bills are up to date. Our marriage is strong and steady.
What I'm having a hard time with is another child's rejection. A child who doesn't even belong to me. A child who doesn't even realize he's being rejected because he is so young and being with people who he doesn't know well is his norm. I am so infuriated for him.
Bonus Boy was asleep on the couch for his afternoon nap today. Husband was leaving for work. He was passing out hugs to the kids and dog when Bonus Boy, half asleep, rolls over to face the living room, extends out his arms and waves Husband over. Husband gives his a hug and tells him goodbye. Bonus Boy, never fully waking up, rolls back over to face the back of the couch and continues with his slumber.
Our kids, the kids of this world, deserve more. I can't think of anyone who will openly say they condone child abuse or neglect. But what are we all doing to fight it? What are we doing for the kids who we were too late to help? The ones who go into the system? Everyone wants to say what a good thing this is. Then step up! Do something about it! I keep going back when Jesus said to be either hot or cold, not lukewarm or he will spew you out of his mouth. (And I know that is realllllly paraphrased right there, but you get my point.) If you are not doing something against it, you are supporting it.
This is a call to everyone. If your brother, sister, niece, nephew, grandchild, neighbor, student, anyone; needs someone-be that person!
It's easy to say "Not my kid, not my problem." Wrong, they are society's kids. They will grow into this country's adults and become the voters, employees, parents of this country. Don't we want the best possibilities, the cream of the crop? These kids are your responsibility.

And as a side note, when you see a lady with several kids at the grocery store don't tell her she is crazy. Chances are she is the only sane one in her family.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Yearly Update?

So what's new this year? And I say that seriously since it has been 10 months since I posted.
ohhh, where do I begin?
Well, I'm knee deep in my CASA case and I still feel like I am not doing enough. CASA had a great program to help bring awareness to child abuse in our county. Our local DCS also hosted a candle light vigil that was attended by several county officials. It was nice to see everyone in one spot with one goal in mind. It was sad to be updated with new numbers and statistics.
We have a new (temporary) child. He is a family member that needed a safe place to stay for a while. He will now be referred to as B Boy. He is younger than all of mine, so it has been a change in dynamics here.
Alecia is headed to middle school! Momma is not ready for that by any means.
Caleb is going to be Big Man on Campus as a 5th grader.
Tomas is cruising along to the third grade nicely.
Gavin and Peytan will be starting kindergarten this fall. Insert Mommy sobs here.
We are getting ready to head off to our annual trip to the cabin a few weeks. EXCITED!! This week always proves to be fun and interesting.
Peytan has been taking a dance class all school year. She was a Bon Bon Fairy and butterfly in The Nutcracker for Christmas. Today she has a rehearsal for her Spring Recital. The big show is Sunday. I have my tickets ready! So exciting!!
We have been having lots of summertime fun in the water, outside, eating some ice cream cones, typical summertime pastimes. And we love every minute of it and hope to continue it all summer long. It will be a pretty boring summer compared to last year when we had vacation year and had so much fun in Tennessee. Sigh..... next year, next year.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Birthday Boy

This is a very personal entry for me. Not a lot of people know Tomas' full story. He doesn't remember it and doesn't seem to have a need for the details. But, I can't help and think of them each year on his birthday.

But I am sure, one day, he will want to hear it all. It never gets easier to tell. It always ends with me in tears and usually my mom being so mad she is swearing under her breath.

In December of 2007, I took a call about a two year old boy he needed a foster home. As always, I said yes (I never turned down a placement.) The supervisor was actually bringing him to me as she was the one on the investigation. Yes, it had been that crazy of a day for our DCS office.

At this point in our fostering time line, I had seen a wide range of reasons for removal. But, the director recommended I take a few minutes to prepare. She said I had never seen anything like this before.

I was stubborn. I was strong. I was Super Foster Momma and could handle anything.

I was also wrong.

I walked out to drive way. She opened the car door and I peeked in to get a glimpse at my new kiddo.

I turned around and walked away.

I was NOT prepared to see what I had seen. Nobody in their right mind could look at that and not want to immediately find the nearest toilet and vomit.

There was this beautiful, dark skinned Hispanic boy. Thick, fluffy, jet black hair. Chubby little cheeks with a definite pooch in his belly. Dark, deep eyes. A blue button up shirt, jeans and cowboy boots. You know those grown Hispanic men you see in the west that are all cowboy-ed up and handsome. That was him, just 20 years early. This is how I saw him at second glance.

At first glance, I saw a very sad little boy with fear in his eyes. A little boy who was beaten black and blue across his face. A little boy with dried blood in his nose. A little boy with "boxers ear." You know after professional boxers fight, the inside depths of the theirs look like hamburger meat. I saw a little boy with scratches and very defined hand print bruises on his face; on his identity. 

I had to step away. I had to compose myself. I could not let him see the disgust in my face. I could not be another adult who he was scared of their reactions.

I walked behind the car where he couldn't see me. A million thoughts ran through head. And to this day I can only think of two of them: Who did this? Why? 

Unfortunately, I will never have answers to those questions.

Finally, we got him inside. We learned his name was Tomas. He was just over two years old and the only two words we could decipher was "Momma" and "juke," which turned out to be juice.

The following day was a blur. It was the hospital for an exam. No broken bones, no long term physical effects. Just surface injuries. His hearing was fine, despite the evident trauma. His vision was fine, despite the violent beating to his face and head. Nothing we could do to help him other than love, patience and understanding.

Tomas was a very meek and quiet toddler. He barely made a sound. It was obvious he was scared. Scared of adults, scared of loud noises, scared to be left alone.

 He took harbor with our teenage foster daughter. She was somewhat familiar to him. She was Hispanic, also. She talked his language. She knew his culture. She had those some deep, dark beautiful eyes he had under those bruises. He took solace in her. And for that I will ever be thankful to her. (To this day, they still have a bond. She is now 23, engaged and on her own. But, they have a bond that nobody can take away.) I think she was more his saving grace than I was at that time. And it takes a lot for me to say that.

Slowly, like molasses in January, he came out of his shell. We learned together. I learned I could not cut his hair like the other boys. He learned it would not hurt. I learned to pick up on his body language. He learned new words with his Speech Pathologist. I learned how to expose him to food other than pop, juice and candy. He learned there were other things to eat that were equally as tasty. I learned to listen patiently. He learned he would not be dealt a beating.

No child should have to "learn" these things. It should just be a given.

Fast forward to his eighth birthday, today. Tomas is a happy, very healthy, well adjusted second grader. He has two brothers, two sister and a dog. He is mellow, calm and still somewhat quiet. He is a lover, but don't mess with him. He will kick your ass and take your name. He takes bullshit from no one. He loves soccer, his dog, Legos, building things in Papa's work shop and his new favorite song, Jesus Freak by DC Talk. He has all A's and one B in school. He just got a 100% on his spelling test last week. He is missing his front tooth. He would play his DS all day if I let him and he can almost beat me at Tetris.

He is stubborn and I am so thankful for that. I believe, without a doubt, that his hard-headedness is what got him through. I have never seen a fresh four year old teach himself how to ride with no training wheels in just an hour. But, he knew what he wanted and he didn't stop until he did it.

He is my boy. My first child, but third oldest. He is my fighter, he is my lover. He is the one who asks every night if I am coming to tuck him in.

 He is my saving grace, coming at a time and place in my life that I didn't how to make it to the next day. He gave me a mission. I may have given him a safe home, but he gave me hope. He showed me determination. He made me a mom for the first time. He was the one was broken and abused, but he healed me.

He is truly my Samuel, his middle name. Look him up in the Bible. You will understand.

Happy Birthday Tomas Samuel Alan Gilmore!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

People Wanted

Since we adopted our kids, we put ourselves out of commission as foster parents. Indiana guidelines now, allow five kids in a foster home. That includes the foster parents' legal children.

This has been ok with us. We decided we needed to focus on our kids and their needs. They had been bounced around and put on the back burner by others. Now is their time. I have enjoyed the "normal" this has brought to our family. A set routine, plans in advance, a budget that is easy to stick to.
But, something has been missing for me. Not necessarily for the family as a whole, but for me. I started finding articles and things about child abuse and foster kids. No matter how far away my kids' pasts are, their circumstances are always in my heart. It's a daily thing for me. It hinders my decisions about everything I do for them. But, I guess it hasn't filled my days like it had previously. So my free time was being taken over by the headlines. Headlines of abuse. News stories of neglect. Articles of the latest dead baby found in a trash can instead of being taken to a Safe Haven. These things haunt me.

I had been offered a volunteer position with CASA last year and backed out. It just wasn't the right time. I knew I had wanted to have something to do with these kids, but wasn't sure to what extent. A good friend of mine called in July. She was a previous FCM, Family Case Manager, at the DCS we worked with. She is actually the one responsible for Alecia's adoption. She asked if I would be interested in sitting on a board for Child Abuse Prevention in our county. Shocked, I said yes right away. She also asked me if I had thought about joining CASA. I explained my plan last year and she encouraged me to look into it again.

Next thing I know, the CASA director is emailing me an application. So, now I am about one week away from being sworn in to the CASA program..

CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. We become officers of the court, designated by the judge to investigate our case and form an opinion to report to him. He calls us "his eyes and ears." Judge highly values our opinions and takes them seriously. He appreciates the different views that are not mandated by DCS policy.

I am excited to dig in! I have always been a jump-in-with-both-feet type person. And this is no different. Gung-ho, all guns blazing!

Now, to my plea. We need good foster homes something terrible!! If we need them, you need them! And don't think these kids are not your responsibility. They may grow up to be your neighbor, your cashier, your repair man. They will be in society with us and someone needs to take responsibility of them as children to teach them the way. It doesn't take a lot to provide for these kids. A lot of them have been raise to this with not much at all. Stability, rules and patience is what they need. *Disclaimer: they also need shelter, food and protection, but that is a given*

If you have ever considered, wondered or wanted to know more, call you Department of Child Services and see what steps you need to take. It is a blessing you don't want to miss, and one that these children can't afford to miss.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Part 2

Ok, so the Tetris battle took place over a few days. I am just getting back to posting the rest of our vacation.

The pool was a great way to spend the evenings. We found ourselves there almost every night. It would push the kids just over the edge to being really sleepy and guarantee they slept really good and later in the morning. After it got cool and the sun went down, we would venture over to the Jacuzzi. That was possibly the best the best part!

Ripley's Aquarium is a must when you are in Gatlinburg. It has always been one of my favorite things to do there. Undoubtedly, the shark tunnel is the best part. The are all around, above you and on both sides as you cruise through tank. Some of the kids did pet sting rays and some didn't want anything to do with it. I can't say I blame them! New this year, was the penguin exhibit. The kids got to crawl through a tunnel into the middle of the exhibit where it was glassed in and they had a panoramic view of penguins. The aquarium also had a dinosaur exhibit. Gavin's favorite!

Bart was dying to take the kids to the Starz Cars Museum. It is a museum with lots of famous cars. Batmobile, Herbie the Love Bug, the Clampet's car from Beverly Hillbillies. One of the favorites was Jo's truck from Twister and the car from The Flinstones. The kids got to get inside the Flinstone's car. Everything else was off limits.
Of course, I had to hit the outlet mall when we were in Pigeon Forge! Got a jump start on school clothes for the kids. I won't lie, I also got a new Coach purse and wallet for myself! I can't wait for fall to start carrying it.

Bart had the idea to get pictures of the kids dressed up for Old Time photos. I'm so glad he did. It was fun and definitely will be something to treasure. I have two 10x13s in my living room of Sheriff Gavin, bank robbers Caleb and Tomas and Southern Belles Alecia and Peytan.

I think we possibly saved the best for last. That was Wonder Works. It was pricey, but so fun for all of us. It's this really neat, hands on, interactive children's like museum. The house is upside down, so it will really throw you off from the beginning. Then you walk through this inversion tunnel that makes you feel like you are walking upside down. It was not for weak stomachs. We saw all kinds of interesting things like lightning, a hurricane and earthquake simulator, trying to land a space shuttle, bed of nails, the bubble room. Alecia, Tomas and Caleb climbed the rock wall. They really liked that part! One of my favorite parts was the art exhibit. It was full of optical illusions that really made you think.

I was disappointed with some of the places we ate. It didn't seem to be tasty as the times we had been before. Bart and I decided the best place was Johnny Rockets. They had an excellent tuna salad sandwich. We also had to show the kids The Ole Mill and Calhoun's.

It wasn't too long and we found ourselves packing to come home. This part is always bittersweet for me. I am usually ready to get home and back to MY house that is our norm, but I was so sad to see such a great time end. We truly had a lot of good family memories made there. It won't be forgotten anytime soon. And I do think we will make our way back. We will probably stay in the same condo since it had everything we needed. The kids would love if we got #411 again.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Smoky Mtn Part 1

We finally went on a family vacation!! By we, I mean myself, Bart and the kids. All seven of us!! We had lots of fun together sightseeing, swimming, playing, eating, eyeballing candy, walking miles on end. You know, the stuff you do on vacation!

Bart and I have been to Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge a few times before. But this was a first time for the kids. We actually let them decide. We showed them the Smokys and Florida. They decided they wanted the mountains!! My kind of kids. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the beach. But, five kids, lots of people, scantily clad women, lots of people, the longer drive, lots of people, five kids. Yes, I repeated some of the reasons; but only because they were that high on my cons list.

We started our Monday with taking poor Bomber Dog to the vet for boarding. First time we have ever left him. Then, we didn't get out of town without road construction. We had a good drive down, stopping mid way for gas and a potty break. We made it to the condo just before check in time. We got checked in, unpacked and took a look around the place. It was super nice and spacious. Plenty of room for the seven of us, even if it only had two bedrooms.

On the way into Pigeon Forge, Gavin was noticing all the attractions. The bungee jump, go carts, flashing billboards. He was all over the place with excitement! He wanted to do it all and go everywhere. Helicopters, hot air balloons, upside down houses, dinosaurs, mini golf. Stimulation overload!! Finally, he said, "WOW, this place makes me freak out really hard!" Oh, how a four year old articulates his feelings. He was 100 percent right. He freaked out really hard!

After getting settled, it was off to the grocery store. We chose to do breakfast at the condo before leaving for the day. Then we did a late lunch out each afternoon and little pick-me-ups when we returned to the condo for the evening. It worked well for us.

We decided to walk to a pizza place that was only a few stop lights away. Well, the stop lights get more spread out the further you go. It turned into quite the little big walk for all of us! The advertisement for the pizza sounded like it would drop dead delicious. It was uhhh, ok. And the service wasn't the best or friendliest. We peeked into a shop or two on the way back to the condo. Then it was swimsuits and goggles, full blast to the pool!!

The rest of the week is a little bit of a whirl wind. I can't remember what we did on each day. Your brain gets fried with this many children.

I drove the Roaring Fork Motor Trail in the mountains. It was beautiful!! The kids were so surprised by the scenes and and surroundings. They really enjoyed it. A few were a little freaked by the deep drop off on the side of the road. I won't lie, so was I! We stopped along the little lookouts and visitor's centers to take on the official tourist label. We came to this little building along side the creek. The kids able to put their hand into the water and feel how cold it was. I thought the water would be super cold and crisp, so we got a bottle from the car and filled it up. We all took a drink. I was right; cool, crisp and very refreshing. Totally clear, no particles or floaters in the bottle. The best water I have ever tasted.

The kids wanted to hit up a little go cart park. We had a bumper car duel, so fun! Gav and Pey got to drive the mini go carts. Gavin caused a 4 car pile up and then refused to stop when time was up. The attendant had to chase him around the track! No surprise there. My dad said he bot black flagged. Alecia, Tomas and Caleb did the full size carts and then they rode some rides.

Right now, a very patient nine year old is waiting for me to finish so I can beat him in a Tetris battle. So, I will leave you with some pictures from these things.  Be back tomorrow for more!